Sappi Fine Paper North America, a leading global paper company, has pledged $100,000 over the course of four years to support the University of Southern Maine Pioneers Program, the first college-level STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program for high-achieving students in Maine. The Pioneers Program, established at USM in 2011, is a learning community bringing together the best and brightest students in the STEM fields. USM Pioneers receive competitive four-year scholarship packages, premium housing, a laptop computer, undergraduate research opportunities, internships, and faculty mentors.
“We are delighted to have Sappi as a supporter of the USM Pioneers Program and our STEM initiatives,” says Mike Wing, director of the Pioneers Program. “Support from leading Maine companies, like Sappi, is key to producing positive outcomes in our STEM initiatives that strengthen our state’s efforts to flourish economically in the future.”
Reports indicate that occupations related to STEM will play an increasingly important role in Maine’s future. Yet, Maine lags nationally in the preparation of STEM-educated workers. USM has designed the Pioneers Program to be one of the cornerstones of the USM’s efforts to expand the number of students entering the STEM fields. The investment from Sappi will be used to cover scholarships and the costs of experiential learning opportunities.
“The impact of the program will extend far beyond its direct effect on the students chosen to be Pioneers,” Wing adds. “USM is increasing the numbers of students interested in pursuing STEM careers, strengthening STEM partnerships with business leaders, and helping to meet the workforce needs in the high-growth industries that drive our state’s economy.”
“We anticipate having nearly thirty percent of our workforce retire in the next 5 years and so there is a huge demand for STEM-related jobs,” says Donna Cassese, Managing Director of Sappi’s Westbrook Mill.
The USM Pioneers Program not only engages students in advanced curriculum but also offers highly innovative programming designed to prepare them for STEM careers after graduation. Pioneers will leave USM having completed 1,000-plus hours of high-impact, experiential learning opportunities. Students team up with faculty or corporate community partners on projects, work with business incubators and faculty projects, and are placed in internships with Maine businesses.
Wing adds, “Our goal is to inspire young people to study and work in the STEM fields and educate them to be fully productive and successful in such careers.”
More information about the USM Pioneers Program can be found at http://www.usm.maine.edu/Pioneers .