Wish you could hear from engineering students about their college experiences? You’re in luck! We recently talked to four graduating seniors to get the answers you’re looking for. They shared about college life, their experiences with the UMPPF, and their engineering careers.

Read on for candid insights from Hollie Morneault, Alia Parsons, Adam Rush, and Parker Shaw, all Chemical Engineering majors, from the Class of 2023!

Thank you all for answering our questions! Starting with an easy one: why did you select your major?

Adam Rush: I knew I wanted to go into some kind of engineering, and after attending the Consider Engineering summer camp through the UMPPF, I decided to study Chemical Engineering because it interested me the most.
Alia Parsons: Chemical engineering had the most opportunities in and outside of Maine. The flexibility meant that I could find my own niche and that it was something I was passionate about that I could do almost anywhere!
Hollie Morneault: I always knew I wanted to be an engineer because of my success in math and science courses, but I didn’t decide on Chemical Engineering until attending Consider Engineering, where I learned that my strengths and interests were more compatible with this branch of engineering.
Parker Shaw: I always knew that I wanted to do some sort of engineering because I was exposed to this work from a young age by my dad, who is a Licensed Civil Engineer. I was always good at math and chemistry in high school, and so Chemical Engineering made the most sense.
I also loved the idea of optimizing a process and making your process work better with less waste. The Foundation and the pulp and paper industry helped solidify my interest in Chemical Engineering.

A few Consider Engineering attendees in this group, that’s awesome! We’re very proud of that program, as it helps high school students discover engineering. We also see lots of students come into the program because their parents or older siblings did too.

What has been your favorite class and why?

AR: My favorite class was CHE 111 because it was a fun and informational class that introduced me to what Chemical Engineering actually was, and it allowed me to determine that it was something that I was interested in pursuing.
HM: My favorite class was the Fundamentals of Process Engineering because it provided all the building blocks to be successful in the rest of my engineering courses, and it was the first class that I felt like I was beginning to think like a real engineer.
PS: CHE 200, Fundamentals of Process Engineering. This is no surprise, and I think a majority of chemical engineers will agree. CHE 200 contains foundational material for what makes an engineer a chemical engineer. The course is full of practical, useful heuristics and tools for solving complex problems with simple methods.

We agree that some of the best classes are those that solidify the feeling that engineering is right for you and those that make you think, feel, and act like an engineer.

Can you briefly describe your experience with UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation?

AR: My experience in the UMPPF has been very beneficial to my education and future. The scholarship paid for a majority of my tuition, and the connections I’ve made and job experience I got led to a full-time job that I will begin this summer. I have also made some great friends along the way.
HM: UMPPF has allowed me to gain invaluable work experience that has helped me develop a career path that’s best for me. The program provided me with endless opportunities and took the stress out of searching for a career. With UMPPF, I have made so many connections to other students and industry representatives that I otherwise would not have made.
PS: I first heard about the program from my dad. He wasn’t a member of the Foundation, but he knew of the Foundation’s reputation on campus and in the industry. Jen, Carrie, and the Foundation have been the best resource to me in my professional development. The business social hours, the resume workshops, and advice on career topics have been invaluable to me and have set me up for a promising future. This sort of advice can be hard to find, and especially hard to find from such a friendly, candid source. I’m also grateful for the internship, co-op, and full-time employment opportunities that were provided. I would not have the full-time position that I have now without the Foundation.

Thank you for those kind words. It’s very moving to hear that our work truly makes a difference in students’ lives!

What, if anything, surprised you about your experience with UMPPF?

PS: I was surprised by how friendly and available Jen and Carrie and other Foundation members really are. They really want to see you succeed and will go out of their way to help you meet that goal.
HM: I was surprised how easy it was to get an internship, co-op, and full-time job! There are so many great companies that come to UMaine to hire UMPPF students, so I didn’t have to spend much time searching and filling out applications. All I had to do was decide which companies I was interested in and sign up for an interview.
AR: I was surprised about the amount of industry professionals I’ve met by being involved in the UMPPF. I did not expect to meet so many people in the pulp and paper industry.
AP: I was surprised by how close all the students in the Foundation became. You develop friendships with students of all years, and you learn from one another’s experiences in school and internships. The Foundation will truly support you in any way you need—you just need to ask. They want you to succeed, and if they can help in any way, they’ll be sure to do it.

These are all really great points to share because we want to counter any perception out there that we’re only a scholarship check. We offer way more to students than that!

So, you all just graduated this past spring. Congratulations! Tell us: How did UMPPF prepare you for your career?

