Noreen McGinness Olson, Director of Academic Support

My parents always told me I would go to college even though they Photo of Noreen McGinness Olsonnever did.  They valued education and encouraged my brothers and me to attend college even though they came from poor to modest means.  They both had strong work ethics and wanted more for their children than what was afforded for them. My name is Noreen McGinness Olson. I live in Townsend, MA with my husband and three children, and I have worked at Middlesex Community College for over 20 years. When I was young I never dreamed I would work in education, never mind higher education.  My path took some interesting turns, but I have always followed my heart and focused on my passions – this kept me going and determined to reach my goals.

Even though I wanted to go to college, I started making excuses not to go and did not really believe I was college material while attending high school. After high school I went to work. I worked in a clean room, waited tables, and as an administrative assistant in a high tech company. I did not enjoy or feel fulfilled by any of those positions.  When I was twenty-two, some of my high school friends were graduating from college and they encouraged me to go to school. This made me realize that there wasn’t any possibility for advancement in my job, and I began to think that I had made a mistake by choosing not to attend college.  I decided I could make a change for the better and quit my full-time job, sold my car and went back to school. I attended Middlesex Community College for my first year and found that I loved it! I then transferred to the University of Massachusetts Boston. To my surprise, I did very well at Middlesex and at UMass, but it was not easy.

While in college I lived with my grandmother and did not pay for room and board. However, I did pay for my tuition, books, and expenses without taking any loans. Since I had to work so much to pay for school, it was important that I made time in my schedule to study enough to do well. It was hard, and often I was exhausted. Nevertheless, I was learning so much and meeting all kinds of people who opened my eyes to new ideas and ways of being that I was motivated by the experience and found support from the relationships I made in college.  

After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I started working at Middlesex part-time. Over the years I had the opportunity to grow within the college through professional development opportunities and by developing relationships with mentors who have helped me along the way. Through these mentoring experiences, I was encouraged to go into a Master’s degree program later in life. At first, I thought this was a crazy idea, after all, I had three children all under the age of 11, a husband, and a full time job! But, I took one course at a time, and, with the support of my family, I finished in five years.  You too can do what you put your mind to. If you don’t have a support system at home, stay determined, look for support in other places, and never stop learning!


Last Modified: 8/2/21