STCC Innovation Continues Amidst COVID-19
April is Community College Month, and COVID-19 circumstances are showing why innovation at an institution like Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) is so critical, especially during times of great need.
With on-campus classes suspended for the semester, our historic campus at Armory Square stands quiet. But the engine that drives STCC is still humming as we find new ways to help students continue moving forward. The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for so many, but we have not abandoned our core mission to support students as they transform their lives. We continue to connect with students and pursue innovative ways to educate during these difficult and stressful times.
From day one, safety and health have been our highest priority. To that end, STCC has transitioned to remote and alternative instruction and service operations. Our faculty and staff responded to this need with an incredible mix of poise, urgency and ‘can do’ outlook. We also understood this transition would not be easy for many of our students. Our diverse population at STCC includes students who come from low-income families. A number of students lack access to computers or internet connections that enable remote learning. With the dramatic downturn in the economy, we also know some students and their loved ones are now out of work because of COVID-19, and are facing food insecurity, homelessness, on top of significant health concerns.
We feel confident our transition to remote college instruction and operations will minimize disruption during difficult times. STCC faculty and staff, many of whom I have met with via Zoom and Google Hangouts over the past couple of weeks, are showing a stunning level of resolve.Dr. John B. Cook, President, STCC
STCC promises to continue serving our students, and recent efforts include:
- Lending of Chromebooks and internet hotspots to any STCC student in need; some hotspots are made possible through a generous donation from T-Mobile.
- Offering grocery store gift cards through our Center for Access Services to food-insecure students; these gift cards are made possible through a generous donation from Stop & Shop.
- Providing remote counseling to students, who can receive telehealth services from our partner, River Valley Counseling Center.
- Ensuring the continuation of access to supports that include the library, tutoring, advising, veteran’s services and career services.
We feel confident our transition to remote college instruction and operations will minimize disruption during difficult times. STCC faculty and staff, many of whom I have met with via Zoom and Google Hangouts over the past couple of weeks, are showing a stunning level of resolve. I have seen smiles, and earnestness, that combined with an array of digital and virtual technologies, are proving to students, and to our communities, how we live our two middle names. To this point, we recently donated our personal protective equipment (PPE) to area hospitals and first responders. The equipment, which includes masks, gloves, gowns and face shields, will serve as a first line of defense for health care professionals and reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 while treating patients.
Like many other higher education institutions, we were fortunate the transition coincided with spring break, which created a natural transition period from face-to-face instruction.
Going forward, we have launched an online New Student Orientation program to help students register and acclimate. We recognize that for the near future, students won’t be able to visit campus. Already in progress, STCC has been formalizing lean management principles, including the concept of Value Stream Mapping. Our value stream team, composed of faculty, staff and administrators, has sought ways to optimize, increase efficiencies and otherwise aid prospective students to become matriculated students. From inquiry to application to the first day of the semester, we have sought to lower barriers experienced by students attending our unique institution.
While we needed to cancel events on campus, virtual opportunities remain. For example, we are pleased to offer an online tour of this spring’s exhibit at the Amy H. Carberry Fine Arts Gallery. Visit the STCC YouTube channel (stcc.io/gallery) to take a virtual tour of artist Donnabelle Casis' "inkling" exhibit.
Again, knowing April is Community College month, I am incredibly proud of all that STCC has accomplished in just a few short weeks. The character of our students, faculty and staff is clear. Recent accolades bestowed on the college, including the MassLive Reader Raves 2020 Best Local College and the Valley Advocate’s 2020 Best 2-Year College, are a testament to our efforts.
STCC staff and faculty work every day with dedication and commitment to the college’s mission. I know they will continue to bring the same level of courage, strength and professionalism each day we weather this crisis. The STCC community is strong. On-campus or through remote means, Springfield Technical Community College will continue supporting students as they transform their lives.