Archive for the ‘Student and Alumni Stories’ Category

Liam and Logan Nee: Double Majors

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

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Liam and Logan Nee never expected they would stay in Maine for college. They also never expected to share a school — or a major or off-campus housing.

The senior identical twins from Cornish, Maine, both applied to “about a dozen” schools, but ultimately chose UMaine because of the Division I track program and in-state tuition.

“We certainly didn’t choose it to be near each other,” Liam says.

“We strategically chose our living spaces specifically to avoid each other,” says Logan. “Not in the sense that we didn’t want to see each other. This was sort of our only way of differentiating ourselves.”

That was when they were freshman. Three years later, they both live in the same off-campus house.

“Freshman year, we were not talking to each other, really. People made jokes like ‘oh, are you going to stay together in the same dorm room?’ And we said, ‘We’ll do track and that’ll be our only thing together,’” Liam says.

Since arriving at UMaine, both brothers have competed in the same track event — the 800.

“We always liked to compete in every aspect, but track just puts it in the perspective of an actual race,” Liam says. “Logan’s definitely winning the GPA race, though, so I guess you could say I’ve controlled the track, but he’s controlled the books.”

Logan came to UMaine as a financial economics major, while Liam pursued journalism. Eventually, they both decided to add political science as a second major, but they have never taken a class together. After UMaine, both brothers say they intend to pursue jobs in their fields — Liam as a journalist and Logan as a financial consultant — wherever they need to go.

“Logan and I are pretty strong, and we don’t let a lot of stuff come between us and our goals,” Liam says. “I think we’ll find ways to work or go to graduate school — or both.”

Both brothers have been involved in the many out-of-class offerings at UMaine. Liam is on the staff of the Maine Campus, UMaine’s student-run newspaper, and WMEB 91.9, the campus radio station, where he has hosted five shows. One, an electronic dance music program, he cohosts with Logan.

Logan helped found UMaine’s chapter of No Labels, a national political group that works to promote problem-solving and bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. The group hosted a debate during the United States Senate race in 2012, which drew both major party candidates, although not the election’s eventual winner, Independent Sen. Angus King.

Logan also has been a Farm Credit Fellow and served a term in student government. He has written political commentary for the Maine Campus and PolicyMic, an online outlet for young voices.

Being involved with activities is useful for both resume building and socializing, they say.

“This culture’s very close-knit,” Liam added. “It’s a big school, but you feel like you know everyone.”

In a way, it’s easier to make more friends if you have a twin. “Our freshman year, I’d be walking on the mall and I’d get a wave from someone, and I’d just have no idea who it is. I’d start out the conversation with ‘I’m Logan’s brother, by the way. But I’ll meet you, it’s just not the person you think it is,’” Liam says.

“UMaine helped us reach a comfort level with the twin stuff.”

Steven Kydd: Connecting the World Through Food

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Steven Kydd, a 1991 University of Maine graduate who majored in business administration, remembers growing up in Orrington, Maine, with a passion for food and an awareness of where his food came from. His family grew their own vegetables and his uncle was a lobsterman.

In 2012, Kydd and his business partners Joe Perez and Larry Fitzgibbon took their shared love of food and converted it into Tastemade, the world’s first global food network built for digital platforms.

Tastemade’s mission is to connect the world through food by allowing creators to make and share video programming instantly on a global and social scale. Tastemade has more than 100 food channels in the Americas, Europe and Asia, and has had episodes uploaded from more than 250 cities, 25 countries and in 10 different languages.

Tastemade’s YouTube channel offers original programs featuring recipes, cooking and travel. Many Tastemakers film their shows for free in the company’s California studio that was designed to create high-quality productions and inspire collaboration. The company also offers a mobile app that allows users to produce and share their own one-minute episodes about their favorite foods and restaurants.

Before Tastemade, Kydd was part of the founding team of Demand Media and executive vice president of Demand Studios, was vice president of business development and strategy for Yahoo! and served as vice president of Internet marketing with 20th Century Fox International in Hong Kong, Indonesia and Los Angeles.

Kydd now lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with his wife and two children, where he shares his passion for food at home and at work.

Tell us about Tastemade and why it was founded:
We created Tastemade with one goal in mind — to connect the world through food. A generation ago the cable industry launched category-defining brands in food and lifestyle, and we believe the same opportunity exists for today’s global, social and mobile digital platforms. My partners and I founded the company in 2012.

Are you a good cook? What’s your favorite dish to prepare and/or eat?
I have no culinary training whatsoever, but growing up I learned some baking tips from my mum and recently learned a lot about cooking from my wife Sal. My favorite dish to eat is a simple steamed lobster which we catch from my parents’ traps off Deer Isle, Maine.

Tell us about your previous jobs and how they have influenced your professional life:
I have been working in the media business for most of my career, and I love that it is a combination of art and commerce. Early in my career I made it my mission to find mentors and learned from them what it takes to be a senior executive at a big company.

I was fortunate to work at great media brands like 20th Century Fox and Yahoo!. However, along the way I learned that I was at my best when starting something new, and that led me toward leaving the corporate world and into startups.

What are you professional and personal goals?
For me, personal and professional goals must be linked. When you start your own company it becomes part of your family life. Fortunately, my family gets to be involved in the development of the company, and that is rewarding for everyone.

What are your biggest professional accomplishments to date:
I had always dreamed about ringing the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to celebrate the IPO of a company I helped build. I was fortunate to be part of the founding team of Demand Media, and in January 2011, my dream came true.

