Home Posts tagged Christina Royal
Education Special Coverage

Marking a Milestone

The original home to HCC

The original home to HCC, the former Holyoke High School

The campus today

The campus, and its renovated campus center, today

Holyoke Community College, the state’s first community college, is marking its 75th anniversary this year. This has been a time to reflect on how the school has evolved to meet the changing needs of those living and working in the communities it serves, while remaining loyal to the mission with which it was founded — to open doors to opportunity.

 

It’s called the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Center.

And the name says it all — if you know about this kind of facility. It’s not a daycare center — there’s already one of those on the Holyoke Community College campus. And it’s not an early education facility — the college has no intention of getting into that business, according to its president, Christina Royal.

Instead, it’s a … child-watch center, a place where students can bring young children for a few minutes or a few hours, while they’re attending classes, taking part in meetings, or perhaps huddling with advisors.

“In daycare, you drop your child off in the morning and you pick it up at the end of the day; it’s generally for full-time working parents,” she explained. “In a child-watch program, you’re dropping the child off for a short-term period that is very specific; you’re coming, you’re taking a class, you need to put your child in a child-watch program for that 50 minutes or an hour and a half that you’re in class.”

The presence of the Itsy Bitzy Child Watch Center is just one example of the profound level of change that has come to the institution now known as Holyoke Community College. There are many others, including the name over the door — the school was originally called the Holyoke Graduate School (a night program), and was later renamed Holyoke Junior College, before becoming HCC in 1964 — as well as the setting. Indeed, the college was originally located in the former Holyoke High School, which was totally destroyed by fire in 1968, to be replaced by the current campus, carved out of a dairy farm, which opened in 1974.

“We were birthed to create opportunities for working adults to be able to get a quality education, and that’s really important still today. Education is accessible to all — that’s the most important piece about community colleges; access is a tenet of a community-college education.”

But for perhaps the most dramatic change we need to juxtapose the picture of the first graduating class in 1948 with some statistics that Royal keeps at the ready, specifically those noting that more than half of the current students are women, and that during the most recent semester, 41 different countries were represented by the study body, and 33 different languages might be heard on the campus.

The first graduating class

The first graduating class (1948) was much smaller, and far less diverse, than the classes today.

But while celebrating all that has changed over the past 75 years, the institution is also marking what hasn’t. And there is quite a bit in that category as well.

Christina Royal, the college’s fourth president

Christina Royal, the college’s fourth president

Indeed, HCC has, seemingly from the beginning, been a place to start for those seeking a college education, but not a final destination, said Royal, noting that many have transferred to four-year schools to obtain bachelor’s degrees and then graduate degrees.

It’s also been a place for those for whom college is certainly not a foregone conclusion.,

“We were birthed to create opportunities for working adults to be able to get a quality education, and that’s really important still today,” said Royal. “Education is accessible to all — that’s the most important piece about community colleges; access is a tenet of a community-college education.

“No matter who you are, or where you’re at in your career, there is a place for you at HCC,” she went on. “This creates doors that open for many students, and it’s also why, when you look at our alumni, we talk about HCC being a family affair; we have many alums who say that either their parents had come here or their siblings or their cousins come here.” because you see many generations of students that continue to come back and have the next generation supported at HCC.”

Meanwhile, the school has always been known for the high levels of support given to its students, many of them being the first in their families to attend college. In 1946, and the years that followed, many of these students were men who had served in World War II and were attending college on the G.I. Bill.

Fire destroyed the college in 1968

Fire destroyed the college in 1968, leaving some to ponder whether HCC had a future.

Today, as noted, more than half are women and far more than half are non-white. Many arrive with specific needs — ranging from food insecurity to transportation to a child-watch facility — and HCC, while helping them earn a degree or certificate, has been steadfast in its efforts to address those needs and “meet students where they are,” as Royal likes to say.

Moving forward, the school is marking its first 75 years with a variety of ceremonies, a commitment to continue its tradition of being accessible, and a refreshed strategic plan, one that has put additional emphasis on academic success and meeting student needs.

“It’s important that we provide equitable opportunities and that there is an equitable chance of success no matter who walks through the door.”

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked at length with Royal about where HCC has been, where it is today, and where it would like to be in the years to come.

