Melanee Terry knew she wanted to go far away for college her senior year of high school. “I really liked the New England area,” she said. “So, I was looking at schools there and knew I wanted to play softball.” Her two criteria were met when UMPI’s softball coach at the time, Sara Shaw, reached out on behalf of the university. “At the time, I had never really heard of Presque Isle,” she said. “Or Maine, period. I wasn’t very familiar with the state. But I applied for the school and made the softball team.” Following her graduation from high school, Melanee packed up and made the trip from Moreno Valley, Calif., to Presque Isle, Maine, in fall of 2017. “I try not to count the miles,” she said, smiling. “Just because I get homesick. It’s definitely pretty far, the state of Maine is the farthest I could’ve gone in the country.”
Aside from athletics, Melanee had an interest in pursuing an education in English. “I wanted to go into the English program just because I liked reading and writing in high school,” she said. “But I didn’t really want to go into the literature and Shakespeare side because it really intimidated me.” Melanee recalled looking through UMPI’s English degrees online. From here, Melanee said she was able to contact the professional communication and journalism professor, Dr. J (Jacqui Lowman), who answered her questions about the program.
Four years later, Melanee is happy she chose the PCJ program. “I’m really happy. I didn’t know much about it, like I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But now that I’m in it and about to graduate from the program, I’m just really grateful. I’ve learned a lot about myself, academics and education as well.”
In addition to her athletic extracurriculars, Melanee has also been a staff writer for UMPI’s University Times for four years. “Dr. J reached out to me in the first couple weeks of my first semester of freshman year,” she said. “She reached out to me and I just didn’t reply because I didn’t know what to do. So, she reached out to me again and I emailed her back, because I didn’t know much about the club, and she said it would be really good to just join and see. She convinced me.” Melanee says that she looked at the experience as a way for to her meet cool people in her field of interest. “I’m really happy I did (join) because it got me to meet new people and to start journalism,” she said. “To start me writing for ‘Jo Shmo’ and learning how to write in a journalistic style from really early on.”
Looking back at her time at UMPI and in the PCJ program, Melanee is most grateful for the people she has met. Some of her favorite memories aside from softball and meeting people include her involvement with Dr. J’s non-profit, BEYOND LIMITS, and being a part of the PCJ program. “Obviously meeting Dr. J and having experiences with her, but also having experiences with my classmates,” she said.
Dr. J shared her own favorite memory of Melanee. “There are so many memories,” she said. “We’ve had, I think, a lot of fun through the years and a lot of fun this semester because her two classes with me are one-on-one classes. We talk about everything under the sun, you know, the meaning of life. Besides that, though, one of my favorite memories was when we were in PCJ 316 and we had been flailing for a while. ‘What is the essence of this (Assistance Canines Training Services) organization? And Mel had to leave early because she had an interview scheduled. But she just got up and said, ‘I know what it is: Selflessness and Love,’ and left! And I’m like, that is the answer!” Dr. J said it was cool because if you were writing a story or movie, it would be like Elvis just left the building. “How do you top that?” she laughed. “She was spot on. It was absolutely the right answer. Whenever I think of that, I always laugh.”
Something that Melanee is particularly proud of is her senior practicum project. “My senior project is a series of short stories that I’m writing for BEYOND LIMITS,” she said. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people. I’ve interviewed 14 people for it, and I wrote 14 stories on them. I got a lot of interviewing and writing experience under my belt.” She said that the overall experience has been really great because of the opportunity to tell Dr. J’s story. “That’s something I’m really honored to do because she’s such an amazing person,” she said. “I’m really grateful that Dr. J even let me do it.” Dr. J reflected on Melanee’s practicum project. “To imagine that she would have come from being so tentative about interviewing to deciding for her big senior project to do a collection of 14 interviews, at least half of them with people she didn’t know at all, and some of the people she had never met,” she said. “That took tremendous confidence. As a teacher, that makes my heart smile.”
Melanee hopes that her UMPI wings help her find a career in writing and interviewing. “I’ll definitely miss UMPI’s campus,” she said, mentioning her fondness of the isolation in comparison to her hometown. “I’ll miss my friends and in terms of the PCJ program, I’ll definitely miss Dr. J, Saint and Dusty, and everyone involved with UMPI’s campus and the PCJ program.” Melanee wanted to give a special shoutout thanking Rachel Rice, who helped her with her marketing and PR knowledge as well as building connections on campus; Rowena McPherson for helping her with graphic design skills; and Coach Edwards, who helped her both athletically and socially over her years at UMPI.