Recent News

Van Goffrier loves a good problem

Graham Van Goffrier ’18 routinely solves Rubik’s Cubes – and with 42 quintillion possibilities but only one solution, it is no easy feat. He has competed regionally for the last four years and started a club devoted to solving the cubes on campus. In fact, finding solutions and thinking through puzzling problems is central to his academic work.

Van Goffrier, this month’s Dirigo Award recipient, will graduate in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and minors in electrical engineering, mathematics, and nanotechnology, as well as a master’s in electrical engineering. He attributes much of his success in pursuing such a unique degree path to the faculty and staff in both the physics and electrical engineering departments.

“Without their support, I would not have been able to fit together my unconventional course load,” he states, “or find the research experiences that have made such a difference in my career path thus far.”

Growing up he spent summers in Orono with his mother, taking part in the “Consider Engineering” summer camp at UMaine while he was in high school. He learned about the many facets of the engineering program and met Andy Sheaff ’93, ’99G, of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, who remains a mentor. While at camp he also toured the physics department and was inspired by what he calls the “individualized approach to education” that it offers to students.

Outside of his heavy course load Van Goffrier has served in leadership positions for three academic societies during his time on campus. He is president of the Society of Physics Students and Tau Beta Phi, the nation’s oldest pan-engineering academic honor society.

He also takes time to explore the arts. He enjoyed performing with the Black Bear Men’s Chorus and has participated in several theatrical productions with the Maine Masque. After skating for the first time at the Alfond Arena, he also joined the Figure Skating Club.

“The single best place on campus to meet people is at the piano in Union Central,” Van Goffrier adds.

After graduation, the Norwell, Massachusetts, native will travel to Cambridge, England to enter Cambridge University’s MASt program, a one-year master’s course designed to prepare students for research or industrial work by providing a diverse selection of mathematics and physics courses. His focus will be in applied mathematics. Following his studies in Cambridge, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. program in theoretical physics with interests ranging from fundamental particles to computational finance.

“In my career I hope to explore how all facets of mathematics have the potential to improve lives, both in the present and the future,” he closes, encouraging other students to explore many options while at the university and to define a career which can be a lifelong source of inspiration.


Professor Richard Brucher does not shy away from drama

Brucher, this month’s Faculty Excellence Award recipient, specializes in Shakespeare and other dramatic works of the English Renaissance as well as modern European and American drama. He is particularly interested in early modern revenge plays, but he also studies and teaches the forms that retribution takes in modern literature and drama.

His comparisons span centuries and cultures from Sophocles, Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Lillian Hellman, and Arthur Miller to Clint Eastwood. He says their presentation of sophisticated language, moral outrage, wrong headedness, theatrical self-consciousness, and wild justice prepares students for the healthy skepticism needed for living in today’s world.

“We need our Ibsens and Millers in these days of bombast, intolerance, and ‘fake news’,” he observes.

Brucher joined UMaine’s faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor of English. He credits department colleagues Nancy MacKnight and Burton Hatlen for mentoring him early in his UMaine career. He also notes the deep influence that fellow English professors Pat Burnes and Paul Bauschatz had on his teaching and scholarship over the years.

Brucher says he especially likes the interdisciplinary nature of the UMaine community. Along with working with colleagues and students in the English department, he has enjoyed teaching and collaborating with students and faculty from all of the university’s academic colleges.

Brucher emphasizes the relevance of old and new literature to understanding contemporary life.

“Regardless of how you make your living, read literature and go to the theatre once in a while so that you’re not surprised every time you watch the news.”

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.


Floreani Knows the University of Maine

Mary Celeste “MC” Floreani ’18, this month’s Dirigo Award recipient, takes advantage of every opportunity on campus. From Greek life to the founding of clubs, unions, and teams, to her leadership in the University of Maine Student Government – she stays involved.

The history major, minoring in both labor studies and economics, started as a senator for Student Government her frirst year, and by her senior year became the president. She credits the executives who have served before her for their mentorship and support and playing a huge role in developing her as a student leader. In fact, Student Government is her favorite activity to date.

