Alumni Stories

MWCC nurse trip to Haiti Jan 2016A weeklong medical mission in Haiti gave a team of Mount Wachusett Community College students and faculty a close-up look at poverty in one of the world’s poorest countries, and an opportunity to do something about it.

The students and educators traveled to Fonfred, Haiti in January with MWCC nursing alumna Paula Mulqueen, who with her husband, Dr. John Mulqueen, founded the nonprofit Forward in Health to bring much-needed medical care to the Les Cayes region of Haiti. This past fall, the Gardner couple’s dream came to fruition when its Fonfred Klinik opened its doors after more than a decade of fundraising, construction and medical missions in temporary clinics.

The MWCC volunteers included nursing students Cassandra Pateneaude, Amy Moisan and Jessica Lugudde; Interdisciplinary Studies – Health majors Tiffany Cunningham and Isabella Smith; nursing professors Katherine Pecorelli and Donna Tully, and Marianne Stoy, administrative assistant for MWCC’s School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences. This is the second consecutive year that Paula Mulqueen, a 1994 graduate of MWCC’s nursing program, brought a group from her alma mater.

While in Haiti, the MWCC team of volunteers helped organize supplies at the Fonfred Klinik, with assistance from University of Massachusetts Lowell civic engineering students and other volunteers. They toured the region’s nursing school and taught multiple classes of CPR. They also held a mountain clinic where they assessed approximately 100 patients, visited an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, and provided children with lessons on health and dental hygiene. Professors Pecorelli and Tully also led a discussion on depression and treatment with nurses and a doctor at the clinic.

Without access to health care, even the most common of ailments than can be cured with over the counter medicines in the U.S. can become full-blown health issues in Haiti when left untreated, such as respiratory illness and skin infections. Klinik Fonfred is a primary care clinic providing life-saving healthcare to a community of 18,000 poor adults and children from birth through adulthood in the Fonfred area.

 

MWCC PN pinning Dec 15 2015Forty-two Mount Wachusett Community College students were welcomed into the nursing profession during a traditional pinning ceremony on December 21.

“As you graduate and take on new challenges, it is important to remember that you have already taken the initial step you needed to build a more promising future,” keynote speaker Michelle Humphrey, RN, a 2006 alumna of the program, told the graduates. “Every class you’ve taken, every lab, paper and certification you’ve earned, have all been preparing you to adapt to change and future challenges. The most powerful tool you will have is the determination to succeed, which has taken you through this program and culminated in this pinning.”

Like many of the graduates, Ms. Humphrey began her healthcare career as a nurse assistant, before becoming a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After earning an associate degree in nursing, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating with honors. She was consecutively promoted to her present position, director of nursing services, for Genesis Healthcare’s Pheasant Wood Center and Keene Center in New Hampshire.

“This program brought enormous good into my life, the opportunity to build a career, financial security for my family and a job where I positively impact people every single day,” she said.

Robert LaBonte, Vice President of Finance and Administration, congratulated the students on behalf of the college and President Daniel M. Asquino, and Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences, delivered greetings from the academic school.

Graduates Leslie Jele, Barbara Avila and Melissa Gonzalez delivered student addresses, and classmates Rebecca Beirholm, Cynthia Riley, and Terri Stewart led the lighting of the lamp and the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her or his lapel by a fellow nurse – a family member, friend or faculty member. MWCC’s eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle. Professors Kathleen Panagiotes, Kimberly Shea and Collene Thaxton led the ceremony, which took place at the Colonial Hotel while renovations at the MWCC’s Green Street campus continue.

As part of the one-year academic program, the students trained with professionals at 23 clinical sites that partner with the college, including Athol Hospital; Clinton Hospital; Community Health Connections; DaVita Dialysis Center; Gardner Public Schools, Gardner Rehabilitation & Nursing Center; Golden Living Center; GVNA Health Care, Inc. – Fitchburg, Gardner and North Quabbin; Habit OPCO; Heywood Hospital MHU/GPU; Heywood Hospital Maternity Center; HealthAlliance, Leominster Birthing Center; Leominster Public School District; Life Care, the Highlands; Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Clinic; Quabbin Valley Health Care; St. Peter-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School; St. Vincent Hospital, Seven Hills Pediatric Center; Stetson School; and Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital.

