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GCC Professor Alyssa Arnell Earns African American Female Professor Award

GREENFIELD — Alyssa Arnell, chair of the History Department at Greenfield Community College (GCC), was awarded the African American Female Professor Award by the African American Female Professor Award Assoc. (AAFPAA) in a ceremony at Bay Path University on Sept. 26.

Formerly a history teacher at Dillard University and educational-outreach coordinator and historical interpreter for the National Park Service, Arnell joined the faculty at GCC in 2017. In just two years, she has modernized GCC’s history curriculum, infusing it with a social-justice focus and adding courses such as “The Legal History of American Civil Rights” and “North American Indigenous History.”

“We are building out a program that incorporates the voices of different people,” Arnell said, “so whoever walks into the classroom can see themselves represented and respected in the narratives.”

Arnell was nominated for the award by Leo Hwang, GCC’s dean of Humanities, Engineering, Math, and Science. “Alyssa is looking to create the kind of world she wants to inhabit,” he said. “She does not see the world as only problems, she sees it as something she can be an active member in helping to build and transform.”

For many of Arnell’s classes, she has integrated a public history component that brings her classes out of the classroom and to the lobby of the main building, where her students give presentations on their projects throughout the day — a way to let other faculty, staff, and students see the kinds of work her students are engaged in, and see the kinds of research that can happen in a history course.

In addition to teaching, Arnell has created programming that reaches beyond the classroom with talks on the removal of confederate statues, a lecture on the life Frederick Douglass, a panel discussion with students about the movie Black Panther, and a conversation on immigrant rights. She also adapted a format of Facilitated Dialogues used by the National Park Service to launch a series of conversations about race and ethnicity at GCC.

Arnell is also a core member of Greenfield Community College’s Racial Equity and Justice Institute Team, a part of the Leading for Change Higher Education Diversity Consortium. As part of the Racial Equity and Justice Team, she has worked to learn best practices to support students of color, helped the college identify specific areas where achievement gaps exist, and will continue in the coming year to work to identify specific action steps to try to address those achievement gaps.

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