Faculty and Staff Stories

Mount Wachusett Community College ranked number four across the country in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings for 2-year colleges conducted by Military Times, an independent news and information source for service members and their families. MWCC, continuing its long-held commitment to veterans and their families, moved up two spots from its 2016 rank.

The eighth annual rankings factor in the results of Military Times’ comprehensive school-by-school survey of veteran and military student offerings and rates of academic achievement. More than 500 colleges took part in this year’s detailed survey.

MWCC launched its Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success in 2010 to address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life. The dedicated veteran center offers computer access, free printing, student meeting and study space, and opportunities for veteran students to talk and connect with other like-minded individuals. Textbooks and laptops are loaned at no charge.

The Director of Veteran Services is a full-time advocate for veteran students. He educates the college staff and faculty on veteran challenges, counsels students and arranges for clinical meetings if necessary.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as a top military-friendly school. This reflects the positive, helpful attitude that students can expect from all departments of the college. We pride ourselves on being student friendly, so it is a natural extension for us to be military friendly as well,” said Robert B. Mayer, Director of Veterans Services at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Student veterans are active members of the campus community, participating in such clubs and organizations as the Veterans Group and Student Government Association.

“As a veteran myself, I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College receives continuing recognition as one of the top colleges for veteran students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “MWCC has served our region’s veterans for decades and will continue to do so into the future by providing them with a robust network of support both on campus and with key partner organizations.”

MWCC maintains community partnerships with the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, the Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center operated by Veteran Homestead, Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services’ SAVE program, and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Military Times’ annual Best for Vets: Colleges survey asks colleges and universities to meticulously document a tremendous array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties; and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus. These institutions were evaluated in several categories, with university culture and academic outcomes bearing the most weight.
“We limit our list to encourage competition, and we genuinely hope this helps raise the bar for veterans on campus,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Best for Vets.

Military Times also factors in data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.

The rankings appear online at MilitaryTimes.com, as well as ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com and in a special magazine issue of Military Times in mid-November. The release of this year’s list also marks Military Times’ inaugural declaration of the month of November as Veterans Month.

For more information about MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, please visit: mwcc.edu/veteran.
To view the full Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings and survey methodology go to: www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017.

New lab classrooms in Asquino Science CenterMount Wachusett Community College students, faculty and staff; Massachusetts leaders; and the greater community will dedicate the new Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center in recognition of President Asquino’s 30 years of leadership at Mount Wachusett Community College at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 15 at 2 pm.
The public opening of the new building, a state-of-the-art addition to the Gardner campus, will be commemorated with a speaking program including Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone, as well as a ceremonial ribbon cutting, unveiling of the naming of the building, and tours of the new facilities.

Along with honored guests, college staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, and community members will be in attendance.

“This new Science Center offers real opportunity for our students,” said Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega. “Opportunity is something President Asquino has relentlessly pursued throughout his 30 years at the helm of this great college. Our students will be better prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders. We are all so proud to recognize President Asquino’s commitment to students and our college by naming this building in his honor.”

Following more than a year of construction and extensive renovations, the new science center replaces existing laboratories nearly a half-century old and will enhance the learning environment for all students, particularly those seeking careers in STEM fields.

The Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center includes LEED Gold rated labs, classrooms, and student study space for the college’s continued pursuit of academic excellence.

The $41 million project includes the 44,000 square-foot science center, 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.

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. Additionally, the project was completed on-time and on-budget.

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. Construction began in spring 2015. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, oversaw the 18-month project as construction manager.

Over the past 15 years, MWCC has been the recipient of top state and national sustainability awards, including the American Association of College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Wildlife Federation.

Amenities in the new building 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 commons and increased accessibility to the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center.

Immediately following the dedication, Mount Wachusett Community College is hosting an Open House from 3:30 to 7pm. The public, past MWCC staff and faculty, and all community partners are encouraged and invited to attend. For more information, please contact Lois Cox at 978-630-9101.

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.

united-way-day-of-caring-mwcc-sept-16-2016

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.