 

 

ECE alumni event Nov 2015MWCC’s Early Childhood Education program recently hosted its fourth annual alumni event at the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education. It was an evening full of friendship, inspiration, and networking. More than 80 current students, faculty, staff, Garrison teachers, alumni and their families attended the Seuss-inspired event.

Alumni events, such as this one, are an important opportunity for current students to make connections with alum who may work in the field.

“These connections not only provide career opportunities but more importantly, set the foundation for a supportive network” said current student Andrea Bartlett.

Emily Wuoti, a December graduate and Leadership in Early Childhood Education student, spearheaded this year’s event. “I wanted to create an event to help inspire current students who are new or may be doubtful that this is the right field for them.” She invited alumni to share their success stories about their journeys and offer advice to current students who may not know where their journey will take them.

This particular event posed a question to all who were involved: Where do you see yourself going from here?

“This was a great opportunity to really think about goals and plans” said current student Kelly Winship.

Additionally, Student Life Coordinator Sandy Arsenault, a long-time friend of the Early Education Club, was honored at the event.

MWCC Early Childhood Education faculty Dr. Rosanne Morel, Dr. Maryann Kane and Professor Maureen Provost “are so very proud of the exceptional work, leadership, professionalism and passion” Emily exhibited throughout her time at Mount Wachusett Community College, Professor Provost said. “She exemplifies the expectations we have for our students and we are looking forward to seeing ‘the places SHE will go’ as she continues her journey. Children and families are fortunate indeed to have Emily in the field.”

- Emily Wuoti and Maureen Provost

laptops for vetsThrough the generosity of corporations and individuals, student veterans at Mount Wachusett Community College have 16 new laptop computers readily available for their use while pursuing their college degrees.

Donations to the Laptops for Veterans program have topped $20,350, which has allowed the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success to replace five outdated computers and acquire 16 new ones that veterans and active military personnel can borrow as needed. The fundraising initiative was launched by MWCC Student Trustee and Army veteran Thomas Berger.

Earlier this year, Rollstone Bank & Trust donated $3,000, followed by Wayne Canty and the Canty Family Charitable Foundation, with a $5,000 donation. MWCC alumnus and 2015 commencement speaker Kevin Berg sent six laptops valued at $9,000. Additional donors include Heywood Healthcare President and CEO Winfield Brown, George and Mary-Beth Jones, Pat Dakota and Janice Kulig.

“We now have 16 laptops that are either in use or readily available for use, with the potential to replace them as needed,” said MWCC Veterans Services Director Bob Mayer. “We are grateful to all who have contributed to this initiative.”

The Veteran Success Center at MWCC was created five years ago to meet the unique needs of veterans transitioning to college.

Tax-deductible donations may be made payable to MWCC Foundation with “Laptops for Vets” in the memo line, and mailed to MWCC Foundation, 444 Green Street, Gardner, MA 01440, or contact Jo-Ann Meagher at jmeagher@mwcc.mass.edu. To learn more about Laptops for Vets, visit mwcc.edu/laptopsforvets.

Go Higher Oct 14 2015

MWCC alumnus CJ Husselbee, right, joined fellow students at the Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! presentation in Worcester.

Mount Wachusett Community College alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee was among the featured speakers during a Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher! event held Oct. 14 at North High School in Worcester.

The event, attended by several hundred teenagers from five Worcester public high schools, provided students with information about the state’s 29 public college and university campuses, with topics ranging from paying for college to living with roommates.

Mr. Husselbee shared how he enrolled at MWCC during his senior year in high school through the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech dual enrollment program for Winchendon students. He went on to serve as president of the college’s chapter of the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society, secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and served on the Student Government Association.

