Re: “USM president proposes deep, ‘painful and disruptive’ cuts” (March 15):

I am a University of Southern Maine alumna with a degree in geosciences.

I grew up poor in southern Maine, so USM was, financially, my only option. I didn’t want to go there. I thought there was no way such a small department could run a good geoscience program. I was wrong.

I am thankful every day for that program. What USM’s Department of Geosciences has that other schools don’t: passionate professors and undergraduate research experiences that few schools in the country offer.

While at USM, I worked on three large research projects and received the Maine State NASA Grant Scholarship for work with Professor Irwin Novak in coordination with NASA and the University of the Aegean.

Students are encouraged to conduct original research and analysis much like higher-level master’s programs. These experiences build a strong foundation for successful future geoscientists.

Since graduating in 2007, I’ve worked at Mount St. Helens in Washington, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and a consulting firm in Portland, Ore., before settling down in Alaska.

I now work for a top civil engineering firm as an environmental specialist tasked with projects assisting remote communities all over Alaska.

My story is not unique. I know USM geosciences alumni who study volcanoes in Hawaii, teach at universities, work for the state of Maine, run consulting firms and more. We are successful thanks to the incredible experience and education we were given by the USM Geosciences Department.

If that department is lacking anything, it’s marketing. If students around the country knew what a gem (pun intended) this program is, there would be a waiting list.

The USM geosciences program changed my life. It gave this poor kid from southern Maine the opportunity to live her dream. Please don’t take that away from future students.

Holly Weiss-Racine

USM Class of 2007, bachelor of science degree in geosciences

Anchorage, Alaska