Faculty and Staff Stories

Manufacturing Roundtable at MWCC Jan 5 2016

Senior Learning Specialist Jennifer Stephens demonstrates new advanced manufacturing equipment to lawmakers, business and community leaders during a tour of the Devens campus and meeting of the North Central Massachusetts Manufacturing Roundtable.

State lawmakers joined community and business leaders to underscore the value manufacturing brings to the region and brainstorm ways to employ more workers in this prosperous and growing field during the monthly meeting of the North Central Massachusetts Manufacturing Roundtable.

The January 5 meeting was hosted by Mount Wachusett Community College at its Devens campus, and included tours of the college’s Manufacturing Workforce Center and equipment demonstrations.

Nearly 40 people joined MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino for the dialogue, including state Senators Jennifer Flanagan, Anne Gobi and Jamie Eldridge; state Representative Jennifer Benson; Thatcher Kezer, MassDevelopment senior vice president, Devens; Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke; Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale; North Central Massachusetts Chamber President and CEO Roy Nascimento; Nashoba Valley Chamber President and CEO Melissa Fetterhoff; Greater Gardner Chamber President and CEO Jim Bellina; and representatives from the North Central Career Center, Workforce Investment Board and offices of Congressman Jim McGovern, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, and state Representative Harold Naughton.

Much of the discussion focused on changing public perception about manufacturing by raising awareness about today’s clean, modern and safe facilities, diverse, well-paying jobs, employee benefits and opportunities for career growth in the industry. Attendees vowed to remain committed to fighting the stigma associated with manufacturing by enhancing collaboration with area school systems to provide career information to students, parents and educators.

“There is a greater awareness, but it hasn’t risen to the parents’ level” of recommending manufacturing as a viable, stable career field for their children, said David McKeehan, former president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber who founded the Manufacturing Roundtable 15 years ago as a way for business and industry leaders to address mutual concerns and grow the region’s economy.

Manufacturing accounts for nearly 25 percent of the workforce in North Central Massachusetts, yet finding workers remains a critical issue, particularly among young people who are needed to fill positions being vacated by retiring baby boomers.

“Manufacturing is what built us. This is the backbone of our community,” said Senator Flanagan.

MWCC opened its Manufacturing Workforce Center in fall 2013 in response to the increasing demand for production workers. In addition to the Industry Readiness Training Program, the college offers a variety of credit and noncredit STEM programs including analytical laboratory & quality systems training, mechatronics and associate degrees in biotechnology and manufacturing technology.

This year, MWCC will continue offering free training in advanced manufacturing through its Industry Readiness Training Program. The next, six-week course begins on January 19 at the Devens campus.

The training program is made possible through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration. For more information about registering, visit mwcc.edu/advancedmanufacturing or contact the campus at 978-630-9883 or creifsteck@mwcc.mass.edu.



50_Logos_4versions_2014Mount Wachusett Community College has been selected to join the Association of American Colleges and Universities and The Democracy Commitment in “Citizenship Under Siege,” a national program of public forums being sponsored this spring through a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The AAC&U and The Democracy Commitment, in partnership with seven community colleges in the country, will facilitate a tapestry of public dialogues exploring who counts as citizens and who has been accorded full rights to democracy’s promises. These forums will be grounded in the nation’s history and explore creative ways to use the power of the humanities to bridge differences and build strong communities.

MWCC’s program, titled Citizenship Under Siege: Degrees of Citizenship, will take place throughout the spring semester in collaboration with local nonprofit organizations, police departments and elected officials.

Political scientist Robert D. Putnam, author of 14 books including the bestselling “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” and “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” will be among the featured speakers at MWCC. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“We are proud and honored to be chosen to participate in this timely, national initiative,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Through these forums, we intend to bring the humanities out of the typical classroom and into the public sphere to engage students, staff, faculty and the greater community in deliberative dialogues around some of society’s most critical issues,” he said.

“One of the benefits of working within a community college is the ability to be adaptive and dynamic, to respond to the needs of our students quickly, yet with intention,” said Fagan Forhan, director of Experiential Learning Opportunities and Civic Engagement at MWCC and director of the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. “Very few community colleges are doing the work of deliberative dialogues, and yet our students are living with these social justice issues in a very immediate and visceral way.”

Forhan and MWCC Dean of Students Jason Zelesky will serve as project directors, working with a team of faculty, students and staff.

