By President Yves Salomon-Fernández
In two weeks, we welcome students back to campus. The vivacity that they bring when they return is palpable. What we treasure the most, however, is their leadership. Last fall, a false emergency exposed vulnerabilities that we had in terms of our systems for emergency alerts. While the leadership and the rest of GCC went through the process of systematically identifying holes in our systems and checking off our list with a deep sense of urgency, as a newcomer, the leadership that our students showed was the single most surprising outcome of that event for me.
Our GenY students grew up participating in drills in their K-12 schools from an early age. Many of our Millennial students also have experience with drills. While it was a false emergency, our students showed leadership in the moment. Their continued leadership, unique insights and perspectives in helping strengthen our systems was, in many ways, a manifestation of the competencies that are core to our classroom and experiential curricula. We emerge a stronger and safer college with significantly improved communication and processes because of the engagement and leadership of our entire community.
At GCC, we take leadership very seriously. Our mission is to prepare our young students and returning mature students for a world where their leadership is influencing our present and our future trajectories. The environmental challenges reflected in the rise of natural disasters precipitated by climate change; inter-racial discord; water, food, and housing insecurity; cost of and accessibility to healthcare; the opioids crisis, and other challenges—domestically and internationally—call for the best in our student leaders. The opportunities in the visual and performing arts and humanities, technology, science and engineering, social science, education, business and entrepreneurship with a social conscience are some of the areas of leadership for which we are preparing our students. We are immensely proud of them!
Our students transition seamlessly to local institutions like Smith College, Mount Holyoke, UMass, Westfield State, Emerson, Tufts, Boston College, and Boston University, other institutions in and out of state. They and their parents realize not only the financial benefits of starting their undergraduate journey at GCC, but treasure our idyllic college that provides deep individual attention from faculty and staff. GCC’s high caliber of accomplished educators who excel at teaching, research with students, and are engaged in their communities is a draw for prospective students. Our international internships provide opportunities for cultural immersion, language proficiency development, inter-disciplinary learning, adventure and self-discovery.
Our classrooms are a microcosm of the proverbial real world because our students are culturally, linguistically, ideologically, and socioeconomically diverse and represent virtually every dimension of diversity. We appreciate them for their differences and uniqueness. GCC welcomes students who have always been academically high-performing and others who are discovering their full potential academically and as well as their passions while with us.
As we welcome our students for another semester, we remain steadfast in our commitment to prepare them for leadership. We take pride in preparing our students to be exceptional local and global citizens, stewards of our talents and resources, leaders in business and across a range of industries. They fill us with pride. On to another semester!
Yves Salomon-Fernández is President of Greenfield Community College. Her Twitter handle is @prezyves
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