Faculty and Staff Stories

Dan Donovan, Dan Asquino

Forty-year service award recipient Professor Daniel Donovan, with President Daniel Asquino.

President Daniel M. Asquino and the Division of Human Resources and Payroll honored employees who reached the milestone years of service with the college during the 19th Annual Employee Service Awards Ceremony on May 5 in the South Café. Collectively, the recipients represent 460 years of service to MWCC students and the community.

In addition to the service awards, MWCC announced the recipients of the 2014 Commonwealth Citation for Outstanding Performance and the recipients of the college’s fourth annual da Vinci Parachute Award.

Jo-Anne Cronin Fors and John Walsh were presented with the Commonwealth Citation, and the Academic Advising department received the group award. Honorees include: Dawn Babineau, Erin Battistoni, Susan Blain, Michelle Contey, Jaime Dumont-McEvoy, Craig Elkins, Kijah Gordan, Meghan Koslowski, Jose Mangual, Stephanie Marchetti, Elaine Murray, Christine Rayner, Limari Rivera, Patricia Sabulis, Karen Sanieski, Linda Scullane, Liza Smith, Sandy Tavares and Chrystal Voorheis.

MWCC introduced the da Vinci Parachute Award in 2011 as a means to recognize employees who demonstrate innovation and creativity in their field at MWCC. Helen Butler, Alan Cumming and Mary Maga were recipients of the 2014 awards for individuals. The da Vinci group award was presented to Kathy Boucher, Maria Gariepy, Connie Helstowski, Debbie Holland, Heather Mulry, Tracy Sheridan and Nancy Thibodeau of the Human Resources and Payroll Division.

In addition, Cynthia Krusen and Catherine Maddox-Wiley were recognized as nominees for the state Mentoring Award, and Michelle Valois was recognized as MWCC’s nominee for the state Eugene Rooney Award.

Daniel Donovan was recognized for 40 years of service to MWCC, John McNally was recognized for 35 years, Linda Bolduc was recognized for 30 years, and Eileen Souza was recognized for 25 years. Employees recognized for 20 years include: Arthur Collins; Yoav Elinevsky; Christine Kisiel; Robert LaBonte; Linda LaRoche; Elena Natalizia; and Karen Payne. Employees recognized for15 years:  Leslie Cullen; Patricia Dakota; Scott Farris; Maryann Kane; Joyce Kulig; Joyce Miller; Carol Reed; Susan Taylor; Chrystal Voorheis; and Clifford Wilder. Employees recognized for 10 years: Janice Barney; Deborah Brennan; Ana Contreras; Robin Duncan; Susan Goldstein; James Korman; Daphne Nichols; Katherine Pecorelli; Aurea Rivera; and David Wyman. Employees recognized for five years of service include: Heather Conn; Jessica Connor; Craig Elkins; Donald Goguen; David Graham; James Halkola; John Henshaw; Virginia Heroux; Patrice Lincoln; Patricia Meza; Brett Moulton; Edward Mullen; Steven Ringer; and Luis Rivera.

Kathy Matson

Kathleen A. Matson

The state Department of Higher Education will spotlight top students from across Massachusetts at the fourth annual 29 Who Shine” student recognition ceremony on Thursday, May 8, at noon at the Grand Staircase of the Massachusetts State House. The award honors 29 outstanding public college and university graduates, one from each community college, state university and UMass campus in the state, for their academic achievement and community service.

Kathleen A. Matson, a highly regarded student leader on campus and across the state who will earn an associate degree in Business Administration in May, is among the honorees.

A motivated, enthusiastic leader with a passion for helping others, Matson has served this academic year as the student member on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. As a full voting member of the board, she provides a voice for all public higher education students on issues such as affordability and college completion. During her term, she represented Massachusetts during a Student Voices conference in Washington, D.C., joining peers from across the country in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss ideas and concerns regarding higher education.

A member of the state-wide Student Advisory Council, Matson serves as a liaison between the council and the BHE. She has served on MWCC’s Student Government Association for two years, including the past year as president.

Matson earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice from MWCC in 1985, and then worked in the private security field for many years. In 2012, she returned to the college to pursue a business degree to combine her interest in these two fields. An exemplary student, she has consistently been recognized for her academic achievements as a President’s List and Dean’s List honoree.

In addition to working two part-time jobs and volunteering for her community, Matson has provided more than 400 volunteer hours to various campus organizations and student groups during this academic year alone. Among her many activities, she holds officer positions with the Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Beta Gamma honor societies, volunteers as an ambassador in the admissions office and as a mentor in the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) office, serves on the MWCC Alumni Association Board, and assists the campus community as a work study student in MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. For her dedication and commitment to serving others, Matson was recognized earlier this year with Campus Compact’s national Newman Civic Fellow Award.

