Faculty and Staff Stories

Jackie Belrose and Peter Russo of MassMEP

Vice President Jacqueline Belrose, pictured with Peter Russo of MassMEP, was among the speakers during the Worcester Business Journal’s Manufacturing Summit.

Mount Wachusett Community College served as the presenting sponsor of the Worcester Business Journal’s Manufacturing Summit and inaugural Manufacturing Excellence Awards ceremony on April 26 at Cyprian Keyes in Boylston.

President Daniel Asquino, Vice Presidents Jacqueline Belrose and Lea Ann Scales, and members of the college’s workforce development team were among the attendees. The event featured a keynote address by Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and a panel presentation moderated by MassMEP Growth and Inovation Program Manager Peter Russo.

Secretary Ash praised the state’s community colleges for their leadership in creating innovative partnerships as well as their role in the Commonwealth economic development strategic plan, Making Massachusetts Great Everywhere, which was released by the Baker-Polito Administration in December.

“We’re very excited, espcially at the community college level, with the reaction that we have received,” he said.

The industry support and feedback has been a crucial component of MWCC’s design and creation of  advanced manufacturing training programs developed under President Asquino’s leadership, Belrose said during her welcoming remarks.

College initiatives include the creation of an academic certificate and associates degree program in Plastics Technology Manufacturing, offered over the past two decades at Nypro University in Clinton in partnership with Fitchburg State University; helping regional companies secure more than $6.5 million in state Workforce Training Fund grant; and working with MassMEP, the Workforce Investment Boards, state colleges and universities and other partners on state and federally-funded programs to provide unemployed and underemployed individuals with training to secure good jobs with benefits, she said.

“The key here is regional economic growth,” Belrose said. “All stakeholders in this region need to join forces to ensure we work together to supply a skilled advanced manufacturing workforce. We need to sustain, grow, and integrate efforts that Mount Wachusett and Quinsigamond Community Colleges, along with Mass MEP have been developing with the help of employer, state, and federal funding.  The approach must be integrated and scalable and will benefit from dialogues such as the one we are having today.”

TGN Tea Time April 2016 Group 1

Educators and students from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community spoke on understanding differences over sexual identity at Mount Wachusett Community College. From left, instructor Jennifer Stephens and student Eden Shaveet watch as student Anders Bigelbach speaks. News staff photos by Andrew Mansfield.

GARDNER – Equal respect and consideration for one another was the takeaway message at Mount Wachusett Community College on Monday, as the school held a panel discussion featuring members of the LGBTQ community.

The acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans¬gender and Queer.

A group of six students and educators, a majority from the Mount, talked to a public audience about their experiences being someone who is not heterosexual, or does not identify with the gender they were born as.

Each panel member touched upon encountering people during their lives who were unaccepting or at least not familiarized with what it means to be LGBTQ – being outside the traditional social norms surrounding sexuality and gender identification.

“A lot of times I get (from other people), ‘I just don’t believe in it.’

I’m not Santa Claus, so whether you believe it or not, it exists. …

If you don’t want me to get married in your church, I respect that.

But I deserve the same civil rights and liberties,” said Catherine Zabierek, a Mount student studying biological sciences who is lesbian.

The other panel members included: Adam Edgerton, an English teacher who has worked in China and is gay; Eden Shaveet, a Mount student who is bisexual; Charlie MacCall, a University of New Hampshire grad working in online marketing who is a transgender gay man; Anders Bigelbach, a Mount student who is bisexual; and Jennifer Stephens, a Mount instructor in the Advanced Manufacturing program who is a transgender woman.

Tea Time April 2016 Group 2

Mount student Catherine Zabierek listens as University of New Hampshire grad Charlie MacCall speaks.

While the politics of LGBTQ rights was touched upon – including the recent North Carolina “bathroom law” requiring people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate – the conversation was mostly personal, being affecting in its sincerity. Shaveet is studying psychology in the Mount’s Gateway to College program, which offers dual-enrollment to high-school students, allowing her to achieve college credit prior to graduating high school.

