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Full Circle

DATE: Thursday, January 12, 2023

Alum Ashley Murdock '19 returns to HCC as an educational coach

HCC alum Ashley Murdock, left, and HCC student

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story also appears in the Fall 2022 issue of The Connection, the HCC college magazine. 


As a student in 2017, Ainsley Murdock '19 took what turned out to be one of her favorite HCC classes, Climate Fiction with English professor Elizabeth Trobaugh.

Last spring, five years later, Murdock, a liberal arts major who went on for a bachelor's degree at Bay Path University, found herself back in the same HCC class. This time, though, she was there as an educational coach, working with a current student through HCC's MAICEI program. 

MAICEI, which stands for the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative, is a state-funded program that supports disabled high school graduates from the age of 18 to 22 as they progress through college and helps them transition to their next stage in life. In her role, Murdock assists students like Nikayla Rogers, who was enrolled in Trobaugh's Climate Fiction course. 

Outside of class, Murdock helps Rogers and other MAICEI students process lectures, organize their assignments, develop time-management plans, set up appointments for tutoring, and otherwise manage their day-to-day campus activities. The work is extremely personal, says Murdock, who remembers her own struggles as a college student with ADHD. 

"I had to do things a little differently to accomplish the same things as other people," she said. "So now that I work with students with disabilities, I feel like the work I'm doing is important and impactful. These students have so much drive and so much passion and they just want to live a life like everybody else. And being a part of helping them gain the skills they need to do that is meaningful for me and I really enjoy it." 

Murdock is employed as a paraprofessional by Agawam High School, from which she was assigned to work at HCC with Rogers, who lives in Agawam. 

"I knew I was going to end up at either HCC or Westfield State, and I was really hoping that it would be HCC," said Murdock. 

She got her wish. 

Trobaugh remembers Murdock as a student who was enthusiastic about learning and helping others. 

"Ainsley modeled good classroom citizenship with her participation in class discussions and activities and her spirit of goodwill," Trobaugh said. "It is no surprise to me that she is devoting herself now to helping other students learn and succeed." 

The final assignment for Climate Fiction requires each student to write a short story demonstrating their understanding of climate change hazards and storytelling techniques. Just for kicks, Murdock dug up her own final from 2017, and Trobaugh invited her to read it to the class. 

"To this day, taking that class was probably one of my favorite experiences at HCC," Murdock said. "Professor Trobaugh helped me realize that I enjoy going to school and learning new things. And she was also one of the easiest professors to talk to when I needed help with anything." 

As a student, Murdock appreciated the supportive environment at HCC. Although she was reserved in high school, she gained confidence in HCC's intensive Learning Community classes. 

"Because you're with the same small group of people, it helped me break out of my shell and made it easier to form relationships with my classmates," she said. 

As Murdock became more comfortable, her grades improved. In thinking about life after HCC, she talked to her visual arts professor, Victor Katz, about transferring to a four-year school. 

"I was very thankful that someone had actually cared to ask me what my plans were and to sit down and help explain to me what options were available," she said. 

Eventually, she transferred to Bay Path, where she made the Dean's List each semester and graduated with her bachelor's degree in psychology and a 3.7 GPA. 

"HCC really set the foundation for everything that I have achieved," she said. "It was at HCC that I learned that I love learning and helped me realize what I wanted to do. If I didn't come here, I don't know if I would have figured that out." 

PHOTOS: (Above) HCC alum Ashley Murdock '19, left, with student Nikayla Rogers. (Thumbnail) Learning coach and HCC alum Ashley Murdock, left, works with HCC student Nikayla Rogers.