Alumni Stories

Pictured at the January 15 alumni professional development workshop: Alumni Association board members, from left, Karl Hakkarainen, Conni Brown, Mark Geoffroy, and President Daniel M. Asquino.

The MWCC Alumni Relations office kicked off the new Alumni Association Professional Development Series with an interactive networking workshop on January 15. The event featured Debbie Lefevbre, a certified business life coach for professionals who presented, “How to Truly Connect with Others to Enhance Your Career.”  The workshop focused on the principles of effective communication.  The event, held in the Fidelity Bank Corporate Center’s Community Room in Leominster, was sponsored in part by Fidelity Bank.

President Daniel M. Asquino welcomed participants and shared his enthusiasm and support for the college’s new alumni programming.  “Our alumni are a very important part of our college community. The college is proud to offer this increased investment in our alumni through professional development programming, social events and other initiatives,” he said.

Additional professional development workshops will be offered in partnership with the college’s Human Resources Department on March 25 and April 22. Both workshops are free will take place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on the Gardner campus and will focus on developing leadership abilities and customer service skills. Registration information will be available in the monthly Alumni eNews, on the alumni web page and will be posted on the Alumni Association’s Facebook and Linked In pages.  In addition, a social event, “MWCC Night at the Worcester Sharks” is planned for April 11.

For more information on alumni programming or how you can join the MWCC Alumni Association, contact Carol Jacobson in the Alumni Relations Office at 978-630-9306 or cjacobson1@mwcc.mass.edu.

 

 

Recent Fitchburg High School alumni who participated in MWCC’s Access & Transition programs shared their experiences with current high school students. From left, Principal Jeremy Roche, Christian Marcial, ia L. Street, Qiury Velez, Stephanie Atteridge, Maggie Newsham, Matt Leger and Assistant GEAR UP Director Victor Rojas.

College students who participated in MWCC’s access and transition programs returned to their former high schools in January to share their insight into transitioning to college life. Panel discussions took place in several locations, including Fitchburg, Murdock, Gardner and Athol high schools.

MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition sponsored the events in conjunction with the schools’ guidance departments. Many of the alumni were past participants of grant-funded college access & transition programs offered by MWCC, including Educational Talent Search, GEAR UP and Upward Bound Math and Science. The college students are now attending private and public colleges and universities of all sizes.

“High school students hear from teachers and advisors all the time about the increased expectations, challenges and opportunities of college. Sometimes it blends together and loses its impact. Hearing that same message from current college students who they recognize as peers drives that message home. That is the aim of the alumni events,” said GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Topics ranged from the college selection process to financial aid, study habits, dorm life, applying for scholarships and student activities. The size and location of schools factored heavily into many of the students’ decisions, whether their preference was for a large college or small campus, close to home or further away.

Professor Tom Montagno and Natural Resources major Nick Glendenning

When Nicholas Glendenning was looking for a practicum to complete his associate degree in Natural Resources at Mount Wachusett Community College, he didn’t realize a life-changing experience that was about to set sail.

While researching academic opportunities that related to his interest in marine biology, the 26-year-old Leominster resident discovered the Sea Education Association for Environmental Studies in Woods Hole, MA. The SEA Semester, an accredited study abroad program offered by Boston University, is the only full-credit, undergraduate program in the country that combines academic and research curriculum accompanied with a voyage into the ocean.

Glendenning spent six weeks studying aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer, one of the most sophisticated research equipped vessels under sail in the U.S. The experience not only helped him complete his associate degree, but he also earned 17 credits from Boston University toward a bachelor’s degree.

Glendenning embarked on his voyage on Oct. 12 and returned Nov. 19. He was among a group of 18 college students and recent high school graduates and 13 crewmembers to investigate the effects of plastic in the ocean ecosystem while acquiring the knowledge to sail a tall ship across the Atlantic.

As a component of the research, net tows were completed twice daily. A large net attached to a jar is towed along the top 25 centimeters of water collecting contents floating on the ocean’s surface. The crew separate out the contents, saving and counting the plastic pieces to be brought back the SEA program to be archived for ongoing research.

The students collected data on the effects of plastic in the ocean, and also were responsible for their own research projects. Glendenning investigated oxygen super saturation, and which biological factors cause oxygen levels to spike.

In addition, Glendenning and his colleagues helped provide weather observations to a national database.  They learned to chart the course of the vessel using celestial navigation, and assisted as Junior Watch Officers, taking control of the vessel during various watches.

The vessel and crew went three and a half weeks without seeing land, making an unscheduled stop in Barbados for the captain to fly home to his wife in labor. After he returned, the crew stopped at Bequia in the Grenadines before flying back to Woods Hole from St. Croix.

