Pit Stop #9: Holyoke Community College

News Flash: I love to visit with leaders of our community colleges. They are so incredibly passionate about their work and committed to doing the hard and absolutely essential work of changing the course of their students’ lives. Christina Royal, President of Holyoke Community College (HCC), located in the heart of beautiful Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, is proof of the pudding.

Larry and Dr. Royal in front of a Spanish billboard. Si!

Dr. Royal is completing her fourth year at Holyoke Community College, yet her enthusiasm suggests she started there yesterday. And that’s despite the fact that HCC is operating almost exclusively online and plans to continue that delivery mode through the spring semester.

Kittredge Center (built with a donation from the founder of Yankee Candle Company & an alum) — with a sod roof!

Holyoke Community College is a very big campus, typically enrolling about 8,500 students, but it is unusually quiet at the moment. 

HCC campus center
The beautiful new Campus Center just opened in August …
inside HCC campus ctr.
… and is waiting expectantly for students to return!

In a year, Holyoke Community College will be celebrating its 75th anniversary, making it the oldest two-year college in the Commonwealth. Despite that long history, Dr. Royal is only HCC’s fourth president. That’s remarkable longevity in such a demanding job, and speaks volumes about the solid commitment of HCC’s leadership.

Dr. King’s inspiring quote seems particularly apt here.

Like so many community colleges across the region, Holyoke Community College has been hard-hit by the Covid pandemic, with a 17% drop in this fall’s enrollment that reflects the particular stresses that disproportionately affect the population the college serves.

The HCC women’s soccer team won the championship last year — great fighting spirit!

With the changing demographics of the region ( and HCC serves over 80 different communities), the college has recently become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) with over 25% of its student body identifying as Latinx. Holyoke Community Center also provides creative ESOL learning programs in Ludlow and Agawam, which bring literacy and English proficiency to aspiring immigrant communities, and runs the MGM Culinary Arts Institute in hospitality training.

Holyoke –where volleyball (and great community colleges) are born.

Despite the challenges that exist in her community and within the college itself , Dr. Royal firmly believes that Holyoke Community College will come out on the other end of this crisis a stronger institution.

I don’t doubt her for a minute. Hear more of our conversation below!

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