FORT KENT, Maine — When searching for a subject on which to make a presentation during today’s inaugural Scholars Symposium at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, Bradley Hubert, an environmental studies major, decided to take a look at refrigerators.
The junior from Augusta, with a group of fellow students, worked to determine whether the university could save energy and money by refraining from equipping The Lodge, a new suite-style residence hall, with refrigerators.
The insight and action that went into that project, and an explanation of what the students found, will be one of a dozen presentations of formal papers and more than 40 poster presentations that will take place during the Scholars Symposium.
The daylong event is the first ever held at UMFK. The theme of the symposium is Life, Work, and Sustainability in Rural Communities.
Soraya Cardenas, UMFK assistant professor of sociology, is chairwoman of the event. She said the presentations and discourse at today’s event would focus on issues relevant to the region and to the university’s commitment to experiential learning, responsible citizenship and environmental stewardship.
“We have suspended all classes so that our students will be able to attend the events,” she said on Wednesday. “It will be very much like a miniconvention.”
Not only will the symposium give students a chance to showcase their work, it also will allow them to learn from others, Cardenas said. She noted that keynote speakers include Henrik Lund, professor of energy planning at Aalborg University in Denmark, and George Baker, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School in Boston.
“This is really an opportunity for us to share what is going on here, and for the students to share their work and interact with the faculty,” Cardenas said. “Although we are a small campus, students in nursing do not always get to interact with faculty in environmental studies, for example. This will give them a chance to do that. This also is going to help our students gain experience in presenting at conferences and other events.”
Hubert said Wednesday he is looking forward to presenting his refrigerator energy effect study.
“The Lodge is our newest residence hall, and each suite has a full-sized refrigerator,” he said. “Students who live there also are allowed to have their own minirefrigerators. So you could have up to four minirefrigerators and one full-size refrigerator in each suite.”
Hubert said that he and his classmates conducted a study to determine how much energy and money the university could save if the full-size refrigerators were not in the suites.
“We learned that if the big refrigerators were taken out, the university could save about $4,600 per year,” he said. “It also would save energy.”
Hubert said it was imprudent to think that UMFK would dispose of the large working refrigerators at this point, but he said once the refrigerators broke down, they could be hauled away as a cost-saving measure.
“Taking them out would make sense, or the university could turn those refrigerators off to save money,” he said. “I think that UMFK officials are going to take presentations such as mine seriously and they probably will take the findings from the study I am involved with into consideration.”