“Get involved. I cannot stress this enough,” he told the assembly. “It’s the best way to integrate yourself into the community.”

After graduating in May 2014 with an associate degree in Business Administration, Mr. Husselbee transferred as a junior to the Isenberg School of Management at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He will earn his bachelor’s degree in accounting this December at age 21, then plans to teach English in Albania as a volunteer with the Peace Corps.

CJ Husselbee

2014 graduate CJ Husselbee, who began his studies as a high school student, is featured in the DHE’s video on dual enrollment.

As nearly 300,000 students return to Massachusetts’ community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses this week, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) awarded competitive grants to increase access to college by students across the Commonwealth.

Twenty-five campuses, including Mount Wachusett, were awarded grants through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP). The program expands the state’s dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and earn credit for free or at a reduced cost. CDEP funding increased from $750,000 in FY15 to $1 million in FY16. MWCC was awarded a $50,000 grant.

The DHE has set a goal of increasing dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 students and is using a new dual enrollment video, outreach to high schools, and social media to promote opportunities on campuses. MWCC alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in accounting this semester at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, is among the featured students in the video.

“Increasing collaboration between high schools and higher education is important to making a college education more affordable and creating more opportunities for students across the Commonwealth to succeed in college and their careers,”  Governor Charlie Baker said when announcing the grants. “These awards also present opportunities for college campuses and their regional partners to focus creatively on boosting college completion rates and advancing more students from diverse and underserved populations.”

Lisa Burns Evening of Excellence 2015

Honors student and MWCC graduate Lisa Burns, a Visions Program participant, will continue her studies this fall at Mount Holyoke College.

Mount Wachusett Community College has been awarded two five-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling $2.99 million to continue support programs that help low-income students, first-generation college students and students with disabilities succeed in college.The grant awards will be used to continue the college’s successful TRIO Student Support Services programs. The goal of each program is to improve student outcomes in the areas of retention, graduation and transfer to four-year institutions to earn a bachelor’s degree.

MWCC will receive $1.1 million over the next five years – $220,000 per year – to support the Student Support Services STEM Health Sciences program, known on campus as the Rx Program. Comprehensive services will be provided to 120 students annually who are majoring in health sciences programs including nursing, practical nursing, dental hygiene, dental assisting, physical therapist assistant, complementary health care, medical laboratory technology, medical assisting, medical office, biotechnology-bio manufacturing, fitness leadership and exercise science, and general studies allied health. Program participants receive wrap-around support services that include tutoring; academic advising; career, personal and transfer counseling; supplemental courses; financial aid advising and workshops; and financial and economic literacy education.

MWCC’s Student Support Services TRIO program, known on campus as the Visions Program, will receive $378,485 a year over a five-year span, for a total of $1,892,425 million. Now entering its 37th year as an educational opportunity TRIO program at MWCC, Visions serves eligible students enrolled in any non-health services major. The program provides a variety of comprehensive services to 200 students each year, including academic advising, personal, career and transfer counseling, tutoring, seminars, financial aid advising and workshops, financial literacy education, a faculty and peer mentoring program and supplemental courses.

“We are delighted to receive these two, highly competitive TRIO grants to continue programs that provide students with the tools and skills they need to succeed in college and earn a degree,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “These awards are a testament to the outstanding work of our dedicated faculty and staff and to the perseverance of our students. We our most grateful to our federal legislative delegation for their ongoing support of these programs and commitment to our students and the economic health of our region,” he said.

“Mount Wachusett Community College is committed to providing academic support and resources to students who need it the most,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “These federal TRIO grants will go a long way toward helping MWCC continue its extraordinary efforts to help every student succeed.  MWCC deserves congratulations for all it is doing.”

“We need to prepare all of our students to compete in the 21st century innovation economy, and these TRIO grants will ensure Mount Wachusett Community College continues to prepare low-income and first generation students with the skills of tomorrow,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “I congratulate Mount Wachusett Community College for securing this funding and for its commitment to helping students of all backgrounds and abilities achieve their dreams.

