Community Stories

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Photo by Eddie Vargas

A group of nearly 200 enthusiastic volunteers at Mount Wachusett Community College worked in shifts throughout the day to more than double last year’s efforts to combat hunger in the region.

Through the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, students, faculty and staff teamed up in assembly lines to package 46,872 meals to serve families in need. The meals were distributed in the afternoon to food pantries and veterans centers in North Central Massachusetts.

The college became a Day of Caring host site in 2013, following years of participation in off-campus activities, and the event continues to grow each year, said Jana Murphy, a Liberal Arts & Sciences major who spearheaded this year’s packaging event in her role as this year’s Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA.

MWCC participated along with numerous other organizations in North Central Massachusetts, recognizing the 21st annual United Way Day of Caring.

Outreach, Inc., an Iowa-based nonprofit that also operates in the Northeast, provided supplies to create packages of meals consisting of macaroni and cheese and rice and beans.

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Twins Jessie and Jammie Mascitti pause to write a note of appreciation to area first responders in commemoration of Sept. 11.

MWCC student volunteers are collecting notes of appreciation for first responders in the region who put their lives in jeopardy for the sake of others, as a way of honoring the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

For the second year, the activity was coordinated by the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and the Student Leaders in Civic Engagement (SLICE) program, an initiative of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

Volunteers provided and collected cards throughout the day on Monday, Sept 12. Cards will be available for signing at the Gardner campus on Tuesday, Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. before they are distributed. Each year, the college community also pauses to remember Carrie Beth Progen, a 1995 alumna from Ashburnham who was among the victims at the World Trade Center.

A memorial to Carrie, located adjacent to the library entrance, was created several years ago in collaboration with her parents, Don and Kathy Progen, and her brother, Matt, all alumni of MWCC. A scholarship created by the Progen family in Carrie’s memory is awarded to an art student each year through the MWCC Foundation.

MWCC President Daniel M AsquinoIt hardly seems possible that three decades have passed since I first arrived at Mount Wachusett Community College. Yet a look back at the many innovative programs, initiatives and events that have transpired provides proof that we, as a college community, have not only grown, but are blazing a trail into the future.

Over the past 18 months we have witnessed the transformation of our main campus in Gardner, with the addition of our new, 44,000-square-foot science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building, as well as extensive renovations to the Haley Academic Center and Theatre at the Mount. This week we began the academic year welcoming students into our new advising center, refurbished dining areas and ample gathering places.

Our state-of-the-art science and technology building will well serve our future medical professionals, engineers, research scientists and others working in the STEM fields, as well as provide enhanced academic opportunities for students of all majors. In the coming weeks, faculty and students will move into the new classrooms and laboratory spaces, and we look forward to welcoming the greater community to tour our new facilities during an open house this fall.

In addition to unveiling our campus upgrades, we begin this academic year with several new transfer opportunities and new courses of study, including new certificate programs in substance abuse counseling, community health, and public relations, which are designed to meet employers’ needs in our region.

The year ahead also provides many community-focused events, from exhibits in our East Wing Gallery to theatre performances and informative presentations. We’ll also begin the third year of the MWCC Humanities Project. Funded through a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, events and activities will take place on campus and in the community with an artistic focus on the theme, “Imagining Work.”

I encourage members of our college community and the greater community to join us in celebrating another new year of innovation.

 

 

"Resurrection" Oil on linen painting by John Pacheco

“Resurrection,” oil on linen painting by John Pacheco is among the works on display in MWCC’s East Wing Gallery through Oct. 4.

An exhibition of recent abstract paintings by Mount Wachusett Community College Professor John Pacheco is on display in the college’s East Wing Gallery through October 4.

Pacheco’s work is influenced by abstract expressionists and artists that saw spiritualism in the process of painting and the contemplation of color and abstraction.

“Painting abstractly, I can compose using color in ways that my previous attachment to figuration wouldn’t permit. The paintings exist like a piece of music – evocative rather than specific,” Pacheco said about the collection. Titles, such as “Caveman,” “Day at the Beach,” “Resurrection” and “Koi Pond” compensate for the lack of narrative, he said.

Born in Cambridge in 1949, Pacheco earned his MFA in painting from Boston University and a BA from Yale College for studio art. He began his career at MWCC in 1980 and served as Director of the East Wing Gallery from 2004 to 2015. He retired from full-time teaching in 2015, and continues to teach at MWCC as an adjunct instructor.

