UMaine: Orono, Farmington

From 2008-2010, I visited UMO twice a year to learn about their majors and programs. Here's a summary.

Honors College
What is it? You have to be invited to join, or you can ask to join the Honors College. 750 UMO students or 10% of the student body, will earn an Honors degree upon graduation. They can take advantage of honors housing, and take one Honors class per semester. The benefit is that the class has about 14 students and is an interdisciplinary approach to learning. As one student said, we study poetry and physics all in one class! These classes can satisfy your core curriculum requirements. Bottom line: you are not taking more classes, just different ones. In the 4th year they do a senior thesis in their major and can present at a conference and get published (good for grad school admission). We met three Honors students whose profiles I include below:
  1. a junior from CT who is an English major. She did not live in honors housing.
  2. a freshman biochem major from Old Town who commutes to UMO. She said the honors classes are "better than a book club."
  3. a junior psych / pre med major from Gorham who likes the individual attention of honors classes.
this is an investment club run by students, mostly business majors. It stands for Student Portfolio Investment Fund. I've heard of Babson's and did not know about UMO's until now. Yes, they invest college funds into stocks and bonds and have usually beat the index! They are invited to attend a convention in Ohio each year and compete against Babson, MIT and other colleges with student-run investment clubs. I met a senior finance major from Russia who is the co-president, a junior econ major from York, and a senior finance major from Texas.

First Year Residential Experience
In an effort to provide 'good clean fun' for freshman, this program is a chock-full calendar of events for the first 2 months of the school year. Events can be learning events like speakers, fun events, informative, hikes, etc. Examples include bingo nights on Mondays, book clubs, job fairs, game night, test taking skills in college, outdoor events like climbing. There are at least 3 events each day and if anyone said they are bored at UMO they are not looking outside their room to see what's going on! The program was so successful last year they expanded it for sophomores. The program is so well done that it was mentioned in Time magazine as a model. Vanderbilt University spent $100 million to create a similar program while UMO spent $0.

Student Services: Tutoring
Did you know that UMO has a nationally accredited tutoring program? Don't just wish your grades were better, do something about it! Ask for a tutor.

Semester on the Sea - check out their video!
marine bio majors have a unique opportunity to spend time in the field doing research in midcoast Maine.

Center for Undergraduate Research
In the past, students would hear of research opportunities through a professor, usually in their major. Now, a Center is gathering all the research opportunities under one roof. Students can begin research as early as freshman year. To kick off the new center, Dr. Karen Hall held a series of workshops for students to understand what 'research' means. Will you be the one to pose a question and then create new knowledge?

