Marlboro College & GCC Partnership Help Non-Profits

Until recently, when local non-profit organizations wanted training for their staff and board members, they had to hire a consultant or travel to find training programs. Thanks to a partnership between Greenfield Community College and Vermont’s Marlboro College, such training is now available in Greenfield at GCC. Workshops in GCC Community Education’s Non-profit Management Series are taught by staff from Marlboro College School for Graduate and Professional Studies and have drawn participants from a wide range of non-profits from throughout the area. One of those organizations is Greenfield-based Just Roots, an organization that seeks to increase access to healthy, local food.

Last fall, at a meeting of the Just Roots Board of Directors, board members discussed how they could continue the transition from a working to a governance board. Board member Ari Pliskin, who had taken courses in non-profit management at GCC and Marlboro College, suggested contracting with Marlboro College to work with the board. They considered that option and wanted to be as cost effective as possible. Another board member, Ted Watt, looking at a copy of GCC’s Lifelong Learning guide said, “GCC has a whole series about non-profit management taught by Marlboro College staff, including a workshop on Best Practices for Boards. Why don’t we all go?”

“We went,” said Just Roots Board President Wisty Rorabacher, “and the quality of our work went up a notch or two or three. The day after the workshop, I was in three meetings related to different aspects of Just Roots. At each meeting, my perspective was much more in line with being a responsible board member, seeing the big picture. What we learned isn’t just academically powerful, it is functionally powerful. I don’t want someone to tell me just theory about something. I need help right now, I’m in the trenches. That workshop provided the help I needed.”

Ariel Brooks, Director of Non-Degree Programs at Marlboro College said, “The fall 2013 series drew a diverse group of students who shared their experiences and learned a lot from each other. Both GCC and Marlboro College seek to provide their communities with what they want and need. This program supports non-profit organizations that serve our communities. While educational institutions often are protective of their programs, GCC and Marlboro College are cooperating to offer programs that meet our communities’ needs.”

Bob Barba, GCC’s Dean for Community Education agrees. Barba said, “The collaboration with Marlboro College is a great example of two kinds of colleges from two different states working together to offer quality, affordable education in a professional area for which we have lots of demand. The partnership helps foster the growth of a group like Just Roots, which is doing truly transformative work in the community. This is what we strive for—that great blend of personal enrichment, professional and workforce development, and community engagement that make up the three-part mission of Community Education.”

Ari Pliskin, member of the Just Roots Board of Directors and Development Director of Stone Soup Café, was so impressed with what he learned taking courses through the GCC/Marlboro partnership that he completed Marlboro’s Certificate in Non-profit Management. He said, “Overall, Marlboro helped me move from working hard jumping from one opportunity to the next and putting out daily fires towards strategically coordinating my actions and those of others towards building a sustainable organization for the Stone Soup Café. It helped me move forward by working smarter instead of just working harder. I have more confidence developing, critiquing, and reviewing budgets, a stronger sense of what the board role should be, a better sense of developing marketing and fundraising campaigns, and greater confidence supervising volunteers and staff.”

by Mary McClintock, ’82

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New Course Explores World of Fashion & Textiles

Thirty years ago, when Greenfield Community College Professor of Economics & Business Thom Simmons walked through New York City’s garment district every day on his way to and from work, he had no idea he would someday work in and teach about the fashion industry. Then, Simmons moved to New Hampshire and started raising sheep for fiber. As the exclusive provider of hand spinning fleece for Harrisville Design, he was in the primary phase of the textile industry, the fiber production phase. More recently, Simmons has worked in another phase of the industry, organizing fashion shows at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City and at the Grinspoon, Garvey & Young Entrepreneurship Conference in Springfield. This spring, Simmons will share his years of experience and inside connections with the fashion industry in a new GCC course titled “Fundamentals of Fashion and Textiles.”

Along with learning about the history and characteristics of the fashion, apparel, and textile industries, students will explore the textile production process from design concept through retail sales for apparel, home furnishings, industrial fabric, and geotextiles. They’ll learn about synthetic and natural fiber production, historic fashion influences, garment manufacturing options, design costing and pricing, and how fashion products are conceived, produced, and offered to the consumer through industry-specific supply chains.

