PSU students collaborate on Gorham paper plant redevelopment
PLYMOUTH, N.H. (WCAX) - A unique partnership in New Hampshire is bringing together Plymouth State University students to help redevelop an old North Country industry that fell on hard times.
“It’s a blight and I think it is hard for people to latch on to something when there is no change,” said Evan Behrens, whose White Mountain Paper Company acquired the former Gorham Paper and Tissue Mill out of bankruptcy two years ago. Work is being done to turn the property around and some of it is coming from a unique source. “Nothing begins like a beginning. Someone has to take the first step forward and change the narrative.”
Ten hand-picked students at Plymouth State University are helping to change that narrative. “I think that the most rewarding part of this project was to have a real-world experience when it comes to learning,” said Grace Burns, a PSU senior. “I think that the classroom, while beneficial for everyone, can get a little mundane.”
For the past semester, the students, in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship cluster, have researched sustainable land use possibilities for a 40-acre wastewater lagoon on the property.
On Thursday, they pitched their proposals to Behrens, PSU’s president, and North Country representatives. “It didn’t feel like a class, it felt like a job. But it was a job that I had fun doing and I learned a lot,” said Ethan Stuckless, a PSU sophomore.
New business ideas included everything from athletics, recreation, and agritourism, to additional housing and a hotel. It comes after site visits, market research, investment analysis, and community input. “You are interacting with people in the community. You are talking about what their voices were and how they were heard,” Stuckless said.
The class is a new way of thinking for PSU students. “Hands-on interdisciplinary learning -- which is a new model we offer here at Plymouth State -- where they synthesize knowledge from a bunch of different disciplines and put it together and put it in practice,” said Chantalle Forgues, a PSU professor
And the results could end up changing a community for the better. Nearby Berlin is known as “The City that Trees Built,” but officials say the region could be known for so much more. “Let people start to think about other possibilities,” Behrens said.
And educators say the class is also about a sense of service -- giving back to a community that one day they may be a part of.
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