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Learning By Degrees

Veteran administrator refused to be denied the education she longed for

For some, Bridgewater State University amounts to a single stop on their life’s journey. However, others, like Margarida Baganha, keep coming back.

Today, Baganha serves as director of University Services, but 35 years ago, while still in high school, she was hired to work for President Emeritus Dr. Adrian Rondileau at what was then Bridgewater State College.

“His wife was bedridden, and my job was to care for her. For a year and a half, I went after school and on Saturdays,” she said.

The main reason Baganha entered the workforce was so her father would allow her to stay in school.

Born off the coast of Portugal in Port Azores, her family moved to the United States when she was 13. Baganha was grateful for the move, because the Portuguese culture in which she was raised discouraged education for girls past the sixth grade.

Despite the move, her father held onto his cultural beliefs and told her once she reached 16 she would have to leave school.

“(For girls) education wasn’t that important. You just helped out at home and waited until you got married,” she said.

Because of her employment at Bridgewater State, her father allowed her to finish high school. 

She wasn’t, however, able to convince him when it came to college. Instead she respected his wishes and got married right out of high school.

A few years into her marriage, she was restless and returned to Bridgewater. Rondileau re-hired her to work in the president’s office. For the next 20 years she worked in a variety of administrative roles until she was appointed to her current position in 2002.

While she loved working, over the course of her career, she never let go of her desire to further her education.

“I came back to school and was able to get my bachelors in four and a half years,” Baganha said.

And she didn’t stop there. Two years after earning a bachelor’s degree in business management, she went on to earn her master’s degree in management.

She still wasn’t done.

“Three years ago, I finished my doctorate,” Baganha said with pride.

“Looking back, I always loved books and education,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine for some, because you just go along, you go to school and think you’re all set. But when that (opportunity) is taken away from you, it’s hard to imagine.’

Even today, she said, there are many young Portuguese women in the area who are caught in the middle of wanting an education and respecting their culture.

“I hope I can be a role model…my dad has passed, but if he were here today, I know he would have been proud and understood,” she said.

And she is grateful for all that Bridgewater State has done for her.

“I know that even now, if it wasn’t for that first job, that first step, I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am today,” Baganha said.

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