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Greenfield Community College

GCC, Elms College partner on new social work bachelor’s degree; info session tonight

GREENFIELD — Local residents can now earn a bachelor’s degree in social work without leaving Greenfield through a new partnership between Greenfield Community College and a private Chicopee-based Catholic liberal arts college.

The College of Our Lady of the Elms, often called Elms College, will offer a two-year program at the GCC campus beginning next month. Elms College faculty will teach classes on campus each Saturday, which will allow someone with an associate’s degree to earn a bachelor’s degree in the field within 20 months.

Elms College representatives will be on the main GCC campus today, in East Building, Room 124, from 4 to 7 p.m. to provide more details about the program. They’ll also visit campus three more times: July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 8 at the same location and time.

“This is a career pathway for students who are at GCC,” said Sheryl Hruska, the community college’s chief academic and student affairs officer. “This really gives them a degree that is both advanced but also a job-ready preparation to be able to work in the region.”

With a cost just over $27,000, the same 60-credit program would be about twice as expensive on the Elms College campus, said Wanda Banks, assistant director of off-campus programs for the private college. Students may be able to count some of their past courses toward the program, she said.

And she said it will both prepare students for their social work licensure exams and satisfy courses in most master’s degree programs — sometimes even reducing a two-year graduate program down to one year.

Banks said that having a license is a key step to finding work in the social work field. She said obtaining a master’s degree gets the person even further — allowing them to teach, perform clinical work and take on a supervisory role.

Elms College is in its third year of a similar partnership with Springfield Technical Community College and offers other programs at Holyoke Community College. In addition to GCC, the college is also starting new partnerships this year with Mount Wachusett Community College and at a middle and high school in Berkshire County.

Hruska said that GCC administrators looked at Elms’ other partnerships and are convinced it will be a good fit in Greenfield. She said that both schools are interested in collaborating and learning more about one another, and it won’t be a “turnkey operation” where teachers come in, teach the class and leave.

The two schools are exploring the possibility of having qualified GCC faculty teach some of the program’s classes in the future. Hruska said that an Elms College employee will be on campus during weekdays to advise students.

“We’re not just renting out space. We’re really creating a partnership,” said GCC President Robert Pura.

He said it will allow students who are forced to stay in Franklin County, because of work, family or other life commitments, to continue pursuing higher degrees of education.

“We really do applaud and appreciate when a student graduates, transfers and are able to live on that campus and be a part of campus life,” he said. “(But) so many of our students in this community are just not able to afford themselves those opportunities.”

The social work degree — which is broad enough to be used by social workers, in criminal justice positions, by students with a psychology or sociology degree and more — was a highly requested program by GCC students, said Hruska. It’s also a field that will likely soon see increased job opportunities, she said.

GCC has hosted degree completion programs on campus from time to time in the past. But Pura believes the partnership with Elms is a more sustainable model.

GCC is interested in establishing similar collaborations with four-year colleges in the nursing, business and liberal arts fields, he said.

Banks said that the program is not restricted to GCC students and that anyone with an associate’s degree may apply.

Interested applicants may bring a copy of their transcripts for review at the information sessions. She said that people can also call Elms College at 413-265-2336 and set up an appointment at another time.

For more information on the program, go to www.elms.edu or visit this shortened Web address: bit.ly/13ZbDFE

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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