Recent News

UMaine Athletics Offers Special Young Alumni Discount

Young alumni will receive discounted rates on season passes to all four of UMaine’s ticketed sports this year including football, men’s ice hockey, women’s basketball, and men’s basketball.

University of Maine athletics, in an effort to keep young alumni engaged with Black Bear Sports after college and beyond, is offering a special 20% discount on full-season memberships for undergraduate and graduate school alumni who have earned their degree within the last five years (2015-2019).

For more information, or to purchase your young alumni season membership, please contact the UMaine Athletics ticket office, or call 207.581.BEAR.

For those alumni and friends who can’t make it to campus for sporting events, Athletics and Black Bear Sports Properties recently partnered with WVII/WVFX/WPME for a 10-game television schedule for 2019 football and men’s ice hockey. More information, and the schedule for televised games can be found here.

Buchanan ’44 Returns to Campus

Dr. Robert D. Buchanan ’44, for whom Buchanan Alumni House is named, returned to campus on September 9th as part of his annual visit to Maine. The 97-year-old Colorado resident spent part of his day engaging with students at Memorial Union and replenishing his stock of Black Bear gear. He also visited with fellow members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the organization’s house on campus. During that visit, “Doctor Bob” recalled being in the fraternity house and listening to radio news reports of the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Buchanan’s trip to Maine also included a visit to Caribou, his boyhood hometown.

Skonberg Specializes in Seafood

Dr. Denise Skonberg, this month’s recipient of the Alumni Association’s Faculty Excellence Award, has a particular interest in the processing of seafood, improving its quality and minimizing waste. Skonberg, an associate professor of food science, joined the UMaine faculty in 1997.  She shares her thoughts on teaching, research, student success, and enjoying life in Maine.  

In layperson’s terms, what are your academic interests?   
I am interested in food processing technologies and approaches that improve the sustainability of the seafood sector. My specific interests are in reducing waste, generating value-added by-products, and developing high quality foods from our valuable (and finite) aquatic food resources.

Why did you choose to pursue those interests? 
All of our food resources, whether wild or farmed-raised, are too valuable to waste. It’s important to get back to a zero-waste mindset, but consumers and the food industry need help getting there. I enjoy conducting applied research to help address these issues and collaborating with stakeholders to find solutions that can work in the real world. 

What is your most memorable event or experience as a member of the UMaine faculty?
I advise food science student teams in national competitions, and one of my most memorable experiences was when our team won the Institute of Food Technologists Product Development competition. It’s a very intense experience in which students develop a new food product idea from concept through marketing and production. Our teams have won other national and regional competitions since then, but that was the first time we beat teams from huge programs (e.g., Cornell, Penn State, UC Davis) and it was a real “aha” moment for all of us. 

Of all the courses you’ve taught at UMaine, which one do you enjoy the most? Why?
That’s a hard one. I enjoy all my courses, particularly when my students are really engaged. However, Food Chemistry is probably my favorite topic, since it encourages senior students to apply their knowledge of food science and fundamental chemistry to address food quality challenges. 

 What is your favorite place on campus to spend time?
Actually, it’s my office in Hitchner Hall; my little home away from home.  I also enjoy the ski trails in the University Forest, although I don’t spend nearly enough time there. 

Aside from your faculty role, what are your interests or favorite things to do? 
My favorite pastime is exploring Maine’s lakes and rivers by canoe with my husband and our dog. I also love rock climbing, growing vegetables, and reading science fiction.

What advice for students do you have to help them succeed?Although doing well in coursework is an important priority, I also encourage students to take advantage of the many extracurricular opportunities available at UMaine.  Sometimes it’s the skills and networks developed through these activities that facilitate success, in ways that can often surprise you. Stay in touch with your department after graduation.  Faculty can be a valuable resource for future employment leads, and we love to hear how our former students are doing! 

