After a few minutes’ conversation with sophomore Melanie Carignan, you can tell that she’s going to be one of those fun, energetic and inspiring teachers whose students look forward to class.
She’s majoring in elementary education and planning to minor in English and history. And she’s taken every opportunity to get involved in the School of Education.
She’s the social media chairwoman of the campus chapter of SEAM – the Student Education Association of Massachusetts – and a Centers for Learning tutor for first-year education majors.
As one of the first five student ambassadors for the undergraduate education major, Carignan reaches out to prospective students and plans events for first-year education majors.
She’s also the first undergraduate to volunteer to train as an ambassador to college alumni. She even attended a fine-dining workshop so that she can represent the college proudly – and politely – at formal events, including the Celebration of Philanthropy.
“I love being involved on campus,” she says. “It’s important to be a face for the school, not only for prospective students, but for past students. I did it out of pure love for the school.”
When Carignan first applied to UMass Lowell, the university didn’t offer an undergraduate education major. So Carignan planned to major in English, minor in education and get her master’s degree, with the goal of teaching English in middle school.
Then a friend of hers tweeted that the university was reintroducing the undergraduate education major after a hiatus of more than three decades. Carignan knew it was risky to join a brand-new program, but based on the School of Education's great reputation, she figured it was a good bet.
“I really went in blind, but it’s way better than I ever expected,” she says. “Compared to other colleges, we’re going into the classroom right away.”
The undergraduate program includes dual certification in elementary education and education for children in K-8 with moderate disabilities. First-year students spend part of their class time observing and teaching lessons at the Charlotte M. Murkland School in Lowell.
As a sophomore, Carignan found one practicum in a second-grade classroom in Westford for her Foundations of Reading class, and another at Tyngsboro Elementary School for her Moderate Disabilities class. She’s having a blast working with the kids.
“It’s really fun. It gives you a perspective on everything,” she says.
Carignan’s entering class included just 13 students. As an orientation leader over the summer, she helped to welcome this fall’s class, which includes 30 first-year and transfer students. Now she supports the new students, both as a tutor and as a student ambassador. It was her idea for each of the ambassadors to personally welcome and mentor a half-dozen entering students.
“If they need to turn to somebody, they can turn to us,” she says. “We’re a little family.”