The NEH announced the grants in December as part of its new initiative, The Common Good: Humanities and the Public Square. The project builds upon a previous NEH-funded initiative, Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation: Difference, Community, and Democratic Thinking, in which MWCC also participated.


MWCC PN pinning Dec 15 2015Forty-two Mount Wachusett Community College students were welcomed into the nursing profession during a traditional pinning ceremony on December 21.

“As you graduate and take on new challenges, it is important to remember that you have already taken the initial step you needed to build a more promising future,” keynote speaker Michelle Humphrey, RN, a 2006 alumna of the program, told the graduates. “Every class you’ve taken, every lab, paper and certification you’ve earned, have all been preparing you to adapt to change and future challenges. The most powerful tool you will have is the determination to succeed, which has taken you through this program and culminated in this pinning.”

Like many of the graduates, Ms. Humphrey began her healthcare career as a nurse assistant, before becoming a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After earning an associate degree in nursing, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating with honors. She was consecutively promoted to her present position, director of nursing services, for Genesis Healthcare’s Pheasant Wood Center and Keene Center in New Hampshire.

“This program brought enormous good into my life, the opportunity to build a career, financial security for my family and a job where I positively impact people every single day,” she said.

Robert LaBonte, Vice President of Finance and Administration, congratulated the students on behalf of the college and President Daniel M. Asquino, and Eileen Costello, Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs & Social Sciences, delivered greetings from the academic school.

Graduates Leslie Jele, Barbara Avila and Melissa Gonzalez delivered student addresses, and classmates Rebecca Beirholm, Cynthia Riley, and Terri Stewart led the lighting of the lamp and the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

Each graduate, dressed in a traditional nurse uniform, was welcomed into the profession by having a nursing pin fastened to her or his lapel by a fellow nurse – a family member, friend or faculty member. MWCC’s eight-star pin is imprinted with the words “Service to Humanity and the World” with the nursing symbol in the middle. Professors Kathleen Panagiotes, Kimberly Shea and Collene Thaxton led the ceremony, which took place at the Colonial Hotel while renovations at the MWCC’s Green Street campus continue.

As part of the one-year academic program, the students trained with professionals at 23 clinical sites that partner with the college, including Athol Hospital; Clinton Hospital; Community Health Connections; DaVita Dialysis Center; Gardner Public Schools, Gardner Rehabilitation & Nursing Center; Golden Living Center; GVNA Health Care, Inc. – Fitchburg, Gardner and North Quabbin; Habit OPCO; Heywood Hospital MHU/GPU; Heywood Hospital Maternity Center; HealthAlliance, Leominster Birthing Center; Leominster Public School District; Life Care, the Highlands; Northeast Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Clinic; Quabbin Valley Health Care; St. Peter-Marian Jr.-Sr. High School; St. Vincent Hospital, Seven Hills Pediatric Center; Stetson School; and Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital.



Police and criminal justice officials throughout the region recently provided internship opportunities for a number of Mount Wachusett Community College students majoring in criminal justice.

Student interns completed a minimum of 120 hours over a 15-week semester at different sites throughout the region including the Gardner, Clinton, Shirley and Winchendon police departments and the North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner.

“The internships are a great way for students to gain experience while making connections that can lead to jobs,” said department chair Reed Hillman, former commander of the Massachusetts State Police.



ECE alumni event Nov 2015MWCC’s Early Childhood Education program recently hosted its fourth annual alumni event at the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education. It was an evening full of friendship, inspiration, and networking. More than 80 current students, faculty, staff, Garrison teachers, alumni and their families attended the Seuss-inspired event.

Alumni events, such as this one, are an important opportunity for current students to make connections with alum who may work in the field.

“These connections not only provide career opportunities but more importantly, set the foundation for a supportive network” said current student Andrea Bartlett.

Emily Wuoti, a December graduate and Leadership in Early Childhood Education student, spearheaded this year’s event. “I wanted to create an event to help inspire current students who are new or may be doubtful that this is the right field for them.” She invited alumni to share their success stories about their journeys and offer advice to current students who may not know where their journey will take them.

This particular event posed a question to all who were involved: Where do you see yourself going from here?

“This was a great opportunity to really think about goals and plans” said current student Kelly Winship.

Additionally, Student Life Coordinator Sandy Arsenault, a long-time friend of the Early Education Club, was honored at the event.

