Campus Life

Steve Alves is the director and producer of the film “Food for Change.”

The director of the movie “Food for Change” will screen portions of his film and facilitate a discussion about the positive impacts of community involvement as well as his educational beginnings at a community college on March 2 at Mount Wachusett Community College.

“I want to encourage students and the general public to attend this screening. This film is a story of what can be done when people come together and are engaged with their community, which aligns with Mount Wachusett Community College’s ongoing commitment to service learning and volunteerism,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino.

“Food for Change” is a documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. The project began when filmmaker and co-op member Steve Alves was asked to make a film for the Franklin Community Co-op, located in Greenfield, Massachusetts. What resulted is a film detailing the history of co-ops and their influence.

At the free screening, Alves will show clips from the film as a means to spur discussion, stressing the impact that students can have if they work hard for their communities.

“As a group, we can come together to create pantries, create co-ops and community gardens and do a lot to not just deal with the food issues but deal with the structural issues that keep us away from each other and don’t let us become aware, active citizens,” Alves said.

But Alves’ appearance will not just be about the impact that students can have on their communities, but on their own lives. As a former community college student himself, Alves plans to discuss how this prepared him to be a film maker and how students can be bold and successful even if they do not have a lot of resources.

“I want to hold myself up as an example to the students of how I went into film making and by extension if you have a drive and a plan… you can go for it,” Alves said.

The screening and discussion will take place on Thursday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m. in the MWCC multi-purpose room. The public is encouraged to attend.

Kimberly Jones will speak at MWCC on Monday, Feb. 27 from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Tea Time Speaker Series will be celebrating Black History Month with the presentation “Woman in Power: A multicultural perspective” on Monday, Feb. 27 from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

Kimberly Jones, Esq will discuss barriers of woman of color in the workplace, education, and politics. Jones serves as the Vice President for Public Policy and Communications at the Council for Opportunity in Education. Jones maintains various professional memberships, including the Committee for Education Funding, of which she served as President in 2014; the National Bar Association, for which she chaired the Legislation Standing Committee in 2014-2015; Women in Government Relations; and the Washington Government Relations Group.

Jones is a graduate of Yale University and the Georgetown University Law Center. In 2016, she was named one of the “40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates” by the National Bar Association and received the organization’s Excellence in Activism Award.

Created this past spring by MWCC Gateway to College Senior Resource Specialist Sharmese Gunn, the Tea Time Speaker Series fosters conversation among the college community and greater community on social and cultural issues and awareness. The Tea Time Speaker Series is a recipient of the 2016 MWCC Foundation Innovation Grant and will be sponsored by: Gateway to College, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Diversity Consortium, Massachusetts Education Opportunity Association (MEOA), New England Opportunity Association (NEOA), and TRIO alumni.

The event will take place at MWCC’s Gardner campus in the North Café. The event is open to the public and registration is available at mwcc.edu/teatime.

Mount Wachusett Community College will be holding special FAFSA Friday workshops on Fridays throughout February, March and April at the school’s Gardner and Leominster campuses.

These workshops will allow participants to get help with the completion of the 2017-2018 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ahead of the state’s May 1 deadline.

The workshops run every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the Gardner campus at the Advising Center from Feb. 24 through April 28. Workshops will be held on Feb. 24, March 10 and 24, April 7 and 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. in Room 111 on the Leominster campus.

Registration for each event and a list of pertinent documents that participants must bring are available online at calendar.mwcc.edu.

Work from “Sculptures” by Mark Burnett includes this torso crafted out of bronze.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s East Wing Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of sculptures by Leominster resident Mark Burnett who will discuss his work at a free gallery talk on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Burnett’s exhibition entitled “Sculptures” features bronze works of art from the sculptor who works in mediums as varied as stone and fruit.

In his artist statement, Burnett recounted his first encounter with carving was with apples, in the third grade, a project in which his mother proudly saved for years. Burnett lives in Leominster, Massachusetts, works as a firefighter and hopes to further his art education and continue to demonstrate his artistic ability and exhibit his pieces to a public audience.

All are welcome to visit the gallery, attend the reception on Friday, Feb. 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and participate in the free gallery talk that will take place on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The exhibition is currently underway and will run until March 9.

The East Wing Gallery, housed in the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center on the Gardner Campus, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the exhibit from Burnett, a number of student works are shown in the space.

Mount Wachusett Community College will host over 15 area nonprofits for a resource and career fair this Thursday.

