Category: On Campus

Why Do So Many Students Fail the ServSafe Exam?

By Capt. W. Russ Webster, USCG (Ret.)

Similar to other careers, culinary arts has standards that are supported with an exam process that establishes credibility. To culinary arts students, the ServSafe safety exam is a critical component for any serious food professional. Passing the exam is a gateway to higher wages for some and a requirement for SMCC’s two-year Culinary Arts degree. Test takers must pass the 90-question test with a 75-percent grade or higher. So, why are so many students — as many as 30 or 40 percent of them — having to take the exam more than once?

To better understand the issues, I spoke to my fellow Culinary Arts students and tracked my own successes and failures in the approach to the exam. At 62 years young and with previous schooling under my belt, Chef Rascati, the CULA 100 Food Safety course administrator, told me I could have skipped the course and just “taken the exam.” Having taken most of the CULA 100 course at this writing, I can assure readers that “I could not have passed the ServSafe exam without having been in the chef’s course.” But, I’m a baby boomer.

It’s important to note that I studied like other students over 40 — I read everything, attended every class, got a grasp of concepts, did the Pearson online practice quizzes and took ServSafe’s study test. So, why did so many of my classmates, especially millennials, have difficulty passing the class? One 20-year-old student freely admitted to me that he “just didn’t study until the night before the exam.” Several students were flummoxed by the Pearson online learning modules and ServSafe’s practice test.

My own experience with Pearson’s online “dynamic” learning module exposed a flaw in the system where if you got the question wrong, the system just kept asking you the same question until you got it right. A more valid system that tested “concepts” would replace the original question with a different but similar question in the same learning area.

My approach to learning was clearly different from the other students, who were 40 years my junior. The younger students, to a fault, relied heavily on the online practice tutorials to pass the exam. Chef Rascati had told her students, “Study this, it’s on the exam.” And, often, it was. But, answering the exam question about the minimum internal cooking temperature for hot-held macaroni and cheese meant you had to know the concept that mac and cheese fits into the grains (rice, pasta) category.

But, not every failure can be ascribed to generational learning differences and faulty online learning resources. I spoke to another chef, who made me aware that food-safety-exam “pass rates” for focused ServSafe-sponsored courses were much higher than SMCC student pass rates — as high as 80 percent. When I queried why, the answer was complex, and on some level, disturbing. The chef asked me to consider who was paying for the college course and what the motivations might be for the student versus for the outside culinary professional.

When I dug deeper, the chef explained that outside students had already been in the industry for a while, whereas most Culinary Arts students were just getting started in their understanding of food concepts. And, the outside students had added motivations to pass in many cases because a successful exam often meant an immediate bump in pay.

I’m still left with questions about responsibilities in the ServSafe exam dilemma. If the disconnect between online food safety learning resources is known, who has the responsibility to address the issue? SMCC certainly should advocate for more advanced technical resources that help new generations of learners. Pearson, the online vendor, should address the shortfall with more realistic questions provided by ServSafe. And, students should accept responsibility for knowing the concepts and doing whatever is necessary to “get it,” including forming a study group with some over-40 old farts.

SMCC Business Club Heads to the Big Apple

SMCC Business Club 1

By  Nathalie Mitchell

On Thursday, April 20, the SMCC Business Club traveled to the business capital of the world, New York City, for three days of education, sightseeing and bonding. The next morning, the club had a guided tour of the United Nations, where they observed sessions of the U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council. After a morning of watching international relations in action, the Business Club traveled to Wall Street.

On Wall Street, students visited iconic sights such as the New York Stock Exchange building, Federal Hall, the Trump building and the famous statue of the “Charging Bull,” along with the newly installed “Fearless Girl” statue.

Other NYC sights visited included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial, Chinatown, the Empire State Building, and, of course, the craziness that is Times Square. Some significant walking was done throughout the club’s trip.

Funding for the trip was provided by SMCC’s Student Senate, fundraising by the Business Club and contributions by the travelers.

Participants included students Haleigh Barrett, Savannah Barnes, Erik Beaudet, Matthew Brown, Gianna Dudley, Mosa Khalifa, Bronson Kieltyka, Nathalie Mitchell, Michael Moser, Joey Mullins, Steven Ntibandetse, Hali Parsons, Celetta Richard, Ray Richard, Valerie Roy; and Business Club advisor Professor Steve Strand.

