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Paul Tough is the bestselling author of “How Children Succeed” and a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and This American Life. In his new book, “The Years That Matter Most,” Tough describes the way higher education in America can both help and hinder young people searching for better opportunities. The book tells the stories of several remarkable students, including some for whom college acts as a powerful engine of social mobility. But Tough also reveals the sometimes hidden ways that our higher education system favors children of wealth and privilege and holds back striving young Americans from modest backgrounds.

This event is part of our “Spotlight on Education Series” which is sponsored by Platinum Sponsor, MassMutual.

The Western Mass Real Estate Investors group is excited to announce that we are hosting our first annual Real Estate Investors Summit here in the Greater Springfield area on Saturday October 19th, 2019. Join other North East Real Estate Investors at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, MA for the REI event of the fall. Whether you are a seasoned investor or just starting out, this event will bring the value and change that you may be looking for to succeed in real estate and your business.

This is a fully educational and networking type event and will not be a pitch fest of services. For more info and to grab a ticket, head over to our site we recently launched at https://nereisummit.com/. Hope to see many of you there!

Buy Tickets here!: https://nereisummit.com/register/
Ticket Prices : $75

Agenda: https://nereisummit.com/agenda/
Travel/Parking: https://nereisummit.com/travel/

Law

The #MeToo Movement Has Vast Implications in This Sector

The #MeToo movement has brought about change and challenge — from a liability standpoint — in workplaces of all kinds. And this includes the broad spectrum of education. Indeed, recent cases indicate that courts may soon hold schools, colleges, and universities strictly liable for any sexual misconduct by their staff toward their students.

By Justice John Greaney, Jeffrey Poindexter, and Elizabeth Zuckerman

By now, we’ve all seen the #MeToo movement change how Massachusetts and the nation are talking about sexual harassment and other misconduct in the workplace, in schools, in social settings, on sports teams, in public places, and in our private lives.

Justice John Greaney

Jeffrey Poindexter

Elizabeth Zuckerman

The movement has ended careers, felled prominent figures, and made many newly aware of the great number of people — men and women — who face sexual harassment at some point in their lives. It has also reminded students, teachers, professors, administrators, and parents that schools and institutions of higher education are far from immune to this type of misconduct, and that students are sometimes victims of the very staff, faculty, and coaches expected to educate, guide, coach, and protect them.

Against this backdrop, administrators of Massachusetts schools, colleges, and universities have a special reason to take note of the rising tide of complaints about sexual harassment and other gender-based discrimination. The sea change in how sexual harassment is viewed, along with the development of Massachusetts law surrounding sexual harassment in schools, colleges, and universities, suggest that Massachusetts courts may soon hold these institutions strictly liable for any sexual misconduct by their staff toward their students.

That means, whether or not the school, college, or university knew about the conduct, whether or not the institution was negligent in any way, it could be on the hook for substantial damages if a staff member commits sexual harassment. In other words, even without doing anything wrong, or knowing anything wrong was happening, an educational institution could be liable for the entirety of the harm that befalls a student.

As a result, schools, colleges, and universities need to act now to implement policies which provide the best defense if a claim of sexual harassment is made.

In Massachusetts, Chapter 151C of the General Laws, the Massachusetts Fair Educational Practices Act (MFEPA), provides students who have been subjected to sexual harassment by a teacher, coach, guidance counselor, or other school personnel with a cause of action against the educational institution. MFEPA declares that “it shall be an unfair educational practice for an educational institution … to sexually harass students in any program or course of study in any educational institution.” In conjunction with General Laws c. 214, § 1C, the right for students to be free of harassment can be enforced through the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) or through the Superior Court.

“Administrators of Massachusetts schools, colleges, and universities have a special reason to take note of the rising tide of complaints about sexual harassment and other gender-based discrimination.”

The statutes also define sexual harassment broadly, including “any sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: (i) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests, or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of the provision of the benefits, privileges, or placement services or as a basis for the evaluation of academic achievement; or (ii) such advances, requests, or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s education by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or sexually offensive educational environment.”

Chapter 151C has been interpreted several times in the courts in Massachusetts, including when:

• A male athletic director of a Massachusetts community college was reported to have provided alcohol to female students in exchange for sexual favors. Several years later, more complaints about his behavior led the college to implement a policy to prevent sexual harassment.

Reports of further inappropriate conduct led to an investigation and agreement that he would no longer coach female athletic teams. However, he continued to work at the school and, eventually, resumed coaching a women’s basketball team. Students who had been coached by the athletic director brought claims against both him and the school.

• During the investigation into a rape of a student by a teacher at a Massachusetts high school, it was disclosed that a male guidance counselor had been involved in sexual misconduct with students. The superintendent of the school district acknowledged that he was aware of continuing reports about the guidance counselor’s inappropriate relationships with students after a female student alleged that the counselor had brought her to his home on two occasions and attempted to coerce her into having sex.

• Parents reported the inappropriate conduct of a male middle-school science teacher to the vice principal and a guidance counselor. The teacher had made inappropriate comments and touched female students, and had been told by school officials to stop on three occasions. The teacher was fired after an internal investigation, but not before he allegedly molested an 11-year-old student.

Despite occasions to consider the applications of Chapter 151C, Massachusetts courts have not yet decided whether schools, colleges, and universities will be held strictly vicariously liable for sexual harassment. In the cases referenced above, it appears the schools or colleges knew about the misconduct and, at least passively, allowed it to continue.

That means that the schools or colleges could be considered negligent, because they knew, or should have known, an employee’s behavior was problematic, but they failed to act, or failed to take adequate measures to remedy the situation. However, if Massachusetts courts rule for strict liability under Chapter 151C, it will mean that it is no defense that the institution did not know what its employee was doing, or even that it took reasonable measures to screen that employee before hiring.

Instead, the mere occurrence of sexual harassment by an employee will be enough to make the institution liable to the victim.

There are indications this may be the direction in which the courts go, because a closely related statute, Chapter 151B, which governs sexual harassment in the workplace, does impose strict liability. It seems entirely possible that the courts will conclude that liability under Chapter 151C should be no different, given that the two statutes relate to the same subject matter and share a common purpose.

Furthermore, because the operative statute is clearly intended to protect vulnerable students from abuses of power by those entrusted with their well-being, it seems likely that the courts may conclude that a strict standard of liability is consistent with the underlying purposes of the statute.

“The rising awareness of the problem of sexual harassment and assault appears to make it more likely that courts will conclude that the only way to stem the tide of abuse is to put the burden on those in the best position to protect vulnerable students — the schools they attend.”

This argument seems strengthened by the popular mood regarding sexual harassment. The rising awareness of the problem of sexual harassment and assault appears to make it more likely that courts will conclude that the only way to stem the tide of abuse is to put the burden on those in the best position to protect vulnerable students — the schools they attend.

Two recent decisions suggest this result may be coming. In a 2016 federal court case, Doe v. Brashaw, Judge Douglas Woodlock gave the first indication that the courts may come down on the side of strict liability under Chapter 151C. He noted there was no clear guidance in the text of the law on whether negligence was required to hold the school, college, or university liable.

Weighing the arguments on each side, he concluded it made sense, at least at the early stage in the case at which he was reviewing the matter, to apply a strict vicarious liability standard.

More recently, in 2017, another federal judge again noted that the standard was unsettled and deferred considering the argument, made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as defendant, that it was entitled to a more favorable standard than strict liability.

Given the significant risk that Massachusetts schools, colleges, and universities will be considered liable for their employees’ misconduct, regardless of what they knew, or didn’t know, about it, how can these institutions respond? The answer is that schools, colleges, and universities need to ensure their sexual-harassment, disciplinary, and hiring policies are up to date.

This will allow these institutions to avoid hiring or retaining employees who show any indication that they will engage in sexually harassing behavior, and also allow the institutions to respond rapidly and effectively if any employee does. In addition, schools, colleges, and universities need to appropriately train and supervise all employees.

For many institutions, this will mean implementing new requirements for training and new policies for ensuring sexual harassment cannot go on in a school, college, or university without rapid detection. In addition to in-house training, the institutions should consider learning sessions taught by outside consultants, particularly law firms, with experience in handling sexual misconduct in the educational environment.

Outside investigations by impartial law firms will, when appropriate, removed the inference of bias on the part of the educational institution when considering possible misconduct by a teacher, administrator, or staff member. In sum, educational institutions need to be prepared to act quickly and decisively when faced with a complaint of sexual harassment in order to remediate any misconduct.

Justice John Greaney is a former justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and senior counsel at Bulkley Richardson. Jeffrey Poindexter is a partner and co-chair of the Litigation Department at Bulkley Richardson. Elizabeth Zuckerman is an associate in the Litigation Department at Bulkley Richardson.

Features

Grade Expectations

Trisha Canavan tells the story often, and for a reason — it resonates with everyone who hears it.

United Personnel, the staffing agency she serves as president and CEO, used to make candidates for jobs in warehousing and manufacturing, two of the company’s strongest niches, take and pass what she called a “basic math test” before they could be considered for placement with a client.

That’s ‘used to.’

United stopped the practice some time back, said Canavan, because no one — and she was only slightly exaggerating when she says ‘no one’ — passed the test.

“This was a very, very basic math-skills test, fourth- or fifth-grade level if I had to guess,” said Canavan, a former educator herself (she taught at Berkshire Community College and Cambridge Rindge & Latin School). “We’re talking about basic measurements with a ruler or tape measure, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and pretty much everybody, I would say 95% of those who took it, was unable to get a passing grade.

“We had used it as a screening tool but stopped doing that — otherwise, we wouldn’t have any employees,” she went on. “This wasn’t just people from Springfield, but because our headquarters are in Springfield, we’re seeing a lot of Springfield residents who really don’t have the basic knowledge to be successful.”

With these experiences concerning the math test ringing in her head — and filling her with frustration — Canavan offered a resounding ‘yes’ when asked a few years ago if she would like to join a group called Springfield Business Leaders for Education, or SBLE, as it has come to be called, a name that certainly tells all or most of the story.

This is a group of Springfield-area business leaders focused on education in the community and, more specifically, strategies for improving it. John Davis, president of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, which helped lead efforts to create the SBLE and now co-chairs it with Canavan, called it “a critical friend of the Springfield public school system.” And by critical, he meant both important and judicious in its assessment of what’s happening — and not happening.

The group’s unofficial mission is to ensure that students not only receive a diploma signifying they have fulfilled the requirements needed to graduate from high school, but that they have the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. One is clearly not the same as the other, said those we spoke with, using one loud, resounding voice.

“This was a very, very basic math-skills test, fourth- or fifth-grade level if I had to guess. We’re taking about basic measurements with a ruler or tape measure, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and pretty much everybody, I would say 95% of those who took it, was unable to get a passing grade.”

Put another way — not that Canavan actually said this — the group exists to perhaps create a day when United Personnel can dust off the basic math test it put on the shelf, once again give it to candidates, and see the vast majority of them pass.

That day, unfortunately, seems far off, she said, adding that SBLE is obviously working to bring it closer. It does this through advocacy, enlightenng its members about the issues in education — it recently hosted a well-attended talk by Gov. Charlie Baker on the subject of education reform at the Basketball Hall of Fame — and, most importantly, through partnerships with other advocacy groups.

These include Massachusetts Parents United (MPU), a statewide group comprised of concerned parents, and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), which has a mission similar to SBLE, but is also statewide.

Trisha Canavan

Trisha Canavan says too many students are graduating from high school without the basic skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

Keri Rodrigues, founder of Mass. Parents United, now headquartered on Maple Street in Springfield, said the group started as three women meeting in a public library. Today, it has more than 7,000 members and is the largest urban parent-advocacy organization in the Commonwealth.

The work of these groups, individually and collectively, comes at what many describe as a watershed moment for education reform in Massachusetts — when dueling education bills (more than $1 billion apart in overall funding) are being debated in the State House and when those in Gateway cities such as Springfield say students of color are disadvantaged by what they call systemic educational inequity.

Collectively, these groups intend to use this critical moment to press for real and lasting change, adequate funding, far greater accountability when it comes to how education dollars are spent, and, overall, an end to those inequities they cited.

For this issue, BusinessWest talked with those involved with SBLE and other advocacy groups about just what is at stake when it comes to education reform in the Commonwealth, but also the broad work of making students workforce-ready when their days in school are over.

School of Thought

It’s called “Defining Our Path: A Strategic Plan for Education in Worcester 2018-2023.”

It’s a 40-plus-page document that, as the name suggests, is a strategic plan for the school system for the next five years. Sections in the document have titles ranging from “Culture of Innovation” to “Investing in Educators” to “Academic Excellence.”

Davis presented BusinessWest with a copy for the sole purpose of pointing out that Springfield doesn’t have such a plan — and it desperately needs one.

“There are three things that have to happen in Springfield, three questions to be asked and answered, and it’s an open discussion among all the players — the parents, the educators, the political establishment, and others,” he said. “First, where are we? We need a real, open, and honest discussion about that, because it’s never really happened. Two, where are we going, and where do we want to go? What skills will our kids need?’ And, three, how do we get there? We have to come up with a plan.”

Work to create such a plan has become a priority for the SBLE, said Davis, adding that, as it goes about such work, it knows it needs to partner with other groups, and especially those that involve parents.

Which brings us to the MPU. Rodrigues said she started the organization out of frustration born from how the system was failing her three children, especially one with special needs.

Keri Rodrigues

Keri Rodrigues says Massachusetts Parents United was formed to give a voice to an important, and often overlooked, constituency.

“I saw that my child was already falling through the cracks in kindergarten,” she told BusinessWest, adding that she knew there were others and that it was time to advocate on their behalf. “I saw all these inequities with my kids and could actually fight a little bit. I decided to use my skills as an organizer to help those who were underserved. But I was also looking around and seeing how parents were being left out of the conversation completely.

“Parents are kind of pushed in when it’s convenient and we want to hear them and their little anecdotes, and then we push them along,” she continued. “But we’re prime stakeholders; we have to be advocates for our kids, who are supposed to be the center of the education conversation. So many of us are survivors of our public education system — I was a foster kid myself and got expelled from a public high school and was lucky to get to college — and then to watch my children, from kindergarten on, be underserved, is really frustrating.”

Not wanting to see that cycle perpetuated, she started MPU, which has steadily grown both its membership and its influence, said Rodrigues, and has been especially visible during the ongoing debate over education reform and school funding.

“A few weeks ago, we had more than 150 parents get on buses and go directly to Beacon Hill and advocate for education funding,” she said, “and making sure there’s some accountability with how this money is spent.”

But as large and powerful a constituency as parents may be, MPU knew early on it needed allies in this ongoing fight, said Rodrigues, adding that MBAE has become such an ally.

“Parents are an important constituency, and so is the business community,” she explained. “We’re both invested in these outcomes in our children because it’s not just about getting them to graduation day and handing them a diploma; we want our kids to have access to these wonderful jobs.”

Ed Lambert, executive director of the MBAE, which has been in existence for nearly 30 years, agreed, and noted that, while significant progress has been achieved since the Education Reform Act was passed in 1993, there are still significant achievement gaps — and opportunity gaps — that exist in this state.

“Our achievement gaps are among the largest in the country,” he told BusinessWest. “Students are passing MCAS and graduating, but many are inadequately prepared for college and a career.”

Thus, MBAE, working in partnership with other groups, has been examining and using data to question and “critically, but diplomatically” challenge the establishment.

“We think that, with this next iteration of education reform, with the new funding that is going to come, particularly to the Gateway cities like Springfield, there is an opportunity to close those achievement gaps,” he said. “But only if there’s continued emphasis on improvement and reform.

“Money alone is not is not going to move the needle for a lot of students,” he went on. “We have data and information showing that, statewide, some school systems, with the same or comparable demographics, are spending much more, sometimes twice as much, per student, and not getting the results.”

Subjects Matter

Returning to the state of public education in Springfield, Davis and others said the city needs a strategic plan — and the state needs to further reform education — because inequities persist, and there are serious ramifications stemming from these inequities.

“I was very, very struck by the inequities that exist,” said Canavan, again speaking from experience as an educator and screener of potential employees. “Kids who are living in the surrounding suburbs have different experiences, different opportunities, and different outcomes than their peers in Springfield and other Gateway cities, and we should all be outraged, frankly.

“There have been improvements in the school system,” she went on. “But they’re too incremental for our kids to get where they need to be fast enough. And this is an economic-development issue; employers will not locate here, and they will not stay here, if they do not have the workers they need.”

Rodrigues agreed, noting that her group was inspired by, and outraged by, recent comments she attributed to Springfield’s school superintendent to the effect that the main problem with the city’s schools wasn’t one of performance or results, but merely one of “public relations.”

“That presentation wasn’t based in reality,” she said. “When you take a look at the numbers, the outcomes we’re getting for children … they show something much different. They were talking about growth percentiles, not proficiency.”

John Davis

John Davis says Springfield lacks a strategic plan for its public school system and needs one moving forward.

Indeed, hard data suggests there are problems, and the numbers come to life in a document prepared for SBLE as it goes about its mission of education and advocacy.

Titled “A Call to Action: Building a 21st-century Education System,” the report uses numbers and words to paint a disturbing picture. Here are some examples:

• “Only 33% of third graders meet expectations for grade-level reading, which means that two-thirds of Springfield’s third-graders don’t read at grade level. Children who are not proficient readers are more likely to drop out, not attend college, and are more likely to be incarcerated.”

• “By eighth grade, only 22% are reading at grade level; only 19% are at grade level in math. That means nearly 80% of Springfield’s eighth-graders are not at grade level for math or reading.”

• “The graduation rate for Springfield’s Latino population is only 74%, and only 9% of Latinos have a bachelor’s degree.”

• “Springfield’s dropout rate is more than two times higher than the state average.”

• “While 72% of jobs will require a career certificate or college degree by 2020, only 17% of Springfield ninth-graders go on to earn a college degree or certificate within six years of leaving high school.”

The numbers are followed by that call to action, and for formation of a plan that will, among other things, improve the quality of education in Springfield by ensuring the attraction of talented, high-quality teachers; establish universal pre-K; introduce acceleration academies for immediate intervention in schools in critical condition; and lengthen school days for extended learning time with high-quality teachers.

And with that plan, those with SBLE and MPU want more transparency from school leaders and, overall, more accountability.

“We’re not getting the information, and we can’t even agree to the fact there’s a problem,” said Rodrigues. “If we’re lucky enough to get our kids to graduation day, we hand them a piece of paper that says, ‘you have a foundation, and you’re ready to access all of this opportunity in your future.’ And then we find out that the paper means nothing — they have to take two years of remedial courses before they can take a college-level course.”

Canavan agreed, and stressed, again, that lack of proficiency in school translates into both employment issues and economic-development issues.

“We continue to see a persistent skills gap, a persistent gap in work behaviors that would torpedo people’s efforts to be in the workforce,” she said in reference to what she’s observed in her business. “It’s creating more and more challenges for us as a company, but also for employers — we hear over and over again that they don’t have the qualified employees that they need to meet production needs and to meet operational needs.

“We need to look at not just whether people are qualified to get a job,” she went on, “but are they qualified, and do they have the persistence and problem-solving skills to keep a job?”

Doing the Math

Returning to the matter of that very basic math test that United Personnel once gave to candidates, Canavan said the exam had become, toward the end, what she called a “waste of paper.”

“If we used it as a screening tool, we literally would have been unable to run our business,” she said. “But what that means is that, when people go to work, they need much more training and support, and sometimes they can’t even be successful with that support and training.”

But if those tests can, indeed, become part of a movement that brings about real change and an end to the persistent inequities in education that still exist in this state, then they won’t be a waste at all.

That is Canavan’s hope, and the hope of all those in SBLE, MPU, and MBAE, who, as critical friends of the school system, have decided to take on a larger, more impactful role in trying to bring about change.

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

Opinion

Editorial

Let’s start by saying that manufacturers griping about how recent high-school graduates cannot do seemingly basic math is certainly nothing new.

They’ve been complaining about that for decades. They’ve probably always complained about that.

But such gripes are not what Springfield Business Leaders for Education (SBLE) is all about — although those complaints are duly noted, to be sure. This group of several dozen business owners and managers came together because the problem with Springfield’s schools — and the schools in many of the state’s Gateway cities — goes well beyond basic math (see related story, page 6).

In short, many students graduating from high school are not ready for college or the workplace, even though they have that diploma in their hands. Again, this is not exactly a recent phenomenon, but it’s a growing problem, one that has caught the attention of the business community — and with good reason.

