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Massachusetts Community Colleges Launch STEM Deans Council

Fourteen people stand in a row posing for a photo.
Deans from all 15 of Massachusetts community colleges have formed a STEM Deans Council. Pictured from left to right are: Betty Lauer of Quinsigamond Community College, Laura Rubin of North Shore Community College, Leslie Bolinger Horton of Quinsigamond Community College, Donna Wright of Massasoit Community College, Doug Brown of Massasoit Community College, Janice Barney of Mount Wachusett Community College, Olugbemiga Adekunle of Holyoke Community College, Robert Dickerman of Springfield Technical Community College, Kathleen Sweeney of Middlesex Community College, Sarmad Saman of Bristol Community College, Carolyn Knoepfler of Northern Essex Community College, Charles Kaminski of Berkshire Community College, Chitra Javdekar of Mass Bay Community College, Donald Crampton of Cape Cod Community College.

A collection of STEM deans from all 15 of Massachusett’s community colleges has formed a STEM Deans Council with the goal of cutting costs and building collaboration across the schools.

The need for this group grew out of the different nature of STEM deans oversight compared to other academic deans, said MWCC Dean of the School of Business, Science,Technology, and Mathematics Janice Barney who left her role on the state-wide Massachusetts Council of Academic Division Administrators (CADA) group to become a member of this new group. Barney was voted in to a one year position as the vice chair of the group at their August 8 meeting with Doug Brown from Massasoit Community College elected to serve as the chair.

While all deans are concerned with education, due to the nature of some materials used in labs and the hands-on nature of many STEM degrees, there are additional areas that STEM deans oversee such as tracking chemical inventory and maintaining safety, according to Barney.

“This is a chance for the STEM deans to talk about the additional duties and training of staff that are needed on campuses to ensure that everything flows smoothly. It is an opportunity to collaborate, share good ideas and raise awareness of any issues that we might have,” said Barney.

These meetings will give an official avenue for STEM deans to exchange information and cut costs through combined purchases and training, said Barney. STEM deans must ensure proper training of lab staff and are often their own purchasing agents.

“If we unite together it might be possible to get training for 20 to 30 lab techs all at once for one group price,” said Barney. “That’s really where this group is focusing: safety and responsibility.”

The initial meetings of the group have been held at Mount Wachusett Community College because of its central location and new Asquino Science Center that contains a variety of modern equipment and lab space. However, said Barney, the plan is for the meetings to move around to different campuses within the community college system.