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New Biotech Pathway

DATE: Tuesday, August 4, 2020

HCC, Westfield State forge biotechnology transfer pathway

Professor Emily Rabinsky leads a biotechnology lab at HCC

Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College (HCC) have partnered to create an affordable pathway for students who earn an associate degree in biotechnology from HCC to transfer credits and pursue a bachelor's degree from Westfield State University.

The transfer agreement benefits students by providing an affordable option to enroll at HCC for two years and take high-level science courses that can be applied at Westfield State. With the agreement in place, students will experience a smooth transfer process between the two schools.

"Westfield State University is honored to continue our long relationship with Holyoke Community College, this time providing a bridge between an associate degree in biotechnology and the career that community college students want to pursue," said Roy H. Saigo, Ph.D., interim president of Westfield State University. "This partnership also underscores the Westfield State's commitment to facilitating accessible and affordable degree options for everyone, regardless of background."

Under the articulation agreement, students will receive credit from Westfield State for program-related courses completed at HCC. They can apply those credits toward the requirements for a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, with a concentration in biotechnology at Westfield State.

"We are proud of our partnership with Westfield State University that allows students to earn their associate's degree at Holyoke Community College and transfer seamlessly to Westfield State to earn their bachelor's degree and beyond," said HCC President Christina Royal, Ph.D. "Programs like these offer affordable pathways for students to begin their careers with less debt and enter the next phase of their lives as leaders in the medical and science fields."

Employment of biological technicians is projected to grow 7 percent through 2028, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also states that continued growth in biotechnology and medical research is expected to increase demand for these workers. In addition, MassBioEd reports that nearly 12,000 jobs are forecast to be created through May 2023.

"Massachusetts has one of the highest concentrations of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the world and a degree in biotech typically translates to careers with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement," said Emily Rabinsky, Ph.D., Biotechnology Program Coordinator and Professor of Biology at HCC. "Furthermore, it provides students with career opportunities in which they can play a role in positively impacting others' lives." 

HCC offers an associate degree in arts and science with a concentration in biotechnology. In 2018, the college opened a 13,000 square-foot Center for Life Sciences that features a dedicated biotechnology lab and instructional cleanroom like those used in the biotechnology industry.

"During a time when molecular and cellular biology is of the utmost importance, Westfield State's biotechnology program provides students with the content knowledge and skills to be prepared for any career in the biotechnology field-including vaccine development, genetic engineering, and biofuels," said Professor Jennifer Hanselman, Ph.D., dean of the University's College of Mathematics and Sciences.

She added: "HCC provides a quality foundation in sciences and mathematics, allowing students to make a seamless transition into Westfield State's program. Housed within our Biology Department, the biotechnology program supports the shift from 'student to scientist' through individualized mentoring, research, and internship opportunities."