Berkshire Community College embarks on five-year transformation


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PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Community College has surged into the implementation phase of a dynamic strategic plan designed to transform the 54-year-old institution over the next five years.

A 36-member steering committee from all segments of the campus community has worked since September to develop a new mission and vision statement for BCC and to nail down strategic goals in five key areas. These include Learning Engagement; Student Achievement, Infrastructure Improvement; Advancement of the Institution; and Collaborative Partnerships.

"Over the past year, our faculty, staff, students and board have worked tirelessly to develop a strategic plan that addresses the needs of the college, our students and our community," said BCC President Ellen Kennedy. "The process was a highly inclusive one and this new plan provides us with clear and focused directions to move the institution forward."

Several speakers gave a presentation on the initiative during a board of trustees meeting this week describing it as the most comprehensive and inclusive attempted at the college in decades.

Strategic Planning Committee co-Chairwomen Ellen Shanahan and Gina Stec and others involved -- including consultants Katherine German and Phil Sbaratta of the Boston-based Development Institute -- outlined the plan. They told trustees that over the summer the five task force groups will hammer out the first annual action plan for advancing toward the major goals by 2019.

Offering praise for the effort, the trustees unanimously adopted the plan on Tuesday.

"It was a pretty inclusive process in which all areas of the college were heard from," Shanahan said after the meeting.

The music instructor said it was "a remarkable process and a unique experience," one that was more comprehensive than any she has witnessed in 30 years at BCC.

Lacking final details of state funding for the next school year provides an unknown at this point, she said, but that won't be the case over the next four years of implementation. At any rate, the format allows for adjustments to be made annually to ensure goals are met, Shanahan said.

A retreat for those involved in the process will be scheduled in June, Stec said, and the first action plan will be in place by the start of classes in the fall. The task force groups will communicate with the administration and the trustees through involvement by individual trustees and a coordinating council with members from each task force.

Stec noted that maintaining the spirit of cross-collaboration among all campus departments will remain a priority over the five-year period.

The goals of the task force groups are listed under each heading in the plan, along with the overall goals to be met by 2019. Filling in the details, such as identifying funding or stating how results will be measured or collaborations strengthened or launched, will be worked out by the smaller groups.

The plan will be posted online in the near future at

* Under the learning category, bullet points list strengthening liberal arts requirements and GED and ESL programs; clarifying pathways for students to achieve their goals, and creating a personnel plan that ties new positions to key aspects of the strategic plan.

* Under student achievement, strategy points include designing an enrollment plan with milestones, creating a first-year experience plan for students, reviewing graduation requirements, experimenting with alternative course scheduling, and developing a proactive advising and mentoring system.

* Under infrastructure improvement, the strategies include completing major renovations to Hawthorne and Melville classroom buildings, creating a tactical plan for deferred maintenance, such as paved areas and sidewalks, and increasing use of technology to make service delivery and business practices more efficient.

* Under advancement of the institution, strategies include forging a new branding and messaging campaign to promote the school, expanding college supporting through fund-raising efforts; emphasizing diversity as a campus priority, and evaluating and restructuring institutional organization to promote efficiencies.

* Under collaborative partnerships, the strategies include developing partnerships that link work force development with academic programs, expanding opportunities for service learning and civic engagement through regional organizations, strengthening relationships with high schools through courses, advising and outreach to families; establishing an entrepreneurship initiative, and expanding articulations with colleges and universities through expanded transfer agreements and collaborations. The planning process over the past nine months has included developing strategic directions for the plan, creating a draft proposal, seeking input from college educators, administrators, other staff members and students in a institution-wide review.

A number of on-campus and community focus groups also were organized over the past nine months.

A refined mission statement for BCC, a statement of values and a vision statement also were created by the planning committee.

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