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Messages from the President

Stay up-to-date by reading messages from HCC President Christina Royal, organized by date below.


Dear HCC Community:

As we continue to confront the challenges of a global pandemic and act with renewed urgency to strive for equity and address racial inequalities in our society, I hope that you are safe and well in these difficult and tragic times. This moment calls for creative and innovative approaches to academic and student life in an environment that fosters a safe and healthy community, founded upon mutual understanding and an appreciation of the uniqueness of each and every individual.

I know that when and how we plan to return to campus is of keen interest to our community. With this in mind, let me share where things stand at this time. As a reminder, with very few exceptions, all courses in the Fall 2020 semester will be taught in an online or remote modality.

We are prioritizing certain offices and departments for a return beginning as early as Monday, June 22 in order to best equip us for a smooth and successful fall semester. As always, our focus is the health and safety of our students, employees and people in the communities that surround our campus and satellite locations; and we take these steps to ensure our students continue to make meaningful progress toward their educational goals.

Our plan to return to campus will be gradual and measured; and it comes from directives and protocols communicated by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker under the Commonwealth's plan for Reopening Massachusetts. We are also guided by the framework developed by the Massachusetts Higher Education Working Group, which provides more specific guidance for MA colleges and universities.

Over the past two months, HCC's Emergency Response Team (ERT) has worked to identify strategies to provide the safest and most comprehensive path forward. The ERT considered guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and state and local public health authorities. Members also met with the President's Cabinet to gain additional insights and direction. A Return to Campus Task Force has been formed as a subset of ERT in order to address the specific needs of various departments. This Task Force has representation from all divisions and is comprised of the following individuals:

  • Dan Campbell, Director of Facilities & Engineering
  • Scott Conrad, Director of IT Services
  • Clara Elliott, Dean of Human Resources
  • Arvard Lingham, Assistant to the V.P. of Business & Community Services
  • JoAnne Rome, Director of Marketing & Communications
  • Michelle Sherlin, Simulation Specialist - Center for Health Education & Simulation
  • Idelia Smith, Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs
    Renee Tastad, Interim Assistant V.P. of Student Affairs and Dean of Enrollment Management

The overarching plan that guides HCC's Return to Campus is our COVID-19 Control Plan*, which can be found in the Staff Resources section of our website. Our Control Plan includes the following health and safety protocols:

  • Prior to returning to campus, college employees are required to view the following training videos regarding social distancing and hygiene protocols:
  • Students, employees, and visitors will be required to wear a face mask that complies with the standards listed in HCC's COVID-19 Control Plan. If employees do not have a suitable mask, one will be provided to them upon entry to campus by Greeters stationed at three campus entry points. Alternatively, employees may contact Facilities to obtain a mask.
  • Students, employees, and visitors to the campus must remain at least six feet apart to the greatest extent possible, both inside and outside of college buildings.
  • All areas must clean and sanitize their workplace settings throughout the day, using supplies available through Facilities. These efforts will supplement cleaning and sanitizing activities that will occur after hours by our facilities staff.

*Please note that this Plan is a living document and will be updated regularly to respond to new health and safety measures as well as guidance from the Governor's office. In accordance with Governor Baker's shift from Phase I to Phase II, made on June 8, the following campus departments and/or areas have been identified as the priority areas to resume on-campus operations as early as Monday, June 22: 

  1. Admissions
  2. Center for Health Education (for program-specific requirements)
  3. Facilities will begin its return to campus (beyond the employees already on site) as early as Monday, June 15 in order to ensure a clean and safe environment for our community

These three priority areas are coordinating with the Return to Campus Task Force to address health and safety requirements specific to their areas. Considerations include limiting on-campus staffing at any one time and implementing a rotational schedule – ensuring detailed protocols are in place that align with the college's Control Plan. These specific protocols, approved by the appropriate Vice President, will serve as the framework for the next tier of departments/areas approved to return to campus sometime in the future.

On the whole, we are continuing to limit the number of students, faculty, and professional staff on campus to support the continued health of our community. Employees not included in the list of areas delineated above must continue to receive Vice President approval for limited access to campus.

It is worth stating the obvious: none of us have done this before. We must therefore rely on each other – and our mutual patience, understanding, cooperation, and support – to see this plan to success. It won't be simple or stress free. But our community has proven, time and again, its ability to rise above the adversity at hand and deliver extraordinary results.

Today, Friday, June 12 at 1 p.m., I will host a Town Hall for faculty and staff to further address our Return to Campus plans, as well as anything else you may wish to discuss. Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other in the weeks ahead. Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,
Christina

--

Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Without a doubt, technology has played a huge role in our community's ability to remain connected, engaged, and supported over the last two months. It has been energizing to see your faces during meetings and uplifting to witness the virtual applause you've given one another as we've navigated remote life together. Virtual platforms have enabled us to advance our mission amid a global pandemic. However, all technology has its limitations.

While the vast majority of classes, meetings, and workshops we have held over Zoom and other platforms in the last two months have gone smoothly, we have indeed experienced a small handful of incidents of "zoom-bombing." The majority of these incidents have involved explicit, offensive, and in at least one case, truly disturbing imagery (in this particular case, Campus Police are pursuing an investigation in partnership with state authorities, in accordance with current state protocols, as well as HCC's Title IX/Affirmative Action Officer).

To secure our meetings and reduce the likelihood of such incidents, we will no longer share links to student gatherings on social media or in Week at a Glance; information will be shared only on private and HCC password-protected platforms.

Each of us must remain vigilant about our safety in these virtual spaces. Our IT Department has shared many best practices for holding secure Zoom meetings, as well as a list of additional virtual platforms available for your use. You can find this information here. However, as we have discovered, even with strong security measures in place, we may still be affected. If you experience an incident of zoombombing, or any other case of inappropriate content being shared in your virtual space, please report the incident to our Dean of Students and/or HCC's Title IX/Affirmative Action Officer immediately. (See contact information below.) Zoom-bombs or other virtual assaults can be experienced as exactly that: assaults. It is, without question, more than a breach of security. If you have been the victim of one of these rare cases, please know that there are resources available to you, and the Dean of Students and Title IX Officer will make sure that you are connected with those resources.

Remember that, for many of us, these technologies and practices are new and we are learning and adapting as we go. HCC is committed to providing you with the tools and services you need to successfully deliver your events, programs and classes remotely. This includes a safe, protected, and inclusive environment for our faculty and students. Yet despite our very best efforts, no technology is perfect. As we get ready for a fall in which we will likely still depend on videoconferencing technologies for our gatherings, we must do all that we can to ensure strong policies and procedures are in place to protect and support our community. 

Our institutional values continue to guide and strengthen us amid these unprecedented times, and they become particularly critical in moments like these. Let's continue to practice kindness and reach out when we need help.

Sincerely,
Christina 

Campus Police
413.552.2221
hccpd@hcc.edu 

Dean of Students
Tony Sbalbi
413.552.2391
tsbalbi@hcc.edu 

Title IX Officer
Olivia Kynard
413.552.2173
okynard@hcc.edu 

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

It seems impossible, but just a few final assignments, presentations, and tasks are all that stand between us and the conclusion of the spring 2020 semester. What a journey this has been!

We started the semester with no idea of the abrupt transformation of life that was ahead of us, and the uncertainty and fear that would accompany it. But when I reflect now, those are not the feelings that immediately come to mind. Instead, I feel a sense of awe and overwhelming gratitude for the way in which every member of our community came together to keep HCC, and our students, moving forward.

In my mind's eye, I see our faculty pivoting to move face-to-face classes to a remote environment. I see HCC staff working to become experts in using Zoom and seeking one another's expertise, so they could go on delivering the support our students needed to continue their coursework. I see our IT team working 24/7 to keep everyone connected, our Library offering opportunities for students to retrieve what they need to continue accessing course materials, and our Thrive staff dropping off food to hungry students. Above all, I see our students, learning new technologies in order to keep going, submitting assignments, keeping up with reading, and persisting through the semester, even while homeschooling children and holding down jobs.  To our incredible students: your resilience this semester has been extraordinary. Together, you have successfully navigated a time like no other in the history of higher education. I know it has not been easy, but through this crisis, you have proven that you have the ability to overcome any obstacle. You are strong, and you possess the passion and determination to achieve anything you set your mind to.

Kindness, inclusion, and trust are the foundation of all we do at Holyoke Community College. Innovation and collaboration enable us to explore and implement the ideas that will shape our future. We committed to these five core values at a time when no one could have imagined the challenges facing our world today. Yet, amid this global pandemic, not a day has gone by when I haven't seen examples of these fundamental commitments at work. During a Zoom Town Hall with students, I witnessed classmates encouraging one another to "stick with it," and to "reach out if you need help." Through our Center for Excellence, virtual trainings sparked creativity that led to a rich and user-friendly academic experience. Colleagues from every division came together to determine how best to provide our students with financial support in the most equitable way possible. Guided by our values, we have tackled complicated issues, fostered hope; and we remain firmly rooted in our vision to be a college of academic excellence known for helping students overcome barriers to success.

As our world seeks to address complex social and economic problems, education remains as vital as ever.

Indeed, our mission has never felt more apt: Educate. Inspire. Connect. Whether remotely, in person, or through some combination of each, we will continue to educate, inspire and connect our community. 

While we don't know what fall will bring, we will continue to plan and communicate with you regularly throughout the summer. Our ability to remain flexible has propelled us forward to this point, and this same adaptability will fuel our success in the future. Never doubt that we are in this together.

Whether you are able to take a break when the semester ends, or are looking ahead to time off further down the road, I hope that whenever you pause and reflect on what we've come through, you will share my pride in what we've accomplished, and my optimism for the future. If we can face a global pandemic and keep moving toward our goals, nothing can stop us-not today, and not tomorrow. I believe in the power of you, and the power of us.

We are truly #TogetherHCC.

With sincere gratitude,
Christina

Christina Royal, Ph.D. 
President

To the Graduating Class of 2020:

On April 10, I wrote to you with the news that HCC’s Commencement ceremony, scheduled for May 30, 2020, would be postponed. We made this decision with the health of our community in mind, but that did not make the message any easier to deliver. Having to postpone your Commencement is such a disappointment for all of us – your faculty, HCC staff, and me. Sharing in your joy on this momentous day is an honor, and we wish we could be together this spring to celebrate your accomplishments in person. However, we will celebrate!

Please carefully review the information below regarding the college’s plans to celebrate the Class of 2020. As more information becomes available, it will be posted to hcc.edu/commencement. I encourage you to check this page often for updates.

Class of 2020 Commencement

Your commencement ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 5, 2021 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA. You can expect all of the traditional commencement elements: awards, speeches from your classmates, and an opportunity to walk across the stage and receive applause from family and friends. HCC’s College Affairs Committee is responsible for planning commencement each year, and they are already working hard to create one ceremony that honors the class of 2020 and 2021, individually and equally. HCC also marks its 75th anniversary in 2021, so you can look forward to being part of what will be an extra-special ceremony for this historic milestone.

If you are interested in providing your input regarding the June 5, 2021 Commencement ceremony, the College Affairs Committee invites you to email them at commencement@hcc.edu.

Diplomas

Many of you have asked about diplomas. After final grades are processed, all eligible students will receive their diploma by mail from the college, typically by the end of June or first week of July. Please be sure to confirm your mailing address. If you need to change your address, use HCC’s Change of Data form.

Special Virtual Celebration

In addition to a traditional commencement in June 2021, you deserve the chance to celebrate now. You have probably seen all sorts of virtual celebrations on social media lately – providing graduates the opportunity to be acknowledged, right now, for your perseverance and many successes during these unprecedented times. Well, save the date for a virtual celebration for HCC graduates on Thursday, August 20, 2020. We’ll have special guests, a few surprises, and a great time celebrating you. Links and details will be shared in advance via email and on our website at hcc.edu/commencement.

