Meet the Team!

Greetings! First and foremost, please take a moment to visit our Gratitude page. Our most important team members are those who make this experience possible. Takk Fyrir!

USM Honors Abroad features rotating topics and faculty each year. Meet our 2018 professors and learn more about the classes they are teaching abroad!

HON 195: Stories and Histories of Justice in Traditional Northern Maritime Communities, 10th-19th centuries

This course compares the historical social and legal structures of Iceland and Maine looking specifically at murder, outlawry and execution, as well as the roles that gender and social status played in determining an individual’s relationship to the law and the community.

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Dr. Assunta Kent

Dr. Assunta Kent, chair of the Honors Program Faculty, has lived coast to coast (along the 40th parallel), ridden her motorcycle across the U.S. solo many times, and bicycled across Europe. She began her international travels with Canada as a young child, Bolivia-Ecuador-Peru while in college and most recently Okinawa and the Bombay area of India. She has taught everyone from pre-school to the oldest life-long learners and in the UK and Japan. She loves showing students how to travel inexpensively, experience the culture and everyday living of other peoples, and engage with the history of their own and distant places.

She is the author of Maria Irene Fornes and Her Critics and the season reviewer of Portland Stage for the New England Theatre Journal. Assunta has directed more than 20 shows for USM including the Sanskrit classic Shakuntala and the Ring of Recognition (Kalidasa), her own adaptation of Japanese Noh dramas about the Rokujo Lady, operas Die Fledermaus, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi (Puccini), a musical adaptation of Marivaux’s The Triumph of Love, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Inook and the Sun (Henry Beissel). She has also directed premieres of Wolf Song (Annie Finch) for Poets’ Theatre of Maine at Mayo Street Arts and Daughters of Iran (Reza Jalali) for both USM and UNE.
She teaches cultural history courses (from Medieval and Renaissance cultures to contemporary performance) along with acting, and performance art and oral interpretation of texts for the Honors program.

In Maine and Iceland, we will analyze and perform literature and non-fiction
texts on the sites for which they were written–adding our voices and spirits to those of the past.

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Dr. Mark Mullane

Mark teaches European history and specializes in medieval Iceland, the Viking Age and Old Norse-Icelandic literature, with interests including law, individual rights and community stability, migration and material culture.

He has traveled in Iceland and, while a student, attended the language program at the University of Iceland. He is an avid kayak fisherman with a determination to soon experience at least one of the two in Iceland.





HON 195: Climate Change Stories

The story of climate change is being told by scientists, filmmakers, policy-makers, believers, and deniers. While the entire world will be affected by climate change, the North Atlantic will face its own set of unique challenges. The aim of this course is to use a transdisciplinary lens to study climate change in the North Atlantic, connecting science, communication, and the lived experience. Students in this course will study the scientific concepts behind climate change, media framing of climate change, and use the personal narrative to tell the story of climate change.

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Dr. Dan Panici

After teaching at various colleges and universities in Colorado, Missouri, and Georgia, I arrived at USM in 1995 and have called Maine home ever since.  I am currently the Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies and teach a variety of introductory and advanced courses. My teaching and scholarly interests include technology and society, the influence of media on perceptions and behaviors, how the media frames social issues, the First Amendment, and higher education curricula.

As a fairly experienced traveler (visiting 43 of the 50 states; family excursions to France, England, Canada, and Jamaica; and a seven-week backpacking honeymoon throughout Europe), I am mindful of the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions,” and Rumi, “Travel brings power and love back into your life.”  I am very excited to be traveling to Iceland with you!  As an avid road bicyclist, I hope that we have some free time to experience the open roads and bike culture of Iceland.

In our course, you will have the opportunity to explore the creation, dissemination, and evaluation of climate change stories.  We will be looking at how science tells the story of climate change, how media frames the climate change story, and how we can tell our own personal stories about climate change. The three of us teaching the course are thrilled that you will be joining us on this journey.

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Dr. Paula Gerstenblatt

Dr. Paula Gerstenblatt has worked for over 25 years with a focus on macro community practice throughout the United States and West Africa in the non-profit and government sector. She is the founder and former Director of the Mart Community Project located in rural Mart, Texas, a community development initiative and nationally recognized model of a reciprocal community-university partnership that has received numerous grants, including two National Endowment of the Arts Design awards. As a practicing artist, Dr. Gerstenblatt is passionate about utilizing the arts as a tool for community building, livability, and revitalization.

At USM Dr. Gerstenblatt has taught project-based classes in the community, including a graduate policy class at Portland City Hall, social work electives that created a mosaic mural in East Bayside and an interactive art installation for the FridayArt Walk addressing homelessness and gentrification. Dr. Gerstenblatt has also brought students to Ghana and Senegal for service learning projects. As a lifelong traveler, she has been a repeat visitor to Greece, Denmark, France, Ghana, and Senegal, and loves sharing journeys abroad with students. Dr.Gerstenblatt has a grown daughter and son who reside in the SF Bay Area and two Golden Retrievers who live with her in Portland.

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Dr. Lucille Benedict (center) and Family


Dr. Luci Benedict is an analytical chemist whose research focuses on developing laboratory methods that analyze compounds that are important to the brewing industry and then characterizing those chemicals during the brewing process. Prior to coming to USM in 2007, her work in graduate school focused on the characterization and fate of organic environmental contaminants. She weaves both of these research focuses into the principles of chemistry, analytical chemistry and fermentation science courses she teaches. Dr. Benedict believes all students should have a background in science so they can make educated and informed choices that better our society. Outside of USM, you will find Dr. Benedict enjoying the outdoors with her husband, two boys (ages 12 and 7), and yellow lab!


Behind the Scenes: Honors Project Coordinator

Erin Kane ’09 in Siglufjörður, Iceland

I am a USM Alum and the Project Coordinator for USM Honors Abroad. In addition to coordinating travel and activity logistics for HON195, I lead a fall semester COR-101 lab that focuses on Icelandic/Arctic culture and activities.

I have traveled to Iceland several times and explored the country by Jeep, camper, and hiking-boot in search of both well-known destinations as well as the more mysterious locations. Iceland is an incredible country to visit for students and travelers alike; it is a place where you can experience untouched nature, cutting-edge technology, sassy wildlife, and some of the best food this side of the planet.

My ultimate goal is to educate future travelers about our role and responsibilities as respectful visitors to this and other countries.

My favorite places to visit in Iceland are: Skógafoss, Jökulsárlón, and Drangey Island in Skagafjörður.