“I’ve loved every moment of my time as president. Every day I meet new people who care deeply about this campus for different reasons. There is no better way to get to know a university than to serve the student body in this capacity.”

The Houston, Texas native has definitely gotten to know the university. In addition to her role with Student Government, Floreani is a sister of Delta Delta Delta, a member of History Honor Society Phi Alpha Theta, and serves on the Maine Day Meal Pack-Out Committee. She is the president of the UMaine Curling Team, and founded both the UMaine Fiber Arts Club and the UMaine Italian Student Union.

After graduation Floreani hopes to work as an organizer for labor unions. She plans to attend graduate school in pursuit of a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations, followed by law school. Her ultimate goal is to serve as a litigator for an organized labor group.

Her final advice to any student considering UMaine is simple: take every opportunity that comes your way. “You won’t regret it,” she states.

The UMaine Alumni Association, with support from University Credit Union, each month presents its Dirigo Award to an undergraduate student who exemplifies the academic and civic ideals of the University of Maine. Selections are made in consultation with UMaine’s deans and the Division of Student Life.

Prof. Mary Ellin Logue Helps Students Young and Old

Prof. Mary Ellin Logue ’74, February recipient of the Alumni Association’s Faculty Excellence Award, is concerned with not only the UMaine students in her classroom but also very young students in their learning environments.

Her particular interest and area of research is how different social and physical environmental characteristics impact young learners and their role in student success. She studies how different educational environments, including the customs of childcare and education, teacher attitudes, and the attitudes of caregivers and other students, impact these young children. As both a researcher and former elementary school teacher, she seeks ways to expand access to school success for children.

Logue is the director of the School of Learning and Teaching and February recipient of the Alumni Association’s monthly Faculty Excellence Award. Raised in Orono, she credits the late Professor Maryann Hartman for encouraging her to attend college, strive professionally, be politically aware, and to advocate for others.

After graduating from the University of Maine, Logue earned advanced degrees out of state. She returned as a member of the faculty in 2002 after working on educational policy initiatives at the national level.

Logue is continually reminded of the important role that teachers play. Whether her students strive to emulate their teachers or choose a different model, she says she feels privileged to watch them find their own professional identities.

Her advice for students is to get to know their professors, who can support students’ learning. She also encourages students to explore new ideas, meet new people, take chances, develop the skills to work with diverse partners, and learn from their mistakes.

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.

Baldacci, Collins Family Are Among UMaine’s 2018 Alumni Achievement Award Winners

Two of Maine’s most prominent families, both with deep ties to the University of Maine, are among the recipients selected for the UMaine Alumni Association’s 2018 alumni achievements awards.

Former Maine Governor John E. Baldacci has been chosen to receive the Alumni Career Award, the Alumni Association’s highest honor.  Baldacci, a 1986 UMaine graduate, is one of seven Baldacci siblings who are Black Bear alumni.  A former city councilor, state senator, and U.S congressman, Baldacci was selected for the award based on his decades of public service. Baldacci currently lives in Portland.

The family of Donald and Patricia Collins, of Caribou, has been selected for the Fogler Legacy Award. The honor is awarded annually to a family with multiple generations of Black Bear graduates who have been actively engaged in volunteer service on behalf of UMaine, their community, and/or their respective professions.

Don and Pat, both members of the university’s Class of 1949, are part of the second generation of Collinses to attend UMaine. Don’s father, Sam, a 1916 graduate, started the Collins family tree at UMaine. In the 100 years that have followed, three more generations of Collinses have graduated from UMaine. In addition, Don and Pat’s daughter, U.S. Sen. Susan M. Collins, received an honorary doctorate from UMaine in 2011. Adam Collins will graduate from UMaine in May, 102 years after his great-grandfather Sam earned his degree.

Seven more alumni with diverse backgrounds and rewarding careers have been selected to receive Alumni Achievement Awards.