“Mount Wachusett received these funds after a rigorous grant process, which speaks to both the quality of their application and the school in general,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “They exemplify the growing trend of Third District institutions becoming academic leaders in the Commonwealth. I commend this fine institution and look forward to seeing the far-reaching benefits take hold.”

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, she said. “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.”

“With these TRIO awards, Mount Wachusett Community College will be able to continue to provide their students with a great education and prepare them for good careers,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “TRIO has a strong tradition of helping low-income, first generation college students succeed. These awards will directly help students complete their education and pursue good careers in STEM health science fields and many other fields that support our communities, including education, business, human services and public service. Mount Wachusett Community College is a strong partner for North Central Massachusetts and I look forward to continuing to work with them to open new doors of opportunity and grow our local economy.”

News of the federal grants was well received by students and alumni who have participated in the TRIO programs at MWCC.

“Without the Visions Program, I would not have been successful,” said Lisa Burns, a single mother who enrolled at MWCC in 2012 to pursue a new career after a back injury prevented her from continuing her long-standing job as a pharmacy technician. Though initially hesitant to enroll, Burns became a member of the Honors Program, the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at MWCC. In May, she became the first in her family to graduate from college when she earned an associate degree in Business Administration. In September, she will transfer to prestigious Mount Holyoke College on a full scholarship through the Frances Perkins Tuition Scholarship program to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

“When you don’t have support on the outside, the support on campus is even more important – to have people telling you that you can do it,” she said.

 

Frankenstein image - JPG

An image of Frankenstein’s creature created by MWCC Graphic and Interactive Design alumnus Dylan Safford to illustrate the MWCC Humanities Project second-year theme.

Like many great works of science fiction, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, explores what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world.

Published nearly 200 years ago when Shelley was just 20 years old, the novel’s influence extends well beyond the literary domain into film, science and politics, making it an ideal theme for the Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project.

Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy has been selected as the second year theme for the MWCC Humanities Project. The project, an interdisciplinary and community study, is funded through a multi-year, matching $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality and humanities programing and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

The impact of Shelley’s 1818 story has prevailed into the modern era, spawning countless interpretations, retellings, and inspirations, yet it bears little resemblance to the Hollywood adaptions that have dominated popular culture for decades, said Professor Michelle Valois, chair of the MWCC’s Liberal Arts & Sciences programs and coordinator of the Humanities Project. Frankenstein continues to raise important questions about science and community, family and education.

“If, when you think Frankenstein, you think only of a grotesquely disfigured giant of a man who grunts and groans, then you only know half the story,” Valois said. “Mary Shelley’s novel – though a work of the imagination – offers an approach to these philosophical and ethical questions: Can science go too far?  What does it mean to play God?  How do we tolerate difference?  Who are the real monsters?  Our world is witnessing rapid scientific and technological advances – how do works of the imagination help society cope with these changes?”

As he becomes obsessed with his experiments, Dr. Frankenstein cuts himself off from his family and friends. In this self-imposed isolation, he brings to life a creature that he can’t stand to look upon and which he rejects. “This question of responsibility and control is central to many discussions about the new science that our contemporary society faces in the area of biotechnology and artificial intelligence,” Valois said.

Other ideas and themes that the novel explores include the social outcast, nature vs. nurture, the effects of abandonment on children, beauty, good and evil, the limits of science, the responsibility of science, the fact and fiction behind many new scientific and technological developments, rationality vs. intuition, faith vs. reason, and, most of all, the power of a good story to invade our imagination and transform how we see ourselves and our world, Valois said.

During a recent three-day workshop, MWCC faculty from various disciplines met to discuss the tale and its significance today, and plan ways to integrate themes into the curriculum for the upcoming academic year. This cross-college team included attendees from the fields of English, philosophy, sociology, graphic and interactive design, art, computer information systems, biology, biotechnology and natural resources.