Prior to August 20, we will mail you a package to help you celebrate the completion of your studies virtually. In addition, if you would like your cap and gown this summer for photos or virtual celebrations, please let us know by completing this form. (Remember that you will need your cap and gown again in June 2021!)

Spring Celebrations & Award Ceremonies

Typically, spring semester is filled with beautiful celebrations and award ceremonies. Though we cannot gather in-person for these special moments, many are still taking place virtually. We want to do all we can to acknowledge your extraordinary accomplishments.

The Nursing Pinning Ceremony will take place Thursday, May 28 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If you are one of our nursing students, please look for separate emails with further details regarding this upcoming celebration.

College Honors & Awards Night will also be virtual this spring. Our website will have a special video available in late May for student honorees, and all awards will be mailed. Again, please watch your email for further details.

I know this is not how you envisioned the conclusion of your academic journey with HCC. However, despite the detours this global pandemic has presented the class of 2020, I believe you possess the strength and resilience to shine, and I promise you will be celebrated like no other graduating class in HCC history. Although your time as an HCC student is coming to an end, remember that there is no end to your relationship with Holyoke Community College. You are now part of a community of 40,000 HCC alumni worldwide, and in your own backyard. They will be your colleagues, future classmates, business partners, and lifelong friends. HCC remains a part of you always.

I am so impressed with each of you and the resilience you have demonstrated in completing your studies. I hope you will take advantage of every opportunity to celebrate – creatively, virtually, and eventually, in person – because you truly deserve it. I wish you the very best in these final days of the semester.

Sincerely,
Christina

Christina Royal, Ph.D.
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students,

We are writing to provide information about CARES Act grant payments and eligibility.

About the CARES Act 

The CARES Act provides federal funds to students to offset the expenses they might have incurred when their college switched from face-to-face to remote learning. That could mean having to buy a computer, buying or upgrading internet access, or increased utility costs from being home, among other expenses. 

CARES Act Eligibility

To be eligible for these funds, the federal government requires the following:

  1. You must be currently enrolled for the spring 2020 semester at Holyoke Community College.
  2. You must have at least one class that, prior to March 13, 2020, met face-to-face during the spring 2020 semester. Students enrolled in entirely online courses during the spring 2020 semester are not eligible. 
  3. You must be eligible to receive Federal financial aid. If you have already completed the FAFSA for the 2019-20 or 2020-21 financial aid award year, that's great! If you did not complete a FAFSA for either of those award years, complete your 2019-20 FAFSA no later than June 30, 2020.

CARES Act Process

If you meet all three of the eligibility requirements listed above, you will receive a one-time payment of $350 that you do not have to pay back. 

If you received financial aid or Pell money this year, you don't have to do anything; you will automatically receive a direct deposit (if you set it up in Online Services) by May 19. If you prefer your grant by check, it will be mailed to you on or around June 5. Not sure if you set up direct deposit? To check your preferences, log in to Online Services and go to the eRefund/eBill Statement/Payments/Payment Plan link under the Student Services tab.
If you did not apply for financial aid but believe you are eligible, AND you meet the first two eligibility requirements, please complete this form. We will contact you once we have reviewed your application.

CARES Act Supplemental Grants

We recognize that the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19 had a tremendous impact on our students, and some students incurred expenses far beyond $350. If you incurred expenses above $350 that were directly related to HCC's move to remote teaching and learning, you may be eligible for additional money through a CARES Act Supplemental Grant. 

Supplemental Grant Eligibility

To be eligible for a CARES Act Supplemental Grant, you must:

  1. Meet the three CARES Act eligibility requirements listed above
  2. Supply receipts or other documentation showing expenses above $350 that are directly related to the college shifting to remote learning
  3. Complete a supplemental grant application

Supplemental Grant Process

Once you have completed the supplemental grant application and have provided appropriate documentation (including receipts), your application will be reviewed. If approved, you will receive a supplemental grant based on your expenses directly related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19. Please note that limited funds are available for Supplemental Grants, so apply as soon as possible. 

Once approved, the grant will be distributed to you based on the refund preferences you set up in Online Services.  To check your preferences, login to Online Services and go to the eRefund/eBill Statement/Payments/Payment Plan link under the Student Services tab.

Other Sources of Funds

HCC recognizes that:

  • You might not be eligible for CARES Act money but may still be financially impacted by COVID-19 and in need of assistance
  • You might be eligible for CARES Act money but need funds beyond what the CARES Act grant/supplemental grant provides

If this describes your situation, you are encouraged to apply for a grant from the President's Student Emergency Fund. This is also aid that does not have to be paid back.

FAQs

Does any of this money need to be repaid? 
No, money received through the CARES Act or the President's Student Emergency Fund does not need to be repaid.

Will getting this money reduce my financial aid? 
The CARES Act grant will not reduce your financial aid. Funds you receive through the President's Student Emergency Fund could impact your financial aid, although it is very unlikely.

When will I receive my money?
Direct deposit grants should be in your account by May 19. Checks will be mailed on or around June 5. To get your money as quickly as possible, log in to Online Services to set up your refund preference. Money that is deposited directly into a bank account will come more quickly than a check that comes through the mail.

What kind of expenses are eligible for grant consideration?

  • Buying or renting a Chromebook or laptop
  • Technology accessories
  • Tutoring costs
  • Internet access
  • Utilities based on increased time at home
  • Increase in cost of food based on loss of food subsidized by HCC

What if my income or expenses have changed for reasons other than the disruption of campus services?
Contact the Financial Aid Office at 413.552.2150 or financialaid@hcc.edu to discuss the possibility of a review of your Title IV financial aid, based on changes to your financial situation. 

Can I still get this money if I withdrew from the college, or my course or program ended prior to March 13?
No. These funds are only for students who are currently enrolled at HCC.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 413.552.2150 or financialaid@hcc.edu.

Dear Students,

I write with a very important announcement regarding the fall semester. After much deliberation, we have decided to continue remote learning in the fall 2020 semester. This has been a difficult decision, and I’d like to share the reasoning behind it.

First and foremost, we want to protect HCC students, faculty, and staff. Unlike residential campuses, some of whom are planning to reopen in the fall, we don’t control where our students sleep, eat, work, and gather. Our students are firmly embedded in our community. They are more likely to have children and/or be essential workers, and therefore more vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19. The responsibility to keep everyone as safe as possible weighs heavily.

While we are optimistic that in-person activities will gradually resume in the summer and fall, Massachusetts is still seeing a high rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths, our nation doesn’t yet have effective treatments or a vaccine for COVID-19, and health agencies warn that we might well see another wave of infections in the fall. Committing to remote teaching and learning now will give students, faculty, and staff time to prepare.

What will Fall 2020 look like?

With very few exceptions, all courses in the Fall 2020 semester will be taught online or remotely. Some will be asynchronous – you won’t have to log in at a particular time (as in a traditional fully online class). Others will be synchronous, with specific times when you will be expected to log in and participate with the class. The exceptions may include clinical, practicum, and lab courses. However, those few exceptions will only go forward with health protocols firmly in place to prevent exposures and infection.

We understand that this news comes just as you are beginning finals, which is a busy and stressful time of the semester, even under normal circumstances. We know that many of you prefer face to face instruction, and that this is not what you imagined as you planned your educational path. However, we need to keep everyone in our community as safe and healthy as possible. At the same time, we don’t want you to put your education on hold, and we will provide you with the support you need to be successful in this new learning environment. Toward that end, please fill out this brief survey to help us understand how we can best support you.

Beginning Thursday, May 7, at 9 a.m., we will pause fall registration as we make modifications to the fall schedule to reflect the shift to remote learning. You can still register for summer classes. The updated fall schedule will be available for registration at 9 a.m., Friday, May 15. If you are currently registered in courses that are changed in any way, we will be reaching out and communicating with you.

If this semester has demonstrated anything, it is the resilience and adaptability of our students, and the strength of our community as a whole. We are in this together, and that makes all the difference. Regardless of how COVID-19 has disrupted our present, we are here to support you in achieving your goals for your future.

Sincerely,
Christina Royal, President
Rachel Rubinstein, VP Academic & Student Affairs

Dear Class of 2020, 

I have been thinking about the adjustments you've had to make to continue this semester, and reflecting on your determination and resilience with great pride and respect. Completing your Spring 2020 coursework will be an achievement to be proud of for years to come.

The ongoing global health pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including important events like commencement. Several of our fellow MA community colleges have decided to hold virtual commencements only; others will host virtual celebrations and have postponed their 2020 commencement to the scheduled 2021 date. In our March commencement survey to students, and in feedback received earlier this month, what we heard from you was:

  • "Having a real graduation is important to me."
  • "Consider postponing instead of holding online."
  • "...we should at least have the chance to be able to walk...if we have to walk with the class of 2021, we should have the opportunity to have that experience."

Recognizing how important a traditional, face-to-face commencement is to our graduates, we are committed to honoring the class of 2020 uniquely, specially, and in-person. However, in light of the uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and when large, in-person gatherings will be able to take place in the Commonwealth, we made the decision to reschedule commencement for the Class of 2020 to the spring of 2021. This is not the choice we wanted to make, but the one we had to make to keep our community healthy.

Since announcing this decision, I've heard from students who are happy with this plan, as well as those who feel that it is unfair for the Class of 2020 to have to share the spotlight with the Class of 2021. I want to address that directly. While the ceremony will be held in 2021, every single one of our graduates will be honored, with families present. The spotlight will indeed be on the Class of 2020, and you will be individually and collectively recognized and celebrated by our entire community. The presence of both graduating classes will not diminish the joy, pride, excitement, or accomplishments of the graduates of either class; they will amplify it. Your student speakers, award recipients, and every member of the Class of 2020 will receive applause on this historic day. You deserve it. 

HCC's middle name is community, and one of our core values is inclusion. I see evidence of these qualities every day in the ways our students work together and support one another. I especially see our values on display at commencement, and know that May 2021 will be a profoundly joyful celebration for graduates of both classes. 

I have always been proud of the resilience of our students, and the ways in which you juggle so much while pursuing your educational goals. You are an inspiration. On behalf of your faculty and every member of the HCC community, I look forward to celebrating your success this summer, and again in 2021. In the meantime, please join me for a Virtual Town Hall via Zoom, on Tuesday, April 28 at 2:00 p.m. We can discuss Commencement or anything else that may be on your mind. 

Sincerely,
Christina

Christina Royal, Ph.D. 
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students,

Every year, one of my most anticipated moments is Commencement. As a first-generation college student, I remember how significant Commencement was for my family and me. Therefore, I take great pride in joining you and your families in celebrating your achievements, and in shaking each of your hands as you walk across the stage. I'm honored to share in your joy, along with that of your friends, family, and HCC faculty and staff. But as we have all seen, the rapid spread of COVID-19 has changed nearly everything. It's no surprise that we will not be able to host this event in-person on May 30, 2020.

Our region remains at the height of an unprecedented health crisis that is causing an extraordinary amount of uncertainty for us all. We must balance our desire to celebrate your academic achievements in all the ways you were expecting with the need to keep our community healthy, which continues to be our highest priority.

I understand why Commencement is so important. For each of you, it is a beautiful moment, a milestone, and a shining symbol of a hard-earned achievement. It is also an opportunity for our entire campus community to wish you well. Over the past few weeks, many of you have shared your thoughts on how important it is to you that we come together to celebrate one another's accomplishments. Your feedback helped inform the college's decision to provide you with the traditional, in-person Commencement you deserve. The Class of 2020 will have a traditional Commencement in May 2021, where we will celebrate each of you in-person, with your loved ones present, along with the Class of 2021, on what will be a truly historic day.

