For URI engineering students who row, balance is key

Students learn to manage their time to participate in a sport they love

Media Contact: Neil Nachbar, 401-874-9519 |
URI club rowing team members
From left, URI club rowing team members Mike Durgin, Will Bernard, Thomas Gmoser, Matt Susi and Max Fullmer. Photo courtesy of Mike Durgin

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 13, 2019 – A tremendous amount of dedication is required to succeed as an engineering student at the University of Rhode Island. The same is true of collegiate athletics. To thrive at both endeavors simultaneously, a student must have great time management skills and discipline.

Mike Durgin and Max Fullmer accomplished that feat in the spring 2019 semester as members of URI’s club rowing team. Durgin, a mechanical engineering student from Middletown, Rhode Island, and Fullmer, an ocean engineering major from Virginia Beach, Virginia, fulfilled their academic responsibilities while attending the crew team’s early morning practices and weekend regattas.

“Being a student-athlete is like taking your average college experience and turning it up a few levels,” said Durgin, a rising senior. “The engineering course work is challenging enough on its own. Balancing rowing and your studies forces you to prioritize your day.”

With rowing practice starting before sunrise, it was crucial that Durgin and Fullmer planned their day in advance and used their time wisely.

“After practice, I devoted most of my morning to school work,” stated Durgin. “I can usually finish my assignments in between classes instead of saving them for the evening.”

Durgin didn’t always have such a firm grasp on how to manage his responsibilities. During his sophomore year, he stepped away from rowing after falling behind in his classes.

“I felt that I needed to focus more on my studies,” recalled Durgin. “I thought if I didn’t have the early morning practices to go to that I would do better in the classroom, but that wasn’t the case. Without rowing, I didn’t have that structure to my day. Getting my morning off to a good start paved the way for a successful day, and I missed that good start without rowing.”

From the end of March to Memorial Day weekend, the crew team competes in regattas almost every weekend.

“I traveled with my books and studied in the hotel the night before a race,” Durgin said. “The homework has to get done. Once that is taken care of, then it’s much easier to focus on the race.”

Adding to the stress of the semester, final exams usually coincide with the New England Rowing Championship, at the beginning of May. This year’s championship took place in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“I started studying for final exams weeks before they arrived,” said Durgin. “That way, I felt prepared as they got close, without having to sacrifice practice time with my teammates or stay up too late the night before a race.”

To reach the finish line of their academic careers on time, without having to give up on their love of rowing, Durgin and Fullmer developed long-term plans early on.

“Fortunately, I planned early on in my freshman year to get most of my general education courses out of the way so that I would have a lighter load my senior year,” said Fullmer, who completed his bachelor’s degree this spring. “It payed off immensely, as I was able to enjoy my senior capstone project experience.”

Fullmer’s capstone project involved making a prototype of an ocean-ready buoy system that recorded marine mammal vocalizations and other acoustics around the Block Island Wind Farm in real time over the Verizon cellular network.

Durgin started his academic career behind most engineering students and had to scramble just to catch up.

“I was behind in mathematics, which were prerequisites before starting the engineering courses,” Durgin said. “At the time, I thought it would be a daunting task to catch up and that engineering might be too much for me. But I kept with it and took courses every summer and during the J-term in the winter. From where I started, I’m proud of how far I’ve come.”

Durgin is on track to graduate from URI at the end of the fall semester of 2020.

In crew, success is dependent on everyone in the boat rowing in unison. Communication and teamwork are vital. As one of the coxswains on the team, Fullmer was responsible for steering the boat, and coordinating the power and rhythm of the rowers.

Fullmer plans on applying the “soft” skills he learned on the crew team in his career.

“You learn what actions you need to take to support the other members of your team, who in turn will support you,” said Fullmer. “Rowing taught me how to get others to work together to create a win-win scenario for all. This skill is valuable in any career and it’s one that I wouldn’t have developed to this extent if I had just been a student and had not been on the crew team.”

This summer, Fullmer is attending a web development coding boot camp in Phoenix, Arizona. He hopes to use what he learns to help ocean/coastal-related companies.

Durgin is doing a summer internship in production design at Hayward Industries in North Kingstown. Hayward is a global company specializing in pumps, filters and control systems for swimming pools.

“My internship is confirming my passion for engineering and is providing a vision of what life will be like after college,” Durgin said.