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Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College will host its seventh annual Black Experience Summit in celebration of Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 23 from noon to 4 p.m. This in-person event, which will take place in the college’s Veritas Auditorium, is hosted by the Elms College President’s Office and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

For the second consecutive year, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield is co-sponsoring the summit.

“Forging Democracy: Black Womanhood and the Long March for Civil Rights” is the theme for this year’s summit. “We will explore the pivotal and foundational role that Black women have played in forging, defining, defending and preserving the very fabric of U.S. democratic ideals and practices,” said Jennifer Shoaff, chief Diversity officer at Elms College.

The summit’s two keynote speakers — Brittney Cooper and Kellie Carter Jackson — were interviewed in the documentary Stamped from the Beginning, which is currently streaming on Netflix. Excerpts from the documentary will be presented as the speakers share their scholarship and lead thoughtful discussions during the summit.

Cooper is professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, and has written columns for several national publications, including the New York Times, TIME, Ebony, and Marie Claire.

Jackson is the Michael and Denise Kellen ’68 associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies and the chair of Africana Studies at Wellesley College. She is the author of the award-winning book Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence, and her essays have been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Boston Globe.

“The purpose of the Black Experience Summit is to create an atmosphere where meaningful dialogue can transpire, based on evidence and scholarship, about relevant issues affecting the Black community. This year’s theme is particularly pertinent considering the crucial role that Black women have played in our nation’s history, and in civil rights, for generations,” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “We are privileged to have Brittney Cooper and Kellie Carter Jackson as guest speakers, and I look forward to the engaging and powerful discussion to come.”

During the summit, Lyrical Faith, a Black American educator, activist, and poet, will present a spoken-word presentation.

The free event is open to the public. Click here to register.

Business Talk Podcast

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

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 197: January 22, 2024

BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks to Elms College President Harry Dumay

Colleges and universities have had to deal with a host of challenges in recent years, from demographic pressures on enrollment numbers to recovery from a pandemic that challenged the main role of colleges: delivering access to quality education. Elms College has emerged from those years on a mission: to reshape its strategic plan, launch a capital campaign to help implement it, and better prepare students for a changing work world. On the next episode of BusinessTalk, BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks to Elms College President Harry Dumay about these developments, as well as an intriguing regional higher-ed partnership with Springfield Public Schools to improve literacy in area kids. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

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Daily News

CHICOPEE — The master of science in nursing (MSN) program at Elms College has been ranked by Forbes Advisor as one of the most affordable, high-quality online MSN programs in the U.S. The MSN program at Elms was one of nine programs ranked by Forbes Advisor and the only one located in Massachusetts.

Forbes Advisor is part of the Forbes organization and is dedicated to helping consumers make the best financial choices. A portion of its editorial content includes the ranking of higher-education institutions and programs.

“This ranking by Forbes Advisor shows that the programs we offer in the School of Nursing, such as the MSN program, are highly regarded across the country,” said Julie Beck, dean of Elms College School of Nursing. “A significant part of this recognition goes to our dedicated nursing faculty who provide our nursing students with an extraordinary healthcare experience.”

The MSN program at Elms is fully online and allows students to pursue one of four tracks, including nursing & health services management, nursing education, and an MSN/MBA dual-degree option. The fourth track, school nursing, is the only MSN school nursing program in the U.S.

“Our MSN students are experienced professional nurses who are looking to advance their careers,” said Emily Cabrera, director of the MSN program at Elms. “What makes our program unique is that we challenge our students to embrace the rapidly changing healthcare environment, while supporting their work-school-life balance.”

For the online MSN rankings, Forbes Advisor rated data from several sources in the categories of affordability, credibility, student outcomes, student experience, and the application process.

Professional Development

Professional Development

Kimberly Quinonez

After getting some help rising out of poverty, Kimberly Quinonez is now in the business of helping others.

Kimberly Quinonez says she’s always had a passion for helping people, and a desire to make doing so a career.

But for most of her life, she was the one needing help.

A native of South Carolina, she grew up in a life of poverty, addiction, homelessness, and a sixth-grade education, and was desperate for a way out — and up — from all that.

After getting clean and moving to Western Mass., she completed her high-school equivalency at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) at age 43 and enrolled in the school’s two-year associate-degree program in social work. And while still earning that high-school equivalency, she told BusinessWest, she met Wally Soufane, social work specialist at Elms College, who became a mentor and essentially put her on a path to the bachelor’s degree-completion program offered at the school.

Completing that program, and the associate degree before that, were stern challenges, she said, noting that there were several times when she wanted to quit because the combination of life and school seemed like too much. But she persevered, with help (there’s that word again) from Soufane and others who helped provide her with the will to carry on.

“I kept on and kept on; I had some discouraging moments, but I just couldn’t give up because this was something that I really wanted for myself,” she said. “And I really like helping people.”

This past May, she completed that program and was among the speakers at Elms’ commencement ceremonies, her story riveting those in attendance. Today, she’s employed at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department as a care coordinator and counselor, while also working toward a master’s degree in social work at Springfield College.

“If we accept a student, our job is to support them. If they’re going to do the work, we need to support them as best we can and help them be successful, and we do that; our retention rates, over 80%, are very good, and our graduation rates, in the mid-60s, are very good.”

Her story touches on many elements of the bachelor’s degree-completion programs at Elms, said Walter Breau, executive dean of the college’s Kirley School of Continuing Education — everything from its ability to help non-traditional students set and achieve goals to the way its administrators and instructors work with students to help them overcome challenges and complete their degrees.

“If we accept a student, our job is to support them,” he went on. “If they’re going to do the work, we need to support them as best we can and help them be successful, and we do that; our retention rates, over 80%, are very good, and our graduation rates, in the mid-60s, are very good.”

Social work is one of the more popular programs at the Kirley School, said Breau, adding that others, many of them offered online, include computer information technology and security (CITS), computer science, healthcare management, speech-language pathology assistant, management and marketing, psychology, and RN-BSN.

Overall, there are now roughly 200 individuals enrolled in continuing-education (CE) programs at Elms, roughly 20% of the undergraduate population, said Breau, a veteran administrator at the college who recently took the helm at the Kirley School, noting that the goal is to grow enrollment to 300 and beyond.

Walter Breau says the Kirley School is focused

Walter Breau says the Kirley School is focused on not only enrolling people in degree programs, but seeing them through to the finish line.
Staff Photo

And there is certainly some momentum with regard to enrollment, as the region’s community colleges, bolstered by the MassReconnect Program, which provides free tuition to those over age 25, are seeing their first real rise in enrollment since well before the pandemic.

For this issue, BusinessWest continues its series spotlighting professional-development programs across the region with a visit to the Kirley School and an examination of how it can change lives, like Quinonez’s, in a profound way.

 

Grade Expectations

This past May, Elms’ School of Continuing Education was officially renamed the Sister Kathleen Kirley ’66 School of Continuing Education, following a donation to the school in her honor.

And the new name is quite fitting, said Breau, noting that Sr. Kathleen, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, now retired from the school, was director of Continuing Education at Elms from 1977 to 1990 and served as the dean of Continuing Education and Graduate Studies from 1990 to 1998.

“If you look at the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph, their goal is to serve the community,” he noted. “And at some point, instead of just having the traditional programs where you come to campus Monday through Friday, they understood that there was a population of individuals we could serve in a different way.”

That was the genesis of continuing education at Elms, he said, adding that, for more than a half-century now, the school has continued to serve non-traditional students with a variety of programs aimed at helping individuals not only earn degrees, but forge careers in growing fields.

These include collaborations with the region’s community colleges, whereby students can earn bachelor’s degrees on the community-college campuses. Indeed, there are social work programs at Asnuntuck Community College, Berkshire Community College, Greenfield Community College, and Springfield Technical Community College, said Breau, noting that many who earn their bachelor’s degrees at those locations, and on the Elms campus as well, go on to earn a master’s degree and become a licensed clinical social worker in the Bay State.

“If you’re a computer science major at STCC and you’re looking to earn your bachelor’s, we make sure there’s no loss of credits. You finish at STCC in May, and you start with us in August in the computer science bachelor’s program. It’s just another sign to students that we’ve deliberately thought about how to make you successful.”

“We have many of our students at STCC, Asnuntuck, and here on campus go forward and get their MSW,” he said, adding that there is “more than enough demand” for individuals who have those credentials.

Other popular programs include RN-BSN and speech-language pathology assistant, he said, adding that there is growing demand in both fields, and especially nursing.

Elms has articulation agreements, more than 50 in all, with the area community colleges, Breau explained, noting that these partnerships help create what he called “seamless pathways” as individuals take the credits they earned while completing an associate degree and apply them toward a bachelor’s degree at Elms.

“If you’re a computer science major at STCC and you’re looking to earn your bachelor’s, we make sure there’s no loss of credits,” he noted. “You finish at STCC in May, and you start with us in August in the computer science bachelor’s program. It’s just another sign to students that we’ve deliberately thought about how to make you successful.”

There are many such signs, he went on, adding that one point of emphasis at the Kirley School is to not simply merely get people enrolled in the various degree programs, but to see them through to completion.

And completion can be challenging, Breau said, noting that more than 75% of those enrolled in CE programs at Elms are 25 and older, which means they’re likely dealing with a number of life matters, such as work and family.

“They’re an older population who have decided, for one reason or another, that they want to fit in coursework with work, family, and other obligations,” he explained. “Our goal is first to show that it’s possible, it’s accessible, it’s affordable. People can see the end point even before they start.”

After showing it’s possible, the school then helps make it possible, with everything from flexible start dates to initiatives to help them step back in if they happen to hit pause for whatever reason, to many forms of student support, such as a 24-hour tutoring program.

Quinonez has seen these efforts to provide support up close and personal.

