SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESEight recent graduates of Athol High School visited their alma mater to share advice with juniors and seniors about making the transition to college.

The annual Alumni Breakfast forum, held March 18 and sponsored by the high school guidance department and Mount Wachusett Community College’s Division of Access & Transition, covered a wide range of topics including selecting a school and a major, financing an education, study habits, course load, time management, dorm life and adjusting to roommates.

Pictured, front row, from left: Amber Young, a health sciences major at New England College, Devin Willard, a chemical engineering major at UMass Dartmouth and MaRyea Jennings, a business administration major at Mount Wachusett Community College. Back row, from left, MWCC Academic Counselor Steve Ringer; Jimmy Hughes, a business administration major at UMass Amherst and MWCC alumnus; Jamie Posk, an aviation major at Bridgewater State University; Ari Baker, a video game design major at Monteserrat College of Art; Brianna DeStefano a liberal arts major at MWCC; and Mark Batchelor, a history major at Salem State University.

nu-sealMount Wachusett Community College and Northeastern University have established a new transfer agreement that allows eligible MWCC graduates to seamlessly transfer associate degree credits into Northeastern University College of Professional Studies to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Northeastern University College of Professional Studies offers bachelor’s degree completion programs in fast-growing fields such as information technology, health management, biotechnology, and management, with robust academic, student, and career support resources to promote student success. Students will participate in experiential learning activities and projects throughout their studies. Details of specific transfer paths are being developed this spring between the two institutions for fall 2016 enrollment.

To be considered for this transfer, MWCC students must complete an associate degree with a strong academic record.

“We are delighted to partner with one of the country’s top universities to expand transfer options for our graduates,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This new partnership will open doors for our students, while demonstrating our shared commitment to making quality education accessible and affordable.”

“We look forward to welcoming students from Mount Wachusett Community College into a community of enterprising students focused on completing their studies and advancing in their careers”, said John LaBrie, Dean, College of Professional Studies. “And we’re pleased that this partnership reflects our shared goals of student-focused academic excellence.”

Northeastern University College of Professional Studies is one of nine colleges that form the university. Northeastern is renowned for experiential education, and the College of Professional Studies incorporates this strength in career-focused professional education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Degrees reflect business needs, the reality of the present economy, and areas of professional growth and demand.

Over the past half-century, Mount Wachusett Community College has built a tradition of providing innovative undergraduate education, workforce development, personal enrichment, and community service to North Central Massachusetts and beyond. MWCC offers more than 70 academic degree and certificate options and serves approximately 12,000 credit and noncredit students each year at its 269-acre main campus in Gardner and satellite campuses in Devens, Leominster and Fitchburg. An award-winning, national leader in the area of renewable energy and sustainability, MWCC is also nationally recognized for its veterans’ services, civic engagement and K-12 partnerships.


Leominster High School students joined peers from throughout the region at MWCC's annual Juniors Symposium.

Leominster High School students joined peers from throughout the region at MWCC’s annual Juniors Symposium.

Nearly 200 area high school juniors were welcomed to Mount Wachusett Community College’s annual Juniors Symposium this week to gain insight into applying to colleges and universities, seeking financial aid and scholarships, and related topics to help them succeed.

Over 90 juniors from Fitchburg, Athol, Murdock and Gardner high schools attended the half-day symposium on March 15, while another 90 students from Fitchburg, Leominster and Sizer high schools participated on March 17.

Pep rallies, led by MWCC Dean of Students Jason Zelesky and Stephanie Marchetti, student support specialist/academic counselor, served to inspire students with positive, relevant messages about the importance of education and pursuing one’s dreams. The students also attended a series of workshops.

The annual event is offered through MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition, which serves approximately 4,000 middle and high school students in the region.

“This was the most useful seminar I’ve ever been too,” said Leominster High School student Yasmin Yusif.

Fagan Forhan

Fagan Forhan

MWCC has appointed two staff members to key positions within the college’s Access & Transition division. Established by President Daniel M. Asquino nearly two decades ago, the division now serves 4,000 North Central Massachusetts middle and high school students annually through 18 distinct programs in partnership with a dozen area school districts.

