Campus Life

STEM Starter Academy event April 2014

High school students extract DNA from strawberries during a STEM Starter Academy demonstration.

Approximately 250 students from several North Worcester County high schools sampled college life and STEM careers during Mount Wachusett Community College’s STEM Starter Academy event on April 4. The event, coordinated by the divisions of Academic Affairs and Access, Transition & Development, featured a variety of science and health sciences demonstrations, hands-on experiments, and information about financial aid and college readiness, and served as a prelude to MWCC’s STEM Starter Summer Academy.

Mount Wachusett is currently recruiting 30 students to participate in its STEM Starter Summer Academy, which will run July 7 through Aug. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gardner campus. Participating students will receive two free college courses, textbooks, a $1,750 stipend, academic support, tutoring, and community service and industry tours.

Funded through a $300,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the summer academy is open to students who graduate from high school in 2014 or earlier; place into English Composition and Intermediate Algebra or higher; and enroll in one of MWCC’s STEM starter qualifying majors in the fall 2014 semester.

Qualifying STEM majors include biology, biotechnology, chemistry, clinical laboratory science, computer information systems, dental hygiene, fitness leadership and exercise science, natural resources, nursing, physical therapist assistant, physics or pre-engineering.

Courses offered during the summer academy include intermediate algebra, statistics, introduction to functions and modeling, life science for allied health, introduction to biotechnology, and introduction to psychology.

For more information about the STEM Starter Summer Academy and other STEM programs at MWCC, contact the admissions office at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

MWCC student Eric Fisk & Amy Robbin of GFA Credit UnionMore than 30 companies and organizations participated in Job Fair 2014, held at MWCC’s Gardner campus on April 2 and sponsored by the Career Services/Experiential and Service Learning Department. The event provided students with an exciting opportunity to explore career options and learn about job openings in a diverse range of fields.

Coordinator of Career Planning and Placement Patricia Brewerton said she was delighted with the employer support as well as the number of students who benefited from the fair. Close to 300 students and visitors attended.

Given a challenging job market, employers, students and faculty remain optimistic as students continue to land interviews and job offers, Brewerton said.

“The job fair provides an optimistic job outlook for students and it attracts a wide range of companies offering job openings for our students. Some students report having interviews already scheduled for next week. I’ve also heard encouraging and optimistic feedback from employers that our students are enthusiastic, dressed for success, well prepared, and have the courage to approach the tables and introduce themselves,” she said.

There were full-time, part-time, temporary and summer positions available from a variety of employers including Great Wolf, Inc, TD Bank, MassLifeSciences, and UMass Memorial. There were also many human services options including Y.O.U Inc., LUK, and Devereux.

Kevin Hines with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students.

Kevin Hines, seated, with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students following his presentation.

Had someone just smiled and asked if he was okay that September 2000 afternoon in San Francisco, 19-year-old Kevin Hines would not have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. The voices in his head, caused by the brain illness of bipolar disorder prevailed, convincing him that he must die. Mid-air, he prayed he would live. Miraculously, he did.

Hines, one of 33 people to survive a jump off the 220-foot bridge and author of Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, was the keynote speaker during the second annual Mental Health Awareness Conference, sponsored by The SHINE Initiative, Mount Wachusett Community College and Heywood Healthcare.

The half-day conference, held March 27 at the Colonial Hotel, was attended by more than 300 people, including healthcare professionals, educators and students. A panel presentation focused on the stigma associated with mental illness and its impact on seeking diagnosis and treatment; the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and veterans’ post-war health issues. More than 150 MWCC students majoring in nursing and human services participated in the conference and a suicide prevention training session that followed.

President Daniel M. Asquino, Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, and Dawn Casavant, vice president of external affairs for Heywood Hospital, delivered welcoming remarks, and Human services major, Renee Chandler, shared her award-winning poetry reflecting on living with mental illness. College Counselor Melissa Manzi, MSW, LCSW, and College Health Coordinator Diane Kin, RN, BSN, HNC, led a QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training program that focuses on how to assist someone is in distress.

Panelists included Dr. Heather Brenhouse, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience Psychology at Northeastern University; Dr. Stephanie Rodrigues, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry’s Division of Addiction at the UMass Medical School; and Bryan Doe of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Affairs.

Approximately 57 million Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year. Between 70 to 90 percent of these individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with combined treatment of medication and therapy.

“Ultimately, resources and time are spent on things that are a priority. Let us make certain that mental health awareness, treatment of mental illness and the sensitivity of mental illness are everyone’s priority,” President Asquino said.