She said those at Elms were constantly supporting and “checking up on me” while she was in school. And they still do, months after she graduated.

“They still reach out to me today and say, ‘Kimberly, how’s it going?’” she told BusinessWest. “Elms changed me; I grew up and matured a lot — Elms College became my parents.”

 

Bottom Line

Today, Quinonez is working toward another degree at Springfield College and expects to complete that work in May. She said her time at Elms didn’t just help her find a career — instead of a job — but it instilled in her the desire to continue to reach higher and position herself to help people in more ways.

That’s what Sr. Kathleen Kirley had in mind when she laid the groundwork for today’s highly successful CE department at Elms.

The program has provided pathways to success and opened doors for people like Quinonez, who just needed a little help. And now they can help others.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — On Wednesday, Oct. 18, the Institute for Theology and Pastoral Studies at Elms College will host the fall 2023 Mary Dooley Lecture at 4 p.m. in the Alumnae Library Theater on the Elms College campus. This free lecture is open to the public.

The featured speaker at the Mary Dooley Lecture will be Katherine Schmidt, associate professor and chair of Theology and Religious Studies at Molloy University in Rockville Centre, N.Y. In her remarks, “Faith in a Digital Age,” she will speak on how faith has been transformed in current society and provide her thoughts on identifying faith in the digital culture.

Schmidt’s research focuses on the relationship of theology and culture, specifically digital culture and technology. She is the author of Virtual Communion: Theology of the Internet and the Catholic Sacramental Imagination.

This lecture is named after the late Sr. Mary Dooley ’44, who served as president of Elms College from 1979 to 1994. Prior to her presidency, she was a member of the Elms faculty and served as chair of the Language Department.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College greatly improved its ranking on two listings in the U.S. News & World Report 2024 Best Colleges rankings and was listed as a Best Value School in the North Region for the first time.

The college jumped 33 places to 60th on the list of Best Regional Universities (North) and rose 22 slots to 12th in the Top Performers on Social Mobility, Regional Universities (North) category. This list ranks schools for enrolling and graduating large proportions of students who have received federal Pell Grants.

New this year, Elms College was ranked 33rd on the Best Value Schools, Regional Universities (North) list. This category examines a school’s academic quality and the cost of its programs. The higher the quality of programs and the lower the cost, the better the value a school provides.

“It gives all of us at Elms College immense pride and satisfaction that the Elms value is recognized in rankings such as the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. We are pleased that Elms improved its ranking on two lists this year and entered the list of Best Value Schools (North),” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “In addition to the high-quality education we provide, I thank the Elms community for their efforts that empower our students to make a difference in the lives of the people around them.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) selected Elms College to participate in the inaugural cohort of the CIC’s Work-based Learning (WBL) Consortium.

Elms College is one of 25 member colleges from across the country to participate in the first-ever WBL Consortium. For its participation, Elms has been awarded a three-year grant of approximately $65,000 from CIC, effective starting in the spring of 2024.

The WBL Consortium will provide a national community of practice to support institutions in easing student barriers to internship access and job-market preparation, particularly for students from underrepresented groups. This experiential learning platform, in partnership with Riipen, will integrate real-world, employer-designed projects into existing courses to equip students with skills, real-world experiences, and professional connections to support their future careers.

“Elms is honored to be a part of CIC’s WBL Consortium, which will provide our students an enhanced learning experience since the internships will be integrated within their course curricula,” said Jennifer Granger Sullivan, director of Experiential Learning at Elms.

CIC and Riipen will work with a team of seven faculty and staff members at Elms to update curricula and integrate experiential learning into course materials starting with the spring 2024 semester.

This CIC initiative is made possible thanks to funding from Ascendium Education Group and Strada Education Foundation.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College has named Lukman Arsalan its new vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing, effective Aug. 14. In this role, Arsalan will become a member of the president’s cabinet.

“I am thrilled that Lukman has accepted the position to be Elms College’s new vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing,” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “His diverse expertise in enrollment, recruitment, financial aid, and marketing strategy are valuable assets that will help us attract highly talented students.”

Arsalan joined Elms College following his most recent appointment as the dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan. Prior to that, he served as dean of Admission at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania and director of Global Enrollment and Student Success at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. He brings a wealth of experience in higher education to this leadership role at Elms and will lead the college’s strategic efforts to attract outstanding students from Massachusetts, New England, and beyond.

At King’s Academy, Arsalan achieved record-breaking application numbers and successfully launched a national campaign to attract talented students. During his tenure at Trinity College, he built a reputation for his dedication to providing a student-success ecosystem, while significantly increasing the college’s international applications, net revenue, and global brand recognition.

Arsalan is passionate about education and access. “While the challenges in higher education are daunting, they excite and energize me,” he said. “I am thrilled to be joining the dedicated Elms community and helping the college face these headwinds boldly, ensuring we meet our strategic enrollment goals.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College named Julie Beck its new dean of the School of Nursing (SON). Beck’s appointment was effective Aug. 1.

“We are excited that Julie Beck is the next dean of the Elms College School of Nursing,” Elms College Vice President of Academic Affairs Walter Breau said. “I look forward to working with her on the strategic direction of the SON and seeing her lead our highly regarded nursing program.”

Beck joins Elms from Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., where she recently served as director of Nursing and Health Sciences. The author of the book The Meaning of Voice to Experienced Nurses in Magnet Hospitals, Beck has more than 20 years of higher-education experience in nursing and holds a doctoral degree in adult education from Penn State University. She also holds an MSN in nursing education from Villanova University and a BSN from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.

Reporting to Breau, Beck will be a key member of Elms’ leadership, bringing a new strategy and vision that will reinforce the strengths of the School of Nursing. The Elms SON degree programs include bachelor of science in nursing, master of science in nursing, and doctor of nursing practice.

“I am committed to excellence in nursing education with an emphasis on knowledge, compassion, and presence,” Beck said. “I am thrilled to be joining the Elms College team and look forward to working with the Elms community to advance the profession of nursing.”

Healthcare News

‘I Love the Profession’

Ashley Girouard

Ashley Girouard is gaining experience through Baystate’s SNAP program for new nurses.

 

To Ashley Girouard, seeing patients isn’t just treating them and sending them on their way. There’s a connection to be made in each encounter.

“I love making connections with my patients,” she said of her current work in an orthopedic unit at Baystate Medical Center. “A lot of these patients come in for routine hip and knee surgeries, and they’re healthy. And I love being able to talk to them. We’ll talk about sports, we’ll talk about their lives, their family, and I think it’s great. I love making those connections by talking to them.”

At Elms College, where she recently earned her bachelor of science in nursing degree and will soon add the title of registered nurse, Girouard followed in the footsteps of her mother, who made nursing her profession as well.

“I’ve always looked up to her. I see what she does day in and day out,” she said. “I know that I love caring for everybody around me, so I just decided to go into this profession … and I love it.”

Girouard currently works in the Student Nurse Associate Program (SNAP) at Baystate. SNAP nurses function in a supportive role to a registered nurse and work collaboratively with the healthcare team in the management of patient care. This position allows the student to gain experience in providing care to a diverse patient population and to develop strong communication and organizational skills.

Meanwhile, they perform direct patient care, obtain and record vital signs, collect laboratory specimens, document intake and output, communicate with patients and staff, promote patient safety, and function as a team member within the health system. Girouard appreciates the experience she’s getting through the program, not only in the specifics of orthopedics, but how to relate to patients. And she intends to keep learning, in a variety of settings.

“I want to get some med-surg experience, and I’ve always been interested in intensive care. And then I definitely want to go back to school,” she said, looking to move on to a master’s program. “My goal is to be a nurse practitioner.”

When asked why she strives for an ICU role, she said the “go, go, go” of the setting appeals to her. “These patients are very critical, and I’d like to be able to help them in any way possible, and just get them even a little better than they were in the morning.”

Taking classes and gaining learning experiences through the COVID-19 years was difficult, she admitted. “I’m a very hands-on visual learner, and having to learn from home in my room on a desk was not ideal at all.

“But we had amazing professors at Elms,” she added. “And they helped so much, all the time. They would have hourly extra time when you could go on Zoom with them, and if you needed help, they were always willing to help. I think the professors really made a difference. After all, they had to adjust to this big change as well.”

Even a period of mask wearing in class was a reminder that the pandemic wasn’t quite over, so being able to attend classes without masks this past year — and, more recently, work clinical rotations without them — have been pleasant reminders that life has returned to normal.

For health systems, of course, it’s still a very challenging time because of nurse shortages, as all the recent graduates we spoke with told us. And that means greater career opportunities for those entering the field, who are able to write their own tickets — with the right degrees of course.

“Even if there weren’t so many jobs out there, I still would be interested in nursing. I love the profession,” Girouard said. “But I think a lot of people want to go into nursing because they know they can go into deeper specialties like ICU or PICU, things like that.”

The work certainly requires certain traits, she said. “Definitely caring, for sure. And patience. If you don’t have patience, I don’t think this would be a good career choice for you; a lot of patients can be very difficult. And you need to be careful, too. A lot of errors can happen, and we learn in nursing school how important it is to prevent errors. It’s so easy to make a mistake.”

So, as Girouard ponders what might be next for her, both in the work setting and eyeing the next steps in her education, she’s walking into a world of opportunities as an RN with a healthy sense of caution and care, but not anxiety.

“I’m just so excited,” she said. “The last four years were so difficult, especially with COVID and working in the hospital during COVID. And now I get to go to work and not wear a mask. And I’m going to be a nurse, and actually take care of patients and be a difference maker.”

 

—Joseph Bednar

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and Elms College are partnering to create an affordable and seamless pathway for students to transfer into the biology program at elms.

Students who earn their associate degree in engineering and physical science transfer (biology transfer) from STCC can enroll at Elms as a biology major to seek a bachelor’s degree, according to the terms of an articulation agreement.