Growing up as bisexual, she spoke about the insulated feeling that comes with not being accepted by peers.

She told the audience about how she switched schools in the seventh grade after being bullied in the hopes she would be treated better at a new school.

“But by the third week I was put into a locker. …The bullying and aggression really took a toll on me,” she said, adding that the environment at the Mount, though, has been accepting.

Bigelbach, also bisexual, is pursuing creative writing in the Mount’s Gateway to College program.

He fielded a question about the notion that being different is a conscious choice as opposed to simply being how one naturally feels.

He said he asks people who believe sexuality is a choice if they chose to be straight.

“You don’t make that choice. It’s not like (choosing) I’m going to have juice instead of water today,” he said.

The panel also took the time to go over some of the positive moments in their lives that have come through their experiences being in the LGBTQ community, particularly the power they’ve found in coming out as who they are and the relationships they’ve formed.

Stephens said she used to be known as a “guy’s guy” before coming out publicly as a transgender woman at the school she used to teach at, leading a transgender student to subsequently come up to her and say “for the first time in my life I have a role model.”

Being open about her gender identity was a huge step forward for Stephens personally.

She didn’t do so until she was in her fifties after watching an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s show called “Born in the Wrong Body.”

“I actually didn’t like myself. I thought I was an awful person who wanted to dress in women’s clothes,” she said.

The role of parents in the process of coming out and living as one’s true self was also touched upon by the panel, with some good and some bad family reactions being mentioned.

Edgerton shared a fairly new anecdote regarding his mother and North Carolina’s “bathroom law,” which has come under heavy criticism from the LGBTQ community and its supporters.

He is originally from North Carolina and his mother still lives in the state.

He said she hasn’t normally been a political protester over the course of her life, but she joined a protest demonstration of North Carolina residents recently in the state’s capital of Raleigh.

He said when they spoke over the phone about it, she explained herself by saying, “Well, you’re my son and they (the state) hurt my son, and that’s why I’m out here.”

He compared Massachusetts – which he described as being more open-minded – and his home state that he said is “not a very good place to be a gay man.”

He also spoke about how he notices attitudes toward LGBTQ people have improved overall during his lifetime, but there is still progress that can be made.

That theme of continuing progress through open dialogue and further understanding was the overarching theme of the panel, the idea that a common humanity should trump divisiveness over personal differences.

Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, April 26, 2016

Commonwealth Commitment Pres Asquino and Sec Peyser

MWCC President Asquino and Education Secretary James Peyser shake hands during the signing ceremony of the Department of Higher Education’s new transfer agreement, the Commonwealth Commitment.

Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined public higher education leaders on April 21 to announce the Commonwealth Commitment, an innovative college affordability and completion plan to help more students achieve the dream of a college degree.

The Commonwealth Commitment commits every public campus to providing 10% rebates at the end of each successfully completed semester to qualifying undergraduate students, in addition to the standard MassTransfer tuition waiver received upon entering a four-year institution from a community college. Students who meet the program requirements will, depending on the transfer pathway they choose, be able to realize an average savings of $5,090 off the cost of a baccalaureate degree.

This plan is the first agreement of its kind in the nation and was signed by University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan, Worcester State University President Barry Maloney and Middlesex Community College President James Mabry, representing the three segments of the public higher education system, at a ceremony held Thursday morning at Middlesex Community College in Lowell.

The statewide agreement was inspired by the $30K Commitment adopted last year by the four Worcester County public higher education institutions: Mount Wachusett Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Fitchburg State University and Worcester State University. Qualifying students are guaranteed their associate and bachelor’s degrees in high demand programs for $30,000 or less in four years.

“The biggest thing we can do is make college more affordable,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. Collaborative agreements such as the Commonwealth Commitment and the $30K Commitment create opportunities while controlling costs and adressing crucial areas such as college completion, economic development, innovation and college readiness,” he said.