Another highlight was being asked to speak at Google Zeitgeist this year to tell the story of how my partners and I formed Tastemade.

Both of these events were shared with my partners Joe Perez and Larry Fitzgibbon, who were co-founders of both companies with me.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals?
For a couple years I served as the head of the UMaine tour guides — showing prospective students and their parents around campus. Looking back on this, it was a great way to build my storytelling skills. Any entrepreneur will tell you that storytelling is critical to starting and growing a new business.

Most memorable UMaine moment:
The day I was accepted to the study abroad program in France for my junior year.

Any advice for current students?
First, study abroad — it is one of the best things you can do to grow personally and professionally. Second, start a business — any business. You will learn more from being an entrepreneur than you will from any textbook. Lastly, find great partners — everything in life is better when you can share it with people you care about.

Ryan Urquhart: Putting Skills to the Test

Friday, February 21st, 2014

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Working from 3 to 11 a.m. isn’t what most college students hope for their summer jobs. Yet for University of Maine environmental horticulture graduate, Ryan Urquhart, 22, working at Walt Disney World Resorts in Florida last summer was the perfect opportunity.

“Disney is a magical place and everything gets fixed and brought back up to expectations before sunrise,” says the Greene, Maine, native.

Urquhart was one of 33 interns chosen out of 20,000 applicants to work as a Horticulture Professional Intern. Working in all Disney parks, hotels and vacation spots, aside from physical labor, Urquhart learned 250 new plant species and landscaping techniques, and managed job sites from design phase to finished landscape.

“The biggest rule at Disney is you’re there to make the guest happy. For some people, they save their whole life to make one trip to this place. It’s your job to make them happy and feel welcomed. So guest interactions and public relations is what I really enjoyed the most,” says Urquhart.

Urquhart, who was president of the Horticulture Club at UMaine, graduated in December and is currently working at Plainview Farms in North Yarmouth, Maine, as a landscape foreman and will begin full-time landscaping in March.

The business minor plans to work at smaller-sized landscaping businesses in Maine before opening his own landscape company either in Maine or New England.

“I want to get the fundamentals of landscaping and the methods to owning a business down pat before I get involved with something of my own,” he says.

How did you find out about your internship at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida?
I found out about my internship simply by looking online at unique internships in horticulture. Most students in environmental horticulture look in state for a summer internship. I wanted to broaden my skills that I learned at UMaine and use those tools to benefit myself outside of the state. Since we are from a colder climate, we only get to learn so much due to the shortened seasons. This includes plant material, construction techniques, designs and cultural facts about horticulture. I wanted to get more than just the same education as I did at UMaine. This ultimately made the decision to go to Florida much easier, and I’m glad that I did.

How did UMaine prepare you for your internship?
UMaine prepared me by teaching me the fundamentals of horticulture. I use what I learned in the classroom and put it in real-life situations. The amount of people you meet and the contacts that you make at UMaine really help to broaden your horizons and think outside the box. I think that is why I had such a great time in Disney, because of the skills that I learned at UMaine. In environmental horticulture you are required to do an internship at least 400 hours long. Having UMaine require this as part of its curriculum ensures that students will have a positive and beneficial impact on the field they are pursuing.

Being a busy student, president of the Horticulture Club and having good grades is a full-time job, how did you make an internship work with your education? Are these types of unique experiences available for anyone at UMaine
Yes. Indeed, I definitely had a very busy career at UMaine. I believe that these experiences are available to anyone that wants to find them. People who have the ambition, work ethics and motivation, and are willing to do something different, all have that opportunity at UMaine.

Why did you choose UMaine?
I chose UMaine because it was affordable, it was in state, and its campus offers much more than just an education. I wanted to be a part of something better, something that was different than your daily school grind. I balanced my work, club activities and extracurricular activities as well as school workload to the best of my abilities. UMaine was the place for me, and I’m glad I chose to be a part of something so great.

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, if so how?
All of the professors in the Horticulture Department helped in every way possible. Meeting with me and talking to me about classes, personal experiences, or simply just asking how I was doing; that is what I liked the most about UMaine teachers. They care and are there to offer any assistance you may need not just during regular hours but during the weekends and at all hours of the night as well.

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine? Why?
I think a class that everyone needs to take would be finance. This class explains all of the basic accounting, payrolls and other essentials needed for life. This class taught me how to be prepared for the real world. That is one thing that many schools lack: teaching students how to become successful in the real world once they are done with college. This class offers this, and much, much more.

What difference has UMaine made in your life, helping you reach your goals?
They offer classes that are beneficial to me in my field as well as other aspects of life. I believe that my goals are obtainable and my future has endless possibilities because of the University of Maine.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
I would give two pieces of advice to incoming students. The first — join as many clubs that interest you and participate in anything that you may be interested in. The worst that may happen is you won’t like it anymore. But if you love it, then you will meet so many new people that you will be grateful you did so in the end. My second piece of advice would be that college is tough and aggravating, no matter how hard you think it is and how easy it is to quit, in the end you will be satisfied with who you have become.