CeSIL Awards 2017: Honoring Those Who Worked for the Positive 


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By The Beacon Staff  

Students, resident-life staff, faculty and SMCC President Ronald Cantor were in attendance on Monday, May 1, for the annual CeSIL awards ceremony. CeSIL, the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, gives out these awards to honor students and club members who have shown exceptional dedication and leadership.

The ceremony opened with President Cantor, Jason Saucier, director of residential life and student activities, and Rik Sawyer, student activities advisor, welcoming the attendees and commenting on how wonderful it was to participate in this year’s awards.

While the attendance was sparse, those who attended cheerfully applauded this year’s winners as all shared in the jovial atmosphere. First, the Leader of the Pack award recipients were announced. This year’s Leaders of the Pack were:

Megan McknightJuniper Hathaway

Whitney ColeNathalie Mitchell

Nick MollScott Tresselt

Bronson KieltykaTammey Cramer

Isaac McIntireIvan Picket

Alex KennedyLindsey Faulkner

Brandon BuckJustin Cochran

Nicole-Raye Ellis

The ceremonies continued with the announcement of a new CeSIL award entitled the “Rising Star Award,” given to students who showed promise in their first year of student involvement. The recipients included:

Taylor GerrishSavannah Barns

Nova WittJim Leblanc

Victoria MargaBen Riggleman

Joey MullinsMichael Moser

The last third of the ceremony announced the winners for Organization of the Year, Program of the Year, Advisor of the Year, Res-Hall Program of the Year, and the Student Engagement Award. The respective winners were:

The Veteran’s Club

Southern Poverty Law Center on Campus

Amy Lainoff

Constant Tea

Maggie Loeffelholz


The evening ended with new Director of Residence Life, Saucier asking the Resident Assistants to sand and be acknowledge for their hard work, dedication, and knowledge of SMCC, their fellow students and knowledge of the available resources.

Who Reads This Stuff, Anyway?

By Ben Riggleman

Have you ever wondered who reads this paper besides you? It’s a riddle that has kept us Beacon staff up at night, too: Who reads us? Are students our main audience? Professors? Millennials, baby boomers? Liberals, libertarians? What do our readers get from The Beacon, and what more would they like to see? And then what about those faceless multitudes that don’t read us: What turns them off, keeps them away? Is it us or them?

Desperate for answers, I wrote up a survey and broadcasted it to everybody with an SMCC email address. I took a risk: It was finals prep time, and really, who ever has time to fill out a survey when there’s no chance to win a new jet-ski?

But in the end, the SMCC community pulled through, with a hearty 147 responses.

I’m taking Statistics with Professor Adrian Ayotte, and the first thing you learn in that class is that voluntary-response surveys are crap. They guarantee a biased sample, because respondents will tend to have an active interest in the topic. But since this isn’t Soviet Russia and forced participation wasn’t an option, I had to make do.

Aside from their presumed interest in The Beacon, we can make several more guesses about this sample group: Since they cared enough to spend time on a questionnaire of no direct benefit to them, they’re either conscientious or eager to vent (or procrastinate). Also, they use their SMCC email, which could mean they included a disproportionate number of faculty, staff and high-performing students.

The first question of the survey asked, “Before this survey, did you know about The Beacon?” About 12 percent said they did not.

The next question asked respondents’ connection to SMCC: student, faculty, employee or other. As expected, faculty were overrepresented: 28 faculty members responded, making up about 22 percent of the 129-person core sample. It’s worth noting, though, that an equal number of non-faculty employees also responded. Aside from two individuals who selected “Other,” the remaining 69 respondents were students.

The most common age groups were 18–22 and 58–62, into which 31 respondents and 20 respondents fell, respectively. The age distribution clustered around these groups and sagged in the middle, with only three respondents between ages 43 and 47. This tells us something important: We’ve got a generation gap. It appears that two discrete, very different populations — with different outlooks, life experiences and tastes — together make up the bulk of our readership.

The survey sorted responses in one other main way: It asked how often respondents read The Beacon. Based on their reply, each respondent was assigned to either the “Infrequent reader” or “Frequent reader” category. The groups were similar in size: 69 frequent readers and 60 infrequent readers.

Infrequent readers were asked why they don’t read the Beacon often. Fifteen picked “I don’t have time to read for pleasure,” nine each picked “I don’t read the news” and “The Beacon’s content doesn’t interest me,” seven picked “I don’t know where to find The Beacon,” and one lonesome soul picked “I don’t like the writing.”

Frequent readers were asked the question, “Why do you read The Beacon?” Responses included the following:

“I’m an older student and I like to see what is happening on campus. I feel as though that it’s part of being a student and staying connected. It’s like watching the news, I like to know what is going on while I’m working full time and being a student!”