As part of the Commonwealth Commitment’s goal to increase cost savings and predictability, tuition and mandatory fees will be frozen for program participants as of the date they enter the program.  Students will begin their studies at one of the state’s 15 community colleges, enrolling in one of 24 Commonwealth Commitment/Mass Transfer Pathways programs that will roll out in fall 2016 (14 programs) and fall 2017 (10 additional programs). They must attend full-time, and must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0. After earning an associate’s degree in two and a half years or less, students will transfer to a state university or UMass campus to earn a baccalaureate degree.

“This program was designed to decrease the cost of a college degree and accelerate on-time completion for students across the Commonwealth, creating more opportunities and helping more people get into the workforce with the skills they need,” Governor Baker said. “The Commonwealth Commitment will make it even easier for students to go to school full-time and begin their careers with less debt and we are pleased that our higher education officials have worked collaboratively to make this program a reality.”

“The Commonwealth Commitment is a win-win for students, employers, and our public higher education campuses,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our hope is that through programs like the Commonwealth Commitment, not only will students get the benefit of a lower cost degree, but also be able to fill more of the high-demand job of the future, including in STEM.”

“The Commonwealth Commitment is an important plan which we believe will help move the needle on our administration’s two overarching education objectives: to close the achievement gap and strengthen the global competitiveness of Massachusetts’ workforce and economy,” said Education Secretary Jim Peyser. “I thank the leaders of the Department of Higher Education, UMass, and state colleges and universities for their hard work in reaching this agreement and for their commitment to putting students first.”

Higher Education Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago said the agreement “represents a new day for our state system of public colleges and universities.”

“It was not easy or simple to hammer out an agreement among 28 undergraduate institutions with different missions and programs, but I was extremely proud to see how presidents, provosts, faculty and staff worked together with a sense of common purpose to get this done. What unites us is a dedication to students and to the Commonwealth, a realization that when it comes to preparing the state’s future citizenry and workforce, our public institutions need to lead.”

“Community college students seeking pathways to an affordable, high-quality, four-year degree will now be able to look to the Commonwealth Commitment for critical support – and UMass is proud to be part of this innovative effort,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “This program advances public higher education’s core beliefs and will help to transform lives and strengthen our future. We look forward to welcoming the students who take advantage of this creative initiative to our campuses.”

“When we talk about a ‘best value’ college experience, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said Worcester State University President Barry Maloney. “Those who transfer into state universities under this program will see small classes taught largely by full-time, Ph.D. faculty members who put their students first. The state university degree prepares them well, either for careers or graduate school.”

Under the Commonwealth Commitment, at the end of every successfully completed semester, students will earn a 10% rebate on tuition and fees, payable in the form of a check, or may opt to receive a voucher to use for books or other education-related expenses. The program does not discount room and board, although students may choose to use their Commonwealth Commitment savings or other resources to offset some of those costs. Students’ rebates or vouchers will be calculated based on the total cost of tuition and mandatory fees at the institutions they choose to attend. Additionally, students who enroll in free or reduced cost dual enrollment programs, taking college courses while still in high school, may be able to apply the credits they earn toward their Commonwealth Commitment degrees, thus reducing costs even further.

More information is available at www.mass.edu/MAComCom

 

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President Asquino and Mahar Superintendent Tari Thomas recently signed off on the 10th year dual enrollment agreement between the two schools during a campus visit from Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago, front, left. Also pictured, from left, Executive Vice President Ann McDonald, Senior Director of Dual Enrollment Craig Elkins, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement Fagan Forhan, Mahar Co-Principal Eric Dion, Mahar Director of Finance Daniel Haynes, and Mahar guidance counselor and liaison Sara Storm, and Lea Ann Scales MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships.

MWCC is marking the 10th anniversary of its dual enrollment partnership programs for teenagers and young adults.

The Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program, run in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, allow students to complete requirements for their high school diploma while also earning credits toward a college degree. School choice funding covers the cost of tuition and fees of both programs.

Information sessions for each program will take place this spring and summer for fall 2016 enrollment.

“The partnership is so impactful for students whether they are in the Pathways program or Gateway program.” said Mahar Superintendent Tari Thomas, who recently joined MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino in signing the memorandum of understanding between the two schools for the upcoming academic year. “Many are first generation college students. For them to be so embraced by this community college, to work with them to grow and achieve, I’m so grateful. And it’s not just for Mahar kids, but for kids all over the state. The way these academic programs meet individuals needs is profound.”

One of the first two innovation schools created in Massachusetts, the Pathways Early College Innovation School provides motivated high school juniors and home schooled students the opportunity to accelerate the pace of their academic careers by simultaneously earning an associate degree and their high school diploma.

To be eligible for Pathways, students must live in Massachusetts, possess a minimum high school grade point average of 3.0, be at least 16 years old and entering grade 11 by the start of the fall semester, and be recommended by the sending school.

Students must attend a Pathways information session and have current Accuplacer scores in order to apply. Upcoming information sessions for the Pathways school will take place on May 10 and 12; June 14 and 16; and July 12 and 14. The first day of each session provides the information about the school, and the second day of each session includes the Accuplacer test.

MWCC’s Gateway to College program, established in 2005 as the first Gateway site in New England, provides a second chance for students ages 16 to 21 who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of dropping out. Students simultaneously earn their high school diploma as well as college credits toward an academic degree or certificate. The majority of the graduates continue their education at MWCC or at another college or university.

Gateway applicants must attend a two-day information session to be considered for the program. Upcoming Gateway information sessions will take place on May 11 and 13; June 15 and 17; July 20 and 22; Aug 3 and 5; and August 10 and 12.

To register for an upcoming information session in either program, contact MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition at 978-630-9248. Visit mwcc.edu/access for more details about the programs.

Week of the Young Child Art Show 2016

Students and family members involved with the 10th anniversary art exhibit include Graphic and Interactive Design major Tom Hill, and education majors Terri Evan, with son Alden, Kelly Williams, with daughter Ashley, Kendyll Knight and Samantha Goodale.

Mix paintings, sculptures and other assorted artwork created by dozens of children, add cupcakes, some glitter, and heaping scoops of commitment and enthusiasm from MWCC’s Early Childhood Education faculty, students and community partners, and what do you get?

The 10th anniversary celebration of the Week of the Young Child Art Exhibit at MWCC’s Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education. This year, the event was also paired with an information session about MWCC’s early childhood education and elementary education academic programs for prospective teachers, sponsored by the Admissions Office.

 

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Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago met with Mount Wachusett Community College students during his tour of the college.

Continuing his mission to spend a full day at each of the state’s public colleges and universities, Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago took a whirlwind tour of Mount Wachusett Community College on Thursday, April 14.

The day began at MWCC’s satellite campus in Devens – which rekindled fond memories for the commissioner, who spent several years there as a child when his father was stationed at Fort Devens – and ended at MWCC’s main campus in Gardner with a meeting with the Board of Trustees.

In between, he met with students, faculty, staff, administrators, K-12 partners and business and community leaders, exchanging thoughts and ideas on a wide range of topics including an enhanced K-16 approach toward education, college accessibility, transfer pathways to four-year schools, industry partnerships, MWCC’s new science and technology building under construction and student support services. By late afternoon, he had this to say to college leaders:

“You’re innovative. You are getting it right here,” he told the trustees. “Now we’ve got to learn from your success and scale it up. I need this campus to spread the word about the work you are doing here.”

Under the leadership of President Daniel Asquino, MWCC’s ground-breaking work in dual enrollment, civic engagement, unique K-12 and industry partnerships and wrap-around services have grown into model programs, Dr. Santiago said.