What is your favorite place on campus?
I would have to say my favorite place on campus would be Alfond Arena. Every time I go there the atmosphere is like no other. Everyone that attends games and other functions are so upbeat and proud to be there. I got the opportunity to work in the ticket office for four years while going to school; I cannot say that I had one bad experience doing that. Everyone was proud to be from Maine. Sometimes I would even run into a proud alumni fan that was just coming back to relinquish their college years.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped the way you see the world?
Yes. UMaine has a great degree of diversity and culture. Interacting with different people from around the world, different religions and different ethnicities really opened my eyes. A good example of this would be the Horticulture Club. We had 12 members that I would interact with on the daily. Learning and getting to know each one of them outside of the classroom was a unique opportunity for me to broaden my skill sets. This is also why, I believe, I was able to interact with everyone at Disney. Everyone from all over the world comes to Disney and wants a great experience and I was able to relate and tell them firsthand stories about my life, college and the skills that I have learned at such a young age.

Emily and Jared Duggan: Encouraging Education

Monday, February 17th, 2014

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Every Monday afternoon Jared Duggan, an accounting major at the University of Maine, heads to Leonard Middle School in Old Town to meet one of his close friends — a sixth-grader named Matt.

When Jared arrives, the two head outside to play basketball, even though it’s winter. It’s the pair’s normal routine, regardless of the weather.

Meanwhile at the Old Town Recreation Department, Jared’s sister Emily Duggan, an elementary education major at UMaine, sits with Keely, a fifth-grader. They’re making friendship bracelets while they talk about friends and school.

This is the second year the Duggans of Buxton, Maine, have participated in UMaine’s Black Bear Mentor Program. The program is offered through the Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism and is run by an AmeriCorps VISTA. More than 80 UMaine students are currently participating, making the program’s 11th year the largest.

The Black Bear Mentors meet with third- to eighth-grade students once a week after school at Dr. Lewis S. Libby School in Milford, Old Town Elementary School, Leonard Middle School in Old Town and the Old Town Recreation Department. The mentors work with students on activities such as sports, arts and crafts, homework, board games and community service projects.

“I think the end goal is to try to get the students interested in pursuing education,” Jared, who is in his junior year at UMaine, says of the program. “We know what we’ve done to get to college so we can pass that on to kids to try to get them to have the same habits so they can hopefully go to college, too.”

The siblings, who live together, joined the program at the same time last year.

“Jared and I have always gotten along really well because we are the only two children in our family and because we’re so close in age. We don’t argue very often but when we do, we usually get over it pretty quickly,” Emily says, adding she and her brother also like attending UMaine hockey and basketball games together.

Emily, a UMaine sophomore, says she decided to become a mentor because she has always enjoyed working with children and wants to be a teacher. The Duggans also both worked as recreation counselors during the summer in their hometown. Jared, who was working as an RA at the time he joined the program, also decided being able to work with kids during the school year would be rewarding.

“It’s the first thing I look forward to in the week because you just go and hang out with a kid and spread your wisdom,” Jared says.

Black Bear Mentors, who come from a variety of majors, are interviewed and undergo background checks before training begins. They are paired with a student based on similar interests and mentor them in weekly 90-minute sessions for the entire academic year.

Returning mentors, such as the Duggans, have the option to mentor the same child for multiple years — if the child also wants the same mentor. Both Emily and Jared are now on the second year of mentoring the students they were originally paired with.

“When I first met Keely she was pretty shy — I’m shy, too — so we were pretty similar. But now she talks all the time and asks me for advice, which is cool,” Emily says.

She says offering advice to Keely has helped both of them open up and has helped her learn how to solve problems and give the best advice without being involved. The pair also likes to spend time doing homework, playing board games or making arts and crafts. Jared and Matt, on the other hand, spend most of their time outdoors throwing a football or playing basketball.

“Matt really likes to play sports, so everyday we go outside — even in the winter,” Jared says. “While we’re outside, we’ll play with the other kids to work on teamwork. I also push him to do homework so he can play sports for school teams.”

Jared says Matt was outgoing from the moment they met and the two bonded quickly, becoming fast friends. Since Jared has known Matt, he has become more comfortable sharing personal stories.

The Duggans, who would recommend the program to UMaine students, agree the best part of being involved in the program has been reuniting with their student for the first time after summer break and seeing the excitement on their face.

“It was like we didn’t even have the summer break. He was really excited to see me, and we picked up right where we left off. We went right back outside again. It was pretty cool to see that nothing had really changed,” Jared says.

He adds the experience was the same for all the returning mentors.

“The kids just run right to their mentors. You can tell how much they mean to the kids,” he says.

Emily says she knows Keely enjoys taking part in the program by the reactions she gets from other students when she visits.

“I imagine she tells her friends about it because when I go to Old Town Rec, they always say, ‘Oh, you’re Keely’s mentor.’ They all want a mentor,” she says.

In November, the Black Bear Mentors hosted the elementary- and middle-school students for the group’s annual scavenger hunt on the UMaine campus.

“It wasn’t a typical scavenger hunt,” Emily says. “The goal was to show them places on campus and see what they’re interested in.”

The group plans to have the students visit again to do activities such as rock climbing or touring the football field.

“I’m excited for them to come back,” Jared says. “It’s always fun when they’re on the campus.”

Ethan Tremblay: An Opportunistic Explorer

Monday, February 17th, 2014

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Third-year economics and journalism double major Ethan Tremblay of Mariaville, Maine, enjoys investigative writing, a genre of journalism that he calls precarious in the current news climate.

Tremblay, 21, says that his time at UMaine has opened his eyes to many new fields interest. Since taking UMaine’s Media Law and Ethics course in the spring 2013 semester, he has found that he enjoys exploring legal problems and figuring out why courts make the decisions they do.

