University of Maine at Fort Kent

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The University of Maine at Fort Kent sits on the Maine-Canada border, and is one of the most unique institutions in New England. Founded in 1878 as the Madawaska Training School, UMFK was originally a teacher’s school designed to teach the Quebequoi settlers from Canada learn English and Americanize. The opposite happened – instead of Americanizing the French, the Fort Kent Normal School (as it was renamed) became a center of French-American culture and identity, growing into a centerpiece of the Saint John Valley. Today, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is a public liberal arts college ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 50 regional colleges for the North.

Academic Programs

There are many bilingual colleges and universities in the US, but the University of Maine at Fort Kent is one of just a few English-French institutions of higher learning. With its location in the Saint John Valley, where the majority of residents speak both, UMFK is an important cultural crossroads for American and Canadian people. As a regional institution, UMFK focuses on programs and careers that are most applicable to the needs of residents in the area; that, of course, includes business, nursing allied health, and computer science programs but also programs driven by the needs of northern New England: Conservation Law Enforcement, Environmental Studies, and Rural Public Safety Administration are just some examples.

UMFK’s rural location – rather remote, and as far north as the contiguous United States goes – has also prompted the university to invest in online education. UMFK offers around a dozen online degree programs in some of the most in-demand areas in contemporary higher education, including accounting, business management, criminal justice, and nursing. These programs help UMFK reach out even farther to meet the needs of the Saint John Valley region and beyond. At this time, UMFK offers only associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, as well as some certificates.

Student Life

With a small student body of just 1500, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is known for its excellent student support, providing one-on-one mentorship and a strong, close-knit campus atmosphere. More than two-thirds of the student body is female, and UMFK has the largest proportion of international students of any New England college – largely because of the many Acadian and French Canadian students who attend. The UMFK Bengals compete in the USCAA in a handful of varsity sports, but is much better known for the many students who attend in training for the Winter Olympics. The UMFK women’s soccer team has swept conference championships throughout the 2010s.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent is a rural campus surrounded by rugged mountains and forests. As a deeply embedded, influential part of life in the Saint John Valley – one of the oldest and most richly French-American regions in the north – UMFK has embraced its role as a home for Quebequoi and Northern New England culture. UM Fort Kent is the home of the annual Fiddlers Jamboree, inviting folk musicians from both sides of the US-Canadian border for music, dance, and culture, bringing the scholarship of the Acadian Archives to life. UMFK is also an active part of the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Race, in which the best sled dog teams the world over compete.

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