Nick MacDonald helps UMaine Machias students figure out their finances — and their futures

Nick MacDonald teaches by doing. As a lecturer at the UMaine Machias, MacDonald teaches students to figure out their finances with real-world scenarios, and navigate the world of small business management while trying to navigate it himself as a budding farm business owner.

MacDonald moved to Jonesboro with his now-husband, Robbie Hammond, to be closer to his family. MacDonald worked his way up through the ranks at Machias Savings Bank, starting out as an entry level agent until he became the assistant vice president of customer service. MacDonald was one of the first employees to win the bank’s President’s Award for Customer Experience. He also helped the bank overhaul and redesign its technology using the skills he developed during his MBA in information systems and finance at the Forbes School of Business and Technology at Ashford University. 

Looking for more mentorship opportunities outside of the bank, MacDonald started teaching marketing, economics and business finance classes as an adjunct instructor at Washington County Community College a few years ago part-time. Last year, though, he received a message on Instagram from then-UMaine Machias Head of Campus Daniel Qualls notifying him of an open full-time teaching position.

“I had always said it would have to take something pretty incredible to get me out of Machias Savings Bank,” MacDonald laughs. “I’m really thankful I did make the leap because building the connection with some of these students that’s really what I was hoping for. Seeing them and understanding their true story and helping them head toward what their goal is that’s why I’m here.”

Over the course of his first year at UMaine Machias, MacDonald interviewed influential local business leaders like Justin King, president of King Construction Services; Charles Rudelitch, executive director of Sunrise Economic Council; and Larry Barker, president and CEO of Machias Savings Bank, to figure out what skills businesses need in their graduates, from organizational behavior to finance management. 

“If I were graduating high school today, I would be very excited for this program,” Barker says. 

MacDonald has already made an impression in his first year teaching. Students say that MacDonald goes out of his way to help them, both in and outside of class. His personal finance class — which covers everything from balancing a checkbook and buying insurance to negotiating a car purchase or creating an estate plan — has resonated with students in particular.

“Personal finance is a deep passion of mine,” MacDonald says. “All the assignments throughout the class work up to their final project: their personal financial plan. The great part about this class is each person’s path is different. They’re doing it with their own path in mind — where do I want to go, what do I want to achieve. I help them through that whole process.”

Dustin Taylor, a second year student in the associate in business and entrepreneurial studies program, says that the personal finance class opened his eyes to what he might pursue after graduation. During the class, students take on a multi-week long investment challenge and keep up with how their portfolio is performing in real time with the stock market, which inspired Taylor to try investing for himself through apps like Acorn.

“Nick is one of the best people I could have as a resource for that kind of topic,” Taylor says. “He knows what he’s talking about and he’s a very down-to-earth person. He will guide and help you in whatever way.”

Harley Sanford, who is starting her final year of the bachelor’s in business program and is a student through Family Futures Downeast, says that MacDonald’s care for all of his students is exceptional. When her father had a heart attack during a test week, MacDonald let Sanford postpone the test instead of penalizing her. 

“I’m not even in his class anymore, and if I message him with questions about the interest rates on a mortgage, he’s so keen to get back to you,” Sanford says. 

MacDonald is also Sanford’s advisor for her major, and is “super supportive” of her needs as a parent.

“He’s really detail-oriented and he specifically does it for your situation,” Sanford says. “When you talk to Nick, you don’t get fake vibes off of him. You can see that he’s a very genuine down-to-earth person. I think that really really makes a difference.”

MacDonald sees the program at UMaine Machias only continuing to grow, especially as people in all different sectors realize the need for business skills in Maine.

“It’s focused on the businesses that truly run this country,” MacDonald says. “That room for creativity really excites me — the freedom to truly target what our state needs.”

Nick wears jeans, a blue checkered shirt and western hat. He is outside standing next to his horse.

MacDonald is also learning more about the local small business economy as he teaches. In addition to growing his business and financial consulting business, Unique Truth, MacDonald has been working on turning his homestead into a small farm business with his husband. The project started as almost an accident a few years ago, when a co-worker needed a place to keep her goats, and that “magical” experience led to them growing their herd to “25 to 30 goats,” along with chickens, ducks and an assortment of other livestock. The farm, known as H&M Homestead, provides experiences with their farm animals at local events and sells products like goat milk soap, chicken eggs and rustic coasters, in addition to livestock itself. MacDonald says he aims to eventually build a commercial kitchen to sell dairy products like chevre.

“Every year we’re moving away from a true hobby farm to commercial profit-based business with farming as a whole. I’m feeling every bit of it,” MacDonald says. “While I have a successful path with the university, I still have this entrepreneurial spirit that I want to chase and grow a business.”

Contact: Jackie Leonard