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U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, said the 'unique' agreement is perfect because of the building's proximity to the downtown, public transportation and has plenty of parking.

MCLA, BCC Open Shared Campus In Downtown Pittsfield

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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BCC President Paul Raverta and MCLA President Mary Grant have teamed up to share a downtown campus and credited U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, with helping to make the Federal Building available.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Silvio O. Conte Federal Building is now a satellite campus for county's two public colleges.

The Center Street building will now host four classrooms so the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Berkshire Community College can offer 12 additional classes and five work-force development courses in the center of the county. The 4,700 square feet will also host regional meetings, the Readiness Center and a photovoltaic laboratory.

"The vision of BCC and MCLA for an expanded downtown campus, which includes space at the Intermodal Education Center and now Conte Federal Building, has become a reality and we are incredibly thankful to Congressman Olver," BCC President Paul Raverta said in a crowded classroom. "The presence of this downtown campus is also our contribution to the continued growth and revitalization of Pittsfield."

For MCLA, the additional classrooms will allow the school to increase its course offerings, which include a new masters of business administration program, and will be able to reach "working adults," MCLA President Mary Grant said.

"What better of a place than the center of the county?" Grant asked. "This gives us an opportunity to build new programs."

Political and educational leaders gathered at the building on Wednesday to announce the agreement that is considered the first of its kind. U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, had helped bridge the gap between the federal government and the local educational organizations that will now fill vacancies in the building.

"Now the Conte Federal Building will be fully utilized," Olver said, and added that education is fitting for a building named after the late congressman. "This collaboration has nothing but growth in their mind ... We will see you again when you expand again."

The additional classrooms — which will provide interactive white boards, a computer lab, a student louge and a conference room —  are just the first step in what many expect for the county. Mayor James Ruberto began advocating for the entire building to be completely occupied by the two schools.

"I think in five years from now we should be calling the Conte Federal Building the Conte Educational Center," Ruberto said. "Now that we have a complex, I think that we should change the name of the Intermodal Center to the 'Olver Educational Center' because we have the start of a big, big higher-education campus in downtown Pittsfield."

In her first appearance as state Rep.-elect Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, said that she be there to support that type of growth.

"Berkshire County has always shown that collaboration, that teamwork and I think the rest of the Commonwealth looks to Berkshire County and asks 'how can we do it as well as Berkshire County?' And we have done it well because government is a team sport," Bouvier said. "I am so very happy to be part of this team and you can count on me to be a good partner with you."

Professor Reena Bucknell taught a few classes this fall in the building as a test run and said it had worked perfectly because it allowed students to walk to class.
The move was heralded as an ultimate team-work among all levels of governmental and education - the the college presidents to the state officials that approve funding for the schools to the federal government for working out the lease agreement.

Robert Zarnetske, regional administrator with the U.S. General Services Administration, said that these community collaborations are the new face of the federal government. Only a few years ago, the idea of allowing a college to hold classes inside the federal building would have been dismissed by a number of excuses, he said.

"We're not only in the communities, we are in them," Zarnetske said. "We'll be here tomorrow, next week and as long as you'll allow us."

Olver said the agreement is a "win-win" because not only will the schools now have a campus but it is located in the center of the downtown and will help for the city's growth. Ruberto added that education is one of the many aspects needed to "build a city."

The local was chosen because of its proximity to the downtown as well as being next to public transportation.

The classes will begin full-time in the fall but the school's had already made a test-run by teaching a few classes there. Reena Bucknell, BCC professor, said the building is a "fantastic educational setting" that "sends a message" about the schools commitment. 

Tags: BCC,   education,   MCLA,   

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