Valley Venture Mentors Joins Forces with Western Massachusetts EDC
SPRINGFIELD — The Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC) announced it has welcomed Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) into the EDC ranks as a regional leader in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. With a shared vision in stimulating and facilitating a vigorous regional economy, the EDC is committed to supporting local entrepreneurship, which ultimately leads to the acceleration of economic development and community vitalization. EDC and VVM leadership have been in discussion on the future of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and have decided to join forces. “The leadership at the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts recognizes the unique value of VVM, its impactful programming, and diverse pool of mentors,” the VVM board of directors noted in a statement. “We are excited to hand over the reins to the EDC and watch VVM and the EDC work more closely together to fulfill the mission of helping all entrepreneurs in Western Mass. not just succeed, but thrive.” With this new transition, the EDC has appointed Hope Ross Gibaldi as executive director of VVM.
Mellon Foundation Awards Five Colleges $1.6 Million Faculty-development Grant
AMHERST — The Five College Consortium has been awarded a $1.6 million grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create programming that will develop faculty members’ administrative leadership skills. Titled “Building Academic Leaders in the Humanities,” the grant will fund a three-and-a-half-year program to prepare humanities faculty to take on leadership roles at Five Colleges’ member institutions — Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith colleges and UMass Amherst — and elsewhere. The program builds on a seminar one held at Amherst College in 2020 for 24 faculty members interested in taking on or already occupying administrative roles. The success of the Amherst model led the chief academic officers of the Five College campuses to propose a collaborative leadership-development effort across all five institutions. Amherst College Associate Provost and Associate Dean of Faculty Pawan Dhingra will lead the grant team, along with UMass Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professor of Sociology Michelle Budig, Mount Holyoke College Associate Dean of Faculty Elizabeth Markovits, Smith College Dean for Academic Development Hélène Visentin, and Hampshire College Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Yaniris Fernandez. The Mellon Foundation funding will support two annual institutes, one designed for early- to mid-career faculty who are planning to take on their first administrative responsibilities, and another for current faculty administrators looking to move into higher leadership roles. Facilitated by experienced campus leaders, these institutes will cover subjects ranging from managing budgets to maintaining work-life balance. Developing participants’ capacity to support diversity, equity, and inclusion will be an overall theme of both institutes.
Manning Family Foundation Gives $3 Million to UMass Amherst
AMHERST — Alumnus Paul Manning and his wife, Diane, have committed $3 million through their family foundation to expand the Manning Innovation Program at UMass Amherst. The gift provides three years of support in advancing a robust and sustainable commercialization pipeline of applied and translational research projects from the university. The Manning Innovation Program, based in the university’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), provides grants to advance applied research and development efforts in the sciences and engineering through the creation of startup companies and the licensing of intellectual property. Since its inception, 14 faculty members have received a Manning Innovation Award, including one research professor who has used these new funds to make strides toward new, life-saving liver-disease treatments. The program has also fostered a stronger culture of entrepreneurship in the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) and greater collaboration among Isenberg School of Management advisors, science and technology researchers, and industry experts as they work to translate research into field-disrupting products. The Manning Innovation Program was originally established in 2019 with $1 million in seed funding from the Mannings and was initially open only to CNS faculty. “When we established the Manning Innovation Program almost three years ago, our goal was to fund brilliant minds as they tackled some of the world’s biggest problems,” Paul Manning said. “But the program’s success has surpassed our expectations, which is why we are investing in its expansion. We look forward to seeing many more innovative solutions that are sure to make a global impact.”
Upright Education Partners with GCC on Technology Career Training
GREENFIELD — Upright Education and Greenfield Community College (GCC) are partnering to provide award-winning career-enhancement programs in technology in Western Mass. and beyond. The new partnership is being provided through GCC’s Workforce Development Office and will give learners a unique chance to participate in boot camps that help them quickly learn marketable skills in technology, including software development and user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design. Participants will be able to attend the programs virtually and can complete them in as few as 10 weeks. With Upright’s national partner network and suite of curriculum offerings and GCC’s access to the area’s working population and robust higher-education system, this partnership aims to significantly augment efforts to develop the technology workforce in the region. All courses are fully accessible to online participants and offered with a variety of pricing models. For more information on available Upright offerings, visit bootcamp.gcc.mass.edu, or attend an upcoming information session on Wednesday, March 9.
WNE College of Engineering to Offer Hands-on Integrated Photonics Training
SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University’s (WNE) College of Engineering Laboratory for Education and Application Prototypes (LEAP@WNE) in Springfield is the first to offer the latest hands-on integrated photonics training in collaboration with Spark Photonics to enhance the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Department’s optics/photonics bachelor of science in electrical engineering degree sequence. Spark Photonics, an independent commercial photonic integrated circuit-design house based in Waltham, recently delivered its first commercially available education and workforce development (EWD) photonic integrated circuit (PIC) kit to the Western New England University College of Engineering Laboratory for Education and Application Prototypes. LEAP@WNE is a state-of-the-art optics/photonics training center established through the Massachusetts Center for Advanced Manufacturing to advance innovation and job growth throughout the state. Steve Adamshick, associate professor and director of LEAP@WNE, said there will definitely be a shift in the program as a result of the EWD PIC kit. Unlike other established industries, few education and workforce-development programs focus specifically on the integrated photonics industry in the U.S., and only a handful of those offer students the type of hands-on experience that they will face in a real-world manufacturing environment. The hands-on difference at WNE has resulted in the ECE department placing 99% of its students in jobs with a median salary of $103,390 or full-tuition scholarships at prestigious R1 institutions (those with very high research activity).
Berkshire Bank Earns Gold Community Champion Award
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Bank was recently presented the Gold Community Champion Award from Banking Northeast magazine in the economic-development category. This award recognized the bank’s comprehensive efforts to foster economic resilience in its communities. Banking Northeast established the Community Champion Awards to honor the banks and credit unions who went beyond the call to aid their community in a special time of need or whose cumulative effort has made a substantial, positive impact. Winners were presented at the magazine’s Gala Awards last month at Mohegan Sun. Berkshire Bank’s Gold Community Champion Award recognized its efforts to harness its core business activities, pandemic response, community involvement, philanthropic programs, and innovative financial solutions such as MyFreedom Checking and the Futures Fund to strengthen its neighborhoods. Berkshire helped deploy nearly $1 billion in PPP funding to assist small businesses during the pandemic and helped more than 180,000 individuals with financial-wellness programming. According to an independent third party, Berkshire reinvests at a rate nearly 70% higher than the industry average. Through its BEST Community Comeback program, the company expects to lend and invest $5 billion over the next three years to lift up its communities across four key areas: fueling small businesses, community financing and philanthropy, financial access and empowerment, and funding environmental sustainability. The plan is expected to result in more businesses and jobs being created, more families achieving the dream of owning a home, more quality housing in neighborhoods, and investments in activities that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.