“There wasn’t a lot of free time. We were always busy and constantly on a different sleep schedule, six hours at most. During free time, you were eating, sleeping or working on your project,” Glendenning said.

The only things he brought along were clothes and a pillow. Electronics were forbidden, and there was no contact with land. Glendenning and his colleagues updated a student blog on the SEA website noting their current position, weather conditions, and daily activities.

“It was a great life experience. I made lifelong friends and met a new network of people. It opened up a lot of doors for me and I would recommend it to anyone,” said Glendenning, who earned his GED through MWCC and now plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the science field.

After returning from the voyage, Glendenning stopped by to share stories of the experience with Professor Tom Montagno, chair of MWCC’s Natural Resources department.

“He’s a great student and he’s done very well in the program,” Montagno said. “The practicum varies widely depending on students’ interests. There are lots of opportunities, but he’s the first student who has ever done this.”

- Chelsea Quinn

 

 

 

 

Early Childhood Education alumni with Professors Rosanne Morel, Maureen Provost and Maryann Kane during the reunion.

Nearly 100 alumni, students and faculty of MWCC’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program gathered November 19 at the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education to celebrate the ECE program’s annual alumni gathering. The theme for this year’s event was Planting the seed of leadership in others. Harvesting the leadership in yourself.

“We love our fall alumni event. Our students plan and create an educational and inviting service learning event. This gives them a feeling for the importance of planning and hosting events that welcome families and community members” said Associate Professor Maureen J. Provost. “We are excited to see our alumni and hear about their important work in early education and the positive impact they have on children and families’ lives! It is wonderful to welcome them back to where they began their careers” Provost added.

“I love coming back here, because everything started here,” said 2011 graduate and former Student Trustee Chrissy Lajoie, who has since earned a bachelor’s degree from Fitchburg State University and is now working with toddlers and families as an early intervention specialist in Worcester.

“It’s such a great feeling, when you come back here, even though I graduated 20 years ago,” said Maria Paulino, owner of Busy Bees preschool in Fitchburg. “You come back and feel like you’re home.” Paulino, a 1988 graduate of MWCC, also went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Fitchburg State. Nine years ago, she purchased the long-established Busy Bees preschool, which serves 50 children with a staff of eight that includes other MWCC alumni she has hired.

In addition to the alumni reunion, students from the Home, School and Community Relations and Leadership in Early Education courses showcased their fall semester projects, highlighting important information for families and communities. This essential service learning project is focused on deepening students’ understanding of serving others.

President Asquino receives an anniversary citation from Senator Stephen Brewer.

As Mount Wachusett Community College’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration comes to a close, the varied events and activities provided an opportunity for members of the college and greater community to reflect on the past, reconnect with classmates and faculty, and make a positive impact on future students.

Signature 50th anniversary events sponsored by the MWCC Foundation throughout the year, including a Presidential Harvest Ball held October 5 at the Chocksett Inn in Sterling, raised more than $120,000 for the foundation’s endowment for student scholarships.

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino thanked the college’s many partners and sponsors for their dedication throughout the anniversary celebration, as well as for their support of the college’s past, present and future initiatives.

During the Harvest Ball, Senator Stephen M. Brewer stopped in to present college officials with a Senate citation congratulating MWCC on its milestone anniversary and positive impact the institution has had on North Central Massachusetts and the state over the past five decades.

“It is our inter-generational responsibility to help level the playing field for all students who show the desire and the talent to obtain the benefits of higher education,” Brewer said.  “Mount Wachusett Community College has been providing these opportunities for 50 years.  The English language has over a million words in it, those of us in public policy ought to single out the special word of ‘opportunity ‘as a beacon of inspiration to those who dream big dreams.”

Trustee Scott Howard, executive vice president of premier sponsor Bemis Associates, provided a celebratory toast. “Here’s to all the students, staff, leaders and supporters of Mount Wachusett Community College for 50 years of work strengthening our community, our country and the world by providing outstanding educational opportunities to all regardless of race, gender or economic situation.  And here’s to the ongoing work to continue expanding our impact for the next 50 years and beyond.”

MWCC’s art department greeted former students during an Oct. 10 alumni art exhibit reception on Oct. 10 in the East Wing Gallery. Pictured, from left, Professors Joyce Miller, Gene Cauthen, Tom Matsuda, department founder Jean Tandy, and John Pacheco.

Other fall events included an alumni art exhibition featuring the artwork of more than 30 graduates and a special alumni showing of the 1960′s themed production of Shout, the Mod Musical at Theatre at the Mount. More than 200 alumni and friends of the college attended the Oct. 10 events.