In order for you to have the chance to celebrate now, HCC will also host a virtual celebration this August, complete with special remarks, honors, and most importantly, timely recognition of our graduates. Each member of the Class of 2020 will receive a surprise package in the mail this summer and be invited to host their own celebration, one we hope you will share with our community through videos or photos using the hashtag #HolyokeCC20.

Your perseverance toward graduation in these unprecedented times deserves to be celebrated in every way possible. On behalf of your faculty and the entire HCC community, I applaud you for your strength and resilience, and will look forward to seeing you virtually in August and in-person in May 2021. What epic celebrations these will be! Keep working hard, reach out when you have questions, and remember that we are all in this together. 

Sincerely,
Christina 

Christina Royal, Ph.D. 
President

Dear HCC Community:

Yesterday, April 2, the college was informed that an HCC student has tested positive for COVID-19. I share this information to keep you informed about our community, but want to emphasize that HCC will not identify, directly or indirectly, any individuals who have tested positive for the virus due to the confidential nature of health information and health records. This student tested positive for COVID-19 on March 24 and has not been on campus since March 13 and is currently in self-quarantine per CDC guidance. The College has spoken with our local Department of Public Health concerning this matter and is following its guidance. Our steps to extensively clean and disinfect campus, conducted on March 16 and 17, as well as our quick action to transition to fully-remote operations continues to limit our community's exposure to the virus. I understand that we are operating in an uncertain and rapidly-changing time. With the ongoing community spread of COVID-19, the most important thing for all of us to do is practice good health hygiene and social distancing, and follow CDC guidance in monitoring our health.

For information and updates concerning the coronavirus and the college's response, please visit our website at hcc.edu/coronavirus. The college continues to act with our community's wellness in mind. As an important reminder, all walk-in traffic to campus buildings and offices remain restricted to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Limited access to campus buildings, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday – Friday, is available via the entrances listed below, and only to individuals explicitly approved by divisional Vice Presidents. Entries will be staffed, and individuals will be asked to sign in and out:

  • Frost Third Floor (adjacent to the bus circle; handicap parking available in Lot J/Visitors)
  • Donahue Second Floor (closest to Library)
  • Campus Center: S Lot entrance

Today, we passed a major milestone as we completed our first week of remote teaching and learning. Close to a thousand classes resumed using Moodle, Zoom, Chat, and an array of other tools. I can think of no better demonstration of our determination and HCC spirit. Our community is creative, resilient, and in this together.

Remember that as we continue along this journey, we all need to be patient with one another. Our faculty and staff care deeply about our students' welfare and are working hard to support their success. Meanwhile, our students are navigating complicated home environments while pursuing their studies. They are to be commended.

For each of us, it can get lonely in this remote world. Reaching out to colleagues, classmates, friends, and family is important during this time. In this spirit, we are using the hashtag #TogetherHCC to collect your messages of hope and support on social media. Send a message or post a photo that shows someone you care or that expresses gratitude. You can also submit something using this form, which is available on our website at hcc.edu/togetherHCC. Get creative and have fun!

I am so proud of how we have pulled together over these last three weeks. Take good care this weekend, recharge, and continue to practice kindness.

Sincerely,

Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Faculty and Staff:

This was one of my favorite comments from today's series of Zoom meetings: "Many students, who felt a week ago they could not do this, have found that they can. Thank you for all the support all the way around, and to faculty for being flexible."

I am incredibly proud of our community and the ways in which we have come together over the course of these few weeks. There will continue to be bumps in the road, but it's true: we can do this. 

I have two important updates to share at this time:

First: Yesterday, March 31, the college was informed that a non-credit HCC student at the Springfield Adult Learning Center site has been diagnosed with COVID-19. This student has not been on the HCC campus and last attended class in Springfield on March 12. In our ESOL CNA program at the Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center (PAFEC) in downtown Holyoke, another student reported that her sister was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. This student, who is not exhibiting symptoms, was last at HCC's Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center on March 13. Since both HCC students have not been on campus (or other HCC sites) for over 14 days, which is the self-quarantine period, and at the time they were asymptomatic, it does not appear that the students posed any risk of exposure when last on campus.

The college was also made aware yesterday that one instructor in an off-site non-credit program has been diagnosed with COVID-19. A second instructor in this same program is awaiting results of a COVID-19 test. These individuals have not been on college premises.  

HCC has communicated these four instances to our program partners as well as to our local Department of Public Health. DPH has informed the college that these cases have no impact on the HCC campus. As a reminder, our campus was extensively cleaned and disinfected on March 16 and 17 to further limit our community's exposure to the virus. For information or updates concerning the coronavirus, please visit the college's website at hcc.edu/coronavirus

Second: As you may know, yesterday, Governor Baker extended the Commonwealth's Stay at Home Advisory until May 4. Per the Governor's emergency order, all walk-in traffic to campus buildings and offices remains restricted to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means that you should not be coming to campus. 

If you need to come to campus to pick up items that are necessary to do your job, you must get supervisor and divisional Vice President approval prior to coming to campus. Limited access to campus buildings is available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday – Friday, via the entrances listed below. Individuals will be asked to sign in and out:

  • Frost Third Floor (adjacent to the bus circle; handicap parking available in Lot J/Visitors)
  • Donahue Second Floor (closest to Library)
  • Campus Center: S Lot entrance 

Thank you for your patience, flexibility, and understanding as we continue to educate and support our students during this challenging time. If you have ideas or suggestions on ways that we can better support HCC students or staff, I invite you to share them with me and with your colleagues. Together, we can do this.

Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students:

Two weeks ago, some of you doubted that you could make the switch to remote learning. You couldn't imagine what it would be like to interact with your professors remotely, or how you would be able to connect with other students, or access tutoring, advising, or financial aid. 

As I write this, we are three days into our fully remote learning environment, and you and your classmates have more than risen to the challenge. You have gotten familiar with new technology, found new ways to engage with the subjects you love, and reached out to support and encourage each other. I'm not surprised, but I'm deeply proud of the patience and determination with which you've faced the crisis before us.

I have two important updates I want to share with you:

First: Yesterday, March 31, the college was informed that a non-credit HCC student at the Springfield Adult Learning Center site has been diagnosed with COVID-19. This student has not been on the HCC campus and last attended class in Springfield on March 12. In our ESOL CNA program at the Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center (PAFEC) in downtown Holyoke, another student reported that her sister was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. This student, who is not exhibiting symptoms, was last at PAFEC on March 13. Since both HCC students have not been on campus (or other HCC sites) for over 14 days, which is the self-quarantine period, and at the time they were asymptomatic, it does not appear that the students posed any risk of exposure when last on campus.

The college was also made aware yesterday that one instructor in an off-site non-credit program has been diagnosed with COVID-19. A second instructor in this same program is awaiting results of a COVID-19 test. These individuals have not been on college premises.  

HCC has communicated these four instances to our program partners as well as to our local Department of Public Health (DPH). DPH has informed the college that these cases have no impact on the HCC campus. As a reminder, our campus was extensively cleaned and disinfected on March 16 and 17 to further limit our community's exposure to the virus. For information or updates concerning the coronavirus, please visit the college's website at hcc.edu/coronavirus

Second: As you may also know, yesterday, Governor Baker extended the Commonwealth's Stay at Home Advisory emergency order until May 4. Per the Commonwealth's Stay at Home Advisory, all walk-in traffic to campus buildings and offices remains restricted to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means that you should not be coming to campus. However, the college remains available to support students remotely! Please click here to learn how to connect with HCC offices and programs.

We also continue to offer Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots, as well as food from the HCC Food Pantry. To reserve these items, reach out using the contact information below. You will receive instructions regarding how and when to come to campus from the respective office:

HCC Food Pantry
Food pickup available by appointment
413.552.2783
thrive@hcc.edu 
Visit page for details

HCC Library
Chromebook or WiFi hotspot borrowing
Click here to contact us
Visit page to request Chromebook of WiFi hotspot

Thank you for your patience, flexibility, and understanding. If you have ideas or suggestions on ways to keep our community vibrant and strong during this challenging time, I invite you to share them by emailing coronavirus@hcc.edu. Together, we can do this.

Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Our campus remains eerily quiet in order to keep our community healthy, but your efforts over these last few weeks have sent a message loud and clear: in the midst of great uncertainty, HCC will continue to Educate. Inspire. Connect.

You have educated each other in extraordinary ways over these last few weeks, through a packed schedule of professional development in our Center for Excellence and by sharing tips and tricks during Zoom after Zoom. You've inspired me, and one another, by demonstrating such creativity in order to make sure our students receive the education and support they need and deserve. You have formed and maintained connections amidst complex times. These actions, and our shared mission, will carry us through this semester together.

Next week classes resume, though not in the way any of us expected a few weeks ago. Because of each of you, I am confident we are ready to write this next chapter in our college's history and, most importantly, see our students succeed.

I know there are many things about our physical campus that you already miss. Our students are going to feel the same way. However, "community" is still our middle name and that's what we intend to maintain in this new remote environment. Let's think creatively about how to connect with one another at a distance. For inspiration, check out this video.

I want to close by thanking all of you for coming together to meet this unprecedented challenge.

Please take time this weekend to "fill up" with what you need. Be kind to yourselves so you can be there for our students. Many more questions and challenges lie ahead, but we will meet them.

Together.

Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students,

Next week classes resume, though not in the way any of us expected a few weeks ago. Our world has been turned upside down as a result of COVID-19, but please remember that we are in this together and we are ready to help you succeed.

Faculty and staff are working remotely, meaning you should not be coming to campus next week. But the college is still operating, and faculty will be offering virtual platforms and creative ways to continue teaching, advising, and supporting you. In fact, we've gathered tips and resources together in one convenient location, at hcc.edu/remote. Please make use of it, and let us know if you have suggestions for additional content that would be helpful to you.

The technology your faculty may be offering – like Zoom, for example – is FREE to you. If you have any technology questions, please contact HCC's Multi-Environment Resource Consultants (MERC) students. This team of students is ready to help you with any technology related questions. Click here to contact MERC or email merc@hcc.edu. And of course, you always have access to the HCC Help Desk, at 413.552.2075 or helpdesk@hcc.edu. Next week, the staff at the Help Desk will be offering Zoom/video drop-in question and answer sessions for students. Simply click on this link between 11 a.m. – noon, Monday – Friday, to join. 

I know there will be many things about our physical campus that you are going to miss. Your faculty, staff, and I feel the same way. However, "community" is still our middle name and that's what we intend to maintain in this new remote environment. Let's think creatively about how to connect with one another at a distance. For inspiration, check out this video.

Please be in touch with any questions or concerns you may have. Email your faculty, or send a note to coronavirus@hcc.edu if you don't know where to start. We are here for you.

We look forward to "seeing" you next week.

Sincerely,
Christina 

Christina Royal, Ph.D. 
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students,

Remote teaching and learning begins Monday, March 30. We know this will be an adjustment, and that it is not the semester you expected, but we are here to help, as we work together to keep our community healthy during this unprecedented COVID-19 health crisis. 

Expanded Mental Health Services Available to Students!

The outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been stressful for many of us. Please remember that you are not alone. Mental health counselors are still available to help, all day, every day. WellConnect, HCC's free service for students and their families, is now offering a new online therapy service that uses video, chat, and phone. We care about your well-being, and encourage you to take advantage of this valuable resource.

  1. Log in at WellConnectForYou.com with school code: HCC-STU
  2. Click the "Online Therapy" banner at the top of the page
  3. Select "START ONLINE THERAPY"
  4. Complete registration and get matched with a therapist
  5. Download app and start therapy

Lastly, remember that HCC staff are available to help you remotely without you having to come to campus. Click here to find out how to connect with us.

