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Jessica Huizenga

Jessica Huizenga, Graduate School of Education

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“UMass Lowell has pioneered innovative learning. It is pursuing a vision to transform teaching into a true 21st century learning experience.”
She was a single mother of two, had just moved to the state to work as a teacher in Plymouth. She would need a graduate degree to move beyond where she was professionally, but, between her children and her job, she says today, “I couldn't find the time to get to campus.”

The year was 2003. Jessica Huizenga has since earned both her master’s and her doctorate degrees online, from the UMass Lowell Graduate School of Education (GSE), and was named as interim school superintendent of the Freetown-Lakeville, Mass. school district in 2011. Prior to that, she was principal of the Adams Middle School in Holliston. 

But the GSE’s online program has served her far more valuably, she says, than simply as a means to advance her career (or as a solution to a time-management problem). 

It has altered the way she’s come to view education itself: “For me personally, the experience expanded [my sense of] the boundaries of the traditional four walls of a classroom, allowing me access to incredible professors, and diverse ideas from students all over the world. I was pushed to problem-solve, create and develop new ideas. It was a life-changing experience for me.” 

Huizenga had never taken an online class before, and feared she might miss the classroom interaction—the sense of community that develops online can come as a surprise: “You open up your thinking to others, expose yourself to a greater diversity of ideas. It breaks down the traditional barriers. It expands the boundaries of learning,” she says.  

“UMass Lowell has pioneered innovative learning,” says Huizenga. “It is pursuing a vision to transform teaching into a true 21st century learning experience.”