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 more than 100 engineering and forestry students with merit based scholarships and boasts having the most alumni in the paper industry. The UMaine Pulp and Paper Foundation celebrates each year with its annual Paper Days event, which will be held March 31 through April 1 this year. Mark Kowlzan, CEO of Packaging Corporation of America, will be the keynote speaker this year.
Paperitalo Publications was able to catch up with Eliza Hosford, a senior in the program. Miss Hosford is from Bucksport, Maine and graduated in 2016 from Bucksport High School as valedictorian. We asked her a few questions about her experiences at UMaine.
Paperitalo: What attracted you to the program?
Hosford: After attending Consider Engineering the summer after my junior year of high school, I knew that I wanted to attend UMaine and become a part of the Pulp and Paper Foundation. (Foundation Program Manager) Jen (Ireland) and (Foundation President) Carrie (Enos) were so welcoming and informative, and it was really reassuring for me to see two strong females so ingrained and influential in an industry that I had only ever known to be flooded by men. Consider Engineering shed such a strong light on the countless opportunities that the pulp and paper industry has to offer, as well as how much support I would have from the Foundation throughout obtaining my degree at UMaine. It is an experience I truly believe cannot be matched by any other school/program.
Paperitalo: Were you looking into pulp and paper when you were in high school?
Hosford: I'm from a mill town; one that unfortunately is no longer a mill town. I originally thought that I wanted to be a civil engineer, but after our mill shut down in Bucksport in 2014, I realized that I could have a really big impact in the pulp and paper industry. I saw so many lives around me affected by the closure, and I saw an opportunity to use an engineering degree to try to keep the same thing from happening in other communities. I know that some people view the industry as dying, but that couldn't be any farther from the truth. It is just changing, and now is a really exciting time to get involved!
Paperitalo: Tell us about the internships and/or co-ops you have had.
Hosford: I did an internship as well as two terms of co-op at Sappi Somerset and it was such a fantastic opportunity that I wouldn't trade for anything. The mill has such great people who all put so much effort into making sure I got the absolute most out of my time there. I could not be any more appreciative of them and all they did for me. During my internship, I worked shiftwork in the quality lab and got to see the industry from a totally different perspective than the engineers typically do to start out. During my co-op, I got to be a part of a massive $265 million rebuild of PM1 and really get involved in some big projects with a lot responsibility that provided me with great experience to jump off of when I enter the industry full-time after graduation. I highly encourage everyone to do an internship/co-op if possible; you learn so much in such a short period of time, and it makes you a much stronger candidate when applying for full-time jobs!
Paperitalo: What does this program mean to you?
Hosford: This program has afforded me so many opportunities and opened so many doors for me that I probably would not have otherwise. So much time, effort, and money is placed into each of the students that goes through the program. I could never thank Jen, Carrie, and all of the Foundation's supporters enough for everything they have done for me. It really is like one giant family that I am so lucky to be a part of.
Paperitalo: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years, and what are your career aspirations?
Hosford: I don't really have my career mapped out ahead of me yet; I know I want to move into management in some facet, but will choose my path based on the opportunities that present themselves, whenever that may be. I don't want to close off any doors by having a set plan in my head now, I am just excited to get to work and see where it takes me! The pulp and paper industry has so many different paths and I am very confident I will have a great, fulfilling career in it.
Paperitalo: What would you recommend to anyone who might be interested in getting into pulp and paper.
Hosford: Absolutely do it! The industry is full of innovation and so many exciting opportunities. There is a huge need for engineers right now, and there are so many great mentors just waiting to pass their knowledge and expertise onto the next generation.
Paperitalo: Please let us know of anything else of interest about your experiences in the program.
Hosford: This program provides the perfect entry into such a great industry. Jen and Carrie will help every student in any way they possibly can, and go above and beyond to make sure that each of us is happy and doing well. They really are like "school moms" whose doors are always open no matter what type of support you need. The Pulp and Paper Foundation has such a great reputation and has so many industry connections that make success very attainable if you put the work in. I have learned so much about networking, interviewing, and leadership through this program. Carrie nominated me to be a student Vice President on the Executive Committee of the Pulp and Paper Foundation Board, and this year I got to be a part of building the strategic plan of the Foundation moving forward and I could not be more excited about the direction it is headed in and how it plans to get there.