Fagan Forhan of Lancaster has been appointed assistant dean of K-12 partnerships & civic engagement. For the past 10 years, she has worked to propel MWCC to the forefront of state and national civic engagement leadership, most recently as director of experiential learning opportunities and civic engagement and director of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

She has been responsible for the strategic direction and oversight of implementation for the Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement, which includes United Way Youth Venture of North Central Massachusetts, the Students SOS program, internships, service learning and career placement. In her new role, she will work to further incorporate civic learning into the K-12 partnership programs.

Forhan serves on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education’s study group on civic learning and is a member of the national steering committees for The Democracy Commitment and for the American Association for State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) Economic Inequality Initiative. She serves on the foundation board for the Sizer School in Fitchburg, and as advisor to MWCC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and the student club Otaku United.

Prior to joining MWCC in 2006, Forhan served for six years as chief of staff for former State Rep. Brian Knuuttila. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is pursuing a master’s degree in applied communications from Fitchburg State University.


Craig Elkins

Craig Elkins of Fitchburg has been promoted within the division to senior director of dual enrollment, assuming greater responsibility overseeing the college’s dual enrollment and early college initiatives. Over the past decade, Elkins has been committed to helping underrepresented youth from North Central Massachusetts achieve their educational goals through his service in local school districts as well as state and federally funded grant programs at MWCC.

As a first-generation college student, Elkins is aware of the challenges young people face as they work toward completing high school and earning college degrees. He works diligently to educate and mentor students and instill in them the skills necessary to be academically successful, engaged citizens and active community members.

Elkins received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Plymouth State University and a master’s of education degree in leadership and management from Fitchburg State University.

“We are delighted to announce these key leadership appointments to the enterprising division of Access and Transition,” said Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships. “Fagan and Craig both bring great energy, strategic thinking and a deep commitment to our K-12 partners and our region’s students.”


President Asquino & Deval Patrick Boston Foundation

Former Governor Deval Patrick presents the Boston Foundation’s Deval Patrick Award to President Asquino.

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced at a Boston Foundation forum Tuesday afternoon that Mount Wachusett Community College is the recipient of the 2016 innovation prize named for him.

The Boston Foundation created the Deval Patrick Award for Community Colleges in 2014 to recognize progress and excellence in establishing partnerships between employers and community colleges, in the process building effective career pathways for students from one of Massachusetts’ 15 Community Colleges.

The annual $50,000 award is given to a community college selected by a volunteer committee of representatives from the higher education, workforce and business communities.

“I’m particularly happy to award this year’s prize to Mount Wachusett Community College,” Gov. Patrick said, lauding the college’s manufacturing job training programs. “When I proposed changes to the way we think of community colleges, this is the type of outcome I had in mind.”

“During his time as Governor of Massachusetts and since his return to private life, Deval Patrick has always demonstrated a commitment to advancing and improving educational and career opportunities for all residents of the Commonwealth, but especially to those most in need,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation.

“In hosting and presenting the Deval Patrick Award, the Boston Foundation seeks to honor Governor Patrick’s passion and reiterate our own support for collaboration between the academic and business communities. Mt. Wachusett Community College’s unique job training programs demonstrate the high level of timely innovation called for by the Patrick Award.”

MWCC, which serves 4,700 credit students at its main campus in Gardner and satellite campuses in Devens, Leominster and Fitchburg, was selected for developing its Advanced Manufacturing Technology Programs – stackable programs in advanced manufacturing that address local employer training needs and provide for multiple entry and exit points. Interested students can take non-credit or credit classes that lead directly to employment opportunities, industry credentials, and a pathway for completing additional credit courses at the college. Over the past two years, 291 students have enrolled in the program.

“We are honored that the Boston Foundation has recognized the value of the opportunities we are offering our students,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are very fortunate to be working with industry partners to ensure we are providing employers with a trained and skilled workforce so that we can support and grow our regional economy.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Technology Programs offer four levels of training:

  • The six-week Industrial Readiness Training (IRT) that provides skills for entry-level employees in manufacturing and addresses workplace success (soft) skills, technical content, and numeracy/literacy.
  • The optional 40-hour Quality Systems Training (QST), which is offered as stand alone or in conjunction with the IRT, prepares students for American Society for Quality certification, and provides three credits for a college course. The QST employment placement rate exceeds 77%.
  • The one-year certificate in Mechatronics (Automation and Robotics) and a one-year certificate in Analytical Laboratory and Quality Systems.
  • And finally, the optional 2-year A.S. Degree in Manufacturing Technology – Plastics or a 2-year A.S. Degree in Biomanufacturing with a Quality concentration.