“It is wonderful to see such a large turnout of MWCC alumni, and friends of the college, here to celebrate our alumni art exhibition and to enjoy a special performance of Shout,” said Carol Jacobson, Associate Director of Alumni Relations.

50th Anniversary Sponsors included premier sponsor Bemis Associates, Inc.; Mr. & Mrs. James Garrison; Scott Howard; MWCC Barnes & Noble Bookstore; The Clementi Family Trust; Data Guide Cable Corporation; Mr. and Mrs. Jay Drake; Enterprise Bank; IC Federal Credit Union; Nypro Foundation; Rollstone Bank & Trust; Advanced Cable Ties, Inc., Athol Savings Bank; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Couvares; Ms. Ellen Daly; Mr. and Mrs. Walter Heath; Simonds International; Workers’ Credit Union; and Gardner Visiting Nurses Association.

Harvest Ball sponsors included premier sponsor Bemis Associates, Inc.; Heywood healthcare, Chocksett Inn; Colonial Hotel; Aubuchon Hardware; GFA Federal Credit Union; Tyco/SimplexGrinnell; HealthAlliance Hospital; Fitchburg State University; Dunkin Donuts; Windmill Florist; Ed Collier Photography; Fidelity Bank; Clinton Hospital; Venning  & Jacques, PC; MASSMedia; Paul DiGeronimo and Katharine Marino; and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School.

Alumni Art Exhibit. “Ceramic Head” by Chris London.

Mount Wachusett Community College continues its 50th anniversary celebration in October with an alumni art exhibition and a special performance of Shout: The Mod Musical for alumni, students, the college community and friends of the college.

An evening of the arts will take place Thursday, Oct. 10 featuring an alumni reception from 6 to 8 p.m. in the East Wing Gallery and a special performance of Shout at 7 p.m.

Tickets for the Theatre at the Mount performance have been rolled back to the 1960s price of $6. Admission includes the alumni reception, the art exhibit and performance.

Set in the 1960s, Shout tracks five groovy gals as they come of age during the liberating days that made England swing and features chart-topping hits such as “To Sir with Love,” “Downtown,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love me,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” and “Goldfinger.” Members of the ensemble cast of include Fatima Elmi, Shani Farrell, Melissa Gates, Alison Laverdiere, Chelsea Young, Katrina Caouette, Amanda Feeley, Amanda Lawton, and Olivia Ryan.

Theatre tickets can be purchased online at mwcc.edu/tam or at the box office, 978-630-9388. Additional performances of Shout will take place through Oct. 13

The art exhibition will include the work of more than 30 alumni of MWCC’s art program and the opportunity to reminisce and reconnect with former professors and classmates.

“During my studies at Mount Wachusett Community College in the early 90’s, I was a painting major and an art history minor,” said Alex Magay, director of the art department at The Winchendon School and a member of the MWCC art department advisory council.

“I studied painting under John Pacheco, Gene Cauthen and Jean Tandy. They provided me as a young artist with direction and insight that would fuel my artistic development, and insight, for many years to come. My experiences in Gardner at the Mount helped prepare me to pursue and complete my next two degrees at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.”

 

Student Government Association President Kathy Matson, with MWCC President Daniel Asquino, has been appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education for the academic year.

Mount Wachusett Community College student leader Kathy Matson of Baldwinville has been appointed to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education for the 2013-2014 academic year.

A Business Administration major and president of MWCC’s Student Government Association, Matson previously earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice from the college in 1985. She returned last year to pursue a business degree to combine her interests in these two fields.

She is looking forward to the upcoming year representing all Massachusetts public higher education students on the board. The issues of affordability and student success are among her key priorities.

“I am honored to serve on the board,” Matson said. “I come from many different perspectives.  I was here as a new student out of high school and now as an adult returning to college, and I’m the mother of students who came to college out of high school. I feel that I can be a voice for students and bring a lot to the position because of my varied life experiences.”

President Daniel M. Asquino described Matson as a motivated, enthusiastic leader who cares deeply for her fellow students and is committed to community service. “Kathy is making a tremendous difference in the lives of students and residents of our area through her active participation on campus and in the community,” Asquino said. “Being appointed to the Board of Higher Education is a wonderful achievement for her and I’m certain she will serve the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and its students, quite admirably.”

At MWCC, Matson serves as president of the Alpha Beta Gamma business honor society, vice president of civic engagement and community service for the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, as a student ambassador for the college, and as a mentor in the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) office. She is also a member of the state-wide public higher education Student Advisory Council.