The collaboration between the two institutions allows students who earn their bachelor’s degree and meet GPA requirements to enroll in the master’s-degree program.

In recent years, STCC and Elms, with a campus in Chicopee, have worked together to offer several other program-transfer agreements, including pathways for computer-related majors, social work, graphic design, health information technology, medical coding and billing, and nursing.

In a ceremony on May 2, STCC President John Cook and Elms President Harry Dumay formally signed an agreement that eases the coursework transfer between the two colleges for students seeking degrees in biology.

Students who earn their associate degree from STCC in biology transfer will enter Elms as third-year students with at least 60 transfer credits. Elms will accept 75 credits from STCC. Students need to earn 120 credits to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Full-time students could complete their bachelor’s degree in two years at Elms.

The STCC-Elms program includes a combination of online courses and some on-campus, low-residency lab-course experiences.

“We are thankful again to collaborate with Elms and offer an affordable pathway to a biology degree,” Cook said. “Students will gain skills that open the door to many employment opportunities, including careers in the medical and pharmaceutical fields.”

Dumay added that “we are delighted to partner with Springfield Technical Community College once again and offer STCC engineering and science transfer students a pathway to complete their education at Elms. With this agreement, we hope to increase the number of skilled workers employed in the life sciences in Western Massachusetts.”

STCC Vice President of Academic Affairs Geraldine de Berly noted that “this is an exciting opportunity for our students interested in the life sciences. This new transfer pathway applies to students who are full-time or part-time, which is an important feature for students who need flexibility, and strengthens our partnership with Elms.”

Walter Breau, vice president of Academic Affairs at Elms, added that “Elms College and STCC have a long history of educating students in the Pioneer Valley, and we are excited that this partnership can provide STEM students at STCC with easy access to complete their bachelor’s degree at Elms.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal joined Elms College President Harry Dumay this week to announce a $1 million earmark to expand the education and social work programs at Elms College.

The allocation was made possible through congressionally directed spending from the U.S. Department of Education. Neal included funding for this project in the FY 2023 spending bill that was signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022.

“Western Massachusetts has a diverse socioeconomic landscape, and with that families who face a diverse set of challenges. Our region is fortunate to have some of the most capable educators and social workers who are willing and able to meet the needs of our children and their families, and institutions like Elms College are ensuring we continue to have the skilled workforce ready to answer the call for help,” Neal said. “Elms College has a rich history of educating a diverse student body, ensuring they are equipped with the tools needed to effect real change in their community. Congress has the fundamental responsibility to oversee the expenditure of the public purse, and I strongly believe that this investment will greatly benefit our region for years to come.”

With this funding, Elms College will address community workforce development by expanding its education and social work programs. This expansion will include investments in the Center for Equity in Urban Education at Elms College, which was created to bolster educator talent and diversity through innovative programs that target existing and aspiring educators. Funding will also be used to invest in the master’s in social work program in an effort to address the shortage of social workers in the Greater Springfield community.

“We are extremely grateful for Congressman Neal’s continued support of Elms College and higher education throughout the region. Congressman Neal’s support for higher education as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee was instrumental in helping many institutions across the nation weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “The $1 million in funding will be used to bolster our education and social work programs, while also providing scholarships for students in these disciplines.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College has received a generous donation from Francis and Marian Kirley to rename the college’s School of Continuing Education as the Sister Kathleen Kirley ’66 School of Continuing Education.

Sr. Kathleen was director of Continuing Education at Elms College from 1977 to 1990 and served as the dean of Continuing Education and Graduate Studies from 1990 to 1998.

“We are grateful for the Kirleys’ transformational gift to name the School of Continuing Education that will benefit our students for generations to come,” said Harry Dumay, president of Elms College. “Guided by the mission and vision of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sr. Kathleen, Francis, and Marian are dedicated to the success of our students — continuing education, undergraduate, graduate — and preparing them to be lifelong learners.”

Francis Kirley, a former member of the Elms College board of trustees and last year’s commencement keynote speaker, is a cousin of Kathleen Kirley. He is also the founder, president, and CEO of Nexion Health, a healthcare organization with 56 skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. He currently serves as the chairman of the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Foundation and is a board member of the Louisiana Nursing Home Assoc. and the Coalition for Quality Health Care in Texas.

The Sister Kathleen Kirley ’66 School of Continuing Education at Elms College provides flexible academic options for students returning to college to complete their degree. Students can take classes online, on-site at Elms, or at one of the college’s off-campus locations.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College and the St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture will present the fourth annual Rev. Hugh Crean Distinguished Lecture in Catholic Thought on Thursday, April 20 at 4 p.m. in the college’s Alumnae Library Theater.

Dr. Karin Öberg, professor of Astronomy and director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University, is this year’s distinguished lecturer. The title of her remarks is “Christian Creation and the Big Bang Cosmology.”

The most cited living astronomer in the world, Öberg’s research aims to uncover the way in which chemical processes affect planet formation, including the chemical composition of fledgling planets. Her research team, the Öberg Astrochemistry Group, approaches this work through laboratory experiments, astrochemical modeling, and astronomical observations of molecules in planet-forming disks around young stars.

The St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture was launched in October 2020 with support from an anonymous naming gift and several significant contributions. The center, whose founding executive director is noted bioethicist Dr. Peter DePergola, aims to increase engagement and discourse on the most pressing and complex questions related to ethics, religion, and culture in today’s society, and to lead the regional community in thoughtful, engaging dialogue.

The annual Rev. Hugh Crean Distinguished Lecture was established through an endowment made by B. John (Jack) and Colette Dill to honor the legacy of Rev. Hugh Crean and recognize his academic work at Elms College and his pastoral ministry throughout the Diocese of Springfield and the entire region.

The lecture will take place both in person and virtually via Zoom. Click here to register for the event.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College and Holyoke Community College (HCC) signed an articulation transfer agreement that will make it easier for HCC students to complete their bachelor’s degree at Elms College in either biology or biotechnology.

HCC students who earn an associate degree in biology or biotechnology with a minimum GPA of 2.0 will be able to transfer at least 60 credits and enroll into Elms College’s bachelor-degree programs in either biology or biotechnology.

“We are delighted to partner once again with Holyoke Community College to offer students an opportunity to continue their education at Elms College,” said Harry Dumay, president of Elms College. “The increase in college graduates resulting from this agreement will serve our shared goal of improving access to higher education for all students.”

The agreement is effective immediately so that HCC biology and biotechnology students who graduate this spring and meet the requirements of the agreement can matriculate into Elms this fall as third-year students.

“Elms College has been a college of choice for many Holyoke Community College students,” HCC President Christina Royal said. “We are excited to expand our partnership for the benefit of our students who want a seamless transfer experience in STEM fields of study.”

For information about the program, contact [email protected] or [email protected].

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced that seven prominent leaders in the region have joined the board of trustees.

Kathleen Bernardo is a partner at Bulkley Richardson and leads the Real Estate practice group. Her practice focuses on commercial real-estate matters such as conveyancing, financing, leasing, title matters, and all aspects of complex property transfers, including purchase agreements, easements, liquor-license transfers, special permits, regulatory compliance, zoning and variance issues, 1031 exchange transfers, boundary disputes, public and private conservation restrictions including agricultural preservation restrictions, petitions to partition, and other land-court matters. Her probate practice includes the preparation of wills and trusts, estate and trust administration, equity petitions, guardianships, and conservatorships.

Larry Eagan is the president and CEO of Collins Electric and has been with the company since 1984. Collins Electric is a private company with offices in Chicopee and Pittsfield, sales of more than $15 million, and more than 80 employees. Collins Electric is an Elms College vendor and a sponsor of the Executive Leadership Breakfast. Eagan is on the board of directors of Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts, serves as the chapter president of Legatus of Western Massachusetts, and is a member of the National Electrical Contractors Assoc.

Lindsey Gamble is the director of Nursing at Mercy Medical Center, a broad role that carries with it many responsibilities, including staffing, budgeting, training, and ongoing education of the nursing staff. Gamble started her nursing career as a labor and delivery nurse. She played a key role in the opening of Mercy’s Innovation Unit, designed to ensure that families of COVID-19 patients stay connected with the patient and the care team during their hospital stay.

Catherine Ormond, SSJ serves as pastoral visitor at St. Jerome’s Parish in Holyoke and most recently was pastoral minister at St. Patrick’s Church in South Hadley for nearly 20 years. Prior to that, she held counseling positions at Holyoke Catholic High School and Charles River Hospital in Chicopee Falls, and was coordinator of services at Brightside Mental Health Clinic.

Frank Robinson is the vice president of Public Health for Baystate Health. In this role, he is responsible for integrating clinical and community care to better serve vulnerable people and populations across the spectrum of diversity and create healthier communities. Robinson also represents Baystate Health in the area of community relations by building a shared agenda and common goals for community improvement with neighborhood, community, and business representatives, as well as other key stakeholders. He has led the establishment of the Baystate Springfield Educational Partnership and the founding of the Baystate Academy Charter Public School.

Betsy Sullivan, SSJ serves as president of the congregation for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield. She has extensive leadership experience, including vice president of the congregation, preceded by three decades as a licensed administrator of Mont Marie Health Care Center, a licensed nursing home in Holyoke.

Henry Thomas III serves as president and CEO of the Urban League of Springfield Inc. He has worked in the Urban League movement for 43 years, serving 39 years as president and CEO. Previously, he served as vice president for Youth Development with the National Urban League in New York. He is also the former chair of the Springfield Fire Commission and the Springfield Police Commission. Thomas serves as CEO for the historic Camp Atwater, the oldest African-American overnight youth camp in the U.S., which he reopened in 1980 following a six-year hiatus. He served on the UMass board of trustees from 2007 to 2021 and served as chairman in 2012.

