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MCLA Announces 2024 Commencement Speaker and Honorees
12:22PM / Saturday, February 24, 2024
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The keynote speaker at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' 125th commencement exercises will be Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.
This year's commencement will be held Saturday, May 11, at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts sits on the ancestral land of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.
In addition, MCLA will confer honorary doctorates to four individuals: President Holsey, state Sen. Paul Mark, Mass Humanities Executive Director Brian Boyles and former president and CEO of Child Care of the Berkshires Anne Nemetz-Carlson. 
"I am excited to have Shannon Holsey as the keynote speaker for this year's Commencement," said MCLA President James F. Birge. "Her dedication to community service, leadership, and advocacy for Native American rights aligns with our commitment to producing well-rounded, socially conscious graduates. I look forward to the inspiration and wisdom she will undoubtedly share with our graduating class."
Shannon Holsey
Holsey will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters recognizing her leadership and commitment to the well-being of her community that has earned her three terms as president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band, following her eight years as a member of the Tribal Council. Raised on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation in Bowler, Wis., Holsey has dedicated herself to ensuring the tribe serves as responsible stewards of economic, environmental, cultural, and intellectual resources.
She also serves as the president of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, which represents 12 member tribes across 45 counties with a land base of about 1 million acres. She is an appointee to the Wisconsin State Legislature's Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations and holds numerous positions on various councils and committees, showcasing her commitment to advocating for Native American rights and well-being.
Holsey's professional background is as diverse as her leadership roles. She was the director of hospitality at the North Star Mohican Casino, the Stockbridge-Munsee's primary gaming facility and revenue source. Her experience also includes a time as executive director of Red Lake Nation Boys & Girls Club, general manager of Pine Hills Golf Course, and interim director of education, employment and training, and cultural affairs for the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe. Holsey was also chosen as an Electoral College representative to vote for the president of the United States in 2016.
Holsey's philosophy on leadership is deeply rooted in fostering the growth of Native American economies, preparing students for success, delivering high-quality health care, protecting the environment, upholding tribal sovereignty, and addressing the unique challenges faced by tribal communities.
She holds a bachelor's degree in business administration magna cum laude and a master's degree in strategic leadership and communication from Seton Hall University, as well as a master's degree in human resources and employment relations from Penn State University.
"President Holsey is an impressive selection for the 2024 commencement keynote speaker and honorary doctorate nominee," said MCLA Trustees Chair Brenda Burdick. "We are thrilled to honor her and the three other outstanding individuals at our 125th commencement for their contributions to the commonwealth and the Berkshires."
Sen. Paul Mark

State Sen Paul Mark
Sen. Paul Mark will receive a Doctor of Public Service. He represents 57 cities and towns of the Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Hampshire District, the largest legislative district in the history of Massachusetts. Mark serves as chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, vice chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation and of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, and as a member of the Joint Committees on Higher Education; Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy; Children and Families; Veterans and Federal Affairs; and Advanced Information Technology. Before being elected to the Senate in 2022, he served for 12 years in the House of Representatives as state representative for the 2nd Berkshire District.
Since taking office, Mark has advocated for increased public higher education funding and greater access to a college education, student debt relief, and additional funding for vocational programs across our state; as well as Medicare for all, transformative solutions to combat the climate crisis while providing good paying jobs for our communities and ensuring that Western Mass has access to affordable transportation and high-speed broadband internet infrastructure.
Before running for office, Mark was employed as a splice-service technician at Verizon Communications for more than 10 years. He was an active member of the IBEW labor union, of which he remains a dues-paying member, and held many union offices throughout his tenure at the phone company. He earned several college degrees, studying at night and on weekends while working full time and commuting across the state. Mark holds an associate degree in telecommunications from Springfield Technical Community College, a bachelor's degree in economics and finance from Southern New Hampshire University, a master's degree in labor relations studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a law degree from Suffolk University Law School, and a doctorate in law and policy from Northeastern University. He has been admitted to practice as an attorney in Massachusetts since 2009. He has also been an adjunct professor at MCLA since 2018, teaching political science, government, history, and law.
Anne Nemetz-Carlson

Anne Nemetz-Carlson
Nemetz-Carlson will receive Doctor of Humane Letters. She was the president and CEO of Child Care of the Berkshires for 39 years, from 1983 to 2022. She holds a master's degree in early childhood management and a bachelor's degree in American studies from the University of Michigan. After college, Nemetz-Carlson was a Peace Corps volunteer on the small island of Ebeye in the Marshall Islands, teaching English as a second language in a small private elementary school.
Before joining CCB, Nemetz-Carlson worked as a teacher, an education specialist, and a child-care program director. She taught curriculum, programming for infants and toddlers, and child care administration courses as an adjunct professor in early childhood education and management at MCLA, Berkshire Community College and the former Southern Vermont College.
Under her leadership, Child Care of the Berkshires increased in size and added a wide variety of key programming to improve the lives of children and their parents. Nemetz-Carlson oversaw the addition of the Healthy Families Program, the Williams College Children's Center, the Parenting Partnership Program, the ParentChild+ Early Literacy Program, the Family Net/Resource Center, and the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. She coordinated a major renovation and improvement project of the 100-year-old Sarah T. Haskins School, CCB's headquarters, meeting the promises to make the facility safe, inviting, and accessible to all.
Her volunteer work includes nine years on the former Williamstown Elementary School Committee. She is an advocate of high-quality early education, serving on the Massachusetts Association of Early Education & Care board and as a member of the MA Early Childhood Funders Collaborative.
In 2016, Nemetz-Carlson received the Frances Litman Award from the MA Children's Trust, recognizing her commitment and leadership in family support programming. She was also recognized with the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women's Commonwealth Heroine Award in 2020 and the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires' Lifetime Achievement Award in 2023.
Brian Boyles

Brian Boyles
Boyles will also be awarded a Doctor of Humanities. Prior to his role as executive director at Mass Humanities, he was director of the Louisiana Humanities Center where he created programs, traveling exhibitions, and publications as a way to repair and renew dialogue in post-Katrina New Orleans. He was the publisher of 64 Parishes, LEH's award-winning quarterly, and "New Orleans and the World: 1718–2018," an anthology commissioned by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
His first book, "New Orleans Boom and Blackout," explores the conflict, ambitions, and secret histories of post-Katrina New Orleans as it prepared for the 2013 Super Bowl. It was selected as the citywide read in 2015.
Boyles joined Mass Humanities as its executive director in 2018. During his tenure, Mass Humanities has grown its impact as a grant maker focused on supporting grassroots organizations, delivering more than $7.7 million in direct funding to nonprofits across Massachusetts. With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Mass Cultural Council, Mass Humanities delivered more than $3 million in pandemic recovery grants.
Boyles is a native of Pittsburgh. He graduated from Tulane University and began his career working in publishing at Simon & Schuster. He and his partner have two young children together.
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