STORY by JORDAN GRICE
Courtesy of MassLive and The Republican
History was made at Holyoke Community College on Monday as faculty and staff gathered to welcome the school's first female president.
"I think there is such great potential at this institution to build off of the great work that has already existed and to be able to take HCC to the next level," said Christina Royal.
Royal said she wants to hit the ground running by supporting students and increasing enrollment."
Student success is paramount at a community college and any institution," she said.
"HCC has an excellent reputation for being a transfer institution, and I want us to continue to build off that."
Royal also acknowledged that as an Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution — a distinction for colleges with a Latino student population between 15 and 24 percent — growth of the student body would yield future grant opportunities that will assist in her plans for the school.
Royal said she is most looking forward to working with employees and students to "co-create our future."
"I'd like to look at how we can innovate at the institution, but I'd like to do it in partnership with others and having a chance to engage with the faculty, staff, students and community members," she said. "I'm looking forward to seeing those opportunities to collaborate. If we build up the college, we'll build up the surrounding western region, and if we build the surrounding region up the college will grow as well."
After former HCC President William Messner announced last February that he would retire, HCC went on a nationwide search for his successor. Through an extensive vetting and interviewing process, the school narrowed the pool of 50 applicants down to four finalists. HCC's board of trustees ultimately named Royal as the institution's fourth president on Nov. 3.
JoAnne Rome, the college's marketing and communications director, said staff members were thrilled to welcome Royal.
"We should be seeing more women and people of color in more leadership roles," Rome said. "(Royal) understands how HCC needs to adjust to meet the needs of the community."
Royal's work history has prepared her to set the tone for HCC's future, Rome said.
And although this will be Royal's first position as president, she isn't new to leadership in higher education.Prior to HCC, Royal was provost and vice president of academic affairs at Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. Before that she was associate vice president of e-learning and innovation at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.
PHOTOS by Hannah Wareham at HCC: (Left) Senior academic advisor Jossie Valentin greets new HCC president Christina Royal during her first day of work. (Right) New HCC president shares a laugh at an afternoon meet-and-greet for campus faculty and staff.