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Inside the IT Academy

Academy’s Pathway to Cybersecurity program at STCC.

April Bellafiore teaches the IT Academy’s Pathway to Cybersecurity program at STCC.

The IT Academy at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) is a “life changer” for Juan Burgos.

Echoing comments from other students enrolled in the IT Academy at STCC, Burgos said he’s excited to be working toward certifications that are tickets to good-paying jobs in the cybersecurity industry. Students in the first cohort, held this spring, are enrolled for free, supported by a grant.

“This opportunity came up, and I jumped on it,” Burgos said one Wednesday afternoon at STCC, where he was seated in a classroom with the other students. “This is a life changer. This is going to change everything.”

Launched on March 12, the IT Academy’s Pathway to Cybersecurity program at STCC supports non-traditional students who are new to information technology (IT) and computer technology. They are learning skills that set them up for entry-level IT careers. Students also have the option of moving into the two-year Cybersecurity program, which can lead to an associate degree.

The comprehensive curriculum combines theoretical knowledge with practical, hands-on experience. The program includes a part-time option running classes three evenings a week for nine months. A summer and winter boot camp will be offered that runs for 10 weeks (full-time day program), which allows students to attend classes five days a week.

Eventually, students who follow the cybersecurity track will use the Richard E. Neal Cybersecurity Center of Excellence in Springfield, scheduled to open later this year. The facility will serve as a dynamic hub for advancing cybersecurity awareness, education, innovation, and battling global security threats.

“This opportunity came up, and I jumped on it. This is a life changer. This is going to change everything.”

The 6,000-square-foot facility will include a cyber range, which is a simulated training environment, and security operations center, which is envisioned as a support service for Massachusetts municipalities, as well as regional businesses, to detect cybersecurity events in real time and respond quickly.

STCC offers a number of training opportunities through its Workforce Development division, from a free program that prepares students to be paraeducators in Springfield to the Hampden Prep program, which provides basic computer skill training.

“We are excited to offer a wide range of training programs that help non-traditional students pursue their dream careers,” said Gladys Franco, assistant vice president of Workforce Development at STCC. “Our goal is to make it easier for people looking to get started in a career. We’re particularly excited about the IT Academy, which provides a pathway to build a career in IT and cybersecurity. It’s a growing field with many opportunities.”


Immersive Education

Students in the Pathway to Cybersecurity program are learning in person in a classroom taught by April Bellafiore, Cruz Antonio Pagan, and Andrew Collins, a professor for the Cybersecurity program at STCC.

Students also participate in interactive computer training labs focused on obtaining CompTIA certifications, which are industry standards that IT professionals can use to demonstrate their knowledge and skills to potential employers.

The training is “beginner-friendly,” Bellafiore said. The course provides students with skills to be successful in the Cybersecurity program and in the workforce.

Students enrolled in the course come from a variety of backgrounds. Shelby Kiendzior graduated from STCC with a degree in dental hygiene and worked in the field, but plans on changing her career.

“We are excited to offer a wide range of training programs that help non-traditional students pursue their dream careers.”

“I will be getting four certifications in different IT-related courses,” Kiendzior said. “This course will set me up for where I want to go in IT or tech.”

Luz Padilla, who hails from Puerto Rico, called the IT Academy “the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

She added, “I love computers. I love troubleshooting, and I would like to work in homeland security someday. The class is amazing. The teacher’s great. I got a lot of encouragement from everybody here, especially Miss April.”

She was referring to Bellafiore, an instructor who has taught in-person and online courses for more than 20 years.

“I am excited to work with the IT Academy students to prepare them for a dynamic and exciting industry,” Bellafiore said. “We also encourage students to continue their education and apply for the STCC Cybersecurity two-year degree program. In today’s digital age, every industry relies on IT expertise. It’s a growing field with many rewarding and diverse job opportunities.”

Professional Development

Professional Development

Ian Noonan teaches a workforce-development class at STCC.

Ian Noonan teaches a workforce-development class at STCC.

It’s called the IT Academy.

Launching on March 12, it’s a new program within Springfield Technical Community College’s (STCC) Workforce Development Center that focuses on cybersecurity, a growing field with a constant need for new talent.

“We’re really excited about this one,” said Ian Noonan, STCC’s director of Instruction and Asssessment for Workforce Development, noting that the program will have full- and part-time options. “There is such a big need for that piece, and this is a pathway to build careers in IT and cybersecurity. We want to make it easier for folks trying to break in, maybe non-traditional students who are not going to college.”

Indeed, the Workforce Development Center (WDC) focuses its considerable energies on such students, who are not taking classes for college credit, but instead training for employment in fields that badly need a stronger pipeline of talent.

“We offer plenty of different workforce-development, certification-based programs,” Noonan said. “Some matriculate into credit-bearing courses, and some are ways to earn certifications.”

