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Dr Amjad Bahnassi

Dr. Amjad Bahnassi

Mount Wachusett Community College and Heywood Healthcare are presenting an open forum, “Radical vs. Real: Islam in the Modern World,” on Monday, Oct. 19 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the South Café at MWCC’s Gardner campus. This forum is free and open to the public.

The event stemmed from discussions between Heywood Healthcare President Winfield Brown, MWCC President Daniel Asquino, Heywood physician Dr. Tariq Malik and others on promoting understanding about the difference between the Muslim faith and the violent, radical organizations making global headlines.

Dr Saleem Khanani

Dr. Saleem Khanani

Topics will include an overview of Islam, the world’s second largest religion; political unrest in the Islamic Middle East; and radical Islam vs. real Islam; followed by a question and answer session. The forum will be led by members of the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester, who have participated in similar dialogues at colleges, libraries and other venues throughout Worcester County.The speakers, who are all U.S. citizens, include Dr. Saleem Khanani, a hematologist and oncologist affiliated with Heywood Healthcare and St. Vincent Cancer and Wellness Center in Worcester; Noman Khanani, teacher of Islamic studies; and Dr. Amjad Bahnassi, medical director of Behavioral Health Services in Worcester. MWCC Legal Studies Professor James Korman is serving as moderator. Light refreshments will be served.

Noman Khanani

Noman Khanani

“There are so many misconceptions about the religion and the people, Muslims,” Dr. Khanani said. “The goal of the forum is to motivate the audience to learn about Islam directly from Islamic resources, rather than be influenced by the media hype. The activities of the minority do not reflect the beliefs of the majority.”Dr. Khanani was born and raised in Pakistan, where he graduated from medical school. In 1992, he emigrated to the U.S., where he completed his residency at St. Vincent’s and later worked at UMass Medical Center.

His son, Noman Khanani, is a graduate of Hartford Seminary’s master’s in Islamic Studies Program with a concentration in Muslim-Christian Relations and also holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He teaches and presents sermons in Muslim communities throughout central Massachusetts.

Dr. Bahnassi was born in Syria, where he graduated from medical school. He was trained in psychiatry at UMass Medical Center, and is an assistant professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School.

“Through our discussions with local leaders, we are presenting this forum to bring a better understanding of the Muslim faith to our students, professors and staff, as well as our greater community,” said President Asquino.

“It is my hope that this open forum will help clarify many misconceptions about Islam, the second largest religion throughout the world, while helping us to embrace the diverse cultural fabric which is the hallmark of our country and our region,” said Mr. Brown.

Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships and Brett Moulton, Web and New Media Specialist, with the college's nine NCMPR Medallion Awards.

Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships, and Brett Moulton, Web and New Media Specialist, with the college’s nine NCMPR Medallion Awards.

Mount Wachusett Community College has received nine Medallion Awards from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR), District 1, for excellence in communications.

The college’s Marketing and Communications department received five gold awards, three silver awards and one bronze award for communications projects developed over the past year including television advertising, overall marketing campaign, feature writing and recruitment brochures.

“Our students inspired a great team to do great work,” said Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships. In addition to Vice President Scales, the Marketing and Communications team includes Sarah McMaster, director of marketing and new media, Janice O’Connor, director of public relations, Stephanie England, assistant director of marketing, Briana Nobrega, coordinator of college graphics, Brett Moulton, web & new media specialist, and Joyce Cormier, administrative assistant.

MWCC received gold awards for brochures that provide prospective students with supplemental information on veterans’ services, the college’s honors program, and the new science and technology building currently under construction; a career map poster designed to help students pair strengths and interests with academic programs and careers; a booklet for newly accepted students; a banner promoting group fitness programs at the Fitness & Wellness Center; and a magazine feature article about a Graphic and Interactive Design alumnus now employed at Google.

The college received silver awards for its multi-channeled “Build Your Future” marketing campaign; its 2013-2014 annual President’s Report; and “Build Beyond Tomorrow” novelty seed packets given out during the new building’s groundbreaking ceremony.

