University of Maine President Paul Ferguson has announced the 2014 valedictorian, Sierra Ventura of Belfast, Maine, and salutatorian Jennifer Chalmers of Foxborough, Mass.
Both will receive their degrees at UMaine’s 212th Commencement ceremonies in Harold Alfond Sports Arena May 10.
“Sierra and Jenn personify the best of the University of Maine undergraduate experience in their academic excellence, community engagement, and dedication to research and scholarship,” says President Ferguson. “We are proud of their achievements and their leadership in the UMaine community.”
Ventura will receive a bachelor’s degree in music education. Throughout her undergraduate career, she has been active in UMaine’s chapter of the National Association of Music Education, including two years as treasurer, and she is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Her leadership roles on campus include serving as assistant conductor of the University of Maine Singers and of Euphony, the Orono-based chamber choir, both in 2013–14. The previous year, Ventura was the assistant accompanist of Collegiate Chorale.
Ventura also was a member of other musical ensembles in the UMaine School of Performing Arts, including Opera Workshop, Concert Band and Athena Consort, and she worked on the technical and events crews. Since 2009, she has had her own business, S.J. Ventura Music Instruction, teaching 35 students in piano, voice, flute, clarinet and saxophone. Ventura plans to pursue a graduate degree in music education at the University of Maine.
“UMaine has helped me shape my pursuits in the music education field,” Ventura says. “UMaine has also provided me the opportunity to connect with many veteran teachers and other professionals in my field throughout my undergraduate career, as well as give me tools to become a better private music teacher for my students. During my undergraduate career, I was also blessed to have met my fiancé during my time in University Singers.”
Chalmers will receive two bachelor’s degrees in English and in history. She has majored in English and history, with minors in education and Spanish, and received highest honors for her honors thesis, a historical and literary research project, entitled “Teaching Literature in America: Demonstrating Relevance in the Early Cold War (1945–1963).”
Chalmers is a member of multiple honor societies, including All Maine Women, Sophomore Eagles and Phi Beta Kappa. The UMaine Presidential Scholar Award recipient received Roger B. Hill Scholarships in both history and English, and the Ellis Prize in English. She also received a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Fellowship.
While at UMaine, Chalmers had two internships that advanced her professional writing skills. She was a human resources intern with the Massachusetts State Police in Framingham, Mass., and an English editorial intern with Pearson Higher Education in Boston, Mass. She was a journalist for the Maine Journal and a tutor for UMaine’s Writing Center. In addition, Chalmers was a student supervisor for Black Bear Dining concessions and a clarinetist in the UMaine Symphonic and Pep bands. Her community service activities included volunteering, serving as a note taker for UMaine Disability Support Services, and being involved in Autism at UMaine and the History Club.
“Since the moment I first visited UMaine, I have always felt at home,” Chalmers says. “I’m particularly appreciative of the way my professors have been so willing to help me achieve my goals and have always been on the lookout for opportunities that might be beneficial for me. I also really appreciate the wealth of opportunities that UMaine has provided outside the classroom. I have had so many opportunities to join organizations that I genuinely care about, gain leadership experience and make lasting friendships. My coursework, jobs and activities at UMaine have provided me with the experience that I have needed to get scholarships, internships and jobs, both inside and outside UMaine. The people, the organizations, and the generally encouraging atmosphere at UMaine have been invaluable to my personal, professional and intellectual growth during college, and I know that taking advantage of the opportunities that UMaine has to offer has allowed and prepared me to achieve my goals.”
Chalmers has accepted a position with Teach for America. For the next two years, she will teach secondary special education English in southern New Jersey and then will pursue graduate school.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745