I think Bridgewater overall has shown me with my education what I can do in the real world.
Members of the College of Graduate Studies’ Classes of 2020 and 2021 are bringing compassion, tenacity and ingenuity to the world. And they credit their Bridgewater State University education with making it possible.
We asked several graduates to reflect on their time as Bears and how BSU set them up for success.
A Lesson in Perseverance
Jessica Mello’s advisees at Argosy Collegiate Charter School will not have far to look for inspiration: Mello’s higher education journey shows that obstacles are merely things to be surmounted.
The Somerset resident worked on her master’s degree in student affairs counseling while working, pregnant, raising her three children, and coping with a learning disability that makes reading more difficult.
“It was really hard being a non-traditional, first-generation college student with a disability most people didn’t know about,” said Mello, a visual learner who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from BSU after graduating from Bristol Community College.
Mello, who is finishing her fieldwork this summer, didn’t share with others her disability until graduate school. The counselor education curriculum includes lessons on serving students with disabilities, prompting Mello to open up about her personal experience.
“They were super supportive,” she said. “I can’t say enough about the counselor education professors. That’s one of the things I love about the graduate program.”
Through mock counseling sessions and other hands-on learning, faculty brought out her confidence.
“I felt very prepared thanks to professors like Dr. (Katherine) Bender, Dr. (Nikki) Freeburg and Dr. (Victoria) Bacon who really challenge you in unique and encouraging ways,” she said.
As Argosy’s new dean of college and career readiness, she will serve students taking dual enrollment college classes and encourage middle schoolers to reach for their dreams. She looks forward to sharing her own story to illustrate what is possible.
“They’re capable of doing anything if they put their mind to it,” she said. “I know achieving my degrees is something that can never be taken from me.”
Illuminating new opportunities
Dr. Gale McCall, G’20, once didn’t know Bridgewater State even existed. The South Carolinian wasn’t familiar with northern schools.
Fortunately, her mentor was Michael Akinbola, G’17, an assistant athletic trainer and physical therapist for the New England Patriots. The BSU graduate recommended his alma mater’s athletic training program.
“I feel like I developed a lot of good relationships,” said McCall. “From everyone in the College of Graduate Studies to my professors and classmates, it was pretty tight-knit.”
She appreciated the funding available to students, which she said is superior to what she sees elsewhere. So too were the clinical rotations, where McCall worked at Harvard University, Stonehill College, and the Texas Legends of the NBA G League.
McCall, who earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Emory University, is already achieving her goal of working with professional athletes: She was head athletic trainer for the G League’s Long Island Nets this past season. And McCall knows her Bridgewater connections will be there for her into the future.
“If you say you want to do it, someone in that network is going to help you do it,” she said. “Every person I’ve met at BSU was a little bit of sunshine amid all the snow and rain in Massachusetts.”
Commitment to service
Cassandra Laslie, ’16, G’20, and Christopher Welch, ’18, G’20, came to Bridgewater as undergraduates unsure what their futures would hold. They graduated with Master of Public Administration degrees and a new outlook on rewarding careers.
“BSU has reshaped my life and my worldview,” said Welch, who is from Fall River and aims to earn a doctorate in environmental public policy.
Laslie, who is from East Bridgewater and studied art as an undergraduate, knew little about public and nonprofit work until graduate school.
“The word ‘constituent’ wasn’t even in my vocabulary,” she recalled. “It’s opened up my eyes to a totally different world.”
Laslie interned at Massachusetts Wonderfund, a nonprofit supporting children served by the state Department of Children and Families. She teaches high school art and plans to continue her BSU education in the fall to advance her teaching skills. Welch gained hands-on experience at Cape Cod Commission, a regional planning agency. He is a management fellow in the General Manager's Office for the Town of Norwood and aims to become a regional planner or a town manager.
“BSU helped me to understand what my purpose is and what career I would like to pursue,” said Welch, who has a graduate certificate in applied anthropology and bachelor’s degree in history.
Both benefited from BSU’s commitment to student success. Welch, whose mother survived COVID-19, received assistance paying his rent during the pandemic from the Student Emergency Fund. He appreciated the help of many political science professors, especially during the uncertain summer of 2020. Laslie praises the support of Dr. Melinda Tarsi, who she says will be a mentor and friend long after graduation.
“Bridgewater State overall has made me a more confident person,” she said. “They’ve introduced me to a ton of people who I know will be there for me when I’m looking for jobs.”
Twice as Nice
Patriots fan Taylor Schon, ’20, G’21, is eager to show off her accomplishments at commencement on the Gillette Stadium field. Thanks to her determination, she gets to do it twice.
“To me, it’s just a whole different feeling and experience because I am able to go and celebrate myself with my classmates,” said Schon, who will be recognized for her Master of Business Administration degree on July 29 and bachelor’s in management the next night.
But she knows her time at BSU was about more than a ceremony.
“I think Bridgewater overall has shown me with my education what I can do in the real world,” said Schon, who is from Stoneham and completing her coursework this summer.
She’s a marketing assistant at engineering firm Weston & Sampson, a company for which she interned. Schon, who played ice hockey as a Bear, hopes for a career tied to her passion for both athletics and environmental protection.
She praised Dr. Kathleen Ferris-Costa, an associate professor in the Department of Management and Marketing, for her unwavering support and encouragement.
“Grad school is a lot different than undergrad,” she said. “It really opens your network and allows you to meet a lot more people.”
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