Academics

PN disaster training Nov 7 2014Labouré College and Mount Wachusett Community College are partnering to support the continuing education of local nurses. The colleges have established a transfer agreement providing licensed practical nurses (LPNs) graduating from Mount Wachusett Community College a pathway to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Labouré College and obtain licensure as registered nurses.

Providing working nurses with a flexible, high-quality baccalaureate education has been the goal of Labouré College of Milton since the launch of its RN-BSN program in 2009. Labouré’s RN-BSN is offered in a hybrid format: courses are mostly online with two to three on-campus meetings per semester. Students find that this format provides the flexibility of online learning, while fostering important connections with their RN classmates as well as with their professors.

“A baccalaureate education builds on a strong nursing foundation and emphasizes leadership, critical thinking, and safe patient care. The BSN degree has become an entry level credential in many area hospitals, and we want to make sure our graduates have the chance for success,” said Al DeCiccio, Vice President of Academic Affairs for Labouré and a member of the team that orchestrated the agreement.

MWCC’s Practical Nursing certificate program provides short-term education leading to a rewarding healthcare career and prepares students to continue for a bachelor’s degree.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for graduates of our practical nursing program,” said Eileen Costello, Dean of MWCC’s School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences. “Mount Wachusett Community College encourages all of its graduates to participate in lifelong learning. By providing LPNs the means of obtaining RN licensure and a BSN degree though this articulation, we are supporting our state-wide initiative of seamless academic progression for nurses at all levels of education.”

The colleges will continue to review this collaboration annually to make sure the agreement benefits students. Both institutions have agreed to share data and to collaborate on new theories and best practices for student success.

To learn more about this agreement, please visit laboure.edu/academic-programs/articulation-agreements or call the Labouré College Office of Admissions at 617-322-3575 or admissions@laboure.edu, or contact the MWCC Office of Admissions at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

 

MWCC new student orientation 2016

President Asquino welcomes students during an orientation for new students on Sept. 1.

Mount Wachusett Community College students will begin the academic year amid a sea of change at the Gardner campus, following more than a year of construction and extensive renovations.

Approximately 950 new students got an early look at the campus’ transformation during day, evening and program-specific orientations held over the past week in advance of the new academic year, which begins Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Students will notice substantial changes to the Haley academic building and theater, as well as a new 44,000-square-foot science and technology building. The college will transition into the new building this month.

A majority of the new day students attended orientation on Thursday, Sept. 1, which included a half-day of seminars and other activities. MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino and college administrators greeted the incoming students and encouraged them to become involved with campus activities and to tap into college resources and services.

President Asquino emphasized that during their time at MWCC, students will be working in partnership with faculty and staff to reach their academic and career goals.

“Together, we want to make certain that you achieve that dream, that goal and that aspiration.”

The president also announced that plans are underway for construction of a new student center and repaving of the college’s driveways and parking lots. Both projects are in the planning stages with construction anticipated next spring summer.

“This is an incredibly exciting time to be at MWCC,” said Dean of Students Jason Zelesky. “These changes represent our commitment to excellence in education and meeting the needs of the students and communities that we work so hard to serve.”

Coordinated by the office of Student Life, the orientation sessions provide students with an opportunity to learn about college life and MWCC programs and activities. Students met with faculty, deans and advisors, toured the campus, received information about academic resources, and attended a student club expo.

Alberto Olivas, founding executive director of the Congressman Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service at Arizona State University, was the keynote speaker. Olivas, who also addressed faculty and staff, spoke on the importance of embedding civic engagement within classroom instruction in a way that allows students to make “connections between what they’re learning in the classroom and what is going on in the world and in their lives.”

 

 

MWCC STEM Starter Academy 2016

STEM Starter Academy students enrolled in Mount Wachusett Community College’s summer biology course Life Science for Allied Health, with Dean Janice Barney and Assistant Dean Veronica Guay, checked out the new science classrooms nearing completion at the Gardner campus.

MWCC’s third annual STEM Starter Academy came to a close in August, following a seven-week schedule that provided two free academic courses with textbooks, academic support, and a stipend for participants.

More than 30 students from throughout the region enrolled in one or two courses such as a four-credit lab science and one general elective. In addition to earning up to seven free credits toward their STEM Pathway, the students toured the college’s new science, technology, engineering and mathematics building, received presentations on STEM careers, and explored MWCC’s transfer opportunities for its graduates.

