THE WRITTEN WORD
I would be lying if I told you that writing is one of my strongest skills. Being a child of the internet has really instructed my writing style—typing away as if the reader and I are having a personal conversation. It’s something I reign in for press releases and technical articles with great struggle and varied success, but it shines in my feature writing, and for that I won’t apologize. If social media has taught me anything it’s that sometimes, your audience wants casual. Casual is real.
I’ve always been of the mind that if an institution doesn’t know what its story is, how does it promote itself to outside organizations? During my short time at Unity College, I pushed the boundaries of what it meant to work within a media relations position. I focused more on covering the school and producing stories for its website and biannual magazine than on chasing down reporters for stories. In many ways, my tactics worked. Local media was (and is) pretty desperate for solidly written content with professional visuals. We ended up on the front page of local newspapers quite a few times during my tenure.
When people around Waldo County saw a sheriff’s cruiser consistently following a Unity College van around town this fall, calls were made. What exactly were these students up to that required a consistent police escort?
The answer: geology. And unless you counted that the driver of the cruiser was a deputy for the Waldo County Sheriff’s office ready to start work the moment her class was over, their lab work wasn’t exactly police business.
“Sometimes I show up to class in uniform. Sometimes I’m in my cruiser half dressed,” Mariza Gionfriddo (‘17) explained with a laugh. “I felt really awkward the first few weeks because people didn’t know why I was wearing my uniform. I imagine they were thinking, ‘What is wrong with this girl? What a weird wardrobe.’ But now it’s just my normal.”
Wardrobe issues and curious phone calls are just some of the challenges that face Gionfriddo every day as a full-time Conservation Law Enforcement student and full-time Sheriff’s Deputy for Waldo County. When she’s not patrolling the more than half-dozen towns under her ward from 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. each day, she’s either sleeping, in class, or studying.
As Josh Macri (‘19) and Sydney Hazzard (‘20) approach the hunters, both must quickly assess the situation at hand. Canada geese lay everywhere. A home, maybe 100 yards away, sits dangerously close to the grass where two men emerge, guns resting casually on their shoulders as they walk forward. They don’t look happy. Macri and Hazzard slip their faces into calm, collected expressions as Macri asks, “How’s everyone doing today?”
To top it all off, they’re being watched. Off to the side of the encounter and making assessments of his own stands a man closely noting every word, every gesture, of the field experience in front of him: Sgt. Aaron Cross of the Maine Warden Service.
The geese are plastic. The guns are fake. And the hunters are actually work-study students doing their best to be combative and stand-offish. But Sgt. Cross? He’s about as real as it gets.
It’s just another day in the Conservation Law Enforcement program at Unity College, where students often find themselves working alongside state fish and game wardens; forest rangers; marine patrols; federal enforcement officers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management; and environmental enforcement officers for the Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental agencies. It’s all a part of the package. More often than not these campus visitors are alumni, returning to the community that helped them get where they are today.
Whale watching. For some it may bring to mind school field trips or coastal vacations. Fanny packs and binoculars. Long stretches of ocean and searching eyes, with the hope that maybe, just maybe, one of the largest animals on earth will appear in the waters below.
But for Laurel Sullivan (‘18), whale watching is both all of these things and none of these things at once. Whale watching isn’t just a pastime for Laurel — it’s conservation. Science.
“There’s nothing like it. It’s why I do what I do,” she says emphatically, describing the inherent awe in the arch of a whale’s massive body, stretching as high as a building into the sky, before it crashes gracefully back down into the water. “I’m at my happiest when I’m watching whales and when I’m on a boat in the middle of the ocean.”