The two-year residential college division of Boston College will be named Messina College, after the first Jesuit school founded in Sicily in 1548. It will offer an associate degree program for 100 students annually beginning in the 2024–2025 academic year, with the goal of preparing students for continued studies in a bachelor’s degree program or for professional careers.
Messina College will be located on the former Pine Manor College campus in Brookline, and its students will have full access to Boston College’s campus programs and facilities. Successful students will be eligible to apply to transfer to Boston College to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Erick Berrelleza, S.J., founding dean of Messina College
Q. As you embark on your position as founding dean of Messina College, what will your new role involve?
A. The great thing about this new initiative is that Messina College is a college within BC. That means we do not need to recreate and replicate systems to support it. It also means that we can draw on scholars and administrators across the University for help in their respective areas of expertise. While we have some preliminary ideas about the scale and model of Messina, the next two years will be dedicated to designing the academic program and support services that will be needed to ensure the success of the students who enroll.
As a residential college, we will draw on existing support from BC’s Division of Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, BC Dining, and Campus Recreation to name a few. The academic programs will benefit from conversations and collaboration with other schools within BC and I look forward to working with the Deans of the colleges across campus. I know many of them already and I am excited to get to work with them. I want to keep class sizes small to make sure that our students at Messina get the support they need to succeed. This should help the faculty we recruit dedicate more time to each student and be available for help beyond the classroom. I think it’s best to say that Messina will be a collaborative project and we will learn from best practices and incorporate many voices in its design, including current first-gen students and alums from BC. We will also be hiring specific roles to advance our program, so while I will be an important voice in these early years of Messina’s development, I will not be the sole one.
Q. Describe the process that led you to become the founding dean?
A. We began conversations several months back. I had fruitful conversations with Provost and Dean of Faculties, David Quigley, about the mission of Messina College and the students BC desired to serve through the initiative. In the subsequent months, I was invited to reflect on the position and how I would contribute to it. I met with several administrators, many of whom I already knew well, and I began a process of discernment about this possible opportunity.
Q. Tell us about yourself and your background.
A. I have been a Jesuit for 18 years and a good number of those have been dedicated to the work of Jesuit education. I am a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and have attended a number of our Jesuit institutions since, including Boston College. However, in these past years, I have also been involved with the leadership of a number of Jesuit institutions through my service as a trustee. I have come to appreciate in that work the complex reality of a university and the many stakeholders involved in decisions. I have also taught now both at the college preparatory and higher education levels, so I come to this role with a background and experience of both secondary and university education.
My research in immigration and urban sociology have also unfolded over the course of my direct engagement with various communities outside of the Academy and within and that research shapes the questions I bring to this role. Having pursued doctoral work just down the road at BU, my early research focused on local Boston neighborhoods. It does not take much time to see inequality and the need for new responses. When I think about what Boston College is undertaking with Messina, I am proud that this university is responding to the need for increased educational access.
Q. How would you describe Messina College?
A. Messina College will offer a two-year associate’s degree program with the goal of enhancing educational opportunities for underrepresented, first-generation students beginning in the 2024 academic year. It will enroll 100 students annually and be located on the new Brookline Campus of Boston College.
Over the next two years, our attention will focus on developing the academic programs and building out the space at the Brookline Campus to accomplish those programs. I look forward to getting to campus next month and getting to work!
Messina College will offer two-year associate’s degrees. At this phase in the design, the particular programs have not been determined. I can say that we want to offer programs that our students find desirable so that they can achieve their goals. The programs will offer a core curriculum that is imbued with the Jesuit tradition. The degrees we will offer at Messina College will be Boston College associate’s degree.
Q. How will Messina College be connected in the BC community?
A. We will connect the Brookline Campus through a shuttle service similar to the service that is offered to Newton and Brighton. Students enrolled at Messina will have access to our campuses and facilities. Beyond logistics, however, I want to be sure we develop opportunities for interaction between colleges. I can anticipate opportunities for intramurals, academic tutoring and mentoring, as well as engagement in service in Boston neighborhoods. As 2024 approaches, there will be abundant opportunities for students of all colleges to get involved.
Q. How did the Can you tell me what the University’s $100 million Pine Manor Institute for Student Success initiative come about?
A. The Pine Manor Institute for Student Success is the umbrella organization for the University’s efforts to ensure success of our first-generation, underrepresented students. Headed by Joy Moore, who serves as the inaugural Executive Director, the Institute includes an Academy that offers students in grades 8-12 summer courses in English, math, and science; Messina College; as well as existing programs: Options Through Education, Learning to Learn, and the Montserrat Coalition. All of these programs offer opportunities for BC students to get involved! Learn more about them and get involved!
Q. When will prospective students start applying to Messina College?
A. We anticipate enrollment to begin in fall 2024. As the programs are solidified, I expect we will begin work to identify students and encourage them to apply later this year. In the coming years, the Academy students will also be invited to benefit from the Messina College experience.
Q. What aspects of your upbringing influenced your choice in what you taught at Santa Clara?
A. My parents are immigrants and that certainly plays a big part in what I research and teach. I think it’s my life as a Jesuit though that has attuned my eyes to see and my heart to respond to populations of people at the margins. My work looks at exclusions in spaces. I have seen exclusion occur in churches, neighborhoods, and a host of other institutions. And so when I think about what we are doing here with Messina, I think about offering a response to exclusion in education. Now, my work will include providing access to a transformative Jesuit education and making sure that we create spaces where our students feel they belong.