Member Spotlight: Q&A with MCPHS

Mar 04, 2024

Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and its efforts in advancing the life sciences industry and supporting the patients we serve. In March, we profile the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and speak with Carol Stuckey, the dean of the School of Professional Studies. As dean, Carol Stuckey is helping MCPHS bring its vast education offerings to adult learners and working professionals.

The following is an edited version of the conversation between MassBio CEO and President Kendalle Burlin O’Connell and Dean Carol Stuckey. The interview was recorded in late February 2024.

I’m excited to be here celebrating our March member spotlight and I’m thrilled to be joined by Carol Stucky from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). Carol is the dean of the School of Professional Studies. She works to make sure that students, no matter what they’ve got going on in their life, can take advantage of their incredible array of educational opportunities. So, Carol, tell us a little bit about the school and what your specific role is.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to be here. A lot of people don’t realize that MCPHS has been around for 200 years. We’re celebrating our bicentennial this year, and we started out as a school of pharmacy, which I think is sort of what people think of us as. But that’s actually only about a third of what we do. Over time, we’ve added programs in pre-med, in pre dental, and a P.A. in nursing, and we have a lot already in the life sciences. We’re adding on programs in biotechnology. So we have really grown to address the full spectrum of health care and life sciences.

We have about 6,000 students that are in our degree programs. And what is unique about us is our level of diversity. So over 60% of our students in those programs identify as nonwhite. And then, as you mentioned, I’m the dean of the School of Professional Studies. And so that’s an additional 3,000 students that we have, and that is really focused on expanding the reach of education to those who don’t have the ability to study full-time on campus. So that can be with noncredit programming, certificate programs, degree programs, etc.

And we’re on three campuses. Our main campus is in downtown Boston. But we also have a very large presence in Worcester, which is a growing biotech area, and then also a smaller campus in Manchester, New Hampshire. We’re right on Longwood Avenue in Boston. Our students are able to take advantage of a lot of internship and research opportunities, really just half a block down the street.

You talked about your certificate programs a little bit. Can you tell our community about how you’re working with some of our member companies on certificate programs?

We have been doing a lot of work with corporate partners, your member companies. And some of them come to us for things like specialized degree programs. For instance, we’re working with a large pharmaceutical company that sends a cohort of students through our regulatory affairs degree program every year, and they use that as a retention program. They identify top performers and send them through in a cohort as a way to kind of recognize their high potential.

One of the things that we’ve heard a lot from your member companies is that they’re struggling with employee retention. And so we have been working hard to design new programming around that. We have a program launching this year in the School of Professional Studies that’s a noncredit intensive program for managers to think about how they are able to retain their employees and some strategies to do that because it is a very competitive job market right now.

Let’s talk Bioversity. MCPHS is the curriculum partner at Bioversity, our workforce training center. Can you tell us a little bit more about the curriculum and what you’re offering to students who go through Bioversity?

We’re very excited to be a part of this program. From the get go, I think everyone at MassBio and Bioversity has such an enthusiasm and a passion for what you all are trying to accomplish, that we instantly knew we wanted to be a part of that. And with the curriculum, what we’ve been able to do is work with our faculty members to design education and training around lab skills specifically … training towards lab operations, lab administrative roles. Along with that, we’re folding in a lot around communication skills because that is the big one for employers, making sure that these folks have strong writing skills, strong speaking skills, that they can explain what they’re doing and why. And then there are some of those skills around Excel training and presentation skills, those sorts of things, and just generally getting them up to speed on the professional environment and what it means to be part of a lab and part of an office and part of a company.

I have to say, Carol, you and the team were so incredible. You sat down, you met with representatives from so many of our member companies, and you built this curriculum in a truly responsive way. You heard what companies were looking for, both as you said with the soft skill piece, with the hands-on training piece and this whole curriculum you and the team have built in a totally responsive way. I think companies can feel really good that graduates who are coming out of biodiversity are well trained and well prepared for those entry-level positions at our member companies.

That’s exactly right. I mean, the students in our first cohort that’s wrapping up here are just amazing. I’ve been blown away by their hard work, their inquisitiveness, their passion for science. They have overcome tremendous adversity, and they would be an asset to any company. I wish I could hire them all to work at MCPHS. It’s been really rewarding in that way. It’s exciting to come to work and see students who just want to learn and they soak up everything that any of our instructors have to offer.

Let’s talk life sciences a little bit more, because I know that the school has invested a lot in this area. Can you tell us about those programs and what you’ve added there?

One of the ways that your member companies might know MCPHS the best is through our biopharmaceutical fellowship program, where we place postdoctoral fellows into a range of the biggest biopharma companies here in Boston. We have about 100 fellows in that program. It’s one of the largest fellowship programs in the nation, and those fellows are spread across 15 companies in the Boston region.

We’re getting ready to launch this fall a new bachelor’s program in biotech, which we’re very excited about. We’ve also, in our School of Healthcare Business and Technology, brought up a number of new programs in the data science area that, again, sort of match what the employers have been telling us that they’re looking for. And then in the coming year, we’re going to be increasingly ramping up our ability to do these custom programs where we’re working with employers, building out our executive education offerings specifically for life sciences and biotechs.

I think one of our strengths to them is our ability to connect with employers, to hear what they’re saying, and to adapt what we’re offering as close to real-time as we can.

What’s one thing you want to leave our membership community with?

What I would like to say to the members is remember MCPHS. If you are struggling with a workforce challenge, whether that’s entry level all the way up to executives, we have the ability to listen to your needs and to design programing that can help with that.

Thank you for everything that you are doing to train our future workforce. You’re an institution here in Boston, and we’re thrilled to have you as our March member spotlight.

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