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The University of Maine's Lobster Institute // via Facebook

8 State-Specific College Programs

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The University of Maine's Lobster Institute // via Facebook

While colleges vary greatly in terms of price and prestige, the offerings of a university can seem as uniform as those of a chain restaurant, never changing whether you’re east or west, north or south. There’s a small list of majors—accounting, psychology, biology, engineering, criminal justice, history, nursing, business, etc.—that dominate every school. But there are some university majors, programs, and research centers that are specific to the school’s geographic location and, in some cases, can’t be found anywhere else. Here are 8 of them.


The horse is the farm animal associated with Kentucky more than any other (except maybe those served in buckets). The University of Kentucky, in Lexington, offers a bachelor’s degree in equine science and management. Those enrolled choose between two focuses: Equine science students learn horse health and biology, while those in equine management learn about business, agricultural marketing, and hospitality. The school is home to the Maine Chance Equine Campus, once the personal horse farm of cosmetics empress Elizabeth Arden.

While the program might seem like a throwback to the school’s 1860s-era roots as an agricultural college, UK actually implemented it in 2005. Four years earlier, the Kentucky horse world was devastated by an outbreak of mare reproductive loss syndrome that wiped out 20 to 30 percent of foals expected that year. UK wanted a center that could respond to a future such event.

(But if you’re looking for a somewhat similar degree, the University of Montana Western offers a Bachelor of Science in Natural Horsemanship that allows you to major in management, science, or even psychology.)


In 1946, Gov. Mortimer Proctor donated a state-owned farm to the University of Vermont in Burlington. The land become the Proctor Maple Research Center, a field research station/working maple sap and syrup farm run by the Department of Plant Biology. The six research staffers of the PMRC publish a line of guides for sappers, which address such dilemmas as “how often to replace droplines” and “one or two tapholes.” There are also several webcams on the farm in case you’d like to witness the process of syrup production in action (it can be slow). What happens to the 750 to 950 gallons of maple syrup produced at the farm? You can buy bottles of it at the university bookstore.


Las Vegas has dubbed itself the “entertainment capital of the world,” with its casino industry, glitzy paradise of night clubs, residency shows, and boxing matches. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, contributes with its major in “entertainment engineering and design,” aimed to help students concoct the entertainment palaces of the future. Don’t think that undergrads sit around in a Trump-like state of egomania, envisioning the biggest thing they could slap their names on—this is a hardcore engineering degree. Areas of focus include structural design and rigging (i.e. building stages), entertainment venue design, and automation and motion controls.


Kansas State University, in the heart of America’s “bread basket,” is the only school in the U.S. to offer a four-year degree in Bakery Science and Management. The degree “trains students for administrative, research, production, and executive positions in the baking industry.” Like Kentucky’s equine program, this major is divided into business and science halves. The production management facet trains future executives of baked goods businesses, while the cereal chemistry tract is for those looking to work in the quality control or research and development departments of food conglomerates. You might spend your undergrad years in a hairnet, but you’ll rise to the top of this field.


Homarus americanus, a.k.a. the American lobster, adds $300 million a year to Maine’s economy. With so much riding on one crustacean, the University of Maine has hosted the Lobster Institute within its Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences since 1987. The center is funded by lobster industries from the Long Island Sound to Newfoundland. Its “Lobster Library” is a storehouse for academic articles on lobsters and its faculty has published extensively on lobster nutrition, health, management and pathology. The institute gets so many media calls asking one question—“do lobsters feel pain when boiled alive?”—that they developed a handy PDF to answer it. Their short answer is no. Because of lobsters’ primitive, insect-like nervous system, neuroscientists don’t think they process pain.


Most of the entries on this list are dedicated to a narrow field of study, but the Hawaii‘inuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge is a wide, multi-discipline institution. It was established in 2007 from various programs studying indigenous culture at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Both grad students and undergrads earning a degree in Hawaiian knowledge choose between five concentrations: Hālau O Laka (arts), Kūkulu Aupuni (politics), Mālama ‘Āina (resource management), Mo‘olelo ‘Ōiwi (history and literature), and Kumu Kahiki (a mix of geography, genealogy, and literature). Within these five divisions are classes on everything from the native language to indigenous medicine to the astronomy that guided Hawaii’s first inhabitants from Polynesia.


Just as expected as the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute and the University of Vermont’s Maple Research Center is the Citrus Research and Education Center at the University of Florida, where the orange is practically the state emblem. Florida’s annual citrus crop is worth about $1.35 billion, and magnates of the industry have funded this center since 1917. Today, it employs more than 200 people, stretches across 600 acres of groves and greenhouses, and includes a juice processing plant. The orange oligarchs and kumquat kings have gotten their money’s worth: The center claims to have invented the mechanical hedging machine, modern-day citrus irrigation, and juice concentrate.


While some schools have one institute or degree that reflects its locale, several facets of the University of Alaska Fairbanks reflect its frosty place 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Its Arctic Region Supercomputing Center is dedicated to the use of high-capacity computers to support research on high latitudes and the Arctic. The International Arctic Research Center is focused on the climate of the top of the world, particularly in regards to climate change. And a herd of reindeer live on campus. The school’s 17-acre farm, part of the Alaska Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, cares for 95 total and often takes one to area elementary schools to interact with kids. But the deer shouldn’t get too comfortable there: one of its goals is researching a nutritional mix that will improve the quality of reindeer meat.

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
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As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Big Questions
Why Are So Many Blackboards Green?
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Though the term blackboard has a color right there in its name, most of them aren’t actually black. While we still use the term more or less interchangeably with chalkboards, blackboards tend to be green. Why the difference? Why call a surface a blackboard if it's green?

Because 200 years ago, blackboards were black. According to author Lewis Buzbee’s Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom, large boards of connected slates that teachers could write on for the whole class to see didn’t come around until the early 1800s, and the name blackboard wasn’t used until 1815. They were made with slate, or in rural areas, they were often just wooden boards painted dark with egg whites mixed with the remains of charred potatoes. Later, they were also made of wood darkened with a commercially made porcelain-based ink. They were, true to their name, black.

And the relatively affordable, ubiquitous technology was a huge success, changing education forever. By the mid-19th century, even the most rural schools had a blackboard.

As an 1841 teaching manual, The Blackboard in the Primary School, put it: “The inventor or introducer of the black-board system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors of mankind.”

In the 20th century, blackboards began to look a little different, though the idea was the same. In the 1930s, manufacturers began to make chalkboards using a green, porcelain enameled paint on a steel base. By the 1960s, the green chalkboard trend was in full swing. Teachers had discovered that a different colored paint was a lot more comfortable to stare at all day, because green porcelain paint cut down on glare. By and large, many blackboards were slowly replaced by their green brethren. (Apparently, greenboards wasn’t quite as catchy of a name, though, so the term blackboard stuck.)

But today, many school children might not be familiar with either blackboards or "greenboards." In the 1990s, schools began converting their classrooms to whiteboards, which produce less dust (and eliminate that terrible screeching noise). According to The Atlantic, at the turn of the millennium, whiteboards were outselling chalkboards by a 4-to-1 ratio.

You can still find the occasional blackboard in a classroom, though—even if it’s just decorative. And some schools are rediscovering blackboards, literally. In the summer of 2015, construction workers renovating an Oklahoma school for smart whiteboards found two historic slate blackboards that still bore drawings from almost 100 years ago.

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