“I am delighted to welcome these seven new members to the board,” said Harry Dumay, president of Elms College. “Their guidance and support will be important to me as we advance the strategic vision of the college.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College has received a $1.1 million grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to continue its work of improving health outcomes in Haiti through nurse-faculty development.

In 2019, a unique partnership was established between the Elms College School of Nursing, the Episcopal University of Haiti School of Nursing (EUH), and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), with the goal of improving the health of the Haitian people. This initiative, the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program, was initially supported through a $750,000 grant from WKKF.

“We are thrilled that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has renewed its commitment to this important, life-saving work and has substantially increased its funding that will extend the program into the foreseeable future,” said Harry Dumay, president of Elms College.

This program is essential because most healthcare in Haiti is delivered by nurses, not doctors. Therefore, nursing faculty throughout Haiti need enhanced training to be better prepared to educate future Haitian nurses.

“Despite the pandemic and social unrest in Haiti, Elms’ Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program has been successful largely due to its partnership with EUH, as well as its provision of technology to ensure student access to course materials,” said Ryan Jiha, program officer for Haiti at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “We are proud to support this excellent collaborative work and look forward to seeing it continue to improve healthcare across Haiti.”

This partnership brings together nurse faculty from across Haiti and uses a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach to instruct the faculty with leading-edge nursing skills. The instruction of the Haitian nurse faculty is led by nurse faculty at the Elms College School of Nursing.

The first two cohorts of nurse educators graduated through the program in May 2022 and earned certificates transferable into the master’s and bachelor’s degree-completion programs at the EUH School of Nursing.

Education Special Coverage

Learning Experiences

Spearheading the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program are Elms College officials

Spearheading the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program are Elms College officials, from left, Anne Mistivar, project faculty coordinator and cultural consultant; President Harry Dumay; Maryann Matrow, director of School of Nursing Operations; and Deanna Nunes, assistant clinical professor and associate dean of the School of Nursing.

 

Harry Dumay says the initial talks began more than four years ago.

They involved nurse educators in Haiti and leaders at Elms College, including Dumay, who is from Haiti, and they centered around how Elms, which has a strong Nursing program, might be able to partner with those in Haiti to continue the education of nurses in a broad effort to improve health outcomes in that country through nurse-faculty development.

Through a $750,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a partnership between Elms and the Episcopal University of Haiti School of Nursing (EUH) was created that brings together nurse faculty from across Haiti and uses a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach to instruct the faculty with leading-edge nursing skills.

To date, more than 47 nurses in two cohorts from all provinces of Haiti have gone through the program — there was an elaborate graduation ceremony in May for both groups — and a third cohort has begun, with a fourth and perhaps more planned, thanks to a second grant from the Kellogg Foundation for $1.1 million.

That is the short, as in very short, version of a truly compelling story.

“The Elms program was very helpful because in Haiti they don’t have this type of training for nurses. They have nurses that are in different specialties and in different roles, and they find themselves teaching, but they’ve never been taught how to teach, so this program is very important because they are learning how to be an instructor.”

The longer version involves how all this has been accomplished during a time of global pandemic and an earthquake, a severe hurricane, and extreme political upheaval and general unrest in Haiti, including the assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moise, more than a year ago.

In short, very little about this initiative has been easy, but those involved — here and in Haiti — have persevered because the stakes are high and need to train nurse faculty is great, said Dumay.

Elaborating, he noted that the original model for this program called for in-person learning, with educators from Elms flying to Haiti once a month to lead classes.

Those plans were eventually scrapped because of the pandemic and other factors, including safety issues, in favor of a remote-learning model that came with its own set of challenges, especially the securing of needed equipment (tablets, hotspots, and even solar chargers in case power was lost) and getting them in the hands of the students who would use it.

In May, the first two cohorts of nurse educators in the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program attended their graduation ceremony in Haiti. With the graduates in the front row are, from left, Anne Mistivar, project faculty coordinator and cultural consultant for the program; Hilda Alcindor, project co-director from the Episcopalian University School of Nursing in Haiti; Harry Dumay, president of Elms College; Joyce Hampton, associate vice president of Strategic Initiatives and dean of the School of Arts, Sciences and Professional Programs at Elms; and Bapthol Joseph, project co-manager from the Episcopalian University School of Nursing in Haiti.

And these issues were compounded by other challenges, including those aforementioned natural disasters and the general upheaval in the country. Some students had to stay at their workplaces to take part in the classes because the WiFi was better there; meanwhile, class times were shifted so that students wouldn’t be traveling after dark to take them because of the increased risk to their own safety.

But, as noted, all those involved have pushed through these challenges because of the importance of this training. Indeed, most healthcare in Haiti is provided by nurses, not doctors, so the need to train nurse educators and thereby heighten the skills of those providing care is paramount.

People like Lousemie Duvernat, a nurse who was part of the second cohort that went through the Elms program. Via Zoom and through an interpreter — Anne Mistivar, project faculty coordinator and cultural consultant for what has come to be known as the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program — Duvernat said the program, and, specifically, its ‘train-the-trainer’ approach, has made her a better nurse, not to mention a better educator.

“The Elms program was very helpful because in Haiti they don’t have this type of training for nurses,” she explained. “They have nurses that are in different specialties and in different roles, and they find themselves teaching, but they’ve never been taught how to teach, so this program is very important because they are learning how to be an instructor.

“This, in essence, has helped them to understand the students, how to deliver the message, how to present, and how to evaluate the students and make them better educators,” she went on, adding that she would like to see the program continue because they simply don’t have anything like the ‘train-the-trainer’ approach in Haiti.

Such sentiments clearly explain why this initiative was undertaken and why it has persevered through so many extreme challenges, said Deana Nunes, associate dean of the School of Nursing and assistant clinical professor at Elms and nurse educator and course faculty for the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program, adding that the results thus far have been encouraging on many levels, but especially in what she called the “thirst for learning” she has seen from the nurses from Haiti who have been involved with the program.

For this issue and its focus on healthcare education, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at this inspiring program, its goals, and the many ways in which success is being measured.

 

Course of Action

Duvernat — again, through her interpreter, Mistivar, who is also from Haiti — told BusinessWest that, since she was a child, she harbored dreams of becoming a doctor. In Haiti, though, the road to that profession is long and difficult, and she eventually set her sights on becoming a nurse, a vocation that, as noted, brings even more responsibilities than it does in this country.

But, and also since childhood, she has wanted to be an educator. And these twin passions, coupled with her desire to help others, have now come together as she advances her career as a nurse educator, with the goal to one day earn a doctorate — a path that has been accelerated and helped in many ways by the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program and its heavy emphasis on those words ‘continuing education.’

This is what all those involved with the initiative had in mind, said Dumay, noting that the program was born out of need, one that he was quite familiar with, and a desire among those at the college to meet that need.

“Elms College has a great School of Nursing and a strong reputation in the area for preparing great nurses and healthcare professionals in general,” he said. “But Elms College has also had a desire, and some efforts, in reaching outside Chicopee, outside Massachusetts; some of our students have gone to Jamaica for clinical programs, and we’ve had conversations with our partners in Japan around global health initiatives.
“I’ve also had interactions and collaborations with those in higher education in Haiti, and I’ve also had interactions and collaborations with the Kellogg Foundation,” he continued, while explaining the genesis of the initiative in that country. “And I know that one of the strong desires of the Kellogg Foundation has been to support the reinforcement of human resources for health in Haiti, particularly around the support of maternal and child healthcare.”

Looking at those synergistic aspirations and competencies, it was natural to propose to the Kellogg Foundation to help Elms in efforts to reinforce nursing education in Haiti, he continued, adding that the pieces eventually fell into place for what would become the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program, for which Elms would partner with the Episcopal University of Haiti and its school of Nursing.

That was back in early 2019, said Dumay, adding that there were visits to Haiti by officials at Elms and those with the Kellogg Foundation to explore the facilities of the Episcopal University of Haiti’s School of Nursing and meet with officials there to brainstorm about how the initiative could take shape.

Eventually, continuing education for nurse educators became the focus, he went on, adding that a ‘train-the-trainer’ model was identified as the most effective course of action — figuratively but also quite literally.

“We know that a lot of the nurse educators in Haiti are at varying degrees of preparation, and we heard from our partners from the healthcare system in Haiti that the nurses that are coming out of the various schools of nursing in that country have varying degrees of preparation as well,” Dumay explained. “So helping to reinforce the capacity, the level, and the preparation of nurse educators in Haiti so that they, in turn, can teach the nurses who are on the front lines became the concept that we created.”

Lousemie Duvernat shares the stage with Elms College President Harry Dumay

Lousemie Duvernat, a graduate of the second cohort of nurse educators, shares the stage with Elms College President Harry Dumay at the recent graduation ceremonies.

With a $750,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation, plans were put in place for two cohorts of 24 faculty members from approved nursing schools across Haiti to take part in this ‘train-the-trainer’ program, he noted, adding that the original plan was for in-person classes at the Episcopal University of Haiti — specifically a “very intense” once-a month model.

Obviously, this plan had to change, because of COVID but also other factors, including the growing danger of traveling from one province to another in Haiti, said Dumay, noting that the program was halted at one point as plans were developed for an online format. This was a challenging adjustment because of the need to provide the nurse educators with needed equipment in the form of laptops and hotspots — and then actually getting this equipment into their hands, an assignment fraught with challenge on many levels, from the transportation and safety issues to the pandemic itself.

“We worked with and leveraged the network of the telephone company in Haiti, which has stores throughout the country,” he said. “We worked with them to coordinate the distribution of the technology to individuals all across Haiti; it was a logistical feat to be able to have all of the students have access to that material so they could complete the program.”

Overall, said Mistivar, the move to a remote format provided other learning opportunities.