Beginning at 10 a.m. and running until 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2, a gathering of area nonprofits will take place at the college’s South Cafe. Representatives of over 15 groups will be on hand to discuss both volunteer opportunities within their organizations as well as the resources and services they offer. These organizations include the Gardner Community Action Committee, Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center, the Seven Hills Foundation, United Way of North Central Massachusetts, YWCA of Central Massachusetts and Warmer Winters. It will be an opportunity for students to connect with these organizations.

The general public is encouraged to attend, whether they are seeking volunteer opportunities or want to better understand the nonprofit resources within the community. The event will take place at the South Café at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus and was organized by the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

Bamidele Dancers & Drummers leads a drum circle in the cafeteria at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Mount Wachusett Community College is set to celebrate Black History month with a series of five events that include speakers, performances and screenings to educate and engage students at the college.

The month of programming begins with the Bamidele Dancers & Drummers (BD&D) leading a drum circle of celebratory African rhythms on Feb. 1 at 12:30 p.m. The BD&D are art educators, composers, musicians, dancers and choreographers from Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean who are dedicated to the preservation of African and African rooted cultures through dance, music and song. They will lead an interactive drum circle.

A screening of the film Race, which explores the story of Jesse Owens, will take place on Feb. 8 at 12:30 p.m. The THINKFAST: Black History Month Game Show will take place on Feb. 9 and ask students to test their knowledge of Black History Month. On Feb. 22 at 12:30 p.m., the PBS film Underground Railroad: The William Still Story will be screened telling the story of the African-American abolitionist who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, writer, historian and civil rights activist.

On Monday, Feb. 27, a keynote speaker will discuss barriers of woman of color in the workplace, education, and healthcare. The Tea Time Speaker Series presentation will take place from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

All events are open to the public.

President Daniel M. Asquino (center) stands with Kennedy Owino of Fitchburg, Diversity Committee Co-Chair Maria Gariepy, Rebecca Schlier of Westminster, Diversity Committee Co-Chair Carla B. Morrissey, Gemini Walter of Leominster, and Rachel Adams of Fitchburg after presenting the students with their President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition awards.

Four MWCC students have been honored in the fifth annual President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition that sought out poems, essays and artwork highlighting the value diversity brings to learning and working.

This year’s winners are Rachel Adams of Fitchburg, Kennedy Owino of Fitchburg, Rebecca Schlier of Westminster, and Gemini Walter of Leominster. Each will receive a free, three-credit academic course for use during the spring or summer semesters.

The competition was developed by MWCC’s Diversity Committee to highlight the value of diversity to work and educational environments. Students are encouraged to submit papers, posters, essays, research work, art work or other original, creative work related to issues of diversity or identity, such as those involving disability, race, socio-economic status, veteran status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and national origin.

Adams, a business administration student, wrote an essay entitled “I am invisible” with the goal of showing what it is like to be someone with an invisible disease. Not every struggle is seen and it is important to celebrate even the smallest victories, she said of her piece.

“Some people have a ball and chain around their ankle and it’s called an invisible illness,” Adams wrote in her essay. “It’s time to look at someone and really look at them. It’s time to celebrate small achievements of the day and be proud.”

Owino, a pre-engineering student, was honored for an essay entitled ‘When will it happen’ that explores the difficulty of making choices and being brave in an uncertain world.

“I champion that diversity should bring us together, not tear us apart,” he wrote. “Diversity is appreciating others for who they are.”

Schlier, a Gateways to College student, created a painting called “Mask” that depicts a multi-colored figure removing a theater-style mask. The piece embodies the experience that Schlier has undergone at Mount Wachusett Community College, where she has been able to remove her own mask.

“The mask represents how I had to be at my old school; I had to bottle up stress and sadness in order to fit in,” she wrote in her explanation of the piece.

Walter, a Human Services major, is the competition’s first three-time honoree, following up on his winning essay on what it means to embrace diversity with a free form literary piece designed to get people thinking about the impact of their words.

“When you last said goodbye to a child,” he writes, “did you let them know they are part of the chain of humanity, that they make a difference in this world?”

Walter’s piece asks the reader what message they are giving to children; encouraging the reader to empower children to accept diversity in all its forms and create a more accepting society as a result.

In addition to the awards and free academic course, the students’ work was displayed on MWCC’s campus.

Parent Support President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

Parent Support Group President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG member Angela Celley stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

The second annual Holiday Toy Drive organized by the Parent Support Group at Mount Wachusett Community College distributed presents to 52 families this week.

