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Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) was honored by the MassEVolves consortium for taking steps to expand the use of electric vehicles (EV) on campus.

The third annual MassEVolves recognition ceremony was held on Nov. 18 to highlight Massachusetts leaders in the adoption of electric vehicles. The virtual event was co-hosted by the national nonprofit Recharge America, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

HCC was one of 19 Massachusetts organizations and colleges singled out during the ceremony, including just three others from Western Mass.: Hampshire College, UMass Amherst, and Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

“The work you are all doing is critical to the future of the Commonwealth and critical to us making this important transition” to the state’s goal of reaching zero net emissions by 2050, EEA Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said, adding that a key piece of “bending our emissions curve” will be electric vehicles.

To receive recognition, MassEVolves participants create and execute an EV action plan that outlines steps they are taking to help Massachusetts residents gain greater access to electric vehicles, which may include installing EV chargers, holding educational events, and more.

HCC has an EV station in the parking lot outside its Center for Health Education and Simulation on Jarvis Avenue in Holyoke along with spaces allocated for zero-emissions vehicles in the visitor parking lot by its Campus Center, where wiring already exists to install EV charging stations.

“We have been working with MassEVolves to come up with a plan to install more charging stations and encourage EV adoption,” said Narayan Sampath, HCC’s vice president of Administration and Finance. “We are also looking to purchase at least one electric vehicle with grants or subsidies from the state. These efforts are not only good for the environment but will also help us realize significant cost savings.”

Increasing the number of electric vehicles in Massachusetts is expected to revitalize local economies in Massachusetts and across the country. Recharge America has shown that EVs can deliver more than $1,000 per year, per vehicle in local economic-development benefit to communities where they reside.

“We congratulate each of our 2020 MassEVolves honorees for the work they’ve done and the commitments they’ve made toward the adoption of electric vehicles in Massachusetts,” said Kirk Brown, CEO of Recharge America. “The initiatives undertaken by MassEVolves participants will benefit their employees, customers, and all residents of the Commonwealth for the years and decades to come.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been named a finalist for a national Bellwether Award in recognition of its “Together HCC” fundraising and social-media campaign.

HCC was one of 10 U.S. colleges selected as a finalist by the Bellwether College Consortium in its Workforce Development category, which identifies strategic alliances that promote community and economic development. Bellwether finalists represent leading community colleges whose programs and practices are considered outstanding and innovative.

The college launched “Together HCC: A Campaign for Caring” at the end of March in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign sought to raise money for students facing economic hardships and collect stories to motivate and inspire them during a period of extreme disruption.

“We realized pretty quickly that our students needed extra financial help and support to get through this stressful and challenging time,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement, whose office spearheaded the campaign. “Community colleges serve some of the most vulnerable populations, and COVID-19 has amplified existing inequities in society and highlighted critical needs the ‘Together HCC’ campaign was created to help address. It’s very satisfying and encouraging to see the campaign celebrated as a national model.”

The Bellwether College Consortium is a group charged with addressing the critical issues facing community colleges. The consortium honors community colleges with awards in three categories: instructional programs and services; planning, governance, and finance; and workforce development. The Bellwether Awards are widely regarded as one of the nation’s most competitive and prestigious recognitions for community colleges. HCC was the only community college in Massachusetts selected as a 2021 Bellwether finalist.

“The Bellwether College Consortium prides itself on identifying and celebrating replicable, scalable, and results-based programs and models and disseminating these highly lauded examples of institutional success to peer institutions,” said Rose Martinez, director of the Bellwether College Consortium.

After COVID-19 broke, HCC saw a dramatic rise in the number of applications to its Student Emergency Fund. In three months, the “Together HCC” campaign raised about $40,000 from nearly 200 private donors for the emergency fund, which also received a lift of $75,000 in COVID-19 relief funds from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. Since March, the HCC Foundation has distributed almost $90,000 from the emergency fund to 130 students.

For another key component of the campaign, HCC solicited uplifting anecdotes and images from alumni, faculty, staff, students, family members, and friends that were shared on HCC’s social-media channels using the hashtag #TogetherHCC.

“Together HCC wasn’t just about providing financial support,” Sbriscia said. “It was also about providing moral support and reminding students and other members of the college community that we are all in this together.”

Finalists for Bellwether Awards are invited to join the consortium and take part in consortium workshops, events, and other activities. Award finalists will undergo a rigorous second and final round of review before the winners are announced at the virtual 2021 Community College Futures Assembly in January.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Cannabis Education Center at Holyoke Community College (HCC) will hold an online cannabis-industry roundtable for employers on Friday, Nov. 20 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. over Zoom.

Featured presenters will include representatives from Elevate Northeast, HCC’s community and workforce training partner, and officials from other Massachusetts-based cannabis businesses and organizations. They include Cara Burnham-Crabb, director of Education, Elevate Northeast; TaShonda Vincent Lee, director of Community Outreach, Elevate Northeast; Beth Waterfall, executive director, Elevate Northeast; Gene Ray, vice president of Laboratory Operations, Garden Remedies; Tim Shaw, chief operating officer, MariMed; and Marion McNabb, CEO and co-founder, Cannabis Community Care and Research Network.

Discussion will focus on workforce challenges, business outlook, and training needs of cannabis employers as well as the services, supports, and programs offered by the Cannabis Education Center. Breakout rooms will concentrate on specific industry areas, including cultivation, culinary, medical, retail, and processing.

To register for the roundtable, visit hcc.edu/cannatable-11-20.

The Cannabis Education Center has also announced its spring training programs for people who want to work in the cannabis industry. The center will offer an intensive, two-day Cannabis Core Training program over Zoom on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, 2021. Students who complete the core training can then register for spring 2021 classes in one of four cannabis industry career tracks: Cultivation Assistant (Feb. 6-21), Extraction Technician (Feb. 27 to March 14), Culinary Assistant (April 3-18), and Patient Services Associate (May 1-16).

