Alumna Attributes Her Success To CSSE

Sherley Jules '15

Sherley Jules '15 is headed to Washington, D.C., this fall to begin her master's program at Howard University. Also accepted to Boston College, she attributes her success to the faculty and staff in the Sociology Department, as well as those in MCLA's Center for Success and Engagement (CSSE). "They're like my second family," Jules said of both departments. "There were times when I wanted to give up. That wasn't in their vocabulary."

She explained, "I wanted to drop out, due to some family issues, but CSSE helped me with my scheduling and to set up a plan. They asked me, 'Where do you want to see yourself? How do you want to tackle it?' If it weren't for CSSE, I wouldn't be where I am now. I am so grateful to them."

At Howard University, Jules will pursue her master's degree in social work in the area of "Individuals, Families, and Groups," with a concentration on criminal justice. "Howard's programs spoke to me," she said. "Diversity is key. MCLA is so diverse, with varied classes. I could never go to a non-diverse school again. MCLA provided me with so many outlets, and I feel like Howard is similar."

She continued, "As a woman of color and with everything going on in our society with Black Lives Matter and the chaos, I feel like we don't have enough activists promoting good things. Violence is not the answer. I want to be in an environment where the connections are there. We need more women leaders."

At MCLA, Jules was involved with a number of clubs and organizations, including the Black Student Union (BSU), Latin American Society (LAS) and ALANA. As part of the NeXXus step team, she served as president, and on its executive board. "NeXXus is a phenomenal group," she said. "It taught me so much discipline as I balanced my classes and stayed on task. If you're part of a club, all the faculty members are looking at you, so it was really crucial for me to keep my grades up. If you are a leader, you cannot be failing! "Being on NeXXus challenged me, and I made the dean's list for three semesters in a row. It really was a key part of my experience at MCLA."

She will bring that experience to Howard, especially as she begins an internship this fall, working at a courthouse with cases involving youth and the foster care program. "MCLA really prepared me for this. Had I not joined clubs, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. It's a lot on my plate, but MCLA prepared me for the best," she said.

Jules also served an internship during her senior year at MCLA, when she shadowed the director of classifications at the Berkshire County Jail. As part of that internship, she joined the inmates in group sessions, as they discussed substance abuse issues that oftentimes stemmed from their childhoods. "Many of them said they were raised without a father, and their mom did drugs. It was really interesting to look at mental health in that way," Jules said.

According to Jules, change begins with the youth. "A new generation is coming, so we need to tackle the youth before we fix anything," she said. "Social workers are the change. No one's perfect. I want to be a voice for someone."

Because of this work, Dilthey, who double majored in English and environmental studies at MCLA, recently won the 2016 New England Outdoor Writing Association's Award.
"I write about things that mean a lot to me, and I think anyone can connect with someone's experience if the story they're telling is meaningful and honest," Dilthey said.
"I think it's great that a lot of my work resonates with people. I especially love the community on my site, where I have regular readers who comment and tell me what they think about my articles. That feedback really makes me want to write more and more," he added.
Dilthey originally planned to major in art. He switched to English after a positive experience in a writing course. Then, during his sophomore year, he became "hooked" on biology after taking a course to fulfill a science prerequisite, and ended up adding the environmental studies major soon after.
"I don't think I'd have picked either of these majors if I wasn't inspired by the courses and professors at MCLA," Dilthey said.
Now a graduate student in the Sustainability Science program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he is completing his master's degree and beginning work on his Ph.D., Dilthey's many activities include working with a team of Ph.D. students and faculty to co-author a paper on adaptation and mitigation for climate change resilience in coastal environments.
Dilthey also teaches his own class," Sustainable Living: Solutions for the 21st Century," a four-credit course for first-year UMass students.
In addition, he's working with the Residential Academic Programs Office to develop new connections for first-year students and programming partners across the University of Massachusetts system as they create a general education course on life at college.
"I push the benefits and importance of a diverse, rich, and multifaceted education to my students any chance I get, using my time at MCLA as an example of the power of interdisciplinary learning. I am immensely proud of our school, and I am lucky to have started there. I would not be here without MCLA," he said.
In fact, Dilthey finds himself spending a good deal of time telling students about the benefits of his experiences at MCLA, such as how they can find opportunities in clubs and the value of  learning from a diverse selection of classes.
Dilthey, whose writing also is featured in Adventure Cycling and Bikepackers magazines, discovered his love for camping, hiking and backpacking during his senior year through the MCLA Outdoors Club. There, he learned everything he needed to know to eventually lead trips himself. The experience, he said, was "transformative."
At UMass, Dilthey said he has one of the strongest backgrounds in environmental law among others in his department. "MCLA taught me that the courses outside of your major or focus can sometimes be the most valuable to your career. 
He recommends MCLA – and the English and environmental sciences programs, in particular – to prospective students.
"Both of these degrees are absolutely as rigorous and comprehensive as degrees from other colleges, and I have never once felt underprepared for my career and graduate school. I know a lot of my peers that graduated with me would say the same thing," Dilthey said. "Our entire group is doing amazing things, and we're all still connected because of the sense of community we had at MCLA."

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