Faculty and Staff Stories

The Mount Wachusett Community College East Wing Gallery will open two new art exhibitions by local artists Jesse Connor and Tracie Pouliot on October 17. An opening reception will be held on Friday, November 4 from 4:30 to 7 PM and will feature talks by each artist as well as an opportunity to tour the gallery.

Artist Jesse Connor’s exhibition entitled “Far Reaches” includes large scale paintings that borrow from close observation of settings, houses or nature with unusual emotionally charged interpretations of color. Connor lives in western Massachusetts, teaches painting at MWCC and is an active, highly respected artist with many recent exhibitions across the state. He is a dedicated teacher and artist working in acrylic and oils.

Work from “Far Reaches” by Jesse Connor

Work from “Far Reaches” by Jesse Connor

Artist Tracie Pouliot’s exhibition entitled “Oral History Book Series: Chair City Community Workshop” is based on the lives of 14 workers in the last furniture manufacturer in Gardner. Pouliot is a local artist who opened a grant-funded community art center in Gardner to complete the book series project. She first took printmaking in the MWCC Teen Art summer program and fell in love with it. Pouliot then went on to get her bachelor’s degree in printmaking and a Master’s degree in Community Art /Public art before returning to the area as a new adjunct faculty member in the art department, teaching printmaking. Her exhibition was orchestrated in conjunction with a National Endowment for Humanities grant.

Work from “Oral History Book Series: Chair City Community Workshop” by Tracie Pouliot

Work from “Oral History Book Series: Chair City Community Workshop” by Tracie Pouliot

All are welcome to visit the gallery, attend the reception and participate in the free gallery talks. The East Wing Gallery, housed in the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center on the Gardner Campus, is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 pm. The Gallery will be closed on November 11 in observance of Veterans Day.


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.

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.

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.”

booksThe North Central Educational Opportunity Center (NCEOC) at Mount Wachusett Community College has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to continue providing adults in the region with comprehensive services to successfully transition to college or other postsecondary education.

MWCC was awarded $236,900 for the first year of a five-year grant totaling $1.18 million. The NCEOC, housed within MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, was created in 2002 through federal funding, with additional financial and in-kind support from the college.

Designed to provide support for first generation college students and those with income challenges, Educational Opportunity Center programs are one of the nationwide TRIO programs created through federal legislation more than 40 years ago.

The NCEOC program serves 1,000 adults from throughout North Central Massachusetts at MWCC’s Gardner and Leominster campuses. Two-thirds of the participants are low-income, first-generation college students.

“Using federal funds to partner with local institutions to address the needs of the region is a key tool in ensuring all people have the opportunity to pursue higher education,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-3).

“The significant return on these investments will have ongoing reverberations for many years to come, as more students are encouraged and able to complete their college careers and enter the workforce with the skills necessary to succeed. Mount Wachusett received these funds after a rigorous grant process, which speaks to both the quality of their application and the school in general. They exemplify the growing trend of Third District institutions becoming academic leaders in the Commonwealth. I look forward to seeing the far-reaching benefits take hold,” she said.

“A college education should be within reach for all who seek it. We must ensure that this applies to everyone regardless of age, income, or where they live. Whether it’s the hardworking parent who put off a college education in order to provide for their kids or someone who just never thought college was in the cards for them, it’s never too late,” Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) said. “With this grant, Mount Wachusett Community College will be able to continue the incredible work they’re doing to support lifelong learners and put a college education within reach for all Massachusetts residents. This is a smart investment that will help to lift families up and grow our whole economy.”

“We are grateful for the continued support of our Congressional delegation for this outstanding program, which has helped thousands of students over the past 15 years and, with this renewed funding, will continue to do so in the years ahead,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We also appreciate the many community agencies and organizations that partner with us on this initiative. We are all committed to student success.”

The North Central Educational Opportunity Center actively assists participants in the planning and implementation of a student learning plan, which may include high school equivalency preparation, English as a Second Language courses, technical or professional training and college courses.

The center provides free and confidential client-centered services in English and Spanish that are tailored to the learning needs of each participant, including assistance with applying to the public or private college, university or vocational school of their choice, applying for financial aid, and academic and career counseling.

As a federally funded program, the NCEOC assists area residents with their academic and career goals no matter where they want to go to school, whether it is Mount Wachusett, one of the state universities or a career training program. The program also provides services specifically designed for veterans and their dependents, as well as current military personnel.

