A Woman of Impact
President Royal honored by Business West
Editor's note: This story is published in the Nov. 10, 2020, issue of Business West magazine under the headline "Christina Royal: Pandemic provides a lens through which to view her leadership skills."
By GEORGE O'BRIEN
Courtesy of Business West
As she talked about the COVID-19 pandemic and her administration's multi-leveled response to it, Christina Royal related a story that speaks volumes about both the impact of the crisis on every aspect of the higher-education experience at Holyoke Community College (HCC) and her own efforts to lead this institution through it – and beyond it.
It also helps explain why she's been named a Woman of Impact for 2020.
This story is about a student, one of the many who needed some help with learning virtually from home – help that went beyond providing a laptop and internet connectivity.
"Through our student emergency fund, this student put in a request and said, 'I'm so grateful for the college to provide a laptop for me ... but I don't have a desk,'" she recalled, adding that there were several people in this household suddenly faced with the challenge of trying to learn and work from home. "And that's just one example of how we had to think about support at a deeper level, really dive into the individual needs of each of our students to support them during this time, and address the inequities that exist in the communities we serve."
The college would go on to fund a desk for this individual, she went on, adding that this piece of furniture is symbolic of how the school has indeed expanded its view of student emergency needs during this pandemic – but also in general.
Royal arrived on campus roughly five years ago with a mindset to do what was needed to address the many needs of students and help enable them to not only grasp the opportunity for a two-year college education, but to open many other doors as well. As a first-generation, low-income, biracial college student herself, she understands the challenges many of HCC's students face – from food insecurity to lack of adequate housing and transportation – and she commits many of her waking hours thinking about how to help students overcome such barriers and achieve success, however that might be defined.
Meanwhile, as an administrator, she he has put the emphasis on long-term planning and leading for today, as well as tomorrow. This is evidenced by her push for a new strategic plan for the school – the first in its existence – but also the manner in which she is addressing this pandemic.
Instead of something to be merely survived, although that is certainly important enough, she views it as a learning experience and, in many respects, an opportunity.
"One of the questions I bring up to employees of the college is, 'what do we want to look like on the other side of this pandemic?'" she explained. "Because I don't want to be a person who just felt like I was trying to weather the storm. I want us to emerge stronger from this, and the work we have to do is so absolutely critical to this community, and we have an opportunity to continually strengthen ourselves.
"Just like education is a journey, so is continuous improvement," she went on, adding that this process can – and must – continue, even in the middle of a global pandemic.
Her commitment to this process, and her ability to effectively keep one eye on the present and the other on the future, certainly makes her a Woman of Impact.
PHOTOS: (Thumbnail) President Christina Royal, courtesy of Business West. (Above) President Royal talks to students at HCC's Culinary Arts Institute during an open house in 2018.