Students See State Government, Up Close and Personal

Students in GCC Professor Buz Eisenberg’s Political Science classes do more than read about state government, they meet the people who make the laws. On November 13, Eisenberg and 19 GCC students will travel to Representative Paul Mark’s 2nd Berkshire Day at the Massachusetts State House. They’ll join people from local government, education, business, labor, and cultural organizations to learn about what happens in the State House. They’ll hear presentations by Massachusetts legislative leaders, including the Speaker of the House, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Stan Rosenberg, Ben Downing, Steve Kulik, and others. Touring the State House, they’ll sit where the legislature sits and stand where the Speaker of the House stands. The GCC students also will get to know community leaders from Franklin and Berkshire counties.

Mark started the now-annual regional leadership conference in 2011 to increase collaboration in the region and to shed light on what happens at the State House. After attending the first conference, Eisenberg asked Mark to include GCC students. Since then, a wide range of students have attended the conference, including GCC Student Senators, veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and teenagers who are dual-enrolled from their high schools.

Mark said, “I love watching people from the district ask questions directly to high ranking officials and teach these officials more about our region. It’s a great learning experience for everyone involved. This is a great opportunity for GCC students to learn more about their government and to get interested in the legislative process. It is very important to me that tomorrow’s voters and leaders understand government is not a mysterious third party entity, it is a process by which everyone has a say in determining the direction of our society.”

Eisenberg said, “The students ask excellent questions and the leaders treat the students with respect. They develop a sense that they can hold their own while talking with community leaders and state dignitaries. The students get to understand how lives are impacted by what happens in this building. And, they learn the historical context, that 200 years ago, citizens were doing this. This is an example of Representative Mark’s unrelenting commitment to public higher education and GCC’s commitment to civic engagement.”

Victoria Damato, 36, from Athol participated in 2nd Berkshire Day while a student at GCC. She graduated from GCC in May with an Associate degree in Criminal Justice. Now studying Law and Society at Western New England University, Damato plans to attend law school in the future. She said, “The leaders we met were very open and made us feel like we were important. I’ve been in the United States for ten years. Coming from Poland, this is very different than anything that happens in Poland, where there is a big line drawn between citizens and people in government. For me, wanting to study law, it was powerful to sit where legislation is crafted. In the House Chamber, I became aware of the significance of what goes on there and felt the connectedness of the long history of legislation that has been brought forward in that very chamber. I also became more aware of the deeper responsibility that politicians embrace while in office. There are people you meet who have the power to transform and change your life by exposing you to something that would never have happened without them. Buz Eisenberg and Paul Mark have been that for me.”

For information about 2nd Berkshire Day, contact Representative Mark at or (413) 464-5635 or (617) 722-2210.

 By Mary McClintock, ’82

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GCC & Community Action Lead the Way in Early Care and Education

When Community Action’s staff couldn’t find enough college-level coursework in leadership to meet Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care requirements, Gwen Hawk knew who to call. Hawk, Education Manager for Community Action’s Parent Child Development Center (PCDC), phoned Kate Finnegan, Co-Chair of GCC’s Education Department, to talk about how to meet this workforce development need. That conversation led to Finnegan and Hawk creating and delivering EDU 244 “Leadership in Early Care and Education” in summer 2014 to 15 PCDC staff members from Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties.

Hawk said, “I turned to GCC for several reasons. GCC is a responsive community player uniquely invested in the development of the early care and education workforce. GCC’s Education Department was instrumental to my success within the field. I would not be the leader I am today without the leadership, mentoring, and wisdom of the Education Department leaders at GCC. And, I know where to go to make things happen because GCC moves mountains when it comes to meeting community needs!”

Hawk and Finnegan quickly realized they each brought invaluable perspective and knowledge to the project and needed to co-create a course. Finnegan brought a background in academic scholarship on leadership in education and a broad theoretical perspective. Hawk, who holds an Associate of Science from GCC, an Associate of Arts, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, brought the context of working her way up from being an early childhood teacher to her current position managing the PCDC/Head Start education department in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Vision Project provided support for the development and delivery of the course.

Massachusetts rates licensed child care centers using the MA Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). For a program to achieve QRIS Level 3, the program’s administrator must have nine credits of college courses in leadership and management. Across the state, program administrators are having a hard time finding such courses. Most of the students in EDU 244 were PCDC site program administrators seeking credits to benefit their centers and careers.

