For Travis Blackmer, the hands-on experiences he had as a student were the among the highlights of his UMaine undergraduate experience. The consulting work Blackmer, now a graduate student in financial economics, did with UMaine’s Knowledge Transfer Alliance gave him a close look at and appreciation for finding real-world solutions for people facing business challenges. Blackmer faced a different kind of real-world challenge as a leader, with UMaine School of Economics Director George Criner, of a 2011 statewide trash analysis project that found as much as 60 percent of what Maine consumers state typically throw away could be diverted from the waste stream through recycling or composting at personal and community savings.
Name: Travis Blackmer
Hometown: Dedham, Maine
Major: Master’s in Financial Economics
Maine is home. I grew up coming to the university and always felt it was the right place for me.
How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?
It is nurturing. If you want to go far, the support and tools are in place to get there.
Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, and if so, who and how?
I absolutely have. Dr. Criner has been more than a role model; he has graciously treated me as a colleague and friend. That is a great compliment to someone who is in their early 20s to have someone put confidence and faith in them to be mature and driven. I think that faith may be what can inspire those qualities. I am grateful for that opportunity.
Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
I think most places in life will force you to do that. If you want to live in a box, you will be living with yourself. I think I see every day that the world is more complicated than I thought it was the day before.
Have you participated in any internships or co-ops related to your major? Tell us about them and how your experience in the classroom helped prepare you.
I was a major part of a research project that the School of Economics carried out for the State Planning Office. I got hands on experience and was forced to adapt in the field to ever changing circumstances. I have also been working with the Knowledge Transfer Alliance doing small business consulting and this has forced me to take what I learn in the classroom and apply it to real people for their problems and situations. I have been forced to discover paths to answers when there isn’t an answer key waiting for you. It is a great situation to find yourself in for your first career – that you get used to not having a solution waiting for you at the end of problem.
How might this experience influence your future plans?
I certainly enjoy the work I am currently doing. Consulting work is something I could see myself working at in the future. I have a skill set of economics, finance, and managerial accounting, so I plan to go where the jobs are. I feel I have been prepared to be a versatile individual and that can’t be a bad thing.
What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?
I have taken two classes that forced me to become a master of Excel and I thankfully took them at the same time. BUA 351 (Corporate Treasury Dynamics) made me put together advanced financial projection models for case studies and I am using those skills in the small business consulting I am currently doing. The second class is ECO 488 (Quantitative Analysis). The name is misleading; it is mainly a class on managerial decision making using linear programming and systems of equations. Extremely beneficial class that would be beneficial for anyone that has complicated decisions to make in a business environment.
Have you gained any hands-on or real-world experience through your coursework?
Almost everything you study at UMaine has some real-world component to it. Faculty members are all extremely involved in research and public service so you can’t help but be dragged into that.
What are UMaine students like?
They do anything but detract from your day. On a day-to-day basis I can’t think of any negative interaction with other students and routinely something positive happens with someone you never met before. It’s nice to go to school (or) work every day and expect nothing but good things to happen.
What surprised you about UMaine?
It’s a long way across campus. I didn’t put that together when I was younger because you visit a specific spot for a specific purpose and park right by it.
Describe UMaine in one word.
What do you do outside of class?
I advise several groups on campus, I disc golf, I work both for the School of Economics as well as time XC and track and field meets, and play poker with friends routinely.
Favorite place on campus?
Buffalo Chicken Wednesday at York. If anyone wants to guest meal me just email me on First Class. I’m yours for the afternoon.
Favorite place off campus?
Pat’s! Can’t beat it.
How’s the food? What’s your favorite thing to eat on campus?
Rice and bean burritos if I’m paying for it. Buffalo chicken wraps if someone else is.
What is your favorite UMaine tradition?
Maine Stein Song
What do you hope to do after graduation and how has UMaine helped you reach those goals?
Work is what comes next. I don’t have a specific must for that, but I can’t wait to start a career. UMaine took me in – an 18-year-old boy – and was patient with me. It knew I was particular, quirky, immature, and needed some more time to progress into a functional human being. This university has made that come to fruition.
What was your first year like?
Study, study, study. I didn’t experience campus life to the same degree most probably did. I had a solid dorm experience. Made some good friends and got on track for a good college career.
What is your favorite memory of living on campus?
It wasn’t when people in my dorm played kickball in the hallway at 3 a.m. I think my best memories were playing Madden 2003 with my friend down the hall. A typical game would be in the 70s and he’d always play as the Rams. My RA from freshman year is one of my best friends now also. That’s a pretty cool thing to have happen.
What is there to do in Orono, Maine?
Whatever you want. It’s not a big town, but if you have a passion you can likely make it happen.
What difference has UMaine made in your life?
It let me mature at my own pace and supported me throughout my entire time here.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
Don’t bury your head in the sand and if you do, this university will gladly let you pull it out and integrate in without a penalty.
Image Description: Travis Blackmer