Celena Zacchai a local UMA Rockland student is a 2020 Maine Policy Scholar, a collaborative program with the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. The Maine Community Foundation and the University of Maine System campuses.
The Maine Policy Scholars program is a year-long research scholarship in which one student from each of the seven UMS campuses, working closely with a faculty advisor, examines an issue of public policy relevance to Maine and delivers a final report and presentation. The program runs from January to November. Zacchai represents the University of Maine at Augusta and attends locally at UMA Rockland.
In an interview this week Zacchai reported that she is currently working on researching her topic: The Role of Maine State Policy in Increasing Access to Affordable Housing for Maine Seniors. As she noted, Maine has the oldest demographic in the nation but every community has its own “shifts.” Maine’s senior population is projected to grow by over thirty percent in the next six years, while the number of working-age residents is expected to decrease by six percent. As Maine’s demographics shift, housing needs change as well. Zacchai’s research is geared toward understanding Maine’s changing housing needs and identifying viable policy interventions. Her project has evolved from an initial study of census data and a literature review to a study of Maine State Legislative documents and current bills that affect her topic.
Zacchai’s ultimate goal is “to be involved in policy recommendations that could inspire Maine leaders to take action.”
Leaders and directors for various organizations that focus on housing and senior support services have been very responsive to Zacchai’s questions and interview requests. Her next steps will be developing connections with policymakers in hopes of integrating some of her research and recommendations into their thinking.
One important element of Maine Policy Scholars is the student and faculty mentor relationship. Dr. James Cook, Associate Professor of Sociology at UMA, serves as her grant mentor. Zacchai noted that although Professor Cook sets high expectations, new restrictions have created the need for extended deadlines and understanding and he has been a wonderful and supportive partner.
In addition to her work as a Maine Policy Scholar, Zacchai is a full-time university student and a mom who is now, unexpectedly, homeschooling two young sons. Her life is very full.
Zacchai’s ultimate goal is “to be involved in policy recommendations that could inspire Maine leaders to take action.” Presentations by the 7 UMS scholars are expected in November.