Sydney Fagundes grew up wanting to be a teacher. But her senior year of high school, she got cold feet.
“I decided to chase the money,” she says.
Her father was a biomedical engineer – and UMass Lowell had a new biomedical engineering program. She thought that sounded interesting, so she joined it as a first-year student. 
Right after finishing finals, Fagundes was scrolling through her Twitter feed when she spotted an announcement: The College of Education was going to offer an undergraduate education major again, after a 32-year hiatus.
“I immediately thought, ‘This is what I need to do!’” she says.
It means an extra year of college, but Fagundes has kept costs down by moving back home. Once she finishes her bachelor’s degree with dual certifications in elementary education and moderate disabilities for pre-K to eighth grade, she will continue on for her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, with a concentration in either science or math education.
“I’ve found my calling, I’ve found my home and I’ve found my people – people who get excited over the same things I do, like a new children’s book,” she says.
Fagundes is already teaching science and math literacy five afternoons a week as an outreach program specialist for Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell. She goes to a different elementary school each day and also runs programs at their downtown headquarters.
“The exposure I get to lesson-planning is so beneficial in all my courses, because I’m planning a new lesson every single week,” she says. “Every lesson is different, and you need to try things and adapt. Working for Girls Inc. has taught me that.”
Fagundes says she’s gotten involved in every opportunity the College of Education has to offer, including starting a campus chapter of SEAM – the Student Education Association of Massachusetts – which provides professional and leadership development opportunities to her and other members. 
She helps other education students as a tutor at the Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services, and she’s a College of Education ambassador to alumni, new students and prospective students. 
Fagundes can’t praise the undergraduate program enough – for its small size, caring faculty and field experience, which she says is unique among teaching programs she looked at.
“For every education course we have taken, we have been in a classroom observing or giving lessons since the very first class of freshman year,” she says. “I love this program. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”