She and her husband, Calvin, have three sons: Isaac, who graduated from MWCC in 2012, served as SGA president and is now completing a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at Westfield State University; Caleb, a Criminal Justice major, and Zechariah, a Fire Science major, who will both graduate from MWCC this year. All three sons are serving in the military.

The ceremony will also include recognition of each honorees’ faculty and staff mentors. Matson selected Associate Dean of Students Gregory Clement as her mentor.

“Greg has been a constant mentor and friend. He has always been there encouraging and helping me to attain goals I never thought possible. He has been instrumental in my success as a student leader, continually guiding me to broader horizons.”

Whitney Doucet, a 2013 graduate of MWCC, has been chosen to perform “America the Beautiful” during the ceremony. The outgoing, upbeat performer grew up in Leominster and discovered her love for music at a young age, particularly country music. She has been pursuing her passion for singing and performing since 2005 is a voice teacher in Boston and Worcester.

In May 2011, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education launched “29 Who Shine,” a program to recognize outstanding students representing each of our 29 public campuses. The honorees, chosen because of their academic achievements and record of student leadership and community service, stand poised to contribute greatly to the civic life and economic well-being of the state. Whether furthering their education or entering careers here in Massachusetts in fields as diverse as education, public policy, medicine, creative arts, and engineering, they truly embody the vibrant future that we all envision for the Commonwealth.

 

Several MWCC faculty and staff shared best practices with colleagues throughout the state during the 2014 Massachusetts Community College Conference on Teaching, Learning & Student Development. The March 28 event, held at Northern Essex Community College, focused on the theme of Social Justice and the Community College.

“I am extremely proud of the Mount Wachusett Community College faculty and staff who presented five unique workshops that were well attended and spoke to the conference theme of social justice,” said Dr. Melissa Fama, Vice President of Academic Affairs. “I enjoy attending a conference where best practices in teaching are shared among the community college educators.”

The MWCC presenters focused on the topics of overall student success; civic engagement and service learning; and support for veterans transitioning to college.

In her presentation, “Active Learning Promotes Success in Science,” Professor Christine Kisiel discussed ways to provide opportunity for all students to succeed in science, regardless of their prior educational experience, background or skills. She shared examples of classroom activities that give students a voice in their learning, which empowers students to succeed.

Advisor and adjunct professor Robert Mayer presented “Soldiering On: Helping Soldiers Become Students and Active Citizens.” Soldiering On is a program for veterans transitioning to college and creates a cohort of students enrolled in a specialized First Year Experience course and English Composition 1. Examination of social, economic and environmental issues are integral parts of the curriculum to teach critical thinking, time management, writing, oral presentation and study skills.

Daniel Soucy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Chair of Civic Engagement, discussed the new General Studies capstone course, “Global Issues and Veterans.” This unique course teaches social justice through the intellect and intuition, using the classroom and community veteran sites as learning spaces.

Fagan Forhan, Director of Experiential Learning opportunities and Civic Engagement and Director of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, and Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement presented “Strategies for the Institutionalization of Civic Learning.” The session explored successful ways in which MWCC integrates social justice and civic learning into the student experience. The model begins with a foundation that supports collaboration among faculty, co-curricular programming and community partners.

Shelley Errington Nicholson, Director of Community Learning, and Human Services student Bryan Sanderson, founder of the Students Serving Our Service (SOS) program, described the launch of this successful new peer support program. Sanderson, who viewed his classmates’ struggles as a social justice issue, worked with the Center of Civic Learning and Community Engagement to develop the program. The program is aimed at increasing student retention and services by facilitating access to basic needs such as housing, transportation, child care, which can become obstacles to students’ success.

Kevin Hines with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students.

Kevin Hines, seated, with MWCC Nursing & Human Services students following his presentation.

Had someone just smiled and asked if he was okay that September 2000 afternoon in San Francisco, 19-year-old Kevin Hines would not have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. The voices in his head, caused by the brain illness of bipolar disorder prevailed, convincing him that he must die. Mid-air, he prayed he would live. Miraculously, he did.

Hines, one of 33 people to survive a jump off the 220-foot bridge and author of Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, was the keynote speaker during the second annual Mental Health Awareness Conference, sponsored by The SHINE Initiative, Mount Wachusett Community College and Heywood Healthcare.