“The campus is well positioned on a number of fronts, he said. “The support services that are provided to students on this campus are superb. The students feel well-served by everyone.”

Earlier in the day, the commissioner met with Mahar Regional School Superintendent Tari Thomas and Mahar administrators for a discussion on the continued success of the Gateway to College program for at-risk students, now in its 10th year, and the Pathways Early College Innovation School, now in its sixth year.

He also met with Fitchburg Schools Superintendent Andre Ravenelle, Fitchburg High School Principal Jeremy Roche, members of MWCC’s Access & Transition team and math faculty for a detailed discussion on college-readiness programs, including MWCC’s Math Modeling program, now offered in several area high schools to help reduce students’ need for math remediation in college.

At lunchtime, the commissioner dined on sandwiches, fruit and potato chips with a group of students that included teenagers in dual enrollment programs, career changers, student leaders and parents juggling family responsibilities, work and academic studies. He listened intently as they shared stories about unique challenges, as well as their career aspirations, and how the college is helping them reach their goals.

“No matter who you are or where you’re coming from, you really find your place here,” said student leader Stevie LaBelle.

During his session with business leaders, the commissioner discussed the significant role community colleges, like Mount Wachusett, play in the state’s economic and civic landscape. Two-thirds of all college students in Massachusetts attend the state’s public institutions, and 90 percent remain in the state after graduating.

“The future of the Commonwealth really is going to rest on campuses like this.”

 

 

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President Asquino, left, was among the featured presenters during the 2016 North Central Massachusetts Economic Forecast Breakfast.

On the evening of April 7, the current and three immediate past chairs of the U.S. Federal Reserve held a summit and declared the nation’s economy is on a steady growth path. The following morning in Fitchburg, North Central Massachusetts business leaders were happy to provide a similar assessment for the region during the fifth annual Economic Forecast Breakfast.

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino was among the featured speakers, sharing the podium with Jeff Fuhrer, executive vice president and senior policy advisory at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Chris McCarthy, President and COO of Fidelity Bank, and former Worcester city manager Mike O’Brien, now with Winn Development.

Fidelity’s 2016 economic outlook survey of 200 consumers/employees and 200 CEOs or CFOs showed that more than half of the businesses and nearly three-quarters of the consumers said they are confident the state’s economy will improve over the next year. Seventy percent of the consumers deemed the best way for the region to retain skilled workers is by strengthening public colleges and universities and connecting the schools with area companies.

Businesses cited the availability of finding and retaining a skilled workforce as one of the most challenging issues they are facing, up from 8 percent a year ago.

In his presentation, President Asquino focused on several key issues, including the growing divide between the country’s rich and poor, the shrinking middle class, workforce training, and the importance of civic engagement in building strong communities.

“We talk about STEM careers, we talk about technology, and this training and education is essential to our economic growth. However, unless we have a citizen and a worker who cares for his or her community and his or her neighbors, and values public service, we have missed the opportunity and the key ingredient in our ability to sustain our democracy,” he said.

The event, held at Great Wolf Lodge, was sponsored by Fidelity Bank and presented by the North Central Massachusetts, Greater Gardner and Nashoba Valley Chambers of Commerce. Ed Manzi, chairman and CEO of Fidelity Bank served as moderator, and Roy Nascimento, President and CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber, provided welcoming remarks.

 

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MWCC nursing student Kaila Lundgren, center, was among the guest speakers during the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Go Higher event on April 7 at Wachusett Regional High School. Also pictured, from left, Micah Klayman, Worcester State University; Amanda Beucle, UMass Lowell; Cherise Connolly, Quinsigamond Community College; and Deron Hines, Framingham State University.

MWCC student Kaila Lundgren, an aspiring Registered Nurse, shared college tips and strategies with 1,000 juniors and seniors during the state Department of Higher Education’s “Go Higher” event, held April 7 at Wachusett Regional High School in Holden.

