Community Stories

092011ecMWCC_FALLWith the start of 2015, we continue a transformational era at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Just a few years ago, we reached a pinnacle of our renewable energy portfolio with the construction and activation of two wind turbines that together are meeting all of the electricity demand on our Gardner campus. Wind energy followed on the heels of a biomass heating system, solar-powered hot water and significant conservation measures, and within a decade our college transformed from a costly energy consumer to a nationally and state recognized leader in cost-effective sustainability.

This spring, we eagerly anticipate breaking ground on our new $40 million science and technology building, which will allow us to continue growing our science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs. Coupled with innovative, new STEM courses, generous scholarship opportunities and seamless degree transfer pathways, students are benefiting from a quality, more affordable academic foundation leading into high-growth career sectors.

As exciting as new construction is, there is more than a physical transformation underway at MWCC.

With each community service learning project, act of volunteerism, and civic-building activity performed by our students, our positive impact on the cities and towns in North Central Massachusetts, the commonwealth, and our country expands.

Our students, faculty and staff who continually seek new and greater ways to meet the real needs of real people and real organizations within our communities and our world, are key to this transformation. In fact, their endeavors, guided by our outstanding Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement team, have placed MWCC on the national map as a leader in this growing movement  in higher education. We recently earned continued standing on the prestigious Civic Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and on the President’s National Higher Education Honor Roll for Civic Engagement.

During the last academic year, more than 144,000 hours were devoted to service learning, internships, practicums and volunteerism, representing a dollar value to our communities of $3.5 million. Consider the difference that has made on the lives of countless individuals and nonprofit organizations within our area! Now imagine what things would be like today without the involvement of our engaged faculty and our students, who carry these experiences and values with them after graduation.

Our student support services and program delivery have also transformed to meet the needs of 21st century learners, from veterans and military families, to students of all ages seeking creative, tailored solutions to traditional academic paths, to the companies and industries seeking skilled workers to grow their businesses.

In recent weeks, the strength of community colleges like MWCC again gained national attention with President Obama’s proposal to make community colleges free to students who maintain good grades and stay on track to graduate within three years. The America’s College Promise proposal emphasizes the need to transform national education priorities to avoid a critical shortage of college-educated citizens in comparison to other world leaders, by creating a free K-14 system as the new norm.

Through our long-standing partnerships with area K-12 school districts, are already making tremendous progress in this regard. In a newly released report, the Rennie Center highlights our Gateway to College, Pathways Early College Innovation School, Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech and other dual enrollment opportunities for their success preparing more teens for rigorous college-level work while still in high school.

While the details and implementation of the President’s proposal remain a matter of national debate, the proposal again raises greater awareness to the major role community colleges play in the economic vitality of our country, and in the investment we as a nation must make in the people who shape our communities.

Haiti trip January 2015

MWCC nursing students, alumni and faculty joined Forward in Health on a mission trip to Haiti in January.

During the winter recess, a group of MWCC nursing students, alumni and faculty members spent a week in the Caribbean, though swimming, snorkeling and tropical feasts were not on the agenda. Rather, they went to Haiti to provide health care to impoverished children and adults served by the Gardner nonprofit Forward in Health.

Forward in Health, founded by Dr. John Mulqueen and MWCC alumna Paula Mulqueen, RN, is dedicated to providing health care to residents in a rural area just outside Les Cayes. The organization has organized more than 50 mission trips since 2001, and is now in the final stages of building a clinic to serve residents in one of the world’s poorest countries. On these trips, they bring with them medicine, supplies, volunteers from the community – and hope.

The trips are strenuous, but rewarding and life-changing, said Paula Mulqueen, a 1994 graduate of MWCC’s nursing program. “It was a privilege to take my alma mater to the third world,” she said. “Our MWCC nursing pin is engraved with the words “Service to Humanity and the World, and this trip was a true testament to the Mount and to Gardner that we have produced the finest nurses who are willing to step outside their comfort zone to serve others.”

