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Life-Changing Event Brings Unsuspected Rewards

December, 2020
  • Bonnie Russell is one of the 'voices' of QCC.
    Bonnie Russell is one of the 'voices' of QCC.

In a time when we could all use a friendly voice, QCC has some very special folks in its Call Center/Solution Station. Who are the people who help our students on the phone?  Read below for a first-hand account of one person, Bonnie Russell, who is making a difference in the lives of QCC students. 

In May of 2019, after 24 years of working at the Telegram & Gazette, my position was eliminated and I found myself unemployed. Finding another job was a daunting prospect since the newspaper business was shrinking and I was approaching the age when one thinks of retiring.

One of my responsibilities at the newspaper was to write the weekly College Town column, which included news from all the area colleges, usually featuring one school as the main story and items from the others.  This required contact with the communications folks at each institution.  Although most of the contacts were by phone and email, I tried to visit each school.

During the Monday of what was to be my last week at the Telegram (although I didn’t know it), Quinsigamond Community College sent a press release about the recently held inaugural graduation ceremony of QCC’s Police Academy. I thought that would be a good lead story for College Town. Initially, my plan was to do a phone interview with then, Det. Sgt. Joseph Cecchi, the Academy’s director and program coordinator, but instead decided to go to the campus.

It was also an opportunity to finally meet Josh Martin, director of Institutional Communications and Karen Hutner, publications/press manager in person and see how much QCC had grown since I graduated many years prior.

All of that went as planned and the article was posted online Wednesday evening and appeared in print on Thursday, which was also the day that I was notified that GateHouse Media, the owner of the Telegram & Gazette, was eliminating my position.

Fast forward a few months to July when I returned from a vacation in Maine to a voicemail from Mr. Martin. He said he had an opportunity that might be of interest to me and asked if I wanted to meet to discuss it. We met the following week and Josh explained he was hiring for a part-time position, making outbound calls to students. Later, he anticipated that after training, the person hired would also provide support to students, assist the financial aid office, admissions, registrar, advising and other offices.

After considering the pros (my prior experience in communication and phone work, the value of supporting those seeking a community college education, working with students from diverse backgrounds and being able to walk to campus in a half hour or drive there in 3 ½ minutes) and cons (It was fewer hours than I hoped to work and it might become too routine and maybe even boring), I accepted the job and started August 19.

It was a good decision.  Rather than being boring, this is among the most rewarding work that I’ve engaged in throughout my career. QCC students wear many hats, not only do they attend school, but some oversee the virtual learning of children, care for loved ones, work in medical facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, as well as grocery stores, restaurants and manufacturing facilities. They are providing essential services during the Coronavirus-COVID-19 pandemic.  I am honored that many share their stories with me, including happy news such as expecting a child or getting an “A” as a final grade, or sadder happenings, such as the loss of a loved one or the challenges of starting over in a new career.

Although the pandemic has changed my work location from a bustling campus to a home office, it hasn’t done away with another aspect of this job that I love, contact with the wonderful staff and faculty at QCC.

I really appreciate the folks who work in advising, the registrar’s office, the business office, admissions, the student success center, financial aid and the helpdesk, to name a few.  They, along with my call center/solution station co-worker Lynne Clark, patiently answer my questions and work hard to help students. I feel blessed and grateful to be a small part of this team.