River Valley Community College & Great Bay Community College
Associate of Science, Bioengineering, 2018
For Nick Larouche, getting to and getting through college was a journey that included several stops, a few shifts and a lot of encouragement. His persistence and willingness to seize opportunities, coupled with the support he received at the community college level, landed him with a degree in a high-demand field at a place with a major Upper Valley employer.
Nick did not excel in high school but had an interest in continuing his education and becoming the first in his family to go to college. With River Valley Community College (RVCC) just down the road from his home in Claremont, he chose to start his journey there.
Like many recent high school graduates who are unsure of what they want to do, Nick took a variety of courses as a part-time student at RVCC. He found he was drawn to engineering. Seeing his interest in the sciences, RVCC Biology Professor Bonnie Ackerman convinced him to take some biology classes, and this caused the first turn in his journey as it sparked his interest and led him to focus on biomedical engineering.
Professor Ackerman was one faculty member who played a pivotal role in helping him find the right pathway and supporting his efforts, but there were others. “I was very bad at math going into college. Math Professor Rick Andrusiak was astounding with students. He would put time aside and meet with me one-on-one to help me figure stuff out.” Nick said this personal attention is what distinguishes community college education and makes it so important for students like him.
Ultimately, the turn to biomedical engineering made Nick realize he wanted to earn a four-year degree. Because RVCC is part of the Community College System of NH, Professor Ackerman suggested transferring to Great Bay Community College (GBCC) because it had a greater focus on biomedical engineering and an agreement with the University of New Hampshire (UNH) that all community college credits would transfer and count towards a four-year degree. She connected him with an advisor at GBCC to help him begin down this pathway.
“My professors and advisors helped me set myself up for an educational path in bioengineering. My advisor also helped me get scholarships and internship opportunities at UNH before I transferred so I could meet people there and get more of an understanding of how UNH was structured.”
All of his RVCC credits transferred to GBCC, where he earned an Associate of Science degree in Bioengineering and had a 3.86 GPA before transferring to UNH. Two years later, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Bioengineering, a challenging program where this formerly uncertain high school student earned a 3.5 GPA. When it came time to start his career, he chose to return to the greater Claremont area and was able to secure a job as a clinical engineer at Dartmouth College.
Looking back, he credits these faculty members and other individuals – such as his tutors at RVCC – for his successful journey. “The people at the community college were amazing and supportive. If one of those elements had been missing, I probably would not be where I am today.”