Faculty members Katherine Pecorelli and Kathy Panagiotes, nursing students Diana Bronson, Lori Bellieveau, Katelyn Halfrey and Dawn Fuller, and nursing program alumni Marquita Day and Donna Muse joined Paula on the mission trip Jan. 3 to 13. Forward in Health board member Debbie Orre, former director of MWCC’s nursing program, joined the healthcare team, along with several other volunteers from the community.

Days before they were set to leave from Boston, the trip was nearly canceled due to a new round of political unrest in Haiti. Once there, the country’s electricity was not working for much of the time. The volunteers were there for the country’s National Day of Mourning on Jan. 12, marking five years since a massive earthquake devastated the island.

Without access to health care, even the most common of ailments than can be cured with over the counter medicines in the U.S. can become full-blown health issues in Haiti when left untreated, such as respiratory illness and skin infections.

“I believe the nursing students develop a deeper compassion, understanding and empathy,” after serving in this capacity, Pecorelli said. While in Haiti, the team of volunteers held a mountain clinic and assessed close to 100 patients, she said. In addition to the time spent administering direct care to patients, volunteers visited an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, and tool in some local sites.

“Forward in Health has created a safe, welcoming and bonding method of bringing various people from the community to Haiti,” said Professor Panagiotes.

“I think this experience makes me more grateful for the things that I have in the U.S. and I would love to do more to help,” said student volunteer Lori Belliveau.

james baldwin

James Baldwin

Black History Month is observed as a remembrance of important people and events in the history of African Americans. In recognition, MWCC will host several events in February at its Gardner campus. All events, sponsored by the office of Student Life, are free and open to the public.The series of events begins with the screening of “James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket,” on Thursday, Feb. 5 at 12:30 p.m. in the North Café. Director Karen Thorsen will attend the event and host a discussion following the film and a light lunch will be served.

Baldwin, a major 20th century American author and a Civil Rights activist, called upon Americans, black and white, to confront their shared racial tragedy. The film captures the passionate intellect and courageous writing a man who was born black, impoverished, gay and gifted.

The series continues with the film “Standing on my Sisters’ Shoulders,” on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 12:30 p.m. in the North Café. This award-winning documentary tells the story of three Mississippi who walked into the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D. C. in 1965 to seek their civil rights. These legends give their firsthand testimony and capture a piece of history that is often overlooked in history books. Their achievements go beyond the cotton fields of Mississippi or even the coast of American of Black History Month.

The Bamidele Dancers and Drummers will perform on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 12:30 p.m. in the south café. The BDD 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. Members have expertise in African, Caribbean and Brazilian culture.

survivor 2015 group

President Daniel Asquino, left, and team mates compete with other peformers to raise funds for the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.

Theatre at the Mount’s January 23 production of Survivor, the Musical culminated with the naming of Jillian Whitney as “Sole Survivor.” Whitney, who is a Theatre at the Mount performer and hails from Rindge, NH, competed against 23 other performers and  local business leaders  to see who could “out-sing, out-perform, and out-shine” in a full evening of musical theatre challenges.

Singing, dancing, acting, puzzles and trivia were all part of the competition in which Whitney was the last performer standing.

Survivor, the Musical raised funds for The Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster with support from many area businesses and individual sponsors.

 

MWCC Dental Programs 10 year celebration group photo

President Asquino, former Trustee Ellen Daly, outgoing Dental Education Programs Director Anne Malkasian and new chair Cynthia Cadoret are joined by students and alumni at the anniversary celebration.

Mount Wachusett Community College administrators, faculty, students and alumni joined representatives from North Central Massachusetts dental and medical community to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the college’s dental education programs. The event, held Jan. 22 at the programs’ new academic site, the Fitchburg Family Community Health Center, featured a reception, tours of the new facility, student presentations and refreshments.