Since beginning his education at UMaine, the honors student has studied abroad in Bulgaria, which he says provided the opportunity to “be able to step outside your door and get caught up in appreciating even the most mundane things because you’re so far from home.”

As a double major in economics and journalism, which field do you find influences your interests more?
I’ve been fascinated by journalism since I was very young, but at this point, I find myself drawn more toward the economics side of my education. I think this is because I’ve always enthusiastically followed current events, which initially drew me to want to report on them — and I still do. However, as I explored other coursework here at UMaine, I began to gain an appreciation for the ways I might be able to actually take part in what’s going on in the news.

What genre of journalistic writing would you call your specialty?
I’m not sure I’m at the point yet where I could declare myself specialized, but I can say I especially enjoy the sort of in-depth, time- and research-intensive investigative stuff that’s so precarious these days.

Who would you consider to be your favorite author?
I’m going to go with Mark Twain. There’s a timelessness to much of his commentary, which is why I find him appealing a century after he was first publishing. He also had a really exciting life, and he wasn’t afraid to speak frankly about things — often in such a disarmingly funny or satirical way that you don’t get bogged down in endless criticism or whining. One of his best quotes that I find particularly applicable is something like, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?
I wrote for the Maine Campus for a time, but otherwise my major activities at the university are academic. I like using campus rec facilities, especially the Maine Bound climbing gym, and attending guest lectures and seminars. When I was studying abroad in Bulgaria, I had more time because I wasn’t also working part time and volunteering, as I do while I’m here at home, so I had the opportunity to take part in more extracurriculars.

Why did you choose to attend UMaine?
I guess I was excited about the fact that I could stay near all the great places I enjoyed growing up while also having access to a gorgeous campus and excellent academics. I love Maine, so I chose UMaine not so much because I didn’t want to go anywhere else, but because I felt privileged to be able to stay here.

How has being in the Honors College made your experience at UMaine worthwhile?
Honors has taken everything else I’ve worked on at UMaine and made sense of it. It’s hard to describe the experience, except to say that the things you are taught in honors are the ideas that you find yourself thinking about when you’re nowhere near a classroom or workplace. It’s tempting to dismiss it as a bunch of dusty old books and some response papers, but when you realize you’re still relating the ideas to your experience of the world long after the semester has ended, then you suddenly have to accept that it changed your life.

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, if so how?
Nico Jenkins in honors and Julie Hopwood in journalism are both fantastic professors. I’m partial to any educator who doesn’t get so wrapped up in their material that they can’t engage with students and have a dialogue, even during a lecture. Julie pretty much single-handedly cultivated my interest in law. Nico is the master of the Socratic dialogue, and it was almost uncanny the way he seemed to draw out exactly what aspect of an honors text was most intriguing and use it to start a conversation that could go on for months.

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?
I took Media Law and Ethics a couple of semesters ago, and it really opened my eyes to different aspects of the media world. I found I really enjoyed exploring legal problems and puzzling out why courts make the decisions that they do. Especially in the realm of First Amendment rights, which is a major focus of media law, there is some very careful language and important nuance when judges hand down opinions, and I found myself fascinated by how visionary some cases can be. There’s a certain appeal to how legal tradition and precedents are set, and the fact that they continue to be instrumental decades and even centuries down the road.

Is there a specific type of law in which you’re interested?
I’m drawn toward law from more of a policy perspective than actual litigation. One of my most important goals is to be able to stay in Maine, so I’d like to tailor my career in such a way that I can be here and be useful. There are a lot of important decisions being made with regard to Maine’s future, and I think there’s going to be a renewed emphasis on fresh thinking and innovation when it comes to policymaking and community development. I’d like to have a part in that. When it comes to finding a potential graduate program that’s useful to me, I think I’ll look particularly for strong environmental or land use-related programs.

Are there any specific court cases that really intrigue you?
I was fascinated by the Sullivan case (Sullivan v. New York Times Co.) because it was really the first time I’d actually had to sit down and puzzle through a full Supreme Court ruling. I found the legal process fascinating, and then when we explored more of the background for the case and the ideas Justice Brennan was using to develop the court’s opinion, I was intrigued. I started reading more about Brennan and his other important opinions, and I started reading some of his other writings as well. I’m not sure that I ever would’ve come across his ideas, at least not in such an exciting way, if it weren’t for that class.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped the way you see the world?
I came here without a solid idea of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Now that I’m about to leave, I have the opposite problem — I’ve encountered so many fascinating and important ideas and fields at UMaine that I’m afraid I won’t be able to focus myself on one thing. I think that’s a sign of having found a great place to be educated, since the best thing an institution can do for a student is inspire them to think big and be passionate about things.

Another fantastic opportunity I had here at UMaine was the chance to study abroad for a semester. The Office of International Programs does a splendid job of matching students with excellent institutions abroad, and they help with every aspect of making it happen. Once you’re outside your native community, you can’t help but realize how much there is happening in the world and begin to be drawn toward it. Studying abroad — for me, it was at the American University in Bulgaria — offers a whole new world both within your educational institution and within the region or country where you’re living. It’s a powerful thing to be able to step outside your door and get caught up in appreciating even the most mundane things because you’re so far from home.