 

School of Thought

As she talked with BusinessWest late last month, Royal was planning for, and very much looking forward to, commencement ceremonies at the MassMutual Center on June 4.

This would be the first in-person ceremony in three years, and members of the classes of 2020 and 2021 were invited to join this year’s graduates in the proceedings. Royal; said several dozen members of those earlier classes accepted the invitation to march.

The new Center for Health Education and Simulation

The new Center for Health Education and Simulation on Jarvis Avenue is one of many recent additions to the HCC landscape in recent years.

“We’ve heard from some members of those classes that they desire to have that traditional pomp-and-circumstance experience,” said Royal, noting that, beyond the canceled in-person commencement ceremonies, the pandemic has tested HCC in myriad other ways, from enrollment to helping students secure access to the Internet.

“We were impacted as intensely as everyone else in the world,” said Royal, adding that this has been a test that has left the school stronger and more resilient, in her estimation.

And looking back on HCC’s 75 years of service to the region, the pandemic is certainly not the first, or only, time the school has faced adversity of the highest order — and persevered.

Indeed, the fire of 1968, which broke out on Jan. 4, just before final exams, left the school shaken to its foundation — quite literally, with some wondering if it even had a future.

“Culturally, we have fewer students who start, finish their education, and then focus on work for the rest of their career.”

“Springfield Technical Community College had just opened,” said Royal, only the fourth president in the school’s history. “And there was a lot of conversation about whether we needed another community college in this region — and if so, do we want to build it in Holyoke? It was amazing that while all this debate and discussion was going on, we inherited the land from the Sheehan family, what was the Sheehan Dairy Farm, and be able to rebuild the college in a place that allowed us to continue to expand and grow to what you see today.”

And since opening its facility off Homestead Avenue in 1974, the college has certainly grown within that space, adding several new facilities, including the Bartley Center for Athletics and Education, the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, a new health sciences facility, and a renovated campus center. It has also returned to its roots with facilities in downtown Holyoke, including the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Center in the Cubit Building on Race Street, and the Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center.

Meanwhile, it has become far more diverse, said Royal, adding that, overall HCC has changed and evolved as the region, its host city, the local business community, and society in general have.

The Kittredge Center

The Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development is another of the many recent additions to the HCC campus.

“We are a reflection of the community,” Royal explained, adding that the Itsy Bitsy Child Watch Center is just one example of this phenomenon.

“When you look at the history of our communities and when you think about how these communities have changed, then we’ve had to grow and change with them to keep up with the changing demographics of our region — both in growth in numbers and in terms of the ‘who’ that we’re serving; we really serve a lot of student populations.”

Elaborating, she said that today, as always, the focus is on inclusion, empowering students, and creating an environment in which they can not only attend school, but achieve success, however they wish to define it.

“We’re really focused on equity,” Royal explained. “It’s important that we provide equitable opportunities and that there is an equitable chance of success no matter who walks through the door. And the data shows us that our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of Color) students are not succeeding at the same rate as our white students.

“So our equity initiatives look to be able to provide the additional support and services so we can bring those numbers into alignment,” she went on, adding that, overall the school has become far more data-driven as it works to understand the changing demographics of those it serves — and usethat data to determine how it pivots and changes to better serve students and other constituencies.

Summing it all up, Royal said, “We have a reputation of being a place to come, to start your education at an affordable rate, with high-quality faculty, strong academic rigor, plenty of support services, and to set students up to transfer to any of the prestigious four-year institutions in our area or beyond.”

 

Course of Action

Looking at HCC today, and what she projects for tomorrow, Royal said the process of evolution at the school is ongoing. And that’s because change is a constant — change within the communities being served, change in the business community and the workplace, and change when it comes to the needs of the students coming to the Homestead Avenue campus.

The pandemic accelerated this process of change in some respects, said Royal, and it also brought a greater need for reflection on just what students need — and how those needs can be met.

Returning to the subject of the new child-watch center, she said it’s a reflection of how the school has been focusing on the basic needs of students and taking direct steps to address them, work that was part of the latest strategic plan, which was completed in 2017.

