Erick Berrelleza, S.J., will serve as the inaugural dean of Messina College starting in September, according to a University release.
“I am honored to serve as the first dean of Messina College and to shape the institution with the same values and character of Boston College,” Berrelleza, who currently works as an assistant professor of sociology at Santa Clara University, wrote in an email to The Heights.
Messina College is part of The Pine Manor Institute for Student Success—BC’s umbrella organization dedicated to ensuring the success of first-generation, underrepresented students, according to Berrelleza.
Messina College, which is located in Brookline on Pine Manor College’s former campus, will offer a two-year associate’s degree program beginning in the 2024–2025 academic year and enroll 100 students annually.
“At this phase in the design, the particular programs have not been determined,” Berrelleza wrote. “The programs will offer a core curriculum that is imbued with the Jesuit tradition.”
Berrelleza—who received his bachelor’s from Loyola Marymount University, his master of divinity from Boston College, and his doctorate from Boston University—has served as a Jesuit for 18 years. He has also served as an associate member of BC’s Board of Trustees.
“I’ve come to appreciate … the complex reality of a university and the many stakeholders involved in decisions,” Berrelleza wrote. “I have also taught now both at the college preparatory and higher education levels, so I come to this role with a background and experience of both secondary and university education.”
Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, who has known Berrelleza for “nearly a decade,” said that Messina College will benefit from Berrelleza’s sincere belief that BC’s Jesuit values positively affect the University.
“[Berrelleza] brings with him a strong belief in the transformative possibilities of
Jesuit higher education, and he is excited about how Messina College will provide a platform for reaching students and communities around the Boston area,” Quigley said.
According to Quigley, this strong belief in BC makes Berrelleza especially fit to lead Messina College.
“[Berrelleza] knows Boston College well and is an eloquent champion of educational
access and of our distinctive Jesuit, Catholic heritage and mission,” Quigley said. “[Berrelleza] is excited to get started, and I look forward to working with him starting this fall.”
Berrelleza said Messina’s academic programs will benefit from collaboration with the scholars and schools of BC.
“I want to keep class sizes small to make sure that our students at Messina get the support they need to succeed,” Berrelleza said. “This should help the faculty we recruit dedicate more time to each student and be available for help beyond the classroom.”
Berrelleza said Messina College plans to ensure its students are connected with the BC community, and students will have access to all campuses and facilities—including BC’s Division of Student Affairs, Campus Ministry, BC Dining, and Campus Recreation. Additionally, there will be a shuttle service connecting the Brookline campus to BC’s Main Campus, according to Berrelleza.
“Beyond logistics, however, I want to be sure we develop opportunities for interaction between colleges,” Berrelleza said. “I can anticipate opportunities for intramurals, academic tutoring and mentoring, as well as engagement in service in Boston neighborhoods.”
Berrelleza said his research on topics including immigration and urban sociology—with early research focusing on Boston neighborhoods—highlighted issues of educational disparity. According to Berrelleza, he is proud of how the University has created opportunities to help bridge the gap of educational disparity.
“It doesn’t take much time to see inequality and the need for new responses,” Berrelleza wrote. “When I think about what Boston College is undertaking with Messina, I am proud that this university is responding to the need for increased educational access.”
Being the son of two immigrant parents and a first generation college student played a large role in his research and teaching, Berrelleza said.
“I think it’s my life as a Jesuit though that has attuned my eyes to see and my heart to respond to populations of people at the margins … when I think about what we are doing here with Messina, I think about offering a response to exclusion in education,” Berrelleza said.
Berrelleza emphasized that while his voice will be important in the early years of Messina’s development, it will not be the only one.
“I think it’s best to say that Messina will be a collaborative project and we will learn from best practices and incorporate many voices in its design, including current first-gen students and alums from BC,” Berrelleza said.