USM Campus Ventures
A Model for Innovation in Experiential Education
Campus Ventures is an innovative experiential education program for students of the University of Southern Maine, built on the premise that engaged learning is fundamental to career readiness and student success. The Campus Ventures project-based learning model engages students in relevant, real-world projects starting as early as their first year at USM, with several documented learning outcomes:
- Technical skill development
- Direct knowledge transfer from theoretical/academic to applied scenarios
- Leadership, teamwork, communication, and soft-skill development
- Project management and delivery
In three and half years, the program has consistently demonstrated repeatability, scalability, continuing success, and accolades from community partners. The program enjoys a thriving relationship with key external partners in Maine’s technology & entrepreneurial communities.
The program recruits real world research, development and commercialization projects from community partners. Historically, these projects have been intensely research, development and commercialization based engaging disciplines such as engineering, computer science, information technology, manufacturing, product design, business marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship.
Students are recruited to work on interdisciplinary project teams. Projects are supervised by a more experienced lead student and with oversight from professional project managers with deep subject-matter expertise. Students are mentored and groomed to undertake more leadership and supervisory responsibility, including responsibility for budgets, and schedules, and overall project delivery.
Students participate in a professional development seminar to reflect upon and integrate their hands-on experience. Students create a career development plan that directly connects their current academic and applied learning experiences to real jobs in their desired fields. With more finely tuned professional and technical skills, students are better prepared for off-campus placements in high-level Campus Ventures co-op positions. These 3-6 month co-op positions are pledged to the program as regular, recurring experiences.
Our goal is to provide USM students with at least 2,000 hours of documentable experience in their intended field upon graduation.
In this way, the Campus Ventures program is a 4-year, linearly progressive system of deeper dives into experiential education. It is a complete applied learning curriculum with real and documentable outcomes with career readiness (college completion, job offers and graduate school acceptances) as measures of student success.
Campus Ventures can impact students from a wide variety of academic disciplines focused on STEM but can also include non-technical & arts/humanities areas. Since its inception, the program has had significant impact on the USM and Southern Maine community.
Campus Ventures has:
- Provided paid research/internship opportunities to 81 undergraduate and graduate students recruited from nine USM academic departments (Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, Technology, Environmental Science, Computer Science, Business)
- Completed 55 interdisciplinary projects for community partners and faculty members
- Provided collaborative project opportunities with the University of Maine and University of New Hampshire
- Been responsible for the submission of 5 New Invention Notifications (NINs) to the University’s Office of Research Administration
- Created pledges of 33 recurring and growing, paid six month, credit bearing co-op positions for USM and UMaine System students from some of Maine’s signature employers, such as Pratt & Whitney, Fairchild Semiconductor, Cianbro Corporation, LL Bean, Tyler Technologies, Fluid Imaging Corp., Baker Co, and others.
In terms of impact on the University, we believe the program is responsible for significant increases in student retention and ultimate graduation. Since inception in 2010, 90% of students involved as Campus Ventures interns have either graduated with degrees in their fields or are still actively enrolled at USM.
The Campus Ventures Co-op program is accessible to all UMaine System students. Students can earn up to 6 academic credits for their experiences while earning market or near-market wages for their efforts. The co-op course (STH 440) has been recommended for inclusion in USM’s General Education requirement under the Professional Practices thematic cluster. While participating in the program, students can continue to receive financial aid, defer student loans, and access student services such as on-campus housing, libraries, athletic facilities, and campus involvement opportunities.
Campus Ventures is a wonderful opportunity for students to gain experience in addition to their academic studies. Education and Experience are the foundation to a successful and healthy career start upon graduation.