Taking advantage of Simmons’ connections in the fashion and textile industry in New England and New York, the course will include visits to weaving studios, New York City fashion designers, and the Lawrence mills. Students will produce a fashion show of recycled garments and create a portfolio similar to that required for admission to the Fashion Institute of Technology. Simmons expects students in the course to have a wide range of interests, including design, marketing, media, and retail business. The new course is required in GCC’s new Retail Management Certificate.

In his role as advisor to the GCC Business Club, Simmons takes GCC students to New York City every spring for a 4-day trip to look at businesses. One of the businesses they visit is clothing designer Nanette Lepore, who is known not just for the clothing she designs and produces but also for being in the vanguard of the movement trying to revitalize the US clothing industry.

Simmons said, “In 1960, 95% of clothing sold in the United States was made in the United States. Today, that figure is 2%. The textile and apparel industries in America have been decimated by outsourcing and the consumer’s embrace of cheaply-made, mass-produced clothing imported from abroad. Between 1994 and 2005, the United States lost more than 900,000 textile and apparel jobs to overseas operations. There is a movement to reestablish a viable garment industry in the US. Massachusetts was the birthplace of the textile industry in the US and we still have the capacity to make textiles. This course is an immersion in every aspect of the industry.”

“Meeting Nanette Lepore was absolutely phenomenal,” said, Noreen Woodruff, who went with Simmons on the GCC Business Club trip to New York while she was studying toward a Entrepreneurship Certificate at GCC. She said, “Nanette took us through each level of the business, we met with people on the design floor, in patterning, bundling and sewing operations, in marketing. She talked about the structure of the business, explaining how she keeps her staff engaged and keeps all of her business in the United States for operations where there is still capacity to do so in this country. We got to have that incredible experience with Nanette because of Thom’s connections with her. Thom packed a huge amount of information and experiences into those four days. I took away so much from that trip. Thom’s knowledge of the fashion industry is huge and his passion for U.S.-made and fair trade business is contagious.”

For information about the new Fundamentals of Fashion and Textiles course, contact Thom Simmons at For registration information please contact the Admission Office at 413-775-1801 or to learn more at

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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GCC Student 1 of 200 accepted to Honors College

In January, soon-to-be Greenfield Community College graduate Justin MacDowell will travel to The Netherlands to start his first semester studying at University College Utrecht. MacDowell, who never finished high school and will receive his Associate in Arts degree from GCC this month, was one of only 200 students accepted to the highly competitive international Honors College of Utrecht University. Justin will study toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences, focusing on political science and international relations and joining students from around the world in the 700-student international community at the English-based Honors College.

How did 23-year-old MacDowell of Brimfield choose a college in The Netherlands? The story of MacDowell’s choice starts with his grandmother who passed away before he was born. His mother’s mother was Dutch and lived in Dutch Indonesia. Learning about his family’s Dutch history as a young boy, MacDowell became intrigued with The Netherlands. At age 12, he traveled with his family in Europe and especially enjoyed Holland.

Remembering how much he enjoyed his earlier trip, MacDowell visited Holland for a week this past May. He fell in love with the country and became determined to attend college there. In researching possible Dutch colleges, MacDowell found UCU. In college, MacDowell had developed a strong interest in working in the fields of human rights and international relations. He is drawn to UCU’s international focus and small size. UCU students spend their second year studying abroad and MacDowell hopes to study in Israel for that year.

MacDowell’s journey from dropping out of high school to acceptance at an Honors College took him through three other community colleges before he arrived at GCC. After getting his GED, MacDowell studied briefly at Holyoke Community College, but didn’t know what he wanted to do. He also studied at Bunker Hill Community College and Quinsigamond Community College before finding something that really motivated him and he enjoyed studying. Passionate about human rights, MacDowell is particularly interested in the conflict in Israel and Palestine.