What difference has UMaine made in your life, helping you reach your goals?
Being at UMaine really helps you find your own voice, whether it’s because you get engaged in a class discussion and have to defend your opinions, or because you see an opportunity for yourself and have to find the right people to help you make it happen. If you don’t get out and advocate for yourself, you’re not taking advantage of all the great things this university has to offer.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
Definitely get involved. College is really what you make of it, meaning that you have the opportunity to take your few short years here and leverage them into an excellent career. Not only can you prepare yourself for just about any profession, but you really have a chance to shape yourself as a human being. Take the time to explore what it is you believe and figure out why that’s so. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or dig deeper into things. Sometimes the coolest things you learn are inspired by an offhand comment from a professor that you decide to follow up on on your own time.

What is your favorite place on campus?
There are two trees on the corner of the Mall where you can always find a group of people jumping around on a slackline whenever there isn’t too much snow. It’s a great place to congregate, because everybody is willing to talk about just about anything — even with folks they’ve never met before. I don’t think you could spend more than five minutes there without meeting friendly, new people. Also, slacklining is great fun, even if you only have two minutes to stop between classes.

What is UMaine doing to help with your future?
I think UMaine has provided me with the knowledge and experience that I’ll need to pursue a graduate degree, and that’s where I think I’m headed once I finish here. It’ll probably be law school, so the fact that I’ve had professors who manage to combine practical knowledge of how to perform within the legal system with a broader appreciation for why and how we govern ourselves — and, from honors, a sense of who we even are as a society — is really crucial for me.

How do you think your current education would be applicable to your hopes to expand your education as you look into graduate school?
One of the best things about UMaine for me has been being able to maintain connections to communities I had already developed. Because I didn’t have to put down new roots during my undergraduate career, I’ve been able to stay connected with many organizations and folks who can open doors for me down the road. Right now, I’m all about getting experience and trying new things, both in the classroom and outside the university. Orono’s a great little community to be a part of, and Bangor is really taking off in many exciting ways. I think I’ve benefitted from being around for that, especially because I feel strongly that I want to continue being around and contributing to the region. I’ve been able to serve on a nonprofit board for the past three years, work in downtown Bangor, and just be involved in life here while still in school. I consider myself very fortunate.

I like to take a lot of classes at once, so I’ve learned to budget my time and energy pretty carefully. There are so many things to learn in every class, especially if you try to dig deeper than the required reading or lecture notes. Honestly I don’t think my particular choice of majors will have a specific impact on where I end up in the future — it’s more about the ideas and people I’ve been exposed to and the information I’ve been able to absorb. I wouldn’t say UMaine has prepared me to do specifically one thing with my major — it’s more about becoming a well-educated, curious, informed person and trying to keep yourself going that way.

Danielle Walczak: Writing for Environmental Change

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

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Danielle Walczak of Lee, N.H., is a third-year student at the University of Maine who is determined to make a difference as an environmental journalist.

The journalism major with minors in sustainable food systems and creative writing is a reporter for The Maine Campus and a student news writer for the UMaine Division of Marketing and Communications. Walczak is also a member of the Honors College and Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

Why did you choose UMaine?
I chose UMaine for a lot of reasons, one of the big ones being location. Being able to be in the mountains, near the water and out in the woods is very important to me. UMaine provides that for me with Acadia, Baxter and even all the land trust paths throughout Orono. Another reason I chose UMaine was because of my visits. I got a sense people at UMaine cared about who I was as a person and were always willing to help. That has proven to be true for me; it’s a very positive environment.

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine? Why?
Principles of Sustainable Agriculture would have to be one of them. Professor Eric Gallandt has a wealth of knowledge, but also makes sustainable agriculture something accessible to students. In a lot of environmentally related classes, I leave thinking, “How in the world am I going to make a change?” I left Eric’s class feeling empowered and equipped with the right information to make a difference, especially here in Maine.

What difference has UMaine made in your life, helping you reach your goals?
UMaine has helped me reach my goals by giving me so many options in my education. With such a wide variety of classes, I can be a journalism major while also taking on minors that allow me to delve into my passion for the environment. I think environmental thinkers are what the world needs most to enact social change right now and in future years, and UMaine has given me a dynamic environmental education to help me get started on that path.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped the way you see the world?
It’s hard to pick just one. As a whole, my experience with the Honors College has given me perspective in my life. It has forced me to question how I see and process the world. I have learned to question my own biases and to not be afraid to push past walls just because they make me uncomfortable. I think those are skills that make a huge difference, not just in class but also in how I perceive everything I do in my life.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
Get involved. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, even if you’re scared to. Take a wide range of classes and really seek out your interests. Go to all sorts of events. There are so many things happening on campus people should take advantage of.

Maria NeCastro: Combining Journalistic Passions

Monday, January 27th, 2014

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When senior journalism student, Maria NeCastro of Machias, Maine, embarked on her Honors College thesis, she was inspired by Ida Tarbell’s muckraking work “The History of The Standard Oil Company.”

Muckrakers were a league of American journalistic reporters and novelists in the late 1800s to early 1900s seeking to raise awareness of societal issues and expose corruption. Although the modern cultural definition of muckraking is associated with tabloid writers, it also includes investigative journalists.

With an internship with UMaine’s Division of Marketing and Communications and plans for a career in public relations, NeCastro, 21, is finding a way to combine both her journalistic passions in her final project as a UMaine student.

Seniors in the Honors College are required to complete a thesis, which will also serve as NeCastro’s journalism capstone. The psychology minor’s project “Muckrakers vs. Public Relations: The Struggle to Shape Public Opinion,” explores the relationship between modern muckrakers and public relations forces that try to minimize damage from groundbreaking reports. She hopes to benefit future investigative reporters by showing how public relation strategies borrow from journalistic techniques to undermine independent, investigative reporting.

