My first semester at the University of Maine was the fall of 1989 just after getting off active duty in the Navy. After four years as a Navy Corpsman, my plan was to get a biology degree and go to medical school. After a few semesters and a recall for military service, (I stayed active in the Navy Reserve until 1992), I found my goals in life had changed and I left the University of Maine to pursue a career as a paramedic. In 1995 I was hired by Mayo Regional Hospital; in 2000 I became the department leader for the EMS department. I also worked as an EMS instructor during all of these years. In 2010 I decided to change my career path and become a physician’s assistant. I returned to the University of Maine that fall to complete my B.S. in biology so I could begin applying to PA programs. I stepped down as department leader prior to this but remained a full-time paramedic. As with most adult returning students, I now had a family depending on me and my income as well as a mortgage. Quitting work and becoming a full-time student at that point was not an option for me. In spite of great advisors and faculty in the biology department, I found it increasingly difficult to balance work, school, and family responsibilities especially with travel from Dover-Foxcroft to Orono, some semesters daily to attend required lectures and labs. In the spring of 2015 I was facing a decision of needing another 2 to 3 years to graduate in biology and be able to juggle my schedule so I could still work full-time or taking on the debt of giving up my full-time job possibly a year or two, or more before starting P.A. school which would have effectively doubled the time I would be living off loans and personal savings to graduate in 2016. I had all the prerequisite classes I needed for most PA programs completed; the classes I still needed to complete for my B.S. in biology were not directly related to my field.
I talked with the University Studies program and learned I would be a good candidate to complete my degree with them. I have been able to take all remaining classes I need for a Bachelor’s degree online and still maintain a course of study consistent with what will help me in practice as a rural PA. The University Studies staff and faculty have been exceptional to work with. They appreciate that you are trying to complete your degree and at the same time meet your family and professional responsibilities. I felt that through the years most people at the University of Maine did their best to recognize and work with the unique situation of my life as a non-traditional student but in my opinion, most of the University is geared to a traditional student body. University Studies is designed for non-traditional students with unique life situations. By switching my major to University Studies I will still be graduating in 2016, as I had planned, but have been able to complete my last year and still work full-time. When all the expenses and costs were tallied University Studies was able to allow me to meet my educational goal at savings, mostly from preserved income of approximately $60,000.00. I feel my biggest mistake in returning to the University was that I did not look into this program first. I would encourage anyone considering a return to college to contact the University Studies program. The classes have been challenging but for the most part interesting, enjoyable, and accommodating. What has been a huge help and in my opinion the true strength of the program is the faculty and staff of University Studies in how they help the non-traditional student navigate an often rocky and confusing path to graduation.
– Brian Mullis