MWCC Early Childhood Education faculty Dr. Rosanne Morel, Dr. Maryann Kane and Professor Maureen Provost “are so very proud of the exceptional work, leadership, professionalism and passion” Emily exhibited throughout her time at Mount Wachusett Community College, Professor Provost said. “She exemplifies the expectations we have for our students and we are looking forward to seeing ‘the places SHE will go’ as she continues her journey. Children and families are fortunate indeed to have Emily in the field.”

- Emily Wuoti and Maureen Provost

MWCC Fitness Center Jared S

Jared Swerzenski, new director of the Fitness and Wellness Center at Mount Wachusett Community College. Photo/Jay Gearan

GARDNER – The Fitness and Wellness Center at Mount Wachusett Community College is a busy place, from early morning through the evening hours.

Every day, members flock to the facility, with its modern equipment, six-lane swimming pool, accessible weight-training and cardiovascular workout areas, plus basketball and racquetball courts.

Soon, however, in three weeks to be exact, the participant numbers will spike.

“The No. 1 New Year’s resolution for people has always been to get in shape,” said Jared Swerzenski, the center’s new director. “In January, that’s when people are looking for a place to begin the year with that goal in mind, and we want to be the best option in this area.”

Mr. Swerzenski, 32, was appointed in July after longtime director Steve Washkevich retired after 18 years of service.

A graduate of Cushing Academy and Clark University where he excelled in soccer, Mr. Swerzenski has an extensive background in sports management after earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees in communication at Clark.

Before coming to MWCC, he was the first athletic director at North Central Charter School, now the Sizer School, in Fitchburg, an associate director of admissions and athletic recruiter at Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the director of intramurals and assistant director of facilities at Framingham State University.

Mr. Swerzenski’s association with the MWCC Fitness and Wellness Center dates to his childhood. “I went to the sports camps here – tennis, baseball and soccer – as a kid and I loved it,” he said.

“I was ready for a new challenge when I applied for this job,” said the tall and lean Mr. Swerzenski, who regularly exercises at the center and looks as if he could still easily step into the starting soccer lineup at Clark.

One of his major goals in his new position, Mr. Swerzenski said, is that he wants, in an increasingly competitive market, to increase the general public’s awareness of the center and everything it has to offer.

“We’ve always been open to the public, but a lot of people still don’t know that,” he said. “We’re like a hidden gem and we have a lot of dedicated, wonderful members who have been here from the start and they’ve been great in helping me. Our goal is to expand participation with new members. We also want to reach out to the many students who attend MWCC and really don’t know enough about us.”

Mr. Swerzenski said that the center has 2,300 paying members, and he would like to increase that number to at least 2,500.

“We want to be the place where people feel comfortable working out,” Mr. Swerzenski said. “We have a facility which covers over 65,000 square feet and we offer over 75 weekly group exercise classes. We want to be an all-encompassing gym. If people come in and use the treadmill once a week, maybe they’ll see a fitness class going on and decide to try it.”

Mr. Swerzenski, who oversees a staff of three full-time and over 75 part-time employees, said that some of the more popular exercise classes led by certified athletic trainers include yoga, Insanity, Groove, Zumba and Group Ride.

Other offerings include massage therapy, a nursery, body composition testing, personalized nutrition classes and water aerobics.

“In my short time here so far, I’ve seen a lot of success stories about people losing lots of weight and also finding new friends,” said Mr. Swerzenski. “Our big focus is to make this center feel like a community,”

Mr. Swerzenski, who lives in Hubbardston with his wife, Jill, and their daughter, Clair, praised the support and advice he has received from MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, a dedicated Fitness and Wellness member himself.

To learn more, visit www.mwcc.edu/fitness or call (978) 630-9212.

Jay Gearan, Telegram & Gazette, Dec. 11, 2015

laptops for vetsThrough the generosity of corporations and individuals, student veterans at Mount Wachusett Community College have 16 new laptop computers readily available for their use while pursuing their college degrees.

Donations to the Laptops for Veterans program have topped $20,350, which has allowed the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success to replace five outdated computers and acquire 16 new ones that veterans and active military personnel can borrow as needed. The fundraising initiative was launched by MWCC Student Trustee and Army veteran Thomas Berger.