If you have any questions regarding your courses or labs, please be in touch with your faculty. They have been working hard to create a remote learning environment that will enable you to succeed. HCC feels like home for so many of you, and staff are also busy creating virtual networks and gatherings to maintain the strong sense of community we all know and love.

Take good care, reach out if you have questions, and be kind to yourselves and one another.

Sincerely,
Christina

Christina Royal, Ph.D. 
President
Holyoke Community College

P.S. Don't forget to join me for a Zoom Town Hall tomorrow, Friday, March 27 at 1 p.m. when we will spend time reviewing some of the technology questions you may have.

Dear Faculty and Staff:

There is very little time for reflection these days. We move from one Zoom meeting to the next and respond to one emergency after another, with no more than a few minutes in between. (I'm glad to know many of you are taking advantage of daily Mindfulness Meditation that centers us, encourages us to breathe, and helps us remember that we are okay.)

Personally and professionally, life has changed dramatically for each of us in just a few short weeks. This shift was abrupt. And, at times, it has been hard. 

However, there are many things about this new reality that I would not change for the world. The creativity and collaboration you have demonstrated in the midst of this global health crisis has been extraordinary. On this morning's Zoom call with NUPs, you shared more than 30 unique ways in which you are taking action to address students' needs, improve processes, and solve problems – each one a shining example of the vision we have for HCC: a college of academic excellence known for helping students overcome barriers to success. Even in these unprecedented times, that is who we are.

My one reminder to you today is to please check in with your students. They are looking to you for support and encouragement more than any email from me. Please also remind them that they are not alone. Mental health counselors are still available to help, all day, every day. They have also expanded and diversified their services.

WellConnect, HCC's free service for students and their families, is now offering a new online therapy service that uses video, chat, and phone: 

  1. Log in at WellConnectForYou.com with school code: HCC-STU
  2. Click the "Online Therapy" banner at the top of the page
  3. Select "START ONLINE THERAPY"
  4. Complete registration and get matched with a therapist
  5. Download app and start therapy

In these days ahead, as we settle into the new rhythm and realities of remote courses and virtual interactions, it is critical that we maintain our connectedness, our community, and the values that bring us together. Next week, my updates will become less frequent so you can focus on adjusting to this new environment with our students, but I will continue to inform you on what we are doing as a college and communicate key decisions.

Thank you for your efforts, your continued resilience, and for the community you have created among your colleagues. HCC is a truly special place.

Sincerely,
Christina

Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear students,

By now, it's obvious that the COVID-19 health crisis is unlike anything we have experienced. It is causing us to change virtually every aspect of our daily lives – including how we teach and learn. HCC's shift to remote teaching and learning is going to be challenging for all of us. Not being able to connect in-person with our faculty and classmates is new, unfamiliar, and certainly unexpected. 

Practicing kindness and being flexible has never been more important.

Working together has never been more important.

Reaching out and asking questions has never been more important.

Important: In response to the Commonwealth's Stay at Home Advisory, effective immediately, all walk-in traffic to campus buildings and offices is restricted to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

You can still contact HCC offices (CAPS, Financial Aid, STRIVE, etc.) by phone or email, and many offices are now using Google Chat or Zoom. Click here for information about how to connect with HCC. 

If you need to pick up a pre-reserved Chromebook or WiFi hotspot, or pre-reserved items from the Food Pantry, you will receive instructions regarding how and when to come to campus from the respective office:

HCC Food Pantry
Food pickup available by appointment
413.552.2783
thrive@hcc.edu
Visit page for details

HCC Library
Chromebook or WiFi hotspot borrowing
Click here to contact us
Visit page to request Chromebook of WiFi hotspot

You've asked many important questions during our Zoom Town Hall meetings. So, for everyone's benefit, I am sharing some of this information below. Remember that all of these details can be found on our website at hcc.edu/coronavirus. And if you have other questions, you can email us at coronavirus@hcc.edu.

When is registration? When can I view upcoming course schedules?

We have postponed registration for three weeks in order for everyone to get comfortable with our new remote environment. Registration opens April 15 and you will be able to view course schedules online (for summer, fall and spring) beginning April 10.

Will my classes still be eligible for transfer now that they are remote?

Yes.

I am worried I won't be able to manage remote classes. Should I withdraw?

We understand that this is a big adjustment. Remote classes are new to some of us, too! Your faculty understand. Please reach out to them and be honest about how you are feeling. Give it some time. Should you need it, we have extended our withdraw deadline to the last day of classes (May 13) – but remember that we are ready to help and want you to succeed.

Am I still able to receive tutoring or help with my writing?

Yes. The Center for Academic Support (CAPs) is available remotely. Click here to connect with CAPS. 

How can I get help with Zoom or other technology?

HCC's Multi-Environment Resource Consultants (MERC) can help. MERC is a qualified team of students who are ready to help you with any technology related questions. This includes Zoom, Moodle, HCC Google Apps, Calendar and Email, Online Services, Degree Works, Microsoft Office, and any other technology related issues you might have. Click here to contact MERC or email merc@hcc.edu. And of course, you always have access to the HCC Help Desk at 413.552.2075 or helpdesk@hcc.edu.

How can I access special accommodations?

The Office for Students with Disabilities & Deaf Services (OSDDS) is still available to support continued student access to HCC courses, programs, and services. Click here to connect with OSDDS.

What's happening with events scheduled for the spring?

Many of the college's events will need to be postponed or shifted to a virtual environment in order to keep our community safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. For a list of event cancellations, click here. As of this email, the college has not made any decision regarding changes to Commencement, which is scheduled for May 30.

More than anything, I want you to remember that we are in this together. Your HCC faculty and staff are experiencing many of the same challenges as you, and they are working hard to enable you to keep learning and keep progressing this semester. But you will have to help us by letting us know how you're doing. Join us for Town Hall meetings via Zoom. Send your questions to coronavirus@hcc.edu. Email your professors. We may not have all the answers right away, but we're figuring it out – and we'll get through this-together.

Sincerely,
Christina

Christina Royal, Ph.D. 
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Faculty and Staff:

By now, it's no surprise that I have new developments to share, even though it has only been 24 hours since my last communication: In response to the Commonwealth's Stay at Home Advisory, effective immediately, all walk-in traffic to campus buildings and offices is restricted to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

There will be limited access to campus buildings from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday – Friday, via the entrances listed below only. Entries will be staffed, and individuals will be asked to sign in and out. We are taking these steps with the health and wellbeing of our community in mind.

  • Frost Third Floor (adjacent to the bus circle; handicap parking available in Lot J/Visitors)
  • Donahue Second Floor (closest to Library)
  • Campus Center: S Lot entrance 

Students and staff can still contact HCC offices (CAPS, Financial Aid, STRIVE, etc.) by phone or email, and many offices are now using Google Chat or Zoom. Click here for information about how to connect with HCC.

Accommodations are being made for those who need to pick up a pre-reserved Chromebook or WiFi hotspot, or pre-reserved items from the Food Pantry. Once the items have been reserved, the individual will receive instructions (from either Thrive or the Library) regarding how and when to come to campus.

We will continue to communicate important information in support of our community's health and well-being via email, social media, and on our website at hcc.edu/coronavirus. Thank you for paying close attention to these updates and for your flexibility throughout this crisis. Your actions help boost our students' confidence and fill them with hope in the midst of this uncertain time.

I recognize the fatigue you may be feeling right now and I'm experiencing it, too. We are all working incredibly hard to adapt, shift, and do all we can to keep teaching, learning, and fulfilling our educational mission. Meanwhile, the world and our own community continue to be affected in myriad ways by this health crisis. 

This is a time that will forever shape us as individuals and as an institution. Rising to these challenges demonstrates who we are, and though difficult and exhausting in the moment, provides the opportunity for us to be our best, and to bring out the best in each other. I am incredibly humbled by, and thankful for, your resolve and determination. Keep up the good work, as I know you will.

And remember that we are all in this together.

Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Faculty and Staff,

It has been exactly three weeks since my first message to the campus community regarding COVID-19. As I take one quick moment to reflect on what has transpired since then and our actions as a community over that time, I am astounded. And I am truly inspired by each of you.

We remain at the height of this unprecedented health crisis and our resilience is being tested with each passing day. Yet, with our community's health and wellbeing in mind, we are already beginning to settle into our new remote environment for the remainder of the spring semester. Our success will depend largely on our ability to foster and maintain connection – to one another and to our students. And while "remote" can be perceived as "distant," we know better.

That's why you are already sharing resources and collaborating in ways that are showcasing the very best of HCC. For example, during today's Zoom meeting with NUPs, I learned that Universal Design practices are increasing exponentially as our faculty plan for the remainder of the term.

For some of you, this new environment may feel isolating. Or perhaps you're still unsure about how to make this work. Remember that our students feel the same way. Some worry about how this transition will affect their academic experience, their ability to learn, even their grades. Students are nervous about learning new technologies and having their routines disrupted. I encourage each one of us to be patient and flexible, and to help our peers and our students adapt. A message of hope goes a long way, including putting it out there that we are not perfect.

As we navigate this together, I am hopeful that we will find new ways to connect with each other, both as colleagues and as humans. Check in, provide support, be creative, and laugh when you forget to take yourself off "mute." This is a very serious time, but we do not have to be somber about it 24/7. 

Our students need us to be encouraging, helpful, and compassionate. They need to know they are not alone. Our mission takes on new and greater meaning in light of these unprecedented times. Together, we can be an example of how to Educate. Inspire. Connect. 

Sincerely,
Christina

P.S. I encourage you to take advantage of the many virtual training sessions happening in the Center for Excellence, hosted by your colleagues, which share best practices for remote teaching support, authentic assessment for the online classroom, managing teams remotely, and more.

Sincerely,
Christina

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students,

How are you doing? I am asking on behalf of every faculty and staff member at HCC – because we really want to know. If you have questions or concerns about the college's response to COVID-19, HCC's shift to remote learning, or your individual situation during this crisis, please let us know by emailing coronavirus@hcc.edu. Also remember to visit hcc.edu/coronavirus for important updates, helpful links, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

Reminder: With the health and well-being of our entire community in mind, HCC has shifted all in-person teaching, learning, and operations to remote environments for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. In response to the Commonwealth's recent Stay at Home Advisory, you should no longer be coming to campus, unless you are coming to pick up a pre-reserved Chromebook, WiFi hotspot, or pre-reserved Food Pantry pick-up. In these cases, you will receive instructions regarding how and when to come to campus. Please do not come to campus until you have received confirmation from HCC staff.

What is remote learning, again? 

This means that we are still available – just not in-person right now. Staff in all of HCC's offices are still working, from their homes or other off-campus locations, in order to continue providing you with support and services. Click here to find out how to connect with HCC. Your faculty will be in contact with you regarding your classes this semester, and they are working this week on shifting your classes from on-campus to a remote environment, using FREE virtual tools like Zoom, WebEx, Google Chat, Moodle, and just old-fashioned email. For some courses, such as labs, this may be more challenging – but your faculty are committed to doing everything they can to ensure your success this semester. 

I want to acknowledge how difficult and sudden this unexpected transition is for all of you. You may have children at home or you've been impacted by changes in your employment. Your internet is unreliable or there isn't enough food in the house. We are here to help.

If you do not have a computer or internet access:

In keeping with the Governor's Stay at Home Advisory, and to keep our community healthy, the HCC computer labs will be closed at this time. However, while supplies last, students can reserve a Chromebook or WiFi hotspot from the HCC Library using this request form. You can pick them up at the HCC Library between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., or arrange for pick up at the Culinary Arts Center (164 Race St., Holyoke) or Picknelly Adult & Family Center (206 Maple St., Holyoke). You can even have them mailed to you. 