The cost of the two-day core training session is $595. Each career-track program is $799. To register for the January Cannabis Core Training class, visit hcc.edu/cannabis-core.

Women of Impact 2020

President, Holyoke Community College

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

Christina Royal

Christina Royal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Course of Action

Royal calls them ‘town meetings.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Career Milestone

In 2021, HCC will celebrate its 75th anniversary.

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

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

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

 

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

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Registration is now open for January and spring 2021 semester classes at Holyoke Community College.

HCC’s two-week January term, called Wintersession, begins Monday, Jan. 4, and runs until Friday, Jan. 15. The spring 2021 semester begins Monday, Jan. 25.

HCC will also once again be offering two additional, flexible start dates for the spring semester. Spring Start II classes begin Feb. 16 and run for 12 weeks. Spring Start III classes begin March 29 and run for seven weeks. All spring classes conclude by Wednesday, May 12.

“Our flexible fall start dates were very popular with students who were not ready to begin classes at the traditional time in early September because of uncertainties surrounding the pandemic,” said Mark Hudgik, director of Admissions. “For spring, we wanted to again offer flexible start dates to give students as many opportunities as possible to either begin or continue their college educations.”

Because of ongoing concerns related to COVID-19, HCC will continue to offer the majority of its classes remotely through the 2021 spring semester.

Like most colleges, HCC started remote instruction in mid-March after the pandemic forced campus closures. This fall, all HCC classes are being offered in one of three formats: online, blended remote, and blended face-to-face. Wintersession and spring-semester classes will follow these same formats.

Online courses offer a traditional, asynchronous online model with coursework deadlines established by instructors. Blended remote courses have both asynchronous online components combined with real-time scheduled class meetings via videoconference platforms such as Zoom. Blended face-to-face combines blended remote with some in-person instruction on campus. For the most part, this format is limited to health-science programs that require clinical labs, such as nursing, radiologic technology, veterinary technician, and medical assistant.

Last month, HCC also started offering some of its culinary-arts classes face to face in the kitchens of the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute on Race Street in downtown Holyoke.

To see HCC’s Wintersession and spring class offerings, visit hcc.edu/class-schedule. To register for classes, please visit hcc.edu/admissions.

Daily News

HOLYOKE ­— Nursing Process, a national online guide to healthcare education, ranked the registered nursing program at Holyoke Community College (HCC) as the best of its kind in Western Mass.

In its nursing-school rankings for 2020, Nursing Process lists HCC’s program fifth overall out of the 60 accedited associate-degree nursing programs in Massachusetts that it considered for review, according to the independent organization’s website. HCC’s associate of science in nursing program was the highest-ranked community-college nursing program in the four counties of Western Mass. Graduates of the ASN program qualify to take the NCLEX-RN test to become licensed as registered nurses.

“We’re grateful for the recognition,” said Clare Lamontagne, dean of Health Sciences at HCC. “We take great pride in our nursing program at HCC and work very hard to make sure we offer our students an unparalleled educational experience.”

According to its website, Nursing Process considers factors such as graduation rate, student-to-faculty ratio, affordability, reputation, and NCLEX-RN first-time pass rate in its ranking methodology.

HCC’s nursing programs — associate of science in nursing and practical nursing — are based in the Center for Health Education & Simulation, a state-of-the-art education and training facility the college opened in 2015.

For anyone interested in nursing or one of HCC’s other health-science programs — foundations of health, radiologic technology, or veterinary technician — the college will be holding health-career information sessions over Zoom on Thursday. Nov. 5, and Thursday, Dec. 3, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. For more information or to sign up for a session, visit hcc.edu/info-sessions or e-mail [email protected].

Registration begins Monday, Nov. 2 for HCC’s two-week January Wintersession and the spring 2020 semester.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — As World Mental Health Day was recognized last week, Holyoke Community College (HCC) announced it has joined the JED Campus network in support of student well-being and mental health.

JED Campus is a nationwide initiative of the New York-based Jed Foundation designed to help schools evaluate and strengthen their mental-health, substance-misuse, and suicide-prevention programs and systems to ensure that schools have the strongest possible mental-health safety nets.

HCC was also one of six schools nationwide selected for an inaugural scholarship from the JED Foundation to strengthen student-support programs promoting mental-health awareness and suicide prevention.

“This is a critical time for young people in our nation as they cope with the current pandemic, ongoing issues around racial equity, and the regular pressures of transitioning into adulthood,” said John MacPhee, executive director and CEO of the JED Foundation. “We believe that working with high schools, colleges, and universities to invest in real-life systems that strengthen mental-health safety nets and foster a community of caring for students is more important than ever. By joining JED Campus, HCC is demonstrating a commitment to the emotional well-being of its students.”

JED campuses embark on a multi-year strategic collaboration that not only assesses and enhances the work already being done, but also helps create positive, lasting, systemic change in the campus community. JED Campus advisors work closely with these schools through a collaborative process of comprehensive systems, programs, and policy assessment with customized support to build upon each institution’s existing structures.

HCC’s JED Campus team includes students, faculty, and staff. The $20,000 scholarship will remediate a large portion of the JED Campus fees.

“Mental-health concerns continue to rise among young people and college students, particularly now as we remain in the throes of a pandemic,” said Rachel Rubinstein, HCC vice president of Academic and Student Affairs. “As a Hispanic-serving institution, with students who are predominantly first-generation, low-income, or people of color, our students are particularly vulnerable to the health and economic effects of the pandemic, and the mental health of our regional communities is of profound concern to us. The foundation’s gift, along with the expertise and guidance of JED advisors, will help us make the sustainable change that is needed to support our students’ well-being and success.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College will continue to offer the majority of its classes remotely through the 2021 spring semester, HCC President Christina Royal announced in a message to students, faculty, and staff.

