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The first 100 students will start at Messina College – The Heights in July

Vaseline 2 months ago

In July, 100 students pursuing associate degrees will set foot on Boston College’s Brookline campus to begin their studies at Messina College, a two-year residential program for first-generation college students and the ninth school within Boston College.

“I am very proud of the institution – that we are doing this in such a purposeful way for a group of students who we know will have an uphill battle to get there,” Erick Berrelleza, SJ, dean of Messina College, said.

B.C announced his plan to establish Messina College more than two years ago, in January 2022, as an offshoot of the Pine Manor Institute (PMI) of Student Success, the university’s initiative to support first-generation college students.

Messina College’s goal is to educate students for academic success and support them in making independent decisions, Berrelleza said.

“While we understand what the barriers are, it is the students themselves who are breaking down the barriers,” Berrelleza said. “So we want to make sure that they are the agents of their own journey, but we make sure that they can do really well here.”

Berrelleza said his passion for this work comes from his own identity as a Spanish speaker and son of immigrants, which allows him to better connect with students from similar backgrounds.

“I thought, ‘What a great alignment this is,’” Berrelleza said.

Still, it’s important to recognize that incoming students come from different backgrounds and have diverse stories, Berrelleza said.

“While we have some shared identities, there is so much nuance and identity,” Berrelleza said. “We need to make sure that as we think about student success and supporting our students, we get to know them really well and learn about their unique experiences.”

Joy Moore, vice president and executive director of PMI and BC ’81, said helping to found Messina College was a way for her to give back to the community that once supported her.

“I fully believe in the mission of Boston College, as well as Pine Manor,” Moore said. “They are very similar in wanting to use your skills and talents to help other people.”

Moore said the university’s decision to establish Messina College was a bold step, but one that marked remarkable progress at BC.

“I think it’s important to show – as much as we talk about how we reach the less fortunate and so on – that it’s a very different story, so to speak,” Moore said.

Berrelleza said that while developing Messina College, he took into account the different components that would ensure student success.

“We know the challenges around financial pressures, whether a student has a sense of belonging, and sometimes mental health issues, which you can never really anticipate – it can affect any population of students,” Berrelleza said.

The fact that Messina College is also a residential education experience, which eliminates transportation issues students may face, is also an important component, Berrelleza said.

“Balancing work and going to school as a commuter — typically at community colleges (and) also at other four-year colleges — those students often face many more challenges in completing (their education),” Berrelleza said. “Life can just get in the way.”

Although Messina College will have its own campus in Brookline, it is still an extension of the other colleges operating on BC’s campus, Berrelleza said.

“When we think about the constellation of campuses that we have, there is a lot of interest in getting involved in this program,” Berrelleza said. “And so we get teacher education from the different schools, from Morrissey and Lynch, Connell and Carroll. They will all contribute to supporting these students.”

Last week, the UGBC Senate passed a bill account to create a Senate seat for a student from Messina College’s inaugural class. This is just one way Messina students will integrate into the greater BC community, Berrelleza said.

“The students are the best at creating synergy among the community,” Berrelleza said.
“Apart from the facilities, our students will also have full access to the various clubs and organizations on this campus.”

By increasing the representation of first-generation students, Messina College will bring about remarkable change in B.C., Moore said.

“I think it will change the landscape long term,” Moore said. “It’s not going to happen in the next five years or maybe even 10 years, but it’s about access and opening the door a little wider for first-generation students and students from underserved and underrepresented communities.”

As Messina College students transition to campus, it is important that the broader BC community maintains a welcoming environment, Moore added.

“The more there is that warm welcome and outreach that our students are known for, the more it will make the new Messina students much more comfortable and ready to go,” Moore said.