MWCC’s art department offers art majors and non-majors a comprehensive program that includes painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and printmaking. Faculty, all of whom are working professional artists, actively assist students with developing transfer portfolios, college applications and scholarships, and teach basic digital tools required for success. Small classes lead to a close-knit, active and inspired community.

The associate degree in art is a cost effective way to begin a college degree and prepares an art major for transfer to four-year programs at colleges and universities, said Department Chair Thomas Matsuda. Graduates have successfully transferred to Massachusetts College of Art and Design, University of Massachusetts, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Montserrat College of Art, Maine College of Art, Boston University, Pratt Institute, and others.

The associate degree in art includes the core general requirements for state programs giving the flexibility to transfer into other degrees, and by substituting designated courses it will align with MassTransfer. The college also offers a liberal arts degree with an art concentration that allows students to minor in art.

Comprehensive studios include large gas and electric kilns and an outdoor ceramic firing area, bronze casting, and printing presses. Just outside the studios is the East Wing Gallery. which hosts annual student exhibitions, alumni and professional art exhibitions and houses the permanent collection of student work purchased by the college.

A student organized art club raises funds or trips to local galleries, museums and an annual bus trip to New York City. Students gain practical experience in their field through service learning and volunteer opportunities.

MWCC’s art department is an integral part of the college and community, offering free gallery talks, an artist lectures series, open figure drawing sessions, art student lectures, high school art teacher workshops and a summer youth art program. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

mwccIn response to the sudden closing of all 137 campuses of the ITT Technical Institute, including two in Massachusetts, Mount Wachusett Community College is working with the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office and other state and federal agencies to assist affected students with their academic pursuits.

The community colleges are also ready to partner with the U.S. Department of Education, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to assist these former ITT students, the MCCEO has affirmed.

The abrupt closure of the schools has affected more than 35,000 students nationally, including approximately 500 students in Massachusetts at campuses in Wilmington and Norwood. More than 100 of the Massachusetts students are veterans. The vocational institute closed Sept. 7, following an Aug. 25 decision by the U.S. Department of Education the for-profit college chain could no longer enroll students that receive federal financial aid.

“These students have had their hopes and dreams dashed just as the new academic year begins,” said Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino. “MWCC and our sister colleges throughout the Commonwealth are ready to help these students get back on track with their educational goals.”

MWCC welcomes ITT Technical Institute students to enroll in academic programs and courses at our campuses in Gardner, Leominster and Devens, as well our many online academic programs,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. MWCC is recognized as a state and national model for its wrap-around support services for student veterans, available through its Center for Excellence for Veteran Student Success.

Mount Wachusett Community College is encouraging ITT students to submit a Request for Assessment of Prior Learning, as credits may be earned for college-level learning through alternative educational experiences such as ITT.

More information about this process can be found in the admissions office, where representatives are committed to assisting ITT students with the enrollment process at Mount Wachusett Community College.  For more information, contact Admissions at 978-630-9110 or admissions@mwcc.mass.edu.

For general inquiries and help with federal student loans, please reach out to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office at 1-888-830-6277. The Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office (MCCEO) works on behalf of the presidents and trustees of the fifteen Community Colleges in Massachusetts – currently representing more than 184,000 students across every region of the Commonwealth. For more information on the 15 community colleges across Massachusetts, visit www.masscc.org/ourcampuses or call 617-542-2911.

ComCom + MassTransfer Logo - Horizontal - RGBMassachusetts students and families now have access to a new, full-service web portal that will allow them to explore a wide range of academic offerings at the state’s public colleges and universities and chart a course to an affordable bachelor’s degree through transfer from a community college to a state university or University of Massachusetts campus, the Baker-Polito Administration announced today.

The new MassTransfer web portal will, for the first time, allow the Commonwealth’s high school and college students to identify and compare a wide range of degree programs, transfer options, and college costs at all undergraduate campuses. They will be able to see what is required to transfer seamlessly between campuses, including course-by course “degree maps” available for some majors.

They will also be able to use a savings calculator to find the typical savings associated with earning an “A2B” – associate to bachelor’s – degree. The portal’s features also include a detailed description of the three different transfer options available to students, a course-to-course equivalency database to allow them to see exactly how various course credits will transfer, and an additional tool to view cost savings associated with an A2B degree earned through the Commonwealth Commitment program, announced in April by Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and the leaders within public higher education.