“So much has happened over the course of the last several months,” Royal said. “Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how our world will change from one day to the next. It is difficult to predict what life will look like for HCC months from now. However, we are preparing and planning as best we can for every possible scenario.”

In her message, Royal said that, “out of an abundance of caution,” HCC will continue to operate primarily remotely for the spring 2021 semester, with the vast majority of courses offered in a remote or hybrid environment.

“We anticipate that no more than 10% of courses offered this spring will be held on campus,” she added. “In every case, plans for offering face-to-face courses will be reviewed by the college’s Return to Campus Task Force to ensure that health and safety protocols are in place.”

Royal noted that it was important to make this decision now because registration begins Monday, Nov. 2 for HCC’s two-week January term and the spring 2021 semester. Registration and course materials must be prepared in advance of that date, so students have time to make informed decisions about their classes.

HCC’s January term, called Wintersession, begins Monday, Jan. 4. The spring 2021 semester begins Monday, Jan. 25. HCC will also be offering flexible spring start dates on Feb. 16 and March 29.

“This is a challenging time,” Royal said, “but our community is meeting it with resilience, creativity, and determination. I appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we navigate this time together. Supporting and inspiring our students remains our top priority today and always.”

Like most colleges, HCC started remote instruction in mid-March after the COVID-19 pandemic forced campus closures. This fall, all HCC classes are being offered in one of three formats: online, blended remote, and blended face-to-face.

Online courses follow a traditional, asynchronous online model with coursework deadlines established by instructors. Blended remote courses have asynchronous online components combined with real-time scheduled class meetings via videoconference platforms such as Zoom.

Blended face-to-face combines blended remote with some in-person instruction on campus. For the most part, this format is limited to health science programs that require clinical labs, such as nursing, radiologic technology, veterinary technician, and medical assistant.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) and its new community partner, Elevate Northeast, are launching a revitalized cannabis careers training program in October for those who want to work in the industry.

The program, offered through the Cannabis Education Center, begins the weekend of Oct. 17-18 with two days of required core curriculum training over Zoom. The cost of the two-day core training session is $595. To register, visit hcc.edu/cannabis-core.

Each day will be broken down into two sessions: 9 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 4 p.m. Each session will include presentations from cannabis-industry experts followed by a question-and-answer period.

Students who complete the core training will then be eligible to register for spring 2021 classes in one of four cannabis-industry career tracks: cultivation assistant, extraction technician, patient-services associate, or culinary assistant.

Cultivation assistants provide daily care of crops from seed to harvest and may be involved in cracking seeds, soil mixing, potting, defoliation, watering, pest control, and trimming.

Extraction technicians work in labs, assisting production managers in all aspects of extraction, purging, oil manipulation, winterization, distillation, solvent recovery, and quality control.

Patient-service associates work behind the counters at cannabis dispensaries, interacting with the public, answering technical questions, and providing information to registered cannabis patients, caregivers, and recreational customers making purchases.

Culinary assistants are responsible for preparing cannabis or cannabidiol-infused products using a variety of cooking, baking, and infusion techniques.

A previous series of cannabis-industry training courses offered by HCC and the Cannabis Education Center were suspended in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“HCC is proud to partner with Elevate for the sole purpose of helping job seekers get the training they need to successfully enter the cannabis industry,” said Jeffrey Hayden, HCC’s vice president of Business and Community Services. “At the same time, we look forward to enhancing and expanding our relationships with cannabis companies in Holyoke and other communities throughout the region. Our goal is to help individuals gain employment while meeting the demand of area businesses.”

Dates for the spring career-track training sessions have not yet been announced.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month during this pandemic year with a series of online events that includes cooking demonstrations, lectures on the ethnic and political history of Holyoke, exhibits and conversations on public art, and a student panel examining the shared heritage of black and Latinx people.

Beginning Friday, Sept. 25, four members of the HCC community will share favorite recipes highlighting their ethnic heritage, followed by question-and-answer sessions with the chefs. Raúl Gutiérrez, associate professor of Spanish and coordinator of HCC’s Latinx Studies program, will kick off the cooking series on Sept. 25 at 11 a.m. He will be followed by Harold Santiago, special program coordinator in HCC’s Admissions office, on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m.; HCC student Liuginsa Rosa on Monday, Oct. 5 at 1:30 p.m.; and HCC Math instructor Aida Medianero on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 11 a.m.

“Each of the four cooks represents a different nationality,” said Derek Estrella, an HCC Financial Aid counselor and secretary for the college’s Hispanic Leadership Committee, which organized the Heritage Month events. “Raúl is Mexican, Harold is Puerto Rican, Liuginsa is Dominican, and Aida Perúvian. I’m also asking them to share a signature song they grew up with while cooking.”

Also on Tuesday, Sept. 29, from 6 to 8 p.m., the public is invited to share their ideas for “El Corazón de Holyoke: Comenzamos!” (“The Heart of Holyoke: Let’s Begin”), kicking off a new phase of public art installations that celebrate Latinx and Puerto Rican artists and culture in the city.

On Wednesday, Sept 30 from 11 a.m. to noon, Holyoke resident and HCC alumna Maria Cartagena, Five College Community Partnerships coordinator, will present “History of Holyoke: Political Landscape,” focusing on the ethnic, cultural, and political influence of Hispanics in the city.

The “El Corazón de Holyoke” conversation continues on Thursday, Oct. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. with “Cultural Place-keeping and the ‘Salsa’ of Public Art,” a presentation and Q & A with Cultural Districts Program manager Luis Cotto from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Springfield Poet Laureate Magdalena Gómez, and interdisciplinary artist Shey Rivera Rios.

HCC’s Hispanic leadership committee, a newly formed group of HCC staff and faculty involved in campus and community engagement activities, will hold an online session on Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 2 to 3 p.m. introducing themselves to the college and wider Holyoke community.

