Shayla Kleisinger: Outstanding Graduating International Student

Shayla Kleisinger, of Winnipeg, Canada has been named the Outstanding Graduating International Student in the College of Engineering.

Kleisinger is a biomedical engineering major with a minor in nanotechnology.

As a member of the swimming and diving team, her primary events are freestyle and individual medley. In 2016–17, she was named to the America East All-Academic Team.

Kleisinger is a member of the All Maine Women honor society, vice president of the UMaine chapter of Active Minds, a peer tutor and a teacher in the Black Bear Swim School. She also has been involved in research on campus, working in the Howell Biointerface and Biomimetics Laboratory and participating in an interdisciplinary project through the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions.

Kleisinger also was a mentor in the Maine EPSCoR High School Internship Program. Her capstone research project focuses on microsatellite technology used in NASA’s CubeSat initiative that would be capable of sustaining the growth of microgreen plants in space. She plans to pursue a job in biomedical technology and attend graduate school.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals? 
UMaine has provided me the unique opportunity to do significant research during my undergraduate career. At many large colleges, research positions are very limited. As an undergraduate, I have worked on multiple research teams and have even been able to submit for a publication. The ample experience I have will allow me to have an advantage when entering my professional career.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world?
Being a part of the All Maine Women honor society has definitely shaped the way I look at the world. It is has provided me the opportunity to meet amazing female leaders throughout the university campus and meet lifelong friends. All Maine Women has strengthened my love for UMaine and shown me that I have a true passion for advocacy work.

Why UMaine?
During my senior year of high school, I was in the recruiting process for swimming, as I was looking to continue my athletic career in the NCAA. I was interested in studying biomedical engineering, which was a new, up-and-coming degree at the time. This meant that my options for colleges were slightly more limited. I was contacted by the University of Maine through the athletic department to see if I was interested in competing for a Division I program. Following this, I came on a recruiting trip to tour the campus and meet the swimming team. UMaine was the fourth school I had visited during this process. As soon as I got to the campus, I was immediately impressed with all it had to offer. With a highly successful engineering program, ample opportunity for research, and an overall inviting atmosphere, I knew that the University of Maine was the perfect fit for me. I signed with the athletic department shortly after my visit to the campus in April and made the move to Maine in August before the beginning of my freshman year.

How would you define the opportunities for student success at UMaine? Is there any particular initiative, program or set of resources that helped you succeed?
UMaine has a vast collection of resources for students, regardless of the degree they are pursuing. These resources allow for student success in any avenue individuals choose to follow. I found that the set of resources that helped me the most throughout college was the academic support staff in the athletic department. With their help, I was able to plan my schedule in a way that balanced athletics and academics, while also being provided resources such as tutoring and mentorship.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor who made your UMaine experience better?
I am very fortunate to have had many amazing female mentors throughout my collegiate career. I have had many in the athletic department, including Susan Lizzotte and Linda Costello, who are two of the UMaine swimming and diving coaches, along with Lynn Coutts, the senior associate director of athletics. These three have helped me throughout the many trials and tribulations faced by student-athletes. Their understanding of and commitment to both athletics and academics ensured my success in the classroom and in the pool. Furthermore, I joined a project through the Mitchell Center on campus halfway through my junior year, which introduced me to Brieanne Berry. Brie is currently a Ph.D. student in anthropology and environmental policy and is the graduate mentor for the Diana Davis Spencer Scholar group. Brie has opened my eyes to the possibilities surrounding interdisciplinary research and has significantly strengthened my communication and writing skills. Without her, I would not have been able to maneuver much of my research and have nearly as many opportunities for presentations, conference attendance, and even publication in an academic journal.

What advice do you have for incoming students to help them get off to the best start academically? 
My advice to incoming students would be to get involved on campus as soon as possible, be it through research opportunities or clubs. This will allow you to build a network of resources that you can tap into for guidance throughout your collegiate career. Along with that, it will strengthen your resume and allow you to apply the skills you develop in your classes. Personally, I feel like the moments where I did a significant amount of learning were in situations where I was doing research outside of my classes. I was able to find relevance in what I was learning in those classes and use it to my advantage. On top of that, involvement in research and organized groups solidified my passions and helped define my future career goals.