These are the workers of tomorrow, or not, as is often the case. Or they’re the workers of tomorrow after they receive considerable training that amounts to what they should have learned in high school. In short, it’s an economic-development issue as well as an education issue.

This is why SBLE was created. Quality education is as important to the future of area businesses as it is to the future of the students in the classroom.

As we said at the top, SBLE wasn’t formed to bring gripes about job candidates not being to add columns of numbers to the superintendent of schools — or to tell the superintendent how to do his or her job. Or to change the curriculum. It was formed to be what co-chair John Davis, president of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, calls a critical friend of the schools — an ally, if you will.

As an ally, SBLE is working with other groups, such as Massachusetts Parents United and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, to advocate for schools and much-needed education reform, with the broad goal of improving overall outcomes and closing the wide achievement gap that still exists in the state between students in affluent communities and those in the aforementioned Gateway cities.

At the same time, and as the story on page 6 makes clear, SBLA is also working to achieve greater transparency and accountability from city school officials, because both are clearly needed. As is a long-term strategic plan for the schools moving forward — again, because one is needed.

That’s because, while everyone, or most everyone, agrees that some progress has been made in Springfield, both at individual schools and the system as a whole, the numbers don’t lie.

And those numbers show that far too many students are not able to read at grade level, the graduation rate is still far too low, and not enough students are going on to college at a time when such education is critical to achieving success in our technology-driven economy. Most importantly, the numbers show that far too many students are not going to be able to capitalize on the opportunities others are seizing because the education they received doesn’t make them ready to do so.

These are the numbers that matter. And we believe the SBLE can help change them. Business owners speak with a loud voice, they know how to partner with others to achieve success, and, most importantly, they have a huge stake in all this — their future workforce.

So, while griping about a lack of math skills is nothing new, business leaders in Springfield taking a very active role in advocating for education reform and bringing about real change is.

And we’re very glad that this is happening at this critical time.

Education

The Face of a Changing Landscape

Hampshire College President Miriam Nelson

Hampshire College President Miriam Nelson

As high-school graduating classes continue to get smaller and the competition for those intensifies, many smaller independent colleges are finding themselves fighting for their very survival. One of them is Hampshire College in Amherst, which, because of its unique mission, alternative style, and famous alums (including Ken Burns), has in many ways become the face of a growing crisis.

Miriam Nelson says she became a candidate to become the seventh president of Hampshire College — and accepted the job when it was offered to her last April — with her eyes wide open, fully aware of the challenges facing that Amherst-based institution and others like it — not that there are many quite like Hampshire.

Then she clarified those comments a little. She said she knew the school was struggling with enrollment and therefore facing financial challenges — again, as many smaller independent schools were and still are. But she didn’t know just how bad things were going to get — and how soon.

She became aware through a phone call on May 2 from the man she would succeed as president of the school, Jonathan Lash.

“He let me know that our target number for enrollment this year was significantly lower than what was expected; I think he knew, and I knew, at that time that my job this year was going to be different than what I’d planned,” she recalled, with a discernable amount of understatement in her voice.

Indeed, with that phone call — and the ensuing fight for its very survival — Hampshire became, in many ways, the face of a changing landscape in higher education, at least in the Northeast.

That’s partly because of the school’s unique mission, alternative style, and notable alums such as documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. But also because of heavy media coverage — the New York Times visited the campus earlier this month, one of many outlets to make the trip to South Amherst — and the fact that the school is really the first to carry on such a fight in an open, transparent way.

In some ways, Hampshire is unique; again, it has a high profile, and it has had some national and even international news-making controversies in recent years, including a decision by school leaders to take down the American flag on campus shortly after the 2016 election, while students and faculty members at the college discussed and confronted “deeply held beliefs about what the flag represents to the members of our campus community,” a move that led veterans’ groups to protest, some Hampshire students to transfer out, and prospective students to look elsewhere.

But in most respects, Hampshire is typical of the schools now facing an uncertain future, said Barbara Brittingham, president of the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), adding that those fitting the profile are smaller independent schools with high price tags (tuition, room, and board at Hampshire is $65,000), comparatively small endowments, and student bodies made up largely, if not exclusively, of recent high-school graduates.

That’s because high-school graduating classes have been getting smaller over the past several years, and the trend will only continue and even worsen, said Brittingham, citing a number of recent demographic reports.

Meanwhile, all schools are confronting an environment where there is rising concern about student debt and an increased focus on career-oriented degrees, another extreme challenge at Hampshire, where traditional majors do not exist.

“He let me know that our target number for enrollment this year was significantly lower than what was expected; I think he knew, and I knew, at that time that my job this year was going to be different than what I’d planned.”

None of these changes to the landscape came about suddenly or without warning, said Brittingham, noting that the storm clouds could be seen on the horizon years ago. Proactive schools have taken a variety of steps, from a greater emphasis on student success to hiring consultants to help with recruiting and enrollment management.

But for some, including several schools in New England, continued independence and survival in their original state was simply not possible. Some have closed — perhaps the most notable being Mount Ida College in Newton, which shut down abruptly two months before commencement last spring — while others have entered into partnerships, a loose term that can have a number of meanings.

In some cases, it has meant an effective merger, as has been the case with Wheelock College and Boston University and also the Boston Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music, but in others, it was much more of a real-estate acquisition, as it was with Mount Ida, bought by UMass Amherst.

What lies ahead for Hampshire College is not known, and skepticism abounds, especially after the school made the hard decision not to admit a full class for the fall of 2019. But Nelson remains optimistic.

An aerial photo of the Hampshire College campus

An aerial photo of the Hampshire College campus, which has been in the national media spotlight since it was announced that the school was looking to forge a partnership with another school in order to continue operations.

“Hampshire has always been innovative, and we’re going to do this the ‘Hampshire way,’” she said during an interview in the president’s off-campus residence because her office on the campus was occupied by protesting students. “We’re thinking about our future and making sure that we’re as innovative as we were founded to be. We need to make sure that our financial model matches our educational model.”

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked with Nelson and Brittingham about the situation at Hampshire and the changing environment in higher education, and how the school in South Amherst has become the face of an ongoing problem.

New-school Thinking

Those looking for signs indicating just how serious the situation is getting within the higher-education universe saw another one earlier this month when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation to strengthen the state’s ability to monitor the financial health of private colleges.

“Our legislation will strengthen this crucial component of our economy, but most importantly, it will help protect students and their families from an abrupt closure that could significantly impact their lives,” Baker said in a statement that was a clear reference to the Mount Ida fiasco.

The bill applies to any college in Massachusetts that “has any known liabilities or risks which may result in imminent closure of the institution or jeopardize the institution’s ability to fulfill its obligations to current and admitted students.”

And that’s a constituency that could get larger in the years and decades to come, said Brittingham, adding that demographic trends, as she noted, certainly do not bode well for small, independent schools populated by recent high-school graduates.

She cited research conducted by Nathan Grawe, author of Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, which shows that, in the wake of the Great Recession that started roughly 11 years ago, many families made a conscious decision to have fewer children, which means the high-school graduating classes in the middle and end of the next decade will be smaller.

“Things are going to get worse around 2026,” she said. “The decline that is there now will only get more dramatic, especially in New England.”

As noted earlier, Nelson understood the landscape in higher education was changing when she decided to pursue a college presidency, and eventually the one at Hampshire, after a lengthy stint at Tufts and then at the University of New Hampshire as director of its Sustainability Institute.

She told BusinessWest that Hampshire offered the setting — and the challenge — she was looking for.

“Hampshire was the one where I thought there was the most opportunity, and the school that was most aligned with more core values and my interests,” she explained, adding that she was recruited by Lash for the post. “This school has always been inquiry-based, and I always like to start with a question mark. To be at Hampshire means you have to have imagination and you have to be able to handle ambiguity when you have an uncertain future; that’s one of the hallmarks here at Hampshire.”

Imagination is just one of the qualities that will be needed to help secure a solid future for the school, she acknowledged, adding that, while the current situation would be considered an extreme, the college has been operating in challenging fiscal conditions almost from the day it opened in 1970 — and even before that.

“We started out under-resourced, and we’ve had different moments during almost every president’s tenure where there were serious concerns about whether the college could continue,” she said. “We’ve always been lean, but we’ve managed.”

Barbara Brittingham

Barbara Brittingham

“Things are going to get worse around 2026. The decline that is there now will only get more dramatic, especially in New England.”

However, this relatively thin ice that the college has operated on became even thinner with the changing environment over the past several years, a climate Nelson put in its proper perspective.

“Higher education is witnessing one of the most disruptive times in history, with decreasing demographics, increased competition for lower-priced educational offerings, and families demanding return on investment in a college education in a short period of time,” she told BusinessWest. “There’s a lot of factors involved with this; it is a crisis point.”

A crisis that has forced the college to reach several difficult decisions, ranging from layoffs — several, effective April 19, were announced last month involving employees in the Admissions and Advancement offices — to the size and nature of the incoming class.

Indeed, due to the school’s precarious financial situation — and perhaps in anticipation of the governor’s press for greater safeguards against another Mount Ida-like closing, Hampshire has decided to admit only those students who accepted the school’s offer to enroll via early admission and those who accepted Hampshire’s offer to enroll last year but chose to take a gap year and matriculate in the fall of 2019.

Nelson explained why, again, in her most recent update to the Hampshire community, posted on the school’s website, writing that “our projected deficit is so great as we look out over the next few years, we couldn’t ethically admit a full class because we weren’t confident we could teach them through to graduation. Not only would we leave those students stranded — without the potential for the undergraduate degree they were promised when they accepted Hampshire — we would also be at risk of going on probation with our accreditors.”

Hampshire College is just one of many smaller independent schools

Hampshire College is just one of many smaller independent schools challenged by shrinking high-school graduating classes and escalating competition for those students.

While reaching those decisions, leaders at the college have also been working toward a workable solution, a partnership of some kind that will enable the school to maintain its mission and character.

Ongoing work to reach that goal has been rewarding on some levels, but quite difficult on all others because of the very public nature of this exercise, said Nelson, adding that her first eight months on the job have obviously been challenging personally.

She said the campus community never really got to know her before she was essentially forced into crisis management.

And now, the already-tenuous situation has been compounded by negativism, criticism (Nelson has reportedly been threatened with a vote of no confidence from the faculty), and rumors.

“There’s a lot of chaos and false narratives out there,” she explained. “So I’ve been working really hard both in print and in many assemblies and meetings to get accurate information out. This is a world with lots of false narratives and conspiracy theories; we heard another one yesterday — they’re really creative and interesting. I don’t know how people think them up.”

Textbook Case?

As she talked about the ongoing process of finding a partnership and some kind of future for Hampshire College, Nelson said she’s received a number of phone calls offering suggestions, support, and forms of encouragement as she goes about her work in a very public way.

One such call was from a representative of the Mellon Foundation.

“He said he’s never seen a college do this in a transparent way like we are,” she said. “He’s right, and when you’re doing it in real time, and transparently, it’s going to be clunky; it’s not like you’ve got every detail worked out and figured out right at the very beginning. We’re doing the figuring out in a public way and engaging with the community and our alums and the broader community and the higher-ed community as we do this.

“It’s a very different way to do it, and no one has ever done it; it is a very Hampshire way,” she went on. “But that makes it really hard, and I can see why every other president who has been in this place has not done this in an open way. I understand it.”

Miriam Nelson

Miriam Nelson says Hampshire College is determining the next stage in its history in real time, which means the process will be “clunky.”

Elaborating, she said there are no textbooks that show schools and their leaders how to navigate a situation like this, and thus she’s relying heavily on her board (in the past, it met every quarter; now it meets every week), the faculty, students, and other college presidents as she goes about trying to find a workable solution.

And there are some to be found, said Brittingham, adding that several effective partnerships have been forged in recent years that have enabled both private and public schools to remain open.

Perhaps the most noted recent example is Wheelock and Boston University, although it came about before matters reached a crisis level.

“Wheelock looked ahead and felt that, while they were OK at that moment, given the trends, given their resources, and given their mission, over time, they were going to be increasingly challenged,” she explained. “So they decided that sooner, rather than later, they should look for a partner, which turned out to be Boston University, which Wheelock essentially merged into.

“That’s seen as a good arrangement, it was handled well, and they were able to preserve the name of the founder in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University,” she went on. “They were able to transition a large number of faculty and staff to Boston University, it was geographically close … it’s been a smooth transition.”

Another partnership that fits that description is the one between two small public colleges in Vermont — Johnson State College and Lyndon State College.

“They had compatible missions — one of them was more liberal-arts-oriented, and the other was more focused on career programs — so they merged and became Northern Vermont University,” she said, adding that the merger allows them to share central services and thus gain efficiencies in overall administration.

Whether Hampshire can find such an effective working arrangement remains to be seen, but Nelson takes a positive, yet realistic outlook.

“I continue to be optimistic because Hampshire is an exceptional place with a great reputation,” she said. “But it’s not easy facing layoffs and things like that. But I believe this year, 2019, will be the toughest year, and then things will get better.”

Charting a New Course

Time will tell whether this projection comes to pass.

The decision not to admit a full class for the fall of 2019 is seen by some as a perhaps fateful step, one that will make it that much harder to put the college on firmer financial ground moving forward.

But Nelson, as noted, is optimistic that the ‘Hampshire way’ will yield what could become a model for other schools to follow in the years and decades to come, as the higher-education landscape continues to evolve.

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

Education

Closing the Gap

Amanda Gould

Amanda Gould says the grant awarded to Bay Path University will fund a collaborative effort to help improve the digital fluency of the workforce.

When people talk about an ‘IT gap,’ Amanda Gould says, the appropriate response might be, ‘which one?’

Indeed, there’s the gap that seems to getting most of the attention these days, the one that involves the huge gender disparity in the IT workforce, with the vast majority of those well-paying jobs going to men, said Gould, chief administrative officer for the American Women’s College at Bay Path University, one of the institutions working to do something about this through its expanding Cybersecurity and IT degree programs.

But there’s another gap, she said, and this one involves the workforce and its digital fluency — or lack thereof. In short, too many people lack the necessary skills to thrive in the modern workplace, especially in IT-related roles, and the need to devise solutions for changing this equation is becoming critical.

For this reason, the nonprofit Strada Education Network committed $8 million to what it calls the ‘innovative solutions in education-to-employment’ competition, a name that speaks volumes about its mission.

And Bay Path emerged as one of the winners in this competition, garnering $1.58 million for a three-year project appropriately called “Closing the Gaps: Building Pathways for Women in a Technology-driven Workforce” (note ‘gaps’ in the plural).

This will be a collaborative effort, said Gould, adding that work is already underway with a number of partners, including the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board, the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, Pas the Torch for Women, Springfield Technical Community College, the UMass Donohue Institute, and others.

“Thinking about IT being in and of itself a discipline is, in my view, becoming obsolete.”

This work, said Gould, “involves extensive employer research and engagement, and building capacity of the American Women’s College to scale enrollment of adult women and prepare them with core cybersecurity and information-technology competencies that meet the needs of employers, support them as they move to degree completion, and assist them to successfully transition to careers in cybersecurity and IT-related employment.”

The key word in that sentence is ‘core,’ she said, because such competencies are now needed to succeed in jobs across virtually all sectors, not just IT and cybersecurity, and, as noted, many individuals simply don’t have them, and thus doors to some opportunities remain closed.

Opening them is the purpose of the of the Strada Education Network program, said Gould, adding that it will address a large problem that is obvious, yet often overlooked.

“What we’re not doing well overall when we think about our workforce is recognizing that technology is becoming increasingly more important in any role in any industry,” she explained. “Thinking about IT being in and of itself a discipline is, in my view, becoming obsolete; technology is a part of any organization running, and we should be less focused on training people to live in a silo or column that prepares them to fulfill very specific functions, and instead be training our women across all our majors to be thoughtful about how technology may impact their future roles in the workforce and how to be more engaged with ways technology helps them perform the aspirations they have in a variety of careers.”

Patricia Crosby, executive director of the MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board, agreed. She said her agency and other workforce-related partners will play a key role in this initiative — specifically bringing business leaders and those in the education sector together in the same room to discuss how curriculum can and should be structured to vastly improve the odds of student success and make what has been a fairly closed field much more open.

“The IT field has not been an open field to newcomers, diverse workers, and female workers,” said Crosby. “The Bay Path program is attempting to remedy some of that and make the pathways clearer.”

Overall, the nearly $1.6 million grant will be put toward a variety of uses, said Gould, who listed everything from career coaching to scholarships; from curriculum development to putting students in situations where they’re getting hands-on training in their chosen field. And all of them are pieces to the puzzle when comes to not only entering the workforce, but succeeding in a career.

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the ‘closing the gaps’ initiative and why it is so critical when it comes to today’s workforce.

Keys to Success

Smashing Bay Path’s program down to a few key swing thoughts, Gould said it basically involves determining which IT skills are most needed in the workplace, which ones are missing in a large number of applicants and employees, and how to effectively provide those skills.

And while it’s easy to state the problem and this three-year project’s goals, devising solutions won’t be quite so easy because the problems are systemic and fairly deep-rooted.

Patricia Crosby

Patricia Crosby says the grant awarded to Bay Path University will help create clearer, better pathways into an IT field that historically has not been open to women, newcomers, and diverse workers.

“As higher-education institutions,” Gould explained, “we haven’t kept up with our education and our curriculum to make sure that, as students are leaving with a psychology degree or a communications degree or nursing degree, we are building in exposure to these tool sets and these skills. By being more theoretical in our education, we’ve almost created the gaps.

“I really think we’re at a moment in time when we need to be more thoughtful about integrating technology for all students,” she went on, adding that, if those in higher ed created the gaps, it’s now incumbent upon them to close them.

Elaborating, she noted that cybersecurity, while still a specific discipline and course of study, is also part of myriad job descriptions today — for those helping with social-media campaigns to those handling customer records — and thus cyber should be part of occupational training.

This is a relatively new mindset, she acknowledged, one that involves a close partnership between the business community and those in higher education.

To put it in perspective, she cited some research conducted by Strada and Gallup regarding the relevancy of educational programs.

“When they were interviewing higher-ed administrators about how prepared they thought their students were for the workforce, a majority of them said ‘they’re very prepared,’” she noted. “But when they interviewed employers, a very small percentage of them thought the students were truly prepared to enter the workforce. There’s an enormous disconnect.”

A commitment to closing it explains why the Strada network is giving $8 million to seven winners of its competition, and also explains why partners like the EDC and the MassHire facilities will play such a critical role in this endeavor.

They will help connect those with the project to industry groups and specific companies with the goal of not only determining the skill sets they need in their employees, but placing students in situations where they gain valuable hands-on experience.

These experiences can include job shadowing, interviewing someone in a particular role, project-based coursework, or actual internships, said Gould.

“There are a variety of ways we can get our students connected with employers,” she said, adding that such connections are vital to understanding the field, comprehending the role IT plays in it, and, ultimately, gaining employment within that sector.

“In an ideal scenario, our students are off and working,” she went on. “It would be better if they were working in a field they see as their career rather than in a job where they’re working to offset expenses. If there are ways to get students into the workplace before graduation, we want to nurture those entry points.”

Crosby agreed.

“In an ideal scenario, our students are off and working. It would be better if they were working in a field they see as their career rather than in a job where they’re working to offset expenses.”

“In this field [IT], more than any other, as much as any credentials or degrees, employers are looking for experience,” she said. “There’s a gap between the people who are learning it and the people who are getting the jobs because the people who get the jobs already have experience. There’s a bridge that has to be crossed between any education and training program and the workplace.

Sound Bytes

As she talked about the Bay Path program and how to measure its success, Gould said there will be a number of ways to do that.

These include everything from the level of dialogue between the business community and those in education — something that needs to be improved — to the actual placement rates of graduates in not only the IT and cyber fields, but others as well.

In short, the mission is to close the gaps, as in the plural. There are several of them, and they are large, but through a broad collaborative effort, those involved in this initiative believe they can begin to close those gaps and connect individuals to not only jobs but careers.

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

Education

Reservoir of Talent

Ware High School graduates

Ware High School graduates, from left, Felicity Dineen, Jordan Trzpit, Valentina Towne, Joe Gagnon, Morgan Orszulak, and Seth Bourdeau with Michael Moran (right), president of Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which helped fund tuition and textbooks for the students’ EMT training at Holyoke Community College’s satellite in Ware.