One of the more popular options is the certified nurse aide (CNA) program, which prepares students with entry-level job skills that allow them to enter the healthcare field and prepare for the state board examination to become a CNA.

Other healthcare options include phlebotomy technician, emergency medical technician, EKG technician, and a few options for people already working in healthcare, including phlebotomy certification, CPR basic life support, and dental radiology.

“We’re always looking at what the best needs are for the community and how best to support students in building skills, earning certifications, and getting hired.”

The WDC describes its offerings as “non-credit programs and classes meet the ever-changing technology and workforce demands of individuals, businesses, and industries in the region.”

Part of that role is coordinating with the STCC Career Services Center to provide internship opportunities as well as full- and part-time employment opportunities. Meanwhile, the programs and classes offered at the center include both instructor-led and web-based workforce training and certifications in a wide variety of areas, including advanced manufacturing, construction and project management, healthcare, skilled trades, IT/network certification, and certification and license preparation in areas like auto damage appraisal, drinking-water treatment and distribution, and ServSafe preparation for food handlers and managers.

“One of the bigger programs we do is a HiSET/GED adult-education program funded through the state on a five-year grant,” Noonan explained. “With that, we provide HiSET and GED prep courses, both day and evening, both in person and online, as well as for students who are just getting started. We run these sessions in eight-week programs.”


Help Where It’s Needed

Among other programs at the WDC, the Educators’ Academy provides a free, 10-week course to prepare participants for the job of paraeducator in the Springfield Public Schools. Para-educators work with teachers and other school staff to provide instructional assistance and classroom support.

Another free offering is the Hampden Prep program for basic computer use skills, which helps reduce the digital divide that keeps many individuals from accessing jobs. The course provides instruction in technology and digital literacy, and students work to improve their computer and job-ready skills as well as prepare to earn certificates.

Noonan said the WDC is also developing a green-jobs program to create a pathway to support another rising industry. “We’re always looking at what the best needs are for the community and how best to support students in building skills, earning certifications, and getting hired.”

It’s critical work, he added. “This is so important, not just for students, but for the community as a whole. We’re talking about students coming into these programs, especially for the HiSET or the GED, who weren’t successful in traditional schooling, and this is a great opportunity for them to build their academics and learn those skills they need to move into a career.”

One benefit of the Workforce Development Center is that students are assigned a college and career advisor as soon as they start classes.

“It’s incredibly rewarding work to meet our students where they are. That’s why we’re here.”

“Our students all have access to that,” Noonan said. “We’re able to support them with résumé development, interviewing skills, cover letters, anything that will help support our students with that next step.”

Students enrolled in programs at the center also get access to all the college’s resources, from disability services to the Center for Access Services, which assists with needs like food and housing assistance.

“The mission of the college is to transform students’ lives. And what we’re doing here at the Workforce Development Center sets the stage for students to transform their lives and create better lives for them and their families,” Noonan said. “We’re here to support them with whatever they need, with programs ranging from HiSET and GED prep to getting their master electrician certification. There’s a lot here to offer the community.”


Rewarding Work

Noonan said it has been personally gratifying to him to see the impact the WDC has on people who may have walked an erratic path to get an education, or may have previously struggled with high school or college, but are now able to take the first steps toward a fulfilling career.

“It’s been great work, getting to see student success from day to day, seeing students who may not have been successful with traditional schooling be successful,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s incredibly rewarding work to meet our students where they are. That’s why we’re here.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELDLara Sharp, dean of the School of STEM at Springfield Technical Community College, was named to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Engineering Technology Council. 

Sharp is the only community college representative on the council.  

The ASEE is a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. The ASEE Engineering Technology Council is committed to promoting quality engineering technology education. 

“It is an honor to be voted on to the Engineering Technology Council,” Sharp said. “This will be an opportunity to share best practices and develop new ideas that we can use in our engineering technology programs at STCC.” 

Vice President of Academic Affairs Geraldine de Berly said Sharp’s membership benefits the School and STEM and students enrolled in the programs. 

“I’m delighted that Lara Sharp will be the STCC representative on the ASEE Engineering Technology Council,” de Berly said. “By serving in this position, she will have an opportunity to share ideas with distinguished colleagues in colleges and universities across the nation. We see this as a win for our students and faculty.” 

The only technical community college in Massachusetts, STCC offers a wide variety of programs in science, technology, engineering and math, many of which cannot be found elsewhere in Western Mass. The college offers affordable transfer options in engineering and science as well as two-year degrees and one-year certificates that prepare graduates for positions in the region’s workforce. 

Programs include civil engineering technology, electrical engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology, optics and photonics (laser technology), and more. 

Sharp was named dean of the School of STEM in 2021. Her professional experience includes six years at St. Petersburg College in Clearwater, Fla., as the program director for Engineering, Manufacturing and Building Arts and also serving as the acting dean of Natural Sciences, Engineering, Manufacturing, and Building Arts. 

