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Board of Trustees Update: October, 2020

Submitted by on October 27, 2020 – 12:42 pm

Sabbatical Update: Professor Diana Mele

Professor Diana Mele is a certified American Sign Language interpreter and a mental health counselor. During a sabbatical last year, she combined both disciplines, pursuing a project that she hopes will help improve access to mental health services for Deaf clients.

In her report to trustees, Mele said that many interpreters shy away from interpreting in a mental health setting, primarily because they don’t feel comfortable with the terminology. Also, many Deaf individuals are simply not aware of their right to mental health services, and don’t receive access when needed.

To address this, Mele spent her sabbatical developing visual training materials aimed at enhancing linguistic and clinical competency for sign language interpreters as well as making sure that Deaf individuals are aware of their patient rights.

Those materials have been shared with interpreter education programs, outpatient and inpatient programs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, residential schools for the Deaf, and on interpreter sites.

“We wanted to reach clients as well as interpreters,” Mele told trustees. “With the goal of better access to clinical care for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.”

Mele teaches in the American Sign Language Program and the Human Services Program.

Audit & Finance Report

Trustees would typically be approving the college’s supplemental budget in October, but not this year.

“Since the state hasn’t made its appropriation, we’re following the state’s lead and going month to month,” said Marianne Paley-Nadel, chair of the audit & finance committee.

Fall Enrollment Update

Northern Essex has 4715 students enrolled this fall, a 4.4% decline from last fall when 4,932 students were enrolled.

The good news is that Northern Essex’s decline was the lowest of any of the 28 public colleges in Massachusetts, according to NECC President Lane Glenn. “The average decline at community colleges was 15% and it was 10% at four-year state universities, so with a 4.4% decrease, we are doing better than most everyone.”

Jennifer Mezquita, assistant vice president of enrollment services, who shared a report with trustees, said the biggest gains were with high school students who increased 42.6% from 392 last year to 559 this year.  “We are expecting those numbers to grow,” said Mezquita.

Other trends included:

·         New students (who had never attended college in the past) dropped 4.8% from 872 to 830

·         Continuing students dropped 4.5% from 2543 to 2429

·         Stop-ins (students who had attended Northern Essex in the past but not the semester before) decreased 11.2% from 664 to 589

The category of students hit the hardest were transfer-ins, students that transferred to Northern Essex from another college. That group decreased by 33% this year from 461 to 308.

“Our concern is that nationwide, the students who are the most vulnerable are being the most impacted,” said Glenn.  “If we don’t address this, we won’t have the skilled workers to fill jobs, and our economy will take a hit.”

Report of Administration


President Lane Glenn shared plans for STEM Week, Oct 19-23, including presentations, career panels, and a career fair.

Renovation of St. Ann’s Church

The college continues to partner with the city of Lawrence to explore the possibility of creating a community cultural center at the site of St. Anne’s Church and Parish Hall, a Catholic church on Haverhill St. in Lawrence, which has been empty for more than two decades.

Don Hirsch Design Studio, LLC, the firm hired to do a feasibility study for the project, is expected to release their report soon.

“This may be a good way to partner with the city and its art organizations, but we are waiting for the feasibility study before making any decisions,” said Glenn.

Paramount Properties, the current owners, wants to give the property to the city, and there are a few different ways Northern Essex could be involved, including operating the center.

New Peer Recovery Certificate is Approved

Trustees voted unanimously to approve a 16-credit Peer Recovery Specialist Certificate, which will prepare students to help people in recovery from mental health and/or addiction issues.

The program targets non-professionals who are themselves in sustained recovery and/or friends and family who have been impacted by these issues. As peer specialists, they will use self-disclosure to provide people with direct emotional support, aid in developing a recovery plan, and offer help in navigating the health system. A one-semester practicum experience is required.

The program is a collaboration between Northern Essex and the Northeast Independent Living Program, Inc. (NILP), which provides advocacy and services to people with disabilities who want to live independently in the community.