Joanne Faust had a dream. In fact, she had several ambitious dreams and, with her diligence, many have become true. One of her first and most important dreams was to “break the cycle.” That was in 1994.
After growing up in a poor family with a single mother and a lot problems at home while living in Meriden, Joanne found herself a teenage ward of the state.
“Money was barely enough for everyday living, so extras were not discussed and college seemed to be a luxury I’d never experience,” Joanne reflected.
In the late 1980s, with no clear direction for her future, Joanne was held back in 8th grade multiple times before ending up in a group home in Norwich. She attended Norwich High School for 9th grade, but her time at the group home ended after a year. She then returned to Meriden. However, since Platt High School wouldn’t accept all her credits, she essentially quit going to school.
By 1990, Joanne tried to reconnect with her father, who abandoned her when she was only 5 years old. She moved to Florida to live with him. With some luck, she completed her GED credential that year. However, again, things didn’t work out with her father, so she came back to Connecticut.
In 1994, 20-year-old Joanne was now a mother and a welfare recipient. After a year as a parent, she realized she didn’t want her daughter to grow up with nothing like she did.
And so began Joanne’s dream to break that cycle.
“I really don’t remember how I ended up at Middlesex Community College, but in September 1995 I started taking classes. I chose a major I felt would always be useful to find employment, so I enrolled in the medical secretary program,” recalled Joanne, who by then had moved to Middletown to be near a friend.
Joanne started out as a part-time student with two courses that fall, continued full-time the next spring, and made up courses in the summer.
During her path to her initial associate degree (business office technology: medical secretary), Joanne learned that financial aid would cover up to 90 credits. Therefore, she enrolled in a second associate degree program (executive secretary) at MxCC, since she was only a few courses short of completion.
As an MxCC student, Joanne joined the Collegiate Secretaries International on campus and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She received the Second Year Student scholarship and is listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges and in the National Dean’s List Book.
The director of student activities at the time, Edie Fuld, was instrumental in Joanne’s role as secretary of the Student Senate and gave her advice on the inner workings of the college and an organization.
In 1996, Joanne served in a work-study position in the continuing education/community service office and learned a lot from Patti Hard, the secretary there, who was a mentor to Joanne as she pursued her degree and employment.
However in 1997, the state implemented a new welfare reform bill and Joanne’s benefits ended in December of that year. This nearly shattered her dream of finishing college.
With the encouragement of staff and professors, Joanne applied for a part-time data entry operator position at MxCC, and in March 1998, she was hired. In this role, she created forms and databases, maintained the student database system, ran reports and extracts for various offices, and entered course schedules for each semester.
After earning both MxCC business office technology associate degrees in May 1998 and also working for the state, Joanne enrolled in classes just for fun. By 2002 she had enough credits to earn another associate degree—this time in general studies.
And in the mean time, she was promoted to a full-time data entry position in September 1998—fulfilling yet another dream!
Joanne noted several standout professors during her collegiate journey at MxCC. She only took one or two courses with some of them, but had a relationship with each after the class ended. “I would stop in and see them or they would stop me in the halls or café and ask how things were going,” said Joanne.
“My all-time favorite professor came after I graduated and that was Dr. Tom Melbert. I found a love a literature through Tom,” Joanne continued. “I learned about my name(!) during his Goethe class. Then there was the Dostoevsky class, Dante class, Nietzche, and then the Foundations in Knowledge course which covered Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and more. Tom expanded my horizons in an area I never thought I’d love! He was an amazing professor, and I took every course he had to offer until he retired.” (Thomas Melbert, Professor Emeritus of English, retired in 2003.)
In 2004, Joanne became the assistant registrar for Middlesex Community College.
Joanne’s educational dreams continued to carry through. She earned a bachelor of general studies degree with a concentration in the arts and humanities from the University of Connecticut in 2011, attending as a part-time student. While at UConn, she was a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and the Pinnacle Honor Society. She was the student speaker at her graduation.
“I never really thought about furthering my education beyond the associate degree level. Although I am content in my current position of assistant registrar, I can now see myself in the position of registrar,” Joanne predicted in her 2011 speech.
Upon her appointment this year, Joanne gave a special tribute to former MxCC registrar, Susan Salowitz, who retired in 2016 (see photo at right of Susan and Joanne at a commencement ceremony). “Susan started out as my boss, but over the 18 years we worked together, she became so much more—she is my family,” Joanne wrote on social media. “She taught me everything I needed to know and mentored my progress from data entry operator to where I am today—the new registrar of MxCC!”
With all these accolades in Joanne’s journey, the sad part is that her mother passed away in early 2016 and was not alive to share in her later success, Joanne noted.
“But I truly feel I found the one place I was meant to be,” Joanne declared. “MxCC is home.”
“We are family. That is how I always felt as a student. The faculty and staff were always there for me. If I had an issue, I knew I could turn to any professor or staff member for help,” she added. “Middlesex Community College is a great steppingstone to a better future!”
Written by Thea Moritz