From 2013-2015, she was at the Corporate College of Polk State College, in Winter Haven, Fla., managing National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Labor (DOL) grants in advanced manufacturing and engineering technology. 

Sharp spent more than 11 years teaching chemistry, natural science and engineering to high school students at various locations. 

Sharp also brings industry experience, having worked at Specialty Minerals Inc. as a process engineer and an operator technician as well as an educational consultant for PASCO Scientific. 

She has been recognized for her outstanding teaching as well as her community engagement including a STEM Woman of the Year Award from Girls Inc. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD – Springfield Technical Community College will be offering a variety of summer programs for people ages 11-16 to provide learning opportunities in STEM fields. 

The following programs will be offered this July and August: 

  • Theater, July 11-15 (ages 11-14): This class is designed to help build self-awareness, cultivate self-confidence, and help students explore their inner creativity. Students will learn teamwork through theatre games, acting exercises, and improvisation;
  • It’s Your Turn to Take the Mic, July 18-22 (ages 11-14): A workshop in public speaking that seeks to empower girls to develop the poise and communication skills needed to engage in effective public speaking;
  • Basketball and Physics, July 18-22 (ages 11-14): This class will teach the skills needed to be a better player on the court by giving small group instruction on fundamentals and skill development. This session will also include 3.5 hours of instructions relative to the physics of basketball and exercise;
  • JUS10H University, July 25-29 (ages 13-16): Students will learn the basic fundamentals of sewing, modeling and styling, as well as how to build a career in the fashion industry;
  • “Who done it?” Extreme Science Kid (Forensic Science), August 1-5 (ages 11-14): Children will actively engage in data collection, observation, analysis, and problem-solving while performing an interactive group-style investigation.
  • Say It Loud!! Extreme Science Kid (Great Debaters), August 8-12 (ages 13-16): Children will learn critical thinking skills, respectful dialog, research techniques, and fact-checking tips through debating topics of interest.

All programs cost $189 to enroll and run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Parents are responsible for providing lunch. Participants must be vaccinated for COVID-19 and are required to provide documentation of vaccination. 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELDLydia Martinez-Alvarez, recently retired assistant superintendent for Springfield Public Schools, will serve as the featured speaker at Springfield Technical Community College’s 2022 commencement on June 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the MassMutual Center. 

The ceremony, which was held virtually over the past two years due to the pandemic, will take place in person for the first time since 2019. 

Martinez-Alvarez made history when she became Springfield’s first Latina assistant superintendent in 2012 and has become a role model in the community. Many of STCC’s graduates might see a little bit of themselves in Martinez-Alvarez when she steps up to the podium at the MassMutual Center. STCC is a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution, with about 30% of the students identifying as Hispanic. 

Martinez-Alvarez served in the school system for 28 years before announcing her retirement earlier this year. She began her teaching career as a substitute and worked her way up in roles throughout the district. She served as assistant principal at the Springfield High School of Science and Technology in 2003 and a year later was named principal at Chestnut Accelerated Middle School. 

A product of the public schools, Martinez-Alvarez has strong roots in the Springfield community. Shortly after her retirement announcement in January, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno highlighted her achievements during his proclamation of Jan. 31 as “Lydia Martinez-Alvarez Day.”  She is a strong advocate of education. 

Born and raised in Springfield, Martinez-Alvarez served as “Madrina” of the 2016 Springfield Puerto Rican Parade. 

Martinez-Alvarez was recognized as a 2019 “Woman of Impact” by BusinessWest for her professional accomplishments and contributions to the greater Springfield community. The award was established to honor women in Western Massachusetts whose contributions have positively influenced the community. 

Martinez-Alvarez serves on the Board of Trustees for Westfield State University. She is a graduate of the Westfield State Class of ’86. 

She holds a bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Westfield State, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Elms College, and is a doctoral candidate at American International College. 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College has received $30 million in state funding to move healthcare programs out of an aging building on campus that has outlived its usefulness.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the award on Wednesday. College officials in December asked the state for the maximum amount of $30 million to vacate Building 20, which houses 18 degree and certificate allied health programs as well as the acclaimed SIMS Medical Center. STCC has secured $11.5 million from other sources for the $41.5 million project.

The award announced by the governor comes from the state Division of Capital Management and Maintenance (DCAMM).

Constructed in 1941, Building 20 is past its useful life and has a history of expensive emergency repairs. The healthcare programs in the School of Health and Patient Simulation educate more than 700 students per semester and employ more than 120 faculty and staff.

“We offer our thanks to Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor (Karyn) Polito and Education Secretary (James) Peyser for investing in the future of healthcare and workforce development in such an impactful way,” said STCC President John Cook. “This has been a true team effort between the administration, trustees, our legislative delegation and the STCC Foundation.”

