Legislators visit GCC on higher education tour

Members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education are embarking on a campus tour across Massachusetts, beginning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Greenfield Community College on Friday.

Members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education are embarking on a campus tour across Massachusetts, beginning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Greenfield Community College on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education are embarking on a campus tour across Massachusetts, beginning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Greenfield Community College on Friday.

Members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education are embarking on a campus tour across Massachusetts, beginning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Greenfield Community College on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Led by Dean of Nursing Melanie Zamojski, Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, checks the pulse of a “patient” in a nursing simulation lab.

Led by Dean of Nursing Melanie Zamojski, Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, checks the pulse of a “patient” in a nursing simulation lab. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 10-13-2023 6:56 PM

GREENFIELD — Members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education, including Sen. Jo Comerford, stopped by Greenfield Community College on Friday afternoon as part of a statewide public higher education tour.

“It’s an honor to have them here and asking questions, and wanting to better understand our needs,” said GCC President Michelle Schutt. “It’s so obvious that our representatives on both sides of the aisle are dedicated to our community colleges.”

Comerford, D-Northampton, was joined by Rep. Dave Rogers, D-Cambridge, Rep. Kelly Pease, R-Westfield, Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, and Rep. Patricia Duffy, D-Holyoke. Kristen Elechko, Gov. Maura Healey’s western Massachusetts director, was also present. The committee has scheduled a tour of the state, with the University of Massachusetts Amherst and GCC as its first two stops.

“We’re thrilled that we’re starting in western Mass.,” said Comerford. The tour serves as an opportunity to hear directly from leadership, faculty and students about “what’s working, what’s challenging and what the state can do better.”

“One of the best ways I’m able to advocate at the state level is to say, ‘I was at GCC,’” Comerford said.

The tour started in the East Building of GCC’s campus on Friday, with legislators getting the opportunity to experience some of the college’s nursing simulation labs. Dean of Nursing Melanie Zamojski shared that the simulation labs offer students experiences, like simulated childbirth, they may not get to see in their clinical sites. She emphasized virtual training as the future of training in the health profession.

School officials, including Zamojski and Schutt, emphasized the impact of initiatives such as MassReconnect — which offers free community college education to Massachusetts residents who are 25 years old or older with a high school diploma or equivalent, but no college degree — and free community college nursing programs. Schutt said 253 GCC students have benefited from those two programs, as well as other state grant programs.

“I don’t know that those 253 students would be here without that support,” Schutt said.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

PHOTOS: Fight prompts brief traffic backup on Hope Street in Greenfield
Sunderland Bridge being reduced to one-lane traffic next week
Div. 5 softball: Turners Falls father-daughter duo of assistant coach Jay Liimatainen, pitcher Madi Liimatainen celebrate Father’s Day weekend as state champions
Div. 5 softball: Turners Falls blanks Georgetown 5-0, captures MIAA-record 11th state championship in program history (PHOTOS)
In new hands, Green River Festival returns with headliners CAKE, Fleet Foxes and Gregory Alan Isakov
Mutton and Mead organizers chart new course with ‘Roads to Revelry’

Comerford noted that those are the types of funding initiatives legislators like herself have to think about “how to sustain and grow.”

GCC Provost Chet Jordan touted the college’s enrollment decline reversal, crediting the college’s effort at “tightening up the academic portfolio.”

“This is the moment to go big and bold on higher education,” Comerford said.

Vice President of Workforce Development Kristin Cole shared with legislators the emphasis on creating workforce development opportunities in the manufacturing industry. She, too, credited much of the success of the workforce training program to the availability of state grants.

Executive Director of Grants and Government Relations Keith Bailey added that the college aims to emphasize relevancy in its program development, “increasing our capacity in a relevant and cost-efficient way.”

While legislators tested out some of the simulation tools students at GCC have access to, Schutt said they are demonstrating their “commitment to our success.” She noted that she served with Comerford on a planning group for free community college.

“She and I joined so many others who have that goal — changing family trees,” Schutt said. “It’s so gratifying to work with elected officials who have the same goal.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.