UMass Amherst College of Engineering
Student Voices

From Conway to UMass

UMass student standing in front of a waterfall

Though hailing from the nearby town of Conway, Massachusetts, located merely 18 miles west of Amherst, Jim Carmichael’s move to UMass marked a significant and drastic change in his surroundings. With a population of slightly over 2,000 people, Conway is remarkably smaller than UMass, which boasts a thriving undergraduate student body of 23,000. Jim admits that navigating the sprawling campus was hard at first, but he grew accustomed to it in no time and greatly appreciates all it has to offer. 

A sophomore mechanical engineering major, Jim is a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC). The AFROTC is a popular educational program that offers college students the opportunity to undergo the required training to become Air Force officers while completing their degree. Jim was always interested in aerospace engineering and, given UMass’s highly acclaimed engineering program and the campus’s close proximity to his hometown, he knew he made the right choice by attending UMass. At UMass, Jim’s favorite class so far has been ENGIN 113 - Introduction to Engineering, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. “The professor’s commitment to the discipline and the hands-on experience I gained through the projects was fascinating,” he said.

Students enrolled in the ROTC curriculum, known as cadets, also have the opportunity to receive scholarships as part of their training. There are different types of scholarships, and Jim is a beneficiary of the Type 1 scholarship, which covers full tuition as well as additional educational expenses, including textbooks. Cadets under the Type 1 scholarship also receive annual stipends. Reflecting on this opportunity, Jim is grateful to the ROTC for setting him up for professional success in the future.

While acclimating to the UMass campus was challenging at first, what made it easier for Jim was introducing himself to people he would sit next to in lectures and labs. Moreover, the close-knit group of friends he has through ROTC has further helped him find his niche in the sprawling campus. One of the most significant discoveries Jim made since coming to UMass was the newfound independence it offered to him, particularly in terms of scheduling and academics. He believes that this is in stark contrast to his—and other students’—high school experiences, where they are bound by fixed schedules and limited control over how they spend their time.

Jim has been trying to make the most out of his UMass experiences and advises new students to never pass up on an opportunity. “Grab every new chance that comes your way, be it an interview, a scholarship, a club membership, or simply a chance to better yourself in any way.”