President Daniel M. Asquino praised the college’s dental education programs as a model among the state’s community colleges for their clinical partnership with the Community Health Center to serve area residents who otherwise would not have access to dental care.

“There is no program like this, where students get the kind of exposure and experience they get at Mount Wachusett,” he said.

The college launched its dental hygiene program in 2005 following an outpouring of generosity from the dental community who saw a healthcare need and partnered with the college to address it, Asquino said. The part-time dental assisting program began in 2012. “It’s a model partnership where dentists and the dental community got some grants and we started the program for the community.”

To date, the programs have celebrated the academic success of 113 graduates. Alumni representing each graduating class from 2007 to 2014 attended the event, along with current students.

The event also recognized the decade-long leadership of Program Director Anne Malkasian, who is retiring.

“This evening we are celebrating a milestone for the dental education programs at Mount Wachusett Community College,” she said.

Malkasian thanked the numerous supporters who helped launch the program and ensure its continued success, including Ellen Daly, former chair of MWCC’s Board of Trustees. A retired dental hygienist, Daly was instrumental in starting the program. Daly, who attended the celebration, said she is delighted with the growth and continued success of the dental education programs.

“I may have planted a seed, but the work has been done by the college staff,” Daly said.

Professor Cynthia Cadoret, the new chair of the dental education programs department, announced the creation of the Dental Health Alumni Scholarship to benefit future students. Alumni, current students, college faculty and administrators, industry vendors and other supporters have contributed to the new scholarship. 

 

CJ

Charles “CJ” Husselbee, a first-generation college student, simultaneously earned his high school diploma and an academic certificate in accounting through MWCC’s Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship. He went on to earn an associate degree in Business Administration in 2014 a year ahead of schedule, and is now pursuing a bachelor’s in accounting at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s dual enrollment programs are showcased as innovative models in the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy’s second annual report, the Condition of Education in the Commonwealth. The report, released January 22 by the Cambridge-based research institute, examines areas of success and areas for continued improvement in student outcomes across the education pipeline, from birth to college and career success.

The report notes MWCC’s record of success and its potential to serve as a model for other communities across  Massachusetts, citing as examples the Gateway to College program for students at risk of dropping out, the Pathways Early College Innovation School, and the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation Career Tech Scholarship.

The second annual report includes a set of 25 data indicators representing critical student outcomes and, for the first time this year, an action guide that focuses on three areas where data indicate the need for further reform: setting a strong foundation in early childhood, attending to the whole child with comprehensive supports, and preparing college-ready students through innovative high school designs.

The action guide focuses on existing programs that could, if brought to scale, lead to substantial progress in educational outcomes for students. Mount Wachusett Community College was showcased as a model for policymakers and practitioners.

“The Condition of Education project offers a platform for constructive dialogue among stakeholders about the most effective strategies to promote student success,” said the center’s Executive Director Chad d’Entremont. “Through this report, the Rennie Center brings together thought leaders to develop a shared understanding, grounded in evidence, of the state of our educational system. We are excited to shine a light on the great work that Mount Wachusett is doing to contribute to positive outcomes for Massachusetts students.”

“Dual enrollment programs expand academic opportunities and open doors to higher education for teenagers,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Our programs cover a wide spectrum – including programs that restore excitement in learning for students who feel disengaged from the traditional high school experience, to those that help students accelerate the pace of their studies to get an early start on their career goals. We are delighted to partner with the Rennie Center to share our best practices with communities across the commonwealth.”

The report was released during a forum on Jan. 22 in Boston. Speakers included Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser, Dr. Andrew Hargreaves of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College and author of The Fourth Way: the Inspiring Future for Educational Change.

Building upon its successful Gateway to College program, MWCC partnered with the Mahar Regional School District to launch the Pathways Early College Innovation High School in. Students with a GPA of 3.0 enroll during their junior year and earn a high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously. The program focuses on high-achieving students, and recruits a largely low-income, first-generation population that might not attend college without this opportunity. The Pathways school draws on a variety of public and private funds, including district school-choice funds, to remain sustainable.

