Bermuda College adapts to the new normal
BY ERIN SILVER
The pandemic changed life for students all over the world. At Bermuda College, staff adapted, offering new programming that provides students with exciting fresh opportunities to receive an outstanding education.
Phyllis Curtis-Tweed is the vice-president of academic and student affairs at Bermuda College, and her role includes counselling, tutoring, student life and faculty for three separate divisions. When the pandemic first hit in 2020, she and her team expected to see a dip in enrolment, but the opposite happened.
“We actually saw an increase,” Dr Curtis-Tweed said.
“Some students who planned to go directly abroad after high school decided not to go. With Covid, there were travel restrictions and students couldn’t enter certain countries. The virus was spreading and, at the time, there was no vaccine. All of these were concerns.”
She believes that new variants and mandatory vaccine requirements at certain academic institutions are fuelling more uncertainty and hesitancy about travelling abroad for school. Bermuda College continues to adapt to the needs of students and the global situation as it unfolds. It is now offering a one-year certificate that students can use toward other degree programmes when they are more comfortable travelling to international post-secondary institutions.
“We’re a two-year college and it’s always been the case that some students come to community college planning to stay a year to improve their GPA or get post-secondary experience,” Dr Curtis-Tweed said.
“With the pandemic, supporting students who only want to stay a year became more important. We developed a one-year certificate with two tracks—one with 30 general education credits that can transfer to Canadian and American schools, and another that’s more specialised and based on selected subject areas, as is required by schools in the United Kingdom.”
In other words, students who decide to spend their first year in Bermuda can transfer as a sophomore without losing a year. They’ll be right where they should be academically, no matter where they choose to study as conditions change. As well, this one-year certificate gives students a sense of accomplishment and could also help to crystallise their goals, study path and selection of courses.
“This school year is the first time this new foundations programme is being offered,” Dr Curtis-Tweed said. “It’s hot off the press. I’m hopeful a lot of people will want to go for this certificate.”
Those aren’t the only changes taking place. Bermuda College is also offering a visiting student programme, where students can study at Bermuda College and earn credits that will transfer to other colleges. Last year, it was a more economical option since all courses were offered online. Students, this year, will have the opportunity to study using a hybrid mode. This means that most classes will be face-to-face on campus, but it will also give faculty the chance to schedule some virtual classes.
“Online course work is not for everyone, but some students really thrive in online courses,” Dr Curtis-Tweed said. “We’re trying to offer the best of both worlds by meeting in person and virtually.”
There are many additional benefits to the hybrid model. For instance, students can hold down jobs at the same time as they are attending school while giving others that face-to-face interaction they need and crave.
“We’re trying to incorporate the benefits we found from having to pivot to an online context. At the same time, we are being sensitive to fact that face-to-face is just better for some students and almost everyone seems to miss the informal socialising that occurs from being able to see people in person.”
Of course, some things remain the same. The government has made sure funding is available for students who want to attend college. The College Promise programme means students who have a 3.0 average automatically get an award for $5,000 to study. There are also a number of financial aid programmes and scholarships for which students can apply. “A student who needs financial assistance can apply through the College’s Financial Aid Office,” Dr Curtis-Tweed said.
There are also internship programmes, postgraduate scholarship opportunities and partnerships with more than 30 institutions in Britain, Canada, the United States and Caribbean so students can typically complete their BA within two years once they have finished their degree at Bermuda College.
“Just inquire if you need assistance and plan to attend Bermuda College,” Dr Curtis-Tweed said.