The college’s Hispanic Heritage Month’s activities will conclude with “Anti-blackness in the Hispanic Community” on Wednesday, Oct. 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a student panel discussion examining racial bias as well as the shared heritage of black and Latinx people. The panel will consist of members from two HCC student clubs, the Black Student Alliance and the Latinx Empowerment Assoc., and moderated by Rockell Bartoli, a Miami-based author and student-success coach.

All events will be held on Zoom. They are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/hhm.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded two grants worth more than $1 million to continue educating and training early-childhood educators and supporting the programs they work for in Western Mass.

Both the Career Pathways Grant, for $680,000, and the Strong Start Training and Technical Assistance Grant, for $360,000, come from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), which licenses public and private childcare programs in the state.

“These grants come at a very important time as childcare programs reopen and adjust to new guidelines instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kimm Quinlan, director of HCC’s Early Childhood Grant Initiatives.

HCC is the lead agent on a six-month Career Pathways Grant that will allow the college to continue its free Childhood Development Associate Plus (CDA-Plus) certificate program. The program was created to help early-childhood educators already working in the field attain their national CDA credential or enhance their certification level, and is offered at no cost to participants.

Greenfield Community College and Berkshire Community College are HCC’s partners in the Western Mass. consortium. The three colleges each have their own CDA-Plus programs and collaborate on implementation and support.

“The $680,000 is a six-month allocation for the three colleges in the consortium,” Quinlan said. “We’re hoping to get an additional $680,000 for the following six months.”

HCC launched its CDA-Plus program in 2019 after an initial, year-long grant of $2 million to the consortium from the EEC. Students who complete the program are awarded a CDA-Plus certificate and can apply the credits they earn toward an associate degree in early childhood education from HCC.

The two-semester course of study includes four sequential, seven-week courses in subjects such as childhood behavior and development; early-childhood programs; and health, safety, and nutrition. The grant covers all tuition, fees, books, and a $425 CDA credentialing fee, and includes a stipend of about $500 for unexpected costs.

HCC graduated its first class of CDA-Plus students in June. A second group started in January 2020 and will complete their program in November. The new funding will pay for a third class set to begin their studies this month. All the classes were originally designed as hybrid courses, with both online and face-to-face components, but shifted to completely remote in mid-March due to the pandemic.

“All of our students are supposed to be working in the field, and they all found themselves not working in the field very quickly, so it has been quite a transition for them,” Quinlan said. “Some of them have gone back to work. Some of their programs did not reopen. Some of them will be going back to work very soon, and there were some whose businesses did continue to operate as emergency childcare facilities for essential workers.”

The $360,000 Strong Start Training and Technical Assistance Grant follows an initial award in 2019, establishing HCC as the EEC’s professional-development center for Western Mass.

Last year, HCC, working with UMass Boston as the lead agent, offered a series of workshops on and off campus to provide training, coaching, and technical assistance to early-childhood programs. This time, the program was completely revamped due to the pandemic.

“Instead of doing universal trainings, our work this year is focused on supporting programs that are going through the reopening process,” Quinlan said. “So our focus this year is to help them reopen and then to help them successfully implement the new guidelines related to COVID-19.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Tanisha Arena, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Arise for Social Justice, and Pam Victor, owner of Happier Valley Comedy, will be the featured presenters on Wednesday, Sept. 30, during the third session of the 2020 Virtual Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series.

Arena and Victor will present “Comfortable in Your Own Skin, Finding Your Voice” from noon to 1 p.m. over Zoom.

The series, postponed from spring because of COVID-19, is sponsored by Holyoke Community College and Training and Workforce Options, a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College. Each of four lunchtime events features two presenters leading discussions on different topics.

For the final session on Oct. 28, Colleen Loveless, president and CEO of Revitalize Community Development Corp., and Nicole Palange, vice president of V&F Auto, will lead a discussion titled “Women Leaders in Non-traditional Businesses.”

HCC President Christina Royal and Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement, led off the reimagined monthly Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series on July 29 with a session on “Leading Through Change.”

“Empowering Women in the Workplace” was the theme of the second session, led by Denise Jordan, executive director of the Springfield Housing Authority, and Julie Quink, managing partner of Burkhart Pizzanelli, P.C.

Each session costs $20, and advance registration is required. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Given the uncertainty of the times heading into a new school year, Holyoke Community College (HCC) is offering two “Flexible Fall” start dates in addition to its traditional fall semester start next week following Labor Day.

For most students, the fall semester at HCC will begin Tuesday, Sept. 8. For those looking for more flexible academic options, however, HCC is also running two sessions of accelerated, full-credit classes that will begin on Monday, Sept. 28, and Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Sept. 28 start classes will run for 12 weeks. Oct. 28 start classes will run for seven weeks. All fall courses will conclude by Dec. 16.

“We know how unsettled everyone’s lives are due to the pandemic, especially the lives of families juggling jobs and childcare and parents who may not yet know where they will be working or where their children will be for school,” said Rachel Rubinstein, HCC’s vice president of Academic and Student Affairs. “We hope that, by offering more flexible fall options, students will be able to find a schedule that works best for them, and that students who need to delay decisions about college can do so without fear that they will miss out on an entire semester.”

The late-start courses are being offered in accounting, anthropology, biology, business administration, career readiness, communication, education, economics, English, health, math, psychology, sociology, and sustainability.

No matter the start date, all HCC classes this fall are being offered in one of three formats: online, blended remote, and blended face-to-face. Online courses follow a traditional, asynchronous online model with coursework deadlines established by instructors. Blended remote courses have both asynchronous online components combined with scheduled class meetings via videoconference platforms such as Zoom.

Blended face-to-face combines blended remote with some in-person instruction on campus. This format is limited to culinary arts and health-science programs that require clinical assessments: nursing, radiologic technology, veterinary technician, and medical assistant.