If you need help with Zoom or other technology:

HCC's Multi-Environment Resource Consultants (MERC) can help. MERC is a qualified team of students who are ready to help you with any technology related questions. This includes Zoom, Moodle, HCC Google Apps, Calendar and Email, Online Services, Degree Works, Microsoft Office, and any other technology related issues you might have. Click here to contact MERC or email merc@hcc.edu. And of course, you always have access to the HCC Help Desk, at 413.552.2075 or helpdesk@hcc.edu.

If you are hungry or concerned about your food situation at home:

The HCC Food Pantry is offering food pickup from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday at the bus circle on campus, by appointment only. To schedule an appointment for food pickup, email thrive@hcc.edu or call 413.552.2783. If coming to campus is not an option for you, please contact Thrive to discuss possible alternatives.

Beginning March 30, all spring semester classes will be conducted remotely, and your semester will pick up after what was probably a very strange and challenging spring break. I know the future might feel daunting, or even frightening, but I am incredibly optimistic about you, and our HCC community; I believe each of us has the spirit, grit, and resilience to get through this.

Our faculty believe in you and are working very hard to adapt and position you for success. Our staff believe in you and are ready to see and support you daily through technology and phone. 

And I believe in you. We'll get through this together.

Sincerely,
Christina

Christina Royal, Ph.D. 
President
Holyoke Community College

P.S. Don't forget to join me for a Zoom Town Hall on Wednesday, March 25 at 11 a.m. or on Friday, March 27 at 1 p.m.

Dear Students,

Let's start with the most important thing: We are here for you.

Our nation, state, and community face serious challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a crisis like none we have ever experienced before, and it is having very real effects on every aspect of our lives. I am here to tell you we will get through this together. And, that you have the entire HCC community behind you. It was wonderful to "see" and interact with you – 178 of you – during today's Zoom Town Hall. I felt your emotion through the computer screen and I want this message to help alleviate some of the anxiety you may be feeling. 

Before going any further, as an update from my communication last week: the college was informed today that the potential case of COVID-19 at The Kid's Place has been identified as a virus that causes the common cold and is not related to the novel coronavirus.  

This is a long email! Please read carefully and visit hcc.edu/coronavirus for regular updates. You are also invited to join me this week for two more Zoom Town Hall meetings (email invitations to follow):

  • Wednesday, March 25 at 11 a.m.
  • Friday, March 27 at 1 p.m.

As a reminder, HCC will be teaching, learning, and operating remotely for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. We are doing this with the health and well-being of our community in mind. In response to the Commonwealth's recent Stay at Home Advisory, you should not be coming to campus after tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24 at noon. If there is an urgent need for you to be on campus, please contact us before coming, as we are most likely able to help you remotely.

I want to spend the rest of this email answering some of the questions you may have. If you don't find answers to your questions here, you can always email coronavirus@hcc.edu and we will get back to you quickly.

What does it mean to teach, learn, and operate remotely? 

It means that your faculty and the HCC community are still available – just not in-person right now. Staff in all of HCC's offices are still working, from their homes or other off-campus locations, in order to continue providing you with support and services. For example, CAPS, STRIVE, the Library, Thrive, Student Engagement, and Financial Aid are all still available without you having to come to campus.

Your faculty will be in contact with you regarding your classes this semester, and they are working this week on how to shift your classes from on-campus to a remote environment using FREE virtual tools like Zoom, WebEx, and Google Chat, Moodle, or just old-fashioned email. For some courses, such as labs, this may be more challenging – but your faculty are committed to doing everything they can to ensure your success this semester. 

I am feeling anxious. Who can I talk to?

Please take advantage of the resources HCC provides to our students and their families. Our free WellConnect Student Assistance Program offers 24/7 phone and in-person mental health counseling, as well as health and wellness coaching, legal consultation and a variety of other services. You can find comprehensive information about their services, and directions on accessing WellConnect content online, at hcc.edu/wellconnect. They can also be reached at 866.640.4777 (voice/TTY). If you'd like to speak to someone at HCC, please reach out to the office of Student Affairs at 413.552.2231.

When will HCC begin teaching classes remotely?

Remote teaching and learning begins Monday, March 30. Be on the lookout for messages from your faculty via HCC email.

How long will classes be held remotely?

Classes will be remote for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, up to and including finals if necessary.

I am nervous or unsure about taking my courses remotely.

We completely understand, and this is new to some of us, too! We know this is not the semester you expected, and that it may be difficult for you to participate remotely. You may have children at home, a spotty internet connection, or the lack of in-person interaction is causing you to doubt your own abilities. Your faculty understand and they are ready to help. We are in this together.

Will I be able to complete my academic requirements?

Department chairs and academic deans are working very hard to make sure that all students in all programs have options. It could be that in specific programs that require clinical, practicum, or other kinds of hands-on hours, students will need some extra time to complete those required hours and skills. Please know that we are working on it and will be in constant communication with affected students. 

How will my professors teach things like labs, music, art, and theater courses remotely?

Our creative and resourceful faculty, with the help of our dedicated Information Technology (IT) staff and resources in HCC's Center for Excellence, are working hard to create engaging educational experiences for all students. Our faculty will be in contact with you directly via email regarding plans to continue these courses remotely.

What if I need help using the technology in my classes (Moodle, Zoom, etc.)?

Moodle instructions and support are available here...and our Help Desk staff are also available to assist you! They can be reached at 413.552.2075 or helpdesk@hcc.edu

When and/or how should I reach out to my faculty?

Anytime and via email! Many of your faculty are already reaching out to you via HCC email. Please get back to them, or reach out if you have any questions. You are in this together.

What's happening with events scheduled for the spring?

Many of the college's events will need to be postponed or shifted to a virtual environment in order to keep our community safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. For a list of event cancellations, click here. As of this email, the college has not made any decision regarding changes to Commencement, which is scheduled for May 30.

What about my work-study job?

Many work-study jobs can continue remotely. In other words, you may not need to come to campus to continue working. Your supervisor will be in contact with you about the possibilities, but you should also feel free to reach out to him or her directly.

What about the deadline for HCC Foundation Scholarships?

The HCC Foundation has extended its scholarship application deadline to Wednesday, April 8. You can still apply by visiting hccscholarships.org and be eligible for scholarship awards for the 2020-2021 academic year. If you have any questions, email scholarships@hcc.edu.

Your experience has been disrupted as a result of this crisis – there's no way around it. This situation is just plain hard. We urge you to take advantage of the many faculty and staff who are committed to seeing you through this challenging time. We will continue to update you and share helpful information via email and on our website at hcc.edu/coronavirus. More than anything, we want you to know that everyone at HCC is here to support your success. 

Sincerely,
Christina

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Welcome back from a spring break unlike any other. I was glad to have had the opportunity to connect with so many of our faculty via Zoom this afternoon, and I cannot begin to convey how impressed by and grateful I am for the creativity and collegiality you are demonstrating during this unprecedented time. This extraordinary situation with COVID-19 requires applying each one of our values – innovation, collaboration, kindness, inclusion, and trust – in order to effectively navigate daily challenges. You immediately started sharing tips and tricks, and ideas and strategies for teaching and working remotely. It is moments like these that I know we will get through this together. All employees are invited to join me for another Zoom Town Hall this Thursday, March 26 at 12 p.m. Email invitation to follow.

Before going any further, as an update from my communication last week: the college was informed today that the potential case of COVID-19 at The Kid's Place has been identified as a virus that causes the common cold and is not related to the novel coronavirus.  

My thanks to each of you for going above and beyond to ensure the health and well-being of our students, 178 of whom joined me for a Zoom Town Hall this afternoon. They were relieved to hear about the services and support HCC will continue to provide remotely, and that their faculty are doing all they can to support their academic success this semester. Yet, I also felt their anxiety and fears about what remote learning will mean. Please continue to reach out to our students during this challenging time. A note from you will mean more than any email I can send, and will significantly minimize their anxiety. You can also review the email I sent to all students this evening on this page, which responds to many of the questions they are asking. (One topic, in particular, is regarding the difference between "remote" and "online." Click here for that question and its answer.)

Our collective efforts are enabling HCC to respond to COVID-19 challenges as they arise, and we are also mindful that new developments and recommendations are constantly emerging. As you know, HCC transitioned its operations and services to remote environments last week for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. Last Friday, we asked that our students and employees not come to campus unless it was absolutely necessary to do so, and that we are here to support our students at a distance. 

The fact that HCC is not offering in-person services to our community right now positions us to effectively respond to the commonwealth's recent Stay at Home Advisory. To comply with the Governor's order, all non-essential HCC employees should now be working remotely, or should be taking immediate steps to operate remotely by tomorrow, Tuesday, March 24 at noon. A few exceptions have been identified and have been granted by divisional Vice Presidents for a very limited number of employees. Everyone else should be working remotely and stay at home. We continue to prioritize the wellbeing of our employees and students, but we need your cooperation to do so.

Please continue to regularly visit hcc.edu/coronavirus and become familiar with the resources there. This remains the central page for updates across a range of relevant topics and I commend our marketing team for their tireless efforts to provide up-to-date information here. 

As I have also said to our students, your experience has been disrupted as a result of this crisis – there's no way around it. This situation is just plain hard. But it has been remarkable to witness how our community has come together during this challenging and rapidly-changing time. I am confident we will get through this together and am grateful for your cooperation.

Sincerely,
Christina

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Students,

I'm sure this is not the spring break you had imagined just weeks ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our world in what seems like an instant. I know that many aspects of your life may be in flux right now, but I want to reassure you that HCC faculty and staff have been working hard to make sure that you are able to complete the spring semester successfully.

As a reminder, online classes will resume March 23, but face-to-face classes are suspended March 23-27 while faculty complete the work necessary to shift your classes to a remote environment. HCC will be teaching, learning and operating remotely for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. If you are enrolled in an on-campus, face-to-face class, your professor or HCC staff will be in touch with you next week to provide instructions on how to connect with your classes remotely.

We are making these changes in order to keep our community safe and healthy. But learning remotely doesn't mean you'll be learning alone. Staff are busy planning to create student programs and engagement opportunities at-a-distance. They'll be using  Zoom, Google Chat, Moodle, and other tools to teach, tutor, and advise our students in real time. 

For students who don't have a computer or reliable internet access at home, the HCC Library has a limited number of Chromebooks/laptops and wi-fi hotspots that you can borrow. We also plan to open some classrooms with computers for a limited number of students (for social distancing) who have no other means of doing coursework. These labs will be monitored and disinfected, and will be available by reservation only. A link to the reservation form will be emailed and available on the HCC website next week. We ask that you do not come to campus unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. We are here to support you, at a distance, for now.

I also want to remind you to join me for a Town Hall via Zoom/video conference on Monday, March 23, 2:30-3:30 p.m. You can dial in using your phone, or use your computer and webcam. I'll be providing additional information on what we are planning for the remainder of the semester, and answering as many of your questions as I can. Information on how to join is at the bottom of this message.

If you have questions for Advising, CAPS, the Library, or other college offices, please call before coming to campus. They most likely will be able to assist you via phone, chat, or Zoom/video conference. Some of them have already set up Zoom hours;  I invite you to click here to view the offices that will be available to support you remotely next week, knowing that we will be adding longer hours and greater availability very soon.

Finally, if you are experiencing stress, I urge you to talk to a friend or family member, or take advantage of HCC's free 24/7 mental health counseling provided by WellConnect. We are not facing this alone, but as a community. I am confident that we will meet the challenges ahead by working together.  

