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GPI - Marilyn A. Cleary, Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education

Courtesy of Marilyn A. Cleary

By Kaitlin Carman

Interim Asst. News Editor

What is your educational and professional background?

I attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and I received a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. Then I went on and got my MBA and worked in the private sector for several years. At one point, a colleague of mine said, “You know, I think you would be a really good teacher. Have you considered teaching at the college level?” And I thought, no, I’ve never thought of that before. He said his wife was actually a dean at a college in Worcester and he said, “Why don’t you meet with her and just have some conversations because I think you have a lot of really good experience.” I am always open to trying new things and I had a great college experience myself, so I had some conversations with her and began teaching for her. The group that I taught for was mostly adults. I’ve taught all ages at the college level, but I started teaching adult students and I loved it. I just loved it. Then I thought, well, maybe this would be a great career switch. I would love to do work I am passionate about. I then received my doctorate at Northeastern University and my dissertation was about understanding the lived experience of adult students. I ended up getting a position as the director of operations for the Department of Continuing Education at Quinsigamond Community College and I worked there for nine years. Then I decided I wanted to take on a new challenge. So, I went to Worcester State University as the assistant dean of graduate studies and continuing education and I worked there for seven years. I had the opportunity in that role to meet with all the deans of other state universities and so I developed relationships with other deans and learned a little bit about Framingham. When the position of dean became available at Framingham, I was super interested. I went ahead and applied for that position and I was fortunate to be the successful candidate.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love to cook and I love to entertain. I love to just spend time with my family and friends - whether that be like last weekend, we were eating s’mores around a fire in the backyard, or if it’s hosting a holiday - I love being able to do things like that.

What advice would you give to prospective graduate and continuing education students?

I would say that if you’re having difficulties once you have made the decision to come back or if you're having challenges, to reach out. There are a lot of resources available to support students but if we don’t know that you’re having difficulty, it is hard for us to support you. Sometimes, especially with adults, I feel like they think they can figure it out and sometimes, they can, but also sometimes, things can get out of control. So if we were able to assist early during the issue, we can help get it resolved. There’s a lot of supports we have and we want you to be successful. So, reach out and let us help you through whatever difficulties you might be having.

What are some goals you would like to accomplish during your career at Framingham State?

We know that there’s a large population of adult students in Massachusetts that have some college but for whatever reason, sometimes things get complicated and life gets in the way. They have a lot of other things going on - whether it is family or work obligations. So, I would love to create an environment in Framingham State that could be really welcoming and supportive to adult students who could come back and complete their degree with us.

How does FSU support graduate and continuing education students?

I think it’s a little bit of a different approach with the graduate students because they’ve already had a successful academic experience. They already received a bachelor’s degree, so they may understand a little bit more about how the educational system works. One of the things I really want to work on is creating some pathways and supports for adult students - and I have a lot of ideas. I actually created a document called “An Adult Student Blueprint.” I would like to be able to launch some of those things to create pathways and create an environment that is welcoming and supportive to adult students - even more than it is now. It’s important to understand the way that people who have worked in their professional lives for many years really might be experts in a field to honor that expertise. When they come to the University, I think it really helps some adults to feel that they’re seen for everything - their life experience, career knowledge - and to really recognize and honor that.

What are your favorite fall activities?

I love to be outside. I love apple picking, pumpkin picking, and again, any activity that I can do with family and friends and just enjoying the foliage. Halloween is super fun and my birthday is in the fall, too.


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