“This new online tool will save students valuable time and money while completing their degrees, and I hope that many students take advantage of the Commonwealth Commitment as early as this fall,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our colleges and universities are critical partners in ensuring a strong workforce pipeline and through this new program, it will be even easier for students to take the classes and earn the degrees they need to succeed.”

“The national research is clear that even a few hundred dollars can make a powerful difference in whether students stay on the path toward college completion or leave school because they cannot afford to continue,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We are thrilled to offer the students in our Commonwealth substantial savings off an already great deal on college credentials.”

“I am grateful to the leadership of all three segments of public higher education and the Department of Higher Education for stepping forward and collectively creating the Commonwealth Commitment to ensure we make college as affordable and transfers as seamless as possible for all students,” Education Secretary Jim Peyser said. “What’s incredible is that the savings a student will see in this new online tool could be even greater than what’s listed, with the addition of scholarships and other financial aid awards, which can lower the cost of an associate and bachelor’s degree even further.”

“With college costs identified as a chief barrier to college completion, we knew we needed a more seamless, efficient system to allow students to transfer from one campus to another and graduate in a more timely and cost-effective manner,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The new MassTransfer portal provides all the information students need to complete their academic journey without delay and added debt. I think many students will be pleasantly surprised by the academic excellence, diversity of degree programs and affordability available at each of our public campuses.”

Through the Commonwealth Commitment program, students who enroll full-time at one of the state’s 15 community colleges will be able to transfer to a state university or UMass campus and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in one of a number of select programs. They must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and graduate in no more than four and a half years. Students in the program will realize substantial savings off the “total sticker price” of a traditional bachelor’s degree, qualifying for a freeze in tuition and mandatory fees, 10% per-semester rebates, and a full tuition credit in their last two years of school worth an average of $1,200.

During the student’s enrollment, he or she would receive part of the savings in the form of per-semester rebates, which could be used for textbooks, transportation costs, child care or other expenses that can often derail a student’s college aspirations. A student wishing to live in a dorm could also apply the savings to defray the cost of on-campus housing.

The list of degree programs offered through the Commonwealth Commitment program includes liberal arts and sciences programs such as Biology, Psychology and Economics, as well as degrees leading to careers in fields such as Printmaking, Facilities Management and International Maritime Business.  The full list of programs offered in Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 is available here.

 

 

The Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse. "New Deal" WPA Art. Built in 1932 and designed by architect James Wetmore. The exterior of the Trenton Federal Building is a well executed design with a "Stipped Neo-Classical" form, both Classical and Art Deco terra cotta detailing. The "New Deal Art" murals are by Charles Wells.

“New Deal” WPA art, Clarkson S. Fisher Federal Building & U.S. Courthouse, Trenton, NJ, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith.

Following an inaugural year with Henry David Thoreau and last year’s examination of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project will begin its third year this fall with an artistic focus on “Imagining Work.”

During the upcoming academic year, students, faculty, staff and members of the greater community will delve into the many ways artists, writers and photographers have expressed the changing nature of work over the past 150 years. From farm to factory in the 19th century to our present-day knowledge economy, the effects of automation, globalization, immigration, war, and race on the identity of the American worker will be explored. A variety of events scheduled at the college and in the community are free and open to the public.

Funded through a multi-year challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the MWCC Humanities Project strengthens the college’s humanities curriculum; supports collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching and research in the humanities; examines the intersection between the humanities and other academic disciplines; and engages the college and the greater community in the discussion of enduring themes from the world’s many cultures and traditions.

The theme will focus on the Great Depression photographs of Dorothea Lange, the Great Migration paintings by African American artist Jacob Lawrence and the poetry of Diane Gilliam Fisher, author of the award-winning book, Kettle Bottom, which depicts the Virginia mining wars.

“Year three of the Humanities Project is focused on something that MWCC students, faculty, staff and community members know a lot about – work,” said English Professor and Project Coordinator Michelle Valois. “Can the mundane be the subject of great works of art?  Can we find beauty in something we do day in and day out?  Our study will focus on paintings, photographs and poems that have transformed work into more than just a paycheck. These works of art show us the struggles and the joys of the American worker.”