The toy drive was hosted by MWCC’s Parent Support Group that collected donations since Dec. 1 from faculty, staff, and students. According to PSG President and MWCC Student Michel Cocuzza, the donations came flying in and quickly filled two storage rooms. The gently used or new toys, books, games, and holiday decorations were then distributed on Dec. 19 and 20 to families within the MWCC community.

“I am so pleased to see students helping students, especially in the middle of finals and the holidays,” said MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino. “This is just one example of the generous spirit of support that students, faculty, and staff at Mount Wachusett Community College share every day.”

These donations can be a huge help during the holidays, according to Cocuzza, especially to student parents.

“Being a student parent is a difficult task. Most of us go to school full time and struggle financially,” Cocuzza said. “With the help of PSG and our advisor, we were able to assist 52 families.”

PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds said that it was the hard work of the PSG team that made the event possible.

“It would be remiss of me to not give a shout-out to Michel and all our dedicated PSG members for their hard work on making this event such a success,” Reynolds said. “We hope the Toy Drive will be a MWCC tradition.”

asquino-dedication-2Clouds and rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of those who joined Mount Wachusett Community College for a celebration of students, innovation, leadership, and progress. With over 150 guests including Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone in attendance with Mount Wachusett Community College staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, elected officials, honored guests and community members, the official ribbon was cut on the new Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center, a state-of-the-art 44,000 square-foot addition to the Gardner campus.

In recognition of President Asquino’s 30 years of leadership at Mount Wachusett Community College, the dedication included remarks from a host of lawmakers, students, and colleagues filled with gratitude and well wishes for the so on to retire leader, a science themed DNA strand ribbon cutting at the entrance and the unveiling of the name of the building to a sparkling cider toast to complete the celebration.

The day’s honored guests included the Honorable Mark Hawke, Mayor of Gardner; the Honorable Karyn Polito, Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Commissioner Carol Gladstone, Commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance; the Honorable Anne Gobi, Massachusetts State Senator; the Honorable Stephen Brewer, Massachusetts State Senator; the Honorable Stephen Hay, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Kimberly Ferguson, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Jennifer Benson, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Jonathan Zlotnik, Massachusetts State Representative; the Honorable Stephen DiNatale, Mayor of Fitchburg; the Honorable Dean Mazzarella, Mayor of Leominster; the Honorable Lew Evangelidis, Worcester County Sheriff; MWCC students Ifra Hassan, Josiah Irfan and Liam Scanlon; Tina Sbrega, Chair of the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees; past and current college and foundation board members; Fitchburg State University President Richard Lapidus; Fitchburg State University President Emeritus Robert Antonucci; Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy; presidents of the area chambers of commerce; Dr. Asquino’s family; and past and present college staff, faculty, and students.

asquino-dedication-3“President Asquino has built deep and meaningful partnerships that have resulted in a college that is extremely relevant and connected to the students and community it serves. Dr. Asquino has been driven by the belief that education is society’s great equalizer and has transformed this college into what you see here today. His legacy will pay dividends for our students and our communities for years to come,” said Tina Sbrega, Chair of the MWCC Board of Trustees.

Dr. Daniel M. Asquino has served as President of Mount Wachusett Community College since August 1987 and is currently the longest-serving public higher education president in Massachusetts.

“This is about access to quality higher education and opportunities for all. It is about the economic and workforce development of this region, the Commonwealth and our nation. It is about equality and diversity,” reflected President Daniel M. Asquino, speaking about the long planning and construction process culminating in this dedication. “These new Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Chemistry, Microbiology, Earth Science and Physics Labs will replace 45 year old labs which were showing their age. These new spaces which rival those found even in the best elite universities – all combined with our outstanding faculty – allow us to continue a tradition of service and excellence.”
asquino-dedication-1

The event would not have been complete without students telling the story of the college through their own perspectives and experiences. Student speakers included Josiah Irfan, who attended Fitchburg High School, and then began at MWCC through the STEM Starter Academy summer program. He discovered his love for computer engineering and hopes to go on the UMass Amherst after completing his Computer Information Science degree at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Liam Scanlon, of Princeton, decided to attend Mount Wachusett Community College as a smart economic decision after having a positive experience with the STEM Starter Academy. He plans to pursue engineering or physics after completing his degree in Liberal Arts.
Ifra Hassan studies Biology at Mount Wachusett Community College and is also a STEM Starter Academy graduate. She recently traveled to NASA headquarters to participate in a scholarship program utilizing Mars rover replicas and hopes to attend Brown University after completing her degree at MWCC.

