Faculty and Staff Stories
Community leader and long-serving volunteer James O. Garrison is the recipient of Mount Wachusett Community College’s 2015 Service Above Self Award. The award, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions within the 29 cities and towns that make up the college’s service area, will be presented during MWCC’s 50th Commencement on Wednesday, May 20.
“We are proud to present this year’s Service Above Self Award to Jim Garrison for the tremendous impact he has made on our college, in the lives of so many of our students, and in the greater community,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino.
“Mr Garrison’s spirit of generosity and willingness to share his time, talents and resources epitomize the essence of what it means to be a caring, engaged citizen in a democratic society,” President Asquino said. “His philanthropic endeavors have resulted in countless improvements and changes to MWCC that have enhanced the learning environment for college students and children and the vital role the college plays in the community.”
A member of MWCC’s Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2014, including four years as chair, the Philadelphia native developed a passion for education and helping others while earning an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Garrisons moved to North Central Massachusetts in 1990 when he purchased the Gardner company H&R 1871, and immediately became involved in community service.
“The thing that struck me about Gardner was the dedication of the people in the community,” Mr. Garrison said. “Within the first week of arriving, I was visited by a number of business leaders, including President Asquino.” The first program launched by the company and MWCC focused on helping high school graduates get back on track. The program was not successful, Mr. Garrison said, due to a high rate of homelessness among the participants. However it raised awareness of underlying issues, and correlation between the importance of early childhood education prior to kindergarten, and academic success later in life.
With this in mind, in 2005, he and his wife, Peggy, donated $1 million to the MWCC Foundation to support stipends for MWCC students in need of child care, as well as scholarships for students studying early childhood education. The Garrisons also provided additional funding to build the child care center and preschool on the Gardner campus, which is named in their honor.
Mr. Garrison, a resident of Acton, continues to volunteer as a member of the MWCC Foundation. In addition, he currently serves as chair of the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, chair of the Greater Gardner Industrial Development Corporation and Foundation, chair of the GFA Federal Credit Union Supervisory Committee, and on the Heywood Hospital Board of Trustees. Previously, he served on the board of directors of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.
A former president and CEO of Instron Corp., in Canton, which manufactures and services materials testing instruments, system and accessories, Mr. Garrison retired from the U.S. Naval Reserves with the rank of Commander. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Miami University in Ohio, followed by an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Recognized for his dedication promoting education, health and economic development, Mr. Garrison is a recipient of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and Business Person of the Year awards; the MWCC Foundation Harold E. Drake Jr. Citizen of the Year Award; Gardner Visiting Nurses Association Make a Difference Award, and Community Health Connections’ Community Health Champion Award. Earlier this year, Mr. and Mrs. Garrison were recognized with the Heywood Healthcare Community Health Hero Award.
Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino and Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development Jacqueline Belrose joined colleagues from three other community colleges to share highlights of their advanced manufacturing partnership during the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual conference in April in Texas.
In September, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded $15.9 million TAACCCT grant to expand career opportunities in advanced manufacturing at MWCC and partnering Southwest Tennessee Community College, North Central State College in Ohio, and Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana. The colleges created the Advanced Manufacturing, Mechatronics, and Quality Consortium (AMMQC) to help job seekers quickly obtain training and credentials in the advanced manufacturing fields of Mechatronics and Quality career pathways.
“This grant is the story of how four colleges drew on the strengths of each region and are able to effectively work on a project in which our consortium is stronger than the sum of our parts,” President Asquino said during conference presentation. “We designed this using a Center of Excellence approach, in which our emphasis was on obtaining funding that would promote our areas of strength, and not simply address perceived shortfalls and weaknesses. We committed to establishing regional advisory boards drawn from our local manufacturers. And we agreed to work with the Manufacturing Institute so we could ensure that our curriculum aligns with various industry recognized credentials.”