Registrations are still being accepted for all three fall start dates. For more information or to apply, visit hcc.edu/fall, call (413) 552-2321 or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has been awarded a five-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will enable students majoring in STEM fields to qualify for scholarships of as much as $6,500 a year toward tuition and fees.

The scholarships are open to current and incoming HCC students enrolled full-time or part-time in chemistry, biology, biotechnology, environmental science, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, or other STEM areas of study.

Students selected for the scholarship awards will become part of HCC’s STEM Scholars 2.0 program. HCC started a STEM Scholars program in 2015 after receiving its first five-year STEM grant from the National Science Foundation.

“We are really excited to be re-funded for this program so we can continue and expand the work that we’ve been doing for the past five years,” said Ileana Vasu, professor of Math and coordinator of HCC’s STEM Scholars program. “The grant not only provides significant money to students for college, but will enable us to focus on culturally relevant practices in STEM that will help us work toward equity in education for all members of our community.”

HCC STEM Scholars are required to complete a one-credit STEM seminar each semester and attend several STEM events each semester they are enrolled in the program. The NSF STEM Scholarships continue each semester students remain in good academic standing.

The scholarship application deadline for the 2020-21 academic year is Friday, Sept. 4. Awards will be announced by Tuesday, Sept. 8, the first day of classes of the fall 2020 semester.

Applicants must be enrolled in a STEM program, demonstrate academic ability or potential, and demonstrate financial need. Full eligibility guidelines for the NSF Scholarship in STEM, as well as a link to the online application, can be found at hcc.edu/stem-scholarship.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Cannabis cultivation, beer and cider brewing, and winemaking are just a few of the new academic programs being offered this fall at Holyoke Community College (HCC).

All three were developed as one-year, 24-credit certificate programs through the college’s Sustainability Studies department.

“As the cannabis industry has moved into Holyoke and other area towns, a number of the owners of these enterprises are asking for trained employees,” said Kate Maiolatesi, chair of HCC’s Sustainability Studies program. “Estimates for new cannabis jobs in the region range as high as 1,500.”

One new course, “Cannabis Today,” provides knowledge of the growing part of the industry. Other requirements for the certificate include classes in agriculture, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Maiolatesi said the college also developed the brewing and winemaking certificates with an eye on expanding industries. Another new course, “Fermentation Science,” explains the scientific processes of fermentation as it applies to both brewing and winemaking.

This fall, HCC is also unveiling new certificate and associate-degree programs in a range of other academic areas, including behaviorial neuroscience (degree), critical social thought (degree), geoscience (degree), child development (certificate), mental health (certiificate,) and veterinary assistant (certificate).

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, HCC continues to be innovative in creating new courses and programs that will set students up to either immediately enter the workforce or prepare them for transfer to four-year schools,” said Rachel Rubinstein, HCC’s vice president of Academic and Student Affairs.

The fall semester at Holyoke Community College begins Tuesday, Sept. 8. To enroll for fall, visit hcc.edu/admission, call (413) 552-2321, or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal recently visited Holyoke Community College (HCC) to announce the awarding of a four-year, $1.89 million federal grant aimed at helping families impacted by opioid use.

The funds — $399,676 in the first year — will enhance HCC’s existing Community Health Worker training program with the goal of increasing the number of CHWs qualified to work on integrated opioid-use disorder teams in area health centers in medically underserved communities.

The grant comes from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We all know someone who suffers from this epidemic,” Neal said during a press event outside the HCC Campus Center. “This disease touches all people from all walks of life. We must continue to work together to combat this critical public-health and safety issue, and I am grateful for the good work HCC continues to do in this realm.”

HRSA’s Opioid-impacted Family Support Program supports training programs that enhance and expand paraprofessionals’ knowledge, skills, and expertise. It aims to increase the number of peer-support specialists and other behavioral-health-related paraprofessionals who work on interprofessional teams to provide services to children whose parents are impacted by opioid-use disorders and other substance-use disorders, as well as their family members in guardianship roles.

HCC’s partners in the grant project include Behavioral Health Network, Holyoke Health Center, and the MassHire Hampden Country Workforce Board.

“Funding to launch this new program could not come at a more critical time for our community and economy,” HCC President Christina Royal said. “COVID-19 has made clear how essential community health workers are in addressing the wide range of physical, behavioral, and mental-health issues faced by members of our community. Through this program and with our partners, we will not only have the ability to support more families struggling with substance use, but we will also be creating more jobs in a sector central to our region’s economic growth.”

Community health is an emerging healthcare field and community health workers are typically employed by agencies to focus on underserved populations, conducting home visits and connecting clients with needed services. They do not provide medical care.

Five years ago, HCC became one of the first colleges in Massachusetts to offer a community health worker certificate program, part of the college’s Foundations of Health program.

The funding from the latest grant will provide training for an additional 100 individuals (25 students and incumbent workers each academic year for four years) as CHWs in Western Mass. Each participant will receive $3,000 to help defray the cost of tuition, fees, and supplies, and a $5,000 stipend while in Level 1 training.

The grant will also allow for the creation of a registered apprenticeship program with HCC’s partners that will be the first of its kind in Western Mass. Students who enter an apprenticeship after they finish training are eligible for an annual stipend of $7,500.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal and Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement, will kick off a reimagined monthly Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series on Wednesday, July 29.

The 2020 Women’s Leadership Luncheon Series, postponed from spring due to COVID-19, will now take place virtually over Zoom on the last Wednesdays of July, August, September, and October from noon to 1 p.m.

The series is sponsored by HCC and Training and Workforce Options (TWO), a collaboration between HCC and Springfield Technical Community College.

“Women leaders and up-and-comers will be joined by panels of like-minded women each month for small group discussions and open dialogue,” said Tracye Whitfield, TWO’s director of Business Development. “Participants will have the opportunity to form a supportive network of women leaders, discuss topics of interest, and enjoy a brown-bag lunch, virtually. Professional development, networking, and socialization over a delicious meal — does it get any better?”

