PITTSFIELD — Here’s the thing about plans: sometimes they work out just fine, and sometimes a global pandemic hits. In most cases, we adapt. We trade our Friday night dine-out ritual for takeout on the living room floor. We turn kitchen tables into classrooms and host play dates on Zoom. We settle for the off-brand toilet paper.
But what do you do when it’s something bigger than dinner plans that’s been upended by events outside your control? How do you rechart your course when your job is gone or your business shuttered?
Sometimes, the best way to survive a tumultuous present is to keep your eyes fixed firmly on the future. At Mildred Elley’s Pittsfield campus, students are given the tools and support to turn uncertainty into opportunity — to face the “new normal,” whatever it may be, with confidence and valuable new skills.
Skills for the real world
Programs at Mildred Elley are built with adaptability in mind. “The biggest piece is versatility,” Assistant Director of Admissions Matthew Martin said. “We offer a set of skills that goes across industries.” Classes focus on real-world knowledge with a range of practical applications, rather than theory. A selection of electives allows students to tailor their education to their specific goals — or to explore their options, if they’re still working on their final plan.
“We can tailor a program to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “Our faculty meet throughout the year with our community Advisory Board members to ensure our curriculum is relevant and meets the needs of employers so our students can find jobs.”
The Business Management program at the Pittsfield campus, for example, is designed to keep pace with an increasingly tech-focused job market. The school’s Business Technologies Specialist Certificate program takes a skills-focused approach to operating systems, productivity software and website management. This doesn’t mean students will spend an entire semester buried in spreadsheets and database software. The Business Management program encourages students to engage with a range of subjects.
“Our goal was to make sure we weren’t limiting our students,” Martin explained. “In a traditional program, accounting students don’t get to explore other aspects of business.” Instead, Mildred Elley students are able to build a program that combines a comprehensive business tech education with other classes specific to their individual career goals.
“The nice thing is that we can’t really tell you where you’ll end up,” Martin said, when asked what kind of jobs Business Management graduates go on to. He noted that a solid business education provides you the skills for employment in many different industries. Along with their certificate, graduates also have access to lifetime job placement assistance through the dedicated Office of Career Services.
Making it work
The sad reality is that, for many would-be students, the reasons to pursue an education don’t seem to outweigh the reasons against it. Fortunately, Mildred Elley has a long history of working hand-in-hand with applicants to make programs attainable.
Many prospective students come in with concerns about the feasibility of going back to school, Martin said. “Fortunately, most can be overcome and we can come up with a solution.”
If affordability is the issue, the Office of Financial Aid can help qualified students find tuition assistance programs and low-interest loans. Many students have to schedule around childcare, jobs, or both. Flexible scheduling options, as well as the choice of attending full-time or with a reduced part-time course load.
Sometimes, just the thought of stepping back into a classroom is intimidating enough to cause pause. Those who have negative educational experiences before, be it in high school or a traditional college program, may be reluctant to try again. Courses at Mildred Elley, however, have a hands-on approach that makes them more engaging and more accessible than the typical lecture-based class.
“From day one, students are doing what they’re here to study,” Martin said. “I like to say, if you enjoy what you’re doing, it shouldn’t feel like school.”
Additionally, the Pittsfield campus has its own Office of Academic Support and Advising, with a dedicated staff to help students reach their full academic potential. The OASA is a hub for education resources, offering academic advising, peer tutoring services and specialized assistance for students with a variety of educational needs.
With a new round of classes kicking off every eight weeks, it’s never the wrong time to consider a Mildred Elley education. Staff is now back in the office full-time (with appropriate protective measures in place, of course) and eager to discuss which programs are available to help you reach your personal and career goals.
“Come to us with what your life looks like,” Martin said. “We work very hard to make sure school fits what your life is — not the other way around.”
The old adage about one door closing and another opening is far too simple for such complicated times, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be true. Rebuilding the future will never be as easy as stepping over a threshold, of course, but with all the skills and support that a Mildred Elley education can provide – and a willingness to put in the hard work — it doesn’t have to be impossible.
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