MWCC received a bronze award for its TV advertisement, “Take it On,” which promotes the college’s science, technology, engineering and math programs and STEM Starter Academy. The ad can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/zFFBK75H7xY

The awards were announced on Oct. 6 during the NCMPR District 1 conference in Hershey, PA. NCMPR’s District 1 encompasses community colleges in the eastern U.S. from Maine to the District of Columbia, as well as the maritime provinces of Canada and the United Kingdom. An affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges, the NCMPR is the only organization of its kind that exclusively represents marketing and public relations professionals at community and technical colleges.

manuf-day-1 copy

Jacqueline Belrose, MWCC Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development; President Daniel M. Asquino, Thatcher Kezer, Senior Vice President of MassDevelopment, Devens; Melissa Fetterhoff, President of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce; Dennis Bunnell, chair of MWCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Board; advisory board member John Gravelle, CEO of Sterling Manufacturing; State Rep. Susannah Whipps-Lee; and advisory board member Fred Flohr, Senior Director of Operations for Georgia Pacific Dixie Business.

Mount Wachusett Community College celebrated National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2 with a free expo featuring demonstrations, speakers and tours of its Manufacturing Workforce Certification Center and Devens campus.

The third annual networking and informational event brought together industry representatives, educators and students who toured the manufacturing and skills-training labs and participated in hands-on demonstrations. The event was sponsored, in part, through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT III) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We are proud to once again sponsor an event in recognition of National Manufacturing Day to raise awareness about the job opportunities available in North Central Massachusetts and the industry partnerships that actively work to close the gap between trained workers and employer needs,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

Later this fall and winter, the college will acquire an additional $430,000 worth of training equipment through the TAACCCT grant, including portable training devices that address the fundamentals of automated manufacturing processes, he said. The equipment will be brought to schools, businesses and other locations for on-site instruction.

National Manufacturing Day was established in 2012 to help change public perception of manufacturing and underscore the shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts and in the country. Featured speakers at MWCC’s event included Thatcher Kezer, MassDevelopment’s senior vice president of Devens, and State Representative Susannah Whipps-Lee of Athol.

Representative Whipps-Lee, co-owner of Whipps, Inc,. a company founded by her father that designs and builds equipment for the wastewater industry, shared how the family business grew from a small start-up with two employees and $1,800 in annual sales to 70 employees and $28 million in sales by investing in their workforce through local training programs.

“We have always relied on our local educational institutions to help us grow our business. Mount Wachusett Community College has always been the go ‘go-to’ place as far as how we can help our local industries, how we can help our local hospitals get the skilled workforce they need,” she said.

“The Commonwealth understands the needs of business and the needs of our workforce and how we can gather people together to get them trained. Our delegation in central Massachusetts is very dedicated to the workforce and the people in this part of the state.”

Mr. Kezer noted the progress being made in the region and in the state to identify longstanding infrastructure issues, such as transportation, to expand opportunity for workers.

Demonstrations throughout the morning included CAD design & 3-D printing, mechatronics, a manufacturing aptitude challenge, biotechnology and quality.

Manufacturing partnerships awards were presented to members of MWCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Board by Jacqueline Belrose, Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, and board chair Dennis Bunnell. Recipients include: Tom Clay of Xtalic Corp; Fred Flohr of Georgia-Pacific Dixie Business; Mark Freeman of Steel-Fab, Inc.; Leo Gibbons of H.C. Starck, Inc.; Eamonn Goold of Bristol-Myers Squibb; John Gravelle of Sterling Manufacturing; Eric Longo of Bemis Associates, Inc.; Raymond Martino of Simonds International; Steven Rocheleau of Rocheleau Tool and Die Co. Inc.; Tim Sappington of the North Central MA Workforce Investment Board; Kelly Schick of Bristol-Myers Squibb; John Witkowski of Nypro-Jabil Healthcare; and Melissa Fetterhoff of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce.

MWCC Kaila-SecPeyser-CommSantiago

MWCC Student Kaila Lundgren shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, left, and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago at the Department of Higher Education’s first Go Higher! event of the academic year.

Kaila Lundgren, a Pre-Healthcare Academy student at Mount Wachusett Community College, shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago during the state’s first Go Higher! event, held Sept. 24 at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School.

Lundgren, a 2015 graduate of Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School, told an assembly of 350 seniors that she was inspired to become a registered nurse to help her 7-year-old brother, who lives courageously with a rare, chronic kidney stone disease called cystinuria, and by her mother, who became an RN after studying at one of Massachusetts’ community college while raising a family of five children.