 

Students Credit UMaine’s Foster Center for Their Entrepreneurial Success

Sam Dorval and Max Burtis are among the undergraduates benefiting from the Foster Center for Student Innovation’s business incubator. The two sophomores are part owners of Ferda Farms, an aquaculture farm on the New Meadows River in Brunswick. Ferda Farms produces fresh oysters sustainably, and the owners have brought innovation and automation to the industry.

“The Foster Center has played a huge role in our development, both for the business and as students,” Dorval explained. “The business incubator offers resources that covered our most basic needs from pitch advice to licensing laws, while making sure we were in control of the decisions the entire time. Advice came from every faculty member we could imagine, and it was a huge help due to their vast experience in the business world. 

“What seemed to be the most helpful part of the incubator was the dedication the Foster’s Center has to want their students to succeed. They would go out of their way to schedule business meetings with Max and me, as well as mentor us to make sure we had the right plan. Another monumental step that helped us grow were the business connections provided by the Innovation Center. Due to their prior business experience, the faculty knows countless people who can help with any challenge you might have, which also enabled us to branch out and partner our business with innovators from other areas.”

Upcoming events at the Foster Center include September 25 ”How to Start Your Own Side Hustle” at 4:00 pm with panelists Daniel Finnemore, CEO of Box of Maine; Spencer Wood, CEO of Tip Whip; and George Budri, founder of Budri Clothing. Attendees should RSVP here.

On October 30th, Alden Blease, founder of Redd Bars, will be speaking as part of the Young Entrepreneur Series at the Innovation Center at 4-5:30 pm.

 

 

Nominate Someone for a 2020 Alumni Achievement Award!

Do you know an alumnus or alumna whose professional achievements, community service, or volunteer activity on behalf of UMaine deserves recognition? 

Nominations are being sought for the 2020 Alumni Achievement Awards. There are eight categories of awards, the purposes, criteria, and the nomination process for which can be found here. The deadline for nominations is November 4, 2019. A 13-person committee will review nominations, with award recipients announced in January.  

Awardees will be honored at the 2020 Alumni Achievement Awards dinner and ceremony, to be held in Orono in April. Images and videos from the 2019 ceremony may be found here.

 

Several Alumni Classes Recently Celebrated Reunion 

Members of UMaine’s Class of 1969 joined alumni from preceding graduation years for Reunion 2019, held Sept 12-14 on campus. Celebrating the Class’s 50th reunion, class members attended a special reception in their honor hosted by UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy at the President’s House. They also attended special faculty and student presentations, class meetings, the annual Alumni Dinner, the annual Senior Alumni luncheon, a Pat’s Pizza party at Buchanan Alumni House, a pancake breakfast, and Saturday’s Maine-Towson football game.  

Three other alumni classes participated in similar Reunion activities as they marked the fifth anniversary of their last class reunions: the Classes of 1954, 1959, and 1964.  Other alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago–collectively known as Senior Alumni–also attended.  

Reunion attendees also toured campus and visited several facilities that had not been built when they attended the university. Those included the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, Emera Astronomy Center, TeachLivE Lab, and the Innovation Media Research & Commercialization Center (IMRC). They also visited UMaine’s ROTC facilities and the D.P. Corbett Business Building, home of the Maine Business School. 

Photos from Reunion can be found here.

 

UMaine, Bigelow Lab Receive $20 Million Coastal Research Grant

A $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation will fund a five-year initiative that aims to revolutionize environmental monitoring, ecological understanding, and sustainability of coastal ecosystems

The University of Maine is partnering with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and other collaborators in education, government agencies, citizens’ groups and local industry statewide.

“The Maine Environmental DNA (Maine-eDNA) initiative represents a multi-institutional partnership that will position Maine as a national leader in the understanding and sustainable use of coastal ecosystems, and in addressing the statewide workforce needs in critically important areas, including biotechnology, ecology, environmental and data sciences,” says principal investigator Kody Varahramyan, UMaine vice president for research and dean of the graduate school.