As a group, the programs share a common interest in appropriate and deliberate use of assessment tools, non-credit to credit transition, acceleration of degree completion, and the nexus between education and industry credentials.
Prior to the presentation, the AMMQC national advisory board met. In addition to President Asquino, members include Jacqueline Belrose, MWCC Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development and National Director of the AMMQC grant; Dennis Bunnell, Industry Consultant and Committee Chair; Barbara P. Roseborough, Interim Provost and Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, Southwest Tennessee Community College; Dr. Rick Bateman, Jr., Chancellor, Bossier Parish Community College; Dorey Diab, President, North Central State College; and Brent Weil, Senior Vice President and Treasurer, The Manufacturing Institute.
Elizabeth Moison, who participates in MWCC’s GEAR UP program at Fitchburg High School, achieved a tremendous result on the fall 2014 PSAT which qualifies her to participate in the College Board’s National Merit Scholarship Program during her senior year.
In order to be considered, a student must score in the top 50,000 out of 1.5 million test participants. By achieving such outstanding results, Elizabeth will now have the opportunity to possibly achieve National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist or Commended Student status, to be reported in September 2016.
GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is a joint venture between Mount Wachusett Community College and FHS. The program provides services at high poverty middle and high schools and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
“Elizabeth is an example of a student who has taken full advantage of all of the outstanding opportunities in the Fitchburg Public Schools since kindergarten,” said Fitchburg Public Schools Superintendent Andre Ravenelle. “Her personal academic success and leadership as the student representative to school committee are a tribute to her, her family and the whole FPS community.”
Gardner Mayor, MWCC Trustee and Alumnus Mark Hawke shared lessons learned throughout his career in business and public service with 17 Mount Wachusett Community College students who were inducted into the Chi Gamma Chapter of Alpha Beta Gamma, an international business honor society, at the 25th annual induction ceremony, Thursday, April 23.
After graduating from MWCC, Hawke transferred to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, then went on to earn an MBA from Anna Maria College. After pursuing a career as a financial analyst, he took a pay cut to take a job with the City of Gardner, and learned he loved the work so much, he wanted to run for Mayor. Now serving his eighth year as mayor, he still loves the work. “In this job, I can see the results of our work. If we plan to build a playground, we build a playground. If we say we are going to fill a pothole, we fill a pothole and we see the result.”
He shared several pieces of advice gathered from his own career and lessons learned from other business leaders. “Never stop learning, never stop trying, and surround yourself with a good team,” he said. He challenged the students to work hard and always to strive to surpass expectations. “You will be noticed and rewarded.” He also credited Mount Wachusett Community College for putting him on a path of academic success. “It is an intimate setting and you really get to know the faculty, the staff and the college leadership,” he explained.
To be eligible for membership into Alpha Beta Gamma, students must be enrolled in a business curriculum, have completed 15 academic credit hours in a specific degree program and demonstrate academic excellence by attaining a grade point average of 3.0 or above. At MWCC, the programs include Business Administration, Paralegal Studies, Computer Information Systems, Graphic & Interactive Design, and Medical Assisting.
The Chi Gamma chapter has a long history of community involvement, including activities to benefit NEADS, a Princeton-based service assistance dog organization; the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center; the House of Peace and Education in Gardner; local food pantries; military troops serving overseas; and the national Alzheimer’s Association.
With a nod to its future and that of its students, Mount Wachusett Community College celebrated the start of construction of its eco-friendly science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) addition during a “Building Beyond Tomorrow” ceremony on Earth Day, April 22.
“Today we celebrate not just the assembly of bricks and mortar, but we truly lay a foundation literally and figuratively for the future of our school, our students, alumni, and indeed the future of our greater community,” MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino said to the gathering of students, faculty, legislators, community leaders and college supporters.
The new building will replace existing laboratories nearly a half-century old and will enhance the learning environment for all students, particularly those seeking careers in the STEM fields, he said.
“Our STEM students include first-generation college students aspiring to be the first in their families to attain higher education.
