Community Stories

Linda Coyne

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts supports MWCC student scholarships.

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts has awarded a $67,000 grant to the MWCC Foundation to support student scholarships. To qualify for a scholarship, students must live in North Central Massachusetts, demonstrate financial need, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Award amounts will vary.

“We are very grateful to the Community Foundation for this award and for its ongoing support for students as they pursue their academic and career goals,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “The vast majority of our students remain in the area after graduating to live and work, so this funding ultimately helps strengthen our local communities and enhance the economic vitality of our region.”

The foundation announced 30 new grants totaling nearly $500,000 from its general endowment funds and field of interest funds during an event June 11 at Apple Hill Farm. The grant to support student scholarships at MWCC comes from the Community Foundation’s Educational Access Fund.

The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts is a nonprofit, community, corporation created by and for the people of greater North Central Massachusetts. The Community Foundation General Endowment Education Access Fund supports community development, environment, animal welfare, arts and culture, as well as health and human services. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has awarded over $40 million in grants and distributions from 160 funds that have been established by individuals, families and organizations.

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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.

VA Secretary Urena and Bob Mayer

Massachusetts VA Secretary Francisco Urena with MWCC Veteran Services Director Bob Mayer.

Mount Wachusett Community College welcomed Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Affairs Francisco A. Urena to its Gardner campus on June 23. The secretary’s visit included a meeting with President Daniel M. Asquino, a tour of the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success with MWCC Veteran Services Director Bob Mayer, and an opportunity to meet with a coalition of state educators who were on campus to discuss services for student veterans.

Secretary Urena, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Charlie Baker in January, said he was impressed with the college’s array of support services for veterans, commitment to academic success, and construction and renovation projects underway. He is touring the state’s community colleges with Steven R. Sullivan, Director of Grants and Workforce Development for the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office.

MWCC Transfer Counselor Limari Rivera was among the MWCC administrators and staff to greet the secretary. Rivera was Secretary Urena’s first academic advisor when he was a student at Northern Essex Community College.

“I knew he was going places the minute I met him,” Rivera said.

After earning an associate degree, Secretary Urena went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and is pursuing a master’s degree from UMass Boston. Prior to his appointment as secretary, he served three years as Commissioner of Veterans’ Services in Boston and five years as director of veterans’ services in Lawrence. A recipient of the Purple Heart, he served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps guarding US embassies in Syria and Kyrgyzstan and was a tank commander during operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

Steve W and Jared S MWCC Fitness Center

Retiring Fitness & Wellness Center Director Steve Washkevich welcomes new Director Jared Swerzenski.

After nearly two decades at the helm of the Mount Wachusett Community College Fitness & Wellness Center, Director Steve Washkevich retired in June. Members of the college and fitness center community paid tribute to his 18 years of service during the Silver Sneakers program’s annual barbecue on June 22. The community also welcomed the center’s incoming Director Jared Swerzenski.

Washkevich, who was appointed a year after the facility was converted into a community fitness center, said the center appeals to patrons of all ages and fitness levels due to its large size, wide variety of program offerings, state-of-the-art equipment, indoor swimming pool, and personalized training.

“You can get personal training, you can swim, play basketball, and racquet ball. It’s a great family place, where parents can work out while their children are at the indoor playground or doing other activities.”

Prior to coming to Mount Wachusett, Washkevich was the director of athletics at Anna Maria College for over 20 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education and his master’s degree in Education Administration and Leadership from Bridgewater State University. In retirement, Washkevich plans on spending more time with his family, which includes his wife, three daughters and a grandchild.

“It’s been a great experience for me and hopefully everybody else feels the same. The members have been great and I’ve built a lot of friendships.”

Incoming director Swerzenski most served as the director of intramurals and assistant director of facilities at Framingham State University. Previously, he was the athletic director at North Central Charter Essential School in Fitchburg, now the Sizer School, and associate director of East Coast Field Admissions at Post University in Waterbury, CT.

Swerzenski attended Clark University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Culture and Urban Development, and a master’s degree in Professional Communications. He also played varsity soccer for four years.

MWCC’s 60,000-square-foot facility includes a six-lane, Olympic sized swimming pool; more than 40 fitness programs; a nursery; summer sports camps; three full-size, indoor basketball courts; outdoor tennis and basketball courts; a 200-meter outdoor track; two regulation racquetball courts; and state-of-the-art weight training and cardiovascular equipment.

Programs are available for people of all ages and abilities and include personalized nutrition classes, body composition testing, weight training, massage therapy, personal training and yoga. In addition, the center’s group exercise programs are free to members and offers more than 50 classes a week led by certified trainers, including Zumba, Centergy, water aerobics and yoga.

