New GCC president looks to foster ‘broad base of social support’ for students

  • STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • SCHUTT

Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2022 10:21:51 PM

GREENFIELD — Drawing on her extensive experience in education, Iowa native Michelle Schutt says she is “gaining her footing” as the new president of Greenfield Community College.

Schutt began in the role on July 18, taking over for Richard Hopper, who had served as interim president since last August following the resignation of Yves Salomon-Fernández.

“I was doing a national search and when I saw the presidential prospectus on this position, included in that was the core values of (Greenfield Community College) — things like inclusion, transparency, creativity and integrity,” Schutt recounted. “I thought to myself, ‘Those are words I use to describe myself.’ How exciting is it to find a place where I might really feel like my core values align?”

Throughout the interview process, Schutt had a “great feeling” about the college.

“I truly felt there were people here with a heart and a passion for the students,” she explained.

Schutt holds a bachelor’s degree in English education from Upper Iowa State University, master’s degrees in teaching and social responsibility from Emporia State University in Kansas and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, and a doctorate in education and human resources from Colorado State University.

“I worked in student services most of my life,” she said. “The past seven years were at a community college in Idaho, and in the last year, I was accepted into the Aspen Rising Presidential Fellowship. … Every year, they select 40 professionals they feel will make good college presidents. That has been a pretty incredible experience to just be in the same room as some of the greatest minds doing work on community colleges.”

As she prepares for the role at GCC, Schutt said she’s relying on the “culmination” of her experiences.

“You can’t be so entrenched in what’s happening in higher education that you forget about what’s happening in the rest of the world,” Schutt said. “There’s a lot going on and those are all stressors for our students. We have to recognize that students today need a broad base of social support in order to be successful in the classroom. If you’re hungry or you’re wondering where your bed is going to be tonight, it’s really hard to focus on calculus.”

To that end, she hopes to draw on the work she did at the College of Southern Idaho, where she most recently served as vice president of community and learning services. There, she made strides in increasing enrollment and retention, overseeing an enrollment increase of 3% in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a GCC press release.

“Like any community college, Greenfield is dealing with enrollment issues,” Schutt said. “When I talk about enrollment, I talk about enrollment and retention because if we can’t keep who we have, we’re not going to be able to chase the enrollment.”

The search for a new president formally launched in October 2021 with notice to the state Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago, according to Dan Desrochers, GCC’s director of communications and marketing. Clare Higgins, chair of the 13-member Presidential Search Committee, said Schutt was one of four finalists chosen from roughly 30 applicants who were thoroughly screened by an academic search firm.

The four finalists were brought forward for a final round of interviews in May, and later that month, the board of trustees voted to forward Schutt to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, which approved the selection in June.

Schutt said in the last two weeks, she’s been working on understanding a new system, while also getting herself acquainted with the greater community.

“It’s been radically different, but we have found that people are incredibly kind and warm and polite,” Schutt said of her family’s move to Massachusetts. “I’m loving that and it makes us feel good about the decision we made.”


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