One of six student speakers, Lundgren said she chose MWCC because of its fast-track option into the college’s nursing program through its Pre-Healthcare Academy. Following a year of earning good grades in co-requisite courses, including anatomy & physiology, psychology and statistics, she and other academy students are immediately accepted into the healthcare program of their choice at MWCC. In less than three years, she will be graduating with her nursing degree and practicing in a field she loves, she said.

Lundgren, who also coaches field hockey at Mahar, advised the students to pursue their dreams.

“Follow your heart.”

Go Higher!, previously known as Go Public! gives Massachusetts high school students a chance to discover the programs and opportunities available at the state’s 29 public college and university campuses. The event at Monty Tech launched a series of statewide events that will take place at various high schools throughout the academic year to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Secretary Peyser encouraged the high school audience to take a close look at the Commonwealth’s 29 public community colleges and universities for the abundance of program options that cost a fraction of private institutions.

“Massachusetts public higher education has a program and a course of study for you. Like all things in life, you get out what you put in,” he said.

Commissioner Santiago noted that two-thirds of all college students in Massachusetts are enrolled in the state’s public institutions. “College will transform you,” he said.

Monty Tech Superintendent Sheila Harrity and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education hosted the event, which was also attended by State Rep. Stephen DiNatale.

In addition to Lundgren, students representing UMass Lowell, Fitchburg State University, Worcester State University, Quinsigamond Community College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy also spoke about their college experiences.



Meg Hutchinson

Singer, songwriter and advocate Meg Hutchinson will present the keynote address during the third annual Mental Health Awareness Conference.

Each year, approximately one in five Americans suffer from some mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. To continue to raise awareness about mental health and wellness, Mount Wachusett Community College, Heywood Hospital and the SHINE Initiative are presenting the third annual Mental Health Awareness Conference.

The free conference will take place Thursday, Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Leominster. Boston-based singer-songwriter, poet and mental health advocate Meg Hutchinson is the featured speaker. The conference will also include a panel presentation and luncheon. Following the presentations, 150 MWCC nursing students will participate in the QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training. Seating is limited, and reservations are required.

“This conference provides yet another opportunity to share relevant and fact-based information about mental wellness with the community,” said Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, whose mission is to recognize mental illness in children and young adults as a mainstream health issue.

“For far too long, mental health has been viewed as a topic too delicate and too uncomfortable to speak openly about,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “It is imperative, on a local and national level, that open dialogue take place in our communities, in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our homes, because this is an issue that has everything to do with learning, employment productivity, and the quality and enjoyment of life. We are honored to again join the SHINE Initiative and Heywood Hospital in presenting this important conference,” he said.

“Heywood Hospital is proud to partner with MWCC and The Shine Initiative to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with mental health,” said hospital President Winfield S. Brown. “One of Heywood’s top priorities is to increase local capacity to provide support services for those who suffer from mental illness or addiction, and continue to carry the message that suicide is preventable.”

Hutchinson, a frequent keynote speaker at universities, conferences and teaching hospitals around the country, grew up and attended schools in the Berkshires and now lives in the greater Boston area. She recently finished filming Pack Up Your Sorrows, a feature-length documentary that explores topics near to her heart: creativity, healing, mindfulness in education, mental health advocacy, and wellness, and how these elements converge in making the world a better place. The film is told through the lens of Hutchinson’s personal story and includes interviews with leading psychologists, neuroscientists, authors, historians and spiritual teachers.

Panelists include Robert C. Bureau, associate director and faculty member at Assumption College’s Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Program; Dr. Phoebe Moore, assistant professor in the Psychiatric Department at UMass Medical Center in Worcester and a clinical child and adolescent psychologist who specializes in youth anxiety disorders; and Dr. Anne Procyk, a naturopathic physician practicing nutritional and integrative medicine to treat mental health disorders at Third Stone Integrative Health Center in Essex, CT.

For more information and to register for the conference, contact MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development at 978-630-9525 or online at http://mwcc.edu/continuing.

advanced manufacturingMount Wachusett Community College will celebrate the third annual National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2 with a free event featuring demonstrations, guest speakers and tours of the college’s Manufacturing Workforce Certification Center and Devens campus.

Manufacturing Day was established in 2012 to help change public perception of manufacturing and underscore the shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts and in the country. MWCC’s celebration provides an opportunity for the public to learn about Massachusetts manufacturing initiatives involving the college’s business partners, as well as view and participate in demonstrations showcasing current and upcoming programs.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. with registration and a light breakfast, followed by welcoming remarks from MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino and a presentation of manufacturing partnerships awards by Jacqueline Belrose, MWCC Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, and Dennis Bunnell, chair of the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Board.

