Learn more

A photo of students paddling on a lake
Students enjoy a day of recreation activities as part of their Bridge Week events.
Students attend an RLE introductory class.
A photo of students watching an outdoor movie on the mall
Students watch a movie on the mall leading up to classes officially starting.


This fall at the University of Maine, there is a Research Learning Experience (RLE) for everyone, whether you like to solve problems, build sculptures, or spend time in the Maine outdoors. 

Sign up runs from May 15 until July 15.  Seats fill quickly!

For Incoming First-year Students, each RLE consists of two components:

  • An immersive “bridge week” that begins the week before the start of the rest of your classes (see more below), and 
  • A small group, hands-on course during the fall where you’ll get to know a supportive instructor.

Bridge Week – First-year Students in RLEs arrive on campus on Sunday, Aug. 25, and move right into their residence hall room that will home for the whole first year.  This “bridge week” takes two forms, depending on which RLE you sign up for.  You may:

  • Join together with students from many different RLE courses for our “UMaine Immersion” experience.  In this bridge week, you’ll make friends that will support you throughout your time at UMaine, begin to understand the basics of a “research mindset,” and get to know how UMaine is here to support you in your first semester,
  • Or, start working with your small class cohort and the instructor of your fall RLE course right away in a bridge experience tailored to your course theme. These bridge experiences may happen on campus or somewhere else exciting across the state, and you’ll immediately start developing the skills that will be important for the rest of your course. These tailored bridge experiences are described in more detail in the course descriptions

Which type of bridge experience is connected to each RLE is indicated on the course details page.

A photo of students taking notes on a bridge
Sean Smith takes an RLE class to Leonards’ Mills to learn about water flow and stream sampling
A photo of students playing cornhole
Students enjoy an evening of games at the Rec Center as part of their introductory week on campus before classes formally start.
A photo of students white water rafting
Students enjoy whitewater rafting as part of their Bridge Week events before school formally starts.

Why sign up for an RLE?

RLEs are designed to make students more successful for all of their time at UMaine. Students who start their time at UMaine with an RLE:

  • Have higher morale
  • Feel stronger that they belong here
  • Feel more comfortable doing the kind of work that will be required in later classes
  • Strongly value the friendships they made during their bridge experience
  • Are more aware of student research and other experiential opportunities on campus
  • Are more likely to stay at UMaine

RLEs are so beneficial to incoming students that eight majors on campus require them, and other majors have designed courses specifically for their students. Some RLEs also fulfill a general education requirement for any student who enrolls, and all of the RLEs are designed to make transitioning to UMaine a great experience.

Financial info

First-year students pay no more for this enhanced experience than they would for any course with a similar number of credits, and some students will pay less. To cover the costs of the bridge experience without raising the cost for you, you will see the following two items on your bill:

  • A waiver worth one credit of tuition ($400–$1,493, depending on the type of student)
  • A flat fee of $400 (regardless of the type of student)

Financial aid is available for RLEs for those who qualify. Don’t let the costs prevent you from participating! Contact Katlyn Lemay in the Office of Student Financial Aid at 207.581.1330 or umscholarships@maine.edu to see how we can find a way to make RLEs an important part of the start of your college experience.

Contact us

Frequently asked questions are answered below, but please reach out if you have any questions about RLEs by calling 207.581.4848 or emailing rle@maine.edu.

A photo of students sitting around a bonfire
Welcome and bonfire for bridge week.
A photo of a man speaking to students in a classroom
Students gather in Neville and Shibles Hall to go over their introduction to the university before classes formally begin.
A photo of students gathered in a circle
Students take part in group activities to help get to know one another and build community.

Frequently Asked Questions

See the information above for a thorough description of costs, tuition waivers, and financial aid.

We will send you a confirmation letter once we have begun processing your request. If you are a first-year student, someone from your academic major will let you know when you have a schedule for your entire fall semester courses, including your RLE. If we are unable to enroll you in an RLE, we will contact you directly. “No news” means that we are working diligently on it.

If you are a rising second-year student, you can sign up for any Advanced RLE of your choice with open seats right now using MaineStreet. The online RLE form is meant only for rising first-year students. The MaineStreet course signup information is listed after each course description. If you are a rising sophomore and have questions about how to sign up for RLEs or any courses, please contact your regular contact in your major for assistance.

 Each course section has a limited number of seats, so the earlier you submit your registration request the better your chances! If we can’t fit you into these five preferences, we will contact you and ask if you are interested in any of the courses that still have seats open.

Yes, this cost will be considered and there are additional opportunities for financial aid to cover the fee for those who qualify. For specific questions contact Katlyn Lemay in the Office of Student Financial Aid at 207.581.1330 or umscholarships@maine.edu.

If you are living on campus during the fall, you will move into your residence hall room early on Sunday, Aug. 25.  For most RLEs, you will live in the same room that will be your room for the upcoming year.  For those who don’t, it’s because you are traveling somewhere amazing, but you can still leave your stuff in your residence hall room before you go!

First year students are required to live on campus unless they request and are granted a waiver/exemption. If you have not yet requested an exemption to this requirement, email Andra Bowen, Director of Residence Life (andra.schofield@maine.edu). If you are granted a waiver, it applies to the summer week RLE program as well. 

Instructor information is listed as part of the course information on the website. Most faculty, however, are engaged in travel and other scholarly activity during the summer and may not check their email prior to the end of August. For further assistance please contact us at rle@maine.edu or call 207.581.4848.

All first-year RLE courses have a mandatory pre-semester program connected to the RLE fall semester course. The mandatory programs will occur the week before the regular fall semester begins. Unless you are engaged in another UMaine activity that week, the pre-semester program is required for participation in the fall course. 

Students who are engaged in another UMaine activity that builds community and connects you to campus (e.g., marching band, Black Bear Bound Orientation, athletics training) may sign up for any of the courses whose Bridge Week Theme is designated as “UMaine Immersion.” You may not, unfortunately, sign up for any of the other courses, as they begin their course during that preliminary week, and you would miss the content (and the fun!). 

Grading is set by the individual RLE instructors. Most students will earn a letter grade that will count toward their GPA, and for all students the credit will count toward the 120 minimum credits required by the university to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Participating in a research learning experience is not required for all UMaine students. Students majoring in art, business, nursing, biochemistry, microbiology, or molecular and cellular biology are required to take the RLE that has been designed by their major. Your department will make sure this happens automatically, so you don’t even have to fill out the RLE form! Some other majors (e.g., forestry, marine science, ecology and environmental science) have designed RLEs that most or all of their students will take, but they are not required; and some of our RLEs fulfill a general education requirement for anyone who takes it!  Regardless, all RLEs have been designed to give students skills that will make them more successful during their entire UMaine experience. The course descriptions clearly lay out if a course is required for a major or if it satisfies a degree requirement.

Unfortunately, you may only sign up for one RLE course. We are trying to offer this experience to as many students as possible, and many of our courses occur at the same time. We get it, though; we wish we could have a schedule with nothing but RLEs too. 

 Maybe. During the add/drop period (i.e., the first week of classes) you will be able to switch RLE sections if there are open seats. We do not anticipate many open seats, however. Speak with the office of your home major before the end of the first week of classes to get help with this.

Supported by a generous donation from the Harold Alfond Foundation as part of UMS TRANSFORMS.