Please be kind to yourself and others.

Sincerely,
Christina

To join our Zoom (Video Conference) Town Hall
Time: Mar 23, 2020 02:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 
Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/278270429?pwd=S0NKMkgyWU1MRCtkREQ0WUZNVU43QT09 
Meeting ID: 278 270 429
Password: 074073 
One tap mobile+19292056099,,278270429# US (New York)
+13126266799,,278270429# US (Chicago) 
Dial by your location        
   +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) 
Meeting ID: 278 270 429

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear Faculty and Staff,

During a time when the messages from health professionals have been to distance ourselves socially, I'm feeling a profound sense of community. That's because of you.

Over the last few days, you have joined me for Zoom meetings that provided updates and transparency regarding the college's plans to keep our community safe and healthy during this COVID-19 crisis. During these virtual sessions, you told me about the ways in which you're working remotely, about the trainings you've participated in, new ideas for improving student support and services, and how you're planning creative activities to stay connected at a distance. You are hosting casual, virtual check-ins with your teams and colleagues. You are asking how you can help.

In times of crisis, some organizations crumble. Others flourish. HCC has already proven that we intend to do the latter. Our faculty will return from spring break next week and continue preparing to shift their courses to remote modalities for the remainder of the semester. As we manage this transition together, we will be significantly stepping outside our comfort zones, unlearning ways of doing business, and finding out what we are truly capable of – as individuals and as an institution. Here we are, in the midst of a global crisis, showing the world what HCC is capable of.

Care for our students and employees is always at the forefront of our minds. So, as a reminder, HCC will be teaching, learning, and operating remotely for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. Beginning Monday, March 23, and through the remainder of the semester, all college offices will be working remotely, with limited exceptions as identified and communicated by division Vice Presidents. Out of an abundance of caution during this COVID-19 pandemic, unless there is a specific need for you to be on campus, you should be operating remotely. Remember: this crisis is an incredibly fluid and rapidly-evolving situation. If you haven't already, please prepare, as soon as possible, to have everything you need to work remotely. 

I am confident that we will successfully make the necessary transitions for this semester and appreciate your help and patience to ensure students can successfully complete the spring term. As we encounter hurdles along the way, let's use those moments to strengthen the bonds among us. Let's talk about the hurdles as we devise ways to work through them together. Remember that constructivist learning is a group exercise – and that's a message for us as much as it is for our students.

As we close what has been a challenging week on so many levels, you should know how very proud I am of our entire college community. From our IT team (which provided 82 Virtual Private Networks and 154 Virtual Desktop Infrastructures this week), to facilities (who have been keeping up with the cleaning of the campus after having an external company sanitize the college earlier this week), and to the amazing group of staff and faculty who stepped up to offer Zoom training sessions this week through the Center for Excellence, it has been an honor to watch how we have rallied and looked out for one another during this unprecedented time. You have come together, in the midst of an extremely difficult situation, striving to fulfill our mission and do what is best for our students. Please find time this weekend to rest and recharge.

Sincerely,
Christina

P.S. Based on my conversations with you today, I am sharing below some resources you might find helpful.

  • Article: Supporting Mental Health and Well-being of Students and Staff during COVID-19, from EAB
  • Click here to review how offices are continuing to support our students remotely
  • Click here for the schedule of virtual trainings available in the Center for Excellence next week, including "Managing Teams Remotely." This week (and not yet including today's numbers), 155 of you took part in trainings hosted by the CFE.
  • Student Emergency Fund: Our students are likely to be incurring expenses they hadn't planned on as a result of this unprecedented crisis. This fund can assist students with unforeseen expenses related to the barriers to education they may be facing at this time. We are prepared and equipped to continue providing funds, as needed, during this crisis. Click here for the student application or email Amanda Sbriscia to inform us of student needs.

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College

Dear HCC students,

By now, you are aware that HCC's in-person classes are suspended the week of March 23-27 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to keep you and our community healthy. (Online classes are back in session starting Monday, March 23.)

To further ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff, and in response to public health obligations, HCC will be teaching and learning remotely for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, up to and possibly including finals. We know this is the right thing to do because we are committed to providing a safe environment for all who come to HCC. But what made this a really hard decision was knowing the impact it would have on this place where people want to be, where our students engage with one another and where they find the resources and support they need.

We realize that a remote environment won't be the same in many respects, and I know you're likely wondering, What will it look like? How will HCC make sure students are getting the same quality education? I can already tell you that our amazing faculty are determined to give our students the best education possible. In fact, the whole college is thinking about ways to enliven the student experience from a distance while also continuing to keep our doors open for the resources you require. 

While you have been on spring break, HCC staff have been busy developing work plans and office hours to be sure you have access to technology, computer labs, the library, Thrive, tutoring, and more. Please click here for a list of offices and how best to connect with them, and check back often.

We know you have questions and that you will continue to have questions in the coming days. Below are answers to a few, and you can find a FAQ and additional resources at hcc.edu/coronavirus. Please continue to check your email regularly, and reach out if you have any questions. You can email us at coronavirus@hcc.edu. Remember that we are available for you as we move forward together.

What will happen the week after Spring Break (Monday March 23 through Friday March 27th)?
Face to face, in-person classes are suspended for the week as faculty prepare new plans for teaching those courses remotely. Faculty will be in contact with the students in their courses about what to expect, and students, if you are feeling nervous or confused, do not hesitate to reach out to your instructors and advisor. Online courses will carry on as usual.

When will HCC launch its remote learning classes?
The College is prepared to launch remote learning beginning Monday, March 30.

What platforms are faculty considering for their remote instruction?
Faculty have quickly learned to apply the fundamentals of remote teaching and learning. For more information on what platforms they may choose to use in a remote learning setting such as Moodle, Zoom, WebEx, and Google Hangouts, visit the Academic Continuity Plan page on the HCC website.

Will I be able to complete my academic requirements?
Department chairs and academic deans are working very hard to make sure that all students in all programs have options. It could be that in specific programs that require clinical, practicum, or other kinds of hands-on hours, students will need some extra time to complete those required hours and skills. Please know that we are working on it and will be in constant communication with affected students. 

How long will classes be held remotely?
Classes will be remote for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, up to and including finals, if necessary.

How will my professors teach things like labs, music, art, and theater courses remotely?

See our answer to the above question about academic requirements. Our creative and resourceful faculty, with the help of our dedicated Information Technology staff and resources in HCC's Center for Excellence, are working hard to create engaging educational experiences for all students. Our faculty will be in contact with you directly, via email, regarding plans to continue these courses remotely.

What if I don't have a computer or internet access?
The Library has WiFi hotspots and Google Chromebooks available for borrowing. HCC will also open the Library, DON 142/144 computer labs, and other offices and spaces for limited hours. Click here for hours of operation. Please note that while your smartphone will help you connect with your classes and faculty remotely, your phone and/or data plan may limit your ability to fully engage in your courses. Both Comcast and Charter Spectrum are offering 60 days of free access to broadband wi-fi and low cost computers for qualifying households. Information can be found below:Charter free internet access Comcast free internet accessComcast low-cost resources

What if I need help using the technology in my classes (Moodle, Zoom, etc.)?
Students can schedule one-on-one help by emailing Kris Wiemer at kwiemer@hcc.edu. In addition, online Moodle support is available here

When and/or how should I reach out to my advisor?We encourage students to reach out to your advisor via email, anytime, if you have any questions or concerns. 

I am feeling anxious. Who can I talk to?
Please take advantage of the resources HCC provides to our students and their families. Our free WellConnect Student Assistance Program offers 24/7 phone and in-person mental health counseling, as well as health and wellness coaching, legal consultation and a variety of other services. You can find comprehensive information about their services, and directions on accessing WellConnect content online, at hcc.edu/wellconnect. They can also be reached at 866.640.4777 (voice/TTY). If you'd like to speak to someone at HCC, please reach out to the office of Student Affairs at 413.552.2231.

Again, I encourage you to contact us if you have any questions -- you can simply send an email to coronavirus@hcc.edu and someone will be in touch. We look forward to being with you throughout this new era of learning and we are committed to your success.
Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Well, this certainly is a spring break unlike any other we have experienced. We have asked a lot of each other in recent days, preparing to change and learn new instructional modes, working out of our home addresses, using new tools to communicate with each other, and coming to terms with our fears and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. 

HCC has experienced uncertain times before. (How many other colleges have a true "rising from the ashes" story to tell?) Today's uncertain times are causing us to make many adjustments to the ways in which we teach, do business, and interact. But how we respond today - just like 52 years ago - will be a defining moment in our history and an experience our students will never forget. Like you, our students may be nervous, unsure, or overwhelmed. They, too, have families, jobs, and toilet paper to purchase. Together, we can assure them that HCC remains a college of academic excellence known for helping students overcome barriers to success. 

HCC will be teaching, learning, and operating remotely for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. In order to prepare, departments have spent the last few days determining how best to offer services at a distance. As we know, many students will need access to the internet, tutoring, our library and our Food Pantry, among other resources. You can click here for a current list of temporary hours established by departments aiming to meet students' needs through rotating staff schedules and remote availability. A special message was also sent to students this evening, informing them of our transition to remote learning, which included answers to several questions they likely have right now. You can read this message by visiting the Coronavirus - College Messages tab on our website.

 I have appreciated the opportunity to answer many of your questions during Zoom meetings this week, and those discussions continue tomorrow and Monday. Not only do these virtual gatherings provide a platform for the exchange of important updates and ideas, they build community. I've seen your dogs, cats, coffee mugs and kitchen tables. Think of the incredible steps we have taken as an institution - to improve processes and creatively solve problems - through technology. It's remarkable, and so are you. 

As you know, HCC has suspended in-person classes for next week (March 23-27) to enable faculty to spend that week preparing to teach remotely. Please take advantage of the training sessions scheduled in the Center for Excellence over the next few weeks. This is a space dedicated to your professional development and the sharing of knowledge and best practices. Also, Mimsy O'Connor, Coordinator of Wellness Promotion, invites you to email her to learn more about a virtual mindfulness session happening tomorrow morning, Friday, March 20.

I remind you again to take care of yourselves and one another during this unprecedented time. As we prepare to welcome our faculty back next week, as well as students taking online courses, let's continue to be guided by our values: innovation, collaboration, kindness, inclusion and trust. On a Zoom call today with our MCCC staff, I saw a comment in the chat box just before we signed off that said, "This is an incredible place to learn and work. You all make it so."

My feelings exactly.
Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear HCC Students, 

In an effort to help facilitate questions and conversation, you are invited to a Student Town Hall via Zoom on Monday, March 23rd, 2:30-3:30 pm.  If you do not have access to a web cam, you can join the Town Hall by dialing in. The link is below:

HCC President's Office Holyoke Community College is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Student Town Hall
Time: Mar 23, 2020 02:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/278270429?pwd=S0NKMkgyWU1MRCtkREQ0WUZNVU43QT09

Meeting ID: 278 270 429
Password: 074073

One tap mobile
+19292056099,,278270429# US (New York)
+13126266799,,278270429# US (Chicago)

Dial by your location
        +1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
 
Meeting ID: 278 270 429

Sincerely,
Christina

--

Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear HCC Students:

The week of spring break is usually quiet on the HCC campus, and while that was certainly the case today as I walked the halls and visited offices, it felt different. Not only did I experience the quiet that comes with a break from classes, I felt everyone's mix of emotion: anxious about what the future holds, optimistic about the possibilities of creating a robust remote environment, eager to think creatively in service of our students, and support for one another as we navigate this together.