“We want to be a college of academic rigor, known for helping students overcome barriers to success,” she explained, adding that when discussions were launched on this matter, there were four barriers that were initially defined — food, housing, transportation, and childcare — with area focal points, such as digital literacy, mental health, and others, identified

Each has been addressed in various ways, she said, citing initiatives ranging from a program to house students in dorms at Westfield State University (which not only provides housing but provides exposure to potential next step in the higher education journey), to another program that provides 3,000 bus passes to students to help them get to and from the campus.

Childcare has taken longer to address, she went on, adding that collected data clearly showed the need for a facility where students could place children while they were attending class or accessing services at the college. With $100,000 in support from the state, HCC was able to become the second community college in the state (Norther Essex is the other) to offer child-watch services.

While addressing these needs, HCC is also focused on the changing world of work, what it will look like in the years and decades to come, and how to prepare students for that world.

“Our focus is on having students create life-long relationships with the college,” she explained. “Culturally, we have fewer students who start, finish their education, and then focus on work for the rest of their career. Now, the world of work has shifted, the future of work has changed a lot, and we know that people make job changes much more rapidly than they did in past decades, and so therefore, there’s a different interconnection and relationship between education and workforce.

“It’s not linear anymore,” she went on. “It’s integrated, and it changes depending on how a student’s path changes in life, how many career changes they make; they’ll come back and retool through short-term training or perhaps another degree, and then they make their way into a new career field.”

 

Class Act

Summing up both the first 75 years and what comes next, Royal said that while there has been tremendous change since HCC was founded, and there is much more to come, there is a constant:

“We believe in transforming communities through education; that is at the core of what we do,” she told BusinessWest. “We believe there are a lot of different ways that people can find their path and contribute to our local economy.”

Helping individuals forge a path is what this institution has been about since it was called the Holyoke Graduate School. And that is what is being celebrated in this milestone year. u

 

George O’Brien can be reached at
[email protected]

Education

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Christina Royal

Christina Royal

Yves Salomon-Fernández

Yves Salomon-Fernández

Harry Dumay

Harry Dumay

Three local college presidents are among only 13 nationwide to be recognized last week for leadership in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion by the Assoc. of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the education-technology company Cengage.

Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal, Greenfield Community College President Yves Salomon-Fernández, and Elms College President Harry Dumay were among that select group of 13 to receive the AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship, which recognizes college and university presidents whose outstanding leadership to advance liberal education has resulted in reduced equity gaps, improved inclusion and belonging for minority students, and reformed hiring practices to promote greater diversity.

“Growing up as a first-generation, low-income, multi-racial college student, I understand some of the challenges today’s students face and the importance of having an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive,” said Royal, who was also honored last week by BusinessWest as one of the 2020 Women of Impact. “These are very important issues to me personally and professionally, as well as to our college community, and I’m honored to receive this recognition on behalf of HCC.”

The recipients were announced on Jan. 22 at the AAC&U Presidents’ Trust Symposium, part of the organization’s virtual annual meeting. The symposium brings together higher-education leaders from all institutional types to explore the most pressing issues facing colleges and universities and to share strategies for success.

“I am honored by this recognition, and I am most proud of the work that my colleagues and I are engaged in at Greenfield Community College with and for our local communities,” Salomon-Fernández said. “We know that a more just and equitable world is most conducive to citizenship and democracy.”

The other recipients of the 2021 AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship are Sandra Boham, president of Salish Kootenai College in Montana; Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Benedict College in South Carolina; Karrie Dixon, president of Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina; Alicia Harvey-Smith, president of Pittsburgh Technical College in Pennsylvania; Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in Louisiana; Valerie Roberson, president of Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts; Ron Rochon, president of University of Southern Indiana; Ivy Taylor, president of Rust College in Mississippi; Dwaun Warmack, president of Claflin University in South Carolina; and David Yarlott Jr., president of Little Big Horn College in Montana.

“We are so excited to be able to support these amazing higher-ed leaders who are making a real difference by reducing inequities and increasing access to education. At Cengage, we believe learning transforms lives, and the work of these leaders is so critical in giving students the opportunity to better their lives and in creating an educated, informed, and just society.”

Four Massachusetts presidents made the cut, two more than any other state.

“AAC&U is proud to recognize and support these exceptional leaders in their efforts to advance equity and quality as hallmarks of a liberal education across a diverse range of campuses and student populations,” AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella said.

The AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship recognizes higher-education leaders who support and advance quality, equity, and student success in undergraduate education. This includes improving degree completion or transfer for students from underrepresented groups; closing equity gaps in student success; improving diversity in hiring practices and creating more equitable hiring policies; and increasing the sense of belonging, well-being, and inclusion among students from historically underserved populations (including racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and LGBTQIA students).

“We are so excited to be able to support these amazing higher-ed leaders who are making a real difference by reducing inequities and increasing access to education,” said Fernando Bleichmar, executive vice president and general manager for U.S. Higher Education at Cengage. “At Cengage, we believe learning transforms lives, and the work of these leaders is so critical in giving students the opportunity to better their lives and in creating an educated, informed, and just society.”

In recognition of their accomplishments, the AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship recipients will each receive a one-year, complimentary AAC&U campus membership and a one-year complimentary membership in the AAC&U Presidents’ Trust, a diverse network of CEOs who are committed to advancing the vision, values, and practices that connect liberal education with the needs of an increasingly diverse student body, a global workforce, and thriving communities. The trust provides members with access to dedicated resources and events as well as exclusive opportunities to promote their thought leadership.

Women of Impact 2020

President, Holyoke Community College

The Pandemic Provides a Lens Through Which to View Her Leadership Skills

Christina Royal

Christina Royal

As she talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and her administration’s multi-leveled response to it, Christina Royal related a story that speaks volumes about both the impact of the crisis on every aspect of the higher-education experience at Holyoke Community College (HCC) and her own efforts to lead this institution through it — and beyond it.

It also helps explain why she’s been named a Woman of Impact for 2020.

This story is about a student, one of the many who needed some help with learning virtually from home — help that went beyond providing a laptop and internet connectivity.

“Through our student emergency fund, this student put in a request and said, ‘I’m so grateful for the college to provide a laptop for me … but I don’t have a desk,’” she recalled, adding that there were several people in this household suddenly faced with the challenge of trying to learn and work from home. “And that’s just one example of how we had to think about support at a deeper level, really dive into the individual needs of each of our students to support them during this time, and address the inequities that exist in the communities we serve.”

The college would go on to fund a desk for this individual, she went on, adding that this piece of furniture is symbolic of how the school has indeed expanded its view of student emergency needs during this pandemic — but also in general.

“One of the questions I bring up to employees of the college is, ‘what do we want to look like on the other side of this pandemic?’ Because I don’t want to be a person who just felt like I was trying to weather the storm. I want us to emerge stronger from this.”

Royal arrived on campus roughly five years ago with a mindset to do what was needed to address the many needs of students and help enable them to not only grasp the opportunity for a two-year college education, but to open many other doors as well. As a first-generation, low-income, biracial college student herself, she understands the challenges many of HCC’s students face — from food insecurity to lack of adequate housing and transportation — and she commits many of her waking hours thinking about how to help students overcome such barriers and achieve success, however that might be defined.

Meanwhile, as an administrator, she he has put the emphasis on long-term planning and leading for today, as well as tomorrow. This is evidenced by her push for a new strategic plan for the school — the first in its existence — but also the manner in which she is addressing this pandemic.

Instead of something to be merely survived, although that is certainly important enough, she views it as a learning experience and, in many respects, an opportunity.

“One of the questions I bring up to employees of the college is, ‘what do we want to look like on the other side of this pandemic?’” she explained. “Because I don’t want to be a person who just felt like I was trying to weather the storm. I want us to emerge stronger from this, and the work we have to do is so absolutely critical to this community, and we have an opportunity to continually strengthen ourselves.

Christina Royal meets with students at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened its doors in 2019.

Christina Royal meets with students at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, which opened its doors in 2019.

“Just like education is a journey, so is continuous improvement,” she went on, adding that this process can — and must — continue, even in the middle of a global pandemic.

Her commitment to this process, and her ability to effectively keep one eye on the present and the other on the future, certainly makes her a Women of Impact.

 

Course of Action

Royal calls them ‘town meetings.’

These are Zoom sessions that she conducts with various audiences — students, faculty, members of the community — to keep them abreast of new developments and initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the college in general. She’s staged 19 of them since March, including one just a few weeks ago in which the topic of conversation among faculty and staff was the ongoing accreditation process and the comments offered by the team at the New England Commission of Higher Education.