Otaku Club at Waterford St School (1)

Following a successful club fundraiser, the Otaku United club at Mount Wachusett Community College donated more than 600 books to Waterford Street School children. Pictured in the back row behind the elementary school students, from left: Waterford Assistant Principal Melissa McDonald; Jonathan Cohen (club vice president); Eric Rothwell; Heather Chandry (president); Rebekah Cohen (treasurer); Andrea Bartlett; Mary Ann Ernst; Cassandra Cohen; first grade teacher Peter Pianka; and Guidance Counselor Terry Burnham.

Hundreds of kindergarten and first grade students at Waterford Street School will end the school year with fun summertime reading, thanks to a donation from a group of Mount Wachusett Community College students.

Members of Otaku United, a club that celebrates Asian culture, including art, language and anime, raised more than $1,000 during the spring semester by conducting a silent auction of a wide range of gift cards and items donated to the club to support the cause. Proceeds from the auction were used to purchase age-appropriate books for the students from the Scholastic Reading Club.

Each kindergarten and first grade student received two books and a book mark.

“We’re pleased they want to promote early childhood literacy and we’re so appreciative that they thought of our school,” said Waterford Guidance Counselor Terry Burnham. “The children will be thrilled to have two books to keep.”

The club donated an additional 50 books to the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education at MWCC, said club president Heather Chadsey. “Our club has a tendency to do what we put our minds to,” she said.

 

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Community and college officials joined students at the Jackson Playground to celebrate the new mural. From Left, City Councillor Karen Hardern, Jesse Maguine, Margot Parrot, Gardner Economic Development Coordinator Joshua Cormier, State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Ben Mikels, President Daniel Asquino, Kabilgangai Subramanian, Cyrus Ndolo, Mayor Mark Hawke, and Art Department Chair Thomas Matsudo. Not Pictured Anthony Guerrero.

Mount Wachusett Community College art students partnered with the city of Gardner to transform a graffiti-covered wall into public art at the newly refurbished Jackson Playground.

Since mid-May, five students have been working on their “Unplug and Play” mural conveying their message that children should put down the controllers and have fun at the playground. The 150-foot mural depicts Gardner scenes, ranging from the giant chair to the orange and black stripes of the Wildcats to the college’s turbines.

On June 8, President Daniel M. Asquino, Mayor Mark Hawke, and state Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, Art Professor Thomas Matsuda, chair of the college’s art department, and other community and college officials visited the site and congratulated the artists on their accomplishment. The artists are Ben Mikels, Anthony Guerrero, Cyrus Ndolo, Margot Parrot, and Kablilganfai Subramanian.

MWCC art students have participated in community art projects since 2008, beginning with a mural at the Goodnow Pearson building on Main Street that covered boarded windows at the former department store.

“Civic engagement has become a hallmark of Mount Wachusett Community College, and this is largely due to the enthusiasm and dedication of our students and faculty, who volunteered their time and talents in so many ways,” said MWCC president Daniel M. Asquino. “We’re very proud of the students who participated in this downtown beautification project.”

“This is a great project. It provides experience for the students and enhances the image of the city. It’s ideal,” he added.

Matsuda, chair of the college’s art department, explained that the students worked collaboratively to develop the theme. “I was so amazed at how quickly it all came together. The students worked very hard and are very dedicated.”

The project has received great support from the community said Joshua Cormier, the city’s Economic Development Coordinator, who has heard from many families who appreciate what the students have done.

“It added a lot of character to the playground, Cormier said, noting it would likely gain the new nickname “Unplug and Play Playground”

State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik recalled playing at the park as a child. “It’s great to see all of this come together.”

-Katherine Best

Gardner High students at MWCC Manufacturing expo

Gardner High School students, who attended the event with guidance counselor Christine Leamy, participated in robotics demonstrations and other presentations during Mount Wachusett Community College’s Manufacturing Career Expo.

Teenagers and young adults, career changers, employers and business leaders were among those participating in Mount Wachusett Community College’s hands-on Manufacturing Career Expo at the college’s Devens campus.

The May 28 expo showcased regional job openings and career advancement opportunities, as well as training programs to help students enter or advance in the field. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about free training programs, explore career paths in modern manufacturing, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and meet local employers, recruiters, service providers, and MWCC admissions representatives. Biotechnology, mechatronics, women in technology, 3-D printing and robotics and quality systems were among the featured presentations.

“These students are all into robotics and they are definitely STEM-driven,” said Gardner High School Guidance Counselor Christine Leamy, who brought a group of sophomores and juniors.

MWCC offers several noncredit programs, currently grant-funded and free to participants, as well as academic certificate and associate degree programs in the fields of advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and biomanufacturing and other science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

For the upcoming year, the noncredit programs are free to qualifying students through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration.