I have deep appreciation for the resilience and teamwork our community is demonstrating in this unprecedented time, and under extraordinary time constraints. Many of our offices are now working remotely. By Monday, we anticipate that 90+% of employees will be working remotely, with limited in-person resources (as we continue to practice social distancing). This transition continues to be made with the health of our students, faculty and staff in mind. 

We will be keeping you updated on which in-person resources will be available to students in ways that keep everyone safe and healthy. For example, the Food Pantry has created pre-packed food bags and is working with Campus Police to coordinate pick-up. Students can make arrangements to pick up "to go" bags by calling the Thrive Center at (413) 552.2783 or emailing thrive@hcc.edu. Our advising, financial aid, CAPs, career counseling, OSDDS, admissions and registrar teams have all solidified plans for limited and rotating on-campus staffing while redirecting students to email and phone for virtual support and virtual services. Our Thrive Center and Library will be open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. to continue to meet students' needs during hours of highest traffic. 

There are a lot of moving parts these days, but as a community, we are working together and keeping one another informed in order to continue advancing our shared mission. In an effort to facilitate questions and conversation, please look for an email invitation tomorrow to an upcoming Town Hall Zoom meeting for students: Monday, March 23 from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

In times of crisis, we hear a lot about the importance of planning. However, we should also remember the critical role that flexibility plays during times like these. With this in mind, HCC is postponing priority registration for three weeks, until April 15, which will allow faculty, professional staff, and students to get better trained on remote advising tools. The HCC Foundation has extended its scholarship application deadline two weeks, to April 8, allowing students more time to gather their thoughts in order to be considered for awards.

The mix of emotion you're feeling now is natural. This is a crisis we are each facing on multiple levels - as students, parents, partners, friends, and humans. But remember that we are in this together. Reach out to one another and ask for help when needed. We are here for you.

Sincerely,
Christina


p.s. - here are a few resources and updates available on our website at hcc.edu/coronavirus:

  • More information regarding the deep cleaning of campus that took place on Monday, March 16.
  • New FAQs, including information about work-study in the "Students" tab
  • Prevention & Exposure to COVID-19: Review the example of contact and exposure per CDC guidance, on our FAQ page here.

--

Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear HCC Faculty & Staff:

The week of spring break is usually quiet on the HCC campus, and while that was certainly the case today as I walked the halls and visited offices, it felt different. Not only did I experience the quiet that comes with a break from classes, I felt your mix of emotion: anxious about what the future holds, optimistic about the possibilities of creating a robust remote environment, eager to think creatively in service of our students, and support for one another as we navigate this together.

I have deep appreciation for each and every one of you for the resilience and teamwork you are demonstrating in this unprecedented time, and under extraordinary time constraints. We surpassed our goal of 50% of the college operating in remote environments and we are well on our way of having all possible offices working remotely by Monday, March 23. Incredible progress was made today alone to solidify rotating schedules and implement remote work plans that are making remote operations at HCC a reality in response to this crisis. By Monday, we anticipate that 90+% of employees will be working remotely, some with office rotations. I know this transition is not easy, but we continue to make it with the health of the entire HCC community in mind. 

As VP Rachel Rubinstein shared with faculty earlier today, we will be keeping you updated on which in-person resources will be available to students in ways that keep everyone safe and healthy. I commend you for already finding ways to make this happen. For example, the Food Pantry has created pre-packed food bags and is working with Campus Police to coordinate pick-up. Students can make arrangements to pick up "to go" bags by calling the Thrive Center at (413) 552.2783 or emailing thrive@hcc.edu. Our advising, financial aid, CAPs, career counseling, OSDDS, admissions and registrar teams have all solidified plans for limited and rotating on-campus staffing while redirecting students to email and phone for virtual support and virtual services. Our Thrive Center and Library will be open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. to continue to meet students' needs during hours of highest traffic. 

There are a lot of moving parts these days, but as a community, we are working together and keeping one another informed in order to continue advancing our shared mission. With this in mind, and in an effort to facilitate questions and conversation, please look for an email invitation tomorrow to upcoming Town Hall Zoom meetings, per the following schedule:

Thursday, March 19 (tomorrow) from 3-4pm for MCCC Staff
Friday, March 20 from 11-12pm for AFSCME Staff
Monday, March 23 from 1-2pm for Faculty & Adjunct Faculty
Monday, March 23 from 2:30-3:30pm for Students  

In times of crisis, we hear a lot about the importance of planning. However, we should also remember the critical role that flexibility plays during times like these - not just for ourselves, but for our students. Having flexibility enables us to shift perspectives and actions when new or unexpected events arise. When we're flexible, we adapt more easily to otherwise difficult situations without becoming overwhelmed for prolonged periods of time. You have been extraordinarily flexible in dealing with this COVID-19 crisis, and our students are the better for it. For example:  HCC is postponing priority registration for three weeks, until April 15, which will allow faculty, professional staff, and students to get better trained on remote advising tools. The HCC Foundation has extended its scholarship application deadline two weeks, to April 8, allowing students more time to gather their thoughts in order to be considered for awards. Our NECHE on-site visit, scheduled for April 6 and 7, has been postponed thanks to extraordinary flexibility on the part of the accreditation agency.

The mix of emotion you're feeling now is natural. This is a crisis we are each facing on multiple levels - as educators, administrators, supervisors, parents, partners, friends, and humans. But remember that we are in this together and that there are resources to support you. HCC's Ombuds, Lea Occhialini, is available remotely to talk with you confidentially about any concerns or issues you may have. Reach out to one another, share best practices, ask for help, and celebrate successes. In the span of just a few weeks, you have turned understandable fear into constructive action, and your concern for one another is evident at every moment. Let's keep moving forward together.

Sincerely,

Christina
p.s. - here are a few resources and updates available on our website at hcc.edu/coronavirus:

  • More information regarding the deep cleaning of campus that took place on Monday, March 16.
  • New FAQs, including information about work-study in the "Students" tab
  • Working and Learning During a Pandemic, from Pearson, available in the "Faculty" tab within Academic Continuity Plan

Prevention & Exposure to COVID-19: Review the example of contact and exposure per CDC guidance, on our FAQ page here.
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear HCC Community:

Thank you for your patience, cooperation, and creativity as we transition to remote environments at HCC in response to the COVID-19 crisis. I recognize that this is an unprecedented decision and a new mode of working and learning for many of us. While it will take some time for students, faculty and staff to adjust, and there may be bumps along the way, we will work through these issues together as a community. (You may find this Guide for Working Remotely useful as you plan your transition.)

Making a rapid transition to remote operations, teaching and learning is, without question, a challenge. But HCC gets things done. And what we do, we do well. Many of our faculty already has experience using remote teaching approaches. (As you heard VP Rachel Rubinstein report at our last Professional Association meeting, some HCC faculty have been assisting our four-year partners with their own transition to teaching at a distance.) Those with less online familiarity have been actively partnering with our Center for Excellence (CFE) and IT staff to apply the fundamentals of remote teaching, learning, and student support. (In fact, there has been a great deal of participation in the online trainings hosted by the CFE on these topics over the last few days.) As one of our deans said in this morning's Zoom meeting, "I believe we will become a stronger community as a result of these adjustments." I couldn't agree more.

Following discussion with Cabinet leadership this evening, I am pleased to report that 50% of HCC's operations will be remote by tomorrow, March 18, with some divisions having already transitioned 80-90% of their operations to remote environments. These high rates of remote operations would not be possible without the tireless efforts of our IT team and their work to provide laptops, VPN and VDI access as needed. 

I also want to thank VP Narayan Sampath for his swift action to bring Complete Cleaning Company, Inc. onto campus on Monday, and for our own facilities team's efforts to continue deep cleaning the campus today. You have helped ensure that our physical environment remains safe and accessible to support our students who may still require access to on-campus resources.  

As you know, HCC's intention is to move 75% of the college's operations to remote environments within the next two days, with an ultimate goal of all possible offices working remotely by Monday, March 23. But we also know that students may still require access to our Food Pantry and computer labs, checks need to be printed on-site, and some courses do not translate well to a virtual environment. I am asking departments to think creatively, and to also be intentional about when and how specific offices may need to be open physically, even if on a more limited basis. Cabinet members and their teams are developing remote work plans and we will need to collaborate to ensure business continuity and student support.

I also appeal to your sense of community in addressing this unprecedented public health issue. Please obtain facts regarding this crisis through reputable news sources and by visiting the CDC website. There, you will find important resources regarding social distancing and how to keep you, your loved ones, and your community healthy. 

We have been intentional about increasing the frequency of communication and sharing in a variety of ways as we navigate this critical juncture. Last night, we met with Cabinet+ (the senior leadership and their direct reports), and this morning, we met with all supervisors to provide clear direction regarding the transition to remote work and teaching. We plan to meet with them daily until it is no longer necessary to do so. VP Rubinstein, Clara Elliott, and I met with the MCCC chapter leadership last week and again today, and we have been in regular communication with our AFSCME steward as well. 

The HCC website is also an important resource and one that is being updated daily. Please visit hcc.edu/coronavirus for a growing list of FAQs, academic resources, and an archive of these messages. If you have specific questions, you can always email coronavirus@hcc.edu. As questions come into this email account, we are thematically posting responses to the FAQs.

We often credit our students for their grit and resilience. Over these past few weeks, I have experienced these same qualities in each of you. We will, and we must, deliver on our promise to be a college of academic excellence known for helping students overcome barriers to success this semester and into the future.

Please remain attentive for messages as we will continue to respond and adapt. And remember to check in with each other. Virtual doesn't have to mean impersonal.

Sincerely,
Christina

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

HCC Community:

At approximately 4 p.m. yesterday, Monday, March 16, the College was informed that The Kids' Place Child Care Center closed due to a potential exposure of a child to the coronavirus/COVID-19. The Director of The Kids' Place reported that the child's parent believes the exposure occurred over the weekend and that the last time either the child or the child's parent was in the facility was last Friday, March 13.  According to CDC guidance, anyone who had close contact with the subject child is required to self-quarantine until the child's testing results are known later this week. The College has also been informed that state health officials have closed The Kids' Place for 14 days. The Kids' Place is owned and operated by a private corporation and leases the space it currently occupies on campus.

Unrelated to this incident, and out of an abundance of caution, the College closed yesterday and today in order to complete a deep cleaning of its facilities.  After consulting with local health officials, we have been assured that this possible exposure in The Kids' Place requires no further cleaning on the main campus.  

Accordingly, starting tomorrow, college buildings will be open for faculty and staff for the remainder of the week (March 18-22), although we are significantly reducing the number of individuals on campus. As a reminder, HCC's intention is to move 75% of the college's operations to remote environments within the next two days, with an ultimate goal of all possible offices working remotely by Monday, March 23. We have already begun transitioning our offices to accomplish remote work, teaching, and learning opportunities for the foreseeable future, in accordance with Governor Baker's recommendations for higher education.  

As a reminder, for complete information, read the CDC's Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures: Geographic Risk and Contacts of Laboratory-confirmed Cases

Please continue to stay current with HCC's Coronavirus/COVID-19 information and updates. We have placed a link on the home page, or you can go directly to hcc.edu/coronavirus. If you have any questions, please email us at coronavirus@hcc.edu

Sincerely,

Christina

--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear Students,

Our campus was closed today for an extensive cleaning and disinfecting of all buildings by Complete Cleaning Company, Inc. The HCC facilities team will continue a thorough, deep cleaning of campus tomorrow, so campus will remain closed on Tuesday, March 17 and will provide limited in-person services for the remainder of the week (March 18-22). 

During this period, please be sure to call or email the office you intend to visit before coming to campus.  

The college will also be developing additional measures to satisfy the social distancing recommendations of the CDC and MDPH, in order to ensure the health and safety of our students, employees, and communities. 