GCC was the right school for MacDowell. He said, “I love GCC. The other schools I attended are too big and I slipped through the cracks. I drive an hour to get to GCC because it is the small student-based school I needed. Many GCC faculty members had a big influence on me: Carol Gray inspired my interest in human rights issues, Abbie Jenks taught me a lot about resolving conflicts big and small, and I love acting because of Tom Geha’s performing arts class. I’ve also learned from other students at GCC. In a politics class, there were students from Kazakhstan and Lebanon, students with first-hand experience of issues we discussed in class. I had a 0.4 GPA in high school and now I have a 3.5 GPA at GCC. I have learned that no matter how low you get in life, hard work pays off if you’re motivated. You really can do anything you set your mind to. It was such a daunting process to apply to a school like UCU, but I did it.”

Professor Abbie Jenks was not surprised to hear that MacDowell was accepted at UCU. Jenks, Program Coordinator of Human Services and Advisor of GCC’s Peace, Justice and Environmental Studies program, said, “Justin stood out in my class on conflict resolution and mediation because of his insight into his own experiences and conflicts in the world and his great writing and academic skills. He was hungry to learn about conflict resolution and quite knowledgeable about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Applying and being accepted to a college in another country is not easy. Clearly, Justin has empowered himself and found his direction, and found mentors to help him succeed. At UCU, Justin will get an international perspective and be able to pursue his dream of doing international human rights work. Justin is a model for other students pursuing their dreams, and perhaps someday he will become a mentor for others.”

For information about University College Utrecht, visit

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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Jones receives Green Giant Award from Western Mass Green Building Group

Area green builders know there’s a green giant walking among us, even though that giant isn’t a tall guy wearing green tights. The Massachusetts West Branch of the US Green Building Council recognizes that Teresa Jones, Program Coordinator for GCC’s Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) program is a giant in the green energy and building field. At their annual meeting in Amherst on December 4, USGBC MA West will present Jones with their Green Giant Educator Award for her work with GCC’s RE/EE program. The Award recognizes educators who “inspire and actively teach the design students, engineers, trades people and citizens who will in their turn advance our green building revolution.” Jones was nominated for the award by Nancy Bair, formerly Director of Workforce Development at GCC, currently Green Jobs Coordinator for Co-op Power, and Chair of the Green Night Committee for Western Mass Green Consortium.

Jones, an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science/Plant Biology, helped create GCC’s RE/EE program. The RE/EE program curriculum develops knowledge and skills leading to expertise in the theory and practice of: building energy efficiency and renewable energy, solar domestic hot water, photovoltaic (solar electric) technology, energy conservation and efficiency, wind energy, insulation retrofits, sustainable design and green building, including landscaping. Jones teaches a key 4-credit science lab course in the program – Sustainable Energy: Theory and Practice.

In nominating Jones, Bair wrote, “Though many of us worked hard and long on the grant that installed GCC’s new RE/EE program, Teresa was truly the guiding light, the academic leader, the force that we all strived to keep up with! To write the amount of exemplary curricula in the first two years of the grant; to attend and help lead partner meetings; to recruit, hire, and guide so many gifted and committed instructors for the program; to shepherd so many new and non-traditional students, shows the intellect and the commitment that she brought to the project. The GCC program is known throughout Massachusetts and beyond for its pioneering creativity, integrity, and success. GCC is very lucky to have Teresa Jones teaching for them.”

Jones graduated from Yale University in New Haven, CT, with a double degree in Environmental Studies and History. She received her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Plant Biology. She has worked as a science reporter and co-authored a book on asthma. She began teaching at the high school level before coming to GCC in 1999. She currently teaches Botany, Horticulture and Sustainable Energy courses and serves as the Program Coordinator for the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency (RE/EE) program.

Reflecting on the Award, Jones said, “I am thrilled to have the GCC RE/EE Program recognized by the Massachusetts West Branch of the USGBC. Our program is a testament to what a committed and collaborative team of people can do. We are so fortunate to have a deep talent pool here in this area. Organizations, businesses, professionals, tradespeople, instructors, students and private citizens who have been thinking and doing sustainable building and living for decades. It is this collaboration that constitutes our program and makes it so dynamic and fun. As the Program Coordinator, I often get credit for things that I could not possibly have created on my own. This award is really an acknowledgement of a broad network of people. A diverse and interesting group of students come to us because our instructors are real-world practitioners, our network with local businesses opens doors, and our courses continue to adapt to a continuously changing field. I look forward to the next decade of keeping our program engaged with innovation, opportunity and a positive vision of the future.”