The half-day conference, held March 27 at the Colonial Hotel, was attended by more than 300 people, including healthcare professionals, educators and students. A panel presentation focused on the stigma associated with mental illness and its impact on seeking diagnosis and treatment; the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and veterans’ post-war health issues. More than 150 MWCC students majoring in nursing and human services participated in the conference and a suicide prevention training session that followed.

President Daniel M. Asquino, Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, and Dawn Casavant, vice president of external affairs for Heywood Hospital, delivered welcoming remarks, and Human services major, Renee Chandler, shared her award-winning poetry reflecting on living with mental illness. College Counselor Melissa Manzi, MSW, LCSW, and College Health Coordinator Diane Kin, RN, BSN, HNC, led a QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training program that focuses on how to assist someone is in distress.

Panelists included Dr. Heather Brenhouse, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience Psychology at Northeastern University; Dr. Stephanie Rodrigues, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry’s Division of Addiction at the UMass Medical School; and Bryan Doe of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Affairs.

Approximately 57 million Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year. Between 70 to 90 percent of these individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with combined treatment of medication and therapy.

“Ultimately, resources and time are spent on things that are a priority. Let us make certain that mental health awareness, treatment of mental illness and the sensitivity of mental illness are everyone’s priority,” President Asquino said.

Hines’ presentation provided an inside-look at the thought process and actions, as well as the effect on his family. Born to poor, young parents who struggled with mental illnesses and substance abuse, Hines said he and his birth brother would frequently be left alone in seedy hotel rooms. Within a year, they were taken into child protective services, and bounced in and out of several foster homes. Hines’ brother died as a result of neglect and untreated health conditions, while Hines was adopted by loving and supportive parents, Pat and Debbie Hines. In adolescence, what he describes as a “brain disease” began to surface, and at 17, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This imbalance in his brain chemistry resulted in paranoia, mania, horrific hallucinations and grandiose illusions, which he attempted to mask from his family and doctors.

One of the few Golden Gate Bridge jump survivors to regain full mobility, Hines has since shared his story with over 300,000 people to raise awareness about mental illness, treatment, and suicide prevention. He has been featured in the critically acclaimed film “The Bridge,” on Larry King Live, 20/20, Anderson Cooper 360, and Good Morning America, as well as in hundreds of national and international print, radio, film, and television media outlets. A signed copy of his memoir is available at the LaChance Library.

 

Women's Herstory 2014 croppedFaculty and staff members who play an instrumental role in the lives of MWCC students were recognized on March 26 during the college’s annual Women’s Appreciation Day. The celebration capped a month-long of activities and events in celebration of Women’s History Month.

For the past several years, students in Professor Susan Goldstein’s Journalism I class interview and write feature articles on women who are making a difference in the lives of others. The Women’s HerStory project this year recognized Michelle Brennan, volunteer coordinator, Students SOS Office, United Way Youth Venture outreach specialist; Karen Costa, adjunct professor, First Year Experience; Elaine Gagne, adjunct professor, English and Reading; Andrea Gendron, tutor; Veronica Guay, director of Dual Enrollment; Sharmese Gunn, resource specialist, Gateway to College; Debra Holloway, professor of Psychology; Heather March, professor, American Sign Language; Dr. Rosanne Morel,  professor, Early Child Education; Shelley Errington Nicholson, director of Community Learning; Dr. Carol Reed, professor, Computer Information Systems and Medical Assisting; Sarah Savoie, student services and veterans clerk; and Melissa Bourque Silva, academic advisor, Division of Access & Transition.

Their photographs and inspiring stories are on display in the South Café throughout the month.

“While it’s always nice to be honored, it means even more when it comes from the students,” said Nicholson, who coordinates service learning, volunteer and internships programs for MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.

 

Pictured from left, QCC President Gail Carberry; QCC biotechnology student Jose Cruz; Governor Deval Patrick; MWCC Allied Health student Jenna Bonci; MWCC President Daniel Asquino; and Beth Nicklas, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center General Counsel and Vice President for Academic and Workforce Programs.

Governor Deval Patrick has announced nearly $1 million in grants to support life sciences related capital projects for Mount Wachusett Community College and Quinsigamond Community College to better respond to the region’s growing need for skilled workers in biotechnology, biomedical engineering and pharmaceuticals. The Governor made the announcement at QCC on March 6.

“In order for Massachusetts to continue to create jobs and prosper, we must train our workers for the jobs of the 21st century global economy,” said Governor Patrick. “Our innovation economy relies on a well-educated, well-skilled workforce, and these grants will expand opportunity and grow jobs in central Massachusetts.”