“We are excited to complete our third annual summer program for local learners pursuing a degree in STEM fields,” said Veronica Guay, Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics. “This summer’s Academy was outstanding. We nearly doubled the number of participants who attended in 2015 as the word is spreading about this amazing opportunity. Students have increased confidence in the areas of time management, study skills and ability to access to the college’s numerous student services. Some of the greatest areas of growth for the students include their interactions with college faculty, the willingness to access academic tutoring, and to assist one another and establish study groups. We are already looking forward to welcoming the summer 2017 STEM Starter Academy students!”

Funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the STEM Starter Academy is open to high school graduates or qualifying MWCC students who place into college-level English and math courses and are enrolling in one of MWCC’s STEM majors in the fall.

Qualifying MWCC STEM majors include analytical lab and quality systems, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, computer information systems, exercise and sports science, fire science technology, graphic and interactive design, interdisciplinary studies-allied health, medical laboratory technology, natural resources, physics, pre-engineering, and pre-pharmacy.

Courses offered during the summer academy included intermediate algebra, introduction to functions and modeling, life sciences for allied health, chemistry, statistics and introduction to psychology. In addition to the coursework, the students also participated in MWCC’s Summer Leadership Academy on Aug. 23 and 24.

“Our students have had an outstanding summer and are ready to continue their studies this fall with two courses already under their belt,” said Christine Davis, MWCC’s STEM Starter Academy recruiter. Students from approximately a dozen area towns enrolled in the rigorous program, and tackled classes in an accelerated format that will prepare them for their careers, she said.

Many of the academy students are also recipients of STEM SET scholarships at MWCC. These awards of up to $3,500 per year are available to qualifying STEM majors through a grant the college received from the National Science Foundation.

In another MWCC STEM program supported by the DHE this summer, nearly 40 high school seniors participated in a four-credit introduction to physical science course and toured the college’s new science and technology building that is nearing completion.

For more information, contact MWCC’s admission’s office at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

Project Healthcare students from Fitchburg and Leominster High Schools participate in an activity at the MIT museum

Project Healthcare students Rohanji Novas and Preya Patel from Fitchburg and Leominster High Schools participate in an activity at the MIT museum.

Incoming freshmen at Fitchburg and Leominster’s public high schools will have an opportunity to join a program administered by Mount Wachusett Community College that prepares students for careers in the healthcare field.

In November, MWCC was awarded a five-year, $2.25 million federal grant to create the Project Healthcare program in collaboration with Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, is helping to address a national initiative to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged healthcare providers by creating a high school-to-college pipeline of students who plan to enter the healthcare field. Health disparities – differences in health outcomes that are closely linked with social, economic, and environmental disadvantage – are often driven by the social conditions in which individuals live, learn, work and play. The workforce pipeline initiative aligns with federal initiatives to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, known as the HHS Disparities Action Plan.

The program provides counseling, coaching, field trips, guest speakers, and dual enrollment courses for up to 120 high school students. This spring, 98 students were recruited to participate in the program. In addition to continuing support for these students during the upcoming academic year, college administrators will recruit additional students from the class of 2020 to join the program.

“We were able to accomplish a lot in just the first six months of the program,” said Director Melissa Bourque-Silva of MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition. “I know that our hard working staff and productive partnerships will keep our students motivated to learn and grow. I’m very excited to see what this year will bring.”

Within five years, the two cohorts of students who entered ninth grade in fall 2015 and fall 2016 will graduate from high school prepared to enter MWCC’s Pre-Healthcare Academy. By the end of their second semester at MWCC, students will have completed 15 college credits. By earning dual enrollment college credits, students can complete a healthcare certificate program within the first year or two of college, and an associate degree within three years of entering college. Students are motivated to transfer to a four-year institution to continue with healthcare studies.

In addition to Bourque-Silva, MWCC educators Shaunti Phillips, Heidi Wharton and Train Wu serve as the program’s senior outreach specialists and career coaches.

This spring, during the school day and after school, students learned about career and college research with a healthcare focus, took field trips to healthcare facilities, participated in hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities, and heard from multiple guest speakers including doctors and nutritionists, Bourque-Silva said. This summer, several participants obtained their CPR certification.

“We are delighted to have six classes of such courses already scheduled during the school day, and we’re looking forward to having several more scheduled in the coming school year during after-school hours,” said Dr. Christopher Lord, Principal of Leominster High School. “This gives students an opportunity to get a taste of the rigors of college life while in high school,” he said.

“Our students are so fortunate to be participating in the Workforce Diversity Pipeline Grant with MWCC. At Fitchburg High School, we seek to prepare students for college preparation as well as the careers of the 21st Century,” said Principal Jeremy Roche. “Exposing our students to these kind of relevant, engaging and purposeful experiences in the health care fields is a tremendous opportunity and one that will hopefully reap benefits in the immediate school year, but more importantly, for years to come.”