Charlene Dukes President Asquino Walter BumphusPresident Daniel M. Asquino was recently recognized for his three decades of leadership at MWCC by the American Association of Community Colleges. President Asquino, who announced plans to retire in early 2017, was among approximately two dozen retiring CEOs honored during the AACC’s 96th annual convention in Chicago.
Dr. Asquino is currently the longest serving president among Massachusetts’ public institutions of higher education. He was appointed in August, 1987 to succeed the college’s first president, Arthur F. Haley. The college’s Board of Trustees has appointed a search committee to find his successor.
Pictured: Charlene Dukes, left, chair of the AACC Board of Directors and president of Prince George’s Community College, joins AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus, right, in thanking President Asquino for his years of service to MWCC, the AACC, and public higher education.
Gardner News Summer Up Mark Hawke July 2016

Mayor Mark Hawke visited Mount Wachusett Community College’s Summer Up program on Wednesday, held at Jackson Playground. Here, Hawke impresses children with his whistling skills. (Photos by Andrew Mansfield)

GARDNER – Fun learning and games have kept Gardner’s youth so busy this summer they can almost forget the heat of 90 degree days.

Mount Wachusett Com­munity College is in the midst of its 12th annual Summer Up program, run in collaboration with the city and held at Jackson Playground, which is free for families and lasts five weeks.

An average of about 70 kids a day stop by the playground and on Wednesday morning they were given a treat almost as good as a popsicle: A visit from Mayor Mark Hawke.

“It’s a safe environment. It’s structured, supportive, it’s fantastic,” Hawke said, adding the program fits well with the playground improvements the city has made in the last few years. He said the city donated $12,500 to help run the program.

Summer Up is held Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for children ages 5 to 12. It also provides an employment opportunity for several teenagers who are counselors helping out the Mount’s adult staff.

Every week the children visit Greenwood Memorial Pool and are introduced to fun, safe STEM-related activities, standing for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“I really enjoy when you put Mentos inside of the soda,” said Jeremias Rodriguez, referring to a science experiment with the mint candy and Coke that produces a volcanic-like chemical reaction.  Rodriguez is 7 years old and in his second year going to Summer Up.  He said he also likes playing water dodge ball at the pool.

Anthony Frediani, 9, is in his third year at the program.  He enjoys spending time with his friends at the jungle gym and games like capture the flag. “I like playing basketball the best; my favorite game is knockout,” he said, which involves players competing against each other to make basketball shots.

STEM instructor JoAnn Pel­lechia is in her third year with the program, saying she loves the opportunity.  Making miniature greenhouses for plants, bird feeders, glow-in-the-dark slime, and buildings made from spaghetti and marshmallows are some of the activities she’s been teaching.  She teaches the teenage workers how to instruct the children in groups, working together.

“It’s keeps getting better each year,” she said.  “Teamwork is a very important component of the working force of the future.”

Gardner News Summer UP July 2016

Children form a circle to perform a song together.

Samantha Phelps-Pineo, 15, is one of the youth workers.  They undergo a week of training beforehand, being taught leadership skills and bullying prevention.  They are also taught job skills such as resume writing for their future careers. “I’ve been working here since seventh grade and I’m going to 10th,” said Phelps-Pineo. “I think this job gets you ready to do interviews for a bigger, better job.”

Lea Ann Scales, who is the Mount’s vice president for external affairs, communications, and K-12 partnerships, said the program is the “coolest thing going.”

“The mayor has been so innovative and creative and supportive.”

The $12,500 contribution from the city was a budget item approved by the City Council. “This is always in jeopardy because it’s funding,” said Hawke.  “I’ll give them credit. Without a blink of an eye they said absolutely, this needs to be done.”

The Mount also runs separate Summer Up programs at sites in Fitchburg and Leominster.  At all sites meals are provided to the children.

The Division of Access and Transition at the Mount coordinates the program, which costs about $40,000 per site.  For Gardner, after the city’s contribution and grant funding, the Mount is left to pay about $15,000.

Scales said the program fits a need for childcare over the summer and youth employment, and is also part of the civic engagement focus put in place by Mount President Dan Asquino. “It’s the college’s job to make sure our communities are vibrant,” she said.

Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, July 28, 2016