 

 

Seth Bordeau had no plans to become a paramedic, but a chance elective at Ware High School last year — “Introduction to Fire Science,” taught by Ware Fire Department Deputy Chief Edward Wloch — led him down an unexpected path.

“I was less than enthusiastic, but slightly interested in the fire-science class,” Bordeau said. “But after every class, I found myself more and more excited for the next. The subject of emergency services was fascinating, and as the year-long course was coming to an end and graduation grew closer, I knew I’d miss this class the most. I also knew that I wanted to pursue this career.”

Fortunately, the elective led to an opportunity to take an EMT class at the Holyoke Community College satellite located at the Education to Employment (E2E) site on Main Street in Ware. He and fellow Ware High students who finished the high-school elective are now contemplating a career in fire science and emergency medicine. Baystate Wing Hospital Corp., one of the E2E’s local business partners, provided a matching grant that covered half the tuition and textbooks for the EMT course for each of the students.

“When we took a step back and took a broader look, we realized there was a hole in the region — there really weren’t any institutions of higher learning past high school, very little if any public transportation, and a lack of resources for people looking for jobs and employers looking for qualified workers.”

“I signed up for the EMT course almost immediately and didn’t think twice about my decision,” said Bordeau. “The EMT course ran from June to August, the whole summer, and looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted the summer to be any different. I have completed the practical exam and passed, and I am now onto taking my written exam. Once that is completed, I’ve been offered a position as an EMT for the town of West Brookfield. I hope to further my career by looking into paramedic school.”

This career pipeline between Ware High School and HCC’s satellite in Ware is just one example of how E2E — initially forged as a partnership between the Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp. (QVCDC) and HCC — is building connections between higher education, local businesses, economic-development leaders, and the community to meet workforce needs, said Jeff Hayden, vice president of Business and Community Services at HCC.

“From an academic point of view, they’re really looking to provide hands-on training activities for students who maybe aren’t sure what they want to do, or aren’t as book-motivated as some students might be. The hands-on training is giving them experience in an actual occupation,” said Hayden, noting that Ware High School added a criminal-justice elective to its roster of project-based, career-focused learning in 2018, and will introduce a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course in the fall of 2019.

Those efforts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to E2E programming, which features a range of resources for employers looking for talent and individuals seeking jobs (and the skills needed to procure them), and even a transportation service, the Quaboag Connector, that helps people access these services across these lightly populated towns in West-Central Mass.

“E2E is really a unique and innovative facility to help meet the needs of folks in our rural, former mill-town communities,” said Sheila Cuddy, executive director of the QVCDC. Several years ago, she explained, her organization was looking at strategic planning in the 15 communities it serves.

Jeff Hayden said HCC meets a need in Ware and surrounding towns

Jeff Hayden said HCC meets a need in Ware and surrounding towns for students who might be burdened by a long commute to the nearest college campus.

“We had been meeting with educators and small-business people and larger employers about the disconnect in our unemployment rates in this region, which tend to be 1% to 2% above the state average,” Cuddy told BusinessWest. “At the same time, we had employers who had difficulty hiring qualified workers. When we took a step back and took a broader look, we realized there was a hole in the region — there really weren’t any institutions of higher learning past high school, very little if any public transportation, and a lack of resources for people looking for jobs and employers looking for qualified workers.”

After HCC came on board as the QVCDC’s higher-ed partner in E2E, Country Bank stepped up with class-A office space in downtown Ware it no longer needed, and a mix of business funders (including Monson Savings Bank), grants, and tax credits began to take shape. “Since then, it has mushroomed,” Cuddy said.

For this issue’s focus on education, BusinessWest takes a look at how Education to Employment has brought new levels of collaboration and creativity to bear on the persistent problem of matching job seekers with jobs — often jobs, as in Bordeau’s case, they had no idea they’d want.

Key Connections

In one sense, Hayden noted, the E2E center was created to provide a place where individuals could connect with the college, because a 45-minute commute could be an obstacle — in both time and money — to enrolling in college. “So if you had a place where you could get information, resources, and a study place, with technology there, that might be advantageous.”

Indeed, the roughly 3,000-square-foot center located at 79 Main St. in Ware includes two classrooms, as well as private study areas and office space. Computer workstations are available for community members interested in enrolling in credit classes at HCC as online students. Meanwhile, the center has offered non-credit classes in hospitality and culinary arts, manufacturing, and health careers. Staffers are also on hand to help people with résumé writing, job-interview and application advice, and soft skills that all employers seek.

“They might need help with a résumé, or they might need additional classes, either for college credit or workforce-training classes to get certification for a new job. Or there might be questions about how to apply for financial aid,” Cuddy said.

“We have several computers and robust broadband service,” she added. “It really has become what we envisioned it to be — an education-to-employment center. We’ve had several ServSafe classes to help people step into the hospitality industry, which also helps local restaurants. We did some training with the Mass. Gaming Commission to prepare for casino jobs. We’ve also done manufacturing training with MassHire folks from the Franklin-Hampshire region.”

In addition, local employers have come to E2E looking for skilled workers, and sometimes matches are made through job fairs, she said. “We also have a local veterans’ group that meets there once a month. It really has become a vibrant and vital community resource and a respectful place for people to come to learn.”

Hayden agreed, citing efforts like a business-led program aimed at instilling workforce training and soft skills in the 16-to-24 age group. “They’ve also done programs at the QVCDC where they help people save money to start businesses. They do computer classes, literacy classes, financial-literacy classes, and we’ve done some of that stuff as well out there. It has become very active.”

It’s all supplemented by the Quaboag Connector, a mini-bus system that brings people back and forth between Palmer, Ware, and the other Quaboag communities for jobs, classes, and other things, Hayden noted. “That’s been extremely effective. Oftentimes, we think of the poverty in the urban core of Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee, and we don’t necessarily think of the rural or suburban poor, especially in the communities out east, where the challenges of transportation, day care, and elder care are the same as in urban communities. Getting to work on time is a challenge without buses and vans to make it work.”

Baystate Health’s Eastern Region, which includes Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Mary Lane, is one of the Quaboag Connector’s partners, providing $90,000 in funding to the transportation initiative.

“The consequences of the lack of transportation and unemployment elevate the importance to invest in these local initiatives. Both provide good options for our young people,” said Mike Moran, Baystate’s Eastern Region president. “Baystate Health is strongly committed to the many communities in our region and will continue to work with our community partners to focus and grow programs and initiatives that promote wellness, education, and workforce development.” 

Natural Fit

Surveying the growing roster of programs run through E2E, Hayden said the partnerships forged among higher education, the business community, and other groups, all of whom are seeking similar outcomes when it comes to building a vibrant workforce, have come together naturally and organically.

E2E offices

Country Bank donated space on Main Street in Ware to the QVCDC for the E2E offices.

“It doesn’t feel forced at all; it feels like people really want to work together to make something happen,” he told BusinessWest. “The challenge is always financial resources. None of us singly have enough resources to make it work, and even jointly, it would be difficult to make some of these initiatives work, but we’ve all been working together to find those resources.”

The needs remain significant, Cuddy added.

“We have a number of manufacturers, small and large, based in our region that are facing the challenge of a workforce that’s aging out. I know a company with more than 100 employees, and within five years, 50% of those employees will be approaching retirement age. I know everyone is having difficulty finding people who are certified to be CNAs, especially as the population ages, and other healthcare careers are having the same issues — the aging of the existing workforce and training newer folks needed to take up these careers.”

That’s why Education to Employment makes sense, and is needed, she went on.

“These community partnerships really speak to Western Mass., whether it be out of necessity or creativity or a general spirit of neighborliness. Especially in the smaller communities, there’s a recognition that all of us working together accomplish a whole lot more than we could individually.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

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Education

More Than a Head Start

Architects rendering of the $14 million Educare Center now under construction in Springfield.

Architects rendering of the $14 million Educare Center now under construction in Springfield.

The new $14 million Educare Center now under construction in Springfield is focused on education, obviously, but parental involvement and workforce development are key focal points within its broad mission.

Mary Walachy calls it “Head Start on steroids.”

It’s a term she has called upon often, actually, when speaking to individuals and groups about Educare, an innovative model for high-quality early education that’s coming to Springfield next year — only the 24th such center in the country, in fact.

“You have to work with a Head Start partner. That’s a requirement in every Educare site across the country,” said Walachy, executive director of the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, one of the lead partners in the effort to launch the local Educare school. “The base program meets the Head Start national requirements. But then there’s a layer of extensive higher quality. Instead of two adult teachers in the classroom, there needs to be three. Instead of a six-hour day, there needs to be eight or 10. There are higher ratios of family liaisons to families.”

Then there are the elements that Educare centers have really honed in on nationwide: Parental involvement and workforce development — and the many ways those two concepts work together.

“The research is clear — if kids get a good start, if they have a quality preschool, if they arrive at school really ready to be successful and with the skills and language development they need, they can really be quite successful,” Walachy said. “However, at the same time, it’s extremely important they go home to a strong family. One is still good, but both together are a home run.”

The takeaway? Early-education programs must engage parents in their children’s learning, which is a central tenet to Educare. But the second reality is that families often need assistance in other ways — particularly Head Start-eligible families, who tend to be in the lower economic tier.

“We must assist them to begin the trajectory toward financial security,” Walachy said, and Holyoke Chicopee Springfield (HCS) Head Start has long done this by recruiting and training parents, in a collaborative effort with Holyoke Community College, to become classroom assistants, who often move up to become teachers. In fact, some 40% to 50% of teachers in HCS Head Start are former Head Start mothers.

“So they already have a model, but after we get up and running, we want to put that on a bit of a steroid as well,” she noted. That means working with the Federal Reserve’s Working Cities program, in partnership with the Economic Development Council of Western Mass., to steer Head Start and Educare families onto a pathway to better employment opportunities. “It’s getting on a trajectory for employment and then, we hope, financial security and success for themselves and their families.”

“The research is clear — if kids get a good start, if they have a quality preschool, if they arrive at school really ready to be successful and with the skills and language development they need, they can really be quite successful. However, at the same time, it’s extremely important they go home to a strong family. One is still good, but both together are a home run.”

She noted that early education evolved decades ago as a workforce-support program, offering child care so families could go to work or go to school. “We’ve shifted in some ways — people started saying, ‘wait a minute, this isn’t just child care, this is education. We are really putting them on a pathway.’ But now we’ve got to circle back and do both. Head Start was always an anti-poverty program. More recently, it’s really started focusing on employment and financial security for families.”

By making that dual commitment to parent engagement and workforce training, she noted, the organizations supporting the Educare project in Springfield are making a commitment to economic development that lifts families — and, by extension, communities. And that makes this much more than a school.

Alone in Massachusetts

The 24th Educare school in the U.S. will be the only one in Massachusetts, and only the second in New England, when it opens next fall at 100 Hickory St., adjacent to Brookings School, on land provided by Springfield College.

The $14 million project was designed by RDg Planning & Design and is being built by Western Builders, with project management by O’Connell Development Group.

Mary Walachy

Mary Walachy says that while it’s important to educate young children, it’s equally important that they go home to strong families.

Educare started with one school in Chicago and has evolved into a national learning network of schools serving thousands of children across the country. An early-education model designed to help narrow the achievement gap for children living in poverty, Educare Springfield is being funded locally by a variety of local, state, and national sources including the Davis Foundation, the Gage Olmstead Fund and Albert Steiger Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the MassMutual Foundation, Berkshire Bank, MassDevelopment, the MassWorks Infrastructure Program at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Florence Bank, Capital One Commercial Banking, and the Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Grant Fund through the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care in collaboration with the Community Economic Development Assistance Corp. and its affiliate, the Children’s Investment Fund. A number of anonymous donors have also contributed significant funding.

Educare Springfield will offer a full-day, full-year program for up to 141 children from birth to age 5, under licensure by the Department of Early Education and Care. The center will also serve as a resource in the early-education community for training and providing professional development for future teachers, social workers, evaluation, and research.

Just from the education perspective, the local need is certainly there. Three years ago, the Springfield Public Schools Kindergarten Reading Assessment scores revealed that preschool children from the Six Corners and Old Hill neighborhoods scored the lowest among city neighborhoods for kindergarten reading readiness, at 1.1% and 3%, respectively. On a broader city scale, the fall 2017 scores showed that only 7% of all city children met all five benchmarks of kindergarten reading readiness.

Research, as Walachy noted, has proven time and again that kids who aren’t kindergarten-ready are at great risk of falling further behind their peers, and these same children, if they’re not reading proficiently by the end of third grade, are significantly less likely to graduate high school, attend college, or find employment that earns them a living wage.

Breaking that cycle means engaging children and their parents — and it’s an effort that could make a multi-generational impact.

Come Together

That potential is certainly gratifying for Walachy and the other partners.

“I think we’re really fortunate that Springfield got this opportunity to bring in this nationally recognized, quality early-childhood program,” she said, adding that the Davis Foundation has been involved from the start. “There has to be a philanthropic lead partner in order to begin to explore Educare because it does require fundraising, and if you don’t have somebody already at the table, it makes it really hard to get anybody else to join the table.”

The board of Educare Springfield, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, will hold Head Start accountable for executing the expanded Educare model. Educare Springfield is also tackling enhanced programs, fundraising, and policy and advocacy work associated with the model. A $7 million endowment is also being developed, to be administered by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, revenue from which will support operating costs.

“We did not want to develop a building that we could then not pay to operate,” Walachy noted, adding that Head Start’s federal dollars will play a significant role as well. “We want to develop a program kids in Springfield deserve. They deserve the best, and we think this is one of the best, and one this community can support.

“No one argues that kids should have a good experience, and that they begin learning at birth,” she went on. “But nothing good is cheap. And I will tell you that Educare isn’t cheap. But it sends a policy message that you’ve got to pay for good programs if you want good outcomes.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Education

Culture Shock

Emily Rabinsky guides two HCC students in a lab project.

Emily Rabinsky guides two HCC students in a lab project.

As she walked BusinessWest through one of the brand-new labs in Holyoke Community College’s Center for Life Sciences, Professor Emily Rabinsky said there’s plenty for students to appreciate.

“Our old lab space was very outdated and not very conducive to learning,” said Rabinsky, who coordinates the Biotechnology program at HCC. “There were two long bays with a tall shelf in between that made it very difficult for the students to see what the lecturer was referring to, and the equipment was very outdated.”

Not so today.

“At our recent open house, some students happened to walk by, peeked in, and said, ‘wow, this is amazing,’” she said. “I think this facility could rival many of the four-year colleges.”

Take, for example, the only certified cleanroom at any Massachusetts community college, and one of very few at any college or university in Western Mass.

Once it’s fully operational, the cleanroom will have a certification rating of ISO 8, which means air quality of no more than 100,000 particles per cubic foot. Inside the cleanroom, there will be a hooded biosafety cabinet where the sterility will increase to ISO 7, or no more than 10,000 particles per cubic foot.

“It’s pretty unique at the community-college level,” Rabinsky told BusinessWest. “It’s something commonly used in many of the life-science research areas. Students will learn how to minimize contamination and keep the space sterile for any kinds of cells they’re working with.”

Take, for example, a class she’s currently developing called “Cell Culture and Protein Purification,” which will make copious use of the cleanroom.

“We’ll be training students in the cell-culture class in how to maintain mammalian cell cultures, because they can be easily contaminated with bacteria or other microbes that are in the air,” she explained. “Mammalian cell cultures are commonly used in any kind of research studying cancer, or studying new drug therapies, so it’s a good skill to know.”

The cleanroom will also be utilized as a training facility for area professionals — for instance, in how to monitor the air for microbial content, commonly known as particle count.

“In a cleanroom, there should be fewer particles in the air because we have a special kind of filtration. So it has to constantly be monitored and verified,” she said. “Any cleanroom at UMass or any kind of industry has that monitoring done for them, so if someone wants to go into that kind of field, they could get that training here.”

So, while students are being trained in laboratory settings similar to what they will experience in industry, making them more competitive for the biotech job market, Rabinsky said, HCC serves a local workforce-development mission by training non-students as well.

“A lot of these local biotech companies that do this kind of work, they find it can be very costly for them to train new employees at their facility, and at the same time, they’re risking contaminating their facilities with these new workers that are just learning the technique, so why not do it here where it’s not such a high risk?”

On the Cutting Edge

HCC recently staged a grand-opening ceremony for the 13,000-square-foot, $4.55 million Center for Life Sciences, located on the lower level of HCC’s Marieb Building. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awarded HCC a $3.8 million grant for the project, which was supplemented by $750,000 from the HCC Foundation’s Building Healthy Communities Campaign, which also paid for the construction of the college’s new Center for Health Education on Jarvis Avenue in Holyoke.

“Those grants outfitted the biotechnology program but also all of the programs that fit in around it, including microbiology, general biology, and genetics,” Rabinsky said, noting that the new space includes two labs, the cleanroom, a prep room, and a lecture area.

Grant funds and donations also paid for new equipment, including a high-end, research-grade fluorescent microscope, like those used in the pharmaceutical industry; a micro volume spectrophotometer, used to measure small amounts of genetic material; and an electroporator, for genetic engineering. Meanwhile, a cutting-edge thermocycler can take a small sample of DNA and make billions of copies in an hour.

About half of Rabinsky’s students are interested in going into biotechnology, with most of those specifically interested in medical biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, as well as medical devices, an industry with strong roots in Western Mass. and the Boston area.

“I also have students who are just interested in the life sciences, interested in research, and just want to be exposed to all the different areas of biotechnology,” she went on. “A lot of these skills can be applied to many different fields. They may be interested in going into genetics, for example. I would say one of the challenges is drawing in the kids in who may not have thought about biotechnology or biology.”

To that end, in her introductory biotechnology course, she incorporates activities that students can relate to their everyday lives.

“Last week, we did a fun lab where he tested for the presence of genetic modification in things like cheese fries and Cheetos,” she explained. “Food producers aren’t required to list the presence of GMOs unless it’s above a certain percentage. So they’ll grind it up, extract the DNA, and test for the presence of GMOs. That was fun — they could have a hands-on experience and test for something that is very commonplace that we’re all aware of.”

Important Evolution

Rabinsky admitted some might not see the new center as a necessity since HCC already had a functioning facility upstairs, but said it was important to keep the college on the cutting edge and attract more students to give the life sciences a look.

“This makes them excited about the field, and it’s more a conducive space for learning, with these small tables that make working in groups much easier. Then we have newer technologies and new equipment to train students on, which are very similar to what they’ll in the field.”

Of course, it all starts with the instruction, and on that front, Rabinsky said the Center for Life Sciences will continue to prepare students to enter what is certainly a growing field from a jobs perspective.

“I’ve had students that have gone on to UMass and said that they learned things here they haven’t learned there, and that our equipment properly prepared them for graduate research,” she said. “That’s really nice to hear.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Opinion

Editorial

Sept. 17 was a huge day for Springfield and this region. It was, as they say, a ground-breaking moment, both literally and figuratively.

As for the literal part of that equation, ground was broken for the $14 million Educare early education school to be constructed adjacent to the Brookings School, on land provided by Springfield College, and operated by Holyoke, Chicopee Springfield Head Start. This is the 24th Educare School to be built in the United States and the only one in Massachsetts. This was a typical ground-breaking ceremony with a host of local and state leaders, including Lt. Gov. Karen Polito.

As for the figurative part, this development is potentially ground-breaking on a number of levels. Educare represents what is truly cutting edge when it comes to practices in early education, and Educare Springfield represents an enormous opportunity for city residents to help break the cycle of poverty that has existed for decades.

Educare, which represents a national collaboration between the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Ounce of Prevention Fund, and hundreds of other public-private partners across the country, offers an early education model designed to help narrow the achievement gap for children living in poverty. This model, which involves a full-day, full-year program for up to 141 children from birth to age five, incorporates embedded and ongoing professional development of teachers, intensive family engagement, and high-quality teaching practices, and utilizes data to advance outcomes for students in the program.

In other words it focuses on all three of the critical elements involved on the early-education process: Children, their families, and their educators. And all are equally important.

The students? Their participation in this program is obvious. Study after study has shown the importance of early education in setting young children on a course for life-long learning and providing them a far better chance to stay on that course. The year-long, all-day model translates into a more comprehensive — and more impactful — learning experience.

As for families, they are also an integral part of the early education process. Parents must become invested in the process and in their child’s education, and the Educare model ensures that this is the case.

And the educators? They are often the forgotten piece in this equation. Historically underpaid and seemingly underappreciated, early education teachers have a vital role in putting young children on a path to life-long learning. Ongoing professional development is an important component in this process.

Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, a long-time supporter and advocates for early education, played a lead role in making the Educare center a reality. But there were many other supporters as well, including the the Gage Olmstead Fund and Albert Steiger Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; the MassMutual Foundation; Berkshire Bank; MassDevelopment; MassWorks Infrastructure Program at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development; the Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Grant Fund through the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care in collaboration with the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) and their affiliate, the Children’s Investment Fund; the George Kaiser Family Foundation; Florence Bank; Capital One Commercial Banking; and anonymous donors.

All these businesses and agencies understand the importance of early education, not only to the children and to the families, but to the city of Springfield and the entire region. As we’ve said on many occasions, early education is an education issue, but it is also an economic development issue.

And that’s why this is a ground-breaking development for this area, in all kinds of ways.

Education Sections

Art of the Matter

Gabriela Micchia with the multiplication charts created by Holyoke fourth-graders.

Gabriela Micchia with the multiplication charts created by Holyoke fourth-graders.

Forty-two years ago, Enchanted Circle Theater was born as, true to its name, a touring theater company, but its interactions in school classrooms led to a dramatic evolution of its mission. Today, the nonprofit — which works not only in theater arts, but with a whole host of creative endeavors — partners with schools and other organizations on a concept known as arts integration, which uses creativity to make education more impactful — and more fun.

As Gabriela Micchia unfolded a series of multiplication tables in the form of brightly hand-colored diagrams, she explained how they’re much more than mere teaching tools.

“They use these almost like multiplication flash cards,” she said of the Morgan School fourth-graders who created them, pointing out how the numbers connect in straight lines to create a times table for the central digit. “I just made the dots, and they connected the dots, and we talked about how to put the triangles together.”

It’s undoubtedly a more entertaining way to learn math facts than simple recitation. But the real magic happened later, when the students visited another fourth-grade class and excitedly explained how to create the charts and use them to play a math game, said Micchia, a teaching artist with Enchanted Circle Theater in Holyoke. In short, the kids became the teachers.

“It goes back to the idea of the pride they have in the knowledge they gain,” Micchia said. “As much information as they retain from an adult showing them what to do, I think sometimes it’s easier for them to understand it from another student. They see each other doing it.”

That’s a typical story for Enchanted Circle Theater, a 42-year-old, Holyoke-based nonprofit that partners with schools and other organizations to educate through the creative arts.

“It’s an immersion into creative and critical thinking around math concepts,” said Priscilla Kane Hellweg, the long-time executive artistic director. “We hear students telling their friends what they’re working on, and they care about what they’ve created because it’s their creative process. It’s a sense of ownership, so seeing their work, being able to walk by it in the hallway and share it with others, there’s a pride in accomplishment, and a sense of joy.”

It’s a model applicable not just to math, but to all school subjects — with a focus at all times on English-language communication skills.

There’s something about that moment of magic that happens between the audience and the performer during a live performance — there’s this alchemy that happens. And I wanted to follow up on that; I wanted more contact.”

For example, Hellweg said, “we do a lot of work in social studies, where our students will research and write and then perform an original play on the Trail of Tears or immigration or the Civil War or … well, I can give you 42 years worth of content.”

Science is a big focus as well, she added, citing a program for Holyoke fifth-graders called “Where Does Your Water Go?”

“They studied the water cycle, from falling down from the sky into a sewage system into our river right down the street,” she explained. “And then we turned it into an environmental advocacy program, where the students decided what they wanted people to stop and think about, and the impact that humans have on the environment and water.”

The kids then drew pictures — such as a fish swimming amid garbage, or a mallard whose feet are entangled in a plastic six-pack ring — and accompanying slogans, which were then turned into storm-drain art at eight downtown locations. “They created awareness of the water cycle and our role in keeping our world clean.”

Enchanted Circle has, from its beginning, been a working theater, but it has long embraced artistic endeavors of every kind — dance, music, visual arts, literature, even culinary arts — as teaching tools.

“We specialize in what’s called arts integration,” Hellweg said. “And there are three basic components to it. First, it’s about academic understanding — unpacking knowledge and learning concepts and deep critical thinking. The second channel is social-emotional learning and communication and collaboration and all those 21st-century learning skills that prepare us to be engaged in the world.”

The third element, quite simply, is artistry and creativity and examining the world through the filter of creative expression. “We work with people of all ages and all abilities, and it’s about inspiring and engaging and enhancing learning. It’s about connecting people to each other, people to information, people to the world around them, and people to themselves.”

Moment of Magic

Enchanted Circle was launched in 1976 as a touring theater company, but one that had a foothold in education from early on.

“We were traveling to schools, to museums, to fairs, to libraries, bringing folk tales from around the world to life,” Hellweg said. “I’ve been here for 38 of our 42 years, and I love the performing. There’s something about that moment of magic that happens between the audience and the performer during a live performance — there’s this alchemy that happens. And I wanted to follow up on that; I wanted more contact.”

Patricia Kane Hellweg says students who learn through hands-on arts integration retain concepts more effectively because they have more ownership in the process.

Patricia Kane Hellweg says students who learn through hands-on arts integration retain concepts more effectively because they have more ownership in the process.

So the theater started developing workshops related to the performances, which evolved from one-off events to a regular partnership with schools — and an expansion of the organization’s work from drama to arts integration of all kinds.

“I felt that working in the classroom with teachers and students would really bring learning to life,” she told BusinessWest. “So we are still a theater company, and we create original plays on subjects with both cultural and historical relevance. But we really became a teaching institution.”

The theater has a presence in public schools throughout Holyoke, Amherst, Northampton, and parts of Springfield, but also in affordable-housing developments, preschools, universities, and other, perhaps surprising venues.

“We work throughout the community — in the foster-care world, in the mental-health field, with adjudicated youth in detention, in homeless shelters, in housing developments — bringing arts-integrated learning to some of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in the area,” Hellweg said.

Holyoke’s public schools represent Enchanted Circle’s longest-term and closest partner, as seen in offerings like the visual math programs at Morgan School and a dual-language arts-integration program with grades K-3 at Metcalf School every Friday, which touches on numerous academic subjects. “Whatever they’re working on, we are working on,” she said. “It’s hands-on, project-based, arts-integrated learning.”

And that hands-on element is critical, she noted. Typically, the ideas kids learn at school are stored in their visual memory. “But if we’re doing embodied math — where students become an isosceles triangle, or two people create a parallelogram with their arms — then it’s in your muscle memory. And it brings the joy back to learning because it’s fun, and the laughter in class is huge.”

Micchia agreed. “It becomes this whole-body experience, this holistic experience when we use the arts to create this visual math.”

And students who are having fun are more likely to want to learn, Hellweg added. “What we find is that attendance goes up because students want to be in school, and behavior issues go down because students are engaged.”

That applies even to young people who never considered themselves learners, she said, recalling a bittersweet conversation she had recently with a 15-year-old girl in juvenile detention.

“She said to us, ‘I never thought I would find joy in learning, and I’m loving learning with Enchanted Circle. I never would have dropped out of school had Enchanted Circle been in my classroom.’”

Now working on a poetry-into-performance program through the theater, funded through the National Endowment for the Arts, the girl has a new outlook on why learning can — and should — be so much more than rote memorization. “That engagement, both the physical engagement and the experience of working collaboratively and creatively, changes the learning environment.”

Micchia went further than that, saying Enchanted Circle cultivates an emotionally safe learning space.

“I feel like it creates an acceptance — you’re accepted here. You don’t have to be the best at something,” she said, adding that there’s no one set way to teach a student. “One of the beautiful things is, it’s kind of organic and flexible, and you meet the needs of the child as opposed to the other way around. It’s not a formula.”

Teaching the Teachers

Students aren’t the only ones in need of that confidence, Hellweg noted. Teachers are, too — at least when it comes to the often-unfamiliar territory of arts integration in their classrooms.

“We do a tremendous amount of training of teachers, who don’t necessarily think of themselves as artists, and often feel that they’re not creative. But, within moments of one of our professional-development programs, they realize they’re very creative, and they have a tremendous aptitude for bringing the creative process into the classroom,” she told BusinessWest. “So we’ve been working with teachers on large and small ways to integrate the arts into the classroom, and any time we’re in residence in a classroom, we’re working in partnership with the teacher and students to create something together.”

One innovative initiative, the Honors Arts Academy in Holyoke, is an afterschool program at Donahue School that focuses on rigorous arts training for students. The goal is to secure the funding to place it at Holyoke High School and bring in seventh- and eighth-graders from three city middle schools to work with freshmen at the high school.

“The ninth-grade dropout rate is a big challenge,” Hellweg said, “so it’s good to get seventh- and eighth-graders feeling not just at home in the high school, but that it’s their school, and able to use the resources at the high school, like the television studio and the theater. Most middle schools don’t have those resources.”

In all Enchanted Circle’s programs, she added, students are moving beyond passive learning and generating their own ideas, helping to craft curriculum that means something to them.

While the theater has evolved slowly over the years, Hellweg is excited about a new initiative called the Institute for Arts Integration, which will be a regional hub for training teachers, social-service case workers, administrators, and teaching artists.

“There are a couple programs around the country that are doing this, and because we’ve been pioneers in the field of arts integration, we want to create our own institute,” she said. “Our goal is to make arts integration the norm in every classroom.”

It’s a goal that gets her out of bed each morning, doing a job she has loved for almost four decades.

“You don’t stay in a job that long unless it moves you,” she said. “Every single day, I see that ‘a-ha’ moment where students are able to do something they didn’t think they could. It’s palpable — teachers are seeing their students differently, students are seeing their teachers differently. Learning comes alive, and the creative process means it’s never-ending. That’s where my inspiration comes from.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Cover Story

Policy Shifts

Roger Crandall stops at State & Main in MassMutual’s headquarters building in Springfield.

Roger Crandall stops at State & Main in MassMutual’s headquarters building in Springfield.

Over the course of its 167-year history, MassMutual has successfully responded to changes in society and also in how business is conducted. Today, the pace of change has accelerated greatly, but the company is answering with new strategic initiatives involving everything from the design of workspaces to how individuals apply for life insurance.

They call it ‘State and Main.’

MassMutual built its former headquarters building in Springfield at that very intersection, so that may have something to do with that name. But it’s more likely a reference to the fact that this is where two of the main spines of the company’s sprawling current home on State Street come together. So that’s where many of the 4,000 people working there come together as well.

There’s a Starbucks there, as well as a small shop where people can get their electronic devices serviced, as well as a convenience store. Over the past 18 months or so, some small meeting places and workstations where people can plug in have been added in a nod to changes in how work is now done.

There is a row of these stations along one wall, which, coincidentally, was the old end point of the building before an addition was built. Where the windows once were, there are now photographs depicting work life at MassMutual decades ago.

If you’re looking for evidence of just how much things have changed, you can juxtapose a solitary worker on a laptop in one of these workspaces in front of a huge photo depicting row upon row of desks — an iconic glimpse of the workplace maybe a century ago (see photo above).

It took a long time to get from where things were in that photograph to where they are today, but the pace of change is rapidly accelerating — even when it comes to a product seemingly frozen in time, like life insurance.

While the basic insurance products haven’t changed much over time, how people research them, shop for them, and ultimately buy them have, said Roger Crandall, president and CEO of the Fortune 100 company, the only one based in the 413.

“We’re looking a lot at how to do business with people the way they want to do business,” he explained, adding that there is much that goes into this equation. “The single biggest thing that the technology revolution has done is give consumers the power to interact the way they want to interact.

“We can’t say, ‘you can only talk to us on the phone’; we can’t say, ‘you can only talk to us in person,’” he went on. “We have to be able to meet consumers where they want to be met, and that is what we call an omni-channel world.”

Responding to this new landscape is just one of the many organizational focal points for Crandall and MassMutual, with the emphasis on ‘many.’ Others include those aforementioned changes in the way people work, he told BusinessWest, adding that the company’s headquarters has seen a number of significant changes in response to trends involving more open spaces and the need to bring great minds together, not keep them apart.

As a result, there are far fewer of those large, private offices that once dominated large financial-services companies and often defined how high one had risen in the ranks, and much more of those open workspaces like those along State and Main.

A MassMutual employee gets some work done in front of an image that Roger Crandall calls “a look back in time.”

A MassMutual employee gets some work done in front of an image that Roger Crandall calls “a look back in time.”

These changes are taking place at all of MassMutual’s facilities, which leads to another of those focal points, a headline-generating consolidation and realignment of facilities that will see the company significantly increase its presence — on both ends of the Bay State.

Indeed, there will be $50 million in investments to the Springfield facility, with an estimated 1,500 more employees working there, many of them commuting to that facility instead of the one in Enfield, Conn., which is being closed.

Meanwhile, in Boston, MassMutual will build a new facility in the Seaport District that will be home to about 1,000 workers. The company will look to capitalize on the city’s emergence as a global leader and its already established ability to retain many of the young people who come there to be educated as a way to help attract and retain top talent for years to come.

Still another focal point for the company is Springfield and the region it serves as its unofficial capital, said Crandall, adding that, while the company’s commitment to the City of Homes has come into question — the sale of Tower Square triggered much of that speculation — he said it is as strong as ever, with involvement in everything from education and workforce development to entrepreneurship and new-business development.

Overall, the city has rebounded nicely from the financial turmoil of a decade or so ago, and the opening of MGM Springfield in a few months constitutes just one of many signs of progress, said Crandall, declaring that “Springfield has its mojo back.” (Much more on those thoughts later).

For this issue, BusinessWest caught up with Crandall for a wide-ranging interview that touched on everything from Springfield and its mojo to Boston and the latest addition to its business landscape, to all those changes at State and Main and what they mean for this 167-year-old company.

Space Exploration

That interview took place in Crandall’s spacious office on the second floor of its headquarters building. As he gestured toward his surroundings, Crandall, who has occupied them since 2010, admitted candidly that he wasn’t exactly sure what would become of them as MassMutual undertakes that realignment of its facilities to accommodate more employees and a changing workplace. He did know that it won’t look like it does now.

“This office is a dinosaur; no one would build an office like this in a new building,” he told BusinessWest. “This space may very well have 20 people in it when we’re all done — there’s plenty of room for 20 people in here in a modern configuration.”

He was more certain about many other things, especially the company’s changing footprint when it comes to facilities. It will be a smaller, more efficient footprint, he noted, one shaped to address a number of challenges and opportunities moving forward.

This change to the landscape has resulted from some seismic shifts over the past several years, especially a number of acquisitions — including Metlife’s retail advisor force, the Metlife Premier Client Group (MPCG) in the summer of 2016 — that left the company with a dispersed portfolio of facilities, and also changing technology, which, as noted, has altered everything from how people buy products to how they work.

These changes prompted the company to take a much-needed step back, said Crandall, before it could decide how to move forward.

“We said, ‘this is a good time to step back and say, ‘how is our geographic footprint aligned with what we’re trying to do from a long-term perspective?’” he recalled. “And that prompted us to take a look at a whole variety of options.”

Elaborating, he said recent acquisitions left the company with facilities in Charlotte, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., Phoenix, Ariz., Somerset, N.J., Amherst, and other locations. And while advancing technology allows people in remote offices to communicate effectively, consolidating those offices emerged as the option that made the most sense.

“Although people work in different ways and the ability to work remotely is greater than ever because of technology, it’s really important to have more people interacting with each other,” he explained, “to get the best ideas, the best execution, and to take advantage of the diversity our workforce has.

“It’s great to be able to connect through devices, but face-to-face meetings are really important,” he went on, noting that roughly 2,000 employees will be relocated to Massachusetts from locations in other states. “So we liked the idea of getting to a smaller footprint.”

That makes sense on other levels as well, he noted, adding that the company was really only using about 60% of its facilities in Springfield and 60% of its facilities in Enfield.

At the same time, the company has put an even greater emphasis on the broad issue of workforce development and the challenge of attracting and retaining top talent.

And this combination of factors prompted a long, hard look at Boston — a city that has drawn similar looks from a host of other major corporations — and then hard action.

“We thought about how to set ourselves up to attract the best and the brightest for the next 25 or 30 years,” said Crandall. “And that’s where having a location in Boston, which has really emerged as a global city in the last decade, came to the forefront.

“Boston has become a true world leader,” he went on. “It’s always been a world leader in education, and it’s become a world leader in medicine and life sciences, and it’s also a very significant financial center as well. People go to school there, and they want to stay there.”

But while MassMutual will build a new facility in Boston’s Seaport District at 1 Marina Park, it will maintain a strong presence at both ends of the state, said Crandall, adding that Springfield will remain the company’s home.

Once used as basketball courts, space on the fourth floor of MassMutual’s headquarters building is now dedicated to meeting spaces known collectively as the ‘tree rooms.’

Once used as basketball courts, space on the fourth floor of MassMutual’s headquarters building is now dedicated to meeting spaces known collectively as the ‘tree rooms.’

The fact that it is only 90 minutes away on the Turnpike from the Boston offices (traffic permitting) should bring a number of benefits, he noted.

“It’s very, very different running a company where people can drive back and forth, and running a company where you have to get on a plane,” he noted. “And from that culture perspective, that became important to us as well.”

Room for Improvement

As for the facilities in Springfield, Crandall told BusinessWest that what’s planned is a reconfiguration and not an expansion in the true sense of the word.

But more people will be working at that location — and turning up at State and Main for lattes, to have their phone repaired, to get their dry cleaning, and, increasingly, to get some work done as well.

As Crandall noted earlier, there will be fewer private offices moving forward and more open spaces where people can work and collaborate as the company strives to moves away from a historical hierarchy that has defined much of its history and that of other financial-services giants as well.

The company has already taken a number of significant steps in this direction, he went on, referencing rows of tables where people can work on laptops, spaces where a few people can gather and talk, and larger, technology-equipped meeting spaces, such as those now known simply as the ‘tree rooms.’

There’s ‘Birch,’ ‘Elm,’ ‘Maple,’ ‘Hemlock,’ and others. These are meeting facilities created on the fourth floor of the headquarters building — space devoted to basketball courts until 1980 and for less ornate (and modern) meeting spaces in recent years.

Meanwhile, there are more meeting spaces on the ground floor just off State and Main that, like the ones a few floors up, are always occupied and need to be booked well in advance. These rooms are named for national parks, and include ‘Yosemite,’ ‘Zion,’ ‘Everglades,’ and ‘Glacier.’

As for what’s going on in all those meeting rooms, Crandall said the company is focusing its efforts in many directions, including what he called “a digitization of everything we do.”

And that brings him back to that omni-channel world he mentioned and the need to meet consumers where they want to be met.

“We’re basically building a digital insurance company from scratch to disrupt ourselves,” he explained. “It’s going to give us the ability to be much more responsive to consumer demands, and have much lower costs, which will enable us take advantage of the next big opportunity, which is to broadly offer more Americans insurance.”

Elaborating, he said there are 35 million American families with no insurance at all, and insurance penetration in this country is among the lowest in the world. “When we go out and do focus groups and ask people if they need life insurance, 70% say ‘yes,’” he said. “And 50% of the people who have life insurance say they need more life insurance, so there is this big unmet need.”

There are many reasons for this, he said, including the fact that fewer people are working for the kinds of large companies that offer life insurance as a benefit, and more are working for smaller ventures that don’t, or are self-employed.

To meet that need, the company is responding proactively with products and processes that can put insurance within reach and bring the numbers from those surveys down.

“No normal person sits down and thinks about the process of buying life insurance,” he said. “But we took a look at that process a few years ago and determined that it was largely the same as it was in 1995, 1985, and, arguably, 1975 — a paper-based application that got sent through snail mail to an underwriter, which triggered a paramed going to someone’s house, and a process that begins with someone standing on a scale and goes downhill, from a consumer’s perspective, to 25 days later getting told you’re not the best risk class and you’re going to have to pay more for the product than you thought.”

To change that equation, the company’s data-science team began working with an accumulated asset — the applications taken for life insurance over the years — and built a machine-learning mortality-scoring model.

“That model, with the support of reinsurers, is being used to underwrite 75% of the policies MassMutual issues,” he went on, adding that this process often lowers the time required to get approval — down to one day for those who are younger and in good health — and brings down the cost of that insurance.

And this is just one example of this digitization process, which doubles as a growth strategy.

“What really matters to us in the long run is being able to have the talent we need to execute our mission,” Crandall explained, “to help people secure their future and protect the ones they love, and to continue the growth trajectory we’ve been on — we’re now the biggest seller of whole life insurance in the country and are the second-biggest seller of all life insurance in the country.”