“As one of my mentors told me, seasoned journalists make some of the best public relations professionals. In the case of a scandal a journalist can borrow the schemes of the corporate public relations specialists to find any and all missing pieces from the corporation’s press releases and public announcements. While a corporation may seem to provide a thorough message, there is always more investigative research to be done to find the whole truth that the public deserves,” said NeCastro.

What inspired you to chose this thesis?
Since taking CMJ 211 (Journalism Studies I: Introduction and History) during my very first semester at UMaine, I have been fascinated with the idea of muckraking. I fell in love with the work of Ida Tarbell, a muckraker who wrote “The History of the Standard Oil Company” as part of a series of articles that were published in McClure’s Magazine in the early 1900s. When I was beginning to come up with ideas for my thesis, I knew that I wanted to study something related to the field of muckraking and investigative journalism, yet I wanted to be able to relate the work I would be doing to the career I hope to pursue in public relations.

Which “modern muckrakers” will you be researching?
I’ll be writing about Rachel Carson (author of “Silent Spring”), Barbara Ehrenreich (author of “Nickel and Dimed”) and Eric Schlosser (author of “Fast Food Nation”). Each of these extraordinary authors were and are some are the best investigative journalists of the mid-20th and early 21st century. Their work called for change and educated many about issues, from the environment to the dangers of unhealthy eating.

Doing a thesis is a huge commitment. What benefits do you gain from doing one? Why is it worth it?
Writing a thesis is about researching and writing about something that is significant to the writer. I have found that it is also about learning to collaborate with faculty who have expertise in the topic being studied. It may not be something that’s worth the time commitment in the eyes of everyone, but I am grateful that it serves as my senior capstone in journalism.

Not every student at UMaine gets the opportunity to conduct a thesis — or chooses to. What made you decide to taken on the project?
Before I began taking courses in the Honors College, I was not sure that the course would be right for me, but as time went on, I realized how beneficial the whole Honors sequence can be to an education. The thesis process serves as a way to apply the great Honors College themes of philosophy, history and literature in a final project that is really relatable to both my education and my career.

The Honors College creates a special experience for UMaine students. What has your experience with the Honors College been like?
There was nothing I enjoyed more in my two years of taking the Civilizations course (a sequence taken for four semesters by all students in the Honors College) than sitting down in a giant Neville lecture hall and listening to top scholars and speakers explain the concepts of everything from Plato’s “Cave” to Dutch art to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” I really loved the idea of being able to learn something beyond the basics.

What is your favorite memory from your time with Honors?
It was when my father, a Medieval scholar who teaches at University of Maine at Machias, lectured on Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”

What other activities, groups or projects are you involved in on campus?
I am involved with the UMaine chapter of HerCampus, an online publication. I’ve been writing movie reviews for the publication for over a year now and love being able to write about fun topics while collaborating with members of all different majors and interests. I’ve also written for The Maine Campus.

Why did you choose UMaine?
I decided to go to UMaine because it was close enough to home that I’d never get truly homesick, but also far enough away that I’d be able to grow up and become my own person.

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, if so how?
I think that this internship experience at the Division of Marketing and Communications has provided me with some of the best mentors and role models I could have ever asked for. It has been one of my most influential experiences. I love the feeling of the intellectual and creative community to which it has exposed me.

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine? Why?
I think that my favorite class is Hollie Smith’s public relations course. It not only taught me about what the world of public relations, it also helped me understand my passion for the field. I also have loved taking psychology classes. The study of human thought and development will always fascinate me.

What difference has UMaine made in your life, helping you reach your goals?
UMaine has really helped me become a more independent thinker. I originally started out with an accounting minor, but after a few hits and misses, I came to the conclusion that it would be best for me to switch to a subject in which I was truly interested. UMaine made that process easy, and thus has helped me understand that life is full of people trying to find their way to happiness.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
This is some of the least followed advice in the world, but I’d say: Don’t procrastinate. I’ve found that there’s so much more time to focus on fun activities when you’re not stressed about getting all of your work done at the last possible moment.

What are your plans after graduating from UMaine? What has the Department of Communications and Journalism, DMC and/or your classes, done to help your career?
My journalism and communications background gained from UMaine and the Division of Marketing and Communications has helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses, increase my communicative skills and realize my passion for the career field. After graduating, I plan to temporarily work at my summer job in my hometown while looking for public relations-related job openings in New England. Within a couple years, I hope to further my education with a master’s degree in a marketing and communications program.

Amber Smith: Making a Difference Through Engineering

Monday, January 27th, 2014

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When Amber Smith of Ipswich, Mass. signed up for her senior capstone design project, she knew she would be helping her resume, but she didn’t know she would be helping others, as well.

A person is 60 percent less likely to contract HIV if they have been circumcised, according to a current clinical study being conducted. The World Health Organization along with other organizations is working to come up with a plan to circumcise men in Africa.

With this statistic in mind, Smith, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Maine, and two other students — Grant Aylward and Sam Davidson — are working to create a disposable circumcision device that destructs after one use. The current tool is made of chrome-plated brass, and the new device would be plastic and less expensive to produce.

“You’re working with patients that have HIV or potentially could have it, and you don’t want to spread it to either the surgeons or to other patients that you’re working with,” said Smith.