Hines’ presentation provided an inside-look at the thought process and actions, as well as the effect on his family. Born to poor, young parents who struggled with mental illnesses and substance abuse, Hines said he and his birth brother would frequently be left alone in seedy hotel rooms. Within a year, they were taken into child protective services, and bounced in and out of several foster homes. Hines’ brother died as a result of neglect and untreated health conditions, while Hines was adopted by loving and supportive parents, Pat and Debbie Hines. In adolescence, what he describes as a “brain disease” began to surface, and at 17, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This imbalance in his brain chemistry resulted in paranoia, mania, horrific hallucinations and grandiose illusions, which he attempted to mask from his family and doctors.

One of the few Golden Gate Bridge jump survivors to regain full mobility, Hines has since shared his story with over 300,000 people to raise awareness about mental illness, treatment, and suicide prevention. He has been featured in the critically acclaimed film “The Bridge,” on Larry King Live, 20/20, Anderson Cooper 360, and Good Morning America, as well as in hundreds of national and international print, radio, film, and television media outlets. A signed copy of his memoir is available at the LaChance Library.

 

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Anatomy and Physiology and Human Biology Club will host a “Delete Blood Cancer” donor drive on Wednesday, April 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gardner campus. The event, which registers potential bone marrow donors with the Delete blood Cancer DKMS registry, is open to the public.

Delete Blood Cancer DKMS assists patients with blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, and also helps patients with certain autoimmune disorders, including aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, and other rare genetic disorders.

The registry process takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to fill out a form, review eligibility and health guidelines and swab the inside of the cheek. Swabbing helps determine a personal Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type. HLA are protein markers on cells that are used in matching donors with patients. They are inherited, which is why most patients match with donors from the same ethnic background. Prospective donors will be listed on the registry by their HLA type. Volunteers may become a match in a month, a year or longer, or may never be called.

Blood cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths and kills more people under age 20 than any other disease in the U.S. Bone marrow and stem cell transplants can be life-saving treatment for blood cancers like leukemia and approximately 70 other diseases. Patients in need of transplants must find genetically compatible donors to provide marrow or stem cells. While 30 percent of patients can find a matching donor within their family, 70 percent must turn to the national registry to find one. Each year, more than 10,000 patients need transplants using donated marrow or cells. Only half will receive them.

Delete Blood Cancer DKMS started with one family’s search for a bone marrow donor and is today part of the world’s largest bone marrow donor center. The organization leads the fight against blood cancer by working with families, communities and organizations to recruit more donors and provide more patients with second chances at life. To date, the organization has registered more than four million potential donors and facilitated more than 40,000 life-saving transplants around the world. For more information, visit deletebloodcancer.org.

 

UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty MeehanMarty Meehan, Chancellor of University of Massachusetts Lowell and former seven-term Congressman, will deliver the keynote address during Mount Wachusett Community College’s Commencement on Wednesday, May 21.

“We are delighted to welcome Chancellor Marty Meehan to our campus as this year’s Commencement speaker,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “His passion for community engagement was ignited while he was a Massachusetts public higher education student, and he brought that commitment to the state, national and campus levels. These same values of civic engagement are instilled in a Mount Wachusett education. Given his accomplishments in law, government, politics and higher education, Marty Meehan represents to our graduates a model of engagement at every level,” he said.

“I look forward to speaking to the members of the Class of 2014 about how a high-quality, public higher education positions them for success in life,” Chancellor Meehan said. “I encourage them to continue along the path of lifelong learning by pursuing bachelor’s master’s and doctoral degrees at UMass Lowell or other institutions of higher education. I know their studies at Mount Wachusett Community College have prepared them well.”

Chancellor Meehan represented the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007, where he served on the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees. Widely respected as a reformer, he established a national reputation for his legislative leadership in transforming campaign finance laws and protecting people against the health risks of tobacco use. Previously, he served as Massachusetts deputy secretary of state for securities and corporations, and he was the first assistant district attorney of Middlesex County.

Since his appointment in 2007 at UMass Lowell, he has propelled the university to achieve record growth in enrollment, student retention and fundraising for research and scholarships. In addition, he has initiated a physical campus transformation that includes new academic buildings and residence halls and upgraded student services facilities. While strongly focusing on academics and student success, Chancellor Meehan has made access, affordability and diversity a keystone of his vision to raise UMass Lowell’s image and impact on the region.

He graduated cum laude from UMass Lowell in 1978 with a degree in education and political science. He earned a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University in 1981 and a juris doctor from Suffolk University Law School in 1986. He holds honorary degrees from Suffolk University, Green Mountain College in Vermont and Shenkar College of Engineering & Design in Israel.

Kathy Matson

For her dedication and commitment to serving others, Mount Wachusett Community College student leader Kathy Matson has been presented with Campus Compact’s national 2014 Newman Civic Fellows Award.

A Business Administration major, Matson represents college students across Massachusetts in her role as the student member on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, and as a liaison between the board and the state-wide Student Advisory Council, on which she also serves. As a member of the Board of Higher Education, she advocates on behalf of students across the Commonwealth for public policy changes that will impact the ability of students to succeed in higher education. Two policy issues she has helped champion include the restructuring of the math sequence and the integration of civic education at all 29 public colleges and universities across Massachusetts.