MWCC was awarded a $500,000 grant to upgrade aging and outdated equipment and add new equipment that aligns with current industry standards for its core life sciences courses in biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology and plant science. These courses provide the basic foundation for MWCC’S existing biotechnology, natural resources and clinical laboratory science degree programs and three new proposed degree programs in quality and analytical technology, liberal arts and sciences biology and chemistry to be rolled out in fall 2014. The funding will make it possible for MWCC to substantially improve its curriculum to integrate more hands-on, real-world laboratory experiences and add an organic chemistry course, an equipment heavy foundational course for biological sciences and molecular biology studies. The grant will enable MWCC to fully upgrade its laboratory science equipment and to ensure employers have the skilled workforce they require for creating and retaining jobs in the life sciences.

“As Mount Wachusett Community College prepares to break ground this fall on a new science and technology building, the continued support of the Commonwealth, through this generous grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, could not be more timely and appreciated,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This funding will enable us to provide cutting-edge equipment for our new laboratories, as well as much-needed upgrades to existing laboratories to enhance the academic experience for our students and ensure that employers have the skilled workforce they need for creating and retaining jobs in the STEM fields.”

Student Jenna Bonci, who is preparing for a career in health care, also represented MWCC at the event.

“I believe that all students enrolled in life science courses and programs at the Mount will benefit from this updated equipment and from the commitment it represents to their academic success. With this grant, students will be able to transition to their future jobs with a better understanding of the ever-changing equipment and strategies within the life sciences,” she said.

Earlier that day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that Massachusetts added over 55,000 jobs in 2013, the largest number of jobs created in a single year in nearly 15 years.

Under Governor Patrick’s leadership, Massachusetts has emerged as the global leader in life sciences. Through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), Massachusetts is investing $1 billion over 10 years in the growth of the state’s life sciences ecosystem. To date, the MLSC has awarded more than $330 million to support life sciences-related capital projects across the state, creating thousands of jobs and more than 1.3 million square feet of new education, research and manufacturing space.

“The life sciences sectors are now the fastest job producers in Massachusetts so a key strategy of the Life Sciences Center is to use our capital dollars to ensure that students all across the Commonwealth are prepared to compete successfully for these jobs,” said Dr. Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the MLSC. “The projects at Quinsigamond Community College and Mount Wachusett Community College are great examples of our investments to achieve that objective. Community colleges, and the six high schools we are recognizing today, play major roles in training the next generation of our state’s life sciences workforce, and they ensure that training for innovation economy jobs is inclusive and available all across the state. Our grants help ensure that these schools can provide students with first-rate training facilities.”

“One reason our innovation economy is strong and growing is because of our state’s strong higher education institutions,” said Secretary Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. “This funding will help ensure that these facilities are equipped with the tools and support they need to provide world-class education and training opportunities.”

“Mount Wachusett Community College is uniquely poised to innovate in the life sciences sector because it is a top public educational institution,” Senator Stephen M. Brewer. “I am honored to support this grant, and to represent the Mount Wachusett community in the Senate.”

“This funding comes at a perfect time for Mount Wachusett Community College, as they begin making major renovations to their science facilities in the coming months,” said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan. “Many thanks to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center; the Mount, as they always do, will do great things with this support.”

“Mount Wachusett Community College is an important part of our community and it is wonderful to see them have the opportunity to continue to grow,” said Representative Jonathan D. Zlotnik. “Many thanks to the Massachusetts Life Science Center for their support of the new upgrades for MWCC that will benefit students and educators for many years to come.”

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki toured the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Certification Center at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Devens campus on Feb. 27.

During the tour, a live training class was in session, providing a firsthand glimpse of the hard work that occurs at the center on a daily basis. The tour highlighted the center’s ability to provide space and tools for hands-on experience to participants seeking skills recognized by their industry as critical to their success.

“These centers are the driving forces behind providing our workforce with the skills they need to compete, and are a critical part of the reason why Massachusetts is leading the nation in growing a 21st century advanced manufacturing sector,” said Secretary Bialecki. “We remain committed to supporting this vital industry and ensuring a strong manufacturing workforce for our future.”

“Mount Wachusett Community College is proud to be recognized as an educational leader that delivers quality, advanced level training to learners of all ages. We are fortunate to be selected as stewards of federal and state resources that enable us to build upon our successful community and industry partnerships, in collaboration with the Commonwealth, to bring the very best training opportunities to our regional workforce,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino.