Participating faculty and staff members include: Julie Capozzi, Paula Pitkiewicz, Paul Swerzenski, David Wyman, Lara Dowland, Donalyn Schofield, Kathryn Smith, Candace Shivers, Tom Montagno, Kenneth Roy, Shelley Nicholson, Maureen Provost, Wanda Pothier-Hill, Daniel Soucy, Lorie Donahue, Susan Blake, Michelle Paranto, Constance Porter, and Jess Mynes.

Events will include a panel discussion on “Frankenscience – The Myths and Realities of Contemporary Science,”  a Halloween hike for the Humanities at Wachusett Mountain, a book discussion with Elizabeth Young, author of Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor, and lectures by visiting professors Sonia Hofkosh of Tufts University, Robert Schwartz of Mount Holyoke College, and Shelley Errington Nicholson of MWCC and Springfield College. 

Films will include Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, James Whales’ 1931 classic Frankenstein with Boris Karloff and  Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein as well as a monster movie marathon with Fitchburg State University Professor Joe Moser.

The study follows the MWCC Humanities Project first-year theme, East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond, which provided students and the community an opportunity to examine Henry David Thoreau’s lasting relevance through lectures, films, and book discussions. During the past academic year, students studied Thoreau’s Walden: Or Life in the Woods, not only in English courses, but in science, business, philosophy, art, sociology, graphic design, and history courses as well. MWCC sponsored 12 community events held at the college and at local libraries.

Relay Alumni team (1)

The MWCC Alumni Network is among the newest teams joining the Greater Gardner Relay for Life. From left, board members Carrie DeCosta, Marianne and Mark Geoffrey and Lawrence Nfor.

MWCC alumni, students, faculty and staff again joined thousands of volunteers for the annual Greater Gardner Relay for Life, a two-day, North Central Massachusetts outpouring of support and hope for cancer victims and survivors, and a community remembrance of loved ones who have passed.

The Mount Walkers, represented by faculty and staff and their families, the MWCC Alumni Network, the Veterans Success Center, and the MWCC nursing program were among the college teams participating in the event, held June 12 and 13 on the track of the Gardner campus to support the American Cancer Society.

The largest relay event in New England has been hosted by MWCC for two decades, although each year provides an opportunity to share something new with the community. This year, MWCC alumni Marianne and Mark Geoffroy inspired a dedicated “alumni lap” lap around the track, allowing participants to show their support for the fight against cancer and their MWCC pride.

“We really wanted people to get an idea just how strong we really are,” said Mark, an eighth-grade science teacher who was recently elected president of the MWCC Alumni Network. “You scratch the surface and everybody has a story about the Mount. Somehow the Mount did something to change their lives. That was true for Marianne and me 35 years ago, and it’s still true today.”

The couple met at the college in the mid-1970s, and have remained part of the college community ever since.

Marianne, a 14-year cancer survivor who majored in public communications while at MWCC, works as a web applications manager for a medical device company that matches employees’ charitable contributions. The alumni team was established last year by the board and Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Carol Jacobson.

Dean Eileen Costello pins Fortunate Munhutu May 2015

Fortunate Munhutu receives her pin from Dean Eileen Costello during MWCC’s 42nd nurse pinning ceremony.

Ninety eight graduates of MWCC’s day, evening and LPN to ADN  nursing programs celebrated  a  milestone during the 42nd annual Nurse Pinning Ceremony held May 21 at the Fitness & Wellness Center.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her/his lapel by a fellow nurse—a family member, friend or faculty member. The eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle.

“This is a big night for our nursing students,” Executive Vice President Ann McDonald told the gathering of hundreds of friends and family members, current students and alumni. “I see first-hand, every day the dedication our nursing students have to their studies and profession.”

Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences led the ceremony with the assistance of faculty members.

The graduates also lit electronic candles and recited the Florence Nightinigale Pledge, an oath originally composed in 1893 and named for the founder of modern nursing.