Dr. Noe Ortega, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, visited Springfield Technical Community College on Jan. 18 to address the Strategic Planning Task Force, tour the labs and speak to students.

Dr. Ortega shared his thoughts on what is important when putting together a strategic plan.

“You want to figure out how it begins to weave all the functionalities of an institution together to achieve certain outcomes that are part of the vision of the institution but expectations of the students, the communities you serve as well. That’s a really important challenge,” he said.

Dr. Ortega said in his career he has focused on figuring out how to give more attention to the public good outcomes of educational attainment. “Things that extend beyond simply just people who could go into the workforce,” he said.

“I think we’ve forgotten the role that public institutions play in society,” he said. “There’s a lot to be gained as a society by thinking collectively about the good of community.

Dr. Cook noted that STCC’s affordability addresses equity issues. More than 50 percent of the students are Pell Grant eligible, he said.  STCC is the most affordable higher education institution in the city of Springfield.

Dr. Winnie Hagan, Sr. Associate Commissioner for Strategic Planning & Public Program Approval, also addressed the Task Force and toured the campus.

After his talk with the Task Force, Dr. Ortega joined Miguel Maria, assistant dean of Student Initiatives, to meet with students, including members of the Male Initiative for Leadership Education (MILE). He answered questions and urged students to follow their own pathway, not someone else’s.

After the meeting with students, Drs. Ortega and Hagan visited the SIMS Medical Center where students in allied health program train. They also stopped by the Mechanical Engineering Technology lab in Springfield Tech Park. Professor Tom Minor described how students make parts on the computer numerical control (CNC) machines and showed them some of the precision tools available for students. He was accompanied by Lara Sharp, dean of the School of STEM.