AUGUSTA — Brooke Safferman of Freeport and Naples, Florida, was working in the magazine industry, but she did not feel fulfilled. 

Named a Rising Scholar, she is studying cybersecurity at the University of Maine Augusta and is in her fourth semester of the post-bachelor program. 

With her education already going in one direction — she had already received her bachelor’s degree in English with a psychology minor and was working on a masters of fine arts degree in writing — Safferman’s decision was not light. 

“I thought back to previous interests that I had when I was younger, and I wanted to make a positive change in the world,” said Safferman. She was nominated as a scholar by Pierre Laot, a cybersecurity system engineer and system and network administrator for UMA. 

“A leader adjusts the sails,” said Noel Paul Stookey, the keynote speaker for the 2019 Convocation. 

Safferman adjusted the sails.

“My career goal now is to work as a detective specializing in cybercrimes and computer crimes,” she said before the convocation ceremony, which was her first trip to the campus.

The academic theme of the new school year is “Dirigo,” which means leadership, a word that is on both the state and university flags. 

Claire Hersom of Winthrop is starting her final year toward her liberal studies degree — something she has been working toward since 1967. 

“It is a great feeling of accomplishment, even though it has taken this long,” said Hersom, who is 69. She said she is one of UMA’s many students “in the middle of doing life at the same time.” 

She is the first of three generations in her family taking classes at UMA. Her daughter was also a student, and her granddaughter is a student at Winthrop High School taking Advanced Placement classes through the university. 

“UMA has been such a center for so many families to finish their educations,” Hersom said. 

A member of the legendary trio Peter, Paul and Mary, Stookey performed to a crowd of a quarter-million people at the 1963 March on Washington. 

“Leadership is primarily the realization and ultimately the cultivation of a conscience,” Stookey told the students during the ceremony. “You are entering this university curious and hungry. After a year or two, that hunger may lead you to a focus, the fashioning of a skill set that will guide you for years to come.

“Ultimately true leadership skills are a gift of your conscience,” he said.

UMA recognized 89 Rising Scholars during the ceremony. The scholars entered with faculty members who nominated them — displaying tight connections between learners and leaders.

UMA senior Tessa Vellani of Hallowell entered with Terri Reiter, the director of student support and development in Augusta and an adjunct faculty member.

“(Tessa) balances parenting with being a full-time student,” said Reiter. “She has an unassuming, solid presence in any classroom.”

Vellani, a mother of two, ages 5 and 8, is studying applied science with a minor in psychology. She was in Reiter’s abnormal psychology class. 

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