September 2, 2013

USM dorm residents make themselves at home

By Beth Quimby
Staff Writer

GORHAM - Ryan Poag and Zach Hamm sat amid boxes, a bean bag chair and a brand-new 32-inch flat-screen TV, essentials for their dorm room at Upton Hastings Hall at the University of Southern Maine.

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Freshman Georgia Thompson of Bennington, Vt., seems overwhelmed momentarily, while moving into Woodward Hall at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham with the help of her parents, Annette and Jeff Thompson, on Sunday.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Parents and siblings help move incoming freshman into Woodward Hall at USM in Gorham on Sunday.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Both 18, from Brunswick and planning to study mechanical engineering, the two have played on the same lacrosse team since grade school. Poag and Hamm got to skip the usually socially fraught experience of moving into a room with a relative stranger.

But Poag and Hamm said even though they are longtime friends, sharing a room in the honors wing of the hall could be tough because they are both very competitive -- on and off the field.

"Zach plays defense and I am on the offense," said Poag.

The two were among the freshmen settling in Sunday morning during move-in day at USM's Gorham campus, where about 650 freshmen will be joined by 600 upperclassmen this week. There are no dorms on USM's Portland campus.

The annual ritual is being played out on college campuses around the state.

At USM, getting the freshmen settled required the help of 45 resident assistants, 65 student volunteers, 15 staff volunteers and a small army of facilities and public safety staff.

"It's all hands on deck," said Joy Pufhal, chief of staff of the division of student affairs.

Parents and siblings toted armloads of lamps, fans and coffee makers up stairwells while the freshmen unpacked and hung posters.

Kelsey Parker, a freshman from Pittsfield, Vt., said the one must-have item she took from home was laundry detergent.

"I knew I had to have the same laundry detergent my mom uses so it smells like home," said Parker.

At USM, students play a much more active role in choosing roommates than in the past, when the task fell largely to college administrators.

Jason Saucier, director of the student life department, said students are encouraged to use a special Facebook site to find a suitable roommate. Many of the freshmen will be sharing a room for the first time, Saucier said, so they are encouraged to get to know each other, to meet over the summer and talk on the phone.

"Because in a couple of weeks it will be the real world when people stop being nice all the time," said Saucier.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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Linda Bonina of Hudson, Mass., decorates the white board in her son Vinny's USM dorm room with some words of inspiration Sunday. "I found this and want him to read this every day," she said of the quotation.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer


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