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Alumna: MCLA teaches you to believe in yourself

05/13/15

During her time at MCLA, Hannah Sterrs ’14 enjoyed multiple internship opportunities, but it wasn’t until she participated in the Berkshire Hills Internship Program (B-HIP) that she found her niche. Now, she’s a graduate student in the community arts program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she specializes in multicultural education.

During her B-HIP experience, Sterrs worked at Berkshire Creative to advance creativity in the region, with the goal of strengthening its economic success and the quality of life in the Berkshires.

“It was there that, for the first time, I was able to see the positive impact that art and culture has on a community, on both an economic and a social level,” said Sterrs, who majored in English/communications with a concentration in public relations and a minor in arts management.

“Through my B-HIP internship placement and the B-HIP course – where my classmates and I came together to conceptualize a teen arts program for the teens of North Adams – I was able to see what I wanted to do with my life.”

At Berkshire Creative, Sterrs worked on a number of initiatives, such as helping to coordinate Massachusetts’ inaugural Gubernatorial Forum on Arts, Culture and Creativity.

According to Sterrs, “Immediately after I finished B-HIP, I knew I wanted to go to grad school.”

MCLA prepared her not only for grad school, but also the “real world,” she said.

The supportive and engaging environment on campus and in the classroom helped me develop confidence in myself and in how much I could achieve upon graduation. My professors and my advisor played a huge role in that,” she explained. “They pushed me to be the best person and student I could be. They knew what I was capable of and they helped me see my own potential. They wanted to see me succeed.

“Most importantly, they respected me as a person. I had professors I took a class with my freshman year that still knew my name four years later. None of my professors failed to say “hello” or ask how I was doing when I walked past them. Seeing people I respected express genuine caring for me as a person really made me work harder.”

As an undergraduate, Sterrs knew the importance and value of a liberal arts education. “But, now in grad school, I am seeing it so much more clearly. Because I took such a wide variety of courses at MCLA, I have really been able to think more critically in a graduate-level environment.”

In addition to discovering the importance of community engagement at MCLA, Sterrs developed a strong desire to learn – both in and out of the classroom.

“In my admissions essay, I actually wrote about the impact my time at MCLA had on who I am as a person and a student,” Sterrs said.

“MCLA made me want to learn, teach and help others, and make a difference in the community. I really became involved as a student and a student leader at MCLA, and I think Lesley was happy to see that I wanted to continue that style of education and involvement in their community.”

Sterrs expects to complete her Master of Education in Arts, Community and Education next May. Her “ultimate dream” is to work for a state cultural council or the National Endowment for the Arts.

“MCLA teaches you to believe in yourself,” Sterrs said.