Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Map of Downtown Holyoke showing the Connecticut River and numerous canals.

I had the opportunity recently to be briefed about Holyoke, Massachusetts, as a member of a task force to leverage a planned green high performance computing center (GHPCC) to be located in this old industrial city. Yes, three major research universities – MIT, the University of Massachusetts and Boston University – have chosen Holyoke for this joint high tech venture. At our first task force meeting, the reasons for choosing Holyoke were explained: inexpensive electricity, green (non-carbon) electricity, excellent internet connectivity, available land and excellent superhighway and rail transportation access. (See for more details).

The electricity is generated by Holyoke Gas and Electric, a city owned utility that uses water power from the Connecticut River to generate the majority of its electricity. Holyoke was originally developed in the 19th century as an industrial powerhouse with numerous factories run by water power from the Connecticut. How fitting that this same asset may attract a new industry – high speed computing - that may revitalize the City.

Furthermore, to my surprise, the computing center is slated to be built in the center of Holyoke, not on some former farmland at the City outskirts. But on further reflection, downtown Holyoke has an asset that is both extremely desirable and in short supply: waterfront property. The City is built on a bend in the Connecticut River and has numerous canals downtown that provide additional water frontage. And Holyoke was fortunate to have avoided the fate of many Connecticut River cities – Northampton, Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven – that had their frontage on the Connecticut severed by Interstate 91.

In many ways downtown Holyoke is a canvas that although once painted now is ready for a new picture. To see it, we should follow the advice of Massachusetts writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

A view of one of Holyoke's canals with industrial buildings taken in 1941 from Library of Congress Archives.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Myra Smith, VP for Human Relations and Multi-cultural Affairs and one of the leaders of the STCC Diversity Council

Five years ago the STCC Diversity Council was formed to lead efforts to make our college multi-culturally competent. During that time, the college has developed a unique approach that stresses connection to the broader Springfield area community.

With limited resources, the Council wanted to bring national speakers to campus. To augment college funding, they reached out to other area colleges and major businesses. Thus was born an informal diversity network that now includes Peoples Bank, Baystate Health Systems, Mass Mutual Financial Group, Springfield College, Western New England College and Westfield State College. These businesses and colleges have partnered with STCC to bring such luminaries as Juan Williams, Bill Cosby, Morris Dees, Dick Gregory, and Nikki Giovanni.

This institutional partnership mandated that the college open diversity events on campus to Western Massachusetts residents. Because they are our future, we were motivated attracting area high school students especially those from the City of Springfield. We wanted to expand high school students’ understanding of diversity issues but also to expose them to the idea that they should and can attend college. In fact, a number of speakers stressed that theme – education is the key to economic opportunity and community empowerment.

To bring high school students to campus diversity events we reached out to teachers and administrators and, in many cases, assisted with transportation using college vans. As a result of this work, crowds at events have grown and area high schools look forward eagerly to each year’s programming. More area high school students, especially from the City of Springfield, are attending STCC, a result that I believe is directly linked to our diversity programming.

This spring’s events include: Chloe Arnold, Tap Dancer on Thursday, February 11; Nu Direxion, Jazz, Reggae, Pop & Classical R&B on Thursday, February 25 and Dr. John Francis, "The Planetwalker" on Thursday, March 11.