Allen and Patricia Morell have been selected to receive the Bernard Lown ’42 Alumni Humanitarian Award for their lifetime of service to others. The couple, UMaine Class of 1973 graduates, have devoted themselves to improving the lives of impoverished children at the Child Rescue Centre (CRC), a residential home for children left without families to care for them after the civil war in Sierra Leone.  The Morells currently reside in Centerville, Mass.

Todd Saucier of Milford has been selected to receive the Alumni Association’s Pine Tree Emblem Service Award, which honors an individual whose leadership and service advanced the organization’s success and reputation. Saucier, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1993 and master’s in 1997, served nine years as the Alumni Association’s president and executive director, stepping down in 2015. Prior to becoming president, Saucier spent six years as the organization’s finance director.

George Pullen has been chosen to receive the Spirit of Maine Achievement Award. The award recognizes an individual who both graduated within the past 15 years and has achieved outstanding professional success. Pullen, a 2003 UMaine graduate, is a senior economist with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He resides in Montgomery Village, Maryland.

Norman Minsky of Bangor has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Champion of UMaine Award, a new honor established by the Alumni Association. The award recognizes an individual who, though not an alumnus, has been a strong and effective advocate for UMaine. Minsky, an honorary member of the Class of 1952, has been actively involved in many of the university’s academic and cultural initiatives.

Three recent UMaine graduates are recipients of the Alumni Association’s new Rising Star Award. The honor acknowledges individuals who as students were actively engaged in student leadership roles and have continued their participation and promotion of UMaine and alumni interests since earning their degree.

The 2018 recipients are Brian Harris of Gray, a 2011 graduate; Hannah Hudson of Washington, D.C., who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2012 and her master’s in 2014; and Owen McCarthy of Gorham, a 2010 graduate. Hudson is an associate for The Cohen Group, an international business consulting organization. Harris and McCarthy are the executive partners of MedRhythms, Inc., a Boston-based neurological rehabilitation company. McCarthy currently serves as chair of the University of Maine Board of Visitors, which advises UMaine’s president on policy, financial, and advocacy matters.

Award recipients were selected through a formal nomination and review process that concluded in January.  A standing committee of alumni volunteers conducted the review. Recipients will be honored at the Alumni Association’s inaugural Alumni Achievement Awards Dinner and Celebration to be held on Thursday, April 26 at Wells Conference Center on the University of Maine campus. The event is open to the public. For more information please contact or call 207.581.1146.

Established in 1875, the University of Maine Alumni Association is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the interests of UMaine and its 107,000 alumni.

Prof. Senthil Vel sets the standard in and out of the classroom

Prof. Senthil Vel states that time in the classroom is usually the highlight of his day. Vel, who is the Arthur O. Willey Professor of Mechanical Engineering, enjoys his day-to-day interaction with students, and his students consistently rank him as an outstanding professor.

Vel is the January recipient of the Alumni Association’s monthly Faculty Excellence Award. Vel’s academic specialty is the multiscale modeling of heterogeneous material systems, such as advanced composite materials. His research group has been primarily involved with the development of a computational framework for the analysis and design of complex heterogeneous materials. His work on the analysis and optimization of composite structures and functionally graded materials have been widely cited by other researchers.

During the last several years, he has also enjoyed collaborating with colleagues in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. Using techniques that were originally developed for engineering materials, he has analyzed the mechanical behavior and evolution of natural materials, such as polycrystalline rocks.

Vel arrived at UMaine in 2000 after earning his doctorate in engineering mechanics and conducting postdoctoral research at Virginia Tech. He notes that Don Grant ‘55, ’63G, UMaine professor and chair emeritus of mechanical engineering, is one of several people who has had a big influence on his development as a teacher.

Vel encourages students to challenge themselves by taking courses that stretch their limits. He also advises them to keep an open mind, find out what they are interested in, and to work hard to get good at it.

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.

January Dirigo Award – Sam Lenson

“UMaine is my home and always will be,” states Sam Lenson ’18, this month’s Dirigo Award winner. The Natick, MA, native notes that the university has become a very special place for him. He says that the most important contributing factor of this is the university’s welcoming community of supportive faculty and students. In fact, he currently serves as a campus tour guide to show prospective students that same feeling of community and all that UMaine has to offer.