Research Centers on Campus
Conducting research is one way to engage in hands-on learning at college, work with a group of like-minded/curious students, get to know professors, and gain valuable experience that sets you apart as a job applicant or grad school applicant. Imagine posing questions that no one has answered yet, or looking into solutions that no one thought of yet. That is research! Professors love working with undergrads, who ask great questions and aren't afraid to do so. It just might lead to an interesting project. How do you get involved as an undergrad? Ask your professors.
Have you heard of the "bridge in a backpack?" It was invented at UMO, and it's a gym bag filled with all the necessary ingredients to create the structure quickly on site. Parts are on display at the Advanced Structures & Composites Center, along with other projects in progress. The Advanced Structures & Composites Center on the UMO campus is a warehouse-sized lab where I ran into Matt D, a 2005 Cheverus graduate who earned his business degree at UMO and is now earning a construction management degree. He's getting hands on learning in the ASCC lab. In the certified lab, students test how strong beams are, by lowering a weight upon the beam and identifying where the beam is weak & how much pressure it can sustain, in an effort to build better beams that can sustain hurricane force winds. They have such unique equipment that corporations rely on the students to test products for them. Corporations also don't have the dedicated space that the UMO lab provides. Another cool thing that was invented at UMO--the tiniest needles used to measure glucose levels. Someone had to identify a problem (humans don't like needles) and suggest a solution (smaller needles that don't hurt so much?). UMO engineers are now working on robots to build wind blades.Lest you think that only engineers can conduct research, think again. A bulletin board filled with photos of UMO students in several majors prompted the question: what is an English major doing at this research center? Writing the how-to manuals! A business major? Estimating costs and managing the projects. Check out the youtube video about offshore wind turbine research.
The Surface Science & Technology lab was where we saw students in 'bunny suits' those all-white suits required for working in a clean/sterile room. They create the tiny microprocessors that run our life: inside our phone, our computer. Nanotechnology is a hot field. When we visited, they were working on small semiconductors that could detect chemicals in the air.
They make paper on campus and research new uses for forest products that would otherwise be thrown away. In one experiment, they are trying to turn forest product into fuel. We were guided through the chemical engineering lab/forest bioproduct research institute by Alyssa B, a 2006 Cheverus graduate. She completed 2 co-op experiences and has 2 job offers and will graduate in May 2010. There are 150 colleges that offer chemical engineering majors, and the New England universities compete in Boston each year.
The Watershed Research Center is grouped together with a few other centers as part of Sustainable Solutions. Students test water quality, monitor changes, look at vernal pools and family forests, study acid rain, legislation, amphibians, dwindling salmon population, post 9/11 water safety, urban planning. More grad than undergrad students are involved in this research institute.
The Climate Change Institute travels around the world to gather ice core samples, and has the largest inventory in the world to study. The institute offers grad school classes and employs 15 undergrads. It is an interdisciplinary center: those who major in bio, wildlife, chem, physics, earth science, archaeology, anthropology, computer science. Groups travel to the Himalyas, South America, Asia, Antarctica and examine fossils, glaciers, plants and animals and how they have changed over time.  25 expeditions a year take students and professors around the world, and afterward they publish papers about their findings. Often they write grants to fund their research and are successful 70-80% of the time. (the national average is 20%)
You know I'm an animal lover, so here's UMaine's outdoor bear lab!

Explorations: Discover the Major for You
If you are undecided about a major, you may want to join the Explorations program with extra advising, and explore the university's many courses. Take advantage of this free program!

Foundations: get into UMO with extra support your first year
If you do not meet the admissions standards, you may still be able to attend UMO. If Admissions feels like you may be successful even though you weren't a great high school student or your SAT scores were too low, you may get invited to the Foundations program. Extra advising is the hallmark, so you are not lost at the big university. A first year seminar teaches you how to be a  successful college student. You sign a contract that you will attend all your classes and take advantage of tutoring and advising. Research shows that this model of 'intensive advising'  really works.

Other majors:
Nursing, Engineering: must take physics senior year in high school.
Nursing: your least expensive option is to get a 2-year degree at any community college that offers that major. You can sit for the RN exam and get hired after that. You could go on to get your bachelors degree in nursing to open up a career with management possibilities. UMaine Augusta and UMO have the 4 year degree. UMaine Fort Kent even has an online version for those last 2 years. Check out UMO's nursing program here:

U Maine Farmington is our public liberal arts college made up of 2,000 students. Almost exclusively undergrad, students will find that small liberal arts feel on a pretty campus for much less money than a private LAC. In October 2011 I attended an info session. Here's what I learned:
  • There are not many public liberal arts colleges in the U.S. 
  • Farmington has the highest graduation rate and the highest retention rate in the UMaine system, tying with Orono. That means that most students return after sophomore year and graduate in 4 years.
  • Students take 4 courses per semester, a big change from their high school schedule!
  • There's an honors program that can make Farmington a more enriching experience for a high performing student.
  • Newer majors: Interactive Media, which combines computer science with creativity, and Health Info Systems, which combines health, business and computer science. Students intern at a nearby hospital.
  • Cheverus typically sees Education majors and liberal arts majors considering Farmington, and students who are thinking pre med, pre vet, pre law, pre MBA.
  • The Stevens Scholarship awards $3,000 towards your $9,000 tuition bill. Other merit money.
  • Although Farmington is test optional, students who enroll must send their scores for placement purposes. If any score is below 490, students must take a placement test to see which English and math courses they belong.
Links updated 11/2014