According to the monthly IMPACT newsletter published by University of Maine Research, the UMaine Graduate School is seeing record enrollment numbers this year, exceeding all statistics from the last decade. There are currently 2,276 students enrolled in graduate programs at UMaine, and over 500 of them are seeking a Ph.D. Increased access to virtual learning could make graduate school more accessible to students globally and be a driving force behind this increase in enrollment.
Additionally, virtual access to UMaine’s Graduate School could increase its capacity to conduct research. Kody Varahramyan, vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, commented on this proposition.
“Yes, this will expand UMaine’s capacity to conduct research. This was intentional and was the result of the Strategic Roadmap we have been implementing over the past few years with respect to growth and development of the research and graduate studies enterprise at the University of Maine. Our goal is to have UMaine reach its full potential as a modern 21st century research university of global impact and local relevance,” Varahramyan said.
The UMaine Graduate School has had virtual learning and virtual research opportunities on its radar since before the pandemic forced this shift. Although students have felt a learning curve with adapting to online studies, it is refreshing to hear that this forced shift to virtual learning is not detrimental to education and is actually a welcome component to modern education.
“UMaine has been able to maintain its research continuity and productivity during the pandemic through the great work and resilience of its faculty, staff, and students who have been conducting research in all areas, including health and life sciences, environment and energy, as well as arts and humanities,” Varahramyan said.
For some students, remote learning seems to have changed every aspect of education. However, for the graduate researchers at UMaine this has not been the case.
“While not all research is being conducted remotely, some research has successfully done so due to our faculty, staff, and students finding innovative ways to reduce the negative impact on their research while working remotely. This is also evidenced by the record-breaking level of research awards attracted to the university in fiscal year 2020, $125.2 million in R&D [research and development] funding, with this trend continuing in the current fiscal year.”
The great success of the research being conducted at UMaine, reflected in generous amounts of fiscal rewards, is a positive sign that our university is not only adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, but exceeding expectations while doing so.