Several other speakers addressed the audience at the Patrick Award forum Tuesday, including Grogan; Massachusetts Secretary of Labor Ronald L. Walker; Joseph Fuller, Harvard Business School professor of Management Practice; Lane Glenn, President of North Essex Community College and president of the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office Council of Presidents; Bob LePage and Jeff Hayden from the Springfield Technical Community College/Holyoke Community College partnership; and Elizabeth Pauley, Boston Foundation Senior Director of Education to Career. Walker gave a talk titled, “The Economic Imperative,” followed by Fuller’s presentation, “Addressing the Job Skills Mismatch.” Fuller and Walker then discussed job creation together.

Over the past half-century, Mount Wachusett Community College has built a tradition of providing innovative undergraduate education, workforce development, personal enrichment, and community service to North Central Massachusetts, and beyond. Rooted in the community since 1963, the college now serves approximately 12,000 credit and noncredit students each year at its main campus in Gardner and satellite campuses in Devens, Leominster and Fitchburg. An award-winning, national leader in the area of renewable energy and sustainability, MWCC is also nationally recognized for its veterans’ services, civic engagement and K-12 partnerships. The college is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of some $1 billion. In 2015, the Foundation and its donors made more than $110 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of approximately $120 million. In celebration of its centennial in 2015, the Boston Foundation launched the Campaign for Boston to strengthen the Permanent Fund for Boston, Greater Boston’s only endowment fund supporting organizations focused on the most pressing needs of Greater Boston.  The Foundation is proud to be a partner in philanthropy, with nearly 1,000 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.

The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener and sponsor of special initiatives that address the region’s most serious challenges. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), an operating unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations around the globe. For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit or call 617-338-1700.

FHS hardhat tour of MWCC STEM building 1

Janice Barney, Dean of MWCC’s School of Business, Science, Technology and Math and Jon Wyman, Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management, led hard hat tours of MWCC’s new STEM building to approximately 90 area high school seniors.

Aspiring scientists, medical professionals, engineers and mathematicians were among the crowd of area high school students who attended Mount Wachusett Community College’s third annual STEM Awareness Day promoting academic programs and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Nearly 90 high school seniors from Fitchburg, Leominster, Oakmont, Montachusett Reginal Vocational Technical, Gardner, North Middlesex and Mahar high schools attended the half-day event on March 4. Activities included a hard hat tour of the college’s new STEM building, which opens this fall, an experiment creating DNA necklaces from their own saliva, an overview on healthcare careers and academic programs, and presentations on fire science technology, manufacturing, and college success.

Janice Barney, Dean of MWCC’s School of Business, Science, Technology and Math teamed up with Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management Jon Wyman to lead groups of students through the new building. The 44,000-square-foot addition to the main campus will house state-of-the-art classrooms and science laboratories that will be central to academic programs such as allied health, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, medical laboratory science, computer information systems, natural resources, nursing, physical therapist assistant, physics and pre-engineering.

Oakmont students Erin Theriault and Teddy Doucette

Oakmont Regional High School seniors Erin Theriault and Teddy Doucette wait for a strand of their DNA to appear in a test tube during Mount Wachusett Community College’s third annual STEM Awareness Day.

While cycling through the stations, many of the students shared their excitement and experiences through social media, posting photos and comments on Twitter using the college’s #MWCC hashtag and the event hashtag #takeiton.

That’s how Twitter followers learned that Oakmont senior Jon Chernock will graduate high school this spring with a full year of college courses already completed as a dual enrollment student at MWCC. “I’ll have one year of classes done, then complete my degree in physics at MWCC before transferring to UMass to major in physics,” he said.

In addition to showcasing academic and career opportunities, the event served to raise awareness about the college’s STEM Starter Academy, funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, and the STEM SET scholarship program, funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The college is currently recruiting students for its seven-week STEM Starter Academy summer program, which begins July 5. Participating students will receive up to two free college courses, textbooks, up to $1,200 in stipends, academic support and tutoring, and will attend industry field trips and MWCC’s Summer Leadership Academy.

MWCC’s STEM Starter Academy students have gone on to transfer to public and private colleges and universities to continue on for their bachelor’s degrees, including Carnegie Melon, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Massachusetts campuses, MCPHS University, and others.

