Merrimack fellows get education, work experience

Michaela Crossen was graduating college and wanted to get a master's degree in higher education, but her mother urged her to get into the workplace, to gain experience and pay bills.

Crossen’s college roommate told her about a program at Merrimack in which students who are admitted into a highly selective program can earn a fellowship and get a master’s degree in a year, tuition-free. She was accepted and is midway through her one-year program.

Merrimack offers fellowships for teacher education, higher education, and community engagement. During a fellowship, students earn a master’s degree and in exchange do an on-site residency of 25 to 40 hours a week.

The application period for next year’s class is open until Feb. 15.

The school is expecting to get as many as 300 applications to fill 100 to 110 seats, said Dan Butin, dean of the School of Education & Social Policy.

This is the fourth year the school has recruited for the fellowships.

“The interest has grown and the pool of applicants has grown to a national level,” Butin said.

The students not only get practical experience, they are in the community representing Merrimack, making an impact as good social partners, he said.

They get a year of field experience and a personal look at what it’s like to work in their chosen field.

Students in the teacher education program typically assist professional educators in are public schools to enhance the learning experience for children. Students who plan to work in higher education, such as Crossen, work regional colleges and community colleges as they prepare for administrative and leadership positions.

“The whole idea of it is the field experience they get for one full year,” Butin said. “It’s an unrivaled experience way beyond an internship, coop, or practicum.”

Crossen is working for the Marketing Department in Merrimack’s Communications Office as she works on her degree in higher education. Her schedule includes four-day workweeks with classes and homework at night.

Crossen’s undergraduate degree in English had a focus in journalism but her passion for working in the news business waned as her interest in education matured.

“I would really like to manage university or college social media accounts,” Crossen recently said.

She worked in the marketing department at college alongside an employee in charge of social media and saw how powerful a tool it can be to help promote colleges or universities messages.

“It’s something that’s changed the way everybody sees the world and is a great function for universities and colleges,” she said.

Fellowship students pursing a master of education in community engagement are preparing for careers as nonprofit leaders, social change activists, and leaders in the national service learning movement. Merrimack’s fellows often work at organizations such as Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, Inc. and Bread & Roses Soup Kitchen in Lawrence.

Brittany Vine is from Calgary, Canada but made the 4,500-kilometer trip to North Andover in her lime-colored Ford Fiesta for her fellowship in community engagement because it seemed like a good fit for her goal of working in the non-profit sector.

She’s loving the experience.

“I think one of the big things that drew me to this program was a focus on social justice and practical experience,” Vine said. “Those elements made the Community Engagement program standout”

Vine has a bachelor’s in development studies and a minor in French, and has already made several trips to West Africa working for non-profits.

The community engagement fellowship is teaching her practical skills and putting them in the context of issues in North America.

As an international student Vine works about 20 hours a week. She splits her time working at Merrimack’s community engagement office in the School of Education and Social Policy and Harvard University’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion strategy in the Office of Student Life.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me adjusting to two different work places and defining my place and seeing those different pieces and how they connect,” Vine said

For more information about the fellowship program, visit



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