Many of the students are participating in the college’s STEM Starter Academy, a program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Education, as well as the STEM SET Scholars program, funded through a grant by the National Science Foundation which awards up to $3,300 per year to participants.
“This building represents a tremendous investment by the Commonwealth in the future of our region’s students and graduates,” he said. “Today’s families and students are seeking ways to fund a college education in an era where student loan debt has ballooned and placed a tremendous financial burden on so many graduates.
“Increasingly, more students are recognizing the value of beginning their academic studies at MWCC before transferring for a bachelor’s degree and other advanced degrees in the profession of their choice. By helping them during these foundation years, Mount Wachusett Community College plays a key role in meeting state and national goals of filling a shortage of graduates both at the state and national level to remain competitive globally.”
Carol Gladstone, Commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, noted that the project is one of many DCAMMM projects at MWCC in recent years, including the construction of two wind turbines in 2010, the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education in 2006, the Senator Robert D. Wetmore Center for Innovation in 2004, and the biomass heating system in 2002.
During her first groundbreaking ceremony since being appointed earlier this year, Commissioner Gladstone said the project blends new, state-of-the-art construction with much-needed renovations that tie in with the college’s nationally recognized sustainability initiatives. “But what’s really most important is the purpose – the students – who are preparing to become nurses, dental hygienists, physical therapist assistants, scientists and other technology specialists to serve the Commonwealth.”
Long-serving State Senator Stephen M. Brewer, State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, a member of MWCC’s Board of Trustees and an MWCC alumnus, were among the other featured speakers.
The new building is one of “so many wonderful things that have happened at Mount Wachusett Community College,” to benefit students, veterans and the region, said Senator Brewer, a key supporter of the new building during his tenure in office.
The $41 million project includes a 44,000 square-foot addition, a new 2,300-square-foot greenhouse and renovations throughout the existing Arthur F. Haley Academic Center. MWCC received $37.9 million in state capital funds for the project, as well as a $500,000 grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences for laboratory equipment.
Designed by Boston-based Architerra, Inc. to meet LEED Gold certification for efficiency and sustainability, the new building will contain energy-efficient features to tie in with the college’s commitment to sustainability. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, is overseeing the 18-month project as construction manager. Completion is anticipated in fall 2016.
Amenities in the new building will include eight new classrooms and laboratories, four lab prep rooms, 24 new faculty offices, student study space and interior glass walls to highlight STEM student innovation. Renovations to the Haley Academic Center include a new visitor entrance, a multi-purpose room, an academic advising suite, a refurbished student-centered campus hub and increased accessibility to the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center.
From an economic standpoint, this is the largest construction project in North Central Massachusetts, which in itself helps boost the region’s economy by providing work for Massachusetts businesses and bringing more traffic to local businesses and service providers.
For the ninth consecutive year, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Early Childhood Education Department, MOC Head Start, students, teachers and most importantly, preschool children, have adorned the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education with creations in celebration of the annual Week of the Young Child.
This year, the exhibit combined art, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, to tie in with the MWCC’s Humanities Initiative focused on the writer and naturalist.
To date, MWCC students have completed a combined 300 hours of service learning to make the event a success. Guests visited the center throughout the day on April 14, and were amazed at the imagination, ingenuity and creativity that children’s art represents. In the afternoon and evening parents, grandparents, friends and important others joined the children for an open house with Early Childhood students supporting the teachers and offering guided tours of the artwork. Additionally, accepted students in Early Childhood and Elementary Education were invited to join the festivities and learn more about the academic program.
“It certainly is a tremendous amount of work for all those involved, but when we have the opportunity to see the joy on the faces of our youngest members and hear them explain complicated pieces in the simplest of terms to those around them, we know why we are passionate about our art show,” said ECE Professor Maureen Provost.