“Not only did they learn about nursing, but also about technology,” she told BusinessWest, adding that the students were nurses representing all 10 provinces in Haiti. Some were already nurse educators, and many were working in various hospitals. Some had bachelor’s degrees, while others had a master’s.

The common denominator was that they wanted to take their education, and their ability to train others, to a higher level.

 

School of Thought

Nunes told BusinessWest that the shift to remote learning in Haiti was similar to what was happening at Elms College and other schools in this country during the pandemic. But there were many subtle, and not so subtle, nuances and adjustments that had to be made.

“Each week, on Wednesday afternoons, we met with the students via Zoom,” she explained. “We had to adjust our course time because, once darkness comes, it becomes much more dangerous. It became an example of the ways we had to work with our students to make sure we were not only providing them with a great education, but also keeping them safe.”

Overall, the nurse educators displayed great resilience, she went on, and a strong desire to learn, despite the many challenges they are facing in their daily lives, because they understood its importance to them becoming better educators and nurses — and perhaps advancing in their careers.

This resilience, desire to learn, dedication to helping others, and the knowledge and experience they already brought to the table certainly made an impression on those at Elms.

“Speaking with them, it was just fascinating to learn the way Haitian medicine and nursing care is delivered, and the amount of experience these nurses have is incredible,” Nunes told BusinessWest. “For me, as an educator, I feel I learned so much from them in addition to what they learned from us.”

As she talked about what was taught, and how, Nunes said there was prepared curriculum, obviously, but those leading the courses would often take their cues from the students, the nurse educators.

“One of the courses I taught was ‘Health Assessment,’ and in the beginning, we asked them, ‘what do you want?’ she recalled. “One of the things they identified was maternal health, but one of the things that surprised me was that they wanted to know more about how to use a stethoscope because, in Haiti, they said, the physicians do that.

“But they wanted to become more competent as nurses and develop that skill, so we were able to provide resources online, such as videos that demonstrated the sounds they’d hear and where to listen, things like that. In the development of our curriculum, we wanted to integrate knowledge in addition to keeping the focus on how to teach this knowledge.”

This same approach is being used with the third cohort of nursing educators, which just began its course work several weeks ago. This latest chapter in the story has provided more insight into the many challenges to be overcome, and more lessons in perseverance, said Maryann Matrow, director of the School of Nursing Operations at Elms and project co-manager for the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program.

She noted, for example, that some students were held up on the road as they traveled to the kickoff for the third cohort, but eventually made it there safely. She also noted some the difficulties in getting new models of laptops to the students that will be using them.

“Once we found and ordered it, things began to get more difficult in terms of travel and delivery,” she said. “As for the kickoff ceremony … to be able to get the people there was trying.”

Despite all this, the attrition rates for the first two cohorts were extremely low, only a few students, said Matrow, adding that she attributes this to everything from that thirst for knowledge that all those involved recognized to the strong support system involving those in both Haiti and Chicopee that has helped students make it to the finish line.

For Duvernat, the challenges involved in taking part in this program went beyond transportation, navigating around extreme weather, and coping with crime. She also had a baby during the course and was working full-time as well, adding up to a juggling act and very stern test that she and others have passed.

“Life in Haiti is very stressful,” she said through Mistivar. “Every day, people have to deal with that stress, which makes them resilient and able to adapt. I was motivated to continue to attend the class because it was something that was very important to me. I tried to focus on the experience because I did not want to miss the opportunity.”

 

Bottom Line

While there are many words and phrases that can be used the describe the Haiti Nursing Continuing Education Program, including all those in its title, ‘opportunity’ probably sums it up the best.

For those in Haiti, it is an opportunity to continue their education and, as Duvernat said, learn how to become better teachers. Meanwhile, for Elms College, it is a chance to extend its reach and its ability to make a difference in the lives of others, well beyond Chicopee and Western Mass.

In short, it has become a learning experience on many levels and for all those involved. It is a compelling story that hopefully has many new chapters still to be written.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College has named higher-education executive Andrew Coston the college’s new vice president of Student Affairs. Reporting directly to the president, Coston is responsible for the strategic oversight and management of the college’s Student Affairs office.

“I am excited to welcome Dr. Coston to Elms College,” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “His experience in student affairs administration and career development will be a welcome addition to Elms College, and I look forward to working with him on the strategic direction of the college.”

Coston is joining Elms from Gustavus Adolphus College (GAC) in Saint Peter, Minn., where he recently served as assistant dean of students and executive director of GAC’s Center for Career Development. Prior to that, he was director of Career Services at Cecil College in Maryland.

In his new role at Elms, Coston is responsible for providing leadership, management, and supervision to the dean of students, the director of Campus Ministry, the director of Residence Life, and director of the Health Center. Additionally, he is a member of the president’s cabinet.

Coston has more than 20 years of higher-education experience in student affairs and career services. He holds a doctoral degree in education from Morgan State University in Maryland, a master’s degree in school counseling from Loyola College in Maryland, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Assumption College in Worcester.

“To everyone in the Elms community, I will bring my enthusiasm for meeting people from all walks of life,” Coston said. “It is important to meet students and people where they are, understand their perspectives, and help get them to where they want to go.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College announced that it has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Through the six-year grant, “Growing STEM Student Success Through Scholarship and Community Building with Experiential Learning and Data Science,” Elms College will provide need-based scholarships to at least 40 high-achieving first-year and community-college transfer students who want to pursue careers in science, technology, and mathematics. The scholarship amount will be up to $10,000 per year.

“Elms College is excited to receive this grant because it will provide a pathway for Elms College STEM majors to be well-positioned to start careers in these growing STEM fields,” said Joyce Hampton, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. According to a state report issued last October, STEM jobs will account for 40% of job growth in Massachusetts through 2028.

“The main goal of the grant from the NSF’s S-STEM (Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program is to increase enrollment of students with financial need who are interested in biology, biotechnology, chemistry, computer science, computer information technology and security, and mathematics,” said Beryl Hoffman, professor of Computer Science at Elms and principal investigator on the project.

Scholarships will be available to community-college transfer students in the spring 2023 semester and to first-year Elms students beginning in the fall 2023 semester.

In addition to scholarship funding, all STEM scholars will be provided community-engaged experiential learning activities and opportunities to build data-science skills in each year of their studies, culminating in an internship or research experience.

“A terrific aspect of this project is that it will also augment the collaboration we already have with area community colleges,” said Nina Theis, professor of Biology and co-principal investigator on the project.

For more information on the S-STEM scholarships at Elms and eligibility requirements, visit www.elms.edu/academics/nsmt/elmsstem.

Alumni Achievement Award

Associate Professor of Accounting and Finances, Director of the MBA Program, Elms College

Amanda Garcia

Amanda Garcia

Amanda Garcia has some simple advice for those she counsels in the Entrepreneurship program at Elms College — and pretty much everyone else she mentors at one level or another.

“I tell them not to be afraid to fail, and that you can learn from failure,” Garcia, now a repeat finalist for the Alumni Achievement Award, told BusinessWest. “A lot of times as an entrepreneur, whatever you start with is not what you end up with. So I encourage the students to understand that failure is OK — just learn from the failure and figure out what you can do better next time.”

And this is advice that extends to all those in business, she went on, not simply those who happen to own the business.

“If you’re too afraid to fail at something, you’ll never take the risk to start something new,” she explained. “A new program, a new initiative … any of that is a risk, because you’re putting your name on it, and sometimes things don’t go well.”

Suffice it to say that Garcia practices what she preaches, and that simple philosophy helps explain why she is again a finalist for the AAA award. Indeed, she has demonstrated several times that she is not afraid to fail, taking on new career challenges, new initiatives in the realm of higher education, and even her own entrepreneurial venture, an accounting firm that bears her name.

Most all of that has occurred since she was honored as a member of the 40 Under Forty Class of 2010. At that time, she was vice president of Operations for Junior Achievement of Western MA. And while she’s still heavily involved in JA, as we’ll see later, she has shifted her career path from the nonprofit realm to higher education.

“If you’re too afraid to fail at something, you’ll never take the risk to start something new. A new program, a new initiative … any of that is a risk, because you’re putting your name on it, and sometimes things don’t go well.”

At Elms College, where she started as lecturer in Accounting, she is currently an associate professor of Accounting and Finances and interim director of the MBA program, which she co-founded in 2012. Since then, she’s helped grow that program to include graduate degrees in several areas, including Accounting, Financial Planning, Healthcare Leadership, Management, and many others.

Meanwhile, Garcia helped launch the Entrepreneurship program at the school, and currently oversees that initiative and is co-director of the First-year Seminar and Innovation Challenge for students in that program.

Explaining that initiative, she said it is aptly named — students are placed into teams that are challenged with conceptualizing a product and service and pitching it in a competition that earns the winners some capital to take their venture forward.

“Students learn about design thinking, they learn how to pitch, they learn about innovation and how to tackle big problems that seem to have no answer,” she explained, adding that as an advisor and leader of the program, she also teaches them how to work in teams and be a good team member.

As for those big problems with no answers, she said that over the years, teams have addressed some of them with imagination, determination, and solutions in various phases of development.

“Last year’s winner pitched a roommate-matching app where the students would design the surveys to determine what is important to them in a roommate,” she explained, noting the importance of such a service. “A bad roommate is the number-one reason for a student leaving college or not living on campus.”

As for her own entrepreneurial venture, Amanda Garcia, LLC, launched in 2008, she has grown it from a sole proprietorship to three employees. It specializes in small business, rental properties, and tax planning for individuals with investments.

While the many aspects of her work keep her busy, she makes time for giving back to the community, especially Junior Achievement.

Indeed, she still has strong ties to the organization, serving as its accountant, co-chair of its annual golf tournament, a JA volunteer, and chair of the JA EnTEENpreneur Challenge, where, again, she is helping young people develop ideas and begin the process of transforming them into businesses.