The STCC Board of Trustees committed $6 million from the college’s budget to the project. Trustees Chair Marikate Murren said, “We’re thrilled and grateful to Gov. Baker and DCAMM for their support to make this move possible. The relocation of the programs in the School of Health and Patient Simulation will allow STCC to continue to prepare students for healthcare careers. The investment in this project represents an investment in the City of Springfield and the region.”

To best summarize the outlook for the College, Cook said, “I am delighted for our students and faculty as this ensures that STCC stays on the leading edge of healthcare education; the future of STCC is bright.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College is one of six colleges that received a federal grant that aims to increase the number of college courses that use free Open Educational Resources rather than costly textbooks.

STCC is part of a consortium that received a $440,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a new project to add more access to free Open Educational Resources (OERs). The goal of the grant is to make college more affordable and inclusive.

Chelsea Contrada, STCC’s OER librarian, said the grant will help STCC support its mission to remove barriers for underrepresented students. According to a survey of STCC students, about 70% of them said they decided against buying or renting a textbook because of the cost.

Contrada said OERs not only help students save money, but offer faculty resources for their classrooms. OERs are educational materials in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video, and animation.

“We currently have about 70 courses with zero textbook cost, with more added each semester,” Contrada said.

“We are so excited for the opportunity to be a part of this grant,” Contrada added. “The program will certainly save students money on textbooks, but it will also create materials and learning environments that are more equitable and culturally relevant for our students.”

This project is called “Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens (ROTEL): Culturally Relevant Open Textbooks for High Enrollment General Education Courses and Career and Professional Courses at Six Public Massachusetts Colleges.” Librarians and faculty will receive training and assistance in the creation and adaptation of OER materials that are accessible, intentionally inclusive and representative of the student population.

Faculty at STCC say they welcome using OERs in their classrooms.

“The average textbook in a science class like mine would be a few hundred dollars,” said Brandon Poe, professor of Biological Sciences at STCC. “They usually have to buy a couple of books, so in one class they’re laying out $500 or $600. I wanted to find an option that would be more affordable for students. My payoff is having students getting quality material that they don’t have to shell out a whole lot of money for.”

Colleges taking part in the effort, in addition to STCC, include Framingham State University, Fitchburg State University, Holyoke Community College, Northern Essex Community College and Salem State University, in consortium with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELDSpringfield Technical Community College will help build students’ studying skills this summer through a series of live virtual sessions from July 15 to August 12.

The Academic Advising and Transfer Center at STCC will host “Survive and Thrive: Summer Edition,” which consists of six Zoom sessions focusing on the following topics:

• Time Management;

• ‘The Importance of Creating Positive Social Networks’;

• ‘Your Health and College Success’;

• TRIO Student Support Services (an overview of the program which assists students in adjusting to the college environment);

• ‘What to Do With the Degree?’; and

• Stress Management

For dates and times of each free session and to find links to register, visit stcc.edu/resources/survive-and-thrive.

Kiyota Garcia, assistant dean of Student Initiatives, said the series is for current and new students. STCC faculty and advisors will host the sessions and answer questions.

“If the topics don’t cover what you need to know, you’ll have the opportunity to ask or set-up a one-on-one chat or virtual appointment,” Garcia said.

The sessions cover skills students should develop to get started in their classwork, including:

• Prioritizing tasks to complete school work and assignments on time;

• Planning ahead, setting aside the time needed for projects and assignments; and

• Improving work-life balance

Those with questions should contact the Academic Advising and Transfer Center at (413) 755-4857, at [email protected], or by ChatNow! Find more information about “Survive and Thrive” at stcc.edu/resources/survive-and-thrive.


Learning on the Fly

Kimberly Quiñonez says her professors

Kimberly Quiñonez says her professors encouraged her to overcome the challenges of online learning and succeed.

Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) had a long-term plan to ramp up online and digital learning.

But then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced staff working at STCC’s Center for Online and Digital Learning to move faster than they ever imagined. The staff includes instructional designers who assistant faculty in online teaching methods they incorporate into the classroom experience.

To maintain the safety of students, faculty, and staff, STCC moved classes to remote instruction last March. Instructional designers worked with faculty over the summer to prepare for fully online teaching in the 2020-21 academic year.

Faculty and administrators acknowledge the abrupt change to remote learning created great challenges and, for some, led to a less-than-ideal learning environment last spring. The sudden need to vacate campus resulted in the use of a slew of digital tools to communicate with students, including e-mail, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and teleconferencing by phone and Zoom.

“Many faculty had been using online tools for the delivery of their face-to face classes. However, for those faculty who were not familiar with the digital space or whose courses required hands-on instruction, the ‘lift’ to online was great,” said Geraldine de Berly, vice president of Academic Affairs at STCC. “Since the summer, STCC invested in tools and training to assist faculty in developing the best truly online experience possible, including the hiring of a third instructional designer. Today, all online instruction occurs in a single platform, supplemented by class discussions using tools such as Zoom.”