Also honored by USGBC MA West with a Green Giant award was Sean Jeffords, an early employer to work with GCC’s RE/EE program in the Sustainable Practices in Construction grant for which Jones was the program coordinator and academic leader. Jeffords, a construction contractor and President of Beyond Green Construction, took his construction company seriously green years ago and changed the name of his company to Beyond Green Construction in 2008. He exemplifies sustainable practice by continuously seeking new information and techniques for himself, his crew, the subcontractors he works with as well as his clients and other colleagues. Sean welcomed interns from GCC and other educational programs so they could get essential hands-on experience putting classroom learning into practice and has hired graduates of the RE/EE program.

The Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Certificate and Associate Degree Option at Greenfield Community College was established through support from a Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund grant named Sustainable Practices in Construction (SPC).

Jones can be reached at (413) 775-1462 and at

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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Joshua Freund Connects GCC with Stone Soup Café

Joshua Freund doesn’t list “Matchmaker” on his resume, but he should. Joshua made the match between Greenfield Community College and Stone Soup Café, a weekly “pay-what-you-can” community café that provides wholesome meals and supportive community to a diverse group of 60-110 people every Saturday at All Souls Church in Greenfield. Increasing accessibility to local food, Joshua created an internship at the Café for himself as a GCC Farm and Food Systems student. Following Joshua, another student completed the internship. Now, other departments are exploring internships at Stone Soup through GCC’s Civic Engagement Initiative.

What’s really included on Joshua’s resume? Student, carpenter, educator, and writer.  Joshua lived and worked at the Zen Peacemakers’ farm in Montague, where the Peacemakers prototyped the Stone Soup Café in 2010. He fell in love with the Café’s emphasis on relationships and befriended Ari Pliskin, who lived and worked there as well. When Ari started the Stone Soup Café in Greenfield in 2012, Joshua helped get the program off the ground. 

Joshua, now 29 and living with Ari in Greenfield, dropped out of high school where he grew up in Kansas City. Conversations with GCC Farm and Food Systems program coordinator Abrah Dresdale inspired Joshua to study for his GED and then toward an Associate degree in Farm and Food Systems. Joshua is thriving at GCC and has been on the Dean’s List for three semesters. GCC’s supportive faculty and staff helped shift Joshua’s story from “college isn’t available to me” to “I am a successful college student.”

Interning at Stone Soup in spring 2013 was life-changing for Joshua. He still helps out at the Café and is an after-school teacher at Greenfield High School teaching nature awareness, creative writing, and permaculture. After finishing an Associate degree at GCC, Joshua plans to study for a bachelor’s degree and work as an educator.

Currently serving as Stone Soup’s Development Director, Ari explained, “As a grassroots organization, reliable interns make a big difference for us. The Stone Soup folktale – about a stranger who comes to town, starts a pot of soup with water and a stone and invites everyone to put something in the soup until the community has come together around a tasty, nutritious meal – is an analogy for how we operate. We mix ingredients from everyone involved, including people who pay, those who donate food and volunteers who work. GCC has been a living “stone soup” for many years. There is a strong similarity in our values and way of being community together.”

Judy Raper, GCC Director of Student Development, recognizes Stone Soup’s benefit to GCC. She said, “GCC wants to enhance and develop new relationships with community partners and encourage our students to engage with the community. Our students must graduate (or transfer) appreciating what it means to be contributing citizens and understanding how to use their knowledge to improve the lives of themselves and others. We have a very service-oriented student body who have responded enthusiastically to engaging with our community. A group of GCC students, faculty, and staff joined Joshua in volunteering at Stone Soup Café on November 16.”

Joshua encourages others to get involved, saying, “Some people come to Stone Soup hungry for food, some come hungry for connection. I go for both the good food and to get filled with social action and love. The people who provide that connection are often people who go to the Café hungry for food. At Stone Soup, we don’t see people as homeless or as wealthy.  There is so much opportunity for people to make a difference in our community and lives. Now’s the time! The resources are available. This is a great opportunity for young people to get involved.”

To watch a short video on Stone Soup, including Joshua and others visit:

To learn more about GCC’s Civic Engagement Initiative, contact Judy Raper at 413-775-1819 or

Mary McClintock, ’82