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Mother and Daughter Graduate Together


When Susan DiGrigoli ’17 walked across the stage in May to accept her diploma at MCLA’s 118th Commencement ceremony, it was a particularly momentous occasion for at least two reasons.

She not only was among the students in the very first cohort to graduate with her degree in business administration through the College’s degree completion program, she graduated alongside her daughter, Rachael DiGrigoli '17, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology.

It was Rachael’s idea that her mother go back to school to complete her business degree.

“It was super wonderful to graduate with my mom,” Rachael said. “It was inspiring to see her effortlessly manage her full-time job and a full course load. I was very proud of her for completing her degree in such a short time, and with honors, no less!”

“Rachael pushed for it,” Susan said. “She wanted me to have the satisfaction of finishing my degree. She was my biggest champion. She was so excited when I made the commitment.  She encouraged me when I got frustrated and kept the rest of the family at bay when I was working on homework.”

To accomplish her goal of graduating with Rachael, Susan completed more than 70 credit hours in one year by taking multiple night classes.

“She helped me a lot, especially in the beginning when I had my first paper due after 20-plus years,” Susan said. “I was so nervous, but she showed me the format, proofed it for me and encouraged me. We engaged in conversation about our classes; what we liked, what we didn't, as well as the professors we really enjoyed. It was nice to be able to talk with her and get a younger, traditional student’s viewpoint.”

A paralegal for Michael J. Shepard, P.C., in Pittsfield, Mass., for the past 18 years, Susan attended her MCLA degree completion classes in the federal building.                 

“The cohort program was amazing,” Susan said. “It allows students who are working full time, with families, to attend college and finish their degrees in an accelerated time frame. We still have the same classes, textbooks and professors as regular classes, but they are faster-paced and more intense.” 

Knowing that their students had full-time jobs and families, her professors not only took their situations into consideration, they encouraged the students to draw from those experiences.

Susan added, “It's never easy making friends at any age, but as you get older sometimes it's a little more daunting.” However, “The small classes and the continuity of the cohort pushed us to bond quickly and made us into a family. I made some lasting friends.” 

For her part, Rachael said, “I chose MCLA because of its highly regarded psychology program, the amazing professors in the Psychology Department, as well as its location in the Berkshires.”

She decided to major in psychology because she has long been an advocate for mental health issues. “I want to be on the front lines, and be able to directly help individuals struggling with mental illness.”
A member of the Alpha Lambda Delta and Psi Chi honor societies, Rachael said besides the opportunity to attend MCLA and graduate with her mother, one of the best experiences of her college career was being part of Kappa Delta Phi, a nationally affiliated sorority.

“I was able to develop strong relationships with current MCLA students, as well as alumni. Through this organization, I was also able to give back to the community through volunteer work and philanthropic efforts.”

While Susan will continue her work as a paralegal, Rachael plans to attend graduate school in fall 2018, and currently is applying to a host of master’s degree and doctoral programs in counseling psychology.