The college anticipates spending nearly $800,000 through May 2021 helping faculty develop hundreds of online classes and labs, de Berly said. Today, more than 80% of the credits are offered online, a jump from 12% prior to the pandemic. Over the coming year, STCC also expects to expand its online-only options in addition to its existing in-person and hybrid degree programs.

STCC English Professor Denise “Daisy” Flaim has years of experience teaching students on campus in classrooms, so converting to the online experience was a big adjustment. But she worked closely with the online team at STCC to prepare for the transition, and now feels confident.

“We’re learning technology, just as the students are learning technology,” Flaim said.

Daniel Misco, an STCC alumnus and faculty member in the Digital Media Production program, said he’s well-versed in the online teaching world. Today, he teaches most of his classes online, but misses the face-to-face interactions with students in a classroom.

“I considered myself a face-to-face instructor,” Misco said. “I always excelled in the classroom. I liked being there with students to build a rapport with them.”

The adjustment to online learning can be challenging for some students, but Misco said faculty try to do all they can to help.

STCC student Kimberly Quiñonez, who is studying social work, expressed gratitude for the support from faculty over the past year.

“My experience as an online learner has really been amazing, although there were times I felt like quitting,” she said. “During those times, my professors would reach out and check in with the class. In the very beginning, I must admit that it was quite challenging transferring from an actual classroom to a computer. The classroom brought security to most students because questions were answered immediately. With online learning, you may have to wait for a response through e-mail.”

Aminah Bergeron, a mechanical engineering technology student at STCC, said she found benefits to online learning, noting she has “gotten the hang of it” after a year of studying from home.

“It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. It was for sure different, but a ‘good’ different,” she said. “I didn’t have to worry about getting ready, or making sure my house doors are locked, or even thinking in the back of my head, ‘did I leave the faucet running?’ I just had to open my laptop and start my schoolwork, whether at my own pace or scheduled Zoom meetings. I also had much more time to research and not worry about calculating the time I’d lose on commuting from one location to another.”

STCC will return to face-to-face, on-campus instruction when it’s safe to do so, de Berly said, but will continue to offer online options and apply digital tools to enhance the classroom experience.


Career Connections

To celebrate Massachusetts STEM Week, Oct. 19-23, Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) announced a week-long series of events.

STEM Week 2020 is organized by the Executive Office of Education and the STEM Advisory Council in partnership with the state’s nine regional STEM networks. It is a statewide effort to boost the interest, awareness, and ability for all learners to envision themselves in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and employment opportunities.

The theme for the third annual statewide STEM Week is “See Yourself in STEM,” with a particular focus on the power of mentoring.

Barbara Washburn, interim dean of the School of STEM at STCC, said the initiative represents an opportunity to learn about interesting and exciting real-world applications of STEM.

“We’re thrilled to participate in STEM Week again this year. We have several engaging live and recorded virtual events planned,” Washburn said. “As the only technical community college in Massachusetts, STCC is known for its high-quality STEM programs, and this is a chance to showcase them.

“We invite our students and the general public to participate in these free events,” she went on. “We particularly encourage people who are underrepresented in STEM to join us. They include women, people of color, first-generation students, low-income individuals, English-language learners, and people with disabilities. We want to show how everyone can see themselves in STEM.”

The following events will be held live through Zoom videoconferencing. For more information and to register, visit stcc.edu/stem-week.


• Monday, Oct. 19, 11 a.m. to noon: “Farming While Black: Uprooting Racism, Seeding Sovereignty.” Naima Penniman, program director of Soul Fire Farm, will give a talk about the importance and value of food production. The presentation will explore racism in food distribution, access, and other related topics. This is a collaborative event with HSI STEM, the Officer of Multicultural Affairs, the School of STEM, and the Urban Studies program.


• Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2-3 p.m.: “Know Where Your Food Comes From.” Speakers include Ibrahim Ali, co-director of Gardening the Community; Dr. Raja Staggers, assistant professor of sociology; and Jose Lopez-Figueroa, director of the Center for Access Services. The event features a panel discussion on the importance of food security, the prevalence of food deserts in our inner cities, the need to know where food comes from, and food access within the Greater Springfield community. This is a collaborative event with HSI STEM, Multicultural Affairs, the School of STEM, and the Urban Studies program.


• Wednesday, Oct. 21, 10 a.m. to noon: “Virtual STEM Careers Symposium.” Hosted by the STEM Starter Academy at STCC, this event features UMass Amherst professors and STEM industry leaders who will participate in an interactive symposium on STEM pathways and careers.


• Friday, Oct. 23, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Dell Technologies will host a webinar about employees’ experience with the company.

STEM Week will also feature recorded presentations featuring faculty in specific STEM programs. The following are planned:

• Physics: “The Science of Sports and the Engineering Behind Sports Equipment.”