Lenson has also spent the last five years as a punter, kicker, and holder on the football team, and is involved in Senior Skulls and various volunteer work on campus. His favorite place on campus is the New Balance Recreation Center, ranked in the top 10 best student recreation centers in the country.

The campus recreation center is a perfect fit for the kinesiology major who hopes to one day become a physical education teacher and coach, with the goal of eventually moving into an administrative role of athletic director or principal. He has applied for admission to the University of Maine Education Leadership graduate program for the fall of 2018.

One professor of kinesiology, Jesse Kaye-Schiess, has become a sort of mentor for him, and hired Lenson as camp counselor at Maine Youth Fish and Game Summer Camp.

“This opportunity helped me work on my communication and leadership skills while having a blast working with the kids!  Jesse has played and integral role in the growth and development of my teaching skills,” he reflects. He believes that the many opportunities afforded to him at the university have pushed him outside of his comfort zone and resulted in personal growth.

Outside of school he enjoys exploring Maine, and hiking in different areas in the state. Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island is one of his favorites. He also likes to relax and check out the local restaurants in Orono and Bangor with family and friends.

He encourages all those considering UMaine to explore the university’s beautiful campus.

“Come visit the school and take a campus tour,” he says. “Once you visit and walk around you will feel like this is the place you need to be.”

The UMaine Alumni Association, with support from University Credit Union, each month presents its Dirigo Award to an undergraduate student who exemplifies the academic and civic ideals of the University of Maine. Selections are made in consultation with UMaine’s deans and the Division of Student Life.

Dirigo Award Recipient is Deeply Rooted at UMaine

Nicholas LaJoie ’18, this month’s Dirigo Award recipient, grew up on a potato farm in Van Buren, Maine, and after graduation he wants to get back to his roots. The computer engineering major minoring in mathematics hopes to combine his love for his family’s farm and his passion for technology to someday develop new technologies for the state’s agriculture.

Staying in Maine has been important for LaJoie, and the opportunity to attend UMaine permitted that: not too far or too close to home, he explained. He wanted to gain “the complete college experience,” something he has found in Orono.

“One of my older sisters was a Black Bear,” he says of Lindsay ’13. “I could always see just how much she loved UMaine, so I knew that there must be something good there for me as well. I’m happy to say that I think the pride of being a Black Bear has continued!”

LaJoie is a member of a number of activities and groups on campus. He has been active in UMaine’s Sophomore Owls and Senior Skulls, currently serving as president of the latter group. LaJoie is president of the Entrepreneurship Club; a student ambassador for UMaine’s Mitchell Scholars group; an officer in Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity; and an active member of the campus’s Newman Center Catholic community.

Though graduation is one more semester away, LaJoie has already lined up a position with Fitch Company, an engineering firm based in Rumford. Before he leaves campus, though, he says he has one more box to check on his “UMaine Bucket List.” During winter break he will donate his time to a community in need as part of Alternative Breaks. The program is a part of a national organization called BreakAway. The organization trains, assists, and connects college students with an interest in social issues and civic engagement with opportunities to directly participate at the community level. Alternative Breaks is affiliated with UMaine’s Barbara Higgins Bodwell ’45 Center for Service and Volunteerism.

LaJoie’s interest in serving others through his UMaine-affiliated volunteer work and engagement is a logical extension of that “complete college experience” he initially sought when considering his higher education.

“There is an awesome sense of pride in being a Black Bear, and that pride can often be felt beyond Orono,” LaJoie shared. “Simply put: I love UMaine!”

The UMaine Alumni Association, with support from University Credit Union, each month presents its Dirigo Award to an undergraduate student who exemplifies the academic and civic ideals of the University of Maine. Selections are made in consultation with UMaine’s deans and the Division of Student Life.

Leslie Contributes to the Health of Maine’s Coastal Communities

“I can’t imagine a better place to be than the Darling Marine Center, as a scientist and as someone who’s passionate about doing what I can to make science more relevant and useful to people’s daily lives,” Heather Leslie told Aliya Uteuova ’18 in an interview last fall.