The center is funded in part by the federal $20 million Community Colleges grant, provides industry-recognized assessments to companies looking to evaluate current and potential staff in the areas of mechanical, electrical and programmable logic circuitry skills.The center also serves as a venue for industry meetings and workshops and is a resource to the region.

MWCC was also chosen as the recipient of a grant in 2012 as part of Governor Patrick’s Community College initiative to put more people in Massachusetts back to work and to strengthen the connections between community colleges, employers and the workforce.The $272,000 grant was used to increase college readiness and ultimate attendance rates, improvement of student success at the College and a new commitment to civic engagement activity.

Other assessments, including the nationally recognized WorkKeys program, are available to employers. Curriculum designed to meet specific incumbent worker training needs is also available, as is the ability to work with companies to develop grant proposals for training through the state Workforce Training Fund.

Prior to the tour, Secretary Bialecki led a roundtable discussion with the North Central Advanced Manufacturing Consortia, comprised of workforce, education and employer partners to discuss the partnership work to support manufacturing in the region and future plans, including an update on the current Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, grants from the U.S. Department of Labor, and Rapid Response grants.

This meeting is one in a series taking place at manufacturing sites across the Commonwealth to discuss regional manufacturing partnerships. These partnerships are led by workforce, education and business leaders who are working together to train entry level workers to increase the talent pipeline and training incumbent workers as part of succession planning for hundreds of manufacturers across the state.

MWCC’s Christina Gonzalez, Access and Transition Community Partnership Manager, and Andrew Goodwin GEAR UP Director, presented at teh annual Summer Food Service event sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Project Bread.

MWCC was featured at the annual Summer Food Service Program kickoff event on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Devens. More than 100 representatives of summer feeding programs from across the state were in attendance to prepare for implementing the programs at community sites.

The event was organized by Project Bread in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Child Nutrition Program.

Congressman Jim McGovern was the keynote speaker. MWCC Access and Transition Community Partnership Manager Christina Gonzalez and GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin presented on the college’s Summer Up and Academic and Career Transitions (ACCT) programs.  The MWCC Summer Up program was featured for its unique approach within the state for providing complimentary recreational and educational programming to encourage youth to take advantage of Summer Feeding Programs in their communities.

More than 500 students in Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner receive summer employment opportunities, a safe place to play, MCAS instruction and recreational opportunities in community centers and parks. In their presentation, Gonzalez and Goodwin stressed the importance of the collective value or multiple community partners in supporting the Summer UP and ACCT.

Walking the Talk of Peace

February 25, 2014

President Daniel Asquino and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke welcomed peace walkers passing by on their 13th annual Walk for a New Spring.

Monks and peace walkers from the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett paid a visit to MWCC on Feb. 24 at the start of their 13th annual Walk for a New Spring to promote peace.

As in previous years, the Walk for a New Spring came to the college through the invitation of Assistant Professor of Art Tom Matsuda. President Daniel M. Asquino and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke greeted the sojourners in the North Café. They were presented with origami peace cranes, which symbolize hope, peace and an end to war.

The walk, which uses the analogy of spring as a way to illustrate growth, began on Feb. 21 in Leverett, and will continue through 10 states before concluding on April 8 in Washington D.C.

The walk is initiated every year by Nipponzan Myohoji, New England Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist order originating in Japan that builds peace pagodas around the world. The spiritual journey includes meetings with town and city officials, faith communities, fellow peace activists, and visits for vigils and prayers at military bases, prisons and corporations that profit from war.

With talking, drumming and chanting, the group’s intention is to open the way for creating change regarding issues facing the world today including climate change, poverty, the militarization of the planet and space, nuclear proliferation, and the prison industry, Matsuda said.

Mount Wachusett Community College employees raised $66,573 in charitable contributions. Pictured from left, MWCC COMECC chair Connie Helstowski, President Daniel M. Asquino, Phil Grzewinski, President of the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, and campaign coordinator Nancy Thibodeau.

Mount Wachusett Community College employees set a new record through generous contributions to the 2014 Commonwealth of Massachusetts Employees Charitable Campaign (COMECC) and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

Through voluntary one-time donations and payroll deductions, and various on-campus fundraisers, faculty and staff pledged a total of $66,573 to aid those in need. This year’s goal was $60,000.

“I am extremely proud of the MWCC community and the generosity demonstrated during this campaign,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “Collectively, the contributions made by MWCC employees will greatly benefit residents in our region and throughout the Commonwealth. There is great need in the community, and this represents a huge investment in making a difference in the lives of others,” he said.

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. Each year, more than $2 million is raised statewide to assist children, families and communities in Massachusetts, as well as national and global charitable endeavors.