In July, she traveled to Washington, DC to take part in a Student Voices Conference as the Massachusetts representative for the Board of Higher Education. At this conference, 17 students from across the country met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss ideas and concerns regarding higher education. Much of the discussion focused on the costs associated with higher education and ways in which the Department of Education can boost student retention and graduation rates, along with suggestions on providing better financial literacy education to high school students to aid them in choosing an education that meets their needs as well as their budget.

At the conference, Matson joined a wide range of students including young adults attending college for the first time, veterans seeking a college degree after service in the military, and older adults returning to college to complete a degree or enter a new career.  The conference was organized by State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Higher Education to include students in the policy making process. The student leaders plan to meet via conference calls and email throughout the year to continue to ensure student voices are presented at the federal level.

Matson and her husband Calvin have three sons: Isaac, 23, who graduated from MWCC in 2012 with a degree in Criminal Justice, served as SGA president and is now completing a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at Westfield State University; Caleb, 20, a Criminal Justice major at MWCC and a member of the ROTC program; and Zechariah is 18, a Fire Science major at MWCC who is also in the ROTC.

Matson previously worked within the Criminal Justice field in private security and as and an administrative assistant for Digital Equipment.  She works part-time at the MWCC bookstore and for Gold Medal Bakery as a sales representative for Stop and Shop.

“Beginning of a Perceptual Painter,” an exhibition of paintings by artist and MWCC alumnus Jeremy Durling, is on display through Oct. 4 in the East Wing Gallery of the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center. An artist’s reception, which is free and open to the public, will take place Friday, Sept. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the gallery. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than100 people gathered in the Raymond LaFontaine Fine Arts Center on June 6 for a reception celebrating the life, legacy and artwork of James D. Murphy, the first chair of the college’s Board of Trustees. All proceeds from the event benefited the new James D. Murphy Scholarship, which will be given each year to the student representative on the MWCC Board of Trustees.

James D. Murphy

“This exhibit demonstrates the wide range of Jim’s artistic skills. Perhaps best known to the general public as a cartoonist and illustrator for his 25 years as the advertising director of The Gardner News, or they are familiar with Jim’s historical drawings that accompanied the words of MWCC Professor Tom Malloy in a long running series on local history that ran in the paper,” said Dr. Vincent Ialenti, dean of academic and institutional technology.

Murphy graduated from the Vesper George School of Art and the School of the Worcester Art Museum. He was an eclectic artist who worked with watercolors, oils, pen and ink, charcoal, and pastels. He was also a skilled cartoonist and caricaturist and was a member of the prestigious National Cartoonists Society.

The Murphy family

“My family and I were so pleased that it was a successful event, and are thankful for the generosity of so many who contributed to the scholarship,” said Professor Sheila Murphy. “It was an event made special by the presence of so many family members and friends, by the talents of Larry Buckley, the pianist from dad’s jazz combo, and by the moving tribute given by Dean Vincent Ialenti. The event coalesced so many of my dad’s passions: art, music, family, friends, the college, and giving back to the community. My family and I are so grateful that the community has once again come together to honor my dad and in so doing, help Mount students for years to come.”MWCC Student Trustee Christine Eck was the first recipient of the scholarship.

Christopher P. Brown

Christopher P. Brown, a physical therapist assistant who was recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Westminster public safety officials earlier this year for his heroic actions at the scene of an accident, has been named Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2013 Alumnus of the Year.The Westminster resident and Persian Gulf War veteran will be honored during the college’s 48th Commencement on May 16.“We are extremely proud to honor Christopher Brown as our 2013 Alumnus of the Year,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “Like many of our students, Christopher discovered his vocation while attending Mount Wachusett Community College, and then followed that path to achieve success both academically and professionally. Moreover, he has consistently demonstrated his commitment to serving others, first in the military, then as a student at Mount Wachusett, in his new career, and in his personal life.”

Brown graduated from MWCC in 2010 with an associate degree in Physical Therapist Assistant and works at Genesis Rehab Services in Westford. Over the past several years, he has carved out a niche as a veterans’ services specialist in the national company of more than 7,000 rehabilitation professionals.

Brown said he was humbled to receive the award. “It’s an extraordinary honor to return to your college to receive an award when you believe the college has already given you more than enough to succeed in your career and to pursue your passion and goals in life.”

A former firefighter with the U.S. Air Force, Brown was hailed a hero in March when he rushed to rescue a young woman who was trapped in a burning car following an accident in Westminster. In addition, he was recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services in November 2011 for his support of veterans and their families in the state.

While at MWCC, Brown founded the MWCC Veterans Group in 2009 to assist and support fellow veterans on campus. The club has since grown into a vibrant student organization serving the college and greater community.

Brown continues to actively volunteer, including with the Massachusetts chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association and the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center.