Featured speakers include Thatcher Kezer, MassDevelopment’s senior vice president of Devens, and State Representative Susannah Whipps-Lee. Demonstrations from 10:30 to noon will include CAD design & 3-D printing, mechatronics, a manufacturing aptitude challenge, biotechnology and quality. Information about MWCC’s manufacturing training programs and admissions will also be available.

Serving as a networking and informational event, the expo brings together industry representatives and job seekers. Attendees can tour the manufacturing and skills-training labs and participate in hands-on exercises and individual information sessions. The event is being sponsored, in part, through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT III) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We are proud to once again sponsor an event in recognition of National Manufacturing Day to raise awareness about the job opportunities available in North Central Massachusetts and the industry partnerships that actively work to close the gap between trained workers and employer needs,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

MWCC offers a variety of credit and noncredit STEM programs at its Devens campus, including the Advanced Manufacturing Industry Readiness Training program, Quality Systems Training, the Analytical Laboratory & Quality Systems and Mechatronics certificate programs, and associate degree and academic certificate programs in biotechnology/biomanufacturing.

To register, call the Devens campus at 978-630-9569 or email devens2@mwcc.mass.edu.


Patriot Riders flag ceremonyStudents and employees at Mount Wachusett Community College paused in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks, then joined in a card-writing project to thank men and women in the region who serve as first-responders and in the military.

The Patriot Riders returned again this year to lead flag ceremonies at the Gardner and Devens campuses, which were followed by a reading by Bob Mayer, MWCC Director of Veteran Services. Carrie Progen, a 1995 alumna from Ashburnham who worked at the World Trade Center, was among those remembered.

Student Government Association President Carrie DeCosta, who lost a friend in the attack on the World Trade Center, distributed patriotic ribbons to those who signed thank you cards to who serve others. Cards will be available for signing at the Gardner campus through Sept. 18 before they are distributed to active military personnel, veterans and first responders in the region.

President Asquino signs a thank you card to first reponders and service members, an initiative organized by SGA President Carrie DeCosta.

“We want our service men and women, our veterans and our first responders to know they’re appreciated, and they’re appreciated every day, not only on days of tragedy,” DeCosta said.The events were coordinated by the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, and the Student Leaders in Civic Engagement (SLICE) program, a new initiative of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.


President Asquino photoThe start of a new academic year is always an exciting time at MWCC, and this year is no exception.

Over the summer, we broke ground on our new science, technology, engineering and math building and began much-needed renovations to the Gardner campus. The end result – modern facilities that will benefit all students, a renovated theatre, enhanced accessibility, and new office and meeting space – will make the temporary inconveniences during construction wholly worthwhile.

When completed in 2016, the new STEM building will include new laboratories, specialized space, and general classrooms, the replacement of the existing greenhouse and critical upgrades and accessibility improvements to the Haley building.

As the year unfolds, we’ll also witness more than physical changes to our college. Several new academic programs, new student support services, new faculty and staff, new transfer agreements, and new civic engagement initiatives will enhance our existing resources to help students build up their academic and career skills in preparation for the workforce or a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, MWCC continues its outreach into the community, through our students and alumni, as well as our many partnerships with K-12 school districts, business and industry, nonprofit organizations and individuals.

This month, the MWCC Humanities Project begins its second year with “Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” an in-depth look at Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, and its relevance in today’s world. Throughout the year, free events will take place at the college’s Gardner campus and in the community at public libraries and other venues. The MWCC Humanities Project is funded through a matching $500,000 grant the college received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality humanities programming and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

Among the many other highlights this fall, we are once again collaborating with business and industry to celebrate national Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2 at our Devens campus; and we will again join the SHINE Initiative and Heywood Hospital to present a free, Mental Health Awareness Conference on October 8.

I encourage members of our college community and the greater to take part in these thought-provoking events and discussions. In the words of 21st century philosopher Patricia Churchland, “Being engaged in some way for the good of the community, whatever that community, is a factor in a meaningful life. We long to belong, and belonging and caring anchors our sense of place in the universe.”

Together, we build a better future for all.

Jackie Shakar, chair of MWCC's Physical Therapist Assistant program, recently returned from a teaching opportunity in Italy.

Professor Jackie Shakar, chair of MWCC’s Physical Therapist Assistant program, recently returned from a teaching opportunity in Italy.

