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The campus was quiet, and the hot summer air lay like a blanket over Unity College when Renee Adlesperger first laid her eyes on it.
The cheerful voice of the tour guide filled the silence as they made their way from building to building, mapping out the small, walkable community.
“I remember showing up and thinking: this is it. This is the place where I need to be,” Adlesperger, a native Texan, said of the Maine campus. “It was just in the way the college was set up, and how it was being talked about. Even though it’s a very different culture – climate! – it all felt so familiar to me. It was home.”
From learning to canoe, to helping shelter dogs become more adoptable through basic training, to her time interning with marine mammals in Alaska and Mississippi, every day as a Unity College student was an adventure waiting to be had. Eventually her experiences brought her to Sea World San Antonio post-graduation, where she worked primarily with beluga whales. Adlesperger said that being able to care for the animals there, and really involve herself in the public education at the heart of their mission, was pretty much a childhood dream come true.
Recently she’s moved on to start work in Washington state at the Science Applications International Corporation, where her primary focus is on the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, known for its study of the military use of marine mammals. The Marine Mammal Program trains animals to perform tasks such as ship and harbor protection, mine detection and clearance, and equipment recovery. And while Adlesperger’s new job specifics are classified, her feeling of fulfillment is absolute.
“I can’t imagine being where I am today without having gone to Unity College. Not just because of my time in the classroom, but the relationships I formed outside,” Adlesperger said. “Unity College is not a short term relationship. It’s something that will last me a lifetime. My life started at Unity, and I can’t be grateful enough for my experiences there.”
Throughout her time at Unity, as Adlesperger got to know her classmates and professors, the college began to feel like “a big family.” She enjoyed learning from professionals that “have actually been in the field,” and “aren’t just regurgitating something they learned from a book.” Hands-on activities filled her class schedule, and often brought her out into the larger community of Waldo County and Maine as a whole. She felt prepared entering her field, and looks forward to applying her skills in her new role.
“Not only is the college campus a family and a community, but the way the classes function, and the message they’re teaching, really involves us. It makes you feel you’re there to be a part of something bigger,” she said. “And you get this experience where you don’t just know it in your head — you know it in your hands.”