Topics covered by the seven-week course focused on building the students’ capability as supervisors and mentors. To serve students working in three counties, Finnegan and Hawk chose an online/hybrid course format with reading and writing assignments, online discussions, and three face-to-face sessions. The face-to-face sessions featured speakers addressing challenging real-life workplace situations and student presentations.

Reflecting on the course’s impact on PCDC staff, Hawk said, “Early care and education is evolving as a field from a babysitter mindset to an educational professional mindset. There’s nothing more important than the care provided to children and it takes a lot to run an effective program. We have a dedicated workforce, but they they need more tools to help them do the job. This course is one of the tools.”

Finnegan sees EDU 244 as a model for other courses. She said, “When considering workforce development, we must listen to the people in the workplace. I could have developed an academically rigorous course on my own, but developing and delivering this course with Gwen meant it was very specific to the workforce needs and grounded in the here and now. It was wonderful to share a rapid, thoughtful, creative course development process with Gwen. We can learn broad lessons from this collaboration about excellence in college courses for workforce development.”

For information about EDU 244 and other GCC Education Department courses, contact Kate Finnegan at or 413-775-1125.

By Mary McClintock, 82

GCC receives award for Excellence in Manufacturing Training

Tooling U-SME Recognizes Six Community and Technical Colleges with Platinum Education Center Award for Excellence in Manufacturing Training 

Coinciding with Manufacturing Day, October 1, 2014, Tooling U-SME, a leader in manufacturing training and development, today presented its Platinum Education Center designation to six community and technical colleges nationwide, including Greenfield Community College.

The Tooling U-SME Platinum Education Center (TUPEC) awards are presented to educational facilities that serve as models in the manufacturing industry when it comes to developing an outstanding learning culture. Schools are selected based on adoption of Tooling U-SME’s online training program and strong utilization rates of online training in a blended learning format. These six schools join 21 other past TUPEC awardees.

According to The Institute for Supply Management, the U.S. manufacturing industry is growing at its fastest pace within the past three years. However, according to The Boston Consulting Group, without aggressive action, the next decade is expected to bring a potential shortfall of 875,000 machinists, welders, industrial machinery mechanics and industrial engineers. As demand for skilled workers continues to increase, community colleges and technical schools are striving to provide training that meets the needs of manufacturers.

“The schools that we honor with the TUPEC designation demonstrate an exceptional commitment and dedication to preparing students for a successful career in the manufacturing industry,” said Toni Neary, education specialist for Tooling U-SME’s Government and Education Group. “Instructors at these schools are finding innovative ways to effectively use both online and hands-on training to help students develop critical skills and become strong candidates for employment at local manufacturing facilities.”

The schools that received the 2014 TUPEC designation include:

  • Atlantic Technical College, Coconut Creek, Florida, employs an effective approach to training that integrates academics and technical training with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The program enables students to obtain information and tools, while enabling instructors to provide hands-on support.
  • Fayetteville (North Carolina) Technical Community College is part of a consortium of statewide community colleges that aims to educate and train displaced and dislocated workers to fill the needs of local manufacturers. Using state-of-the-art equipment for hands-on training and a new approach to learning, students can earn certificates, degrees and diplomas, and ultimately, obtain full-time employment.
  • Greenfield (Massachusetts) Community College has partnered with Tooling U-SME for a new training program for entry-level CNC operators, targeting unemployed and underemployed workers. In addition, to meet the demand for skills workers in its community, Greenfield Community College has worked with area manufacturers to pilot classes for incumbent workers.
  • Kellogg Community College, Battle Creek, Michigan, has proven to be a pioneer in the way it structures its training, offering a dynamic open-entry/open-exit program that gives students flexibility in scheduling coursework and laboratory work.
  • Southern Oklahoma Technology Center, Ardmore, Oklahoma, uses Tooling U-SME online courses as a supplement to textbooks and other resources to provide a well-rounded and comprehensive educational experience.
  • The Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AZ-AMI) of Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona, has enhanced its current curriculum and laboratory equipment, and is blending innovation using technology such as Tooling U-SME online training. In addition to traditional students, the AZ-AMI strategy is to attract workers with existing skills and aptitude to help them develop new skills sought by local employers.

Since 2012, Tooling U-SME has been recognizing exceptional schools that are helping build a robust pipeline of skilled manufacturing workers in the U.S. with the TUPEC award.

For more information about Tooling U-SME, email or visit

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