West Windsor, N.J. – Forty-four MCCC alumni who have earned their bachelor’s degrees through the William Paterson University (WPU) at Mercer program during the 2012-13 academic year were the stars of a graduation reception May 3. The event, hosted by WPU at the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Conference Center, celebrated students' hard work and perseverance and the start of the next phase of their lives.
“This is the third time I have congratulated you,” said MCCC President Dr. Patricia Donohue, noting that she welcomed them as new students at Mercer and saluted them as Mercer graduates. “That was the beginning of the work. And I hope you will remember that this is the beginning of the next step.”
Since the WPU at Mercer program began in 2009, 79 MCCC graduates have continued their studies at
WPU on the West Windsor campus in degree programs including Management, Early Childhood Education/Elementary Education, Liberal Studies, and Psychology. Currently, 180 students are enrolled.
“This is a model program throughout the state,” said Dr. Guy Generals, Mercer’s vice president of academic affairs and a WPU alumnus. “William Paterson is very much engaged and very much part of the Mercer family.”
Also participating in the ceremony were WPU President Kathleen Waldron, Ph.D., and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Edward Weil, Ph.D. WPU deans from the Colleges of Business, Education, and Humanities and Social Science also spoke, as well as MCCC Dean of Liberal Arts Robin Schore, Ph.D.
WPU at Mercer graduates are also invited to participate in William Paterson's regular spring commencement, to be held May 15 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford.
According to Dr. Weil, MCCC graduates are excelling in WPU’s programs at Mercer. “Most are highly motivated to complete their bachelor’s degrees in an affordable program located at their community college. It’s a great partnership for us all.”
Two graduates who attended the ceremony, Education majors Eric Stewart of Bordentown and Dana Skillman of Hamilton, are already feeling the value of their undergraduate degrees. Both landed jobs in their field following graduation in December.
Stewart, who enrolled at MCCC in 2007, chose Mercer for its solid reputation, proximity to home and affordable tuition. “It was the best decision for me,” he said. “I graduated with barely any debt.”
Stewart says that WPU was another move that was best financially. “Plus I had familiarity with the MCCC campus. I was moving on with many of my peers,” he observed. He notes that WPU’s discounted tuition rates for MCCC students made the remaining cost of his undergraduate education reasonable, enabling him to focus 100 percent on learning and on extracurricular activities like the Future Teachers Club, where he served as vice president. He was a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the international education honor society, and Pi Lambda Theta, a WPU organization for future teachers.
At WPU at Mercer, Stewart took 16 courses on campus and 16 courses online. He notes that those who major in Education are also required to have a second major. Stewart chose Liberal Studies, selecting concentrations in English and History. “It worked out and I enjoyed it all,” he said.
In his final semester in the fall, Stewart was a student teacher at Beverly City School in Beverly, NJ, a pre-K to 8th grade school. He was offered a job there as a paraprofessional following graduation. “I work one-on-one with a student and also assist the teacher,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun.”
Stewart considers MCCC, followed by WPU at Mercer, to have been excellent stepping stones. He is thinking about pursuing his master’s degree in teaching or library science. And right now, Stewart says, “I am truly happy to have a job.”
Dana Skillman says that WPU was the answer she was looking for. “The cost was right and the location was right. I still felt part of the WPU family even though I was not on the main campus.”
Graduating from MCCC in 2010, Skillman transferred seamlessly to WPU alongside Stewart and other associate degree grads from Mercer’s Education program, earning dual certifications in Early Childhood/Elementary Education in December, with a second major in Psychology. She says she was well prepared for her current job as a lead teacher at the Goddard School, a pre-school with several locations in Central New Jersey.