First-year participants are reporting that the program has opened their eyes to the academic and career opportunities that will be available to them. “I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go to college,” one Fitchburg High School student noted. “But now since I have the opportunity, I want to.”

booksThe North Central Educational Opportunity Center (NCEOC) at Mount Wachusett Community College has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue providing adults in the region with comprehensive services to successfully transition to college or other postsecondary education.

MWCC was awarded $236,900 for the first year of a five-year grant totaling $1.18 million. The NCEOC, housed within MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, was created in 2002 through federal funding, with additional financial and in-kind support from the college.

Designed to provide support for first generation college students and those with income challenges, Educational Opportunity Center programs are one of the nationwide TRIO programs created through federal legislation more than 40 years ago.

The NCEOC program serves 1,000 adults from throughout North Central Massachusetts at MWCC’s Gardner and Leominster campuses. Two-thirds of the participants are low-income, first-generation college students.

“Using federal funds to partner with local institutions to address the needs of the region is a key tool in ensuring all people have the opportunity to pursue higher education,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-3).

“The significant return on these investments will have ongoing reverberations for many years to come, as more students are encouraged and able to complete their college careers and enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed. Mount Wachusett received these funds after a rigorous grant process, which speaks to both the quality of their application and the school in general. They exemplify the growing trend of Third District institutions becoming academic leaders in the Commonwealth. I look forward to seeing the far-reaching benefits take hold,” she said.

“A college education should be within reach for all who seek it. We must ensure that this applies to everyone regardless of age, income, or where they live. Whether it’s the hardworking parent who put off a college education in order to provide for their kids or someone who just never thought college was in the cards for them, it’s never too late,” Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) said. “With this grant, Mount Wachusett Community College will be able to continue the incredible work they’re doing to support lifelong learners and put a college education within reach for all Massachusetts residents. This is a smart investment that will help to lift families up and grow our whole economy.”

“We are grateful for the continued support of our Congressional delegation for this outstanding program, which has helped thousands of students over the past 15 years and, with this renewed funding, will continue to do so in the years ahead,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We also appreciate the many community agencies and organizations that partner with us on this initiative. We are all committed to student success.”

The North Central Educational Opportunity Center actively assists participants in the planning and implementation of a student learning plan, which may include high school equivalency preparation, English as a Second Language courses, technical or professional training and college courses.

The center provides free and confidential client-centered services in English and Spanish that are tailored to the learning needs of each participant, including assistance with applying to the public or private college, university or vocational school of their choice, applying for financial aid, and academic and career counseling.

As a federally funded program, the NCEOC assists area residents with their academic and career goals no matter where they want to go to school, whether it is Mount Wachusett, one of the state universities or a career training program. The program also provides services specifically designed for veterans and their dependents, as well as current military personnel.

UBMS 2016 Super Seniors

From left, Chandler Giuffre of Athol, Nathanial Gagnon of Winchendon and Sanjiv Sundaramurthy of Gardner, were among the area Upward Bound Math and Science students recognized for their academic achievements by MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition.

When Sanjiv Sundaramurthy heads off to the University of Arizona this fall to study physics, he’ll bring everything he needs for his dorm room, including first-hand experience with college life and free, transferable college credits toward his bachelor’s degree thanks to the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Mount Wachusett Community College. 

The 2016 Gardner High School graduate has just completed his second year in UBMS, a year-round federal TRIO program administered by Mount Wachusett Community College for Gardner, Athol and Winchendon students. 

More than two dozen high school students participated in the program’s six-week residential component, which took place this summer at Fitchburg State University and included academic courses, extracurricular activities, career exploration and field trips.

The students were recognized for their academic success during an awards ceremony on Aug. 4. Sundaramurthy was joined by Chandler Giuffre of Athol and Nathanial Gagnon of Winchendon as the event’s featured student speakers.

This fall, Gagnon, who has earned 30 college credits through UBMS, plans to continue his studies at MWCC before furthering his education in the field of biomedical engineering. Giuffre, who completed an associate degree in Liberal Arts – Pre-Engineering and Physics and earned his high school diploma this spring through MWCC’s Pathways Early College Innovation School, is transferring to UMass Lowell fall to continue studying physics and math. 

“UBMS is such a great program,” Giuffre said. “This program has allowed me to grow and develop into who I am today.” 

Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement, congratulated the students on their achievements and thanked the many parents and grandparents in attendance for the encouragement they’ve provided. 