• Engineering: “Computer Application in Engineering”.

• Optics and Photonics: “What is Optics & Photonics?”

• Math: “The Mathematics Behind Bin Packing.”

• Manufacturing: “Extreme Precision: Splitting Hairs on a CNC Machine and Measuring Them in the Metrology Lab,” and a video created at Governors America Corp., an electronics manufacturer in Agawam.

• Robotics: A demonstration of a Fanuc robot functioning as a pill sorter with programmable logic controllers.

• Computers/IT: “What is Computer Systems Engineering Technology?”


While there is a concentration of events planned for STEM Week, STCC offers STEM-themed discussion and presentation for students and the public throughout the year. In early October, STCC STEM Starter Academy joined students and researchers from UMass Amherst, Florida International University, and other universities and organizations from across the globe as part of the International Assoc. for the Study of the Commons (IASC) Global Symposium on Commons Without Borders: Global Multiscale Ecosystem Frameworks. A playlist of the symposium’s presentations is available on STCC’s YouTube channel.



Building a Bridge

Cynthia DeSellier instructs Aleah Pannell, second from right, and other students in a classroom at STCC.

Civil engineers help design bridges, roads, and other critical infrastructure projects. In fact, “we make civilization possible,” Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) Assistant Professor Cynthia DeSellier tells her first-year students.

“You turn on the water in your house — a civil engineer made that possible,” DeSellier added. “Engineering truly does make civilization possible. Without us, the standard of living we enjoy wouldn’t be there.”

The civil engineering technology (CET) program at STCC prepares students for robust careers as technicians who help civil engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They play a key role in commercial, industrial, residential, and land-development projects.

With a two-year associate degree, a civil engineering technology graduate is poised to work in a growing field where the median pay in 2018 was $52,580 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Graduates typically search for jobs in industries such as construction, engineering, planning, design, and management.

The bureau projects that jobs for civil-engineering technologists will continue to grow over the next several years. “The need to repair, upgrade, and enhance an aging infrastructure will sustain demand for these workers,” according to the BLS.

“CET is a hallmark engineering technology program at STCC,” said Professor Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, an STCC graduate who chairs the department and earned a master’s degree in civil engineering. “The program was founded in 1968, and our graduates have always been in demand. That speaks to the consistency of overall demand and growth in the field. The need to build new infrastructure or upgrade existing infrastructure is constant. Local employers are eager to hire our graduates in a range of civil engineering sectors.”

First-year students enrolled in STCC’s civil engineering technology program will acquire skills in computer-aided design (CAD), construction estimating, and construction materials and methods. In the second year of the program, students will study structures, hydrology, surveying, quality control of materials like concrete, asphalt production, and roadway construction.

“Our graduates have always been in demand. That speaks to the consistency of overall demand and growth in the field. The need to build new infrastructure or upgrade existing infrastructure is constant.”

DeSellier graduated from STCC’s CET program in 2000. She went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology from a four-year institution. After working in the field for several years, she joined STCC as an assistant professor. Since then she has been able to combine her passion for civil engineering with her love of teaching.

“I went into the civil engineering technology program as a young student at STCC not knowing anything about the field, but I came out with my degree loving it,” she said. “After working as a civil engineer for several years, I started teaching. Civil engineers specialize in areas such as structural analysis, transportation, soils and foundations, water resources, and environmental engineering. Our jobs are extremely important.”

While there have been great strides toward gender equality in the workforce, female engineers continue to be underrepresented at companies and in classrooms. According to the Society of Women Engineers, only 13% of working engineers are women, and only 3.7% of female college freshmen plan to major in engineering. Latinos and African-Americans make up about 12% of the engineering workforce, according to U.S. News & World Report.

McGinnis-Cavanaugh, who is the faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers, said the college would like to see more overall diversity in the classroom and in the field.

“We have several women teaching engineering at STCC, which is terrific,” she said. “There’s a misconception that civil engineering is a man’s field, but that’s not the case. Women successfully manage large construction and engineering projects and make significant contributions to the planning, design, construction, and sustainability of buildings, bridges, dams, water and wastewater facilities, and road and highway systems.

“The work of the civil engineer helps society by ensuring clean water, safe structures, and innovative transportation systems, among other civil works,” she added. “Women who enter this field are passionate about helping society and applying their knowledge and training to improve the quality of life for all. I would love to see more women and people of color enrolled in the civil engineering technology program. It’s important to bring diverse backgrounds to the field to offer different perspectives and better solutions to critical infrastructure and sustainability problems.”

Aleah Pannell, who graduated from STCC in May and was sometimes the only woman in a class, said women should not feel intimidated by engineering or any of the science majors.

“Some other programs might be easier than engineering, but I like the challenge,” Pannell said. “I would say to any woman — or anybody — take the chance. At the end of it, you will be able to say you accomplished something that was challenging.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Technical Community College surgical technology program has acquired a new simulator that gives students hands-on experience addressing emergencies during birthing procedures.

