“Everyone here really shares the idea that we can do better work if we act like family, treat each other like family and respect each other like family.”
When students enroll at New England College – online or on campus – they become part of a growing family.
For Mike Taberski, educator, husband, father of twins and Dean of Students, NEC is his second family.
As the dean, a position he took on in August 2015, Taberski focuses on providing the support needed for students to stay on track, overcome challenges and earn their diplomas. When he’s not working with faculty and students he’s getting real-world insight into the experience of earning a degree online – as a student himself.
Taberski is working on his Ed.D through NEC, an accelerated program with the majority of courses offered online, and the cohort meeting on campus once a month and one week during the summer.
“One of the reasons I chose to work here as well, is I discovered this program. It’s the most doable doctorate program I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s the most affordable one I’ve ever seen and just the combination of that has been amazing.”
Just six months in, Taberski says he’s found that he is “just as close, if not closer to my classmates (as) if I was in a traditional master’s program or even undergrad program where I was in a traditional classroom.”
Like many of NEC’s online students, he’s balancing work, family and school.
“Fridays and Saturdays are not as social as they used to be, but given that I only have to do that for three years and I’ll have a doctorate, it’s well worth the trade off,” Taberski said.
Taberski maps out his time for school in different ways. After spending dinner with his wife Melissa and 5-year-old twins, Tommy and Caroline, he spends evenings in his home office. He juggles his kids’ activities by going to every other basketball practice. When they went on a family cruise, Taberski logged on for 20 minutes every night to stay on track.
“I don’t think people realize, they say they have no time. It’s like let’s really analyze how much time you’re using in your day for stuff that really doesn’t matter. I used to watch every hit TV show and now I just watch one of them. I’m not caught up on ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘Game of Thrones,’ but if you’re going to call me Dr. Taberski in a couple of years it’ll be worthwhile. I’ll catch up then,” he said.
Taberski’s enthusiasm and positive attitude carries into his role as dean.
“Most people, when they hear ‘Dean of Students,’ they have an image in their mind of Dean Wormer from ‘Animal House’ or another negative example. It’s like you go to the dean the same way you go to the principal’s office, when that really couldn’t be further from the truth. I do certainly deal with conduct, but that is the least part of my day on any given day of the year.”
Taberski strives to have a positive impact by treating all students like family and ensuring they have the resources needed to succeed – even if they live thousands of miles away.
When NEC professors were alerted to potentially serious issues regarding two online students, Taberski and other NEC faculty quickly worked together to send help. Within the past year, two students earning degrees online revealed personal information about situations they were going through.
“The first was a mention in the essay and another was a mention in a discussion post,” Taberski said.
In both incidents, NEC faculty and staff were able to dispatch local resources to both students’ doorsteps within 24 hours of discovering the situations from several states away.
“We quickly let go of, ‘Well, they’re too far away for us to do anything,’” he said. “It definitely speaks to the personal relationship that those students had with the professor, to even disclose that to a professor who they’ve never met in person, they’ve only interacted with online. It says a lot about the relationship our professors have with their online students.”
Whether students are enrolled through a program online or on campus, Taberski doesn’t want anyone to feel alone. The last thing Taberski wants is for students to feel like distance is keeping them from feeling like family.
“You may have a life issue happening, or an academic issue happening, and all you need to do is let us know that and we can reach out to figure out what the best course of action is to get you on the right track and keep you on the right track.”
From the moment a student enrolls in a class, to the time they walk across the stage, NEC students are Pilgrims for life.
“With every commencement we meet more and more students online, who come here and have said they’ve felt like an NEC student that whole time and then they get their real diploma on stage from the actual president just like anyone else,” he said.