This summer, participating faculty representing multiple disciplines met for a two-day workshop to develop curriculum and activities centered on the theme. Among several presentations, Stephen B. Jareckie, consulting curator of photography for the Fitchburg Art Museum, spoke on early 20th century photography, and artist and MWCC art history instructor Donalyn Schofield discussed the artwork of Jacob Lawrence.

Upcoming fall events include a gallery talk with Tracie Pouliot, founder of the Chair City Community Art Center and Oral History Bookmaking Project; the third annual hike for the humanities fundraiser at Wachusett Mountain; a pizza party and poetry readings from Kettle Bottom; an interactive art project creating replicas of Lawrence’s paintings; and a student poetry and prose slam.

Spring events will include a poetry reading with author Diane Gilliam Fisher; a presentation by University of Massachusetts, Lowell Professor Robert Forrant on female mill workers in Lowell from 1825 to 1860; and film screenings with Fitchburg State University Professor Joe Moser, including “Grab a Hunk of Lightning,” about the life of Dorothea Lange, Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times,” “The Devil and Miss Jones,” and “The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter.”

For more information, visit mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

 

Project Healthcare students from Fitchburg and Leominster High Schools participate in an activity at the MIT museum

Project Healthcare students Rohanji Novas and Preya Patel from Fitchburg and Leominster High Schools participate in an activity at the MIT museum.

Incoming freshmen at Fitchburg and Leominster’s public high schools will have an opportunity to join a program administered by Mount Wachusett Community College that prepares students for careers in the healthcare field.

In November, MWCC was awarded a five-year, $2.25 million federal grant to create the Project Healthcare program in collaboration with Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, is helping to address a national initiative to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged healthcare providers by creating a high school-to-college pipeline of students who plan to enter the healthcare field. Health disparities – differences in health outcomes that are closely linked with social, economic, and environmental disadvantage – are often driven by the social conditions in which individuals live, learn, work and play. The workforce pipeline initiative aligns with federal initiatives to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, known as the HHS Disparities Action Plan.

The program provides counseling, coaching, field trips, guest speakers, and dual enrollment courses for up to 120 high school students. This spring, 98 students were recruited to participate in the program. In addition to continuing support for these students during the upcoming academic year, college administrators will recruit additional students from the class of 2020 to join the program.

“We were able to accomplish a lot in just the first six months of the program,” said Director Melissa Bourque-Silva of MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition. “I know that our hard working staff and productive partnerships will keep our students motivated to learn and grow. I’m very excited to see what this year will bring.”

Within five years, the two cohorts of students who entered ninth grade in fall 2015 and fall 2016 will graduate from high school prepared to enter MWCC’s Pre-Healthcare Academy. By the end of their second semester at MWCC, students will have completed 15 college credits. By earning dual enrollment college credits, students can complete a healthcare certificate program within the first year or two of college, and an associate degree within three years of entering college. Students are motivated to transfer to a four-year institution to continue with healthcare studies.

In addition to Bourque-Silva, MWCC educators Shaunti Phillips, Heidi Wharton and Train Wu serve as the program’s senior outreach specialists and career coaches.

This spring, during the school day and after school, students learned about career and college research with a healthcare focus, took field trips to healthcare facilities, participated in hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities, and heard from multiple guest speakers including doctors and nutritionists, Bourque-Silva said. This summer, several participants obtained their CPR certification.

“We are delighted to have six classes of such courses already scheduled during the school day, and we’re looking forward to having several more scheduled in the coming school year during after-school hours,” said Dr. Christopher Lord, Principal of Leominster High School. “This gives students an opportunity to get a taste of the rigors of college life while in high school,” he said.

“Our students are so fortunate to be participating in the Workforce Diversity Pipeline Grant with MWCC. At Fitchburg High School, we seek to prepare students for college preparation as well as the careers of the 21st Century,” said Principal Jeremy Roche. “Exposing our students to these kind of relevant, engaging and purposeful experiences in the health care fields is a tremendous opportunity and one that will hopefully reap benefits in the immediate school year, but more importantly, for years to come.”

First-year participants are reporting that the program has opened their eyes to the academic and career opportunities that will be available to them. “I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go to college,” one Fitchburg High School student noted. “But now since I have the opportunity, I want to.”