Featuring an open abdomen with access to internal organs filled with artificial blood, the C-Celia Emergency Postpartum Hemorrhage (PPH) Simulator allows training for postpartum and cesarean hysterectomy procedures. Surgical tech students can use the simulator to learn how to control bleeding and make stitches with a suture.

“We actually can make this unit bleed, profusely if we want,” said Mary Jayne Rossman, Surgical Technology program director at STCC.

The unit includes a simulated uterus, bowel, fallopian tubes and ovaries that students can cut into. Students learn the best ways to stop bleeding if a mother is experiencing post-partum hemorrhaging. Surgical technology instructor Kathleen Sawtelle said the simulated blood looks real and even changes color after exposed to air over time, as real blood does.

The STCC surgical technology program teaches students skills needed to become a surgical technologist. Technologists handle the instruments, supplies and equipment necessary during a surgical procedure. Surgical techs must have an understanding of the procedure being performed and anticipate the needs of the surgeon, which is why training on the simulator is so important.

“You have to know how to assist the surgeon and understand what the surgeon needs,” said Michelle Dodge, a surgical technology instructor.

Some scenarios involving the simulator might go above and beyond a surgical tech’s scope of practice. But such training “is going to help you think like a surgeon in order to better help him or her,” Dodge said.

“We have to respond quickly in high stress and emergency situations,” Dodge said. “It’s a good teaching tool.”

Students will work on the PPH simulator in the SIMS Medical Center at STCC, a nationally recognized patient simulation facility. The technology has evolved since the center opened in 1999 when simulators were used for basic medical training like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and learning to insert an intravenous (IV) needle. Today, the units are more lifelike and allow students to practice more complex procedures.

“Simulation is cutting edge,” Dodge said. “It’s the way everything in healthcare is going. If you do it for real out in the field, it’s better that you have the simulation in the classroom first.”

In 2019, STCC received a $500,000 state Skills Capital Grant in part to purchase new medical patient simulation training equipment for the School of Health and Patient Simulation. The new PPH simulator cost $15,000.

Surgical Tech students learn in a classroom, which is set up like a real operating room, complete with a bed an instruments surgeons would use. The PPH simulator will be the newest learning tool added to the room. Students have worked on simulators before, but the new unit takes their training to a new level.

“This is going to be like it’s real,” Dodge said. “Now you’re under the gun. The patient’s bleeding. What are you going to do? What do you need next? What kind of suture? This is going to really help prepare our students.”


Hot Opportunity

From left, Gloryvee Diaz, internship coordinator at STCC; Elliot Levy, senior director of Workforce Development; and Barbara Washburn, interim dean of the School of STEM, stand in front of the asphalt lab with industry partners.

Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) plans to open a mobile lab on campus to meet a demand in the construction industry for trained asphalt technicians and inspectors.

Students will train in the mobile lab as they pursue certification as hot-mix asphalt plant technicians and hot-mix asphalt paving inspectors. The jet-black lab, which resembles a boxcar without wheels, is located next to a civil engineering technology classroom on the STCC campus.

The college plans to offer courses in 2020. The program is designed for students without prior asphalt training.

STCC will be the only community college in the state with asphalt certification training, said Jim Reger, executive director of the Massachusetts Aggregate and Asphalt Paving Assoc. (MAAPA), which provided funding for the mobile lab. The training is made possible through collaborative efforts with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), MAAPA, and the NorthEast Transportation Technician Certification Program (NETTCP).

“There is a tremendous need for asphalt technicians,” Reger said. MAAPA represents owners and operators of hot-mix batching plants and quarries in Massachusetts.

Reger explained that new specifications from MassDOT will require more licensed technicians and inspectors who will be in demand for jobs working in the field or at asphalt-production facilities.

Janet Callahan, president of Palmer Paving Inc., initiated the idea of an Asphalt Academy while serving as chairwoman of MAAPA. She echoes Reger’s sentiments that the industry needs trained technicians and inspectors. Asphalt training has been available only in Eastern Mass.

“We really wanted to establish something for people in the western or central part of the state. This is critical for our industry,” Callahan said. “There are not enough inspectors in the market right now. As a business owner, I know how difficult it is to fill these positions.”

Students who enroll in the program will be able to choose between two courses, which will be taught by NETTCP instructors: hot-mix asphalt plant technician certification, which is for individuals responsible for the sampling and testing of hot-mix asphalt at a production facility, or hot-mix asphalt paving inspector, which is for those responsible for inspecting, sampling, and testing hot mix in the field.

Also in development is a 420-hour asphalt pre-apprenticeship program designed to introduce people to the asphalt industry. The program would align with MAAPA’s 2,000-hour asphalt apprenticeship program and would offer advanced certification.

