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MCCC Funeral Service Program Bolsters Curriculum with
Real World Experience


West Windsor, N.J. – One of the hallmarks of Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Funeral Service program is its internship component, which requires that students work part-time in a funeral home for several semesters. (MCCC’s program remains the only accredited college-based funeral service program in New Jersey.)
That real world experience is key for several reasons, says the program’s new director, Michael Daley.  “We want to graduate students who are ready for the particular challenges of the funeral service field.  Practical experience ensures that students are comfortable and ready to handle situations that arise in this very demanding environment."

Several elements have recently been added to the curriculum that are expanding students’ hands-on knowledge.  “MCCC’s facility is actually a functioning funeral home, which gives us the ability to immerse students in various aspects of the process,” Daley explains.

This past semester, students began to meet with families that have donated their loved ones’ remains for teaching purposes.  “This initial point of contact can be intense.  There is a guidance and counseling component.  It’s what they will face as funeral directors, so why not give them the experience now?”  Daley says, adding that interaction with families, under the instructor’s supervision, gives them a chance to put the funeral service principles they have learned and the role playing they have done in class into action.

“Nothing can replace real interaction,” Daley maintains.  “Then the students share their experiences with their classmates, adding to the educational value.  They have been amazed by the direct impact of their caring on the lives of family members.”

Faculty member Michael Daley, center, offers last-minute instructions before he and his students transport the remains of four veterans to the BG William C. Doyle Veterans Cemetery in Wrightstown for burial.

Associate Professor Deb Tolboom explains the state-of-the-art equipment in one of the program’s labs during an open house May 10. Approximately 50 prospectives students attended the session.

A second new area of field experience has come with the writing of actual obituaries, replacing fictional characters with call-ins to the classroom from family members.  “Students hear directly from the loved ones to create a relevant and vibrant picture of the lives of the deceased.  There is an art to writing obituaries,” Daley observes.  Students submit their versions to the families, who then have a chance to pick what they like best from each one.

In yet another new aspect of the program, students are asked to make burial arrangements for veterans’ remains at the BG William C. Doyle Veterans Cemetery in Wrightstown. 

According to Daley, there are plenty of details that accompany this a military burial.  “There are lots of logistics.  They must coordinate a burial with military honors with the different branches of the military. They must secure burial flags and transport the remains.  They also develop a service for each veteran, saying a few words that give the deceased and their family members a proper tribute.”

Daley reports that students have embraced these new assignments.  “They know they will be better prepared when they graduate.  We are bridging the gap between teaching and real life to make sure that our students are well-rounded and ready.”

More about the MCCC Funeral Service . program is available here.

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