BCC has had a generational impact on many. Here is late professor Mitch Mulholland with his son and future college vice president William Mulholland on his graduation.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The state's first community college opened 60 years ago in the Central Annex building on Second Street with about 150 students and a handful of disciplines.
Since then, its moved to West Street, increased its student body by more than tenfold and offers 40 associate degrees and 15 certificates, some in disciplines that didn't exist 60 years ago.
Much of Berkshire Community College's original establishment is because of the work done by former state Rep. Thomas C. Wojtkowski of Pittsfield, who represented what was then the 5th Berkshire District.
"We all have to credit Tom Wojtkowski for the fact that community colleges are such an important part of Massachusetts today," said BCC President Ellen Kennedy.
Wojtkowski, now in his 90s, recognized how important higher education was and set out to find a way to make it more accessible. He found partners in the Legislature to support his idea, including one on Cape Cod who also wanted to see community colleges become a part of Massachusetts. Because of Wojtkowski's collaboration with state Sen. Edward Carleton Stone, Cape Cod Community College became the second community college in Massachusetts in 1961.
Years later, Wojtkowski's daughter Dr. Marcella Bradway would graduate from BCC before going on to earn her medical degree and served on the board of trustees.
In 1964, BCC was accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and, in 1972, expanded to its location 180 acres of land on West Street. Kennedy, in a note on the college's website, said BCC will continue to evolve in the 21st century to provide programs and degrees "in the areas of highest demand."
What did not exist 60 years ago was the novel coronavirus, which forced the college to rethink how it would celebrate its diamond anniversary. A planned outdoor ceremony in September had to be scrapped because of the pandemic, as had the 2020 commencement.
The solution was to host a virtual ceremony that will highlight the many different programs within BCC and include interviews from students, alumni, and staff. This one-hour long, 17-segment video is a collaboration with Pittsfield Community Television.
"We knew we couldn't go past this anniversary year without acknowledging it," said Toni Buckley, the college's director of alumni relations who produced the video.
She sat down with Associate Director of Marketing Jonah Sykes and created an outline and they looked videos, commercials, interviews, and promotional videos BCC has previously produced and decided what they could add to that to put together a meaningful, representative, and emotional film.
Since the video will be an hour long, it was important to keep viewers engaged the whole way through.
"This is for the whole Berkshire community no matter if you have never had a connection with BCC or not, this is for you," Buckley said. "If this is your first touchpoint with BCC, that's great."
At the end of August and beginning of September, PCTV crew came to campus and filmed interviews with staff, students, and alumni.
"It's a mix between professionally filmed recording and Zoom recordings, I even went and filmed one segment with my phone," Buckley said. "It's like this mosaic of all different kinds of technologies and levels of professionalism, but I think it all comes together and it's very moving. ...
"We couldn't have done it without PCTV, specifically Dave Cachet. It has been an amazing collaboration."
Buckley hopes that BCC will still be able to hold an in-person anniversary celebration in September 2021, but for now aims to have this video show all that BCC has given back to the Berkshires and create a sense of togetherness.
Buckley came to Berkshires in 2015 from Germany and has a degree in communication design and photography. She's has held three positions at Berkshire Community College since 2017. A year later she was made director of alumni relations, the first in this post since 2015.
With 60 years behind the college's belt, BCC has tens of thousands of alumni out there that it hasn't been able to track because the college has only been keeping track of alumni for five to 10 years now. This makes Buckley's position integral to having a diverse range of BCC alumni representation.
Because her position is new, she is able to be creative with the ideas she has for alumni relations. She speaks one on one to an average of five to 10 graduates per week and has picked up social media presence to increase engagement.
Buckley has also made collaborations with other organizations such as PCTV to increase visibility. BCC currently has a weekly and bi-weekly Zoom talk show on PCTV, so far has had 43 guests since April.
Kennedy said the COVID-19 pandemic forced the college to create news ways to support students and faculty.
Community colleges are on the front line during the pandemic, she said, because students are often first-responders and health-care workers who are trying to figure out how to support their family and afford college at the same time.
BCC converted to remote learning in March and plans to do so through the next spring semester. BCC's faculty spent their summer learning how to convert courses into remote learning format in a four-week online course.
New student orientation was also converted into an online model and had more than 1,000 student participants. Additionally, BCC invited all students to complete a "How To Be A Remote Learner" online course so they could become comfortable with remote learning. Every student who completed the course was sent a check for $100 out of eduational relief fund of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.
"We knew this would increase student's ability to successfully navigate a really different semester," Kennedy said. "We've gotten great feedback and we are really proud of what our faculty have done and what are students are doing."
All of the services that BCC offers to students such as academic advising and personal counseling are now available virtually as well.
"What we would love to hear is students saying, 'I couldn't be at BCC but BCC was there for me during this process,'" said Kennedy, who became the college's seventh president in 2012.
Misty Corio, class of 2014 for animal care and 2018 for environmental science, wrote in an email that BCC was a special place for her.
"I loved attending school there. The professors are extremely passionate and knowledgeable and I love the community friendly environment. I now work there as the environmental lab technician and couldn't be happier," she wrote.
Jahaira M. DeAlto, class of 2020 wrote:
"Saying that Berkshire Community College taught me how to fly would be utterly cliche. My truth is, the staff and faculty at BCC introduced me to my wings in the first place. This is their legacy of 60 years, and it is what students for the next 60 years can look forward to."
William Mulholland, who retired several years ago as vice president of lifelong learning and workforce development at BCC and whose father, Mitch Mulholland, was his first professor there, wrote: "BCC is our shining city on the hill; it changes lives!"
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