Moments before signing a historic partnership agreement with Bridgewater State University in front of dozens of educators and community leaders, Bristol Community College President Dr. John L. Sbrega held up his hand and intertwined two fingers.
That simple gesture symbolized a bond between the two institutions that grew infinitely stronger after Dr. Sbrega and BSU President Frederick W. Clark Jr. signed BCC2BSU, a guaranteed dual admission initiative debuting this fall for targeted undergraduate programs.
“We aspire to be a ‘next-generation university’ and this won’t be just another transfer agreement; we’re going to invest in it,” President Clark told the audience during the initiative signing ceremony on May 10 at the BCC Attleboro campus, where BSU has offered courses for the past eight years. “We want to build and expand upon the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Commonwealth Commitment, and I think we’re going to do that through this partnership.”
Just a week earlier, MCC2BSU was launched at Massasoit Community College. Through the initiative, applicants to BSU can be granted a conditional admission – as opposed to a traditional rejection – should they enroll at either BCC or Massasoit and participate in the program. None of the participants will have to re-apply to BSU upon completion of their associate’s degree.
“This initiative provides streamlined transfer coordination, which is a critical component in making transitions between institutions easier to students,” said Dr. Charles Wall, president of Massasoit. “Enhanced partnerships between institutions – matched with strong partnerships between counselors and students – will have a great impact on student success.”
While at BCC and Massasoit, participants will experience collaborative and intensive academic advising from BSU as well as deep engagement of peer mentors, faculty members and administrators to ensure their success, which Dr. Sbrega termed “an unmatched value.”
“The dual admission is a crucial breakthrough,” said Dr. Sbrega. “Our students will really feel that they are part of the BSU/BCC family. It will provide our students with a sense of belonging, and they’ll feel connected with BSU even before beginning classes there.”
Qualifying Massasoit and BCC students will receive a BSU Connect card, an ID that offers a number of discounts at local businesses as well as campus access to events and select specialized programs such as financial literacy. They will also become eligible to participate in targeted immersive summer residential programs at BSU while they are at their community colleges.
“As always in Southeastern Massachusetts, we set the model for the rest of the commonwealth,” said Dr. Sbrega. “This is an exciting opportunity and a momentous opportunity. Providing pathways for students is dear to President Clark’s heart and our hearts. We have an incredible partnership with BSU – not just in this connection, but in the day-to-day interactions that we at BCC have with BSU.”
Each year, approximately 350 Massasoit students and 300 BCC students go to Bridgewater to attain their bachelor’s degrees. “Students will have access to resources on both campuses, which will create a smooth pathway in their transition,” said Dr. Wall. Steering committees will be formed to activate the agreements at both institutions and a new BSU position would oversee the pioneering new program.
“The state needs us to produce more college educated workers; it’s a desperate crying need in all corners of the state,” said President Clark said. “We’re going to focus on gateway cities and underserved populations.” In education, the new initiative will serve as a “grow your own teacher” program, according to President Clark, helping to address teacher shortages and lack of diversity in Gateway cities.
“By tying all pieces of the admission and transfer process together and offering high levels of support, we are offering the first program of its kind between two-year and four-year public institutions in the commonwealth,” said President Clark. “We need to make a difference for many more students than we’re making now. That’s the whole point of it – to make a difference.”