Summing up all that she does, as a college professor, an accountant, and as a JA volunteer, Garcia said she is educating people and helping them succeed, as she has, in business and in life. It’s a role she takes very seriously, said Jennifer Connolly, president of Junior Achievement of Western MA, who nominated Garcia for the AAA award.

“Over the years, Amanda has helped dozens of area students and their families navigate applying for college, and then mentored those students through their college years,” she said. “She maintains close contact with many of her students after graduation, mentoring them as they navigate the world of work. She gives of herself, her time, and her money to support many organizations in the area.”

Overall, Garcia doesn’t have much direct experience with failure, so she can’t exactly speak from experience there. But she has considerable experience when it comes to overcoming fear of failure and accepting new challenges — on the job, with her business, and with everything that life can throw at someone.

Helping people overcome that fear and reach higher is just one of the ways she is making an impact in the region. And it’s just one of many reasons why she is a finalist for the Alumni Achievement Award.

 

George O’Brien

 

Daily News

CHICOPEE — College of Our Lady of the Elms will stage its 91st Commencement exercises on May 14 at 10 a.m., with the procession starting at 9:30 a.m., at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield.  
More than 400 students — undergraduate, master’s, and doctor-of-nursing practice — will participate in the ceremony 
Francis Kirley, president and CEO of Nexion Health, will deliver the commencement address for the Class of 2022 and receive an honorary degree. As the founder and president and CEO of Nexion Health, Kirley leads more than 40 skilled nursing facilities in Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. He has more than 32 years of acute and long-term healthcare management experience and founded Nexion to be a strong clinically-driven healthcare organization. 
Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Karen Keating Ansara, founder and chair of the Network of Engaged International Donors, and Maureen Ann Kervick, SSJ, former administrator at Elms College, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the world. 
Ansara and her husband, Jim, make grants to end global poverty with a focus on Haiti. In late 2008, she launched New England International Donors, now the Network of Engaged International Donors, a nationwide network of more than 180 philanthropists, foundations, and impact investors learning and funding to address the world’s big problems. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ansara co-founded the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation, now the Haiti Development Institute, which strengthens Haitian-led organizations and connects funders to them. 

Sister Maureen taught at schools in the Springfield and Providence Dioceses before becoming administrator at Mont Marie Infirmary. She was director of student services and dean of students at Elms College, associate retreat director of Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery in West Springfield, and a nursing instructor at Springfield College. She also served as vice president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield from 1987 to 1993. Sr. Maureen was both administrator and executive director at St. Gabriel’s Youth House, Shelter Island Heights, NY, and the administrator of Seton Manor, an agency of Catholic Charities in Boston. She returned to Elms College as director of campus ministry. Currently, she is administrator of The National Marian Shrine and former site supervisor for the Passionist Volunteers. More details on Elms College’s Commencement activities can be found at:  commencement.elms.edu/ 

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Francis Kirley, president and CEO of Nexion Health, will deliver the commencement address for the Elms College class of 2022 and receive an honorary degree. The college’s 91st commencement exercises take place on Saturday, May 14 at 10 a.m. (the academic procession starts at 9:30 a.m.) at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

As the founder and president and CEO of Nexion Health, Kirley leads 42 skilled-nursing facilities in Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. He has more than 32 years of acute and long-term healthcare-management experience and founded Nexion to be a strong, clinically driven healthcare organization.

Kirley serves as chairman of the American Health Care Assoc. PAC and is a board member of the Louisiana Nursing Home Assoc., the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the Warfield Development Center in Sykesville, Md. He ended a term on the Elms College board of trustees in 2021. Kirley earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 1973, and completed his MBA at Western New England College in 1980.

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Karen Keating Ansara, founder and chair of the Network of Engaged International Donors, and Sr. Maureen Ann Kervick, former administrator at Elms College, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the world.

Ansara and her husband, Jim, make grants to end global poverty with a focus on Haiti. In late 2008, she launched New England International Donors, now the Network of Engaged International Donors, a nationwide network of more than 180 philanthropists, foundations, and impact investors learning and funding to address the world’s big problems. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ansara co-founded the Haiti Fund at the Boston Foundation, now the Haiti Development Institute, which strengthens Haitian-led organizations and connects funders to them.

Kervick taught at schools in the Springfield and Providence dioceses before becoming administrator at Mont Marie Infirmary. She was director of Student Services and dean of students at Elms College, associate retreat director of Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery in West Springfield, and a nursing instructor at Springfield College. She also served as vice president of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield from 1987 to 1993. She was both administrator and executive director at St. Gabriel’s Youth House in Shelter Island Heights, N.Y., and director of Programs for Catholic Charities of Greater Boston. She returned to Elms College as director of campus ministry. Currently, she is site supervisor for Passionist Volunteers International in Jamaica.

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Michelle Jarvis-Lettman recently joined Elms College as director of Financial Aid in January. She has 15 years of experience within student financial services with positions at Worcester State University, Springfield Technical Community College, Wesleyan University, University of Hartford, and Ironbridge Resources, LLC. She has presented on the topic of financial aid to many audiences, including the Massachusetts Assoc. of Student Financial Aid Administrators in 2019.

Jarvis-Lettman received her master’s degree in higher education administration from Bay Path University after completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Worcester State. She was recently appointed to Worcester State’s Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. She also coaches basketball.

In addition, the Elms College Graduate Admission Office recently announced the promotion of Stefany Scliopou to director of Graduate and Continuing Education Admission. She is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. After working in the hotel industry for nine years, she transitioned into higher education, where she completed her MBA degree with Elms College.

For the last six years, Scliopou has worked in a graduate admission role helping non-traditional adult students embrace their next-level education endeavors. She has worked alongside students and program directors to ensure exceptional student support. In addition, she is the academic coordinator for the Elms-HCC business-degree-completion programs as well as a part-time adjunct. She serves on the board of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, the Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce events committee, and the parish council board for St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Springfield.

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CHICOPEE — Cheryl Smith has joined Elms College as the new director of Human Resources. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and extensive leadership experience in higher education.

Smith will be responsible for the administration of college policies and procedures, employee relations, performance management, compensation, training, talent development and benefits.

Smith has her J.D. from Western New England University School of Law. Prior to accepting this position, she served as general counsel and Title IX Coordinator at Western New England University.

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CHICOPEE — In celebration of Black History Month, Elms College will hold its fifth annual Black Experience Summit on Thursday, Feb. 17 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. The event is hosted by the Elms College President’s Office and Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Due to COVID-19 protocols, this event will be held virtually via Zoom.

“The theme to this year’s Black Experience Summit is ‘Stories of Our Becoming: the Shoulders on Which We Stand,’” said Jennifer Shoaff, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “Throughout the summit, we will explore the histories and stories that inform today’s black experience and the inextricable link of those histories and stories to black-liberation and social-justice movements.”

Elms College President Harry Dumay added that the summit “is an annual event bringing together students and scholars from across Western Massachusetts and beyond to educate and inspire a holistic dialogue about the black experience within the context of Elms College’s mission.”

The event will feature two keynote speeches. The opening keynote address, “Freefalling and Finding Self: Meditations on Blackness and Rasanblaj,” will be given by Gina Athena Ulysse, a Haitian-American feminist and artist-anthropologist.

The closing keynote address, “Witness and Withnessing: the Archive of Black Freedom Struggles,” will be given by Treva Lindsey, a black feminist historian and co-founder of the Black Feminist Night School at Zora’s House in Columbus, Ohio.

Two interactive panels are also part of this year’s summit. “The Art of Storytelling” will examine why the stories about black history are so central to black experiences. The second panel, “Lifting as We Climb,” involves a discussion on the career paths of three presidents from colleges and universities in New England.

The free event is open to the public. For a full schedule, information about the speakers and panelists, and to register, visit www.elms.edu/events/bes. A Zoom link will be sent to all attendees prior to the summit.

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CHICOPEE — To continue to provide a full on-campus living and learning experience for the spring 2022 semester, Elms College announced it will start the spring 2022 semester on Wednesday, Jan. 19 as originally intended, with in-person learning.

“After much deliberation and closely following the guidelines from federal, state, and local health officials, we have decided to start the spring semester on campus with in-person instruction,” Elms College President Harry Dumay said.

In addition, the college will require students, faculty, and staff to have a COVID-19 booster shot by March 1.

“Prior to the start of the fall 2021 semester, we required all students, faculty, and staff to be fully vaccinated, and that decision proved to keep our COVID-19 rates down and help everyone remain safe,” Dumay said. “With the onset of the Omicron variant, we are now requiring everyone to receive a COVID-19 booster shot when they are eligible.”

According to Dumay, many individuals in the Elms campus community have already received their booster shot in an effort to stay healthy and stem the progression of the virus.

For the start of the spring 2022 semester, Elms will continue adherence to the ElmsSafe safety plan, which includes social distancing whenever possible and wearing masks indoors.

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CHICOPEE — The Institute for Theology and Pastoral Studies (ITPS) at College of Our Lady of the Elms will present the Sister Mary Dooley Lecture on Dec. 2, from 4 to 6 p.m. 

Due to COVID-19 protocols, the free event will be held virtually for the general public. Students, faculty, and staff at Elms College are invited to attend in-person. 

The event will feature a keynote speech by Bradley Harmon, executive director of Mission Integration at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, part of the Trinity Health of New England healthcare system. 

Harmon’s speech is titled The Hallowed Halls of Our Hospitals: Finding Grace and Community During the Pandemic. This presentation will discuss the challenges to the human spirit that were faced by front-line healthcare workers during the pandemic and then explore various responses that offer signs of grace and hope.

