It’s not unusual for a Middlesex Community College student to be someone who did not enroll in college immediately after high school graduation. This was the case for Carolyn Russell, a native of Middletown. She first managed a local coffee shop for several years before realizing she wanted to pursue a career helping people. Knowing MxCC as a local and affordable school, she registered there to study human services.
During her time at the college, Carolyn greatly valued her internships. This experience gave her excellent exposure in learning what it’s like to work for nonprofit organizations. Her first assignment was at the Stork Club Preschool in Rocky Hill, working with infants and toddlers. Next she worked at an outpatient program for children at Elmcrest Hospital in Portland. She also interned with the Big Brothers Big Sisters youth organization as a case manager.
After graduating from the human services program at Middlesex in 1999, she moved to the Seattle area to be near her sister. On a whim, she responded to a newspaper ad for a position at a food bank, not expecting to get the job. But to her surprise, she was hired as the food resources coordinator at Food Lifeline, a Feeding America network member food bank and distribution center, serving more than 300 hunger relief organizations. Her role involved soliciting food donations through government programs, food distribution warehouses, wholesalers, retail stores and farms.
At this point, Carolyn was hooked. She really enjoyed doing good and helpful work as a career.
Being from New England, she decided after seven years in Seattle that she wanted to move back to the East Coast. She first headed to Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula, where she became the operations and food sourcing manager for the Maryland Food Bank–Eastern Shore Branch, also part of the Feeding America network.
The following year, in 2007, Carolyn returned to Connecticut to work at the Connecticut Food Share, located in Wallingford. She served as the procurement director and now is the director of food strategy and distribution—responsible for securing more than 23 million pounds of food, which is distributed to nearly 600 hunger relief organizations throughout the state each year.
Her desire to continue her education in a field related to the nonprofit work she has accomplished throughout her career motivated her to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in organizational management from Ashford University, an online college founded in Iowa. She successfully transferred all her Middlesex course credits to enroll in the program.
Looking back, Carolyn appreciates the personal attention and motivation professors Judith Felton and Greg Horn gave her while attending Middlesex. She loved the smaller class size and how it led to a good and different learning experience for all students.
“The professors knew who you were, and that was a big deal,” she added.
Written by Thea Moritz in 2017