The UBMS program is offered to students who have an aptitude for math and science and are in grades 9 through 12 at Gardner High School, Athol High School and Murdock Middle/Senior High School in Winchendon. Two-thirds of the students are from low income or first-generation college families and have an identified need for services. The supervised residential component acquaints students with campus life while providing an opportunity to grow academically, socially and culturally, said Angele Goss, Director of MWCC’s UBMS and North Central Mass Talent Search programs. 

The students attended workshops on leadership and careers, took part in a variety of recreational and educational programs and went on field trips to colleges, universities and museums. 

MWCC’s North Central Massachusetts Upward Bound Math and Science program began in 2008 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2012, the college received a five-year, $1.3 million grant to continue funding the program.

Signaling Success SummerUP 2016

Student participants in MWCC’s Educational Talent Search and North Central Massachusetts Talent Search programs recently joined peers on campus for Signaling Success training to enhance skills for success in work, school and life.

The U.S. Department of Education will award two grants totaling $573,600 to Mount Wachusett Community College through its Talent Search Program, Congressman Jim McGovern announced on July 21. The program supports efforts on campuses in Massachusetts and across the country to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in higher education.

“Every student deserves access to a strong education and the bright future it brings. These grants will provide a critical boost to the great work Mount Wachusett Community College is doing to help more students succeed and reach their full potential,” Congressman McGovern said. “Where you grow up should never limit your ability to go to college and pursue your dreams. These grants will help to open new doors of opportunity for so many students right here in Massachusetts. I am proud to support our local schools and look forward to seeing all the good this funding will do for our communities.”

“Community colleges play a vital role in our nation’s economy, and we are grateful for our Congressional delegation’s continued support of students who benefit from these TRiO programs,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “These two grants will serve nearly 1,200 students in area school districts, providing them with the support needed to be successful in middle school and high school, and ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of post-secondary education.”

Each grant is anticipated to be continued for a total of five years to support the program, which are administered through the college’s Division of Access & Transition.

MWCC’s long-running Talent Search program, now entering its 26th year, serves 695 students annually at the Longso and Memorial middle schools in Fitchburg, Fitchburg High School, Gardner Middle School, Gardner High School, Samoset and Sky View middle schools in Leominster, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation.

The North Central Massachusetts Talent Search program was launched in 2011 with a similar TRIO grant. The program is designed to prepare 500 students annually at Athol-Royalston Middle School, Athol High School, Clinton Middle School, Clinton High School, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange, Murdock Middle/High School in Winchendon and the Sizer School in Fitchburg.

The Talent Search program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants and encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education.

The program also publicizes the availability of financial aid and assist participant with the postsecondary application process. Talent Search also encourages persons who have not completed education programs at the secondary or postsecondary level to enter or reenter and complete postsecondary education. The goal of Talent Search is to increase the number of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete high school and enroll in and complete their postsecondary education.

For more information about MWCC’s Talent Search programs, click here.

 

booksMount Wachusett Community College is one of 67 colleges and universities selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the Second Chance Pell pilot program, which is part of a national effort aimed at reducing recidivism and strengthening communities by providing education and job training to eligible inmates.

The pilot program will allow 12,000 eligible incarcerated Americans at more than 100 correctional institutions in 27 states to receive Pell grants to pursue their education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support.

MWCC is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide academic programs to approximately 72 inmates at the North Central Correctional Institute in Gardner, the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Shirley, and the Federal Medical Center in Devens.

“The power of education to transform lives cannot be underestimated,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “In Massachusetts and across the country, more money is spent on incarcerating prisoners than is spent on public education. In the long run, society and taxpayers are better served by investing in programs that help people become contributing members of their communities.”

The Second Chance Pell pilot program is one of a series of federal education and jobs programs designed to prepare people who are returning from prison to the community with skills and resources necessary to obtain employment, support their families and contribute to society. It is geared toward prisoners who are likely to be released within the next five years.

“People who make mistakes and pay the price should have the opportunity to get back on their feet and contribute to their community,” Congressman Jim McGovern said. “Increasing access to education is one of the smartest things we can do to help these Americans get back on the right path. Education has the power to change lives and this program will help to build strong communities and give a second chance to all those who have earned it,” he said.

“I congratulate Mount Wachusett Community College for being selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the Second Chance Pell pilot program, a distinction that reflects Mount Wachusett’s commitment to empowering students from all backgrounds to pursue higher education and have access to greater opportunity,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “This initiative represents an important investment in expanded pathways to higher education and has the potential to make our communities safer, save taxpayers money, and transform lives.”