In addition to working two jobs and consistently making the President’s List and Dean’s List, the Baldwinville resident has provided more than 400 volunteer hours to various organizations and student groups during this academic year alone. She serves as president of MWCC’s Student Government Association, as an officer in the Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Beta Gamma honor societies, as a Student Ambassador in the Admissions office, as a SALT Ambassador in the Financial Aid office, as a mentor with the Students Serving Our Students office, on the MWCC Alumni Association, and is an active volunteer with numerous Student Life events. She is a second time MWCC student, having first earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice in 1985.

“We are extremely proud of Kathy for her leadership on campus, at the state level, and in the community,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are delighted that she has been recognized with this distinguished award. As a student leader, she serves in many capacities and diligently works on behalf of students throughout the Commonwealth. She has a true passion for helping others.”

The Newman Civic Fellows Award recognizes inspiring college student leaders who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. College and University presidents nominate student leaders representing the next generation of civic leaders. This year, 197 students from 36 states received the national award.

The award is named for educator Frank Newman, co-founder of Campus Compact, past president of the University of Rhode Island and author of Higher Education and the American Resurgence. Since 1985, Campus Compact has grown to represent more than 1,100 college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education.

“Being named a Newman Civic Fellow is an amazing honor,” Matson said. “I received this recognition for my civic engagement and volunteerism, but being civically engaged and volunteering is a way of life for me and not something that I do for recognition. I am appreciative to the president, staff and peers at the college who submitted my nomination. They have all been an inspiration to me during my time at MWCC.”

Matson’s ability to be a strong advocate for students make her an exceptional role model, said Fagan Forhan, director of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

“Kathy is an excellent illustration of what it means to be an engaged student and citizen, and exemplifies hard work and determination. She provides alternative perspectives and a strong clear voice as an advocate for herself and others. Kathy is not afraid to be the dissenting voice in a discussion and is always willing to engage in dialogue and debate about important social issues facing our students. Her no nonsense attitude serves her well in this capacity as she empowers other to make positive change in their lives.”

Outside MWCC, Matson is an active volunteer within her community, including serving on the Templeton Community Emergency Response Team as administrative assistant to the Emergency Management Director. In addition, she also volunteers her time to maintain a database of over 4,500 families and volunteers for MassHOPE, the Massachusetts Home School organization.

She and her husband Calvin have three grown sons who are also alumni or current students at MWCC and are entering military service. Prior to returning to MWCC for her second degree, Matson was a stay-at-home parent who home schooled her children for 22 years.

This is the second consecutive year a Mount Wachusett has received the prestigious recognition. In 2013, Human Services major and student veteran Bryan Sanderson of Lunenburg received the award for his initiative founding the Students Serving Our Students peer mentor program.

 

Women's Herstory 2014 croppedFaculty and staff members who play an instrumental role in the lives of MWCC students were recognized on March 26 during the college’s annual Women’s Appreciation Day. The celebration capped a month-long of activities and events in celebration of Women’s History Month.

For the past several years, students in Professor Susan Goldstein’s Journalism I class interview and write feature articles on women who are making a difference in the lives of others. The Women’s HerStory project this year recognized Michelle Brennan, volunteer coordinator, Students SOS Office, United Way Youth Venture outreach specialist; Karen Costa, adjunct professor, First Year Experience; Elaine Gagne, adjunct professor, English and Reading; Andrea Gendron, tutor; Veronica Guay, director of Dual Enrollment; Sharmese Gunn, resource specialist, Gateway to College; Debra Holloway, professor of Psychology; Heather March, professor, American Sign Language; Dr. Rosanne Morel,  professor, Early Child Education; Shelley Errington Nicholson, director of Community Learning; Dr. Carol Reed, professor, Computer Information Systems and Medical Assisting; Sarah Savoie, student services and veterans clerk; and Melissa Bourque Silva, academic advisor, Division of Access & Transition.

Their photographs and inspiring stories are on display in the South Café throughout the month.

“While it’s always nice to be honored, it means even more when it comes from the students,” said Nicholson, who coordinates service learning, volunteer and internships programs for MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

 

Job Fair Fashion Extravaganza March 2014

Student John Day organized a career fashion show to promote the upcoming Job Fair 2014. Pictured at left, three students who are dressed to impress, and on the right, three who are not.

Students and area employers are gearing up for MWCC’s annual job fair, which will take place Wednesday, April 2 in the Commons. The event is open to MWCC students from 10 to 11:30 a.m., and to students and the general public from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to dress for success and bring their resumes.

The MWCC Job Fair is an annual event on-campus that is growing in popularity each year as evidenced by the increased attendance of participating employers, students, and community members, said Patricia Brewerton, Coordinator of Career Planning and Placement.

