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

8 State-Specific College Programs

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

Design Firm Envisions the Driverless School Bus of the Future

Engineers have already designed vehicles capable of shuttling pizzas, packages, and public transit passengers without a driver present. But few have considered how this technology can be used to transport our most precious cargo: kids. Though most parents would be hesitant to send their children on a bus with no one in the driver's seat, one design firm believes autonomous vehicle technology can change their rides for the better. Their new conceptual project, called Hannah, illustrates their ideas for the future of school bus travel.

As Co.Design reports, Seattle-based design firm Teague tackled both the practical challenges and the social hurdles when designing their driverless school bus. Instead of large buses filled with dozens of kids, each Hannah vehicle is designed to hold a maximum of six passengers at a time. This offers two benefits: One, fewer kids on the route means the bus can afford to pick up each student at his or her doorstep rather than a designated bus stop. Facial recognition software would ensure every child is accounted for and that no unwanted passengers can gain access.

The second benefit is that a smaller number of passengers could help prevent bullying onboard. Karin Frey, a University of Washington sociologist who consulted with the team, says that larger groups of students are more likely to form toxic social hierarchies on a school bus. The six seats inside Hannah, which face each other cafeteria table-style, would theoretically place kids on equal footing.

Another way Hannah can foster a friendlier school bus atmosphere is inclusive design. Instead of assigning students with disabilities to separate cars, everyone can board Hannah regardless of their abilities. The vehicle drives low to the ground and extends a ramp to the road when dropping off passengers. This makes the boarding and drop-off process the same for everyone.

While the autonomous vehicles lack human supervisors, the buses can make up for this in other ways. Hannah can drive both backwards and forwards and let out children on either side of the car (hence the palindromic name). And when the bus isn’t ferrying kids to school, it can earn money for the district by acting as a delivery truck.

Still, it may be a while before you see Hannah zipping down your road: Devin Liddel, the project’s head designer, says it could take at least five years after driverless cars go mainstream for autonomous school buses to start appearing. All the regulations that come with anything involving public schools would likely prevent them from showing up any sooner. And when they do arrive, Teague suspects that major tech corporations could be the ones to finally clear the path.

"Could Amazon or Lyft—while deploying a future of roving, community-centric delivery vehicles—take over the largest form of mass transit in the United States as a sort of side gig?" the firm's website reads. "Hannah is an initial answer, a prototype from the future, to these questions."

[h/t Co.Design]

New Pop-Up Museum in Maryland Looks at What It's Like Being a Teen Today

Museums across America explore everything from break-ups to the human urinary tract system. Now, The Washington Post reports that a group of Maryland high school students have launched a pop-up museum dedicated to the modern teenage experience—selfies, schoolwork, and social pressures included.

Located in a vacant restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland, the Museum of Contemporary American Teenagers (MoCAT)—which is set to run from December 6 to December 9, and again from December 14 to December 16—is primarily organized by students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Organizers believe it’s the first project of its kind to explore teen identity and culture.

Displays at MoCAT, which received funding through donations and crowdsourcing, will include murals, 30 exhibits, live performances, and 150 “selfie” sculptures molded from clay. Exhibition themes are slated to change daily, and cover topics that run the gamut from unrealistic body image expectations to smartphone addiction and college application stress. Others are more political in nature, examining everything from fear of gun violence to shifting gender norms.

The MoCAT isn’t intended to be permanent, as it’s located inside the future sight of Marriott’s new headquarters. But according to The Washington Post, the students say they’d love to see the initiative eventually gain new life as a traveling exhibition featuring contributions from teens around America.

[h/t The Washington Post]


More from mental floss studios