Beyond Fall 2020: Adapting to the Current Circumstances

May 15, 2020

In the midst of this pandemic, we must keep sight of the positives around us to give us hope. The loss of loved ones, the emotional toll on the sick and those who love and care for them can be difficult to bear. To them, we owe the responsibility of learning from this experience and the obligation to chart a more informed and brighter path forward.

Our region depends on a vibrant higher education industry. Our intellectual vitality, economy, and our way of life are tied to our local colleges and universities. As a sector, higher education prepares the current and future generations of industry leaders, citizens, and stewards of our community. We are cultivating them to learn from our failures and to build on our successes.

These are among the things that give me hope when I listen to the adults and younger students that we educate at GCC.

  1. Today’s students are developing broad resilience across many areas. They are becoming more adept at navigating complex, volatile, and uncertain times.
  2. They are learning to create contingencies at the personal and professional levels. They are more financially savvy; and
  3. They are developing the tech skills that pair human creativity with artificial intelligence and virtual reality in ways that improve efficiencies, model our responses to various scenarios, ultimately make the world a better place;

Along with these strengths, we also see a need for counseling and learning supports from students as well as appreciation for intergenerational connections. Last year, we launched our Senior Volunteer program where we paired older retired adults from our community with currently enrolled students. Students received advice and mentoring from these retired professionals, while helping to enhance retirees’ technology skills. This is one of the ways in which we are rethinking the traditional approach to college.

This summer, GCC is launching its Mountain Scholars program modeled after our successful Compass and STEM Starter Academy programs. As our region becomes more diverse, we designed a program focused on college success for our students of color. Scholars will have a specialized advisor identified for strong cultural competency, bilingual fluency, and other assets. We will support their transition to college, help them develop study skills, and build community.

We are redoubling our efforts to support students as we look to a fall semester that will feature a low-residency, rotating schedule for courses that need some in-person instruction. The majority of courses will be online. This middle ground solution will help keep students safe and minimize the potential public health consequences to our community. Here’s to braving this new world!

Yves SalomonFernández, Ph.D., President of Greenfield Community College

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