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.

Jeremy Freeman, TruTV
A New Game Show Helps Contestants Pay Off Their Student Loans
Jeremy Freeman, TruTV
Jeremy Freeman, TruTV

Most game shows offer flashy prizes—a trip to Maui, a million dollars, or a brand new car—but TruTV’s latest venture is giving away something much more practical: the opportunity to get out of student loan debt. Set to premiere July 10 on TruTV, Paid Off is designed to help contestants with college degrees win hard cash to put towards their loan payments, MarketWatch reports.

The show gives college graduates with student loan debt "the chance to test the depth of their degrees in a fun, fast-paced trivia game show,” according to TruTV’s description. In each episode, three contestants compete in rounds of trivia, with one contestant eliminated each round.

One Family Feud-style segment asks contestants to guess the most popular answer to college-related poll questions like “What’s the best job you can have while in college?” (Answer: Server.) Other segments test contestants' general trivia knowledge. In one, for example, a contestant is given 20 seconds to guess whether certain characters are from Goodfellas or the children’s show Thomas & Friends. Some segments also give them the chance to answer questions related to their college major.

Game show host Michael Torpey behind a podium

Based on the number of questions they answer correctly, the last contestant standing can win enough money to pay off the entirety of their student debt. (However, like most game shows, all prizes are taxable, so they won't take home the full amount they win.)

Paid Off was created by actor Michael Torpey, who is best known for his portrayal of the sadistic corrections officer Thomas Humphrey in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Torpey, who also hosts the show, says the cause is personal to him.

“My wife and I struggled with student debt and could only pay it off because—true story—I booked an underpants commercial,” Torpey says in the show’s pilot episode. “But what about the other 45 million Americans with student loans? Sadly, there just aren’t that many underpants commercials. That is why I made this game show.”

The show is likely to draw some criticism for its seemingly flippant handling of a serious issue that affects roughly one in four Americans. But according to Torpey, that’s all part of the plan. The host told MarketWatch that the show is designed “to be so stupid that the people in power look at it and say, ‘That guy is making us look like a bunch of dum dums, we’ve got to do something about this.’”

Paid Off will premiere on Tuesday, July 10 at 10 p.m. Eastern time (9 p.m. Central time).

[h/t MarketWatch]

Northeastern University Is Now Handing Out Echo Dots to Its Students

Northeastern University is welcoming new students with an unusual addition to their dorm rooms this fall: an Echo Dot. According to USA Today, the Boston university will give some of its incoming students the option to receive a specialized Echo Dot smart home device that can help answer questions related to their school experience.

Northeastern's Echo Dot program doesn't just provide standard-issue smart home devices. The university has developed a special "Husky Helper" skill (named after the university mascot) that can answer common questions that students might otherwise pose to student services over the phone. The idea is that students will get answers to their questions quickly, and student services won't have to put so many employees to work answering basic queries about issues like dining hall meal card balances.

They can ask it things like whether they have a health insurance waiver on file with the university (a requirement for students who don't have university insurance) or have the device set a timer when they have to leave for their next class. Of course, they can also use it for all the things a non-student might use a Dot for, like playing music or getting weather updates.

Students can decide whether to opt in to the program and how much access to give Amazon. They can add information about their class schedules, meal plan accounts, tuition payments, and more. Students who ask about some sensitive information, like their grades, are instead directed to the proper university department to call, rather than their private data being read out for the whole dorm to hear.

The Northeastern Echo Dot program started out with a 60-student pilot for the 2017 - 2018 academic year, but will expand to more students in the fall.

[h/t USA Today]


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