Over the past two summers, Smith worked through internships at Stryker Orthopaedics, a company specializing in joint replacements. Working to help people gain their life back became a goal after Smith witnessed and experienced all the injuries of her teammates on the UMaine Women’s basketball team.

Smith played on the team for four years before she was deemed medically unable to play. During her redshirt freshman season she was a finalist for the America East Fan’s Choice Player of the Year while contributing an average of 10.0 points per game. She was ranked 14th in the conference in scoring and named Rookie of the Week twice.

How did you get involved with this project?
This project is part of our senior design project (capstone) we have to do during our final year of the mechanical engineering curriculum. Peter Millard, the epidemiologist we are working with on this project, came to the Mechanical Engineering Department with the project idea to design a circumcision clamp to better fit the needs of the sub-Saharan African population. The HIV prevention project, as well as a handful of other projects, were offered and each student applied for the project of their choice. I knew I wanted to work in the health care industry, and this project seemed like a great opportunity.

What kind of design challenge does this device represent?
It definitely needs to be single-use, and it needs to be self-destructing. A lot of times because they [people in Africa] don’t have the resources we do, they will try to sterilize it, and they will try to clean it and use it again. We have to design this tool so once it has gone through its cycle to completion, it has to break and it has to be unusable at that point.

Having this device be disposable, what does that do to the risk of spreading HIV?
By having this be something you can throw away — a single-use device — you’re not using it over and over again; you’re not cleaning it, you’re not going to have to sterilize it. It makes it so you’re at much less risk of spreading it to the other patients you’re working with because you’re doing 30–40 million in total.

How challenging has this project been?
It definitely is a challenge. This isn’t really a new issue. People have tried to do this before. There’s a tool the South Africans have made, there’s a tool China has come up with. Some surgeons and groups like it and some don’t. The surgeon that we’re working with is out of Mozambique — he’s an epidemiologist out of Bangor. He’s the one we’re working with and he has come to us and asked us to design a new circumcision tool. We’re also trying to make it under a dollar a piece, because we’re mass-producing all of these.

What is this experience doing for you in terms of becoming an engineer and deciding if this is a career you want to pursue?
This is absolutely something I want to pursue. I’ve always liked the health care field. I come from a family of engineers and I’ve spent the last two years working for Stryker Orthopaedics, designing prosthetic implants. It’s the exact same design process I’ve been using, so I do have a little bit of experience in this field. It’s definitely not the same thing, but it presents a new twist as far as cutting down on price and material and mass-producing these tools. It’s a great opportunity; it’s exciting to be able to have this kind of impact. Sixty percent is a huge statistic. To be able to cut down on the spread of HIV; it’s an epidemic and to have the opportunity to reduce its effect is a huge deal.

Do you think this project is giving you a skill that is marketable to go into this field?
Absolutely, it’s real life anytime you can go through the design process; anytime that you can go from idea conception to prototype generation to coming up with a physical model. We have an opportunity to send this to Africa. The epidemiologist we’re working with is going to choose one of four designs [from the four groups working on the project] at the end. We may be looking at clinical trial opportunities, which is pretty cool. To be able to put that on your resume would be a head start on most other recent college grads in the country.

The hope is you’re going to come up with something that’s really going to make a difference?
Exactly. You can make a difference doing this; it’s not just something you can put on your resume. I mean, that’s nice, but you can make a difference in people’s lives. I think that’s what initially drew me to the health care field. Because I played basketball here, that’s part of my life, too. You see injuries, you see people blow out their knees, you see people ruin ankles and hips. A lot of the time, without some sort of surgery, these injuries are life altering. The health care field is coming up with new solutions all the time and to be able to give someone’s life back is pretty cool.

In terms of basketball, your career ended quicker than you would have liked, have you been able to channel your energies into this project?
My career did end more suddenly than I would have liked it to. Medically, I wasn’t able to play anymore. It took me a while to come to terms with that, but it’s OK, and I am able to focus on developing my career now and it’s something I really enjoy doing. Not playing basketball and not being up here training all summer has allowed me to have internships these past two summers and to focus more on my career.

Are there parallels between the work ethic to be a good basketball player and the diligence needed to be an engineer?
The discipline it takes to play basketball — your work ethic, consistency, persistence, all of these things — are things you can apply to schoolwork and the work environment, as well. You’ve got to get the job done. That’s something that is important as an engineer; the ability to get the job done. It’s not really about the time you put in, or what you were originally taught, but more about your ability to find a way to get the job done.

This is probably the hardest thing you’ve had to do as an engineer, does this bring all the skills you’ve learned to a point?
Definitely. One of the cool things about this project is it’s a culmination of what I’ve learned and all the classes that I’ve taken. That being said, a lot of the project consists of discovering things on your own. You find people to help you and you learn things. It’s cool you get to teach yourself. I think that’s a big part of the education here. They may not teach you everything, but they teach you how to find what you need to know.

Success Beyond the Soccer Field

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

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The five seniors on the University of Maine women’s soccer squad excelled on the pitch and in their classes; all have GPAs of 3.4 or higher and, in three of their four seasons, the Black Bears advanced to at least the America East semifinal round. Here are question-and-answer interviews with captain Lisa Bijman, captain Maggie Malone, Meaghan Bradica, Hallie Lipinski and Nikki Misener.