“At the end of the day it is about the children, their families and their lives. I am thrilled to be part of their journey and excited to see what their futures hold. Thank you to anyone who was a part of this experience!”
This year’s event was sponsored by: the MWCC Early Childhood Education Department; children and teachers at the Garrison Center; MOC Childcare and Head Start Services; the Early Childcare Education Club; service learning students from Early Childhood and Elementary Education; the MWCC Humanities Project, funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities; and MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Henry David Thoreau
Debra Boucher, MWCC Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Success, is the recipient of the Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education’s 2015 Phenomenal Woman Award. Boucher was presented with the award during the MWPHE spring conference on April 3 in Sterling.
Boucher joined MWCC in 2008 as a transfer counselor in the college’s TRIO Student Support Services/Visions Program, and was subsequently appointed assistant director of enrollment management and advising. In 2012, she was promoted to Director of Student Success, where she became a driving force behind the college’s ASPIRE strategy, a five-year initiative funded by a U.S. Department of Education Title III grant to enhance student retention and degree completion goals.
Boucher said she was honored to receive the award, and reflected the recognition back to her colleagues. “It’s a privilege to work here and be surrounded by people who are committed to student success.”
A wife and mother of three, Boucher decided to enroll in college at age 33 to fulfill a long-held goal. After completing an associate degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences at MWCC, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from Mount Holyoke College and a master’s degree in counseling from Fitchburg State University.
“Deb is a talented leader who always puts student success and the welfare of her team ahead of her own personal goals,” said colleague Liza Day Smith, Ph.D., MWCC Assistant Director of Advising. “Her ability to anticipate the changes needed to accomplish institutional and state goals around enrollment and retention is unsurpassed. She has built a strong team around her while addressing the needs of the students and the college.”
MWCC student Aaron Trudeau was among a select group of VIPs invited to join President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and other national leaders in Boston for the March 30 dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate.
The 23-year-old Liberal Arts Biological Sciences major and Marine Corps veteran was one of 50 college students selected to attend after winning a national essay contest.
“Attending the event was a great honor,” said Trudeau, who wore his dress military uniform and received a personal “challenge coin” from Vice President Biden.
The interactive museum, located on the UMass Boston campus, is devoted to civic education. It features a life-size replica of the Senate chamber as well as a replica of the office Senator Kennedy occupied from 1962 until his death in 2009. The students viewed the outdoor ceremony on large screens while inside the Senate chamber.
“President Obama stopped in following the ceremony and spoke about how he was proud of the students who were selected and that he hopes we keep up the good work in our communities and school,” Trudeau said. After the president left, the vice president entered and officiated over a ceremonial senate session, before posing with students for photos. The students also had the opportunity to meet several senators, past and present.
“I was the last person to be able to talk to the vice president. He said ‘Marine,’ and we approached one another and shook hands and spoke for a minute, then took a personal picture. He said he had a coin for me and gave me his personal challenge coin which is a huge honor.”
Trudeau was encouraged to enter the essay contest by Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement and Fagan Forhan, Director of Experiential Learning Opportunities & Civic Engagement and Director of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.
Trudeau became a finalist after describing what community service meant to him during the first round of the essay contest.
“I wrote about how 9/11 impacted my life, and how it was the driving force behind me becoming a Marine. I then went on to talk about how I still felt I had much more to do for my country and community. I still feel and believe that I have a duty and an obligation to my community. It is my belief that without community service, our societies and communities would fall apart. It gives you a different perspective, allows you to be more knowledgeable and aware of the community around us, as well as bring us closer together as a community.”
Once he received word that he was a finalist, he was asked to explain why he wanted to attend the ceremony. Trudeau wrote that he wanted to gain greater insight into how the Senate operates and meet some of the nation’s leaders to enhance his understanding of how he can continue to make a difference in the future through public service.
. “Also, I said that the event itself would allow me to meet some of my nation’s leaders and be able to better my understanding on how I can impact my community and how I can continue to serve in public service in the future.”
