Funreal program landscape

By Sam Albright

While most students attend schools of higher education to pursue careers in business, the arts, or STEM fields, there are several other fascinating programs offered by Cape Cod Community College (4Cs). One such field is Funeral Services, which is offered through 4Cs and can be found on the Bridgewater State University campus.

“It’s surprising, yet interesting that the program is offered,” said 4Cs student Andrew Gates. “But then, you’ve got to learn [the information] somewhere.”

What may be even more surprising than the existence of this program in general is the depth to which the program goes to educate students on the content.

“Students in the program are taught and graded on a wide variety of topics,” said Daniel Shea, Assistant Professor of the Funeral Service of 4Cs.

He stated that they must be knowledgeable on various casket manufacturers as well as the level of customization of each casket. They must also act professionally when dealing with families.

“Our goal is to prepare [the students] to be able to handle anything that comes in, whether it’s meeting with the family and determining their needs, as well as working with the body of the deceased,” explained Shea.

He also stated that students need to be familiar with different types of burials that may vary based on religion, culture, or armed forces procedures. This means that it may be customary in one culture for there to be exchanges of handshakes during a funeral, but in another, bows are preferred. However, he said that oftentimes individual funeral homes may be specialized by religion or ethnicity.

Shea also stated that another duty of an embalmer is restoring the body upon the family’s request. For example, if the deceased had facial features that were damaged in their death, then the embalmer would attempt to restore what that person looked like, usually based on photographs of the deceased before their death. This can even include using special embalming fluids to give the person rosier cheeks or a tan, if the person has lost color in their face due to severe illness prior to death.

“In healthcare there is a limit to what can be repaired, but in this practice, there is no limit,” said Shea.

There are two classrooms in the funeral services wing; one traditional and one laboratory.

The traditional serves to educate the students in a typical classroom environment and has an ovular table in the back of the classroom where students can act out skits; some would act as the funeral home representatives and others as the family of a deceased person looking to employ the funeral home’s services. The room also allows for video conferencing so that students all over the region can attend class without being physically present.

The laboratory contains a manikin and embalming instruments and chemicals. There is also an adjacent room in the wing dedicated to arts and merchandising, showing replicas of vaults, various casket handles, and more.

Up until last year, the program was offered through Mt. Ida College. However, the college was closed in May 2018 leaving the funeral program without a home. At that time, 4Cs President John Cox contacted representatives of the program and stated that he wanted it to be available for students at 4Cs. The program was then moved to Bridgewater State University and made available for 4Cs students in September of that year. Despite the students being enrolled through 4Cs, they have access to BSU’s dorms, library, fitness centers and dining rooms.

In moving and restructuring, the program lost its accreditation and is now in the process of becoming accredited once again. Shea says that they will be accepting new students in the Fall of 2019 semester.

“We are approved by the BHE with degree-granting authority for Funeral Service and our ABFSE [American Board of Funeral Service Education] accreditation is on schedule,” Shea explained. “The way the accreditation works is a long process that we have been moving our way through, and part of the process is we need to actively have students in the program and report on how the students are doing in order to get that final stamp of approval to be ‘accredited’ by ABFSE.”

An open house will be held at 10 AM on April 27, 2019. Those who wish to attend can find the open house located at 66 Hooper Street (Burnell Hall) on the Bridgewater State University campus.

“We’re confident that we’re going to have the best program out there,” said Shea. “And we’re going to grow.”