“I really prioritized this as part of our crisis-management plan — we really had to increase communication at the college,” she told BusinessWest. “When people are feeling isolated in their homes, and they’re uncertain about this thing called COVID, and they’re uncertain about their own health and safety, and they’re concerned about the college, I felt it was really important to come together.

“And while it’s really nice when we can come together in the same room, community is community, and we need to bring people together to feel a sense of community through this,” she said, adding that another initiative she’s implemented is the formation of a volunteer team of students and staff tasked with calling every student enrolled at the school every week “just to check in and see how they’re doing.”

These town meetings and weekly check-ins are just some of the ways Royal is providing both stewardship and forward thinking at a time when every college administrator’s abilities are being sternly tested. And the pandemic provides a lens through which her leadership skills and ability to build partnerships and create collaborative initiatives can be seen.

But first, we need to talk about life before anyone had ever heard the phrase COVID-19.

Royal became just the fourth president in HCC’s history in early 2017 after a stint as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

In an interview with BusinessWest soon after taking the helm, she provided some clear evidence of both her empathy for students and commitment to creating ever-stronger ties between the school and the communites it serves.

“I have a phrase that I’ve used often during my career — that ‘it takes a village to raise a student,’” she noted at the time. “And I really believe that having partnerships with business and industry and the community is essential for an institution of higher education to thrive. Likewise, for a community with a community college to thrive, it needs to have a strong community college. I look at it as a bi-directional relationship and partnership.”

Since her arrival, there have been a number of significant developments at the school, including a $44 million project to modernize and revitalize an antiquated Campus Center, the so-called ‘heart’ of the college, a new Center for Life Sciences, and the creation of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute in the Cubit building, which opened its doors to considerable fanfare in early 2019.

Christina Royal leads Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on a tour of HCC

Christina Royal leads Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on a tour of HCC’s new, $44 million Campus Center earlier this year.

Ironically, the new campus center staged its elaborate grand opening just a few weeks before the pandemic shut down college campuses across the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, the Culinary Arts Institute, while still operating on some levels, has seen a dramatic decrease in interest among prospective students as the pandemic has devastated the hospitality industry.

But while those new facilities are in many ways quiet, they form some of the building blocks that will support continued growth for decades to come.

No one can say with any degree of certainly when a sense of ‘normal’ will return to college campuses — HCC has already announced that most all classes will be taught remotely next spring — but Royal, as noted, is working to have her school ready for that day.

“I want us to look at this moment in time as an opportunity, and focus not just on the things that are outside of our control, but the things that we do have the ability to control,” she explained, noting that the questions and comments offered by students during those aforementioned check-ins are certainly helping in this process of continuous improvement and readying for life after COVID-19.

“When that day arrives, there will be a much-anticipated return to the classroom,” she noted, adding quickly, however, that the pandemic has proven there is certainly a place for remote learning and that it will be a big part of the equation moving forward.

“Distance learning is here to stay. And even if we have a smaller number of students on one end of the spectrum, wanting to take everything online, we have a lot of opportunity in that middle space of how we blend our in-person courses with hybrid learning.

“What’s so great about this time is that we have faculty members who are experimenting with ways to utilize this technology to more effectively reach their students and enable them to complete the work,” she went on. “And when you think about combining that with the pedagogy of the traditional classroom and their expertise in that setting, I imagine there’s going to be some wonderful opportunities to grow the blended student experience.”

 

Career Milestone

In 2021, HCC will celebrate its 75th anniversary.

At this time, no one, including Royal, can say when and how that milestone will be celebrated. But she does know it will be a time to look back at what’s been achieved, but, more importantly, focus on what will come next and how the school can do more to serve its communities and its students.

That’s what Royal has done since she’s arrived in Holyoke. It’s a mindset that has made her a great leader — at all times, and especially during these times.

And it has also made her one of this year’s Women of Impact.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times

Episode 3: June 22, 2020

George Interviews Christina Royal, President of Holyoke Community College

Christina Royal

George O’Brien interviews Christina Royal. O’Brien and Royal discuss how the pandemic has disrupted and impacted higher education, its students, and the plans of adaptation for Fall 2020.

Sponsored by:

Also Available On

buy ivermectin for humans buy ivermectin online
buy generic cialis buy cialis