“I look forward to hearing Mr. Harmon’s lecture, which aims to address the many spiritual, emotional, and psychological challenges posed to healthcare workers and their patients during the ongoing pandemic,” said Michael McGravey, Ph.D, assistant professor of Religious Studies at Elms College and director of the ITPS.  

The Institute for Theology and Pastoral Studies furthers the mission of Elms College by providing programs, like the Sister Mary Dooley Lecture, that serve the Elms community, the Diocese of Springfield, and the Western Massachusetts region. 

Harmon has been the executive director of Mission Integration at Mercy Medical Center for four years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management from Missouri State University, and holds a masters of divinity in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. 

To attend the event via Zoom, please register at: https://www.elms.edu/events/sister-mary-dooley-lecture/

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CHICOPEE — The Elms College board of trustees appointed three regional leaders — Diane Brunelle, Dennis Duquette, and Mark O’Connell — to serve on the board.

“I am delighted to welcome Diane, Dennis, and Mark to the Elms community as they begin their terms on the Elms College board of trustees,” said Harry Dumay, president of the college. “Each brings unique perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds that will complement the talent on our board. Their guidance and support will be important as we advance the mission and vision of Elms, and I look forward to working with each of them.”

Brunelle, a 1984 alumna, is president of the Elms College Alumni Assoc. and has been a member of the association since 2012. She is a retired nurse executive who has more than 30 years of experience serving in leadership positions at acute healthcare facilities in both Massachusetts and Vermont, including Shriners Hospital for Children, Baystate Health, Holyoke Medical Center, and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. She has served on numerous boards throughout her career and was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Elms in 2013. Brunelle was a member of the college’s first RN-to-BSN class. She also received her master’s degree in nursing administration from the University of Massachusetts and is a graduate of the Wharton Nursing Leaders Program through the Wharton School and Leonard David School of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Duquette is head of Community Responsibility for MassMutual in Springfield and president and CEO of the MassMutual Foundation. He and his team are responsible for setting corporate community-relations strategy development and driving community investments, philanthropy, and community-impact program management for the firm nationally. Duquette has worked in financial services for 40 years; he began his career at MassMutual just out of college and then worked for Fidelity Investments in Boston for 27 years. He returned to MassMutual in his current role in 2016. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston College, graduating cum laude with a double major in communications and English. He earned a master’s degree in administrative studies, also from Boston College, and later earned a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Northwestern University. He currently serves on the board of directors at the Jump$tart Coalition in Washington, D.C. as well as the community and government relations committee for the Springfield Museums.

O’Connell is a principal in Wolf & Company’s assurance group and is the firm’s president and CEO, responsible for leading Wolf’s overall strategic direction. He has more than 40 years of experience providing audit and financial reporting services to both privately held and publicly traded financial institutions, as well as holding companies (including community banks and mortgage banking institutions) across New England. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western New England University and is a former board member and board president with the Children’s Study Home in Springfield.

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CHICOPEE — The St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture (CERC) at Elms College will hold its inaugural Distinguished Lecture in Culture on Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. Due to COVID-19 protocols, this event will be held virtually via Zoom.

The event will feature a keynote speech by Dr. Thea James, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Boston Medical Center/Boston University School of Medicine, where she is also president of the Boston Medical and Dental staff, vice president of mission, and associate chief medical officer.

“On behalf of the St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture, I am very pleased and honored that Dr. James will deliver the keynote speech at the inaugural Distinguished Lecture in Culture,” said Peter DePergola II, executive director of CERC, Shaughness Family Chair for the Study of the Humanities, and associate professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Elms.

According to DePergola, James will address the racial, ethnic, and/or cultural inequalities illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic as they pertain to scarce resource allocation and equitable healthcare delivery.

The St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture was launched in October 2020 to increase engagement and discourse on the most pressing and complex questions related to ethics, religion, and culture in today’s society, and to lead the regional community in thoughtful, engaging dialogue.

“Elms College has a history of uniting individuals together in the common pursuit of addressing fundamental ethical, religious, and cultural issues. This lecture aligns well with Elms’ focus on academic discourse that dates back to the college’s founding in 1928 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield,” DePergola said.

James’ passion is in public health, both domestically and globally. She is director of the Boston Medical Center site of the Massachusetts Violence Intervention Advocacy Program and a supervising medical officer on the Boston Disaster Medical Assistance Team under the Department of Health and Human Services, which has responded to several disasters in the U.S. and across the globe.

James has been part of the emergency response to 9/11 in New York City, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, the earthquake in Iran in 2003, and the earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in 2010.

To register, click here. A Zoom link will be sent to all participants prior to the lecture.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College improved its ranking on U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 list of Best Regional Universities (North). The college moved to number 85 out of 171 other northern regional colleges and universities, up from number 93 in 2021.

“I am delighted that Elms College is now ranked on three lists from U.S. News & World Report: Best Regional Universities (North), Undergraduate Nursing Programs, and Top Performers on Social Mobility (North),” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “This strong showing is a testament to our dedicated faculty and the top-notch education we provide to our students.”

U.S. News & World Report created a new list for 2022, Undergraduate Nursing Programs, and the Elms College School of Nursing ranked in the top 41% of nursing schools across the country, ranking number 288 out of 694 schools. Elms was the second-ranked nursing school from Western Mass. on the list, and overall, it was the 10th-ranked nursing school from Massachusetts.

Elms College continued its strong presence on the list of 2022 Top Performers on Social Mobility (North), ranking number 11 of 86 northern regional colleges and universities. This category ranks schools for enrolling and graduating large proportions of students who have received federal Pell Grants.

U.S. News ranks Elms College as a university because of changes to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s basic classification system and the number of graduate programs Elms offers. The Carnegie categories are the accepted standard in U.S. higher education.

The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings are designed to help students and their families find colleges that offer the best academic value for their money. The list provides at-a-glance breakdowns of each institution and ranks them based on indicators of excellence such as value and first-year student-retention rate.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the retirement of Kathleen Scoble, dean of the college’s School of Nursing, effective Sept. 10. The college has been conducting a national search for Scoble’s successor since she notified the college of her retirement this past January.

In accepting Scoble’s retirement, Harry Dumay, president of Elms College, said, “on behalf of the entire Elms community — students, faculty, alumni, and staff — I am grateful for everything Kathleen has accomplished in her 18 years at the college and for leading the Elms School of Nursing through nearly two decades of tremendous growth.”

When Scoble joined Elms College in 2003, the Division of Nursing consisted of one baccalaureate program with 100 students. In the 2020-21 academic year, there were nearly 500 nursing students enrolled in the 12 programs that now comprise the School of Nursing.

“Another example of Kathleen’s legacy is the fact that the School of Nursing is now consistently ranked among the top 10 nursing schools in the state,” Dumay said. “Having a top-ranked program is something everyone at Elms can be proud of, and we can thank Kathleen for making this happen.”

According to Walter Breau, vice president of Academic Affairs, Scoble had the strategic vision to establish several forward-looking programs, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Master of Science in Nursing programs, as well as the Accelerated Second Degree program.

“Over the 18 years that I have known Kathleen, she has made every decision with her nursing students top of mind by developing new, innovative nursing programs both here and abroad,” Breau said.

In March 2019, Scoble, Dumay, and Breau began a unique partnership with the Episcopalian University of Haiti to offer a continuing-education certificate program that prepares the future Haitian nursing workforce to deliver competent, patient-centered care within their communities.

In recognition of her stewardship of the School of Nursing, Scoble has been named dean emerita of the School of Nursing, becoming the first Elms College dean to receive this distinguished title.

The college has also created the Kathleen B. Scoble Leadership in Nursing Award, which will be presented each year to the nursing student who best exemplifies the ideals of servant leadership, as demonstrated by Scoble, through academic excellence and the individual’s impact on the School of Nursing, Elms College, and the greater community.

On Sept. 13, Teresa Kuta Reske will become interim dean of the School of Nursing and remain in that role until a new dean is hired. Reske is currently the associate dean of Graduate and Doctoral Studies for the School of Nursing and director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Scoble has more than 30 years of experience in academic, administrative, and consultant roles. Prior to Elms, she held faculty appointments at Teachers College, Columbia University, and UMass Boston, as well as several administrative positions in acute-care organizations ranging from manager to chief nurse executive.

She has held leadership positions at several Massachusetts nursing associations and, in 2014, became the first nurse to serve on Baystate Health’s board of trustees. Internationally, She has consulted for the INHL and Partners Healthcare International (formerly Partners Harvard Medical International) since 1999. She also has had programmatic experience in multiple countries, including Colombia, Mexico, India, China, Dubai, and Turkey.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College announced it will offer students a full on-campus living and learning experience for the fall 2021 semester.

“The college successfully had students living and taking classes safely on campus at the height of the pandemic, and due to our ElmsSafe health protocols, we completed the 2020-21 academic year that way,” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “With the vaccine readily available and state COVID restrictions easing, I feel confident that we can provide students with an on-campus experience that includes residence halls at pre-pandemic capacities, on-campus classes, competitive sports, and more.”

Plans are now underway to also ensure that the dining hall is fully operational and students will be allowed to gather on campus for various activities and clubs.

“Our top priority has always been the health and safety of the entire Elms community — students, faculty, and staff — and it is because of their diligence and hard work over the past year that we are able to make this important decision,” Dumay added.

The college is requiring all students who are planning to attend classes in person and those who will reside in residence halls to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination prior to the start of the fall semester. Students whose coursework is entirely online and are not required to be on campus are exempt from this requirement.

The decision was made based on guidance provided by the Massachusetts Higher Education Testing Group, as well as discussions with faculty and staff across the Elms College campus. The Massachusetts Higher Education Testing Group has found that vaccination levels above 80% are essential — and levels above 90% will be most effective — in controlling infections on residential campuses.

