Nancy DesJardin: Outstanding Graduating Student

Nancy DesJardin of Winterport, Maine is the Outstanding Graduating Student in the Division of Lifelong Learning. DesJardin is a university studies major, with minors in anthropology, and peace and reconciliation. Her academic honors include an Adult Degree Completion Scholarship and two American Association of University Women (AAUW) Non-Traditional Women Scholarships. She is a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda honor society. For her senior project, DesJardin researched food insecurity in the United States. DesJardin, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Desert Storm, is a licensed cosmetologist and owns and operates a hair studio. She also is a substitute teacher at Hampden Academy. Following graduation, DesJardin plans to pursue a career as a secondary school teacher in history or the social sciences.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals? 
The University of Maine has been accommodating on so many levels from the very beginning, when I was searching for a school that fit my needs in completing my higher education. The staff in the Division of Lifelong Learning answered all my questions and concerns, and my adviser Barbara Howard has been immensely supportive and willing to give me a boost and a nudge when I felt intimidated by certain courses.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world? 
My anthropology courses have been enlightening, allowing me to gain new perspective and understanding on cultural diversity. My peace studies courses have trained me to be a better listener and have sharpened my mediation skills. Together, my concentrations have provided me with the valuable tools necessary for working with people from all cultures. I have had some wonderful and dedicated professors who have encouraged and guided me along my journey, and I am excited for what the future holds.

Why UMaine? 
After my son graduated from high school and went into the Marine Corps, I decided it was time to finish my college education. I shopped around for colleges that would suit my needs and after interviewing a few college representatives, I realized that the University of Maine was the choice that made sense for me. I live locally, could complete most of my college work online, and could still work at my job. As a nontraditional student in my 50s, UMaine was very accommodating and everything seemed to fall into place with ease.

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? 
The University of Maine is set up for the student to succeed! Initially, it was recommended for me to apply for the Adult Degree Completion Scholarship and when I won the award, I realized there was no reason not to move forward with my college plans. The scholarship gave me a much-needed kick-start as my first semester’s tuition was covered by it. Then, I was having a particularly challenging day in one of my classes and I was questioning my decision to go back to school, like, “what am I doing?” and I realized I could not quit, that the semester was practically free for me so there was no turning back, in my opinion. I ended that first semester on the Dean’s List and have remained there throughout the rest of my college journey.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor who made your UMaine experience better? 
My adviser Barbara Howard has been my mentor and cheerleader throughout my UMaine experience. She pushed me when I felt like quitting and encouraged me when I felt like I couldn’t do the work. I have had some great professors, but I would not be graduating today if Barbara had not been in my corner.

What advice do you have for incoming students to help them get off to the best start academically? 
There aren’t many opportunities to change one’s own life and if higher education is a dream of yours, I suggest pursuing it. Push the fear aside, be courageous and have faith in yourself. If I can do this, then I believe anybody has it in them to succeed and achieve a college degree. It is so worth the sacrifice and the time and the effort involved. It is a great feeling of accomplishment.

Contact: Margaret Nagle,