New positions will enhance connectivity between College and area’s employment needs

March 12, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announces that President James F. Birge has been appointed to the 1Berkshire Board of Directors and the Lever Board of Directors. His participation on these two boards augments the College’s outreach to the greater community as MCLA continues to maintain and expand vital connections throughout the Berkshires.

Birge said he is delighted to join the 1Berkshire and Lever boards as they, along with MCLA, work to elevate economic growth all over the region.

“I look forward to working with 1Berkshire and Lever to gain further insight on how we might best prepare our students to fill positions across the Berkshires,” Birge said. “Listening to those who live and work here is of utmost importance as MCLA sends an increasing number of students throughout the region to serve internships, and to find employment upon their graduation from the College.

“My participation on both boards no doubt will enhance the ongoing conversations that I have been having with area business leaders and community members since I arrived in North Adams two years ago. I am excited to be a part of this exciting endeavor with Lever and 1Berkshire,” Birge said.

Over the past year, MCLA added a number of new degree programs to support the needs of Berkshire County employers, such as Berkshire Medical Center (BMC). They include a Health Sciences major and a Community Health Education major.

MCLA is the first public institution in the Commonwealth to offer the new Health Sciences major, which will prepare students to pursue advanced study in a variety of health fields. It offers concentrations in pre-physician assistant, pre-physical therapy, pre-occupational therapy, and in medical technology. And, students who graduate with a concentration in MCLA’s new electrical engineering program will be prepared to support employment needs for new, as well as more established technology-based companies, such as General Dynamics.

The Community Health Education major addresses a growing, local demand for health care educators.

As the 1Berkshire Board seeks to draw increased numbers of tourists to visit our cultural community, MCLA’s new programs in its Department of Fine and Performing Arts – which include concentrations in design and studio art, and minors in dance, design, and music production  –  will further support businesses and venues dedicated to the arts.

"It's an honor to have President Birge joining our Board of Directors at 1Berkshire,” said Jonathan Butler, president and chief executive officer of 1Berkshire. “The College has been a tremendous partner and truly acts as one of the economic engines for the region. Having Dr. Birge at the table will only enhance opportunities for deeper connectivity and stronger partnerships between MCLA and the business community."

The recent addition of MCLA’s entrepreneurship minor complements the work done at Lever, which helps to launch startups in the region. Lever offers its incubation services to MCLA student teams who participate in MCLA’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge. “We enjoy working with entrepreneurial MCLA students,” said Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas. “The liberal arts experience is a terrific preparation for entrepreneurs, and MCLA’s entrepreneurship curriculum enhances that.”

As the official Regional Economic Development Organization and Regional Tourism Council, 1Berkshire assists people in becoming part of the dynamic Western Massachusetts region. 1Berkshire was created in June 2016 by a merger of four countywide economic development organizations: The Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and the Berkshire Creative Economy Council.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

For more information, go to