MWCC students attended workshops throughout the spring semester focusing on resume writing skills, dressing for success, and developing soft skills that are critical to the interview process. To showcase the upcoming job fair, student John Day organized a boisterous career fashion show on March 25. The fashion extravaganza featured students dressed in appropriate and inappropriate attire for the workplace.

A wide range of local employers offering job opportunities in a number of growth oriented fields will be in attendance, including human services, criminal justice, business, retail, and the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Gateway to College honoree Joseph Almeida, pictured with Gateway Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn, proudly displays his Gateway Achievers Certificate and John and Abigail Adams Scholarship letter.

Joseph Almeida hated school for a long time.  By age 16, he had been expelled from high school and was on a path to an uncertain future.  Fast forward to present day, the 18-year-old Fitchburg native now likes school and is a successful student in MWCC’s Gateway to College program, a full-time dual enrollment experience on the college campus.

Along with 28 of his peers, Almeida was recognized Monday, Feb. 24 for superior academic performance during the fall semester, where he earned 10 college credits in Sociology, Algebra and English Composition.  Along with the academic accolades, Almeida was also recognized with the John and Abigail Adams scholarship for high achievement on MCAS tests.

“Being on a college campus and in Gateway, gives me the freedom and independence that made me realize what is important. Being on a college campus made me more mature, and winning the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship gave me a second chance. It was a really big deal, not just for me, but for my family too. It means a lot more now!”

Sixteen-year-old Cynthia Lauricella of Gardner came to Gateway for different reasons.  As a member of a military family, a recent move and transferring high school credits actually put her behind schedule at her new high school.  Through her enrollment in Gateway, she is able to stay on track toward graduation while taking additional courses toward her high school diploma and Associate degree.

“When high school wasn’t working out for me, the opportunity to complete my diploma through Gateway to College came along, and now I’m also completing credits towards a college education.  I am very thankful for what the program has offered me,” she said.

The Gateway Achievers event, held across the nation at all 43 Gateway to College locations, is sponsored by the Gateway to College National Network in Portland, OR, and recognizes students for their academic achievement on the respective campuses.  The 29 students recognized last night all achieved at least a 3.0 MWCC grade point average, in addition to seven students receiving the Adams scholarship for stellar MCAS scores.  The Gateway Achievers program inspires students to work hard and persist in their education while helping them develop a better understanding of their experience as part of a national movement.

According to Deb Bibeau, Assistant Dean of Transitions Programming, “Gateway to College provides a fresh opportunity and clean slate for high school age students to re-engage with their education within the supportive environment of the college campus.  Students like Joey who struggled within the traditional high school setting have really blossomed on campus, re-writing their own educational stories by taking ownership of past mistakes and fully embracing the opportunities provided through the Gateway program.”

Added Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of the Access, Transition and Development Division, “I get the most positive feedback from meeting the students and their parents and adult supporters. They are so grateful for the opportunity and are so very proud of their success at Mount Wachusett Community College.”

Gateway to College is hosted at Mount Wachusett Community College in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District.  On March 25, MWCC will host one of several information sessions for prospective Gateway students interested in enrolling for the fall semester.  For more information, call 978-630-9248or go to mwcc.edu/access/gateway.

-          Deb Bibeau 

Whether you are a freshman trying to keep enough dollars in your pocket to enjoy a night out, or a graduating sophomore wondering how you’re going to repay those student loans, chances are money is on your mind a lot. Now, there’s a free resource to help students become money savvy – a new financial education program called SALT.

Mount Wachusett Community College has joined a growing list of higher education institutions nationwide to partner with SALT.  This online tool supports students and alumni as they finance higher education and manage their student loans.  SALT aims to educate, empower, and engage members to truly own their finances by making it rewarding, easy, and fun to make smarter student loan and financial decisions. The tool will remain free for students through the many financial decisions they face after graduating or transferring.

All MWCC students received an email invitation to join SALT for free.  SALT can help students demystify the student loan process; track and plan student loans, find scholarships, internships and jobs; and gain knowledge about finances.  Those who sign up with SALT through March 14 will be entered into a drawing to receive a free 32GB NOOK HD Tablet.

“Mount Wachusett community college is committed to easing our students’ debt burden,” said President Daniel Asquino. “While we cannot erase the debt that our students take on, we can empower them to make smarter, more informed financial decisions.  SALT gives students and alumni the financial competencies they need to take control of not only their student loan experience, but all of their finances as they transition from college to the workplace.”

SALT was created by American Student Assistance (ASA) a 56-year-old nonprofit that empowers college students and alumni to successfully manage and repay their student loan debt. For more information, contact Eveliz Rivera-White, Financial Aid Counselor at erivera@mwcc.mass.edu or SALT at www.saltmoney.org.

-          Eveliz Rivera-White