‘One Link Leads to the Next’: MCLA partnerships that benefit students, local business community

Did you know MCLA regularly lends its expertise to the Berkshire community, from college prep seminars to developing employment pipelines between the College and major local employers?

“It’s part of our mission,” said Dr. Joshua Mendel, MCLA’s director of corporate engagement and strategic partnerships. “We want to be able to support and educate our community in any way we possibly can—that’s part of the foundation of higher education.”

Mendel works with local business leaders, developing mutually beneficial partnerships that encompass faculty research and expertise, internship development and full-time employment, connecting students with Berkshire companies for academic research projects, and introducing local employees to higher education opportunities like MCLA’s graduate and certificate programs.

Wayfair info sessionHe also works on outreach for local public schools, working with local businesses and other colleges in the area to develop college planning and financial aid nights for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors and their parents. For example, Adams Community Bank has long worked with MCLA, Berkshire Community College, and Williams College on college prep workshops, including virtual workshops this past fall and spring featuring admissions and financial services staff. He also chairs the Aspiration Committee of the Berkshire Compact and the Berkshire STEM Network.

Since officially taking on the role in 2019, Mendel has arranged more than 100 meetings with Berkshire businesses. Before this role was created, ongoing partnerships existed, but “not with a formal process,” he said. “We weren’t going out and saying, ‘here’s what we have to offer.’”

This model also works on a smaller scale: Recently, Hoosac Valley High School needed help in its guidance department, since many high school students are behind in the college application process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. HVHS reached out to Mendel, who knew an MCLA education major interested in learning more about guidance counseling. “This was a nice way for her to do some career exploration,” he said.  

New programs include work with General Dynamics, introducing MCLA students to the company through a virtual session where executives and MCLA alumni working at GD gave an overview of their experiences, then highlighted available jobs and internships at the company. More than 50 students attended. “I know GD has been getting a lot of applications from them,” Mendel said. “It’s a good example of identifying a need, and how MCLA can partner with a business leader to meet that need.”

Similar sessions have been offered in partnership with Wayfair, United Aircraft Technologies, and Hillcrest Education Center, all based in Pittsfield. At the end of April, MCLA and Wayfair held a session covering employment opportunities; other sessions have been geared toward MCLA faculty and administration to learn about ways the College can partner with companies to offer research, expertise, internships, and student employment opportunities. “One link leads to the next,” Mendel said.