Scheduled throughout the academic year across the state, Go Higher gives Massachusetts high school students the opportunity to learn about academic programs and career options available at the state’s 29 public college and university campuses.

One of five student speakers, Lundgren said she chose MWCC because of the fast-track option it provided into the college’s nursing program through its Pre-Healthcare Academy, as well as the rigorous academic courses and cost savings on her degree.

“Find a college that’s really going to give you stepping stones to your goal,” she said.

Quoting Mark Twain, she advised students during two assemblies, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Lundgren said she was inspired to become a nurse to help her 8-year-old brother, who lives courageously with a rare kidney stone disease called cystinuria, and by the examples set by her mother, who returned to college to become an RN while raising a family of five children.

A 2015 graduate of Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School, Lundgren works as a safety specialist in the emergency room at Athol Hospital. After successfully completing co-requisites this past year, the 18-year-old Orange resident has now been accepted into the college’s nursing program as a member of the Class of 2018.

Students representing UMass Lowell, Framingham State University, Worcester State University and Quinsigamond Community College also spoke about their college experiences. The event included a college fair that showcased numerous Massachusetts schools and featured a variety of STEM-related demonstrations.

Jennifer Stephens, MWCC senior learning specialist in manufacturing, provided a hands-on demonstration in mechatronics, a field that combines mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer control and information technology. 

 

COMECC_posterMWCC faculty and staff have donated $56,306 to the 2016 Commonwealth of Massachusetts Employees Charitable Campaign (COMECC) and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

“I am very proud of the generosity our faculty and staff demonstrated during this year’s campaign,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “Collectively, the contributions made by Mount Wachusett Community College employees greatly benefit residents in our region and throughout the Commonwealth.”

The annual campaign at MWCC is coordinated by the college’s Human Resources office, with Director of Payroll and Benefits Connie Helstowski serving as campaign chair and Staff Assistant Nancy Thibodeau serving as campaign coordinator.

Established in 1984, COMECC gives state employees the opportunity to support private, nonprofit health and human services and environmental organizations. Since 2009, more than $8.5 million has been raised statewide to assist children, families and communities in Massachusetts.

MWCC Alumni Network Dine photo

Rick Walton of the Gardner Ale House presents a check for Dine for a Cause proceeds to Briana Nobrega (center), Secretary of the MWCC Alumni Network Board and Carol Jacobson, Associate Director Alumni Relations.

The MWCC Alumni Network held its first Dine for a Cause event, hosted by the Gardner Ale House on March 29, raising $800 for the alumni scholarship fund.

Alumni, members of the college community, supporters and friends enjoyed a delicious meal, and each others company, all in support of student success. The Ale House generously donated 10% of the evening’s dining proceeds to the Alumni Scholarship Fund.

The Alumni Network also hosted a chance table, including a 50/50 cash raffle, and a Wachusett-themed basket valued at approximately $500. MWCC alumnus and member of the alumni board, John Day (’15), won the cash raffle and the basket was won by Paul Geoffroy (’77).

MWCC Alumni Network board member Briana Nobrega (’07) worked with Ale House staff to coordinate the event.

“I was really pleased with the turnout. It was obvious that everyone enjoyed themselves and I think at one point every table was full. There was also a constant flow of guests engaging with our alumni board at the raffle table and quite a few people reconnecting” she said.

“Being a past scholarship recipient myself, I know first-hand how important this fundraising is for the future of our students, so it was great to see so many people come out to support our cause.”

Many MWCC students have a significant financial need, and scholarships help pay for books, laptops or other needed resources that financial aid does not. Without this assistance, many of our students would be unable to attend, or complete their studies. If you are interested in becoming involved in the MWCC Alumni Network, or would like to support student success through a donation to the scholarship fund, visit: http://mwcc.edu/foundation/give/ or contact the Alumni Relations Office at 978-630-9306.

To view photos from the Dine for a Cause event, visit: https://www.facebook.com/MWCCAlumni/

Carol Jacobson