Lisa Bijman: Consistently excellent
Maggie Malone: Strength through leadership
Meaghan Bradica: Positive attitude and balanced perspective
Hallie Lipinski: A silent leader
Nikki Misener: Team comes first

Ben McNaboe: Coming Together Through Music

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

On Jan. 17, Ben McNaboe, a third-year music education major with a saxophone concentration, from Yarmouth, Maine, will present “An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein Classics,” a fundraiser for the University of Maine School of Performing Arts.

The event, created by McNaboe, is the first of its kind and will feature about 90 musicians and vocalists. It’s McNaboe’s intent to bring together UMaine performers — students, faculty and alumni — while raising money for SPA. The gala event will include a 45-person orchestra and vocalists from The Steiners and Renaissance, the male and female a cappella groups on campus.

McNaboe is also active with music and education throughout the state. He is currently serving as the music director for Hermon High School’s performance of “Little Shop of Horrors” and Yarmouth High School’s performance of “Seussical the Musical,” and as a liaison for the Maine International Center for Digital Learning.

Event information:

For more information, view the event on Facebook.

Tickets are available through the Collins Center box office (207.581.1755 or

To request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.1781.

The event’s snow date is Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m.

You’re organizing the event, what inspired its creation?

I do a lot of shows. It’s kind of my niche and my passion, and I have always just been interested in common experiences among student bodies.

I identified, when I came to UMaine, that we could be doing more to merge the worlds of the vocal and instrumental majors.

We get so busy with our own recitals and symphonic concerts as instrumentalists and the vocalists get so busy with their tours and shows that we never really go to each other’s performances. We never really collaborate on a big scale. I saw this as a great opportunity to get almost 100 students to collaborate across content area and disciplines.

You’re music directing high school shows, what have you learned from that experience?

Even if I’m not music directing students or kids, 90 percent of what we do as a music director is teaching. You’re creating a product, and I think that’s what I really like most about it.

At Stages Performing Arts Academy where I work in the summers, I have kids as young as 10 to students high school age. There are always some kids in every cast who do unbelievable things. The two leads in the Hermon show are 17 years old and pouring their hearts out on stage at rehearsals, so it’s always exciting. I like that age group, and I think they enjoy working with a university student.

Why did you choose UMaine?

I transferred here my second year. I was in school in Rhode Island when I identified what I wanted my major to be in. I looked at a bunch of schools, mostly big state universities like UMaine. I think for music, they cover a lot with networking and access.

I had been here for conferences before. I love the stuff the Collins Center [for the Arts] does. I think it’s a really nice kind of pocket — there’s a lot going on here. I think it presents a lot of opportunities for people to start their own projects — such as the concert we’re doing — to have some leadership capacity and explore themselves as learners and as students. At a conservatory or smaller music school I wouldn’t be able to do that.

Have you worked closely with a mentor, professor or role model who has made your UMaine experience better, if so how?

I adore all the faculty here, particularly my flute teacher Liz Downing who also works in New Student Programs. She’s an incredible flute player and she is my flute teacher. She has been great; she’s definitely like my school mom. She’ll listen to my ideas.

Back when I had the idea for the Rodgers and Hammerstein concert I brought it to her in a lesson. It’s not uncommon for us to have a lesson that lasts 40 minutes and then talk for an hour afterward. She’s really good about not saying, “That’s a crazy idea,” but talking me through things, like “How can we do this?” and making a plan. She has been a really great guiding light in those times and a phenomenal teacher.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and helping you reach your goals?

Being here, and particularly being someone from the state who knows a lot of people in the state’s world of education and music, the university has given me an unbelievable opportunity to start something new. This fundraiser is something new; nothing like it has ever been done here. That’s just invaluable for me, as a learning process, to do something for the first time and  bring people together. I think it has given me so much opportunity to be a leader.

What advice do you have for incoming students?

About college in general, my big blanket point I make to students graduating from high school is to take some time to learn how you learn. I think that’s really important in college because you are on your own a lot more academically, and professors aren’t going to hold your hand through every little thing. So really taking some serious time to identify how you learn best and what strategies and study habits work for you.

In the process of that, do as much as you possibly can. I think it’s important in college to take advantage of all the opportunities the university has for you. If you don’t come in knowing or thinking you know what your passion is, explore as much as you possibly can and don’t waste any time.

What is the most interesting, engaging or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?

Definitely EDB 221: Education in a Multicultural Society. This course did a great job of opening my eyes about so much. We talk about different cultures and trends in the scope of education and the professor, Phyl Brazee, is phenomenal.

What is your favorite place on campus?

I really love being in Buchanan Alumni House. It’s a beautiful building. I’ve been able to go there and study a little bit. The courtyard is really nice, too.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has shaped the way you see the world?

The one thing I think about a lot is the decision to come to UMaine after going to a high school in southern Maine. The bar is set really high at the school I went to, and I think there is this expectation to look at smaller liberal arts colleges or go out of state. I talk a lot to people about the decision to come here and how it really opened my eyes.

I didn’t go here initially and I think everyone ends up at the right place at the right time for the right reasons. At first I was really nervous about transferring here. I quickly was fine and couldn’t have been happier with my move. I think it opened my eyes to these unnecessary stigmas about staying in the state for school and I’ve gone back to Yarmouth multiple times to talk to students about this realization.

I try really hard to say there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a great university; there’s nothing wrong with going to UMaine or any of the universities in the University of Maine System. It is what you make it, and this is what I think I’ve learned: “Yeah, you can make it fit all those stigmas you hear about going to school in state. Or you can make it this great, vibrant place by being active and involved.”

There’s so much to be involved in, so it has really opened my eyes a lot.