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First grads in UMF’s Psychology 3+2 program get a head start on their professional careers

First grads in UMF’s Psychology 3+2 program: Charity LaFrance, Haley West, Oak Blaisdell, and Lilyan Ray. Kyla Antonioli is not pictured.

FARMINGTON - Three UMF students will be graduating a year early this spring and stepping right into graduate school to get a head start on their professional careers.

Majoring in psychology, these students are among the first cohort graduating in UMF’s 3+2 Program in Counseling or Social Work. Upon completion, they will be receiving both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. The program was developed under the leadership of Steven Quackenbush, UMF professor of psychology, in partnership with fellow experts at the University of Southern Maine to help meet Maine’s growing need for mental health professionals.

“This program was created to balance psychology students’ interests in social work and counseling with the their need to meet professional qualifications,” said Quackenbush. “It gives them the opportunity to accelerate their education while giving them the best professional preparation possible.”

First available in the fall of 2016, the accelerated program streamlines a student’s career preparation by having them complete a full undergraduate course load of 128 hours in three years rather than four. This time saving translates to a valuable cost savings, reducing their college cost, while also helping students work in their professional field a year early.

The UMF program is overseen by Natasha Lekes, UMF associate professor of psychology. “The weekly seminar is a key component and strength of this program,” said Lekes. “Similar to a graduate-level seminar, students discuss current issues and controversies in the field, developing their presentation and critical thinking skills. We encourage them to integrate the learning from their other classes and internship experiences. It has been such a pleasure and privilege to mentor this graduating group and watch them form a supportive cohort with their peers.”

A streamlined graduate application process paves the way for students to gain early acceptance to the USM Master’s Program, however, the UMF program is flexible in that it can also be applied to master’s programs at other institutions.

Graduating seniors Oak Blaisdell from Brunswick and Haley West from Monmouth will be pursuing their master’s in social work at USM. Blaisdell said it has been great learning together as a group for three years.

“The peer supervision and consultation we share in seminar helps provide the kind of knowledge and support we students need when going into the social work field,” said Blaisdell, who will be working with homeless adults at the Florence House in Portland.

West, who’s been developing a strong relationship with USM experts in her field, also has everything in place for her USM internship and will be working with homeless youth and their families at New Beginnings in Lewiston.

Charity La France from Rochester, N.H., will be pursuing her master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Plymouth State University, a little closer to her home. She says her transition to graduate school has been pretty seamless and that she has developed a good relationship with her graduate school advisor and has her classes all lined up and plans to start this summer.

Lilyan Ray from Oquossoc and Kyla Antonioli from Williston, Ver., also students in the first cohort, will be taking time to gain more work experience between their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

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