Daily News

STCC Aims to Expand Higher-education Access Through Early-college Efforts

SPRINGFIELD — In her new role as director of Early College Initiatives, Melanie Laurin is focused on a top priority at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC): to increase access to an education.

Laurin, who started in the position in July, is responsible for developing dual-enrollment and early-college partnerships with Springfield-area high schools and school districts.

“At STCC, we offer the most affordable form of higher education,” Laurin said. “I’m proud that we have programs for students to be able to take a college class and not be burdened with loans and/or face financial barriers. Access to higher education is critically important.”

Matt Gravel, dean of Academic Initiatives, said Laurin brings energy and experience in higher education to her new role at STCC. “The work Melanie is doing is strongly tied to the college’s strategic plan over the next five years. I’m delighted that she’s part of our team.”

Christopher Thuot, vice president of Academic Affairs at STCC, added that “Melanie is in a vital role at STCC. She is working with our partners in the community to help STCC achieve its number-one goal of increasing access, educational attainment, and economic mobility in the region.”

Laurin is no stranger to STCC and higher ed, having worked in the Admissions department at STCC between 2017 and 2021. In that position, she oversaw international admissions and did communications and outreach. She also ran College Now!, a dual-enrollment program that allows students attending Springfield public and charter schools to enroll in one tuition-free, credit-bearing course at STCC in each semester of their junior and senior years of high school.

“I was really excited to see that this job became available,” Laurin said. “It was hard for me to let go of the College Now! program when I left. I was so excited to come back and do this work.”

Serving as a liaison between local high schools and STCC, Laurin will make sure the college develops new pathways and cohorts of students to increase accessibility. She will offer support for STCC faculty who are teaching the early-college students.

Separate from the dual enrollment program, STCC offers Early College Career Pathway programs. Students in grades 10, 11, and 12 at Springfield’s High School of Commerce or the Commerce family of schools can launch their college careers at STCC in six different pathways to a certificate or associate degree. They include cybersecurity, healthcare and social assistance, business administration, education, criminal justice, and technical arts and design. Students at Veritas Preparatory High School may earn up to 60 credits in pathways that include STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, healthcare and social assistance, and business administration.

Having received a new STEM Tech Academy grant from the state, STCC recently launched a Career Connections Academy that includes a partnership with West Springfield High School and Veritas Preparatory Charter School. Wesley Carter, director of the STCC Career Connections Academy, is responsible for the administration of the STEM Tech Academy grant.

The Career Connections Academy focuses on healthcare, social assistance, and business and finance, and combines work-based learning opportunities with early-college coursework to ensure students build a strong foundation to identify career goals and ensure they are prepared to pursue those goals at the college level.

“For some students, these programs are the first touchpoint with college,” Laurin said. “I love that I can help bring awareness to these access points. It’s exciting for me to be able to guide them toward their goals.”

Laurin, who has been working in higher education for about 10 years, holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from Northeastern University. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Assumption University.

“I’m passionate about higher education,” she said. “I have worked in different areas, but it’s always been with a focus on student support. I’m thrilled to be back at STCC and putting my skills and experience to expand upon what we have developed. I look forward to creating new partnerships and pathways for students so they can have access to higher ed.”