Transfer Stories by MCC Faculty and Staff

Maria Gonzalez

Academic Advisor


Middlesex Community College provides students with the guidance needed to learn about careers, transfer and themselves. As a graduate, my story illustrates these life-affirming experiences. During my high school years, I never felt the urgency or relevance of grade point averages, class ranks or SAT scores. I never went on college tours or attended college fairs. When I was in high school, I was under the impression that those events applied to only the top of the class – honors students. I never thought that attending a 4-year university could be for me.

I was a first generation college student so I did not have much direction about higher education. My dad was a barber and encouraged my twin sister and I to go to cosmetology school. Neither of us wanted that. My parents were divorced so my mother was busy raising my sister and me. Her focus was more to support us so we would be happy and healthy. She did want us to go to college but she was not familiar with the college application process. Ultimately, starting at community college ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I remember the day I walked into the MCC Admissions office in July after graduating high school. I met with an academic advisor and registered for classes. Before applying to MCC, I had stereotypical ideas about being a community college student. I had heard that it was for students who did not excel in high school. I felt insecure and self-conscious entering college but I knew it was what I needed to do. For two years, Middlesex Community College provided me with the personal, individualized guidance I needed to learn about careers, transfer, and more importantly, it gave me a place to mature. MCC faculty took the time to get to know me and give me the support and confidence I needed to then transfer to Salem State University where I earned my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. Looking back, I do not know if I would have had as much success in college if I had not started at MCC. For these reasons, I am very grateful to Middlesex Community College and feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to return as staff where I work as an Academic Advisor.

Robert Kaulfuss

Credit for Prior Learning Coordinator and Curriculum Committee Chair


I graduated from a very small town high school in rural upstate New York at age 17. Although I was second in my class academically, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and was not really ready to go away to college. After 2 years at Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC), I transferred to Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY for Business. Many of my initial classes were large lectures with over 100 students and inaccessible faculty members who more interested in their own research. I was struck by the contrast with my experience at FMCC, where classes were small and intimate, with faculty who were really passionate about their teaching.

My other experience of note relative to transferring was that the juniors and seniors at Clarkson who had been there since freshmen were starting to burn out. The transfer students seemed to have more energy and enthusiasm and often became the leaders of the clubs, in particular the Business Fraternity that I joined. I actually stayed on at Clarkson for an accelerated MBA program and then to teach introductory courses for a year.

James Mabry



At 26 years old, I restarted my college education. I had not been a full time student for six years and had not taken any classes in the last three. Going from a construction crew in upstate New York to Columbia University in New York City was a big adventure, to say the least. But I knew how to take care of myself and how to work hard and this carried me through. In the beginning, I had to work very hard just to keep up but gradually I got better.

I learned how to learn and I learned how to stay focused on my goals and this helped me to succeed. Equally important were the people at Columbia who believed in me and who were always there when I needed them. From professors and advisors to fellow students, I knew I was not in this alone. Going back to school changed my life and I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to change their lives through education.

Yohanka Tejada

Academic Counselor and VA Certifying Official

IMG_4377I graduated from Lawrence High School in 1998 as part of the bilingual program within a year of arriving from my native island of the Dominican Republic. I did not know where to begin or how to start my college journey but I knew I had to attend college. I grew up in a family where education is more important than anything in life! That is the belief of my grandmother Maria, who never attended school and does not how to sign her own name. Since, I was still working on learning the English language, I enrolled at Middlesex Community College to complete an English as a Second Language program. My goal was to eventually complete my Business Administration Associates Degree. With the help of my Trio Advisor, we began looking at different college programs, cost, transfer processes, part-time options and so forth.

I transferred to Lesley University, which offered an accelerated evening program and small class size, essential because English is not my first language. Because I needed to continue working full-time this was perfect. It was a mature, energetic and enthusiastic class environment.  I learned about real life-professional experiences from my classmates. I completed my Bachelor’s in Business Administration within eighteen months.

I began a new job at MIT in the One-Stop Student Financial Services department, learning more and more about higher education as a profession. Middlesex prepared me well. During my years at MCC, I had the opportunity to work for the Admissions office as a work-study student. About a year after working at MIT, I began a Master’s in Higher Education Administration at Northeastern University, taking advantage of their tuition reimbursement benefit. I could not have made a better decision.

Linda Thiem

Asian American Advancement Program Specialist

Linda Thiem picture - Virak Uy (1).jpgAs the eldest granddaughter of a refugee from Cambodia, I had a lot of trouble navigating college being the first in my extended family to attend. Due to my lack of academic preparedness and a lot of family trauma that I carried, I dropped out multiple times from several schools, and so I began to become very familiar with the transfer process. When I decided to go back after many years, I chose a community college. I was doing well but wanted more, so my final transfer was to a four-year school, UMass Boston, which was also an AANAPISI just like Middlesex Community College. The AANAPISI grant helped first-generation Asian American students to stay in college and eventually graduate.

The holistic support that I got from the institution was critical for my success. The most important contributor was the faculty in Asian American Studies who mentored and groomed me to do more and be more in my life. Education should always be transformational like this! With the support of faculty, staff and students I was able to graduate with my Master’s. They knew that I always had the drive and talent to finish, and I could not have seen that without such great support from my school. After graduation, I taught at UMass Boston and eventually ended up working at another AANAPISI, Middlesex Community College. My path wasn’t linear or straightforward, but along the way I finally figured out that it was so important to utilize support staff and faculty in order to thrive.

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