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Sue Bush
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MCLA: Miracles At Work

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, September 06, 2005

MCLA President Mary K. Grant: college has many goals and many plans for the year ahead.
North Adams – Berkshire region elected officials came out in forceful support of public higher education and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts during a Sept. 6 Welcome Breakfast held at the MCLA campus.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley D-North Adams said that he was speaking “off the cuff” but his remarks nearly stole the show.
After being introduced by MCLA President Mary K. Grant, Bosley mused that the term “welcome back” was in his opinion a misnomer.

“I see so many of these faces [faculty and staff members] on the campus year round,” Bosley said.

"Are You Ready?"

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley: "Are you ready for another miracle?"
An alumnus of the college, Bosley told about 150 college instructors, administrators, and staff members that the state legislature is “trying to frontload [public] education” into an economic package during the upcoming year.

“One of the miracles we have [at state colleges including MCLA] is the institution of teaching,” Bosley said. “It’s a miracle of opportunity. It’s a miracle of enlightenment. I want to welcome you all back. Are you ready for another miracle this year?”

Fire in the Belly

Mayor John Barrett III, who is also an alumnus of MCLA, proved to be a crowd-pleaser during his remarks. Known for his direct speaking style, Barrett said that he’s witnessed the good and bad days of the college during recent decades, and drew strong applause when he predicted that better days are ahead.

The applause grew to a roar when Barrett stated that the college outlook would greatly improve “when [Gov. Mitt] Romney is gone and Dan Bosley is the Speaker of the House.”

Barrett credited the college leadership, including Grant, for the many positive changes at MCLA and likened the situation to the changes in the city.

“You have to have the fire in the belly to continue to make things change and grow,” Barrett said.

MCLA Dean of Students Charlotte Degan

Enrollment Nudges Upward

MCLA enrollments have increased by about 5 percent for the upcoming academic year, Grant said during the breakfast.

During a subsequent interview, MCLA Vice-president of Enrollment and External Relations Denise Richardello said that 275 first-year students have enrolled at the college and 180 students have transferred to the campus. The incoming freshmen numbered about 260 during the 2004 fall semester, Richardello said. Registration is continuing at the college this week.

State Rep. Dennis Guyer D-Dalton kept the momentum going during his time at the podium. Guyer credited Grant with the college’s “forward motion.”

Not Just a Legislator

“Your outreach and all that you do to bring us to your college is much appreciated,” Guyer said.

Guyer said that he is working toward earning a degree as a non-traditional student enrolled at the college. He quipped that his dual MCLA student/state representative roles reminded him of a television commercial with the tag line “I’m not just the president, I’m also a member.”

A similar phrase fits his situation: “I’m not just a legislator, I’m a member,” Guyer said.

“I have to say that coming here at night for my classes has been an enriching experience,” Guyer said. “I look forward to working very

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III: better days ahead
hard for this college in the years ahead.”

Grant was the picture of pride and determination as she spoke about the college.

Degan Sheds "Interim" Moniker

Charlotte Degan, who has served as the interim Dean of Students since Scott Kalicki resigned from the post during the 2004-05 academic year, can drop the “interim” from the title, Grant announced. Degan is now the Dean of Students and that decision was based on Degan’s ability to successfully manage a multitude of “curve balls” that came her way after Kalicki resigned, Grant said.

College officials will be seeking an Associate Dean of Students to replace Degan, Grant said.

Just Keep Climbing...

The first three words of the book title “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer A Man Who Would Cure the World,” written by Pulitzer prize winner Tracy Kidder, can be applied to the college, Grant said.

MCLA offers many opportunities and faces numerous obstacles, many of which surround state funding. But the obstacles will not stop progress at the college, she said.

“We have so many goals and so many plans,” Grant said.

Grant pinpointed several new college summer programs, such as the Berkshire Hills Summer Internship program, known as B-HIP, which brought college students from across the country to the MCLA campus and allowed the students to serve as interns with cultural

State Rep. Dennis Guyer: He's not just a legislator.
institutions throughout the Berkshires. Grant also noted the college involvement with the downtown opening of “Gallery 51,” which exhibits the work of area artists and is staffed by MCLA students.

“On this campus, people worked so very hard all summer long and with the opening weekend,” Grant said. “You helped set such a great tone for the beginning of the year.”

The down-to-business side of Grant, who has been very active in student recruitment and student retention efforts, flashed forth amidst chuckles; Grant said that during a yearly first-year student hike to the top of Mount Greylock, she worked the MCLA name into conversation with other mountain visitors. She did become concerned when a college employee told her that eight students were unaccounted for, she noted.

“You know me, it’s not about people, it’s about retention,” she quipped, and drew vigorous laughter and applause.

Grant did quickly point out that the eight students were not lost and were subsequently located.

The campus is making strides toward becoming wireless and Murdock Hall renovations are going forward, she said.

“Walls are coming down and walls are going up.”

The campus also underwent a significant sprucing up, with 17 student townhouse apartments refurbished and numerous building exteriors cleaned through power-washing procedures. The athletic fields have been improved and a new parking lot has been erected along Ashland Street, Grant said.

The college is also poised to launch a “brown bag lecture series” within the next few weeks and was included in a video documentary titled “Making Schools Work.”

MCLA Board of Trustees Chairman Eugene Liebowitz thanked faculty and staff for their efforts.

“I’m always, continually, impressed by the level of involvement of those in this room,” he said. “There’s been an influx of energy at this college, more than there’s been in the past.”

We're Still Waiting, Mr. Governor

There were thorns on the proverbial roses, however; Association of Professional Administrators Chairwoman Sharron Zavattaro told the breakfast assembly that an APA contract was ratified by the union members and sent to Romney’s office on July 8.

But the contract has apparently not yet left Romney’s desk, Zavattaro said.

“His people have not budged on the contract and it’s sat for 55 days,” she said. “There is no indication of when it will get off his desk and what the funding will be.”
“We bargained in good faith,” she continued. “It’s time to fund [the contract] and move on.”

MCLA Faculty Association President and sociology instructor Maynard Seider had words of praise for Grant and her leadership abilities but was critical of the state and federal government on several fronts.

“I am confident that when we disagree, we can do it without being disagreeable,” he said of Grant.

Government A Failure in Seider's View

Seider likened the MCLA financial issues, which include salaries and wages for instructors and staff, to the financial issues facing the North Adams Regional Hospital. Both entities serve the community and both have long-term and multi-generational employees, he said.

“During very difficult financial times, both the college and the hospital continue to serve the community,” Seider said, and then noted what he perceived as a federal government failure to respond to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Public colleges require the support of state and federal lawmakers, and efforts focused on “changing the priorities” of state and federal government must not diminish, he said.

Only through hard work will the state move upward from its designation as 47th out of the 50 states in government funding of state colleges, Seider said.

“More and more of us realize that we need a government that serves the needs of its people,” Seider said.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 802-823-9367.

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