Paying Dividends

As MassMutual continues to respond to a changing landscape for a wide range of business perspectives, it is doing the same when it comes to its work within the community and especially its home city of Springfield, said Crandall.

He noted that there have been many forms of progress in recent years, from new vibrancy downtown to the city’s much-improved fiscal health, to a better perception of the city across the state and even outside it.

Roger Crandall says MassMutual is essentially building a digital insurance company from scratch “to disrupt ourselves.”

Roger Crandall says MassMutual is essentially building a digital insurance company from scratch “to disrupt ourselves.”

“The vibe in Springfield is as positive as I’ve seen it in 30 years,” he said when asked to offer his assessment, adding quickly that there are many areas of need and concern, and MassMutual and its foundation are partnering with others to help address many of them.

Especially those in the broad realm of education.

Noting the importance of education to attaining a job in today’s technology-based economy, Crandall said MassMutual’s commitment to education takes many forms, from financial-literacy programs involving middle-schoolers to a $15 million commitment to help create a sustainable workforce in data science.

“We know that, in the long run, better educational outcomes are such a powerful way to change people’s trajectories in life,” he explained, adding that it starts with getting individuals not only through high school, but graduating with the skills they will need to thrive in this economy.

But the company’s commitment to the city and the region — what Crandall called ‘enabling philanthropy’ — encompasses many different aspects of economic development, he went on, listing, for example, its work with DevelopSpringfield to revitalize neighborhoods across the city, and its backing of Valley Venture Mentors ($2 million to date) and financing of startups that pledge to put down roots in the region.

There has also been support of workforce-development initiatives, such as a training center for call-center employees at Springfield Technical Community College and a similar initiative involving the precision-manufacturing sector.

Then there’s the company’s support of ROCA, the agency that works with incarcerated individuals, usually repeat offenders, to help them change the course of their life and succeed outside the prison walls.

“There is no greater waste of a person’s potential or, frankly, the economic potential of our community than having a large group of young men who are unemployable or in prison,” said Crandall. “When you talk to a young man who’s been in prison who’s now a member of the carpenter’s union, getting married and having a child, and buying a home … to think about where he is as opposed to when he was 18 — that’s inspiring.”

Overall, Crandall, deploying that word ‘mojo,’ said the city has not only many positive developments breaking its way, but also more confidence and self-esteem. Perhaps even more important — and those factors are significant in their own right — is the fact that those outside the city are sharing those sentiments.

To get that point across, he relayed a recent conversation he had while visiting one of the company’s agencies in Brooklyn, a borough that had more than its share of problems a generation ago but has morphed into one of the hottest communities in the country.

“I was talking to one of our agents, probably in his mid-30s, and he said, ‘I just invested in a property in Springfield, Massachusetts,’” he recalled, adding that he responded by asking why this individual wasn’t investing in Brooklyn instead. “He said, ‘I’ve done great here in Brooklyn, but Springfield reminds me of Brooklyn 20 years ago.”

Past Is Prologue

Referencing those pictures placed where the windows were on the old exterior wall of the State Street facility, Crandall said each image was designed to be “a look back in time.”

“It’s a pretty neat historical kind of twist that adds an interesting flair to that area,” he said, noting that looking back is much easier — and generally more fun — than trying to look forward, anticipate the future, and prepare for it.

But that’s just what MassMutual is doing, and those exercises define the many strategic initiatives at the company — everything from its soon-to-be-much-smaller geographic footprint to its efforts to meet customers when and how they want to be met, to philanthropic efforts within the community focused on everything from education to providing new, productive lives for the incarcerated.

Crandall doesn’t know what his current office will look like in a year or two, but he does know it won’t look like it does now. And there may be 20 people working in that space.

It’s a dinosaur that’s extinct. The company is moving on from it, reconfiguring, becoming more efficient, and responding proactively to change.

And it’s doing that with every aspect of an altered landscape.

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

Community Spotlight Features

Community Spotlight

Downtown Greenfield may look the same as it did decades ago, in many respects, but it has evolved considerably and morphed into a true neighborhood.

Downtown Greenfield may look the same as it did decades ago, in many respects, but it has evolved considerably and morphed into a true neighborhood.

Greenfield Mayor William Martin acknowledged that it isn’t exactly a scientific measure of either his downtown’s vibrancy or the efficiency of his long-term strategic plan for the central business district. But it certainly works for him.

He’s being told there’s a parking problem downtown. Actually, he’s been told that for some time. Until recently, the commentary involved the east end of that district by Town Hall, and the chorus was so loud and so persistent that the community is now building a 272-lot parking garage in that area, due to open in the fall.

But now, he’s also hearing that complaint about the east side of downtown, and he’s expecting to hear it a lot more with the opening of the Community Health Center of Franklin County on the site of the old Sears store on Main Street, a facility that will bring more than 100 clients and employees to that location every day.

In the realm of municipal government, parking problems generally, but certainly not always, fall into that category of the proverbial good problem to have, said the mayor, adding that a far worse problem is to have no parking woes — not because you have plenty of parking, but because no one is coming to your downtown.

And that was more the state of things in Greenfield for some time, Martin intimated, putting the accent on ‘was.’

Indeed, while Main Street may look pretty much the same as it did a few decades ago, at least at a quick glance, it is vastly different, and in some very positive ways, said the mayor, adding that his administration’s broad strategy has been to bring people downtown for goods and services and let this critical mass trigger economic development on many levels. And it’s working.

“We thought that, if we can bring people downtown and provide what they need, the free market will take care of people want,” he said, adding that the theory has been validated with everything from new restaurants to live entertainment to offices providing acupuncture and cardiology services.

Jim Lunt agreed. Now the director of GCET (Greenfield Community Energy and Technology), a municipal high-speed Internet provider, and formerly director of Economic Development for the community, he said the downtown has evolved considerably over the past decade or so.

Getting more specific, he said it has morphed from a traditional retail district, as most downtowns are, into more of a combination entertainment district and home for small businesses and startups.

“We’ve focused on small businesses that we can bring in, and we’ve worked a lot to build up the creative economy; our downtown, like many downtowns, looks a lot different now than it did 10 years ago,” Lunt told BusinessWest. “There are a lot more restaurants, a lot more opportunities for more social gathering, as opposed to what people would think of as traditional shopping.”

In addition to social gathering, there is also vocational gathering, if you will, in the form of both new businesses and also a few co-working spaces that are bringing a number of entrepreneurs together on Main Street.

To get that point across, Lunt, sitting in what amounts to the conference room in Town hall, simply pointed toward the window, a gesture toward the building next door, the Hawks & Reed Entertainment Center, which, in addition to being a hub of music, art, and culture, is also home to Greenspace CoWork.

That space, on the third floor, is now the working address for writers, a manuscript editor, a few coaches, a social-media consultant, and many others, and has become, said Lunt, maybe the best example of how Greenfield has put the often long-unoccupied upper floors of downtown buildings back into productive use.

MJ Adams, who succeeded Lunt as director of Economic Development, agreed, and she summoned another term to describe what downtown has become: neighborhood.

She said it has always been that to some extent, but it is now even moreso, with more living options and other amenities in that area.

“We’re starting to look on downtown as more of a neighborhood,” she explained. “We’ve always looked at it as the civic and service center for the county, but people are starting to perceive downtown Greenfield as a neighborhood that has a mix of housing styles, is attractive to a wide range of people, especially young people, has a lot to offer, and is very walkable.”

Greenfield didn’t get to this state overnight, said those we spoke with, noting that the process has been ongoing and more strategic in nature since the official end of the Great Recession and the arrival of Martin in the corner office (both of which happened in 2009).

Mayor William Martin says his broad strategy since being elected a decade ago has been to transform downtown into a hub for a wide range of services and make it a true destination.

Mayor William Martin says his broad strategy since being elected a decade ago has been to transform downtown into a hub for a wide range of services and make it a true destination.

That strategy has involved a number of tenets, everything from creation of GCET, which gives downtown Greenfield an important asset in a county where high-speed Internet access is a luxury, not something to be taken for granted, to a focus on making downtown a destination for a wide gamut of services, from education to healthcare.

For this, the latest installment of its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest examines how these pieces have come together, and also at how they have positioned Greenfield for continued growth, vibrancy, and maybe even some more parking issues — the ‘good-problem-to-have’ variety.

Hub of Activity

To explain his broad strategy for Greenfield’s downtown, Martin essentially turned the clock back more than 200 years. Sort of.

Back in those days, he explained, Greenfield, anointed the county capital, was a supplier of goods and most services to the many smaller communities surrounding it.

Small steamships and rail would bring goods north on the Connecticut River to Greenfield, he explained, and residents of surrounding towns would make their way to the center of Franklin County to get, well, pretty much whatever they needed.

“I consider that a tradition and also a responsibility,” said Martin, now serving his fourth term. “And that’s what we’ve based our downtown on — providing what people need.”

It also has always done that with regard to government functions, he said, citing everything from the county courthouse, post office, and jail to Greenfield’s library, the largest in Franklin County. But Martin’s goal was to broaden that role to include education, healthcare, and more.

And specific economic-development initiatives, technology, societal changes, the community’s many amenities, and some luck have helped make that goal reality.

In short, a large number of pieces have fallen into place nicely, said those we spoke with, enabling downtown Greenfield to become not only a destination, or hub, but also a home — for people and businesses across a diverse mix of sectors.

These pieces include:

• A burgeoning creative economy that features a number of studios, galleries, and clubs featuring live music;

• A growing number of restaurants, in many categories, that collectively provide a critical mass that makes the city a dining destination of sorts. “There are 13 different ethnic restaurants, there’s some really good bars, several places for live music that weren’t here just a few years ago, and art galleries,” said Lunt. “I think that’s the biggest change downtown”;

• Greenfield Community College, which has steadily increased its presence downtown with a campus that brings students, faculty, administrators, and community leaders to the Main Street facilities;

• The community health center, which will bring a host of complementary services, including primary care, dental, and counseling for emotional wellness together under one roof in the downtown, where before they were spread out and generally not in the central business district;

• Other healthcare services. In addition to the clinic, a cardiologist has taken over an old convenience store downtown, said the mayor, noting that there is also an acupuncturist, a holistic center, a massage therapist, and other healthcare businesses in that district; and

• Traditional retail, of which there is still plenty, including the landmark Wilson’s Department Store.

Actually, these pieces haven’t just fallen into place by accident, said Martin, noting, again, that they have come into alignment through a broad strategic plan and specific initiatives designed to make the downtown more appealing and practical for a host of businesses, as well as number of existing qualities and amenities.

“We decided that we should do everything we can to provide the infrastructure necessary to attract people and entities when the economy turned,” he explained. “And we worked on a number of things that were real problems.”

High-speed Internet access was and is a huge component of this strategy, said Lunt, noting that it has been directly responsible for a number of businesses settling in the city.

Meanwhile, other parts of that strategic initiative include renewable-energy projects that have helped bring down the cost of energy; creation of a Massachusetts Cultural District, which has made the community eligible for certain grants; a façade-improvement project that has put a new face on many properties downtown, and many others.

Destination: Greenfield

The community already had a number of strategic advantages when it came to attracting both businesses and families, said Lunt, noting that, overall, while Greenfield’s location in rural Franklin County is limiting in some ways — contrary to popular opinion, there are actually few available parcels for large-scale developments, for example — it brings advantages in many others.

From left, MJ Adams, Mayor William Martin, and Jim Lunt all see many positive signs in Greenfield’s downtown.

From left, MJ Adams, Mayor William Martin, and Jim Lunt all see many positive signs in Greenfield’s downtown.

Elaborating, he said that many younger people prefer a rural setting to an urban one — for both living and working — and can find most of what they’re looking for in Greenfield.

That list includes a lower cost of living than they would find in Boston, Amherst, or Northampton; outdoor activities ranging from hiking to whitewater rafting; culture; a large concentration of nonprofits serving the county; and, yes, high-speed Internet access, something people might not find 20 minutes outside of downtown.

“It’s a beautiful area, and real estate is quite affordable compared to much of the rest of the state,” said Lunt. “And the Springfield-Hartford metropolitan area is now 1.2 million, and that’s not that far down the road; a lot of people would happily commute for 45 minutes to live here and get to jobs there.”

This combination of factors has attracted a number of young professionals, many of whom may have gone to college in Boston or another big city and started their careers there, but later desired something different, said Adams.

It has also attracted entrepreneurs, said Lunt, including several video-game developers, many of whom now share a business address — co-working space known as Another Castle.

Located on Olive Street in space that until recently housed the Franklin County registry of Deeds, it became home to the video-game developer HitPoint, which was located in Greenfield, relocated to Springfield, and has now moved back. And it has created a co-working space that enables other small game designers to take advantage of shared equipment and facilities, effectively lowering the cost of doing business.

Moving forward, the town’s simple goal is to build on the considerable momentum it has created through a number of initiatives. These include work to redevelop the former First National Bank building, vacant for decades and the last of the properties on the stretch as Bank Row to be given a new life.

The town’s redevelopment authority has site control over the parcel, said Lunt, adding that the next steps involve working with the state, private grant writers, and the city to acquire funds to convert the property into a downtown cultural center to be used for everything from a farmers’ market to perhaps a museum of Greenfield history.

If all goes according to plan, all the properties on Bank Row will be back in productive use for the first time in 40 years, he told BusinessWest.

Another initiative is the parking garage, which has been years in the making, noted the mayor, noting that it took several attempts to secure funding help from the state for the project.

The facility will ease a well-recognized problem, exacerbated by the new county courthouse in that area, and provide yet another incentive for people to come to downtown Greenfield.

As for parking at the other end of Main Street … well, that’s a good problem to have. For now, anyway.

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

Banking and Financial Services Sections

Members Only

Katherine Hutchinson says members expect a credit union to be attuned to their needs.

Katherine Hutchinson says members expect a credit union to be attuned to their needs.

Although myths persist about what credit unions are, their leaders are cheered by statistics showing that 43% of Massachusetts residents belong to one. But they know members aren’t satisfied with mere messaging; they want the high-tech tools available at larger banks, melded with a culture of personal service. It’s a challenge they say they work hard to meet.

Michael Ostrowski has made a career in credit-union leadership, and the numbers startled even him.

Specifically, it’s the statistic that 43% of the population of Massachusetts is a credit-union member, compared to about 33% nationally.

“That’s huge. I was surprised by that,” said Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union. But after considering it, he wondered why that 43% figure should be a shock at all. “I’m surprised more people don’t take advantage of credit unions, from the fees and everything right down the line. We are typically a better deal, and you don’t see any of these credit unions in the newspaper like a Wells Fargo.”

By that, he meant the financial turmoil that many national banks brought upon themselves at the start of the Great Recession — a crisis that actually led to marketing opportunities for credit unions, said Katherine Hutchinson, president and CEO of UMassFive College Federal Credit Union.

“We did see growth throughout the recession,” she told BusinessWest. “We wanted to make sure we were not letting our members down by not lending through that period, but we were also very conscientious about how we were spending our money — all the things good financial institutions do to protect the interests of their shareholders and, in our case, our members. That’s really important to us, and I think it was a time where people were taking a second look and saw credit unions as alternatives.”

The lobby walls at UMassFive’s Hadley headquarters are adorned with messaging touting the member-centric (don’t call them customers) philosophy of credit unions, and, “believe me, we try very hard to follow the philosophy,” Hutchinson went on. “I’ve been at the credit union for 42 years — I’ve kind of grown up in the industry. When I started, we were very focused on the member, and I’ve tried to convey that and live that philosophy as we grew bigger.”

Credit unions are financial institutions that look and feel like a bank in the products and service they offer, she explained, but the difference is their structure as cooperatives.

“Because of a credit union’s non-for-profit status, consumers do expect better rates and lower fees, and I think that’s what they experience,” she said. “But they also want us to be focused on what they need, on how we can help them personally — to listen to their story, hear about why they’re in a certain situation, and what would really help them.”

Glenn Welch says local leadership means credit unions can respond to members’ concerns quickly.

Glenn Welch says local leadership means credit unions can respond to members’ concerns quickly.

Glenn Welch, president and CEO of Freedom Credit Union, said member ownership of the institution is important to those who do business there. “Whether you have $5 in your account of $500,000, it’s one member, one vote,” he said, adding that members of his board of directors must hail from the four western counties. “The board is local, so members know we can make decisions and resolve situations quickly.”

Resolving situations, and writing more success stories, is a point of pride for UMassFive, Hutchinson noted. “I think it’s important that we hear those stories and share those stories to encourage our employees to listen to the members and find ways to help. The stories are important.”

Numbers Don’t Lie

The story for credit unions has been positive in recent years, Ostrowski said, pointing to statistics like a capital-to-assets ratio of 10.4%, on average, for credit unions in Massachusetts. “Over 7 is well-capitalized — we’re over 10. That shows strength in the credit-union industry.”

Meanwhile, the 167 credit unions in Massachusetts employ 6,158 people full-time and another 908 part-time, and boast more than 2.9 million members — again, about 43% of all residents.

Still, myths persist about credit unions, Welch said, sharing four common ones identified by the Credit Union National Assoc.

The first myth: “I can’t join.” CUNA points out that many Americans believe they are ineligible to join a credit union, but membership eligibility today is typically based on geography, he noted. Membership at Freedom Credit Union, for example, is available to anyone who lives, works, or attends college in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, or Berkshire counties.

The second myth: “accessing my money may be hard.” Not true, Welch said, noting that, along with boasting a mobile application for online banking, many credit unions, including Freedom, have joined the Allpoint Network, allowing members surcharge-free ATM access at more than 55,000 retail locations worldwide.

The third myth: “they’re too small.” Rather, he noted, credit unions provide the same security and protection of a larger financial institution, but is accountable to members, rather than shareholders. “This means every customer is treated as an individual, not a number, enjoying personalized service and customized products.”

The final myth: “they’re primarily for those in need.” Based on generational notions, Welch explained, some may believe credit unions mainly serve low-income consumers. In truth, he added, they serve every population, as well as every size and type of business.

Essentially, he told BusinessWest, the CUNA survey demonstrated that many people don’t understand what membership means and how to go about applying to be a member.

“Several things came up; one was that they didn’t feel that credit unions can offer them the level of technology and products of banking institutions. But we had a good year in 2017 and approached the board with quite a few investment upgrades,” he noted, expanding the tasks that can be done online, like electronically signing for loans.

“People don’t want to set foot in a bank or credit union lobby unless they have to,” he continued. “We have the same products available at bigger banks, but at a local level.”

Ostrowski agreed that credit-union members appreciate the institution’s purpose and philosophy, but also demand current technology. In fact, Arrha is in the process of upgrading all its systems to improve electronic communication and its mobile banking platforms.

“I think the credit unions are still filling that void of the banks that had their roots in the small towns, and that really hasn’t changed,” he said. “But I think it’s important that people realize that we have the same systems all the big banks have, and we have the same cybersecurity functionality they do. Clearly, from a systems standpoint, we can compete very well with them.”

Michael Ostrowski says credit-union members expect the same high-tech products they can find at large banks.

Michael Ostrowski says credit-union members expect the same high-tech products they can find at large banks.

Likewise, Hutchinson noted that the area colleges the credit union was built upon still form its core membership group, but it wouldn’t have grown beyond that without a recognition in the region of the credit-union philosophy — and without a commitment on the institution’s side to stay atop trends in products and services and continually invest in technology. “That is important to growth and our sustainability, so we’re proud of that.”

Loan Stars

Ostrowski said messages like this — and a vibrant economy — have helped Arrha grow steadily in recent years, with deposits up, loan delinquency down, and investments in technology helping to attract new members.

Meanwhile, Welch noted that the competitive interest rates Freedom pays on savings accounts and charges for loans have both attracted new business. All that led to growth in 2017 in return on assets and total loans, as well as hiring a second commercial lender and a credit manager, focusing on individuals and small businesses.

“Typically, we don’t lend more than $3.5 million or $4.5 million, although we could, based on capital,” he noted.

But the credit-union presidents BusinessWest spoke with all noted that the model’s philosophy doesn’t stop at dollars and cents, but extends to a robust community outreach, often in the form of educational seminars.

“That goes to the concept of people helping people,” Welch said. “We find, when we’re not able to help someone, it’s usually a credit issue, and often, they haven’t been educated on the value of credit. So we participate with other banking institutions in Credit for Life fairs, reaching out to students when they’re still in high school to talk about good and bad credit, and what that means when they try to buy a car, rent an apartment, or get a credit card.”