Since the college will be fully open in the fall semester, Elms is also requiring that all staff and faculty get a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to campus.

“We made the decision to require everyone on campus to be fully inoculated in order to facilitate a vibrant and supportive learning environment that is as close to normal as possible,” Dumay said. “That is what makes the educational experience at Elms so special.”

To help facilitate vaccinations, the college scheduled a vaccination clinic on June 15 as part of its COVID vaccination partnership with Big Y supermarkets.

Elms is awaiting confirmation by the Great Northeast Athletic Conference and the NCAA regarding the announcement of the fall sports schedule.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College will host its fourth annual Executive Leadership Breakfast on Friday, June 11 at 7:30 a.m. The program will begin at 8 a.m.

Attendance in person is by invitation only, and attendees will adhere to ElmsSafe protocols. To see the livestream of the event, visit form.jotform.com/211195021547146.

The keynote speaker at the breakfast will be Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack, whose talk is titled “The New Normal: What Will It Be and When Will It Be Here?”

“The entire nation is experiencing this transition to the new normal as more and more of the COVID restrictions are released. Given his leadership at the state level in the effort to fight the pandemic, Dr. Mark Keroack is perfectly placed to help Western Massachusetts leaders discern what we can expect post-pandemic,” said Harry Dumay, president of Elms College.

Under Keroack’s leadership, Baystate Health has expanded the reach and variety of its clinical services, incorporating two new community hospitals. He is a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Medical School and received his master’s degree in public health from Boston University. Keroack serves on several local boards focused on improving quality of life in his native Springfield and across Western Mass., as well as on several state and national boards.

The Executive Leadership Breakfast is an annual event featuring talks by the region’s leaders on topics of relevance to area businesses and the economy of Western Mass. Sponsors of the June 11 event include Westfield Bank, Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation, O’Connell Oil Associates, Baystate Health, Big Y, Marois Construction, Health New England, Freedom Credit Union, the O’Connell Companies, Aramark, Collins Electric Co., Fuss & O’Neill, Discount Office Furniture, Polish National Credit Union, and Teddy Bear Pools & Spas.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College announced plans to hold an in-person celebration for its 90th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15.

Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the ceremony itself will be limited to graduates only and is not open to the public. Each graduate will be allowed to have one car containing up to four guests located in specific parking areas separate from where the commencement will be held. To keep foot traffic to a minimum, no other guests will be allowed on campus. Social-distancing guidelines will be enforced, and everyone must wear a mask.

The procession will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m. in the Keating Quadrangle, and the program will begin at 10 a.m. The ceremony will be livestreamed on the college’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/elmscollege, for those watching from their cars or from home.

“We are delighted to celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of the class of 2021 and hold the 90th commencement ceremony in person on our campus grounds,” said Harry Dumay, president of Elms College.

This year’s commencement speaker is Haitian-American novelist and short story writer Edwidge Danticat, who will deliver her address remotely from her home in Miami. She has been praised for her spare, emotionally evocative prose and for highlighting the stories of the Haitian diaspora. Her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, which deals with questions of racial, linguistic, and gender identity in interconnected ways, was an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

The 90th commencement ceremonies will also include the awarding of an honorary degree to Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi, a 2013 graduate of the Elms College MBA program.

Additional events are being planned during the week of May 10 to celebrate the class of 2021. These events will follow appropriate safety guidelines and are not open to the public. For more details on Elms College’s commencement activities, visit commencement.elms.edu.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College announced the appointment of two staff members: Charlene Holmes, director of Diversity and Engagement; and Jennifer Leon, director of Residence Life.

Charlene Holmes

Holmes has a decade of experience in student engagement, student support, and programmatic development to ensure college access and success for under-represented groups. She has spent most of her career working with nonprofit organizations serving low-income, first-generation student athletes achieving post-secondary success, such as the East Harlem Tutorial Program, the Harlem Children’s Zone, and Door-A Center for Alternatives.

Most recently, she was president and CEO of Imana Borena in New York, where she oversaw the organization’s executive leadership programs, including diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in health science from Mercy College and a master’s degree of professional studies in sports management from St. John’s University.

Jennifer Leon

Leon has six years of experience in higher education, serving in a variety of roles within student affairs, residential life, student activities, orientation, and parent programs. Most recently, she was assistant director of student life at SUNY Adirondack and was responsible for student-engagement opportunities, orientation, and leadership programming.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Oneonta and a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College and the Great Northeast Athletic Conference announced that the Blazers’ GNAC core membership will begin this fall with the upcoming 2021-22 academic year.

Last October, both the institution and the league office issued a joint announcement indicating Elms would join the GNAC with the 2022-23 academic year; however, that timeline has since been adjusted.

Elms had been a member of the New England College Conference since 2007, claiming 19 league championships while leading the way in All-Academic selections.

“It was the right time to make the move,” said Elms College Director of Athletics Michael Theulen. “We are looking forward to having all of our varsity sport programs in the same league, and to competing with other institutions so closely aligned with Elms’s mission, core values, and dedication to putting equal importance on both academic integrity and athletic opportunity.”

The Blazers’ swimming and diving programs have been associate members of GNAC since 2006, last competing at the 2020 GNAC championships just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Now all 17 sport programs will compete in the same conference, including baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, as well as men’s and women’s volleyball.

“The GNAC is a natural fit for Elms College, as seven other private Catholic colleges are currently among its member institutions,” said Elms College President Harry Dumay. “Also, our student athletes have competed with GNAC institutions in various sports both in  and out of conference, and already feel at home with its level of competitiveness, sportspersonship, and camaraderie.”

GNAC Commissioner Joe Walsh, the conference office, and current members are working diligently to make scheduling adjustments to accommodate the Blazers’ programs, as Elms will now begin its GNAC journey this fall with men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s golf, and women’s volleyball.

“We are most pleased at the opportunity to offer a first-class student-athlete experience for Elms’ programs beginning this fall,” Walsh said.

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CHICOPEE — Elms College will hold its second Rev. Hugh Crean Distinguished Lecture on Tuesday, April 20 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. This lecture is presented by the St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture at Elms College, and, due to COVID-19 protocols, this event will be held virtually via Zoom.

The featured speaker will be David O’Brien, professor emeritus and Loyola professor of Roman Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, where he has been a faculty member since 1969. His talk is titled “Reflections on the Year of St. Joseph,” and he will address the significance of St. Joseph as patron of the church during the Year of St. Joseph.

This distinguished lecture series was established in 2019 to honor the late Rev. Hugh Crean, who was a professor of Religious Studies at Elms College from 1973 to 1979. He was a respected pastor and theologian who dedicated his life to pastoral care, spiritual leadership, and education at Elms and with the Diocese of Springfield.

Each year, a national leader in theology, ethics, or philosophy is invited to lecture on a topic that highlights the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Last year’s lecture was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An historian of American Catholicism, O’Brien specializes in Catholic social and political thought and religion and politics. He is the author of several books, including The Renewal of American Catholicism, Public Catholicism: The American Church and Public Life, and From the Heart of the American Church: Catholic Higher Education and American Culture. He also was co-editor of Catholic Social Thought: The Documentary Heritage.

The free event is open to the public. Visit www.elms.edu/crean to register. A Zoom link will be sent to all participants prior to the lecture.

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CHICOPEE — The Office of Continuing Education at Elms College will host a week-long virtual Instant Accept Week event with students from seven area community colleges on April 6-10.

Elms College currently offers bachelor’s-degree completion programs at the following regional community colleges: Berkshire Community College (social work), Greenfield Community College (social work), Holyoke Community College (accounting, healthcare management, management and marketing, psychology), Mount Wachusett Community College (psychology), Quinsigamond Community College (RN to BSN), Springfield Technical Community College (computer information technology and security, computer science, social work), and Asnuntuck Community College (social work). Online programs include computer science, computer information technology and security, healthcare management, RN to BSN, and speech-language pathology assistant.

Students interested in being instantly accepted into one of these bachelor’s-degree completion programs are encouraged to register by clicking here.

From April 6 to April 9, individual virtual sessions will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. via Zoom. On April 10, individual virtual Zoom sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Elms College representatives will discuss program details, review official transcripts, and offer instant acceptance to qualified applicants.

For more information regarding the bachelor’s-degree completion programs at Elms, click here.

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CHICOPEE — The St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture (CERC) at Elms College will hold its inaugural Distinguished Lecture in Ethics on Wednesday, March 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. Due to COVID-19 protocols, this event will be held virtually via Zoom.

The highlight of the event will be the keynote speech by the Rev. James Keenan, vice provost for Global Engagement, Canisius professor of theology, and director of the Jesuit Institute at Boston College.

The title of Keenan’s lecture is “Finding God in the Twin Pandemics: Theological Reflections on the Role of the University in the Age of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter.”

“The inaugural Distinguished Lecture in Ethics will examine the role that colleges and universities play in healing the various infections — viral and social alike — affecting the health and dignity of the communities they serve,” said Peter DePergola II, executive director of the CERC and Shaughness Family chair for the Study of the Humanities at Elms.

The St. Augustine Center for Ethics, Religion, and Culture was launched in October 2020 to increase engagement and discourse on the most pressing and complex questions related to ethics, religion, and culture in today’s society, and to lead the regional community in thoughtful, engaging dialogue.

“Since its founding in 1928 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield, Elms College has served as a scholastic clearinghouse that unites individuals together in the common pursuit of addressing fundamental ethical, religious, and cultural issues related to identity, responsibility, and meaning,” DePergola said.

A Jesuit priest since 1982, Keenan received a licentiate and a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has edited or written 25 books and published more than 400 essays, articles, and reviews. Currently, he is writing another book, A Brief History of Catholic Ethics.

This free event is open to the public. Visit www.elms.edu/events/cerc-lecture to register. A Zoom link will be sent to all participants prior to the lecture.