Community College of Rhode Island

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College kicks off 49th academic year

Sept. 6, 2013

Dr. Walter Crocker greets a student in Providence. Dr. Walter Crocker, interim director of the Liston Campus in Providence, greets students during the first week of classes.

At Tuesday morning’s Opening Day Convocation, President Ray Di Pasquale asked an inspired group of faculty and staff to consider “what they would give to the students” this year and, according to preliminary enrollment reports, about 17,700 students are poised to take advantage of those gifts of collective knowledge and opportunity as the college opens the doors on its 49th academic year.

At the Liston Campus in Providence on the first day of class, throngs of these students walked through the Atrium underneath a new dome that was installed over the summer.

Aneta Kotnisz, originally from Poland, said that she’d been taking nursing prerequisite classes for a few years now in preparation to apply to the college’s Nursing program. “This semester I’m taking my last prerequisite class,” she said, noting that she hoped to be accepted starting in 2014 to finish her degree in 2016.

In addition to taking classes, she’s currently working as a pathology clerk at the Miriam Hospital. Kotnisz said that she was attracted to CCRI because of its convenience and affordability, as well as the reputation of the teachers and program.

Down the hall, waiting for his composition class to start, was Andrew Rakowski, a General Studies major who said he focuses most of his time on English classes. He was back at the college to take composition, introduction to poetry and oral communication after a five-year absence, during which he worked various jobs.

The Providence resident said that he returned because he knew it would be his way to a better job – which was particularly important, he added, having a stepson and another baby on the way. “It’s great to be here. I’m back to better my life,” he said.

Rakowski reported that he hoped to eventually transfer to earn his bachelor’s degree in English and eventually, a doctorate. Though he now works at 7-Eleven part time, his dream is to turn his love of English and philosophy into a teaching job in either the K-12 or higher education system.

Many students balance work – either full time or part time – and their studies at CCRI. For Nadline Barron, who was in the middle of her first day as the receptionist at the Liston Campus, both her studies and her income happen at CCRI, where she directs students to their classes and answers their questions at the busy reception hub. She’s been a part-time student at the Providence campus since 2008, and said she hoped to transfer into the social work program at Rhode Island College after earning enough credits here.

“I’m at CCRI because it’s convenient, and the smaller classes here made it the best choice for me. Everyone is so friendly and nice,” she said, adding that when she was done with her receptionist duties, she’d be focusing on taking introduction to literature and oceanography this semester.

Students view a map of the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln.Barron’s directional abilities would have been in high demand at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln, where students and faculty alike worked to acclimate to the recent renumbering of classrooms. Twenty-seven-year veteran of the English department Professor Kathy Beauchene said that she didn’t have too much to worry about: She’s been in the same two classrooms and office for a while now. But although she is used to her routine here after so long, she said the first day of classes still holds a special meaning for her.

“My heart still flutters on the first day,” she said, “seeing all the students come back.”

Before classes began, she said, she was inspired by a presentation at Technology Day given by Art Professor Natalie Coletta, who encouraged faculty to get back to the roots of why they became teachers, and to not be afraid of new technologies. Beauchene, who teaches an online class, said she plans to keep Coletta’s advice in mind as she moves forward with her courses.

“I love to see the light bulbs go on,” she said when asked what rooted her in her position. “I love those small ‘aha’ moments where a student just gets it and then comes back and tells you how they were able to use that knowledge or strategy later on. And I really do admire the students here.”

It’s fair to say that Ken Ayrassian of North Providence, who was in line for the Bursar’s office at the Flanagan Campus on Thursday, knows a little something about those light bulbs – and about not being afraid of new technologies or knowledge. Although he’s now retired after spending 37 years in different capacities in the Providence school system, Ayrassian said that he’s back at the college for his second semester of taking classes “to keep him sharp.”

Last year, Ayrassian took college algebra, thinking it might help him should he decide to begin a second (volunteer) career as a math educator. This semester, he’ll be taking personal income tax so that he can learn a new skill and perhaps be able to do some of his own taxes. “Education is very important to me,” he said. “It’s important to keep active. You can’t retire from life.”

At the Knight Campus in Warwick, student Lily Liranzo was just beginning her first semester of classes at the college, taking math, parent and child relationships, and marriage and family. She said she hoped to eventually transfer into a social work program at Rhode Island College, but knew CCRI should be her first step. “I’m really looking forward to learning, and my education,” she said.

Students walk on the main ramp at the Knight Campus in Warwick.Sitting next to Liranzo was Joshua Georges of Providence, who was earning his associate degree in law enforcement with an eye toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at URI after his expected graduation in 2014. He’s a full-time student, taking five classes at a time, and said that his favorite part of the start of school is definitely “meeting new people.”

Meanwhile, the students weren’t the only ones on the Knight Campus excited about the rush of new faces and activity. Karen Bouchard, information services tech for the Biology/Engineering department, said that she was “loving all the activity.” “It keeps things moving,” she said.

At the college Bookstore, Director Don Baker said that before the start of classes, sales and foot traffic at the store were a little down against projections. But after the first day of classes, the store had caught up.

“It’s nice to see fresh faces and the students looking forward to starting their academic careers here. The whole Bookstore staff enjoys assisting the students, directing them to where they need to be, whether it’s their classroom, the financial aid office, or helping them find the textbooks and supplies they need. It’s gratifying to help them out.”

At the Newport County Campus, Site Director Robyn K. Greene reported that the year had started up smoothly, with “lots of excitement in the air.

“Since last fall, several new and exciting projects surround us,” she said. “In the spring, we welcomed our neighbors across the street at the East Bay Family Health Center. Around the corner, the Paul W. Crowley East Bay Met School construction continues, and this week, the Claiborne Pell Elementary School opened in our North End neighborhood: the largest elementary school in Rhode Island. We look forward to collaborating with our academic partners as we move through the new academic year.”



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Last Updated: 1/31/14