For more information about the STEM Starter Academy and academic programs at MWCC, visit or contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or







Four MWCC Upward Bound Math and Science students took part in a regional conference focused on helping students access college and reach their academic goals.

The students attended a series of workshops on planning and preparing for college, toured of area colleges, participated in a variety of activities, had the opportunity to meet Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, and made the local news.

Jon “Jay” Pereira, a student at Murdock Middle High School in Winchendon, Kyle Woodward, a student at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, MWCC student Natasha LeDoux and Athol High School student Amber Vieu joined hundreds of their teen-aged peers from around New England for the annual TRIO day sponsored by the New England Educational Opportunity Association (NEOA) Feb. 17 – 19 in Burlington, Vermont.

“Knowing how to deal with scholarships and all the finances and what I should expect for interest and all that stuff… that’s what really, really got to me,” Pereira commented to a television news reporter. (View the clip here).

Mount Wachusett Community College’s UBMS program is offered to students 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. UBMS is one of the nationwide TRIO programs created through federal legislation over 50 years ago and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Cathy TeagueMWCC is offering free workshops this spring for adult learners interested in earning a college degree.

The  Adult College Experience (ACE) program features hands-on workshops designed to guide adult learners through the steps of applying for college and financial aid, selecting courses, managing coursework and balancing school with work and family life. Participants attending all four workshops will be eligible to win a free, three-credit course.

“Each year, millions of adult students return to college to expand their career options, change careers, or fulfill a long-held dream of earning a degree. We developed the ACE program at Mount Wachusett to provide students with a roadmap to follow to make their transition to higher education as seamless as possible,” said Marcia Rosbury-Henne, Dean of Admissions and Enrollment.

The four-session ACE program, geared toward adult learners age 24 and above, begins Thursday, March 17 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. with the workshop “Beginning Your College Journey.” During this workshop, students will be admitted to an academic program for the summer or fall 2016 semesters. This workshop will also include a session on accessing library and academic support, as well as a panel presentation by MWCC alumni who returned to college as adult learners balancing work, family and studies.

The second session, “Navigating the ‘Net for College Success,” will take place Thursday, March 24 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Participants will learn about digital tools, including iConnect and Blackboard, that connect to courses, faculty and campus resources. Students will learn about the components of their financial aid package, including knowing the difference between loans, grants, scholarships and work study aid, and receive assistance completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

The session, “Foundations for Success,” will take place Thursday, March 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to take their Accuplacer placement test, review previous college transcripts with an advisor, and plan their academic path.

The series concludes on Thursday, April 7 with the session “Build Your Future from 5:30 to 7 p.m. During this final session, students will register for fall semester courses. The session will end with a pizza party celebration and a drawing for a free, three-credit course.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment of students age 25 and above increased by 42 percent between 2000 and 2010 and is predicted to increase by another 20 percent by 2020. In comparison, enrollment of college students age 24 and under increased by 34 percent between 2000 and 2010, and is expected to increase 11 percent by 2020.

To register for MWCC’s free ACE program, contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or email Registration can also be completed online at

MWCC offers over 70 associate degree and certificate programs, transfer agreements with public and private colleges and universities for students continuing on for a bachelor’s degree, adult basic education/HiSET programs, industry and technology training, and personal enrichment programs. The college is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and other industry-specific accrediting organizations. Amenities for students and the public include the Fitness & Wellness Center, Theatre at the Mount, and the LaChance Library.


STEM Starter Summer Academy photo 3 Ifra and Marissa

MWCC students Ifra Hassan and Marissa Pitisci were among the participants in last year’s free STEM Starter Academy summer program.

Aspiring scientists, engineers and mathematicians interested in high tech careers are invited to attend Mount Wachusett Community College’s third annual STEM Awareness Day on Friday, March 4 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Activities include an experiment capturing DNA, a hard hat tour of MWCC’s new STEM building and presentations on fire science technology and healthcare careers. A free lunch is provided.

The half-day program showcases Mount Wachusett’s STEM Starter Academy, which is offered through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. MWCC is recruiting 30 students for the summer academy, which provides two free college courses, textbooks, up to $1,200 in stipends, academic support and tutoring. Participants also attend industry field trips and MWCC’s Summer Leadership Academy.

