‘Community’ best fits what you find
There is something transformational that begins to happen as you drive into Greenfield Community College. It is on that half mile, winding road, that one begins to feel the transition from a world of increasing individualism and isolation to one of inclusion and collaboration.
The word “community” defines GCC as a college. More than a definition of whom to serve, community identifies an environment created by faculty, staff and students that encourages engagement, nurtures learning and cultivates sustainable change. Community defines the GCC environment created for teaching and learning.
GCC faculty and staff have always understood the powerful potential and privilege of small classes and the need for individualized attention. Students get to know college faculty and staff — and they get to know each other. Instead of large lecture halls and teaching assistants, students at GCC experience teaching and learning in small, intimate learning communities and develop lasting relationships on which to grow and develop. Instead of waiting days or even weeks to get an appointment with a teacher or adviser, GCC students are welcomed into studios at the center of faculty offices, teaching and learning together. From the Library to the Dinning Commons, from the Math and Business Studios to the Science and Humanities studios, and from the Art Gallery to our new (almost) energy neutral Greenhouse, GCC students find more than an answer to an algebraic formula or the keys to unlock the mystery of a poem — students discover a feeling of belonging to a community of learners on a courageous journey to a better life.
GCC faculty are wonderful artists and scientists, writers and mathematicians, nurses and doctors, lawyers and police officers, accountants and entrepreneurs. But ask them, and they will tell you — members of the college’s faculty are teachers, first and foremost. That is why they choose to work at GCC; they love teaching, learning and students just a tad more than their subject area. GCC faculty and staff see their student’s potential even before the student does and together they work hard to achieve it.
I have the great privilege of hearing the stories of our alumni as I travel around town. More significant than even the chuckle that comes from the memory of a train-delayed class at Arch Street, I get to see the look in their eyes as they talk about Phyllis, Budge, Herb, Wil, Rob and Meryl or hear the warmth in their voice as they speak about Jeffery, Larry, Cheri, Linda, Abbie, Thom and Kate, and the enthusiasm and joy as they share their stories about Theresa, Kathy, Deb, Mary, Christine, Brian and Paul. GCC alumni don’t talk about a book, an idea or a particular lecture as being most memorable. It is the number of heartfelt stories of life-changing relationships that are so significant to those graduates’ memories. That is the GCC experience. In a world of growing isolation and individualism, GCC creates community, encourages collaboration and develops life-sustaining relationships. And what impact does that experience have on student success? According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, GCC has the highest rated student success scores (graduation, retention and transfer rates) of all 15 community colleges over a six-year period of time.
As you know, there is a wonderful small pond at the center of our campus, ducks paddling or nestled into the grassy bank. At different times of the day, the sun and water join to create reflections of the buildings, the hills and trees or people walking to and from class. At least once per day, at the right moment and at just the right angle you are able to see that GCC is but a reflection of the very best of the community that we serve.
As we have every fall semester for the past 51 years, GCC has once again opened its doors to all who seek a better life for themselves and their families. Lives will change for the better as a result, then families will grow stronger and so too our community. On behalf of our students, faculty and staff, the Boards of Trustees and the GCC Foundation, I thank you for all what you do to make that possible and for your help fostering and sustaining the GCC experience.
Bob Pura is president of Greenfield Community College.