The U.S. currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people in American prisons and jails. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

“The evidence is clear. Promoting the education and job training for incarcerated individuals makes communities safer by reducing recidivism and saves taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement announcing the pilot program. More than 200 colleges and universities had expressed interest in the program.

“I applaud the institutions that have partnered to develop high-quality programs that will equip these students with invaluable learning. The knowledge and skills they acquire will promote successful reintegration and enable them to become active and engaged citizens.”

 

Gateway photo

Sharmese Gunn, left, MWCC Gateway to College Senior Resource Specialist, and Lea Ann Scales, right, Vice President of External Affairs, Community Relations and K-12 Partnerships, accept the Gateway Program Excellence Award from Emily Froimson, President of the Gateway to College National Network.

Mount Wachusett Community College has been recognized with a 2016 Gateway Program Excellence Award from the Gateway to College National Network.

The award honors MWCC for exceeding all four of the Gateway to College National Network’s performance benchmarks: grade point average, one-year persistence, two-year persistence and graduation rate. The award was presented June 28 during Gateway’s College Peer Learning Conference at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The Gateway to College program opens doors and provides a true second chance for students to achieve academic success,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are proud to partner with the Gateway national network in this transformative work, and are delighted to be recognized with this year’s program excellence award.”

MWCC’s Gateway to College program is a free, full-immersion dual enrollment program for Massachusetts students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or have experienced a setback in high school. The program, also available to home schooled students, provides motivated students a fresh chance to achieve academic success while getting a jumpstart on college. Established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, MWCC’s Gateway program is offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma as well as college credits toward an academic degree or certificate. All classes take place on MWCC’s campuses.

“Thanks to the hard work of MWCC’S Gateway to College team, our students exceeded all four national benchmarks,” said Lea Ann Scales, vice president of external affairs, communications and K-12 partnerships. “More importantly, this award recognizes the success our students and graduates are achieving.”

More than 40 communities across the country have implemented the Gateway to College model as a strategy to address the needs of many off-track and out-of-school youth.

“Mount Wachusett’s program, based on a strong partnership and shared vision with your school districts as well as exceptional program and college leadership – is poised to build on its successes and can serve as an example for the rest of our network,” stated Gateway to College National Network President Emily Froimson. “You have not simply made a difference for students in Gardner Massachusetts; the work that your school district and college partnership has accomplished is a model for how we solve these persistent problems as a nation.”

“A theme of the conference, establishing relationships with students, rings true with the students we serve at MWCC, which has made this award possible,” said Sharmese Gunn, senior resource specialist.

MWCC is currently enrolling Gateway to College students for the academic year that begins Sept. 6. Applicants must attend a two-day information session to be considered for the program. Upcoming information sessions will take place on July 20 and 22, Aug. 3 and 5 and Aug. 10 and 12. For more information about the program or to register for an information session, call 978-630-9248 or visit mwcc.edu/gateway.

MCO Award Pratt Santiago Levasseur

MWCC librarians Ellen Pratt, left, and Suzanne Levasseur received their Course of Distinction Award from Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago during the MCO annual conference.

In January 2001, shortly after attending a conference on tele-learning, Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel Asquino founded Massachusetts Colleges Online, which grew into a consortium of the state’s 15 community colleges and nine state universities.

In appreciation for his leadership, the consortium presented President Asquino with a Contributor of Distinction Award during its annual conference this spring at Greenfield Community College. MWCC librarians Ellen Pratt and Suzanne Levasseur were among the faculty members statewide to receive Course of Distinction Awards for their online courses.

More than 2,600 courses are offered through MCO. The Course of Distinction (COD) award is named after the Bay State’s unique association with the “Sacred Cod.” The award recognizes faculty from throughout the state who have developed and teach innovative and exciting online courses.

MCO Dan Vin Commissioner

President Asquino receiving his Contributor of Distinction Award from Dean Vincent Ialenti and Commissioner Carlos Santiago.

“Would an organization like MCO have been created without the leadership of Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel Asquino? Probably. Would it have happened so quickly? No way,” Vincent Ialenti, MWCC Dean of Academic and Institutional Technology, said in presenting the award. The president, who plans to retire in early 2017 after nearly 30 years at the helm of MWCC, was recognized for his role as the founder of Mass Colleges Online and for being one of its “greatest advocates,” Ialenti said.

Pratt, MWCC’s distance education and outreach librarian, and Levasseur, reference and instructional services librarian, were reconized for their Research Skills course, which introduces students to the skills necessary to write a college paper and develop critical thinking. More than 3,300 students have enrolled in their course over the past two years.