Now in its third year at MWCC, the STEM Starter Academy aims to inform, engage, recruit, retain and graduate students and provide pathways that lead to job placements or transfer to higher level STEM programs.

The seven-week academy is open to recent high school and home school graduates and adult learners who place into English Composition and Intermediate Algebra or higher, and enroll in one of MWCC’s STEM programs in the fall 2016 semester. Qualifying STEM majors include interdisciplinary studies – allied health, medical laboratory technology, natural resources, physics, pre-engineering. pre-pharmacy, analytical lab and quality systems, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, computer information systems, exercise and sports science and fire science technology.

The summer academy runs weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 5 to Aug. 18 at MWCC’s Gardner campus. Students will also participate in the college’s 12th Annual Summer Leadership Academy on Aug. 23 and Aug 24.

“We are excited to once again offer the STEM Starter Academy to local learners pursuing a degree in STEM fields,” said Veronica Guay, Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics. “Summer participants will enter the fall semester with seven college credits, money in their pockets and be well on their way to obtaining their degree.”

Computer Information Systems major Marissa Pitisci of Barre, who participated in the academy last summer, said the program helped her become “a well-rounded student” by providing fast-paced, rigorous courses, volunteer experience, time management skills, and an opportunity to meet and work with like-minded peers.

“The educational field trips to Harvard Medical School, Abbvie Labs in Worcester, and the Museum of Science in Boston were a unique way to show some of the many possibilities you have with a STEM degree,” said Pitisci, who was inducted into the Alpha Beta Gamma and Phi Theta Kappa international honor societies this past fall.

“The interesting lectures from professors, doctors and scientists reassured us that not knowing what direction you want to go in is perfectly fine. We talked about some unique career paths for everyone to consider.”

In addition, to the STEM Starter Academy, STEM majors at MWCC may qualify for an annual $3,300 STEM SET scholarship, available through a grant the college received from the National Science Foundation.

For more information visit or contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFollowing academic and career pursuits that have taken her to three continents, educator and anthropologist Dr. Laurie Occhipinti has returned to her native Massachusetts as Mount Wachusett Community College’s new Dean of Liberal Arts, Humanities, Education, and Communications.

“It is a pleasure to welcome Dr. Laurie Occhipinti to Mount Wachusett Community College to lead our School of Liberal Arts, Humanities, Education, and Communications,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “Dean Occhipinti brings experience in academic leadership and teaching, a solid understanding of the value of civic engagement to society and great enthusiasm during this period of growth at MWCC. The liberal arts are essential to a holistic education, providing students of all academic disciplines with critical thinking skills and a core knowledge of the world around them.”

Prior to joining MWCC in January, Dr. Occhipinti served as an assistant dean and professor of anthropology at Clarion University in Clarion, PA. At MWCC, she fills a position previously held on an interim basis by Dr. Vincent Ialenti, Dean of Academic and Institutional Technology.

A native of Beverly and a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Dr. Occhipinti said she is excited to join MWCC. Her first priority is to get to know the college, students and faculty.

“I come with a blank sheet of paper. I want to know what’s important to others,” she said. “I am really committed to public education. It plays a critical role and opens up opportunity for everyone. Community colleges have a particularly special role in that.”

Dr. Occhipinti joined Clarion University, a public institution, in 2003 as an assistant professor of anthropology and was subsequently promoted to associate professor and full professor. In addition to working on program development and assessment for the anthropology program, she served as coordinator of the university’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies program and as vice chair and chair of the university’s faculty senate. In 2014, she was appointed assistant dean of the College of Arts, Education and Sciences, where she was responsible for student advising, transfers, graduation and curriculum.

Prior to joining Clarion, she worked as a lecturer for three years at Northeastern University in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She previously taught at Salem State University and McGill University, and worked for the American Anthropological Association as an assistant with its Association for Feminist Anthropology.

Much of her research has focused on poverty and economic development; the role of religious organizations in combatting poverty; creating meaningful and sustainable service projects; and the impact of volunteerism on volunteers. Her field work and professional travel have brought her to Argentina, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador.

Among her many publications, she is the author of Making a Difference in a Globalized World: Short Term Missions that Work; Faith-Based Organizations and Development in the Handbook on Religions and Global Development; and Liberating development: Religious transformations of development discourse.

Dr. Occhipinti earned her Ph.D. and master’s degree in anthropology from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She lives in Salem with her husband and their son.