Each lunchtime event will feature two presenters leading discussions on different topics, as follows:

• July 29: “Leading Through Change,” with Royal and Sbriscia.

• Aug. 26: “Empowering Women in the Workplace,” with Denise Jordan, executive director, Springfield Housing Authority; and Julie Quink, managing partner, Burkhart, Pizzanelli, P.C.

• Sept. 30: “Comfortable in Your Own Skin, Finding Your Voice,” with Tanisha Arena, executive director, Arise for Social Justice; and Pam Victor, owner, Happier Valley Comedy.

• Oct. 28: “Women Leaders in Non-Traditional Businesses,” with Colleen Loveless, president and CEO, Revitalize Community Development Corp.; and Nicole Palange, vice president, V&F Auto.

The July 29 session is free. The remaining three sessions are $20 each, or $50 for the full series. Registration is required. Space for each luncheon is limited to 25. To register, visit hcc.edu/womens-leadership.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — After COVID-19 broke, applications to the President’s Student Emergency Fund at Holyoke Community College (HCC) soared. The fund, established by President Christina Royal through the HCC Foundation, is meant to assist students facing unanticipated financial burdens, such as a lack of affordable housing, childcare expenses, and transportation.

For the 2019-20 academic year, 93% of student requests to the fund have come since mid-March. As HCC transitioned to remote learning, nearly $25,000 has been distributed to help students facing income loss and struggling to pay their bills in the midst of the pandemic.

“We are talking about an average gift of $500,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the HCC Foundation, the college’s nonprofit fundraising corporation. “That is often the difference between staying on a path to a college degree or never being able to return to the classroom. Studying and learning remotely has meant added an unanticipated expenses for our students. Faster internet, upgraded technology, housing and food costs, utility bills — seemingly simple shifts in daily life are easy to manage for some, but for many HCC students, they can derail their entire education.”

This week, the President’s Student Emergency Fund at HCC received a $35,000 boost in the form of a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) designated for COVID-19 relief. The HCC Foundation was one of 29 area nonprofits receiving financial assistance in the latest round of COVID-19 relief funds from the Community Foundation.

“You are receiving this grant thanks in part to funding from the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund,” Jim Ayres, CFWM vice president for Programs & Strategy, said in an e-mail to Sbriscia. “The Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund works in concert with regional community foundations and nonprofit leaders to support those across the state most impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis, focusing on essential frontline workers and vulnerable populations, including the homeless, immigrant populations, people with disabilities, and those facing food insecurity.”

With the Community Foundation grant, the HCC Foundation has now raised $72,480 for the President’s Student Emergency Fund since late March when it launched the “TogetherHCC” fundraising campaign in response to the pandemic, placing the total amount of dollars available for student relief at $190,000.

The largest single donation to the campaign was $20,000 from HCC alumna Margaret “Peg” Wendlandt (’58) and her husband, Gary, who have supported the emergency fund since it was established three years ago. The rest of the contributions have come in much smaller increments from 160 individual donors and area businesses.

“We are so grateful to the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, our alumni, and HCC employees and friends for believing in the power of our emergency fund to help our students,” Sbriscia said. “In one way or another, all our students have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sense of relief and comfort we’re able to provide thanks to the generosity of so many is honestly life-changing for them.”

COVID-19 Daily News

HOLYOKE — Surplus food from Holyoke Community College (HCC) has benefited hundreds of individuals and families who frequent area food pantries and social-service agencies.

With the HCC campus now closed and all classes moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the college donated its perishable food supplies to three area nonprofits: the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Center in Springfield, the YWCA Transitional Living Program in Holyoke, and the Easthampton Community Center. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts helped coordinate the donations.

In late March, college staff emptied the pantries and refrigerators at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute on Race Street. Stacy Graves, the institute coordinator, estimated that the college donated about $600 worth of produce, fruit, milk, eggs, butter, yogurt, and cream to the YWCA Transitional Living Program. The food had been slated for use in HCC’s Culinary Arts program.

“I hope you guys like carrots and potatoes because there’s lots of them,” Graves said to Sharifa Forbes, the YWCA program supervisor, as they unloaded the van.

“We really do appreciate it,” Forbes said. “Thank you so much for this. This is awesome.”

Tess Gordon, the YWCA’s direct-service advocate, said the food would be portioned out for the dozen or more teen moms who live with their children at the center, where they prepare their own meals.

“Right now, with COVID-19, it’s hard for them to go out into the community to shop, especially with keeping their kids safe,” Gordon said.

“I wish I could give you a big hug,” Forbes said to Graves from a safe distance in the parking lot outside the center. “It helps out a lot. Times are uncertain. The girls are nervous.”

On another day, after emptying the walk-in coolers of the college’s cafeteria kitchen, Mark Pronovost, director of Aramark/Dining Services at HCC, delivered nearly 400 pounds of assorted produce, fruit, and dairy products to the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Center — enough food, he was told, for 327 meals.

Pronovost also cleaned all the perishables out of the college’s vending machines and delivered those items — fresh fruit, dairy products, yogurt, chips, popcorn, pretzels, and other retail products — to the Easthampton Community Center, which runs a food pantry for area residents and works closely with HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center to provide free backpacks and school supplies to low-income students and families.

“If we hadn’t done this, we would just been throwing all the food in the trash,” Pronovost said. “It’s impressive that HCC is willing to do this, and I’m very happy to do it.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE ­— Holyoke Community College (HCC) will run a free online program starting Tuesday, May 5 for people who want to sharpen their digital-literacy skills to become more effective remote workers and learners.

