MassBay Community College Associate History Professor, Perry Beardsley, has a unique insight into the importance of community colleges and the impact that they can make in someone’s life. He was a first-generation college student who began his higher education learning at a community college in western New York. His experience there had a profound impact on his life and career and is ultimately what led him to MassBay.
“I think that what community college did for me, in an atmosphere where there was a bit less pressure, was give me the ability to excel academically. I was the kind of student who needed a little bit of individual attention. I needed instructors to be a little more flexible. I was immature and needed them to go out of their way to be helpful because I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. Having professors who were willing to work with me while I worked those things out was a tremendous benefit. I’m not sure that my career trajectory would have been the same if I hadn’t had that hands-on help.”
Beardsley grew up in Buffalo, New York and earned an associate degree in Computer Information Systems from Niagara Community College. After graduating, he decided to switch gears and move in a different direction. “I thought that because I always had a thing for history, I would try to become a history teacher. So, I changed course and went to University of Buffalo as a history major.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Beardsley was determined to continue his learning and earn a Ph.D. in history as he wanted to teach, specifically, at a community college. However, a change in his family circumstances required him to work full-time instead of furthering his education. He already worked in a part-time retail job, which helped support him throughout his undergrad years, so he remained in retail full-time, following a management track. Although, this career paid him well, he eventually chose to leave that line of work and resume his original dream of going back to school to earn his Ph.D.
After completing his Ph.D., Beardsley, “…looked at teaching at a community college as really a way for me to start over. I thought that because community college had done so much for me, it would be nice to give back, in a way. I wanted to focus on helping students who, like me, thought college couldn’t have been their first option or was something that was even possible.”
Giving back is exactly what Beardsley has done. As a professor at MassBay, he teaches history and is one of the co-coordinators of the honors program. Helping kids gain self-confidence and figure out their next steps is something that gives him great satisfaction.
Beardsley proudly shares a recent success story that explains in a nutshell why he chose this profession. “There was a student who came through MassBay a couple of years ago and was in a number of my classes. She was a great student, but she was limited in terms of thinking about her future educational opportunities, despite the fact that she was obviously brilliant. I talked with her and eventually I was able to convince her to think beyond the absolute bare minimum of what was possible, to dream a little bit. She got into a very good, private liberal arts college. She and her parents were absolutely ecstatic. At the time, they didn’t think it was possible for someone to move from a community college such as MassBay to a school like the one at which she found herself. That was awesome. Just seeing how proud these parents were of their daughter and seeing how happy she was to have achieved so much—that was really special.”
Beardsley hopes that his own success story will help to show his students that anything is possible.
“Having someone in front of the classroom who has been there, in their shoes, and has gone on to do more—receive a Ph.D. and become a college professor—gives them hope that maybe they can achieve their goals and dreams.”
Outside of the classroom, Beardsley is married with two “crazy” dogs. His wife, April, is also a history professor in Rhode Island. In his spare time, Beardsley enjoys traveling, reading, and sports.