Mr. Irfan, Ms. Hassan, and Mr. Scanlon all have the opportunity to complete coursework in the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center and work towards their educational goals in new classrooms on cutting edge technology and lab equipment.

They were joined by several other outstanding MWCC student leaders including Student Trustee Jasson Alvarado Gomez who also serves on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and the Massachusetts State College Building Authority and Student Government Association President Faith Kurtz.

“Through science classes at Mount Wachusett Community College I discovered my great passion for Biology. Now, I plan on becoming a doctor and that wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing program here at MWCC,” said Ms. Hassan in her remarks to the capacity crowd.

After more than 18 months of construction and extensive renovations, the anxiously awaited opening of the new science center went off without a hitch as guests enjoyed conversations with student ambassadors, faculty, and staff while touring the new facilities. In addition to the 44,000 square-foot Science Center wing, tours had a clear view of the new 2,300-square-foot greenhouse and renovations throughout the existing Arthur F. Haley Academic Center.
Many construction milestones were celebrated along the way leading up to this momentous day in the 50 year history of the college. On August 11, 2015, the centuries-old tradition of a beam signing was observed to commemorate the completion of the structural phase of a building. During the ceremony, President Daniel Asquino, students, staff, college, community leaders and members of the construction team signed the steel beam that was placed as the uppermost beam as the new building began to take shape overlooking Green Street.

Designed by Boston-based Architerra, Inc. to meet LEED Gold certification for efficiency and sustainability, the new building contains energy-efficient features reinforcing the college’s commitment to sustainability. Over the past 15 years, MWCC has been the recipient of top state and national sustainability awards, including the American Association of College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Wildlife Federation. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, acted as construction manager.

MWCC received $37.9 million in state capital funds for the project, as well as a $500,000 grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences for laboratory equipment. The project completed on-time and on-budget.

For more information about the college’s commitment to students, sustainability, and Dr. Daniel M. Asquino’s legacy, please visit mwcc.edu.

As Veterans Day approaches, Mount Wachusett Community College proudly continues serving veteran students, validated with additional recognition as a military friendly institution by the 2017 Military Friendly® School designation. Just last week, the college also ranked number four across the country in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings for 2-year colleges conducted by Military Times.

First published in 2009, the Military Friendly® Schools designation is determined by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs®, STEM Jobs SM , and Military Spouse. Each year, the list of Military Friendly® Schools

Military Friendly Designation for Mount Wachusett Community College, 2017

Military Friendly Designation for Mount Wachusett Community College, 2017

is provided to service members and their families, helping them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career.

Mount Wachusett Community College offers veteran students and their families access to a veteran center with comprehensive services, computers and study space, and dedicated space to spend time with their peers and other veteran students. Other services include textbook loans, counseling, and assistance with benefits. A full-time Director of Veteran Services advocates for veteran students, educates college staff and faculty on veteran challenges, arranges for clinical meetings if necessary, and provides access to outside resources such as VA VITAL, the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, and telehealth services with the VA in Bedford.

Institutions earning the Military Friendly® School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from Victory Media’s proprietary survey. More than 1,600 schools participated in the 2017 survey; 1,160 were awarded with the designation. Ratings methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by Victory Media with input from the Military Friendly® Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community.

Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for Student Retention, Graduation, Job Placement, Loan Repayment, Persistence (Degree Advancement or Transfer) and Loan Default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

“Mount Wachusett has a long tradition of being a Military Friendly institution. This requires a commitment from all departments and personnel to learn about and support military connected students in their pursuit of new opportunities. It is a privilege to work at a community college that is so compassionate and supportive of our student veterans” said Robert Mayer, Director of Veteran Services at MWCC.

According to Daniel Nichols, a Navy Reserve veteran and Chief Product Officer at Victory Media, “Our ability to apply a clear, consistent standard to the majority of colleges gives veterans a comprehensive view of which schools are striving to provide the best opportunities and conditions for our nation’s student veterans. Military Friendly® helps military families make the best use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other federal benefits while allowing us to further our goal of assisting them in finding success in their chosen career fields.”

For more information about Mount Wachusett Community College’s commitment to military students, visit mwcc.edu/veteran. Mount Wachusett Community College will be showcased along with other 2017 Military Friendly® Schools in the annual Guide to Military Friendly® Schools, special education issues of G.I. Jobs ® and Military Spouse Magazine, and on militaryfriendly.com.