“How to Work & Learn Online,” offered through HCC’s Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, is a four-part workshop series that will be conducted in a live, interactive, streaming forum on May 5, May 7, May 12, and May 14 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Participants will learn how to navigate computer settings, create and organize files, and safely use the internet and digital communication tools such as Zoom. Sessions will cover best practices for being an effective online learner, including tips on study habits, expectations of online learning, and how to use Google Drive and other computer applications.

The course was developed and will be taught by Jose Pedraza, assistant coordinator of HCC’s Gill Community Technology Center, which promotes technology literacy for HCC’s education and workforce-training programs.

“Our staff and faculty have been working hard to find creative ways to help students and people from the community during these challenging times,” said Michele Cabral, HCC’s executive director of Professional Development and Corporate Learning. “Knowledge of computers and online literacy have become more important than ever lately. This course is really designed for anyone — students, parents with young children, people forced to work at home because of COVID-19 restrictions, and others who want to develop a greater mastery of digital technology.”

Those enrolled will be sent a link to the class, which they can join using any device with an internet connection, such as a desktop computer, laptop, Chromebook, or smartphone.

For more information or to register, contact Valentyna Semyrog (413) 552-2123 or [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) President Christina Royal has issued a personal $10,000 challenge gift toward a new HCC campaign that is as much about building moral support in a time of great uncertainty as it is about raising money for students experiencing financial distress.

On Monday, the HCC Foundation launched “Together HCC — A Campaign for Caring.” As part of that campaign, students, staff, faculty, alumni, relatives, and friends are being asked to use the hashtag #TogetherHCC to share stories and images on social media that show the strength of the college community in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Royal’s $10,000 challenge is not just a financial one. Instead, the goal is to gather 1,000 contributions of any kind toward the #TogetherHCC campaign. That includes monetary donations as well as social-media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as e-mail submissions that describe an inspirational tale or messages of encouragement relating to the ongoing pandemic.

“This is an unprecedented time in our history that can only be navigated if we work together,” Royal said. “Our campaign for caring enables members of our community to offer encouragement to one another and provide inspiration. The financial investments and kind words offered through this campaign are vitally important to our students’ success and to the well-being of every member of our community.”

Besides scholarships, the HCC Foundation manages several funds that directly support students facing financial emergencies as well as those experiencing food and housing insecurity. These include the President’s Student Emergency Fund, which was established by Royal, and another that supports HCC’s Thrive Student Resource Center, which manages the HCC Food Pantry. 

“This has been, and continues to be, a stressful and challenging time for everyone,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the HCC Foundation, the college’s nonprofit fundraising corporation. “The COVID-19 crisis has turned the world upside down, and amidst this uncertainty, we still need to do everything we can to provide our students with the education and support they deserve. Meanwhile, our students are facing all kinds of challenges in their own lives. Together, HCC isn’t just about providing financial support for them, it’s also about providing moral support. Through this campaign, we want to let our students and other members of the college community know that it’s going to be okay and that we are all in this together.”

COVID-19 Daily News

HOLYOKE — In response to requests from area hospitals experiencing shortages of supplies, Holyoke Community College (HCC) is preparing to donate surgical masks, isolation gowns, exam gloves, and other personal protection equipment from its health-science programs to help front-line medical professionals as they battle conoravirus.

HCC’s Emergency Response Team has been coordinating with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) on the collection of supplies from the college’s Health Sciences division and its division of Business & Workforce Development.

Late last week, the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts sent out a list of personal protection equipment (PPE) for which Baystate Medical Center and other area hospitals have a desperate need.

“I know we have all been looking for meaningful ways to help out during these stressful times of COVID-19,” said the message, which was sent out on behalf of EDC President and CEO Rick Sullivan. “Our front-line medical professionals and first responderss need our help.”

The items HCC has been collecting include boxes of isolation gowns, exam gloves, masks, goggles, hand sanitizer, and microbial wipes from its nursing, radiological technology, veterinary technician, biology, forensic science, and certified nursing assistant programs.

HCC Police Captain Dale Brown spent Tuesday afternoon conducting an inventory of the PPE supplies at the Campus Police station. He said he expected that a representative from MEMA would be picking up the items on campus sometime today, March 24. MEMA will then in turn coordinate delivery to area hospitals.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has extended by two weeks the deadline to apply for scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year. The new application deadline is Wednesday, April 8.

“We recognize the challenges that the COVID-19 crisis is presenting for our students on many levels, academically and personally,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement. “By extending our scholarship deadline, we hope to alleviate a small bit of the stress or anxiety our students may be facing and ensure that they are given all the time they need to submit their applications. As a college, we’re committed to helping students overcome barriers to success. In light of these unprecedented times, this is a potential barrier that’s easily removed.”

Students must be currently enrolled at HCC or have been accepted for the upcoming academic year to be eligible for scholarships, which are awarded through the HCC Foundation, HCC’s nonprofit fundraising corporation. Awards totaling more than $200,000 are available for incoming, continuing, and transferring HCC students.

Applicants need only to fill out a single online form to be automatically matched with the scholarships they are most qualified to receive. There are scholarships for new students, current students and students transferring to other institutions, scholarships based on financial need, scholarships for students in specific majors, scholarships for residents of certain communities, and scholarships that recognize academic achievement. For the 2019-20 academic year, the HCC Foundation awarded $223,000 in scholarships to 231 students.

To begin the application process, visit www.hcc.edu/scholarships. Questions should be directed to the HCC Foundation office at (413) 552-2182 or Donahue 170 on the HCC campus, 303 Homestead Ave.

COVID-19

HOLYOKE — In accordance with recommendations from public health authorities, Holyoke Community College (HCC) has cancelled these previously scheduled college events:

• March 12: HCC Jazz Night at Theodore’s in Springfield

• March 13-14: HCC Jazz Festival

• March 19: HCC College for a Day

• March 24, 25, 31: HCC French Film Festival

• March 25: College Career Centers of Western Massachusetts Spring Career Fair

• March 28: Cannabis Career Fair

Visit www.hcc.edu/about/news-events-and-media/news-stories/event-cancellations for further updates on event cancellations.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) recently welcomed Dale Brown of Sunderland as its assistant director of Public Safety.

