Shedding some light on Hesser College

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Chances are, you've heard of Hesser College. One can not even turn on the radio or television without being exposed to one of its seemingly omnipresent advertisements. Maybe you've driven by the campus as you're cruising Interstate 93, or you've seen one of the other four locations around New Hampshire. But do you really know what happens there? The Insider paid a visit to the Concord campus to get the inside scoop.

Turns out, Hesser dates back a lot further than you might think. It originally opened as Hesser Business School in Manchester all the way back in 1900, and has since expanded to Nashua, Salem, Portsmouth and Concord. We met with executive director Christine Zerillo for a tour of the 16 Foundry St. facilities. Hesser has been in Concord since 1998, but it relocated to Foundry Street last November after outgrowing its Hall Street location. There are about 400 students enrolled in classes.

"We've experienced exponential growth here (in Concord)," Zerillo said, "I think because of the proximity to medical facilities."

Hesser offers degrees in seven different fields of study, but the medical assistant program is by far the most popular. The college offers both a diploma program as well as an associate's program in that field.

"In seven months, (students) can complete a full year of college," Zerillo said of the associate's program. All of Hesser's instructors have to have previous experience in both teaching and working in their field of study. Kelley Pendleton, who came to Hesser after years of running her own chiropractor practice, is one of those instructors. She said that the real life experience Hesser's instructors bring to the classroom is crucial to the learning experience.

"I try to give them scenarios that have really happened in the real world," Pendleton said, "and get them to think about it rather than just tell them what to do."

Once students complete that program, they must complete an externship at a local medical facility to put their newly-learned skills to the test in real life.

"We have affiliations with a lot of different practices in the area," Zerillo said. These partnerships can be particularly helpful for job placements; students often transition straight from their externship to a job at the same facility.

Aside from the popular medical assistant program, Hesser offers programs in criminal justice, business administration, communications, graphic design and many more.

Corinne McKim is attending Hesser, pursuing a medical assistant diploma. McKim was one of the first to take advantage of an innovative new offering for prospective Hesser students. The Hesser Commitment program allows students to begin attending classes for their chosen field without any tuition obligation. Once the introductory period is completed, students can choose to continue their studies and keep the credits, or drop out without having to pay for classes they'll never complete.

"That was my deciding factor, actually," McKim said. She was faced with going back to school while juggling a full-time job and two kids. Fortunately for her, the schedule worked out and now she's well on her way to a medical assistant diploma.

Hesser's student body is made of all kinds of students. Some, like McKim, are parents changing careers mid-streams. Others are traditional students, fresh out of high school and ready for their first taste of higher education. Whatever their story, they are bettering themselves and their futures. Faculty members like Pendleton are right there to push them and help them along their way.

"I like to set the bar high," Pendleton said, "because you can never know how high you can go until you try. But I'm also there to catch them when they stumble."

(For more information about Hesser College, visit hesser.edu or call 1-800-987-5112.)

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