Finding Her Voice and Her Way at NECC
Alicia Catalano has an enviable problem – too many interests. So the Newburyport resident is attending Northern Essex Community College to narrow the field, select a major, and continue her education.
“I don’t know what I want to major in,” she said. “I enjoy too many things. I can’t pick one to do for the rest of my life,” she said.
The 18 year-old is a 2018 graduate of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, where she served as senior class president and captain of the girls’ soccer and track teams. Since culinary arts was her shop, she also knows her way around the kitchen.
There has been little down time for Catalano, who writes her own music, plays the piano and guitar, and sings. This past summer, when she wasn’t caring for plants at her job at Bloom and Groom in Salisbury she was performing at various venues in the greater Newburyport area, often accompanied by her brother and uncle.
“I really enjoy music and would love to perform full time,” Catalano said, but she is realistic and recognizes the merits of earning a college degree. “I enrolled at Northern Essex to take my general education classes and by the time I’m done I might know what I want to major in. Coming here just made sense. I did not see myself spending $40,000 a year for a degree when I didn’t know what I wanted to study.”
For now she is focusing on taking liberal arts courses and has even squeezed in a music theory course, but already she is thinking that when something clicks she will look into transferring to UMass Lowell or Salem State University. Her strategy seems to be working as she carries a 4.0 GPA.
She encourages other students, who are wavering about selecting a major, to enroll at Northern Essex.
“They should come here,” she said. “Personally it has been a good, positive thing in my life helping me figure out what I want to do. Try it and see if you like it.”
Northern Essex is committed to helping students, who are exploring options, find an area of study or a major that suits them. It has created the Integrated Student Experience (ISE) initiative. Students are now channeled through an academic hub where there are support services to help them select an area of study. Once a major is decided they move to one of five academic centers where they can meet faculty and students with similar interests, get help with advising, complete homework assignments, attend major-specific programs and career events, or just hang out between classes.
For more information on this the ISE visit the program page .
Northern Essex offers associate degrees in liberal arts, liberal arts: philosophy option, and liberal arts: psychology option. For additional information, visit the liberal arts homepage.