The Recorder – New GCC president seeks to foster ‘broad base of social support’ for students
GREENFIELD — Drawing on her extensive background in education, Iowa native Michelle Schutt says she’s “getting a foothold” as the new president of Greenfield Community College.
Schutt took office on July 18, succeeding Richard Hopper, who had served as interim president since last August following the resignation of Yves Salomon-Fernández.
“I was doing a national search and when I saw the presidential prospectus on this position, it had (Greenfield Community College) core values - things like inclusion, transparency, creativity and integrity,” Schutt recounted. “I was like, ‘These are words I use to describe myself.’ Is it exciting to find a place where I can really feel my core values align?”
Throughout the interview process, Schutt had a “good feeling” about college.
“I really felt that there were people here with a heart and a passion for students,” she explained.
Schutt holds a bachelor’s degree in English education from Upper Iowa State University, a master’s degree in teaching and social responsibility from Emporia State University in Kansas and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, and a PhD in Education and Human Resources from Colorado State University.
“I worked in student services most of my life,” she said. “The past seven years have been at a community college in Idaho, and last year I was accepted into the Aspen Rising Presidential Fellowship. … Each year they select 40 professionals who they believe will make good college presidents. It’s been quite an amazing experience to be in the same room with some of the greatest minds working in community colleges.
As she prepares for the role at GCC, Schutt said she relies on the “highlight” of her experiences.
“You can’t be so grounded in what’s happening in higher education that you forget what’s happening in the rest of the world,” Schutt said. “There are a lot of things going on and these are all stressors for our students. We must recognize that today’s students need a broad base of social support to succeed in the classroom. If you’re hungry or wondering where your bed will be tonight, it’s really hard to focus on the math.
To that end, she hopes to build on the work she has done at the College of Southern Idaho, where she most recently served as vice president of community and learning services. There, she made progress in increasing enrollment and retention, overseeing a 3% increase in enrollment in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a GCC press release.
“Like any community college, Greenfield is facing enrollment issues,” Schutt said. “When I talk about enrollment, I’m talking about enrollment and retention because if we can’t keep who we have, we can’t chase enrollment.”
The search for a new president was officially launched in October 2021 with notice to State Commissioner for Higher Education Carlos Santiago, according to Dan Desrochers, director of communications and marketing for GCC. Clare Higgins, chair of the 13-member presidential search committee, said Schutt was one of four finalists chosen from about 30 applicants who were carefully selected by an academic search company.
The four finalists were presented for a final round of interviews in May, and later that month the board voted to forward Schutt to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, which approved the selection in June.
Schutt said that over the past two weeks she has been working on understanding a new system, while getting to know the wider community.
“It was drastically different, but we found the people to be incredibly nice, warm and polite,” Schutt said of his family’s move to Massachusetts. “I love it and it makes us feel good about the decision we made.”