Brown comes to HCC with more than two decades of law-enforcement experience, both as a military officer and as a civilian. He most recently worked for the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office in Northampton, where he was a deputy sheriff and corrections officer in the Hampshire County corrections system, while also serving in part-time positions at Greenfield Community College as a special state police officer and as a patrol officer in Sunderland.

At HCC, Brown serves as second in command to campus Police Chief Laura Lefebvre, the director of Public Safety. He started in his new job in January.

Brown is a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served in military law enforcement as a master sergeant, technical sergeant, staff sergeant, senior airman, and airman. During his service, he experienced multiple overseas deployments, including during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Brown earned his associate degree in criminal justice from the Community College of the Air Force and his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from American Military University. He also holds a third-degree black belt in taekwondo.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) has received by far the largest donation in the college’s 74-year history — $7.5 million — and what could very well be the largest donation ever recorded by a community college in Massachusetts.

The gift comes from a familiar source, the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Foundation, established by the late Elaine Marieb, a longtime HCC faculty member, alumna, best-selling textbook author, and Northampton native.

The $7.5 million includes $5 million outright and a $2.5 million matching gift that will go toward future renovations of HCC’s main science facility, the Marieb Building, as part of a multi-phase plan to expand the recently opened Center for Life Sciences to encompass the entire three-story structure.

“This gift is a testimony to the importance of community colleges in the lives of their students,” said Carlos Santiago, commissioner of the state Department of Higher Education. “Under President Royal’s leadership, HCC is to be congratulated for raising the bar for community-college philanthropy that will benefit all of our public institutions.”

Marieb died in December 2018. During her lifetime, she was the college’s biggest benefactor, donating more than $1.5 million to HCC in large and small amounts, including a $1 million gift in 2014 to support construction of HCC’s Center for Health Education & Simulation and the Center for Life Sciences.

Until then, HCC had received only one other gift of that magnitude, a $1 million donation from alumnus and Yankee Candle Co. founder Michael Kittredge in 2003 to establish the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development.

Last year, the Marieb Foundation made a $1 million legacy gift to the college that Marieb had set up as part of her estate plan, money targeted for HCC programs that benefit non-traditional-age students, particularly women.

The Center for Life Sciences opened in 2018 on the first floor of the Marieb Building, featuring state-of-the-art microbiology and biotechnology labs as well as an ISO-certified, instructional cleanroom.

“This is thrilling,” HCC president Christina Royal said. “We are honored and incredibly grateful for the Marieb Foundation’s generous and unprecedented gift. This will support HCC’s continued investment in high-demand, high-wage fields in STEM and healthcare and help us provide generations of students with the academic space and experience they need and deserve. The Marieb Building represents the heart of her life’s work, since HCC is where her career began.”

According to a database maintained by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the $7.5 million gift to HCC is the single largest private donation ever made to a community college in Massachusetts. The largest previous gift was a $5 million donation to Cape Cod Community College in January 2019.

“Dr. Marieb’s belief in HCC was extraordinary,” said Amanda Sbriscia, HCC’s vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the college’s nonprofit fundraising corporation, the HCC Foundation. “Private and individual philanthropy to our community colleges sends a powerful message about the exceptional quality of education our students receive, because these gifts come most often from the alumni and friends who have experienced those classrooms firsthand.”

The $7.5 million Marieb donation follows the Feb. 28 grand opening of the HCC Campus Center after a two-year, $43.5 million renovation and expansion.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) will welcome Gov. Charlie Baker and other state and local officials today, Feb. 28, for the grand-opening celebration of its Campus Center, following a two-year, $43.5 million, top-to-bottom renovation and expansion.

The event begins at 2 p.m. for tours, remarks, a ribbon cutting, food, and a variety of student-led activities on all three floors of the 66,000-square-foot facility.

Other expected guests include Patricia Marshall, deputy commissioner for Academic Affairs and Student Success at the Department of Higher Education; Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse; state Sen. Jo Comerford; and state Reps. Aaron Vega, Lindsay Sabadosa, Daniel Carey, Brian Ashe, and Angelo Puppolo.

A short speaking program in the second-floor dining area will begin at 2:30 p.m. with remarks from Baker, state Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, HCC President Christina Royal, HCC trustee Evan Plotkin, and Maiv Lee-Ruiz, a nursing student and New Student Orientation leader.

Before and after the speeches, guests will be invited to sample food prepared by HCC Dining Services/Aramark, listen to live music from an HCC student quartet, play dominoes with students in El Centro (home to HCC’s Multicultural Academic Services program), watch eSports students in action on a virtual playing field, buy HCC gear in the College Store, and visit HCC’s Student Engagement area to talk to students representing clubs and other campus activities.

The Campus Center first opened in 1978 and had been plagued by leaks and water damage for decades before it was closed for reconstruction in 2017. The lower floors of the building were essentially gutted down to its concrete foundation and supports before being rebuilt. It reopened for the start of the fall 2019 semester while construction crews continued the finish work.

Key parts of the project included adding about 9,000 square feet to the building, enclosing an external walkway on the second floor to expand the dining area, squaring off the sloping façade and encapsulating the entire building to make it watertight, adding an atrium entrance off the HCC Courtyard on the west side, and a bridge over Tannery Brook that leads from a dedicated visitors parking lot to a first-floor welcome center, where visitors and students will find easier access to HCC’s offices of Admissions, Advising, Careers, Transfer, and Testing.

Education

Culture Shock

Emily Rabinsky guides two HCC students in a lab project.

Emily Rabinsky guides two HCC students in a lab project.

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

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

Not so today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Cutting Edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Evolution

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

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

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

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

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]