Trudeau, who lives in Jaffrey, N.H. with his wife, Tasha, plans to continue on for a bachelor’s degree and then enlist in the Army to attend dental school and work as an Army dentist.
“We are truly honored to be able to have a student like Aaron represent us at this important event,” Forhan said. “Aaron is deeply involved in civic engagement efforts at the college, serving as a Students Serving Our Students (SOS) Peer Mentor, an officer in the Student Veterans Club, and continuing to give of his time and energies whenever and wherever he can.”
“Aaron’s positive and upbeat personality have served as a beacon for other students, and he has successfully moved into leadership roles in a very short time,” Forhan said. “Students across campus know Aaron, and that he will help out in any way possible. Aaron is the kind of student we learn from; who is not afraid to voice his opinion and offer potential solutions; who is eager to assist those in need in a way that serves as a hand up, not a hand out.”
Henry David Thoreau’s 160-year-old directive “Simplify, Simplify” is finding renewed meaning in today’s workplace. At Mount Wachusett Community College, seventeen employees recently received Lean Green Belt Certification to help streamline operations college-wide.
Lean training teaches participants to examine how they do things with an eye toward identifying ways to achieve greater efficiency, eliminate waste and streamline processes for more efficient and cost effective outcomes.
The goal is to build a solid foundation for a culture of continuous improvement, said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This training will prove to be quite valuable for the college and our students.”
MWCC coordinates Lean, Six Sigma and other workforce development programs for area companies, though this was the first time college employees participated. MWCC is the first community college in Massachusetts to adopt Lean college-wide, said Jeremiah Riordon, Associate Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development.
The training, initially implemented in the manufacturing world, and recently was adapted for administrative purposes, is gaining national momentum among state agencies, colleges and universities, and other organizations. According to the Education Advisory Board, which recently completed a study on implementing Lean for Process Improvement at Community Colleges, higher education administrators are increasingly turning to the principles of Lean Six Sigma to enhance efficiency of institutional processes.
MWCC administrators, faculty and staff participated in the training, which required a project presentation and certification exam. The training and certification was administered by the William George Group, a Boston-based consulting firm that serves clients worldwide. Working individually and in groups, the participants tackled projects designed to improve procedures at the main campus in Gardner and satellite campuses in Leominster and Devens.
“The primary purpose of Lean is to cultivate a climate of continuous improvement in all areas of process management and to eliminate waste,” said Riordon, one of the training participants. “Lean forces you to ask why something is in the process. If there are steps that don’t add value, we’ve got to ask, ‘Why is it in the process?’”
For example, his team tackled the 52-step process of creating a brochure of noncredit course offerings, which starts with selecting courses to writing, editing, proofing and mailing the brochures. “After reviewing the process, we eliminated redundancy and the new process is just 14 steps and frees up one full staff person from the process,” he said.
The projects implemented include streamlining procedures in the human resources, marketing, admissions, records and institutional advancement offices, and improving efficiency of contract approvals, dual enrollment registration and placement testing.
The newly certified Lean Green Belt employees are:
Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships; Robin Duncan, Senior Advisor to the President; Linda Fazio, Comptroller; Jeremiah Riordon, Associate Vice President, Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development; Heather Mulry, Director, Human Resources; Connie Helstowski, Director, Payroll and Benefits; John Walsh, Dean, Leominster Campus; Patrice Lincoln, Dean, Access & Transition; Margaret Jaillet, Assistant Dean, School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences; Rebecca Forest, Assistant Dean of Records and Research; Sarah McMaster, Director of Marketing and New Media; Ramon Gonzalez, Director, Educational Talent Search; Kerrie Griffin, Director, Devens Campus; Heather Layton, Director, Grants Development; Shane Mullen, Senior System Analyst/Programmer; Michael Watson, Instructor, Manufacturing & Quality Systems; Teresita Encarnacion, Coordinator, Development Training.