Earlier this year, Rollstone Bank & Trust donated $3,000, followed by Wayne Canty and the Canty Family Charitable Foundation, with a $5,000 donation. MWCC alumnus and 2015 commencement speaker Kevin Berg sent six laptops valued at $9,000. Additional donors include Heywood Healthcare President and CEO Winfield Brown, George and Mary-Beth Jones, Pat Dakota and Janice Kulig.

“We now have 16 laptops that are either in use or readily available for use, with the potential to replace them as needed,” said MWCC Veterans Services Director Bob Mayer. “We are grateful to all who have contributed to this initiative.”

The Veteran Success Center at MWCC was created five years ago to meet the unique needs of veterans transitioning to college.

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.

Jesse Derleth with Carolina Silvera and Whitney Bailey

Jesse Derleth, center, Mount Wachusett Community College student activity officer for GEAR UP, assists Fitchburg High School seniors Carolina Silvera, left, and Whitney Bailey with their college applications during the Massachusetts College Application Celebration coordinated by the college and the high school’s guidance department.

A majority of Fitchburg High School seniors will celebrate Thanksgiving with more than a meal under their belts. By the holiday, more than 92 percent of the class will have submitted their college applications for fall 2016.Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg High partnered to bring the Massachusetts College Application Celebration to the school this week. This is the fourth year Massachusetts has participated in the national initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP program and the second year the event has been held at FHS.

By the morning of Day 2, the class had exceeded the event’s 90-percent goal and was well on its way to reaching the high school’s 100-percent goal.

“The Massachusetts College Application Celebration has been a great opportunity to motivate and excite our students about a crucial part of the college success process,” said High School Principal Jeremy Roche.  “The ultimate goal of having 100% of our seniors apply to college before graduation reinforces the high expectations we have as a school community. This event highlights that college and career readiness is the goal for every FHS student,” he said. GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is administered by MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition in partnership with the high school through a grant  from the U.S. Department of Education. The majority of students in the graduating class of 2016 have received intensive college access and success services since middle school. With so much preparation behind them, students were eager to participate in the application challenge this year, said MWCC GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Specific services include academic counseling, tutoring, homework support, after school academic and social activities, college awareness and financial aid workshops MCAS, PSAT/SAT preparation, and college admissions assistance.

By encouraging high school students to apply to college early in their senior year, they are more likely to apply to several schools and find the best match for their academic goals, said Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships.

“We’ve been doing a lot of good work to help them succeed in middle school and high school, and we’re coming to the point where it all pays off. They have a lot of milestones this year – applying to schools, being accepted and receiving financial aid packages, and ultimately enrolling. We’re extremely proud of these students,” she said.

Damon Thammalangsy, who plans to study business at the University of Texas, said GEAR UP has helped him navigate through the steps of applying for college, financial aid and scholarship while developing leadership skills. “It opened a lot of opportunities for me.”

Inspired by her mother, Jaelyn Sanchez, plans to study psychology and ultimately earn her master’s degree and pursue a career working with children with autism. While earning her degrees, she is also following in her grandfather’s footsteps, serving in the U.S. Army Reserves.

Carolina Silvera is preparing to enroll in MWCC’s Pre-Healthcare Academy, which leads students directly into the college’s nursing program following a year of co-requisites. The GEAR UP program not only helped her transition to college, but transition to the U.S. after moving from Uruguay a year ago.

The GEAR UP team “was there for me every step of the way,” said Whitney Bailey, an aspiring attorney. “They are more than staff, they become mentors.”

MWCC hunger banquet 2016

Students representing the world’s poorest shared meager bowls of rice and water, while a much smaller group, representing the world’s wealthiest, dined on a full meal during a hunger banquet hosted Nov. 19 by Mount Wachusett Community College’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and Green Street Café.

Students representing the world’s poorest shared meager bowls of rice and water, while a much smaller group, representing the world’s wealthiest, dined on a full meal during a hunger banquet hosted Nov. 19 by Mount Wachusett Community College’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and Green Street Café.

The event aims to raise awareness of world poverty and economic inequality by providing students with varying meals and levels of service, based on the distribution of income and on chance – very often the sole determinant of one’s economic standing. Participants representing the 20 percent of high-income individuals were served a pasta entre with vegetables, rolls and soda. Middle-income participants, who comprise 30 percent of the population, served themselves rice and beans. Finally, students portraying the 50 percent of low-income individuals sat on the floor and received one ladle of rice, no silverware and a cup of water.

