NECC 2020 Graduate: Christopher Molinari
Name: Christopher Molinari
Major: Electrical Engineering
GPA: 3.98 / 4.00
High School and Year of Graduation: Greater Lawrence Technical School, 2017
Did you attend another college or university before enrolling at NECC? If so, did you earn a certificate or degree? Yes, I was registered to attend the University of Colorado Boulder, but withdrew before actually attending due to costs.
What brought you to NECC? Desperation and an urge to return to normalcy, actually. Academics sort of defined my life in high school, and that feeling of failure when I withdrew from CU Boulder over debt fears quashed my confidence in both myself and the attainability of my goals. I still struggle with that self-doubt from time to time, but NECC gave me a vector to help rebuild myself.
Why did you choose your major? I actually plan to double major in physics and electrical engineering for my bachelors. Since early in high school, I’ve loved learning how things work. I want to be a physicist, pushing humanity to new frontiers of knowledge. My interest in engineering blossomed from that, and is my backup plan. Overall, my internal struggles these past few years have made me realize one thing: I want to help people. Whether it be hunger, depression, or disease, one thing remains constant: science is hope, and it is the solution.
Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at NECC? Yes! I made some awesome friends in Phi Theta Kappa, Bacon Boards Gamers, and the Improv Club (for the month or so I actually participated).
What are you planning for fall, 2020? Go to UMass Lowell and earn my Bachelor’s, and maybe start that band my friends and I have joked about.
What did you appreciate most about NECC? Its existence. People from all walks of life lose their way sometimes. Having an outlet, some way to work toward a better future for yourself, is something critically lacking in our society. Many of the tragedies you see in the world today can be directly linked to people lacking some sense of belonging in their lives. Who knows what could have happened to me if I didn’t return to some structure. Schooling may not be the solution for everyone, but for many, its an opportunity.
Was there a faculty or staff member who was especially helpful? If yes, how did they help you? Two immediately spring to mind: Doug Leaffer was my professor for Physics I and Engineering Essentials. I loved hearing about his doctoral work as a Civil Engineer (even if I couldn’t fully understand it), and working as his SI Leader for Engineering Essentials this past year has honestly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I’m proud to call him my friend.
Paul Chanley was my professor for Engineering Circuits I and II. He’s an incredible person and teacher, and makes classically challenging material personable and fun. He hired me as a Math Tutor for his “Test A” program at Raytheon, which I still think is the coolest thing I’ve ever done (granted, that’s not saying much). I hope I can visit his class again once in-person classes resume.
What surprised you most about NECC?
The friendliness of the people and the rigor of the classes. I’ll openly admit that I was prejudiced against community colleges after coming from high school, believing that they were for academic underachievers and people who couldn’t get accepted anywhere else. That’s a blatant lie, and society needs to stop propagating it. Having taken classes at UMass already through NECCUM, I can personally attest that the classes here are just as, if not more rigorous than those at a 4-year university. The people also felt much more tight-knit here as a community, and this was all at a fraction of the cost. Going here has been one of the best decisions of my life.
What advice would you give an incoming NECC freshman?
Have fun with it, guys! It may be cliché, but don’t listen to your self-doubt. Everyone, in one way or another, struggles alongside you.
Make new friends, explore new things, and remember every day what you’re fighting for. How you go about that is up to you.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I make the world’s best nachos. Nobody can convince me otherwise.
What were the biggest challenges that you faced in pursuit of your associate degree?
Like I sort of implied, myself. I’ve always found comfort in learning, so the difficulty of my classes never really impeded me (and let me tell you that they were difficult). However, finding overcoming self-doubt and finding motivation some days was strenuous.
What are you long term career/education plans?
Hopefully, I’ll earn my doctorate and earn tenure as a physicist. If not, I’ll probably go to work as an engineer for a few years before launching a startup. On the side, I hope to do some humanitarian work, such as Engineers Without Borders.
Anything else you want to add?
A group of pandas is called an embarrassment. I think that’s pretty cool.