“I like to know what’s going on from the student’s perspective as opposed from the faculty/administrative perspective.”

“The Beacon is one of the ways I can get a pulse of the SMCC community.”

The last two of these expressed common themes. Many respondents said they valued the student-directedness of The Beacon, and many others said they read it for the news — or, as one put it, “To see what’s happening!”

Oh, and then there was, “Just to see the cringe.” No comment.

Campus News was the best-liked section by a landslide, with almost 50 percent of respondents picking it as their favorite. Opinion and Editorial came in second with 16 votes. Sports seemed to be unpopular, picked as least favorite by 22 respondents.

When asked what kind of content The Beacon should run more of, the top choice was “News about SMCC events,” (44 votes) followed by “News about local events” (30 votes) and “Reviews of local food, art, music and culture” (23 votes). (Respondents could vote twice.)

There’s demand for more online content, too. While only 16 respondents said they read The Beacon online, 25 individuals said they “would.” We hear you, and we’ll definitely be building up our online side next year. “More live links in WordPress,” one student suggested; we can do that.

The last question got political. It simply asked respondents to pick a political party or designation that best matched their beliefs; 13 options were provided, plus “Other.” Over 24 percent identified themselves as “Independent (unaffiliated)” — 19 out of 78 responses collected for that question. The next most popular category, “Democrat (Sanders/Warren type),” was chosen by 10 respondents. “I’m not political” and the general Republican and Democrat designations were tied for third place.

Our readers are not as liberal as I would have guessed, if this survey is any indication. The Beacon’s alleged liberal bias was singled out for criticism by a handful of students. It’s something we’ll try to keep an eye on.

Thanks to everybody who responded!

SMCC’s Maine Mayhem Film Fest Hits the Screens in May

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Behind the scenes on “Leap of Faith,” directed by Chris Motley and production still from “The Windigo,” directed by Vanessa Hutchins

By The Beacon Staff

Communications and New Media students who are enrolled in Professor Corey Norman’s Advanced Video and Audio Production Applications class will be screening their films for the seventh annual Maine Mayhem film festival on May 10. The festival will open at the Nickelodeon Cinema in Portland with two screenings, 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The films will then travel to Bangor, Maine for a May 12 showing at 8:00 p.m. They will also have a screening at the Sanford International Film Festival in September.

The Beacon reached out to Corey Norman for some inside information about this year’s films, the festival’s history and what Maine Mayhem alums have gone on to do.

Q. Is there a year that stands out because of the range of films created?

A. Every year of Mayhem is special because every year is so diverse. It’s really hard to choose a favorite year of programming for this reason. I may sound biased, but if I had to choose, then I’d have to say this is the best year yet.

Q. Can you talk about students that have participated in Maine Mayhem and have continued in film?

A. Mayhem is great because it prepares students to enter the career field. Second-year alumni Justin Lacroix has been working as a sound operator on reality shows like “Survivor” [and] “MTV’s Stranded.” Second-year alumni Sean Martin has been working on a lot of feature films coming through Massachusetts, like “Ghostbusters,” “Black Mass,” “Patriot’s Day” and “Manchester by the Sea.” Second-year alumni Kenn Gonneville spent the majority of last spring following the primaries for Huffington Post. Lastly, third-year alumni Charlotte Warren is now a producer at Storyboard. The list goes on and on.

Q. What types of films are being made this year?

A. We’ve got such a strong and unique lineup this year. There’s a religious comedy, a Native American legend–inspired horror, a documentary about online dating, a film about warring wizards, a science-fiction horror film, and a sci-fi neo-noir Western. There is literally something for everyone.



Community Garden Cleanup Marks Earth Day, Start of Growing Season

Community Garden Clean Up 1

By Jessica Spoto 

This past Sunday The Beacon stopped by SMCC’s community garden (behind the Culinary Arts building on the South Portland campus) to catch up with Sodexo employees and SMCC students and see how the Earth Day garden cleanup was progressing.

Rachel Fisk, who is the Sodexo unit marketing coordinator here at SMCC, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the garden plots and how they are being used. This summer will be the second year that Sodexo has helped to maintain the plots and build some energy and interest around the garden.

Fisk mentioned a photo contest in which Sodexo will submit a photo from this weekend’s cleanup to the SMCC Sodexo Facebook page. The more Likes the photo gets, the better chance it has to win. The winning prize is as healthy $3,000 purse that will be donated to The Captain’s Cupboard here on campus.