Sustainability RLE course offers new UMaine students opportunities to engage in real-world research 

Back of student wearing blue tee shirt that says University of Maine, Research Learning Experience 2021As part of the UMaine Research Learning Experiences (RLE) program launching in fall 2021, Mitchell Center Faculty Fellow François Amar will offer the course “Managing Change: The Science of Sustainability,” which will provide an on-ramp for early undergraduate work in sustainability research and showcase projects of Mitchell Center faculty.

In this one-credit course offered to new students and those returning for their second year, students will learn about community-engaged research connected to a range of sustainability issues such as water quality, energy efficiency, agriculture and more. Students will work in teams to design a research project and may also choose to focus on topics they develop using the skills they learn in the course. Two undergraduate peer mentors will help the student teams create their projects.

“We hope that students will develop a sense of their own ability to define a sustainability problem and take on the challenge of seeking solutions through an interdisciplinary and stakeholder-engaged approach,” said Amar. 

The RLE program is funded by a gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation and courses are offered tuition-free to students at UMaine and UMaine Machias as part of the UMS Transforms initiative. The courses are designed to give students the opportunity to explore new interests or take a deeper dive into a field they plan to study.

In spring 2021, Amar and colleagues Christine Beitl and Don Beith, also Mitchell Center faculty fellows, started a new initiative to develop a Sustainability Hub for Undergraduates housed in the Mitchell Center. When the UMaine RLE program was announced, they felt that the program’s goals aligned well with both the Mitchell Center and the new Hub and developed the RLE course together. 

“The RLE course provides experiences for students early in their UMaine careers,” Amar noted. “The Sustainability Hub will also provide networking, research, and potentially presentation and travel opportunities for students throughout their four years at UMaine. So the RLE course and the Hub are part of a continuum of experiential learning opportunities designed to foster student interest and capacity to take on important problems affecting our environment and society.”