Editors Note: This article is SPONSORED CONTENT.
The University of Southern Maine (USM) prides itself in its rich mix of students. It’s why we are called the University of Everyone. We are the university of high achievers, the first-in-the family to attend college, the New Mainer, the working adult, and those who have served our nation.
We’re also the university of the creative and talented, whether it is on the athletic fields — or in the performance hall and the classroom like it has been for Veronica, one of several USM students and graduates who recently came forward to share their experience at USM.
Veronica hails from Standish, a graduate of Bonny Eagle High School. She is now entering her senior year at USM as a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve always been academically inclined, a giant nerd really,” says Veronica.
“When it was time to choose a college, I selected USM for several reasons: their academics, their cost, their location and because their attitude towards me felt right.
“The other schools I was accepted at, it felt like I was almost indebted to them. It was kind of ‘what can you do for us?’
But at USM, it was, ‘what can we do for you?’ Everyone was so welcoming and nice.
Right from the start of her freshman year, Veronica knew she made the right decision, and now four years later she has never looked back.
“In my very first semester at USM, I had the good fortune of being put into Professor Silvia Valdes’s calculus class. It was the first class that I had ever taken where it was important not only to know how, but also why.
“Professor Valdes’s passion and enthusiasm hooked me on mathematics. She became my advisor and mentor, and has really shaped my experience at USM.
“Almost every Sunday,” says Veronica, “a handful of students in my major meet up with Professor Valdes to discuss and practice math. It's not a tutoring session, it’s just people who are interested in math and have fun working together. It sounds nerdy, but it’s so great to be able to have a personal relationship with my professor and learn from her and my classmates.
Last spring, Veronica and Professor Valdes collaborated on an independent research project on projective geometry, which Veronica got to present to faculty, her peers and community members during the USM’s Thinking Matters exposition, held every April as an opportunity for students to showcase their research.
Beyond the outstanding academics, there are other reasons USM is such a perfect fit for Veronica. One reason is USM’s location in Portland. Veronica, you see, is a serious and accomplished dancer.
Dancing since she was four years old, at 16 Veronica was invited to join the Maine State Ballet’s performance company. She was named a soloist in 2013 and principal soloist in 2015.
Like many other USM students, being in Portland provides for opportunities you can’t get anywhere else in northern New England. Sometimes its internships at a major business, service agency, sports team or Maine’s largest hospital. For Veronica, Portland enabled her to continue her dancing passion and live out her dream.
“By attending USM, I have been given opportunities that are seldom found at big universities. I have been able to work one-on-one with a world-class professor on my own research project. And at the same time, I have been able to pursue my passion for dance on the professional level.”
And finally, the reason that clinched Veronica’s decision to attend USM was the university’s Pioneers Program, a competitive scholarship program for students planning to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.
The Pioneers Program is a STEM track within the USM Honors Program that provides full scholarships to outstanding students. In addition to receiving the 4-year scholarship, the students participate in a pre-college summer program and can take advantage of exciting opportunities for undergraduate research and internships in STEM fields.
For Veronica, the Pioneers Program has provided “great opportunities to connect with other STEM students and business leaders,” while the scholarship associated with the program has made her USM education really affordable.
“I want everyone to know that USM is a school full of hardworking intelligent people who have made a smart financial decision and still receive a high quality education.”
Every USM student story, like Veronica’s, is both unique and their own, but there are several themes you see run through all of them.
First, the academics are of the highest quality, with faculty combining their expertise in their respective fields with a true caring for each and every student.
Second, USM students build real connections with the faculty. It’s not at all unusual for what begins as one’s classroom instructor transitioning to becoming a mentor, research partner, career coach and advocate for a student. That’s a relationship that begins in college and often extends for years past graduation.
Third, the Greater Portland region is a great place to attend college. Beyond offering so much to do, opportunities abound for internships and hands-on learning that just don’t exist in most other locations. For some students, our location provides an opportunity in Portland’s arts and culture scene, for others it is an internship in a major business, professional sports team or social service agency, and for students majoring in the sciences it may be clinicals and research opportunities at Maine’s largest teaching hospital. All these opportunities give USM students a true leg up in launching their careers.
Fourth, USM is affordable, even without a Pioneer scholarship. Between our low public tuition and outstanding financial aid packages, students receive a terrific education at a far lower cost than most other schools. And beyond what is offered now, USM is now underway in a major campaign to raise $50 million in new student scholarships.
Finally, students fit in and all are welcome, regardless of age, background or experience. USM is the most diverse campus in Maine and students benefit from learning with each other and from each other. We are after all, the University of Everyone.
This article is sponsored content paid for by the University of Southern Maine.