Hutchinson said her board believes community education is important to UMassFive’s mission. “So many people need that kind of assistance. It ties back into what is best for our members — educating them on how to make decisions.

“Financial literacy is key,” she went on. “We try to have a variety of topics, from understanding your credit score to budgeting to preparing for retirement and first-time homebuying. We also work with UMass, doing some seminars for students on student debt.”

Ostrowski noted that even recent college graduates don’t understand their credit score and the impact it can have, while others take advantage of a credit-card offer in the mail and quickly wind up thousands of dollars in debt without thinking about the consequences. “All our programs in financial literacy are drivers that we make no money on — they are absolutely out of love of our members and to protect them.”

The credit-union culture runs deep in Massachusetts, the state where such institutions were first chartered way back in 1909, Ostrowski explained. State partnerships are still critical, he added, noting that Gov. Charlie Baker has backed an effort by the state’s credit unions, called CU Senior Safeguard, to fight elder financial abuse and fraud. All frontline credit-union staffers are participating in the program, while a statewide effort is targeting consumers with information about how elders are defrauded — a problem that costs some $10 billion every year nationally.

“I’ve heard wild stories about members getting ripped off by contractors,” he said, or individuals who were ready to send money to an unknown e-mailer on the promise of more in return. “I’ve literally had to argue with individuals not to send their money away.”

Better, he said, to deposit it with a credit union — and join that 43% number that, in an age of constant mergers and acquisitions among area banks, only continues to grow.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Sports & Leisure

Refreshing the Data

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has released a new official statement regarding energy drinks, published in the college’s clinical review journal, Current Sports Medicine Reports. “Energy Drinks: A Contemporary Issues Paper” provides guidance and warnings regarding these beverages because of the dangers they present to at-risk populations, primarily children who are the most vulnerable and the target of marketing efforts.

“Energy drinks are extremely popular, and concerns about their consumption are coming from every sector of society, which is why we’ve published these recommendations,” said Dr. John Higgins. “Our review of the available science showed that excessive levels of caffeine found in energy drinks can have adverse effects on cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, renal, and endocrine systems, as well as psychiatric symptoms. More needs to be done to protect children and adolescents, as well as adults with cardiovascular or other medical conditions.”

Energy drinks are highly caffeinated beverages that often contain myriad vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbal mixtures. As a global authority for sports medicine, exercise science, and the promotion of participant safety, the ACSM is focused on facilitating high performance while protecting those who compete in athletics or engage in other forms of physical activity. By publishing the new recommendations, the ACSM is helping consumers to understand the risks associated with rapid and excessive consumption of energy drinks.

“When used safely and with moderation, energy drinks may have some short-term, performance-enhancing effects. However, users are generally unaware of the many potential adverse reactions that could have long-term effects, some of which are quite serious,” said Higgins. We highly encourage consumers, parents, physicians, athletic trainers, personal trainers, and coaches to follow these recommendations.”

Children and adolescents appear to be at particularly high risk of complications from energy drinks due to their small body size, being relatively caffeine-naive, and potentially heavy and frequent consumption patterns, as well as the amounts of caffeine. The message that these beverages are not intended for children needs to be reinforced and widely disseminated, Higgins said.

At the same time, he added, marketing should not appeal to vulnerable populations. Currently, manufacturers of energy drinks advertise on websites, social media, and television channels that are highly appealing to both children and adolescents. Target marketing to sporting and other events involving children and adolescents should not be permitted.

Regardless of health and fitness level, and until such time that proper safety and efficacy data are available, the ACSM recommends that energy drinks should be avoided before, during, or after strenuous activities. Some of the deaths allegedly due to energy drinks have occurred when a person consumed them before and/or after performing strenuous activities.

Clearly, Higgins notes, investment in awareness and educational resources highlighting the potential adverse effects and safe use of energy drinks is required. Significant efforts should be made to educate consumers regarding the clear and present differences between soda, coffee, sports drinks, and energy drinks. Energy-drink education also should be a priority in school-based curricula related to nutrition, health, and wellness.

The ACSM is calling for a research agenda to prioritize key questions about the acute and chronic effects of energy-drink use. At a minimum, standard safety and efficacy studies should be performed and submitted to the FDA by manufacturers. Well-designed and controlled research is required to examine the increasing frequency of adverse events being reported by emergency departments.

In addition, the organization notes, healthcare providers must talk to their patients about energy-drink use and report adverse events to watchdog agencies like poison-control centers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the FDA. A national registry should be set up to specifically track energy-drink side effects with mandated reporting requirements.

Among other specific recommendations, the ACSM argues that energy drinks should not be consumed by children or adolescents; should not be consumed by other vulnerable populations, including pregnant or breastfeeding women, caffeine-naive or sensitive individuals, or individuals with cardiovascular or medical conditions; should not be used for sports hydration; should not be mixed with alcohol; and should bear a label such as “high source of caffeine” or “do not mix with alcohol.”

DBA Certificates Departments

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the month of April 2018.

AMHERST

Amherst Enterprise Park
441 West St.
Leigh Andrews

Domain Masonry, LLC
86 Kellogg Ave.
Christopher Domain

Golden 3 Counseling Services
447 West St., Suite 3
Brittanie Jemes

Gorilla Tactics
145 University Dr., #3541
Jesse Crafts-Finch

J. Hurd & Associates
220 North Pleasant St.
Jason Hurd

J. Shefftz Consulting
14 Moody Field Road
Jonathan Shefftz

Jennifer Lefort, PhD
15 Linden Ridge Road
Jennifer Lefort

BELCHERTOWN

Morning Star Graphics
238 Rockrimmon St.
Roger Duffy, Natalia Duffy

CHICOPEE

The Chinese Kung Fu Wushu Academy
551 East St.
Binh Nguyen

Electra-Sounds Entertainment
5 Julia Ave.
William Butman Jr.

First Stop Grocery
830 Chicopee St.
Sudan Curiel

Generations Salon
588 Chicopee St.
Lisa Carlson

JWI Kitchens, LLC
374 Springfield St.
Ivelesse Perez

MamaRazzi Photography Inc.
165 Front St., Building D
Jenna Medina, Jacqueline Slatton

Meraki Salon
685 James St.
Christine Peacey

RazziKids
165 Front St., Building D
Jenna Medina, Jacqueline Slatton

Serenity Salon & Spa
472 Burnett Road
Alison Metcalfe

Style and Grace Hair Studios
1735 Westover Road
Ruben Camacho Jr.

WP-HL Foundation
16 America St.
Edward Fulke

EASTHAMPTON

Brian Harrison
1 Nashawannuck St.
Brian Harrison

C.R.P. Home Improvement
73 Glendale St.
Corey Pease

Frusho
28 Golden Dr.
Christopher Cabrini

Furs A Flyin
155R Northampton St.
MaryKate Murray

Pressplayhouse Duds
312 Main St.
Matthew Goldman

Worldsongs.com
116 Pleasant St., #334
Charlie Shew

EAST LONGMEADOW

Dreamscape Properties
20 Somerset St.
Marco Basile

G & A Import Auto Repair
41 Fisher Ave.
Alfonso Gioiella

McRae Consulting Solutions
57 Merriam St.
Mary McRae

HOLYOKE

Aeropostale #112
50 Holyoke St.
Aero Opco, LLC

The Clover Pub
102-104 High St.
Michael Rigali

Creative Concepts
24 Old Jarvis Ave.
Thomas Kennedy

Giggles Daycare
53 Argyle Ave.
Siobhan Sullivan

The Honey Pot
264 Sargeant St.
Jocelyn Poirier

Hyperperformance Cuts, LLC
118 Maple St.
Hanser Perez

Mocha Emporium
50 Holyoke St.
Adel Wahhas

Quick Stop
172 Sargeant St.
Tariq Aziz Khan

Reliable Computer
867 Main St.
Daniel Deschaine

Taste Freeze
915 Main St.
Daniel Rios

Your Brother-in-Law’s Handiman Services
33 Clerk St.
Joshua Silva

LONGMEADOW

EDV Home Design and Renovation
121 Willow Brook Road
Elaine D’Alleva-Vehse

SmartCheck
17 Barrington Road
Nora MacKay, Mark Fellows

LUDLOW

The Beauty Studio Boutique Inc.
393 East St.
Marsia Nogueira, Kristen Bousquet

NORTHAMPTON

Absolute Zero
229 Main St.
Meng Qin Wang

C.L. Frank & Co.
50 Cooke Ave.
Christopher Frank

Chill Harmonics
39 Main St., Suite 3
Pamela Smith

Christopher Foley Painting
68 Bradford St., Apt. B
Christopher Foley

Compass Community Education Center
221 Pine St., Suite 320
Shelly Risinger, Elena Allee

Couples Center of the Pioneer Valley
182 Main St., #202
Katherine Waddell

Dodeca
38 Main St.
Endamian Stewart, Robert Stewart

Hygeniks Inc.
106 Industrial Dr.
Todd Marchefka

Joel Russell Associates
16 Armory St., Suite 7
Joel Russell

Kidstuff
90 Maple St.
Tami Schirch

Metalmass Records
670B Haydenville Road
Kristian Strom

MG Coaching Services
98 Pine St., Unit 6
Martha Grinnell

New England Medical Consultants Inc.
124 Maple Ridge Road
Matthew Kane, Ann Markes

Northampton Golden Nozzle #04082
304 King St.
Nouria Energy Retail Inc.

Robinson Real Estate
35C State St.
Steven Slezek

Room 6 Salon & Nails
140 Pine St., #6
Melanie Burnett

State Street Fruit Store, Deli, Wines & Spirits
51 State St.
Richard Cooper

PALMER

JKL Liquid Asphalt
244 Burlingame Road
Raymond Croteau

Marlene’s Beauty Salon
1461 North Main St.
Jean Ciukaj

Tranquility Central
1384 Main St.
Kathleen Jett

SOUTHWICK

Humble N’Kind D-Sign
352 North Loomis St.
Elizabeth Vivier

Total Home Services
445 College Highway
Geno Whitehead

SPRINGFIELD

413 Video Productions
40 Edgewood St.
Aaron Williams

All Seasons Basement Dewatering Inc.
45 Jamestown Dr.
James Kelly

Around the Clock Adult Home Care
130 Fenwick St.
Linda Sheehan

Aer Wireless
119 Maplewood Terrace
Wi4me, LLC

Banh Mi Mia
461 Belmont Ave.
Hung Nguyen

Grez Automotive, LLC
604 Boston Road
Pan Siphanoum

Hariss Beauty
20 Arnold Ave.
Brittany Franco

House of Lockhart
89 Hyde Ave.
Ramon Albizu

J M Towing
56 Loring St.
Jerry Martinez

La Marguencita Bakery
755 Liberty St.
Lorena Vicente

Little Luv Bugs Day Care
24 Mayfair Ave.
Judy Williams

Ma Chere Creole Kitchen
94 Pennsylvania Ave.
Michael Guidry

Maidpro
527 Belmont St.
Heewon Yang

Montalvo Trucking
48 Appleton St.
Victor Montalvo

Mzion Corp.
1341 Main St.
Ni Si Kim

Northeast Mountain Footwear
459 Breckwood Blvd.
Algeni Enterprises

Rex Ambrosia, LLC
145 Ambrose St.
Glenn Mills

Rock Bottom Records
114 Cardinal St.
Abdul Ibrahim Jr.

Trinity Health of New England
271 Carew St.
Mercy Medical Group

Vladmierj Tailor
66 Dickinson St.
Thuy Fuda

WARE

Blissful Moments Hair Skin Body Studio
89 Main St., Suite 4
Tenah Richardson

Dance Unlimited MA
23 West Main St.
Mary Royer

Lost & Found Mercantile
85 Main St.
Kristin Rosenbeck, Dennis Cote

Miss Sue’s Place
42 Greenwich Road
Susan Flamand

Murphy’s Painting
197 River Road
Cole Murphy

Western Mass Home Improvement
81 Greenwich Road
Christopher Wiggin

WESTFIELD

Affordable Building Contractor
26 Northridge Road
David Wroblewski

Ace Photography
29 Beckwith Ave.
Nicholas Ventura

MAR Consulting
83 Pineridge Dr.
Mona Rastegar

Power Control Services & Electric Inc.
227 Loomis St.
Power Control Services & Electric Inc.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Arbella Insurance Group
1 Interstate Dr.
Arbella Insurance Group

B+ Clean-Outs
10 Elizabeth St.
Joseph Switzler

Ballard Mack Sales & Service
124 Ashley Ave.
John Picking

Custom Railings Tech Inc.
117 Allston Ave.
Armand Cote

Energia Massage
1111 Elm St.
Tatiana McCoy

Holiday Flowers
69 Angeline St.
Joan Marino

Olympia Junior Hockey
125 Capital Dr.
Patrick Tabb

Plato’s Closet
1472 Riverdale St.
Kathleen White

Springfield Inn
1573 Riverdale St.
Dilip Rana

Wendy’s #292
288 Park St.
Inspired By

Wendy’s #318
644 Riverdale St.
Inspired By

WILBRAHAM

Barone’s Landscaping
375 Mountain Road
Nicholas Barone

BJC Consulting
9 Whitford Place
Barry Christman

C & S Construction
9 Meadowview Road
Christian Mills

Trinity Health of New England Medical Group
70 Post Office Park
Carlos Martins

Departments Incorporations

The following business incorporations were recorded in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and are the latest available. They are listed by community.

AMHERST

Mass Landlord Education Inc., 11 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002. Thea L. Costine, 131 Main St., Shelburne Falls, MA 01370. To provide education and assistance to individuals new to the business of being a landlord.

BERNARDSTON

Jim Whitney Plumbing & Heating Inc., 336 Huckle Hill Road, Bernardston, MA 01337. James D. Whitney, Same. Plumbing and heating.

CHICOPEE

Interstate Carriers Corp., 78 Robak Dr., Chicopee, MA 01020. Marina Biley, same. Vehicle transportation.

EGREMONT

Kifar Zaydee Corp., 196 Egremont Plain Road, Egremont, MA 01258. Peter Neustadter, same. Real estate rentals.

HAYDENVILLE

Massachusetts Families for College Success Inc., 2 Cole Road, Haydenville, MA 01039. Marc Kenen, Same. Educates the public about the need to increase the number of Massachusetts residents who attend and graduate from college.

SHELBURNE FALLS

Ksw Home & Building Services Inc., 4 Laurel St., Shelburne Falls, MA 01370. Kelly S. Warger, same. Construction.

SPRINGFIELD

L F Meat Food Market Corp., 89 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA 01109. Francisco Augusto Cabrera, 55-E Stavord, Springfield, MA 01109. Grocery store products.

Mad Max Transportation Inc., 46 Haumont Terrace, Springfield, MA 01104. Max Charvayev, same. Transportation.

WEST SPRINGFIELD

JC Charter Inc., 425 Union St., West Springfield, MA 01089. John H. Cookley, same. Passenger transportation.

WILBRHAM

Kao Services, P.C., 1225 Stony Hill Road, Wilbraham, MA 01095. Kathleen A. O’Malley, same. Legal services.

Departments People on the Move
Moira Maguire

Moira Maguire

Holyoke Community College recently welcomed Moira Maguire as its new dean of Social Sciences. Maguire most recently served as dean of Liberal Arts at Schenectady County Community College in New York. Before that, she spent 12 years as a professor of history at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, where she was a tenured faculty member and served as a department chair and course coordinator. She holds a Ph.D. in history from American University, a master’s degree in history from Northeastern University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from George Washington University. As a teacher and scholar specializing in 20th-century Irish history, Maguire spent more than 10 years at the University of Ireland Maynooth, where her research on infanticide and the Irish government’s care of unwed mothers and their children led to many articles and a book, Cherished Equally? Precarious Childhood in Independent Ireland. She has also worked as a consultant for the BBC on documentaries related to her research. As dean of Social Science, she will oversee six academic departments: Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services, Critical Cultural Studies (Economics, Geography, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Women’s Studies), Psychology, and Sociology/Anthropology.

•••••

Sonya Stephens, the acting president of Mount Holyoke College, has been named the college’s 19th president, effective July 1. The Mount Holyoke College board of trustees announced its decision to appoint Stephens on April 23 after an extensive presidential selection process that began in January. A formal inauguration will be held in September. The decision was unanimous. Stephens was made acting president in July 2016. During her tenure, she has overseen the implementation of the Plan for Mount Holyoke 2021 and been focused on ensuring the college’s long-term financial stability. Other key efforts include the creation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative, which led to the annual BOOM! (Building on Our Momentum) learning conference and to the hiring of the college’s first chief diversity officer. Stephens led the development of the college’s comprehensive self-study for re-accreditation by the New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges, and launched the Community Center construction and the opening of the Dining Commons. She is also overseeing the college’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by its bicentennial in 2037.

•••••

Elissa Langevin

Elissa Langevin

Lee McCarthy

Lee McCarthy

Shelley Daughdrill

Shelley Daughdrill

Lori Jarrett

Lori Jarrett

Celia Alvarado

Celia Alvarado

Alicia Pare

Alicia Pare

Florence Bank has promoted three employees to oversee the management of branches within their designated regions. Elissa Langevin has been named vice president and area manager for the bank’s main office in Florence, Lee McCarthy will serve as vice president and area manager for the King Street office in Northampton, Shelley Daughdrill and will hold the role of vice president and area manager for the Belchertown branch. Langevin is a 10-year employee of Florence Bank. Formerly, she was vice president and branch manager of the main office in Florence. During her tenure at the bank, Langevin has been the recipient of Florence Bank’s Community Service Award, which provides recognition to employees who are actively involved in community organizations. She serves as the current treasurer of the Belchertown Day School and has served as a board member for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts. She has also served as board member and president of the East of the River Five Town Chamber of Commerce. McCarthy is a 15-year employee of Florence Bank. Formerly, she was vice president and branch manager of the King Street office. During her tenure at the bank, McCarthy has served as consumer lending officer and branch manager. She is a volunteer for the United Way of Hampshire County and serves on its Community Allocation Committee. In 2015, she was recognized by the United Way as an honoree for the Community Champion Award, presented to a community member who has made a significant contribution to the organization’s mission of creating positive and lasting change in Hampshire County. Daughdrill is a 12-year employee of Florence Bank. Formerly, she served as vice president and branch manager of the Amherst and Belchertown offices. She has been the recipient of the bank’s President’s Award and Community Service Award. She is a board member, attendance chair, and auction committee member for the Amherst Rotary Club, and she also serves on the development committee for the Amherst Survival Center. Meanwhile, Florence Bank has also hired three new employees to serve in various positions. Lori Jarrett will serve as assistant controller in the Finance Department in the main office in Florence, Celia Alvarado was named portfolio officer/commercial loan origination, and Alicia Pare was named to the position of cash management relationship officer. Jarrett holds a master’s degree in accounting from Western New England University. She volunteers for area nonprofits, including Riverside Industries, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, and Safe Passage, and she runs in the Apple-a-Day 5K, which benefits the elementary schools of Easthampton. Alvarado joined Florence Bank in February with nearly 10 years of banking experience. She currently studies at the New England College of Business, where she’s working on a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance. She volunteers for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts and has served on its board in the past. Pare earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Assumption College in Worcester. In 2014, she received Florence Bank’s prestigious President’s Club Award, an annual tradition that recognizes outstanding performance, customer service, and overall contribution to Florence Bank.

•••••

Mark Fuller, current dean and Thomas O’Brien Endowed Chair at Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, has been appointed the new vice chancellor for Development and Alumni Relations by UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. Fuller will succeed Michael Leto, who announced his upcoming retirement last fall. As the university’s chief advancement officer, Fuller will serve on the chancellor’s leadership team and be responsible for short- and long-term plans to improve private support as well as cultivate strong relationships with UMass alumni and supporters. UMass Amherst, the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, has more than 200,000 living alumni. Fuller has led UMass’s Isenberg School of Management since 2009. Under Fuller’s leadership, Isenberg has generated a four-fold increase in annual gift performance since 2010; received a $10 million endowment to create the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship; increased student giving ten-fold; secured private support for the new, $62 million Business Innovation Wing; and created 12 new endowed faculty positions. Prior to coming to UMass Amherst, Fuller was a professor and chair of the Department of Information Systems and holder of the Philip L. Kays Distinguished Professorship in Management Information Systems at Washington State University. He received his master’s degree in management and his Ph.D. in management information systems from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. His research focuses on virtual teamwork, technology-supported learning, and trust and efficacy in technology-mediated environments. Prior to Washington State, Fuller was an associate professor at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.