While students ate, faculty and staff speakers highlighted a range of statistics on world poverty and hunger. An estimated 2.5 billion people live in poverty, while 870 million suffer from chronic hunger.

“The issue is not a shortage of food,” explained Assistant Professor of Philosophy Daniel Soucy. “There is plenty of food to feed the world now.” War, economic inequality, and place of birth are among the factors that determine one’s station in life, he said.

Following the banquet, students from each income group reflected on the experience.

“The least we can do is feed people,” a young woman from the middle bracket called out. “I feel it’s the least we can do to make this world just a little bit better.”

Tickets to the banquet were sold for $1 and the money raised was donated to MWCC’s Students Supporting our Students (SOS) office food assistance program to help students in need.

The event is incorporated into a national initiative on economic inequality spearheaded by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. MWCC and Keene State College are co-leading more than 30 participating colleges and universities in the three-year initiative.

“It’s active learning,” said Shelley Errington Nicholson, MWCC Director of Community Learning. “I don’t think you can make this point in any better way than to do something like this.”



Lunenburg fire dept  MWCC students 1

Lunenburg Fire Chief Patrick Sullivan, firefighters Skyler Kozloski, Benjamin Boudreau and Tyler Pelkey, and Fred LeBlanc, MWCC Fire Science Technology program coordinator and former Leominster Fire Chief.

Three Mount Wachusett Community College students are receiving hands-on training as on-call firefighters with the Lunenburg Fire Department while pursuing their college degree in Fire Science Technology.Tyler Pelkey, 20, of Lunenburg, Skyler Kozloski, 20, of Fitchburg, and Benjamin Boudreau, 19, of Leominster, all certified Emergency Medical Technicians, have spent the past year serving overnight shifts at the fire station as part of the unique “live-in” component of MWCC’s associate degree program.

Concurrent with their academic training and experience with the department, the trio completed 240 hours of training over the past four months with the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy’s Call/Volunteer Training Program. They graduated on Nov. 5, and are now fully appointed members of the Lunenburg department as on call firefighters.

“Lunenburg has been an outstanding host of this program and has supported us throughout the Fire Science Technology program,” said MWCC program coordinator Fred LeBlanc, a former chief of the Leominster Fire Department.

MWCC’s Fire Science program is based on a model curriculum established by the National Fire Academy. This model establishes a Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) network of emergency services related to education and training providers. The national model provides an integrated, competency-based system of fire and emergency services professional development. The FESHE curriculum is transferable toward a bachelor’s degree, and the National Fire Academy also issues certificates to students completing the core courses of the associate degree.

The Massachusetts Firefighting Academy training applies toward the college degree as a three-credit college course, Principles of Emergency Services, and also provides 25 of the 40 continuing education hours that EMTs need to complete every two years as part of their certification, LeBlanc said.

All three students have aspired to work as firefighters since childhood, and expressed gratitude for the Lunenburg Fire Department and MWCC for the opportunities presented through the partnership.

Pelkey will earn his associate degree in December and plans to transfer his credits toward a bachelor’s degree. He is following in the footsteps of his father, who was a firefighter in the Air Force and in Concord, Mass.

Kozloski was inspired to become a firefighter after watching the film “Ladder 49,” and Boudreau made his career choice after shadowing members of the Leominster Fire Department. “I like to help out. I can’t really seeing myself doing anything other than that,” he said of his chosen profession.

Fire Chief Patrick Sullivan praised the academic program and its live-in component. “I wish they had this when I was going to school. This program has worked out very well for us and it has worked out well for them because it gives them experience, training and a foot in the door. The training and experience they have gained will serve them well as they move on in their fire service careers.”

The program covers a wide range of topics necessary for today’s professionals, from medical emergencies to hazardous materials and recognizing potential public safety threats. Students can opt in to the live-in component of MWCC’s academic program. It is not a requirement of the degree, but helps make the graduates much more marketable when searching for a job, Sullivan said.

“In the last 20 to 30 years the job has become much more technical.  Years ago, most people thought all you needed to be a firefighter was a strong back and a lot of bravery.” Sullivan said.

“Those traits are still needed today, but there is so much more to the job.  We still use the term fire department out of tradition, but it is more of an all-hazard response agency. We deal with fires, medical emergencies , hazardous materials as well as specialized rescue situations, code enforcement and safety education. The old saying “When all else fails, call the Fire Department” still applies today.”