Founded in 1965, the Darling Marine Center’s mission is to connect people to the ocean. The Center’s researchers, staff, and students work alongside fishermen, aquaculture entrepreneurs, marine industry professionals, and other members of the community in Maine and around the world.

As director of the Darling Marine Center (DMC), the University of Maine’s marine laboratory in Walpole, Leslie oversees research, education, and public engagement.

Her responsibilities also include stewardship of the 182-acre campus, and developing new programs for the more than 3,000 participants who come to the DMC each year. These programs include the School of Marine Sciences’ Semester by the Sea, which enables UMaine undergraduates to immerse themselves in marine science in Walpole for the semester.

Above all, she’s an enthusiastic ambassador for DMC. “I’m always happy to share the latest news from the Darling Center,” Lesie observed, “whether I’m at the grocery store, a selectmen’s meeting, or welcoming visitors to the lab.”

Leslie also is a Libra Associate Professor in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences. Together with her three graduate students, she studies the ecology and management of coastal marine ecosystems, with a particular focus on coastal fisheries.

All students “are particularly inspiring to me—from the third graders who grow oysters with us every year to the international exchange students who first experience American university life through Semester by the Sea at the Darling Center,” she observes.

Together with colleagues at UMaine and University of Maine at Machias, Leslie initiated the SEA (Science for Economic Impact and Application) Fellows Program, which enables undergraduates to gain hands-on experiences in applied marine research and to connect their work with community and industry concerns.

Leslie advises UMaine students to give projects their best effort.“Effort does not go unnoticed and often is critical to developing the skills and gaining the experience you’ll need to succeed.”  

Sponsored by the UMaine Alumni Association and University Credit Union, the Faculty Excellence Award is given monthly to a faculty member whose work contributes to UMaine’s national reputation for excellence. Selections are made in consultation with the university’s academic deans.


UMaine’s Amy Patania Lyons is a Natural Leader

Amy Patania Lyons, this month’s Dirigo award recipient, is in search of a new hike each weekend. The fourth-year UMaine student’s love for hiking and backpacking took her all the way to Santiago, Chile, where she took part in the study abroad program. While studying in South America, she was able to backpack through Patagonia – a “bucket list” experience for her.

Lyons, a dual-degree student from Brunswick, is studying business administration and international affairs with concentrations in international business and international security. She is also co-enrolled in UMaine’s Honors College.

“I never expected to attend UMaine, but I cannot imagine having studied at any other school,” says Lyons.

Her Honors preceptors have had a large impact on her academic career and she highlights her advisor, Dr. Robert Glover, as someone who has been particularly supportive.

“I do not think I could have accomplished all of my greatest academic feats without his assistance and encouragement,” she adds.

Everyone on campus is relaxed but will help you the second you need it, and it contributes to the “Mainah” vibe, as Lyons puts it. She says the campus may seem large, but after an individual talk with any number of professors you quickly learn that they care about their students.

Lyons is currently interning at the Maine Attorney General’s Office and plans to attend law school. Her eventual career path will ideally combine both her love for the outdoors and law. She hopes to become an international environment lawyer, focusing on environmental sustainability and international relations for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

School and work might keep Lyons busy, but she also stays active in the campus community – this year is her fourth consecutive year as the Class of 2018 president. She is also a strong leader in the community; she is president of the Sophomore Eagles and is in involved with Delta Zeta, Student Senate, Divest UMaine, the Spanish Club, Maine Business School (MBS) Corps, and the American Marketing Association (AMA).

Her advice to anyone considering UMaine is to visit campus and see what it has to offer. One of her favorite campus activities is the Maine Hello move-in day because she loves meeting new students and helping them make their first transition into college.

The UMaine Alumni Association, with support from University Credit Union, each month presents its Dirigo Award to an undergraduate student who exemplifies the academic and civic ideals of the University of Maine. Selections are made in consultation with UMaine’s deans and the Division of Student Life.