In partnership with Winchendon Public Schools, high school students can opt into a one-year, full-time dual enrollment program that features career-oriented options, such as health care, information technology, accounting or computer science. Funded by the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation, this program lets students earn their high school diploma and an academic certificate simultaneously, which can be applied toward an associate degree. The Rennie Center report notes that these are popular choices for students who are eager to complete a two-year degree or a work-based certification and enter the workforce quickly. Students are provided with private foundation scholarships from the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation to cover the costs associated with coursework.

MWCC has also expanded on its college transition offerings in other ways as well, the report notes. As a solution to remediation, the college administers the Accuplacer math and English placement tests to all juniors in nine partner high schools. In addition, MWCC faculty collaborate with high school faculty to develop rigorous and targeted 12th grade math courses to prepare all students to enter directly into credit-bearing coursework upon graduation. Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School, Leominster High’s Center for Technical Education Innovation and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School participate in this Math Modeling initiative, with a planned expansion to an additional two to three high schools in the 2015-16 school year.

The Rennie Center was launched in 2002 by then-Secretary of Education Paul Reville as a division of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC). In 2005, the Rennie Center became an independent non-profit organization committed to addressing the critical challenges of reforming education in Massachusetts. For more information and to view the report, visit www.renniecenter.org.

 

FHS alumni event with MWCC 2015

Fitchburg High alumni with Principal Jeremy Roche, left, and MWCC Assistant GEAR UP Director Victor Rojas, right.

Recent graduates of Fitchburg, Athol, Ralph C. Mahar and Murdock high schools returned to their alma maters this month to offer tips to current high students on a wide range of topics, including the application process, coursework and study requirements, financial aid and dorm life.

The events were sponsored by MWCC’s Division of Access and Transition in partnership with the high school guidance departments. Many of the returning alumni are past participants of MWCC’s Educational Talent Search, GEAR UP, North Central Mass Educational Talent Search, Upward Bound Math and Science, and Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech programs. The alumni are now pursuing a variety of academic programs at public and private colleges and universities.

Murdock alumni 2015

MurdockPrincipal Josh Romano, left, MWCC Access & Transition Aide Davis Brush, second from right, and Angele Goss, right, Director, North Central Mass Educational Talent Search/UBMS, with Murdock alumni.

The annual alumni breakfast event “is a great way for our graduates to give back to their school,” said Murdock Principal Josh Romano. “Many of our students are first generation college students, so Mount Wachusett’s Access and Transition programs help them greatly with the process of preparing for college success. The programs give us another way of guiding our students and showing them the options that are available.”

“I think it’s important for kids who are thinking about going to college to hear from people who have gone before them how important and how impactful college is on their lives,” said Mahar alum Jessica Gilmore, who now attends Brandeis University. “When their questions can be answered, it isn’t so scary of a process anymore because real people have done it before them.”

Mahar

Mahar alumni

High school students said they enjoy the annual event. “I learned that once you get to college it is no more playing games,” said Fitchburg senior Shakira Collazo. “It is real life and you have to be ready to work. It is either go hard or go home.”

Participating alumni include:

Fitchburg: Erica Sandrelli and Luis Jusino (Mount Wachusett Community College);Rubin Seyde (Boston University); Nina Thirakoune (Bentley University); Rachael Lanni, (Worcester Polytechnic Institute); Matti Phaneuf (University of Massachusetts, Amherst).

Athol High School alumni event

MWCC Access & Transition counselor Steven ringer, front row, left, Athol Principal Dr. Steven Meyer, and alumni.

Athol: James Hughes (MWCC and University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Alex Page (Bentley University); Kyle White, (Bentley University); Marissa Roberts (Green Mountain College); Rachel Karen (Westfield State University); Gloria Walters (UMass Amherst); Jennifer Holden (Framingham State University); Devin Belden (Bridgewater State University); Elizabeth Arpide (Emerson College).

