Student Spotlight: Secondary Social Studies Major Bradford Lopes

Bald Mountain - MeWe recently had an opportunity to talk with Secondary Social Studies Major, Bradford Lopes, about his experience as a transfer student at UMF.  Thank you, Bradford, for taking the time to share your experiences, reflections and perspectives!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?   So my name is Bradford Lopes, and I transferred to UMF prior to the spring semester of 2014. I came here as a Secondary Education major with a concentration in Social Studies, and while here I have completed a minor in Psychology and plan on coming back after student teaching to complete a minor in Special Education as well. Ideally, I’d like to teach High School after college, but I’d also like to take a break from schooling to see the world and help people in need. One of the things that made me fall in love with teaching is the flexibility it gives to your career choices. Although I love the idea of teaching for the rest of my life, I would also love to move on to administration and higher ed, eventually. My ultimate
goal is to teach in college, preferably either Education or History, so I can continue to enjoy teaching while also working on my own personal goals such as my desire to write a book, specifically concerning the history of the Caribbean islands and the South American/Middle American cultures.

Recently, I have been looking into possibly taking a break after college to pursue my goal of traveling the world and helping people in need. Specifically, due to my interests in history and culture, I would absolutely love to travel to Haiti and work with local communities there while also exploring the fascinating and powerful history and culture that has risen there. Due to my Native American heritage as well, being a tribal member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, I would also like to return to Noepe (indigenous name for Martha’s Vineyard) someday and utilize my degree to give back to the people that have supported me so much through this venture. As far as activities outside of school, I am an avid naturalist who enjoys virtually anything outside, and this was one of the factors that drew me to the Farmington area. I love snowshoeing, fishing, hiking, and really anything that involves being outside in the Maine woods. One of my favorite things to do during the summer in Farmington is to hike up Tumbledown Mountain and read whatever I’m into at that time. I also love sports, mainly disc golf, football, and basketball. I’m also planning on getting my coaching certification next semester so I can hopefully coach while teaching as well.

Where had you been prior to coming to UMF? What made you decide to transfer to UMF?  Prior to coming to UMF, I had spent two undergraduate years at the University of Maine in Orono. There were several reasons why I decided to transfer, but the main reason was the size of UMO. In a majority of the classes you attend there, you are simply an enrollment number. In the two years I spent there, I only felt close to one or two professors, and besides that none of the other professionals I had even knew my name, including my own advisor. Another reason why I decided to transfer was because I felt like I had found what I wanted to do with my career, teaching. Once I fell in love with being in a classroom, I knew Orono wasn’t the best place for me. Farmington has a sterling reputation for producing some of the most unique, creative, and effective individuals to teach in the state of Maine, and I decided if I wanted to teach so badly, this was the place for me.

How would you describe your UMF experience (thus far)?   My UMF experience has been absolutely amazing. To be honest, I think transferring to UMF was one of the best moves I’ve made in my life. The professors that occupy this college are some of the most caring, amazing individuals I have met in my entire life. I can’t walk through the newly named Kalikow Education Center without striking up a long conversation with some of my former and current professors. This has proven to be true across all of the subject areas I’ve explored here. On top of that, the faculty that work at this school are extremely helpful and even the President of the University herself finds the time to strike up conversations with students. In the time I have been here, I have completely changed how I’ve felt about Universities and the individuals that help make them function. In the end, I can’t imagine being anywhere but Farmington.

What were some of the challenges you’ve faced as a transfer student?  As a transfer student, you face several challenges that are inherent in the change of scenery. While at first I was quite shy in my classes, my peers brought out my real personality after a while. Making friends here has never seemed to be that much of a challenge to me because this school attracts extremely open-minded individuals that accept people for who they are. I would have to say the biggest challenge for me was getting used to the scenery and the overall layout of where things are on campus. Fortunately, this hasn’t taken too long, but I am still discovering new places all of the time. Since I went to High School in Skowhegan, I was familiar with Farmington somewhat but I would have to say that has been my biggest challenge so far. As I said above, I never felt like I had challenges with my academics because of how amazing the staff at the University has been.

What materials/resources did you find helpful? What types of resources would be useful for future transfer students or students who are considering transferring to UMF?     Outside of the normal resources, such as campus maps and community information, I found the most powerful and effective resource was my advisor, Dr. Theresa Overall, and the faculty that make up the Education Department. Of course, since I was already enrolled in this program at UMO and transferred into the program here, I already had a great amount of resources. From Dr. Johanna Prince and Dr. Lance Neeper in EDU 101/SED 101 to Dr. Grace Ward, Dr. Beth Evans, Dr. Dale, and plenty of other faculty members, I have always felt comfortable seeking information from these professionals, even when it had nothing to do with their specialty. The only thing that I could think to add that would be useful for transfer students is more ways to integrate them into the existing environment and community right away. While this depends on time and the limitations that come with potentially moving to another location, I think it would amazing if there was a way for this school to assist transfer students in exploring the local community and University itself while spending their first semester here. Overall though, I thought the process that I went through while transferring here was quite expansive, informative, and offered me with plenty of resources to be successful.

What advice do you have for students who are considering transferring in to UMF?   My piece of advice would be to keep an open mind and explore. Don’t be afraid to challenge your assumptions and beliefs while immersing yourself in the community. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The faculty at this school is amazing, and if you are lost at all, just ask someone for help. I’ve developed a large amount of friendships and acquaintances from simply asking a question.

What advice do you have for UMF faculty/staff for how to best support transfer students?   I would say my biggest piece of advice here would be to do what my advisor did. Dr. Theresa Overall has always been there for me, and has consistently gone out of her way to make sure I was on the right track and doing the absolute best I could do. I would just say be open, and put yourself in their shoes. For example, Alison Thayer, a professor here at UMF, has gone out of her way to understand my employment situation and helped design an independent study with me to make sure I got my PHE credit. By accommodating, understanding, and interacting effectively with me, these two professors have contributed greatly to my success. Overall, I would say be open, responsive and supportive as best as possible. Integrate transfer students and help introduce them to other staff. The worst feeling is transferring and feeling lost or alone, go out of your way to make sure that doesn’t happen like my advisor did.

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