By Rod Lee
Industrialists who made their name in the Blackstone Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island starting with Samuel Slater and including the likes of John Singletary, Asa Waters, Paul Whitin and the Draper family would surely be smiling at the thought of an annex of Quinsigamond Community College at the Linwood Mill.
So too, today, are Jeannie Hebert, president and CEO of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce and Victor A. Somma Jr., assistant vice president of extended campuses operations and community engagement for QCC.
Expected to launch this fall, the “Blackstone Valley Higher Learning Center at the BVCC” will mirror extended campuses QCC has already established in Marlborough, Southbridge and downtown Worcester that are thriving, Mr. Somma said. “We are moving and grooving…we’re all over,” he said, while standing amid tables that had been placed in a room near the Chamber’s offices on the ground floor of the Linwood Mill in preparation for the arrival of the first students. “This is going to be really cool.”
Better yet, given the Blackstone Valley’s storied history as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, the campus at the BVCC’s primary focus (but not its only one) will be getting learners ready to enter the manufacturing workplace. It is not hard to picture graduates getting jobs at Riverdale Mills in Northbridge, Lampin Corp. in Uxbridge or Package Industries in Sutton.
Using QCC’s Southbridge campus’s seven classrooms on Optical Drive as an example, Mr. Somma said “that can happen here as well.” QCC’s Southbridge campus offers courses in Business, Technology, Health Care, Human Services and Liberal Arts leading toward Associate’s or certificate degrees.
Mr. Somma envisions “two to seven classrooms” in the Linwood Mill eventually. He and Ms. Hebert said there is ample space for expansion to accommodate the anticipated growth.
“This is something we wanted to do from the beginning,” Ms. Hebert said of the Chamber’s longtime push for an extended campus of QCC in the Blackstone Valley. A partnership with the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and Worcester State University is helping make it possible, she said. “Sen. (Michael) Moore brought Benjamin Franklin Tech in, it’s their first venture off-campus” from their Boston location, she said. The specific intent of Benjamin Franklin Tech is “to work with manufacturers,” she said.
“We have already gotten inquiries and are working the manufacturers,” Ms. Hebert said, noting that the QCC’s Blackstone Valley campus will appeal to “vets-in-transition” and “adults who need retraining” and others.
Ms. Hebert credited Mr. Moore of Millbury, State Rep. David Muradian of Grafton and Bill Giannopoulos (owner of the Linwood Mill) for their assistance in bringing the Blackstone Valley extended campus to fruition. “We are waiting to see how much money in a bond bill” before the Legislature will be available “to start building out next door,” she said. That and “$20,000 in seed money” from Quinsigamond Community College is assuring that the project gets off on the right foot.
Mr. Somma said QCC students are determined learners. He cited the example of a young woman in a power wheelchair who never missed class under any circumstance and who in thanking recently retired QCC President Gail Carberry said “Thank God for you, without you I wouldn’t be able to get a college education.”
The same sentiment will undoubtedly prevail among students who take advantage of QCC’s new extended campus in the Blackstone Valley, finally a reality after years of dreaming.
“It’s like the stars are aligned,” Ms. Hebert said.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.
Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Jeannie Hebert and Victor Somma of Quinsigamond Community College see a bright future for QCC’s extended campus, launching this fall in the Linwood Mill.