For more information about the program, including prerequisites needed to enroll, visit www.stcc.edu/wdc/asphalt-academy or contact the Workforce Development Center at (413) 755-4225 or [email protected].


Leading Lights

Two Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) students are working as interns this summer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Defense research and development center in Lexington.

MIT Lincoln Laboratory selected Douglas Bednarczyk and Shane Richardson, students from the Optics and Photonics Technology program at STCC. They are interning at the Lexington facility through August.

Richardson earned his associate degree from STCC in May, but will return this fall to take additional classes. Bednarcyzk finished his first year in the two-year Optics and Photonics Technology program and hopes to earn his associate degree in spring 2020.

Students in the Optics and Photonics Technology program learn about the practical applications of light, optics, and electronics. High-tech applications include lasers, fiber optics, holography, laser materials processing, optical systems, and more.

“Students in the Optics and Photonics Technology program at STCC train on state-of-the-art equipment used in many commercial laboratories,” said Nicholas Massa, department chair for Optics and Photonics Technology. “There aren’t any other associate-degree programs like ours in the region. That’s why companies approach us. They discover our students know how to use the laser equipment and know the theory. They’re ready to go to work.”

Massa said there are not enough trained candidates to meet the demand for jobs in the optics and photonics industry.

“I get calls every day from companies asking about candidates for internships and full-time positions. Nearly all of my students who graduate from the program get hired, and they often get multiple job offers,” he said. “After you get a degree in Optics and Photonics Technology, you can land a job that pays between $40,000 and $60,000 a year to start, and you go up from there.”

Bednarczyk is a third-generation STCC student. His grandfather studied electrical engineering technology, and his father graduated from a biomedical technology program. He looked into the optics and photonics technology after reading an article about STCC’s program.

“I enjoy the program,” he said. “It’s really engaging and hands-on. I’m not the type of kid that was meant to sit behind a computer all day. To use the laser-etching and marking systems we have, I think that’s a blast.”

Meanwhile, Richardson came to the Optics and Photonics Technology program with a bachelor’s degree in theater from a university in California. At STCC, Richardson had the opportunity to study with a mentor, Eric Lim, who holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

“As a hiring manager, I’ve been impressed with the quality of students who came out of this program,” said Lim, who worked at a laser-technology company. “It was exciting to find a student who was hands-on and interested in laser physics, something I had trained for in my graduate days. So I was very happy to mentor Shane.”

For his class project at STCC, Richardson experimented with converting invisible infrared light into visible green light.

“In order to change light to interact with anything, we have to change the wavelength, and that is what this whole experiment was about,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I was going to enjoy the program or how beneficial it was going to be. It was a nice fit. I like the people here, and I like the atmosphere. Not many people know about optics and photonics technology.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — This fall, Springfield Technical Community College this fall will launch a new certificate program to help early childhood educators or school paraprofessionals take their careers to the next level.

The Child Development Associate Plus (CDA Plus) certificate of completion is designed for educators who want to get their Child Development Associate credential and earn college credit at the same time.

“STCC’s CDA Plus program puts educators on the fast track to earn an associate degree in Early Childhood Education Transfer,” said Richard Greco, dean of Liberal and Professional Studies at STCC. “We’re thrilled to offer this affordable professional development opportunity.”

An individual with a CDA credential, which is nationally recognized, has demonstrated competency in meeting the needs of children and in working with parents and other adults to nurture children’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual growth, said STCC’s Early Education and Care Pathways Grant and Activity Director Nancy Ward.

The Career Pathways Grant, funded through the state Department of Early Education and Care, enables STCC to provide a range of support for CDA Plus students which includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Assistance with enrollment and financial aid processes;
  • Embedded tutoring and coaching within courses;
  • Flexible hybrid models with online opportunities that can be completed remotely;
  • Training and courses offered at times that are convenient for working students;
  • Training on the use of technology and a lending library of technology resources; 
  • Academic advising, career counseling, and job placement support;
  • CDA application and submission support;
  • Financial support for child care and transportation;
  • Credit for prior learning;
  • Membership to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); and
  • Opportunity to be part of a CDA Learning Community.

STCC also has credit-earning opportunities available for educators who have earned their CDA credential or have acquired other skills in the field or from existing certifications. Students with a CDA credential can receive 17 credits toward an associate degree, Greco said.

STCC has named experienced educator Aimee Dalenta as chair of the Early Childhood Education Department. Among her responsibilities she will oversee the new CDA Program.


New Life for an Old Building

Begun almost two years ago, a massive, $50 million project to convert the structure at Springfield Technical Community College, formerly part of the Springfield Armory complex, known as Building 19 into a new learning commons is moving rapidly toward its conclusion. Used more than 150 years ago to warehouse gun-barrel stocks, the building will become home to a wide variety of facilities and services — from the library to the admissions office; from common areas to learning spaces — and should be ready for occupancy late this fall, said Socha.