MWCC Physical Therapist Assistant students began classes this semester with an international instructor.

Professor Jackie Shakar, chair of MWCC’s PTA program, spent a portion of her summer break teaching the Graston Technique to colleagues in Italy. She has been a Graston Technique instructor for over 10 years, typically teaching one seminar a month throughout the U.S. This was the first time she had the opportunity to teach in another country.

“I had a great time teaching in Italy and it was an excellent learning experience, as it was the first time that I had to use an interpreter,” she said.

The Graston Technique is an instrument-assisted system of soft tissue mobilization typically used by physical therapists and their assistants, athletic trainers, occupational therapists and their assistants and chiropractors.

As a physical therapist, Shakar uses GT extensively with her patients. In her classes at MWCC, she teaches a unit on soft tissue mobilization and introduces students to the Graston Technique.

A physical therapist since 1983, Shakar has taught at the college level since 1988, including the past 20 years at MWCC. She earned a master’s degree in physical therapy from Boston University in 1983 and later returned to Mass General Institute of Health Professions to receive her transitional doctoral degree.

In addition to teaching, she maintains a part-time clinical practice primarily in neuromusculoskeltal physical therapy. She currently see patients at Central Mass Physical Therapy and Wellness in West Boylston.


UWYV - North Middlesex Regional High School

The Bright Lights Project, comprised of North Middlesex Regional High School team members Marina Sheid, Jordan Keating, Nu Nu Laphai, Kaitlyn Istnick, Margaret Ritchie ,Liz Palmer and Ben Dauphinais-Szabady works to donate and install environmentally friendly LED lights in businesses and private homes around North Central Massachusetts.

This fall, United Way Youth Venture of North Central Massachusetts returns to schools throughout the region to continue the great work being done by middle and high school students.

Now starting its 13th year, the program works with students to help them transform their passions into independent community service projects. Through their participation in the UWYV program, students have been able to implement instrumental change  throughout North Central Massachusetts on a variety of issues including supporting foster youth in need, raising awareness about autism, and educating the youth on building positive relationships with local police departments.

United Way Youth Venture got its start in 2002 when the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Mount Wachusett Community College, and Ashoka’s Youth Venture partnered to found the program to help schools integrate youth-based social ventures into their curriculum, afterschool activities and special events.

“It is inspiring to see young people identify solutions to challenges they see in our region, then build a plan to address these challenges in innovative and creative ways,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This program has grown exponentially over the years and serves as a model that demonstrates the power of today’s youth to initiate change that benefits citizens now and in the future.”

“United Way Youth Venture is very much on the cutting edge because it is tapping into the entrepreneurial power of young people who want to address important community issues,” said Phil Grzewinski, President of the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

During the 2014-2015 year, United Way Youth Venture strengthened its position in the community through the support of its school partners by engaging more than 4,000 youth across North Central Massachusetts. Through seed funding investments, 41 new Venture Teams were successfully started on their journey to making an impact in the local community. UWYV is run through Mount Wachusett Community College and as such creates a pipeline to higher education.

“We’ve enjoyed the opportunities this past year to collaborate closely with our school partners,” said Lauren Mountain, Associate Director of UWYV. “The outcomes of these relationships are evident through the significant increase of students interested in forming Ventures, and also in the frequency of curriculum integration, which leverages UWYV skill development workshops to bring classroom learning to life.”

Last year, the UWYV program was especially impactful at its home institution, Mount Wachusett Community College, with the launch of four new Venture Teams through the MWCC Changemakers Program, which helps MWCC students in supporting the strategic goals of the college. These engaged students, who created projects to support MWCC incoming students, local veterans and adjunct faculty, have taken great strides to enhance the college experience for both students and staff.

The UWYV program is currently offered to students at the following partner schools: Ayer Shirley Middle and High School, Murdock Middle/High School, Leominster High School & CTEi, Sky View Middle School, Samoset Middle School, Fitchburg High School, North Middlesex Regional High School, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School, Sizer School, Parker Charter, and MWCC.

“United Way Youth Venture gives the power to those who wouldn’t necessarily have a say in what’s happening and gives them the chance to make an impact,” said participant Helen Muma, now a freshman at Leominster High School.

To learn more about what is happening with United Way Youth Venture or become involved in the program, visit mwcc.edu/uwyv or email the staff at uwyv@mwcc.mass.edu