We are still available to support you and provide you with what you need to be successful. Please visit hcc.edu/coronavirus for resources and a list of offices that remain available to you via email, phone and other technology. Additionally, if you have any questions regarding the current situation, please send them to coronavirus@hcc.edu. We will do our best to answer quickly. 

We understand what a challenging and stressful time this is for our community and our world. Let's all remember to be kind to ourselves and each other.

Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear HCC Faculty and Staff,

Our campus was closed today for an extensive cleaning and disinfecting of all buildings by Complete Cleaning Company, Inc. The HCC facilities team will continue a thorough, deep cleaning of campus tomorrow, so campus will remain closed on Tuesday, March 17 and will provide limited in-person services for the remainder of the week (March 18-22). This will provide us with the time necessary to continue cleaning and to begin maximizing our efforts to accomplish remote work, teaching, and learning opportunities for the foreseeable future, in accordance with Governor Baker's recommendations for higher education.

The college will also be developing additional measures to satisfy the social distancing recommendations of the CDC and MDPH, in order to ensure the health and safety of our students, employees, and communities. (Please note that all employees scheduled to work between now and March 22, benefitted and non-benefited, will be paid.)  

HCC's intention is to move 75% of the college's operations to remote environments within the next two days, with an ultimate goal of all possible offices working remotely by Monday, March 23. This will allow us to reduce the number of people on campus, while ensuring that our students have access to necessary resources. Faculty and staff who are able to work remotely, and who have received approval from their supervisor, may begin to do so, effective immediately. 

We recognize that every department and academic discipline is unique and that there will need to be specific conversations in order to make these transitions appropriately and wherever possible. Departments are encouraged to think creatively and to consult with their supervisors and Vice Presidents on work plans. 

To achieve this remote work environment, HCC's Human Resources office is working with supervisors to determine the proportion of college business that can be completed remotely and the technology needed to support this effort. As expected, IT is working hard to fulfill an ever-growing number of requests and meet everyone's needs. Your patience and understanding is appreciated. 

Postponing or canceling gatherings -- and considering how we might deliver our courses and services in other ways -- has taken nearly every waking moment of these past weeks. This is a rapidly changing situation, and HCC will continue to provide regular updates to our community. We ask everyone to please check College Messages at hcc.edu/coronavirus, where you will also find new FAQs and important information. Additionally, if you have any questions regarding the current situation, please send them to coronavirus@hcc.edu. We will do our best to answer quickly. 

Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we work together through this crisis. We understand what a challenging and stressful time this is for our community and our world. Let's all remember to be kind to ourselves and each other.

Sincerely,
Christina
--
Christina Royal
President
Holyoke Community College
Pronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear HCC Community:

This has been a challenging week for all of us as we navigate the rapidly changing landscape of this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. 

Out of an abundance of caution, HCC buildings will be closed on Monday, March 16 for extensive cleaning and disinfecting of campus. Please note that there are no known cases of COVID-19/coronavirus on our campus; we are taking these precautions with the health of our students, faculty, and staff in mind. The company we have contracted with has said that cleaning should be completed in a day. Should additional time for cleaning be needed, we will issue another notification.

Higher education is facing difficult, often excruciating decisions related to this crisis. For HCC, these decisions impact each one of us on myriad levels. We have deep concern for the health and safety of our students and employees, and we must balance this with the reality that our community relies upon us for critical resources and support.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and we will continue to provide updates as necessary. Please visit hcc.edu/coronavirus for further information and resources. 

Sincerely,
Christina

--
Christina RoyalPresidentHolyoke Community CollegePronouns: she/her
@HCCPrez  

Dear HCC students, 

I am writing to update you regarding HCC's response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. In order to provide a safe environment while also maintaining instruction and services, HCC is acting on the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Massachusetts Department of Health, and other public health agencies to reduce the number of people coming into close physical contact.

Please read the following information closely:

All in-person classes will be suspended the week of March 23-27. We are doing this to enable faculty to spend that week preparing to move their in-person classes online, should that be necessary during subsequent weeks. The HCC Library is also increasing the number of ChromeBooks and hotspots that can be loaned to students who do not have internet access or appropriate equipment at home, and we have asked that faculty prepare offline materials for students to complete. 

Online courses (and the online portions of hybrid courses) will continue as scheduled March 23-27 without interruption. Please continue to participate in your online courses after spring break.

We are not closing campus. During the week of March 23-27, computer labs in DON 142/144 will be open, available, and frequently cleaned. The library will remain open, as will CAPs, Thrive, the HCC food pantry, and college offices. While the Campus Center dining commons will be closed, the P.O.D. will be open for grab-and-go breakfast, lunch, and snacks. PVTA bus service will still be available.

Personal international travel and personal domestic air travel are strongly discouraged. Before you travel, please carefully read this guidance from the CDC. 

All college-sponsored travel is cancelled through April 30, both domestic and foreign. In April we will revisit the prohibition for travel scheduled for May 1 and beyond.

If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, please do not come to campus, contact your healthcare provider immediately, and follow CDC guidelines. 

Remember: if you feel sick, do not come to campus. Inform your instructor via email. We appreciate your continued efforts to minimize contracting or spreading the virus: washing hands carefully and avoiding gatherings of large numbers of people are two primary ways to help lessen the impact on the community. Therefore, we ask that if you come to campus, you do not bring guests or family members with you as this only increases the risk of exposure.  

Stress and anxiety are normal responses to the news regarding the coronavirus. Students (and their families) are encouraged to take advantage of the 24/7 phone and in-person mental health counseling available through HCC's free WellConnect Student Assistance Program. Contact WellConnect at 866.640.4777 (voice/TTY) or via hcc.edu/wellconnect. In addition, we recognize that some students may be facing life challenges such as food insecurity and homelessness. If you are in this situation, please reach out to our Thrive Student Resource Center at 413.552.2783 or thrive@hcc.edu.

Please check your HCC email every day for further information. It is critical that you read your email as the situation is evolving on a daily basis. Your faculty will also be using email to contact you regarding any changes to your courses. Additional updates can be found on the HCC website at hcc.edu/coronavirus.  

Sincerely,

Christina Royal
President, Holyoke Community College

Dear HCC Students,

As the world responds to the emergence of COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus), many of us are receiving a steady stream of updates in our social media feeds, online, on TV, radio, and in print. Under these circumstances, it is easy-and understandable-to feel anxious and overwhelmed. However, anxiety and fear can breed high levels of stress that can degrade our physical and mental health.

At this time, it's especially important to find ways to reduce anxiety and care for yourself. I encourage you to find a balance between staying informed and limiting media consumption. I also urge you to stick to reliable sources of information, such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the CDC.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok have seen a number of false and misleading posts about COVID-19. While they are taking steps to limit or label misinformation, it's nearly impossible to catch them all. The World Health Organization has put together a Myth Busters page to counter this and other misinformation-it's worth reading.

Please also take advantage of the resources HCC provides to our students and their families. Our free WellConnect Student Assistance Program offers 24/7 phone and in-person mental health counseling, as well as health and wellness coaching, legal consultation and a variety of other services. You can find comprehensive information about their services, and directions on accessing WellConnect content online, at hcc.edu/wellconnect. They can also be reached at 866.640.4777 (voice/TTY). If you'd like to speak to someone at HCC, I invite you to reach out to the office of Student Affairs at 413.552.2231.

As we look ahead to the rest of the semester, faculty are preparing for online instruction should the need arise. Please be in contact with your professors about their contingency plans, and inform them of any individual needs you may have. Additionally:

  • Students will have access to CAPS services, whether through the online tutoring service or Zoom and/or Webex meetings with tutors.
  • The library will put as many resources online as possible, and have several ChromeBooks and hotspots available for circulation.
  • The Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services is prepared to continue working with students remotely as needed.
  • The Department of Higher Education and our Financial Aid office is working to ensure minimal disruption to student financial aid awards.

We will continue to be in touch with any changes that impact the academic program and student services, and have added a banner to the HCC website that will take you directly to updates and resources.

Despite the current climate, I hope you find time during spring break to rest, recharge and enjoy yourself. 

Christina Royal
President, Holyoke Community College

Dear HCC Community: 

As spring break approaches, students, faculty, and staff will be travelling both domestically and internationally. In light of the spread of the coronavirus, the college strongly advises everyone to follow travel alerts from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security. The Department of State has also issued an emergency alert related to COVID-19. More information about travel and emergency alerts is available through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Due to the health risks associated with the coronavirus, HCC has established a reporting system for students, faculty, and staff traveling internationally, especially to countries where travel advisories have been issued by the CDC. March 19 Update: We now request that members of our community report all international travel as well as domestic air travel. 

All information gathered through this process will be maintained confidentially and separate from personnel or student record files, and shall be used only to assist the college in providing and maintaining a healthy learning environment. 

Reporting will enable us to take appropriate preventative measures, offer available resources, assist any member of our community who may become ill or has been in close proximity with someone who has become ill, and implement any precautions or protocols recommended by public health agencies. The information reported will also enable HCC to work with individual students and/or employees to plan accordingly for absences and, if applicable, offer instructional options in conjunction with applicable collective bargaining agreements. 

travel to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan & Hong Kong

March 19 Update: We now request that members of our community report all international travel as well as domestic air travel. 

  • If you have traveled internationally or via domestic air within the past 14 days, or have been in close proximity with someone who has, please report within 24 hours of receiving this email. We ask that you not return to campus for 14 days after your return (or your exposure to a returnee), and we urge you to follow the CDC recommendation to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return/exposure.
  • If you are currently away, please report within 24 hours of your return, and we ask that you not return to campus for a period of 14 days from your return. We also urge you to follow the CDC recommendation to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return/exposure.
  • If you are planning international travel or domestic air travel within the next 45 days, please report prior to your departure and within 24 hours of your return. We ask that you not return to campus for 14 days after your return (or your exposure to a recent returnee), and we urge you to follow the CDC recommendation to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return/exposure.
  • If you are being actively monitored or observed by any local, state or federal public health agency due to the risk of coronavirus, or have been in close proximity with someone who is, you must report within 24 hours of being notified of such monitoring. We ask that you not return to campus until you are cleared to do so by the monitoring agency.

 The Travel Report form is available at hcc.edu/travelreport, and can be completed and submitted electronically. A hard copy of the form may be obtained from the Human Resources office in FR 341.  

Sincerely,

Christina Royal
President, Holyoke Community College

Dear HCC Community:

HCC is actively monitoring the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has infected people in China, Iran, Italy and other countries, including the United States. At this time, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the Pioneer Valley or on the HCC campus, and our overall risk remains low. However, it is important for us to be prepared in the event that COVID-19 appears in our community. We urge students, faculty and staff to:

  • Follow the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) precautions below to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. 
  • If you develop symptoms at any point, contact your healthcare provider and stay home. 
  • HCC will be providing additional hand sanitizer in computer labs, college offices, and elsewhere across campus; please use it (or wash your hands in a restroom) after working at shared computers, touching doorknobs, etc.

Please see www.hcc.edu/health-alert for general information, symptoms, and CDC precautions. This document also has frequently asked questions about COVID-19.  

To further assist and educate the public concerning the virus, the CDC has established a coronavirus website that includes a wealth of information including: information about the transmission, symptoms, prevention and treatment of the virus; frequently asked questions and answers (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html); guidance for travelers; and information for health care professionals. To access the CDC's coronavirus website, please visit:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health (DPH) has also issued guidance concerning the virus, which can be found at: https://www.mass.gov/clinical-advisory/update-and-interim-guidance-on-outbreak-of-2019-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-in. We will continue to keep you updated as more information becomes available. 

Christina Royal
President, Holyoke Community College

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