PS: Resume workshops, business social hours, career advice, internships, co-operative experiences, and more.
AR: Through the Foundation I did an internship and two co-op rotations at a paper mill, and that real-world experience prepared me better than I could have imagined to start my career as a process engineer in the pulp and paper industry.
HM: They provided me with the opportunity to have a first-year internship and a co-op, which gave me real-world experience in the paper industry before committing to a full time job. There are also many opportunities to connect with alumni who share their experience and stories.
AP: Providing us internship opportunities starting the summer after freshman year and co-op opportunities with well-respected companies allowed me to add over a year’s experience in the industry to my resume before I was a senior. This undoubtedly made me an attractive candidate to the companies I was interested in working for. The Foundation set me up to have choices upon looking for a job and advanced me in my career before it truly started!

Having “real life” work experience while still in college is a big deal. It gives you a peek into what your career will look like, but it also helps you in your college courses too.

What are you looking forward to as you launch into your career?

AR: I am looking forward to putting the skills I have learned over the past four years into action in a mill environment. I am also looking forward to making money!
AP: I’m so excited to see what the industry offers to young professionals.
HM: I am looking forward to all the opportunities to learn new things from experienced engineers.
PS: I’m looking forward to being a valuable asset to my organization. I feel like I have skills and knowledge to offer, and I can’t wait to prove myself.

It seems like the Pulp and Paper Foundation has helped another group of engineering students become confident, skilled engineers! We’re so proud of you all.

What was the biggest challenge during your time with UMPPF and UMaine?

PS: Just the schoolwork. Chemical Engineering is time-consuming and difficult, but certainly manageable. I’m glad that I have accomplished something challenging—and thankful that I won’t have to go through it again!
HM: The biggest challenge is the rigorous curriculum. Some classes were very difficult, but I always felt supported and was never worried about performing poorly.
AR: The biggest challenge to being a UMPPF student is the time commitment. On top of classwork, there are a number of seminars and banquets to go to; however, I know these events are very beneficial to my development, and they are not actually that challenging to attend.

It’s true—engineering programs have challenging curricula, and students do need to be committed and spend some extra time outside of class to attend workshops and networking opportunities. But it’s all worth it in the end!

What advice would you give to a high school senior considering engineering, UMaine, or the Pulp and Paper Foundation?

HM: To be patient. All engineering disciplines are difficult, but if you’re able to push through and put the time and effort in, it is very rewarding.
AP: Sign up for the Consider Engineering camp! You will leave that camp knowing of all the opportunities UMaine Engineering and UMPPF can offer you. After that, it’ll likely be a no-brainer!
AR: I would tell them that it is a great program and that it has absolutely made a difference in my life. I have zero college debt and am about to begin a full-time job very much in thanks to the UMPPF.
PS: You don’t know what you don’t know. Consider engineering. Consider UMaine. Consider Pulp & Paper. And Consider Chemical Engineering. If it’s not for you, then don’t worry about it. Keep looking. But don’t settle for something that you’re not interested in. It won’t last, and if you do get stuck in a position that you hate, you’ll be miserable.

All great advice. Consider Engineering is a fun exploration into UMaine engineering programs and we’ve had many UMPPF students apply because of their experience with it.

Alright, we’re at the end of your student experience with the UMPPF…what will you miss most?

PS: I will definitely miss the friends that will be working elsewhere. The late nights working on lab reports in Jenness 206 [the CHE undergrad room]. The Chinn Seminars and eating with friends. I will miss Paper Days too, but I’d like to make it a priority to continue attending those once I graduate. The family of chemical engineers in the pulp and paper industry is tight-knit, and it will be nice to continue to catch up with friends after graduation.
HM: Jen and Carrie!
AP: I’ll miss the events and opportunities that are provided to us during the year. I know that when I graduate, the support won’t cease, but I’ll especially miss being together with my classmates and knowing Jen and Carrie’s office is right down the hall.
AR: I will miss seeing Jen and Carrie on a regular basis, and I will miss my peers who are also UMPPF students.

Now we’re crying again… we will miss you all too! But you’re right, we’re not going anywhere and we’ll always be here to support you after graduation.

Alright, last question! Think back to four years ago when you were just starting at UMaine: What do you wish you had known as a first-year student?

AR: That it is okay to feel like I don’t know what is going on. The tools that I need to be successful come with time.
AP: Get involved as soon as possible! The people in your program will become your best friends, and joining clubs and intramurals will make all the difference!
PS: It gets better. The first year of classes is tough, but you’ll form bonds your first year that will last until graduation. It goes by fast.

It certainly does go by fast. This is perfect advice! Thank you all. Good luck to you in your engineering careers!

If you’d like to learn more about being an engineering student or a Pulp and Paper Foundation scholarship recipient, you can reach out to Carrie and Jen in the UMPPF office. Not only are they super successful engineers themselves, they’re also UMPPF alumna! They’re eager and more than willing to answer your questions and talk about how the Foundation can make your college goals come true.

Reach out to the UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation office or learn more here.