A six-week Industry Readiness Training program was developed with industry employers to prepare students for entry-level to mid-level jobs in the local, diverse advanced manufacturing industry. The program is designed especially for unemployed or underemployed adults, veterans and recent high school graduates who want to train for careers the manufacturing industry. Programs provide students with training in skills required for entry-level employment in positions such as technicians in manufacturing, validation, quality control, documentation, and process operations.

Students who successfully complete the program earn an MWCC Certificate of Completion, an OSHA 10-hour Safety Certification and the National Career Readiness Certificate, while learning about working in the fast-growing manufacturing field.

A two-week Quality Systems Training program prepares students for jobs in quality assurance and quality control for a variety of manufacturing industries including biopharmaceutical processing and medical device manufacturing.

Classes are forming now for free, six-week Industry Readiness Training courses and free, two-week quality systems training courses that begin in July, September and November. For more information and to register, visit mwcc.edu/advancedmanufacturing or call 978-630-9883.

MWCC Pathways & Gateway grads 2015An Olympic hopeful, an 18-year-old transferring directly into a doctoral program, and several teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college are among the 32 graduates of Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 26 graduation ceremony at MWCC. The programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate, or an associate degree.

“We have all been given the amazing opportunity to get two years of college out of the way while in high school, which I am glad we all decided to take on, although challenging,” said Pathways valedictorian Emily Lapinskas of Athol, who earned an associate degree from MWCC last week and will continue her studies in biology at the University of Massachusetts “I have been assured by many parents and current students that it is, indeed, amazing, especially when you look at all the money we save. You’re welcome, mom and dad!”

Gateway valedictorian Samantha Buckler of Winchendon was homeschooled before enrolling in the program. This fall, she is transferring to Keene State College, where she was awarded a presidential scholarship that will cover more than a year’s worth of tuition, fees and housing.

“Gateway is a wonderful opportunity for students of all different backgrounds to receive a high school diploma while earning college credits,” she said. “I am excited to see where life brings me as well as where it will bring everyone else who has been blessed with this opportunity.”

Sarah Raulston of Baldwinville, who earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a concentration in biology from MWCC last week, is the youngest student to be accepted into the Doctor of Pharmacy program at the University of New England in Maine. With the first two years of the six-year program accepted as transfer credits, she is on target to graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree by the time she is 22.

“I knew I wanted to go to pharmacy school, so I wanted to get a head start. High school is fun, but dual enrollment is such a good opportunity to get ahead,” she said.

Keynote speaker Jason Zelesky, MWCC dean of students, encouraged the graduates to “make lasting, positive change” in a world that needs their optimism, and also took a moment to address their families and friends in the audience. “Thank you for allowing them to take this risk and complete their education in such an innovative and transformative way.”

MWCC vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, Mahar Superintendent Tari Thomas, and MWCC Dual Enrollment Director Craig Elkins also congratulated the students on their achievements.

Established in 2010 as one of the first two innovation schools in Massachusetts, the Pathways Early College Innovation School provides motivated high school juniors and home schooled students the opportunity to accelerate the pace of their academic. MWCC’s Gateway to College program, established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, provides a second chance for students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school, are at risk of dropping out, or experienced a setback, as well as an opportunity for home schooled students to complete high school and college studies.

MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition is currently enrolling students in both programs for the fall semester.

 

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Rollstone Bank & Trust is the first major sponsor of the new Laptops for Veterans program. From left, Thomas Berger, MWCC Student Trustee-elect and an Army veteran; Linda Racine, Executive Vice President of RBT; MWCC President Daniel Asquino; and Robert Mayer, MWCC Director of Veteran Services

With a donation of $3,000, Rollstone Bank & Trust became the first major sponsor of the new, student-initiated Laptops for Vets program at Mount Wachusett Community College, which is aimed at helping veteran students succeed in their studies. The Veteran Success Center at MWCC was created five years ago to meet the unique needs of veterans transitioning from soldier to veteran. The laptops that were part of the initial program have become outdated, so student trustee and Army veteran Thomas Berger initiated this fundraising program.Martin F. Connors, Jr., President & CEO of Rollstone Bank & Trust, said, “The Rollstone Charitable Foundation’s mission is to strengthen our communities and enhance the academic lives of area students. The veteran students at MWCC have served our country proudly; there is no one more deserving of our help.”

“We are tremendously grateful to Rollstone Bank & Trust for this generous donation to support our student veterans,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Rollstone’s gift provides an immediate jump-start to this initiative.”

Berger’s goal is to equip the Veterans Success Center with 25 new laptops. 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.

 

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.