•••••

Maureen “Maura” Guzik

Maureen “Maura” Guzik

Casey Cusson

Casey Cusson

Erin Tautznik

Erin Tautznik

Janet Rosenkranz

Janet Rosenkranz

Michael Tucker, president and CEO of Greenfield Cooperative Bank, announced one new hire as well as three promotions. Maureen “Maura” Guzik joined Greenfield Cooperative Bank as vice president, Commercial Loans. She will be responsible for developing new commercial business in Hampshire County with the Northampton Cooperative division of the bank. She will be based in the bank’s Triangle Street branch in Amherst. She has more than 34 years of commercial banking experience. Guzik is a board member of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Children Advocacy Center and chairperson of the Belchertown Council on Aging. She is also active with the Amherst Area and Greater Northampton chambers of commerce. She earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Anselm’s College and her MBA from American International College. Casey Cusson has been promoted to assistant vice president and branch manager of the bank’s Shelburne Falls location. He has more than 15 years of management experience and joined Greenfield Cooperative Bank in June 2017. He is a board member on the Shelburne Falls Area Business Assoc. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business from UMass Amherst and will attend the New England School of Banking at Babson College beginning in May. Erin Tautznik was promoted to branch officer. With more than 13 years of banking experience, she is responsible for managing the bank’s 67 King St., Northampton office. She joined Northampton Cooperative Bank in 2004 and has attended Holyoke Community College and numerous banking seminars and courses. She is also a volunteer with the JFK Middle School’s after-school program. Janet Rosenkranz, credit officer, has additionally been named the Credit Department manager, and is now responsible for the bank’s Credit Department staff and coordinating its activities. She joined the bank in 2016 and has more than 18 years of experience in banking. She is a volunteer with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. She received her bachelor’s degree at UMass Amherst and will attend the National School of Banking at the Wharton School beginning in June.

•••••

Brian Kapitulik has accepted the position of dean of Business, Information Technology, Professional Studies, and Social Sciences at Greenfield Community College (GCC). “After a thorough search, we were excited to offer the position of dean to Brian,” said Catherine Seaver, chief Academic Affairs officer. Kapitulik has 18 years of professional experience in the Massachusetts public higher-education system and, in particular, during the last decade, in community college. Before his current role, he was chair of the Department of Social Sciences and professor of Sociology at GCC. He has also taught at UMass Amherst and Quinsigamond Community College. During this time, he evaluated and developed curriculum, assessed and reviewed programs, created new courses, and hired and mentored new faculty, all while teaching students, publishing papers, organizing professional-development workshops in his field, and serving the college in a number of leadership capacities ranging from search committees to faculty mentor for online pedagogy.

•••••

The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ newly launched arts initiative, ValleyCreates, announced the appointment of five community advisors to support the initiative’s core mission to address underserved communities’ access to arts and culture funding and resources. Gina Beavers, Arts and Culture editor for the Valley Advocate, will serve as a liaison to arts and culture organizations in Hampshire and Hampden counties. Vanessa Pabón-Hernandez, director of Community Engagement and Education for WGBY, will serve as the initiative’s liaison to arts organizations in Hampden County. Matthew Glassman, co-artistic director ensemble of Double Edge Theater in Ashfield, will serve as a liaison to rural arts and culture organizations with a focus on Franklin County. Rosemary Tracy Woods, executive director and chief curator of the nonprofit Art for the Soul Gallery in Springfield, will serve as the ValleyCreates events curator. Finally, Kent Alexander will serve as the initiative’s diversity, equity, and inclusion facilitator. He brings with him years of experience conducting anti-racism and social-justice-focused workshops for various local organizations. Each community advisor will contribute up to eight hours per month for one year and will receive a stipend. ValleyCreates is supported by the Barr Foundation, through the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ participation in the Creative Commonwealth Initiative.

•••••

Jeanne Hardy, associate professor of Chemistry, whose research focuses on a key protein linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, is being recognized with the inaugural Mahoney Life Sciences Prize at UMass Amherst. A panel of expert judges from the life-sciences sector observed that the “biomedical implications are significant” and “this could turn out to be one of ‘the’ pivotal studies in the effort to combat Alzheimer’s.” Hardy will receive the prize and present her research with life-sciences experts and UMass officials and scientists at a breakfast ceremony on Tuesday, June 19 at the UMass Club in Boston. Established by UMass Amherst alumni Richard, Robert, and William Mahoney, the $10,000 prize is intended to recognize scientists from the university’s College of Natural Sciences whose work significantly advances connections between research and industry. The prize will be awarded annually to one faculty member who is the principal author of a peer-reviewed paper about original research. Eligible papers can be on any topic in the life sciences that focuses on new research with translatable applications to industry and society. Hardy’s research paper, “Multiple Proteolytic Events in Caspase-6 Self-activation Impacts Conformations of Discrete Structural Regions,” was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in September 2017.

•••••

Baystate Franklin Medical Center announced that two interim leaders have accepted permanent positions at the community hospital. Ron Bryant has been named president, Baystate Franklin Medical Center/Northern Region, in addition to his continued role as president, Baystate Noble Hospital. Deb Provost has been named chief nursing officer and chief administrative officer, Baystate Franklin Medical Center/Northern Region, in addition to her continued role as chief regulatory officer, Baystate Health. Both have been serving in these roles in an interim capacity. Since Bryant’s interim appointment in January, he has held many open forums focusing on employee engagement and the need for a strong collaborative culture, advancing system integration and re-emphasizing the health system’s mission from a patient and employee perspective. Provost has been serving in the interim role of vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer at Baystate Franklin since November. Since her appointment, she has worked collaboratively with Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s leaders and team members to help ensure safe, high-quality care to the residents of Franklin County. Provost has been with Baystate Health for 41 years and has served as vice president, Surgery and Anesthesia and as interim chief nursing officer at Baystate Medical Center.

Agenda Departments

Future Tense Lecture

May 17: The second installment of the BusinessWest lecture series Future Tense, titled “What Got You Here Might Not Get You There: Mistakes Business Owners Make Before and After Retirement,” will take place from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at Tech Foundry, 1391 Main St., ninth floor, Springfield. The lecture, open exclusively to CEOs and business owners, will be delivered by Amy Jamrog, wealth management advisor with the Jamrog Group. The cost is a $25 donation to Tech Foundry. Event sponsors include Paragus IT, the Jamrog Group, and Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. Metered street parking is available near the venue, and there are several parking-garage options nearby as well. To register, visit businesswest.com/lecture-series.

Bereavement Support Event

May 19: Bereaved children and their caregivers are welcome to attend a free art-based support event from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Baystate Health Education Center at 361 Whitney Ave. in Holyoke. Titled “Healing Wounded Hearts with Art: A Retreat for Grieving Families,” the event is open to bereaved children ages 5 to 18. It is sponsored by Batstate Hospice and the Pediatric Palliative Care team. As part of the program, children and teens who are grieving the death of a close family member will have an opportunity to meet others and connect through the power of art making. “Healing Wounded Hearts with Art” aims to help grieving children and their families to commemorate those in their lives who have died. Space is limited and those wishing to attend must register by Friday, May 11 by contacting Betsy Flores, bereavement coordinator, Baystate Hospice, at (413) 794-6559 or [email protected].

Pets Rock!

May 19: The Foundation for TJO Animals will present its second annual Pets Rock! — a concert to benefit local, homeless animals in need at the Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control & Adoption Center — from 1 to 6 p.m. at Springfield Lodge of Elks #61, 440 Tiffany St., Springfield. The event is sponsored by Planet Fitness and the Arbors Camp, and hosted by special guest Pat Kelly of Lazer 99.3 and 98.5. The festivities will feature entertainment by local bands Tough Customer and Good Acoustics. There will plenty of games and activities for kids hosted by Arbors Camp, crafters will be on hand with their unique items, and raffle prizes will be given away. Lunch will be provided, and and both White Lion Brewing Co. and Harpoon Brewery will be on hand. Tickets are $20 per person, including lunch. Children under 12 are free. Buy tickets at www.tjofoundation.org or at the show gate on event day. A free, refillable event beer mug will be given to the first 200 guests through the gates. Attendees are welcome to bring their lawn chairs and blankets. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome, but no flexi-leads are allowed. No coolers are permitted. All proceeds from this event will provide much-needed medical care and training to the many animals that call TJO their temporary home.

NAMI Walkathon

May 20: The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Western Massachusetts will be holding its 18th annual walkathon, “A Journey of Hope and Recovery,” at Stanley Park’s Beveridge Pavilion Annex in Westfield from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The walk is suitable for all ages and will directly benefit the continuing efforts of NAMI – Western Mass. to help improve the lives of individuals living with mental illness and their families. Among the festivities will be guest speakers, entertainment, refreshments, and raffles. For further information, call (413) 786-9139 or visit www.namiwm.org/events for entry and sponsorship forms. Volunteers are needed.

‘Women Lead Change’

June 4: The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM) will host its annual “Women Lead Change: A Celebration of the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) Class of 2018” event at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The event will feature a keynote address by Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper. The Women’s Fund will present Kasper with the She Changes the World Award, honoring her contributions for not only leading her local department, but also leading on a national level with regard to transparent data, hiring practices, and other local initiatives that have shaped community policing for the better. More than 300 guests are expected at the annual celebration of graduates of the Women’s Fund LIPPI program, the only leadership program of its kind in the Commonwealth. The event recognizes the accomplishments of the 31 graduates of the LIPPI class of 2018, who have participated in 11 educational sessions over nine months designed to address the shortage of women stepping into public leadership. LIPPI gives women tools and confidence to become more involved civic leaders and to impact policy on the local, state, and national levels. Proceeds for this annual event empower the Women’s Fund’s mission.

‘Thrive After 55’ Wellness Fair

June 15: State Sen. Eric Lesser and Health New England announced that they will host the second annual “Thrive After 55” Wellness Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Springfield College’s Blake Athletic Complex, located at 263 Alden St., Springfield. The fair is free and open to the public. With more than 40 local organizations ranging from health and fitness to nutrition to elder law, the event will connect residents of the First Hampden & Hampshire District with information and resources to help them thrive. The free program includes a boxed lunch, educational seminars, hundreds of raffle prizes, and access to information and experts to talk to. To RSVP for the event, call Lesser’s office at (413) 526-6501 or visit www.senatorlesser.com/thrive.

40 Under Forty Gala

June 21: BusinessWest’s 12th annual 40 Under Forty Gala is a celebration of 40 young business and civic leaders in Western Mass. The lavish cocktail party, to be held starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, will feature butlered hors d’oeuvres, food stations, and entertainment — and, of course, the presentation of the class of 2018, profiled in the April 30 issue of businesswest and also available at businesswest.com. Also, the fourth Continued Excellence Award honoree will be announced. The 40 Under Forty sponsors include PeoplesBank (presenting sponsor), Northwestern Mutual (presenting sponsor), Isenberg School of Management, the MP Group, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, Health New England, Renew.Calm, Development Associates, and YPS of Greater Springfield (partner). Tickets cost $75 per person (tables of 10 available). For more information, call (413) 781-8600, ext. 100, or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Human Service Forum will host its annual awards banquet on Wednesday, May 16 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The event honors excellent service by nonprofit staff, donors, and volunteers in Western Mass.

The Human Service Forum, an association of nonprofit human-services providers, will celebrate these local honorees: Board Member Award, Mark Parent (nominated by Berkshire Children & Families); Business Award, Dillon Chevrolet (nominated by the United Arc); Clara Temple Leonard Award, Jamar Williams (nominated by Cutchins Programs for Children and Families); Exceptional TEAM Award, Homeownership and Financial Education Team: Danielle Caray, Correen Carpin-Gendron, Julio Cordero, Gina Govoni, Alexis Grajales, Carmen Pagan, Araceli Rivera, and Anthony Thomas (nominated by Way Finders Inc.); Richard A. Stebbins Volunteer Award, Janet D’Orazio (nominated by CHD Cancer House of Hope); and Robert J. Van Wart Award, Joni Beck Brewer (nominated by Square One).

The dinner costs $45 to attend, and the public is welcome. To RSVP, e-mail Pam Root at [email protected], or call (413) 693-0205 to register. For  more information, visit www.humanserviceforum.org.

Daily News

AMHERST — The Light Microscopy Core Facility, housed in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at UMass Amherst, was designated as a Nikon Center of Excellence at a recent grand-opening event. It is one of eight Nikon Centers of Excellence in the U.S.

The microscopes that make up the core facility have been purchased by UMass Amherst with funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Education Consortium and furnished by Nikon at a discount. They will allow the campus and the surrounding region access to cutting-edge technology and foster economic development, according to James Chambers, director of the IALS Light Microscopy Core Facility.

“This new equipment will allow for the exploration of uncharted research on diverse topics including cancer biology, reproductive science, neuroscience, microbiology, and polymer engineering,” said Chambers. “One of the great benefits of our facility is that the microscopes are all in one room, providing easy access to staff and other researchers.”

Chambers said part of the mission of the facility and IALS is to foster collaborations between academics and industrial partners as well as bolster the training of the Massachusetts high-tech workforce. During the short time that the facility has been in operation, more than 150 trainees have become users and have learned microscopy skills that they will carry on into future endeavors.

Chambers added that the impact of this new facility on the region and campus is already being felt through numerous new lines of research opening up for researchers who were once geographically isolated from some of the higher-end technology such as structured-illumination, super-resolution microscopy. This technique allows the study of bacteria and cells at a level of detail not possible just a few years ago.

The Center of Excellence Designation from Nikon allows UMass Amherst to continue receiving discounts on purchases from Nikon, as well as supply scientists and students with expert training and technical support. Additionally, UMass will be able to beta-test new equipment from Nikon before it becomes available on the market.

Researchers from both academic and industry, including those in the Boston region, can get access to the facility by emailing Chambers at [email protected]. Training in basic and advanced light microscopy, as well as quantitative image analysis, is quick and efficient, and users can generally start collecting their own data within two hours. Staff are always present to help users by answering questions, providing suggestions, or discussing new ideas. Additionally, facility staff can assist or work on their own, acquiring data for clients.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — The Education Division at Elms College will host a three-day conference in July to give educators tools for working with students who have been affected by trauma.

The conference, titled “Trauma-sensitive Schools: Meeting the Needs of Traumatized Students and Their Teachers,” will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, through Friday, July 13, on the Elms College campus.

This comprehensive, trauma-informed conference is designed for pre-K-to-12 school administrators, teachers, counselors, school nurses, and paraprofessionals. District and school teams are strongly encouraged to attend. The summit will provide educators with the knowledge, understanding, and tools to create a successful trauma-informed learning environment, whether in a single classroom, a whole school, or an entire district.

Topics that will be explored in the conference include: “Which strategies for traumatized students really work?” “What are key steps that schools can take to build relational trust?” “How do we support the grownups?” and “What are systemic approaches for schools and school systems to address trauma?”

The cost for an individual to attend is $250; for district/school teams of three or more, the cost is $200 per person. The registration deadline is June 13. To register, e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The African Hall subcommittee of the Springfield Science Museum announced the winners of the 27th annual Ubora Award and the ninth annual Ahadi Youth Award.

The 2018 Ubora Award recipient is Keshawn Dodds, executive director of the Springfield Boys & Girls Club. The 2018 Ahadi Youth Award recipient is Karissa Coleman of Springfield Central High School.

Dodds was born and raised in Springfield, where he resides with his wife, Tamara Dodds, and daughter, Sydney Sharee Dodds. He attended American International College with a football scholarship, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 2001 and returned to earn a master’s degree in education in 2009.

Dodds became a fourth- and fifth-grade elementary-school teacher at the Homer and Washington elementary schools in Springfield. He served as a mayoral aide under former Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan. Dodds worked for a decade at American International College as director of Diversity & Community Engagement. He is currently executive director of the Boys & Girls Club Family Center.

Dodds is also a published author, playwright, and actor. His first book, Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince, became an Amazon bestseller.

“This is an amazing honor to receive such a prestigious award from the Springfield community,” Dodds said. “I am truly humbled, yet honored to be selected for this. The work that I do, I do out of love for my city and especially our youth. To have my work recognized and also honored warms the heart. Thank you.”

A knowledge-seeking, articulate young person, Karissa Coleman, who attends Springfield Central High School, is a cadet in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (AFJROTC), where she is a training captain. Her high grade point average qualifies her to serve as director of Academics, and she runs the tutoring program for her fellow cadets. She also helps to mentor younger AFJROTC members in the overall training program so they, too, can excel.

Coleman was nominated for the Ahadi Award by her guidance counselor, Sara Sewell, who is impressed that Coleman maintains the highest academic status while also participating in many extra-curricular activities. Coleman is a cheerleader, plays softball, is a member of the National Honor Society, and volunteers for Revitalize Springfield, Toys for Tots, and breast-cancer awareness. She also participates with her church community by singing in the choir, helping to usher, working with children, and participating yearly in the Easter play.

“I am very excited about this award and very thankful that I was chosen for such an honor,” Coleman said. “As I participated in community-service events, cheered at football games, and tutored students, I never thought I would get recognized for doing things that I love. I am very thankful to my teachers, parents, church, and friends, who have guided me on this path and helped me become the person I am today. I am also very thankful to Mrs. Sewell, my amazing counselor who nominated me for this award.”

Named for the Swahili word for ‘excellence,’ the Ubora Award is presented by the African Hall subcommittee to an African-American adult who has demonstrated a commitment to the Greater Springfield area and exhibited excellence in the fields of community service, education, science, humanities or the arts.

Named for the Swahili word for ‘promise,’ the Ahadi Youth Award is presented by the African Hall subcommittee to a young African-American who has excelled in academics and performed admirable service to the Greater Springfield community.

The African Hall subcommittee is a volunteer group comprised of educators, business people, and community leaders from the African-American community.

The Ubora and Ahadi Awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Springfield Museums in September.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield College Associate Professor of Physical Education Michelle Moosbrugger and physical education and health education major Danielle Sweet were recognized at the recent 2018 Massachusetts Assoc. for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD) awards banquet.

Moosbrugger earned the Honor Award, given annually to a MAHPERD member who has made significant strides in the fields of health, physical education, recreation, or dance. Sweet earned the Outstanding Future Professional Award for her academic success and leadership qualities during her time at the college.

Moosbrugger, who also serves as the Springfield College graduate coordinator for the Department of Physical Education and Health Education, is a pre-service educator for MAHPERD and AAHPERD/SHAPE America. She is a previous winner of the MAHPERD Outstanding Future Professional Award, the EDA Bob Pate Scholarship, and the AAHPERD Past President Scholarship. She earned her doctor of philosophy degree at Springfield College in 2006, her master’s degree from Ithaca College in 2002, and her bachelor’s degree from Springfield College in 2000.

Sweet, who is a dual major with physical education and movement and sport studies, has earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.7 and placed on the dean’s list on multiple occasions. She is a member of the college’s physical education and health education club, and she has taught physical education to homeschooled students. She has also supervised for the Springfield College Outdoor Pursuits Camp, and is a member of the Team Impact leadership team.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — To meet a growing demand for legal studies education in Western Mass., Elms College announced the launch of two fully online certificate programs in legal studies to begin in the fall 2018 semester: the advanced paralegal certificate and the paralegal studies certificate in legal nurse consulting.

Students in these certificate tracks will learn about the legal profession and their ethical obligations within it; develop relevant critical thinking skills, including how to form sound and well-based judgments; and build effective oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills.

“Elms College is committed to educating paralegals and providing them with a foundational skill set that lets them enter the profession with a quality, foundational skill set for their profession,” said Kurt Ward, director of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at Elms College. “Each certificate program offers courses that apply to a variety of paralegal positions and is tailored for specific areas by including specialized coursework.”

Students in the advanced paralegal certificate track will acquire knowledge in law-specific subjects and develop skills that will help them advance in the legal profession, including technological proficiency with law-office-specific software and online research. They also will gain a skill set suitable for legal work, including interviewing clients and witnesses; completing various legal forms, legal research, legal writing, and case and statutory analysis; and providing litigation preparation and support.

A legal nurse consultant (LNC) is a registered nurse who possesses both medical and legal knowledge, and works with legal professionals on cases involving medical issues, such as medical malpractice, personal injury, product liability, or workers’ compensation. LNCs function in two main roles: as consulting experts or as testifying experts.

