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What makes graduation day so special for Melissa Roper, Academic Program Director for Early Childhood Education at Greenville Technical College? Celebrating the success of students she has built relationships with over the long term. “Being in a program that allows me to teach students multiple times before they complete their coursework is a great opportunity to learn about them and watch them progress. I love to cheer them on when they walk across that graduation stage!”


One of your biggest takeaways from the CCLA program was understanding the history, purpose, and importance of the SC Technical College System. Tell us about that.

I’ve always known that the two-year college system has a purpose, and participating in the CCLA program showed me why we need technical and community colleges. Our colleges allow opportunities for those who want to learn a specialty, earn professional development, have a smaller and more comfortable classroom experience, get an affordable education, and so much more. Better understanding the System’s purpose and how it is used by stakeholders allows me to better understand the students I encounter on our campuses and know which programs I should advocate for. Because I understand what role the technical colleges play in helping students overcome obstacles and earn certificates or degrees that may not be otherwise obtainable, I am better able to serve our students.


How easy or difficult was it for you to balance your professional responsibilities with the CCLA coursework?

The courses are condensed (6-8 weeks), but only one course is offered at a time. When I completed the program, I was both a full-time instructor and Academic Program Director, so there were some times during the semester that were more demanding than others, but planning ahead made that manageable. My cohort included a mix of administrators and instructors, and the professors understood how our roles could be chaotic at times. They were accommodating and supportive when we needed to adjust the schedule.


What was something you learned in the program that is useful in your work today?

How to use the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to learn not just about our technical colleges but also four-year institutions across the country. The data on the website is useful for many roles, and I have accessed the information for other coursework and for committee work within my own institution.


You describe the CCLA program as a “nudge” to help you achieve your long-term professional goals.

Yes! I had not planned to pursue my doctorate degree, but within a year of finishing the CCLA program, I got that nudge to continue. I am now one year into the EdD program at USC for Improvement Science in Educational Leadership and Innovation. My goal is to finish my doctorate and see what opportunities open up from there.

While there are many ways I can use my knowledge to advocate for and advance the Early Childhood field within the college community, I definitely want to remain in a position that allows me to work with and support students. It’s my teaching and sharing with them that most energizes me at work.