ORONO, Maine -- The University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation was incorporated in 1952 by 12 UMaine graduates financially supporting and preparing well-educated engineering students for careers in the pulp and paper and allied industries.
The foundation is supported by annual gifts from more than 70 companies in 50 states, as well as individual gifts from more than 250 alumni and friends.
The Maine Pulp & Paper Foundation currently supports up to 90 engineering and forestry students with merit based scholarships and boasts having the most alumni in the paper industry.
Paperitalo Publications was able to catch up with Elaina Gilman, a senior in the program. Miss Gilman is from Enfield, Maine and graduated from Penobscot Valley High School in 2015 as valedictorian. We asked her a few questions about her experiences at UMaine.
Paperitalo: What attracted you to the program? Were you looking into pulp and paper when you were in high school?
Gilman: Math, science, and leadership were three things growing up that I seemed to have a knack for. So many factors played into the decision to become a chemical engineer, but the reputation of the University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation was a critical one for me. I learned at a pretty young age of valedictorians from my tiny high school (Penobscot Valley - graduating class of 37 students in 2015) getting to go to school for free if they went to UMaine for chemical engineering. As my academic career progressed, chemical engineering kept coming up, and attending Consider Engineering after my junior year of high school really cemented my interest in the industry. That was when I learned and understood what engineering was, and how it could tie into the pulp and paper industry. My grandfather was always at the mill (Lincoln Paper and Tissue) working as an electrician while I was growing up, and my dad had paid for college working there in the summer, so I knew I would probably enjoy the type of people I'd be around in a mill setting. When it was time to apply for colleges and scholarships my senior year, the decision was easy, and I have never for a moment regretted joining the UMPPF.
Paperitalo: Tell us about the internships and co-ops you have had.
Gilman: I completed two semesters at Packaging Corporation of America in Filer City, Michigan as a process engineering co-op. The first term was all about getting comfortable with the vernacular, environment, people, process, and my place in all of that. The second term was about exploring the limits of what I could achieve as a co-op and really trying to add value to the mill. I completed a project that brought roll hardness testing to the floor, fully integrated into the process. This task was taking a co-op an hour a day, every day, when it could be done in five minutes a shift by operators with the proper training. I feel that this experience alone significantly developed my interpersonal communication, tact, patience, drive, and technical skills. It also taught me how important it is to learn the strengths of everyone around me, as well as what motivates them and makes them happy. I am so grateful for my co-op experience.
Paperitalo: What does this program mean to you?
Gilman: (Program Manager) Jen (Ireland) and (Foundation President) Carrie (Enos) are truly the heart of the chemical engineering program at UMaine. Bragging about them is one of my personal favorite pastimes, along with all the other students they've impacted. Chemical engineering is difficult, and everyone struggles, but not everyone has the benefit of having these two incredibly kind, compassionate, strong, intelligent, and successful women on their side to remind them of what can be accomplished after getting the degree. The opportunities granted to me by the Pulp & Paper Foundation have changed my life in intangible, wonderful ways, along with the incredible material benefits of tuition, work experience while in school, graduating in four years, and a job well before my junior year was out.
Paperitalo: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years, and what are your career aspirations?
Gilman: I haven't planned anything that far out, to be perfectly honest. I know I'll be in pulp and paper, happy, hopefully moving up in the management side of things at PCA. My next adventure starts back in Filer City this coming June, and I cannot wait to see what that will bring.
Paperitalo: What would you recommend to anyone who might be interested in getting into pulp and paper?
Gilman: DO IT! The industry is thriving, engineers are in incredibly high demand as the older generation is starting to retire faster than we can fill their shoes, and you can pretty much work anywhere in the world. The opportunities for self and career development are virtually endless, and you'll be living comfortably. The pulp and paper industry is a small world; it's such a tight network of people who all want to see each other, and the industry, succeed and thrive.
Paperitalo: Please let us know of anything else of interest about your experiences in the program.
Gilman: Carrie and Jen are two truly phenomenal role models and human beings. I was drawn to Carrie's infectious laugh the second I met her, and Jen's ability to make any plan work will never cease to amaze me. They will work to help anyone who is willing to ask for it, including me. I was always in and out of the office as a freshman, so helping out as a counselor for Consider Engineering over the summer seemed like an awesome opportunity to get more students into this amazing program. Sophomore year, when engineering started to be a little overwhelming, they allowed me to work in their office. I got to stay surrounded by their positivity and guidance as often as I was able, and at the same time stop worrying about money for groceries when babysitting, dog-sitting, cleaning, and being a Maine Learning Assistant got to be too much. I really got to know them through this experience and realized just how important the Foundation was to me. The Pulp and Paper Foundation gives its students so many tools to be competitive, with resume writing, LinkedIn building, interviewing, and investing workshops; not to mention the phenomenal four-year degree program with at least six months of work experience and tuition covered. Carrie nominated me to be a student Vice President on the Executive Board of the Pulp and Paper Foundation, and I have learned so much from so many prominent industry members through that. She has also been instrumental in helping me plan the 2019 TREE (TAPPI Research Expedition Europe) Trip to Germany and Austria. The impact that the Foundation has had on my life inspired me to start the Class of 2019 Scholarship Fund. Knowing that my class will enable future students to have the same life-changing opportunities I've been afforded through the UMPPF is so fulfilling.