Whether as an in-house employee or independent consultant, the LNC offers a wide range of professional services, including interviewing clients; screening cases for merit; analyzing and summarizing medical records and other evidence; researching and evaluating medical literature; assisting in preparation for and evaluation of depositions; identifying, locating, screening, and consulting medical experts; and preparing exhibits for settlement hearings or trials.

“The best candidates for the legal nurse consulting track are licensed nurses who are looking to move into consulting with attorneys who practice medical malpractice, personal injury, or insurance law,” Ward said.

These two certificate tracks can be completed in less than one year, 100% percent online, by completing three eight-week sessions.

For the advanced paralegal certificate track, each applicant should have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. No specific major area of study is required. The paralegal studies certificate in legal nurse consulting requires that each applicant hold an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree as well as a current license to practice as a registered nurse; they also must have completed 2,000 hours of clinical practice as a registered nurse.

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — The Solidago Foundation recently introduced Rebecca Greenberg as the newest member of its program team. As program officer, Greenberg will draw on her 15 years of frontline advocacy to support the organization’s democracy and independent power-building work. Greenberg will work with the veteran Solidago Program team of strategic funders and national organizers to recommend program strategies.

“Rebecca brings to Solidago extensive expertise and a deep commitment and passion for affecting systemic change for historically marginalized communities,” said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, the foundation’s CEO. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to add her expertise to our team.”

Greenberg is a leader in the New York City housing-justice movement, serving most recently as deputy director of the Tenant Rights Coalition, the largest civil legal-services program in the country. In this role, she has worked with diverse stakeholders including tenants, judges, attorneys, clients, and policymakers, and supervised a legal team, working in partnership with local organizations and elected officials, to support communities facing significant housing needs in light of rapid and disruptive neighborhood changes and gentrification.

“I am thrilled and honored to be joining Solidago. This is an incredible opportunity for me to pivot out of my work as a social-justice attorney into the philanthropic space with an organization dedicated to promoting justice, equity, and sustainability for all,” Greenberg said. “Having worked with several Solidago partners in New York City since 2001, I am eager to forge relationships with progressive change makers and justice-seeking, community-based organizations across the country. The organization is so welcoming, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn, grow, and promote the mission of Solidago alongside this inspiring team.”

Prior to law school, Greenberg worked at the Urban Justice Center and for a local nonprofit in Yucatan, Mexico, engaging in grassroots education and conservation programs. She is a graduate of the City University of New York School of Law and McGill University.

“Rebecca has spent her career amplifying the voices of the communities she has served,” said Linda Stout, Solidago board chair. “We are so lucky to have someone with her leadership and organizational skills work with our team to support the great work at the Solidago Foundation.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Daishany Torres was named 2018 Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, and will compete against other Boys & Girls Club members for the Massachusetts Youth of the Year title and a $5,000 college scholarship from Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). The Youth of the Year program honors young people on their path to great futures and encourages all kids to lead, succeed, and inspire.

As the new Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, 18-year-old Torres was recognized for her leadership, service, academic excellence, and dedication to live a healthy lifestyle.

“It has been a joy watching Daishany grow as both a member and as a junior counselor. She truly represents what our organization is about,” said Jason Reed, the Chicopee club’s executive director.

Torres has been a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee Teen Center since her freshman year at Chicopee Comprehensive High School. She is a junior counselor now, working with other club members each week. She is also part of the club’s SMART Girls program, which allows members to explore their own and societal attitudes and values as they build skills for eating right, staying physically fit, getting good healthcare, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults. She has developed a passion for working with children, and will continue her education after graduation next year and hopes to open her own daycare in the future.

Locally, the Chicopee Youth of the Year program is supported by Freedom Credit Union. Torres will also be receiving $1,000 from the Donald Heroux Scholarship fund, in honor of the late Donald Heroux, a past executive director of the club.

If Torres wins at the state competition in June, she will compete for the title of Northeast Region Youth of the Year and an additional $10,000 college scholarship, renewable for four years up to $40,000. Five regional winners will advance to Washington, D.C., in September, to compete for the title of BGCA’s National Youth of the Year and an additional scholarship of $25,000, renewable each year up to $100,000.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will confer doctoral degrees at a doctoral graduation and hooding ceremony on Saturday, May 12 at 2 p.m. in the Esther B. Griswold Theatre on the AIC campus located at 1000 State St., Springfield.

Doctorates will be bestowed on 50 students graduating from advanced degree programs in the School of Education and the School of Health Sciences, including doctor of education, doctor of education in educational psychology, doctor of occupational therapy, and doctor of physical therapy.

Marsha Pollard, interim executive vice president for Academic Affairs, will deliver the ceremony’s address to students. The newly minted doctors will be celebrated at a private reception following the ceremony.

Daily News

FRAMINGHAM — United Way of Pioneer Valley (UWPV) participated in the MassSaves Summit for financial literacy, where it debuted a new program aimed at those in need of personal financial education. “A Day in the Life” is an interactive demonstration which introduces people to the fundamentals of financial wellness.

The program operates like a game, where participants are given a hypothetical income and debt load, and are then presented with a series of simulated life events. They are then asked to consider how to best manage their budgets and priorities, and how to prepare for and deal with unexpected expenses. For some participants, this may be the first time they’ve been asked to think critically about personal-finance issues and long-term planning.

According to Jennifer Kinsman, UWPV’s Community Impact director, “the program generated a lot of interest, particularly from educators across the state who expressed a desire to use ‘A Day in the Life’ as a classroom teaching tool. We also look forward to presenting this tool to people interested in supporting UWPV’s work in financial wellness so they can get a true sense of the work we do.”

“A Day in the Life” is the most recent addition to a suite of programs and services offered or sponsored by UWPV, in its mission to promote financial wellness. It was created within the Thrive initiative, a regional program which promotes financial literacy and success through free and confidential one-on-one coaching.

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) announced that Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts has been selected a finalist for the 2018 Nonprofit Excellence Award in the Small Nonprofit category. The Excellence Awards will be presented at the Massachusetts State House on Monday, June 4.

“The Nonprofit Excellence Awards celebrate the nonprofits and individuals who are making a difference in every subsector and region of Massachusetts,” said Jim Klocke, CEO of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. “We are excited to honor the effectiveness and diversity of this year’s impressive finalists for the awards, as well as the dedication and impact of the 33,000 nonprofits and more than half a million nonprofit employees in Massachusetts.”

The Small Nonprofit Excellence Award recognizes an organization making an outsized impact in its community despite limited resources. Girls on the Run inspires girls to be healthy, joyful, and confident, using an experiential, social-emotional curriculum that integrates running. In its third year of operation, Girls on the Run has 180 volunteer coaches, including teachers, parents, and community members operating at 54 school sites serving over 740 girls. To date, Girls on the Run has served more than 1,200 girls around Western Mass.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as a finalist for the Small Nonprofit Excellence Award,” said Alison Berman, council director of Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts. “We are proud to be providing such a life-changing program to so many girls in Western Massachusetts. The program touches more than the girls; it impacts their schools, families, and communities.”

This year, MNN’s independent panel of nonprofit and business leaders reviewed more than 150 Excellence Award nominations that highlighted the incredible work of nonprofits across the state. The finalists range from large education providers to small arts organizations. These 27 nonprofits and individuals are improving communities across the Commonwealth, representing every region of Massachusetts.

Daily News

AGAWAM — CHD and the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast (EANE) will co-present a forum designed for human-resources professionals and business owners on the subject of “Mental Health in the Workplace.” The free forum will take place on Friday, May 11 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at EANE’s offices at 67 Hunt St., Agawam.

The panel will discuss topics such as identifying mental-health issues with your employees, creating a system of support and resources for your organization, the legalities of supporting employees through mental-health issues, and the importance of setting up a holistic approach to mental wellness.

Panelists for the program include Carol Fitzgerald, vice president of Human Resources, CHD; Lindsay Ciepiela, Health and Wellness Program director, CHD; and John Gannon, partner, Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. Forum participants will receive CHD’s just-released employer resource titled “Mental Wellness in the Workplace: A Toolkit for Supporting Employees with Mental Health Conditions.”

“May is Mental Health Awareness month across the U.S.,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president of Development for CHD. “Now, more than ever, it’s critical for employers to understand the impact of mental-health issues on employees and their business. Left unaddressed or misunderstood, these issues can create low employee engagement, reduced productivity, high turnover, or even workplace violence. This employer forum will provide participants with a toolkit they can apply in creating a supportive workplace environment in their own organizations.”

There is no cost to attend the employer forum, although registration is required. To register, contact Allison Ebner, director of Member Relations at EANE, at [email protected] or (413) 789-6400.

“In today’s workplace, employers are facing an unprecedented number of employee-related issues that pertain to mental wellness, for themselves and for family members,” Ebner said. “It’s critical that employers understand the best ways to support their work teams through education, communication, and resources.”

Daily News

GREENFIELD — Brian Kapitulik has accepted the position of dean of Business, Information Technology, Professional Studies, and Social Sciences at Greenfield Community College (GCC).

“After a thorough search, we were excited to offer the position of dean to Brian,” said Catherine Seaver, chief Academic Affairs officer. “Brian brings extensive experience as a faculty member, then department chair, to the role of dean. He hit the ground running and quickly established himself as the leader of the Business, Information Technology, Professional Studies, and Social Sciences division.”

Kapitulik has 18 years of professional experience in the Massachusetts public higher-education system and, in particular, during the last decade, in community college. Before his current role, he was chair of the Department of Social Sciences and professor of Sociology at GCC. He has also taught at UMass Amherst and Quinsigamond Community College. During this time, he evaluated and developed curriculum, assessed and reviewed programs, created new courses, and hired and mentored new faculty, all while teaching students, publishing papers, organizing professional-development workshops in his field, and serving the college in a number of leadership capacities ranging from search committees to faculty mentor for online pedagogy.

40 Under 40 Class of 2018 Cover Story

Announcing the 12th Annual Cohort of 40 Under Forty Honorees

40under40-logo2017aWhen BusinessWest launched a program in 2007 to honor young professionals in Western Mass. — not only for their career achievements, but for their service to the community — there was little concern that the initial flow of nominations might slow to a trickle years later.

We were right. In fact, 40 Under Forty has become such a coveted honor in the region’s business community that the flow has turned into a flood, with more than 180 unique nominations arriving this year, making the job of five independent judges tougher than ever.

They did their job well, however, as you’ll find while reading through the profiles on the coming pages. The format is a bit different this year — instead of being interviewed, the winners were free to craft and write out their own thoughts — but, collectively, they speak of a wave of young talent that is only getting larger during what can only be described as an economic renaissance in Western Mass.

As usual, they hail from a host of different industries, from law to banking; from education to healthcare; from media to retail, just to name a few. Many are advancing the work of long-established businesses, while others, with an entrepreneurial bent, created their own opportunities instead of waiting for them to emerge.


40 Under Forty Class of 2018

Amanda Abramson
Yahaira Antonmarchi
Lindsay Barron
Nathan Bazinet
Andrew Bresciano
Saul Caban
Jamie Campbell
Crystal Childs
Nathan Costa
Jamie Daniels

 

But there are, as always, some common denominators, including excellence within one’s profession, a commitment to giving back to the community, dedication to family and work/life balance, and a focus on what else they do in each of those realms.

The class of 2018 will be celebrated at the annual 40 Under Forty Gala on Thursday, June 21 at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in Holyoke. A limited number of tables are available, and a number of individual seats and standing-room-only tickets are available as well — but they will sell out quickly.

The gala will also feature the announcement of the winner of the fourth annual Continued Excellence Award, a recognition program that salutes the 40 Under Forty honoree who has most impressively added to their résumé of accomplishments in the workplace and within the community, as chosen by a panel of judges. Nominations are still being accepted through Monday, May 14 at businesswest.com/40-under-forty-continued-excellence-award.

Speaking of judges, we thank those who scored the more than 180 nominations for this year’s 40 Under Forty competition (their story HERE). They are:

Ken Carter, member of the UMass Amherst Polymer Science and Engineering Department;
Mark Fulco, president of Mercy Medical Center;
Jim Hickson, senior vice president and commercial regional president for the Pioneer Valley and Connecticut for Berkshire Bank;
Angela Lussier, CEO and founder of the Speaker Sisterhood; and
Kristi Reale, partner at Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C..

Presenting Sponsors

nortwestern-mutual peoplesbank-logo

Sponsors

hne_logo_cmyk_stack-page-001 isenberg
renew-calm-logo-002

Partner

yps


Photography for this special section by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Director of Kehillah, Springfield Jewish Community Center; Age 26 Education: BS, Springfield College; MS, Bay Path University

 Bethany Young

Bethany Young

Young grew up in Upstate New York with two older sisters and an older brother. She earned her undergraduate degree at Springfield College, where she ran on the track and field team. After graduation, she began working at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, and through Kehillah, a JCC program that offers programs for individuals with special needs, her eyes were opened to a special population of people with different abilities. Young is currently working toward her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis with an eye on becoming a board-certified behavior analyst. She loves spending time with friends, playing ‘name that tune,’ sweets, and learning.

What did you want to be when you grew up? My first career choice when I was really little was to be a brown bird like the ones in my backyard. My family likes to remind me of that often. I contemplated being a pharmacist, a teacher, and an athletic trainer. The one desired career that has remained a constant for me is to be a hospice nurse.

How do you define success? Success is putting a smile on someone’s face without them telling you they needed it.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I am incredibly fortunate to have met several beautiful, fierce, and strong people in my life that have lent me their guidance. I’ve learned so much from them all and continue to be inspired by their merits.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To not press ‘snooze’ one more time.

What goals have you set for yourself? I hope to make my parents proud, my siblings feel loved, and my friends feel confident in what they are. I also want to better my community by giving as much of myself as I can to it. My community includes my family, friends, career, and geographical location. I hope to make a difference that lasts over time.

Whom do you look up to? There are no better people, or parents, than my mom and dad. Those two are my best (and favorite) role models.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

 

 

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Meteorologist, Western Mass News; Age 32; Education: BS, Western Connecticut State University

Jacob Wycoff

Jacob Wycoff

For the past three years, Wycoff has been the evening meteorologist with Western Mass News in Springfield. He produces an award-winning segment called “10 Towns in 10 Days,” where he visits local towns to take in the sights and sounds. Wycoff got bit by the weather bug in 1993 during the Storm of the Century. A few years later, Twister was released and solidified his dream to become a weatherman. He is a dedicated husband and proud father, and enjoys giving back to the community through various organizations.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A meteorologist! I’m lucky to have parents and teachers who helped me reach my childhood goal.

How do you define success? The ultimate success in life will be for my daughter to grow up and say I was a great dad. Everything else would be icing on the cake.

What three words best describe you? Caring, funny, loyal.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? I have multiple mentors, mainly from my internship days. Geoff Fox, Bob Ryan, and Vytas Reid were instrumental in helping me shake the nerves and learn the science of TV weather.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To live my values every day. It’s also kinda important to get my weather forecast correct.

What are you passionate about? Because of my job, I’ve been able to reach a lot of youngsters through school visits. I look to inspire kids to be whatever they want to be in life, but especially the STEM fields.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Charlie Brown. We both have the same hairline.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I look up to my wife, Sujata, a chemistry teacher turned journalist. She’s someone who epitomizes hard work and dedication. She wasn’t afraid to follow her passion of journalism after being a teacher for six years.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? St. Francis of Assisi. He’s been a role model of sorts, so much so that I named my daughter in his honor. He gave up worldly goods and lived very simply.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Co-owner and Marketing Director, Mercedes-Benz of Springfield; Age 39; Education: MS, Lehigh University

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth

Wirth has spent the past 18 years working for the Mercedes-Benz brand. She started her career in the Engineering department at Mercedes-Benz USA in 2000. She then held positions in PR and marketing before entering retail. She learned to drive stick on a Dodge Neon during an internship at Chrysler Corp. in 1997. That same summer, she got her first (and only) ticket for drag racing a Viper during the infamous Woodward Cruise in Detroit. She and her husband, Peter, have four children.

What did you want to be when you grew up? I toggled between lawyer, doctor, and Oprah Winfrey.

How do you define success? The ultimate symbol of success is time independence. When you can choose how you spend each and every minute of your time without restriction, you’ve made it.

What three words best describe you? Driven, caring, mom.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? The people!

Who has been your best mentor, and why? My mom and dad — the best example setters, cheerleaders, and sage advisors on the planet.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? Sandra Bullock.

What are you passionate about? I believe in the power of every individual, and I am committed to each and every person realizing their true potential, no matter what circumstances he or she may have been born into. This takes shape in myriad ways.

Whom do you look up to, and why? I believe the only person holding you back from achieving your dreams is … you. To all those going back to school to get a higher degree, especially working parents, I have so much respect for your decision and admire the sacrifices you make to achieve your goals. To all the inventors, tinkerers, advocates, and change agents … thanks for making the world a better place for us all.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? There are so many people … John and Jackie Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, Oprah Winfrey … but if I had to choose one, I would love to meet Albert Einstein, just to pick his brain.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Marketing Director, Peter Pan Bus Lines; Age 37; Education: Holyoke Community College

Danielle Veronesi-Polastry

Danielle Veronesi-Polastry

While in college, Veronesi-Polastry began her marketing career at iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), as a on-air radio producer and personality with MIX 93.1. She then became director of Marketing and remained with iHeartMedia for 15 years. In 2015, she joined Peter Pan Bus Lines as director of Marketing, promoting motorcoach transportation throughout the company’s route system, encompassing Boston/Cape Cod, Providence, and intermediate cities and towns throughout the Northeast to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. She is married to Police Sergeant Adam Polastry and mother to an 8-year-old son, Chace.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Wonder Woman.

What three words best describe you? Motivated, reliable, team player.

Who has been your best mentor, and why? Adam Wright of Advertus Media in Westfield. As a student, I was involved with group sales at Six Flags, and became acquainted with Adam, a major influence on my career in the marketing field. When he joined Clear Channel, I moved to that company to pursue marketing in mass media under his guidance. When the opportunity arose to join Peter Pan Bus Lines as its director of Marketing, Adam encouraged me to apply for that position, and continues to mentor me to this day.

What are you passionate about? My family, friends, and donating my time to the Jimmy Fund (I am the Western Mass. Council secretary).

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Peter L. Picknelly. I would love to be able to hear his stories of Peter Pan firsthand, as well as share our marketing initiatives, all while celebrating our recent split from Greyhound Bus. Peter Pan recently opened a ticket counter at the New York City Port Authority — the first time in 35 years Peter Pan was able to sell our own tickets in NYC! The stories are surely an adventure that he would have loved to hear about.


Photography by Leah Martin Photography

 

 

 

 

40 Under 40 Class of 2018

Partner, Cofab Design and Brick Coworkshop; Age 27; Education: BS, Boston University

Mike Stone

Mike Stone

Stone is a mechanical engineer and designer who’s into multi-disciplinary projects, moving parts, products, machines, prototypes, and hammer swinging. He’s a partner at Cofab Design, a product design and development studio, and a cofounder of Brick Coworkshop, a shared workspace, both located in Holyoke. He’s also part of the team at AF, a national pop-up event series.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A scientist — science rules. Biology and physics had my attention for a while. Unfortunately, that same attention span disposes me to detailed, focused research work, so I ended up in the design world.

How do you define success? I feel successful if I am always learning and reading, always supporting and listening to my collaborators and community, and continually working to realize or facilitate new and energizing projects.

What do you like most about Western Massachusetts? I love the fact that our region is a crossroads of sorts. Being from the area, I’m excited to see positive energy and projects in many towns and cities. I think the relative size of the region lends itself to a higher likelihood that we can have conversations and initiatives that make this a better place to live for everyone — as well as a hub for art, design, entrepreneurship, and other pursuits.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? If I’m feeling ‘on’ for a given day, my goal is to get through a good swath of substantive to-do list items. If I’m feeling ‘off,’ my goal is to make it through to the next day.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Andy Samberg circa 2005.

What are you passionate about? I’m a chronic generalist (terminal generalist may be more appropriate), so I like to dabble with lots of things. I’m passionate about the design world (product, graphic, architecture, planning, etc.). I love to build things. I read fiction and nonfiction as constantly as I can and love print publications. I’ve been trying to play music more often lately, and have a long list of projects to complete and things to learn. Being involved with Brick has turned me on to the general process of community building, and I’m interested to learn and apply more in that discipline.

 

Photography  by Leah Martin Photography