 

 

Engineering Alumna Cited as National Influencer

Stacey Gomm Harris ‘11 has been cited as one of 30 engineers in the U.S. who are “changing the construction industry,” according to the software company PlanGrid. Harris is a construction superintendent for Consigli, one of the largest general contractors in the Northeast. Simply put, a construction engineer oversees all operational aspects of a construction site, from planning to completion. PlanGrid recently featured this entertaining Q&A with Harris about her work and early aspirations.

  • Favorite project you’ve ever worked on: It’s hard to choose as they are all unique and challenging in their own way.  One that sticks out in my mind is the new pharmaceutical manufacturing plant for Immucell in Portland, ME. It was a 16,000 sq ft, ground-up construction that provided a drug that helped farmers treat livestock that had developed mastitis. This condition leads to a $2B market loss for farmers and this drug drastically reduces that loss. It felt great to feel that I could help make an impact in the industry. We also had the opportunity to bring innovation and lean practices to Maine that had not been seen before in that market.
  • If you could have worked on any construction project throughout history, what would it be?: Hands down it would be the Burj Khalifa. Who doesn’t want to build the tallest building in the world? This was also being constructed while I was starting to discover my love of engineering and construction, so I followed the construction of it closely. It’s still on my bucket list to visit someday.
  • The construction technology you cannot live without: Electronic plans and specs. At the start of my career, it was my job to print every RFI and drawing and go through the plans and tape, highlight and color all of the changes that came through on the project, to supersede all of the old plans. It was time-consuming and my first project had over 500 RFI’s. Now with one email, and a single click of a button, everyone has the latest set of plans. 
  • What’s something about you that surprises most people when they first learn it?: That I love to hunt and fish. I grew up in the woods, hunting and fishing with my Dad. I was lucky enough to get picked for a Maine moose permit in the lottery the same year I married my husband. We were able to serve moose at our wedding. It was a very unique experience that, I’ll never forget.
  • If you didn’t work in construction, what do you think you’d be doing?: I’d be a Disney princess at Disney World or attempt to be a singer on Broadway, or at least that is what I told my family growing up as a child. Joking aside, I’ve always had a love for building, I grew up playing with Legos so I’ve always the urge to construct, I’m not sure I’d do anything else.
  • What’s one construction trend or issue that you think is overhyped?: I am a big advocate for innovation, but I worry that all technology is not always the answer to the problems we face in the industry. Some technology can add more work and cause people to not double-check the output and become complacent. When selecting technology to work with on the job I always ask; Does this make my day to day easier? Does this add value? Will it make me a better builder? Can I make faster and better decisions with this technology?
  • Your theme song: Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé. Construction is currently experiencing huge labor shortages. A great way to bridge that gap is to get more women onto jobsites. This song reminds how incredible women are and continue to be and would love to see more women running jobsites.
  • You just won the lottery. Now what?: I’d go on a vacation to visit the Burj Khalifa, buy a hunting camp on a lake in Maine and my husband and I would have a second home in Florida so I could do part-time work as a Disney princess. 

 

 

UMaine Alum’s Film Script Purchased by Universal Pictures

While working as a movie usher after grad school, Patrick Pittis ’13 wrote a movie script, Rubble, which Universal Pictures has purchased. The UMaine communications major wrote the sci-fi thriller after moving to California with his wife, classmate Meghan Ballard ’13.

More about Pittis can be found here.

May ’92G Becomes CEO of John Deere

John May ’92G has been elected chief executive officer of one of the world’s largest corporations: Deere and Company, more commonly known by the brand name “John Deere.” A Maine native, May earned his M.B.A. from UMaine and his B.S. from UNH. May, who has been with Deere & Company since 1997, previously headed the company’s China operations, served as factory manager at the Dubuque (Iowa) Works, and was vice president of the turf and utility platform. He joined the senior management team as president, agricultural solutions and chief information officer, in 2012. The 182-year-old Deere and Company is ranked 87th on the Fortune 500 list of U.S. corporations. In 2017 the company employed over 74,000 employees worldwide and generated more than $37 billion in revenues.