Mahar: Troix Adams (University of Tampa); Kurtis Graeff and Derek Porter (Worcester PoIytechnic Institute); Jessica Gilmore (Brandeis University); and Dylan Robichaud (Lyndon State College).

Murdock: Charles C.J. Husselbee, (MWCC and UMass, Amherst); Tyler Perry, (UMass Amherst); Brittany Eliason, (Saint Anselm College); Katrina Williams, (Worcester State) James Maynard (Westfield State); Justin Smith, (Salem State); Robert Holly, University of New Mexico; Justin Harris (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) Alex Emerson (Syracuse University).

Dental Hygiene pinning 2014 awards

Dental Education Programs Director Anne Malkasian with members of the 2014 graduating class.

Following extensive planning and support from the North Central Massachusetts dental community, Mount Wachusett Community College launched its dental education programs in 2005 in Fitchburg. To mark the 10 year anniversary and the programs’ recent relocation to the Fitchburg Family Community Health Center, MWCC invites area dentists, alumni and program supporters to a celebration on Thursday, Jan. 22 from 4:30 to 6:30 at the new program site.

MWCC’s full-time dental hygiene program and part-time, evening dental assistant program are housed within the Community Health Connections’ newly opened, $20 million Fitchburg Family Community Health Center, located at 326 Nichols Road and adjacent to the original site at Health Alliance Hospital, Burbank campus. The relocation continues a long-standing partnership between MWCC and CHC that enables students to work with dentists and patients.

The event will include a reception, tours of the new facility, student presentations and refreshments. The celebration also will mark the retirement of Program Director Anne Malkasian and appointment of the program’s new coordinator, Professor Cynthia Cadoret.

“Our dental education programs were created in collaboration with the dental and medical community to address a specific need for trained dental professionals in our region, as well as provide care for area residents who otherwise would not have access to dental care,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are delighted with the success of these programs, the success of our graduates and current students, and the success of this ongoing community partnership. Many in our community were involved with making this happen, and we look forward to celebrating this milestone with them.”

Reservations to the free event are requested and can be made by contacting Anne Malkasian at amalkasian@mwcc.mass.edu. In case of inclement weather, the snow date is Tuesday, Jan. 27.

 

 

 

Winners Photo

“The Trivial Pursuits,” winners of the first MWCC Alumni Association Quiz Night, from left, Karen Doherty, Shawn LaRoche, Joseph Stiso and John Doherty.

On Thursday evening, January 8, “Quizters” and spectators braved the arctic cold and made a spectacular showing at the Mount Wachusett Community College Alumni Association’s first annual “Quiz Night” event.

In a dynamic game of question and answer, teams tested their knowledge related to current topics and college-related trivia. Promoted as a fun and entertaining evening, the event proved to be just that. Teams were encouraged to give themselves humorous names and to come dressed in costume. Many did, adding to the amusing atmosphere. Complementing the levity of the evening was Master of Ceremonies, Mayor Mark Hawke, whose quick wit truly entertained the crowd. “I didn’t find the questions all that difficult, but then again I had the answers” Mayor Hawke commented. “What a fantastic night and a great way to raise funds for the MWCC Foundation.”

“This turned out to be a great way to raise much needed funds for student scholarships” said Carol Jacobson, Associate Director Alumni Relations at MWCC. “Being our first effort with this event, we are thrilled with the level of support and enthusiasm we received from members of the community and within the college. We’re already looking ahead to next year.”

Thomas Mutti from the Ronald M. Ansin Foundation participated as a member of the HealthAlliance Hospital team. “I can’t imagine a better night for a better cause” he said. “Fun was had by all and a day later I’m still laughing.”

The event netted nearly $3,000 and proceeds will fund student scholarships through the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation.