Featured Stories

untitled-0027

TRIO trivia musical chairs

Where can you combine the classic party game musical chairs with TRIO trivia? At the Visions and Rx programs’ year-end party.

Dozens of students who participate in MWCC’s Visions and Rx programs shared some laughs and bits of history, along with a giant cake to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the federal TRIO Student Services Support programs.

Ten student volunteers dwindled to one winner in the game, with each participant taking a moment to share a TRIO fact. Among the highlights:

  • Since 1964, when TRIO launched its first program, Upward Bound, more than two million students have graduated with assistance from TRIO programs.
  • MWCC’s Visions and Rx programs serve approximately 320 students each year and are two out of 1,900 TRIO programs throughout the country.
  • More than 1,000 colleges and universities house TRIO programs, which are funded through the U.S. Department of Education.
  • There are 59 TRIO programs in Massachusetts providing services to students.
  • Celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Taye Diggs, Angela Bassett, Patrick Ewing an John Quinones were all TRIO participants.
  • Students served by TRIO graduate at a higher rate than students who do not participate in TRIO programs.
Ben Mikles mural

An exterior mural by MWCC art student Ben Mikles, one of the featured presenters during the Fall Art Student Lecture Series.

The Art Student Lecture Series, sponsored by MWCC’s Art Department, continued this fall with presentations on creating large-scale murals and marketing oneself as an artist.

“Like it or not, you’re in the sales business,” explained art major and self-starter Isabella Bourque, who presented “How to Market Yourself as An Artist” in December. “This is the presentation I wish I would have seen before I started selling artwork,” said Bourque, who noted that local, domestic and international pottery sales comprise one-third of her total income.

After purchasing an inexpensive kiln on Craig’s List, Bourque created a home studio, where she produces artwork for sale at commercial and rental galleries, commission shops and street fairs, as well as on Etsy. She similarly encouraged MWCC students to diversify their selling platforms, citing the Leominster Art Center & Gallery and the Gardner Area League of Artists as ideal venues for beginning freelancers.

By leveraging social media platforms and creating an online portfolio through Carbonmade, Bourque said she was better able to promote her work and make connections. She discussed the importance of establishing an online presence, obtaining a unique domain name and creating business cards.

Bourque, who also works as a graphic and web designer for WS Beauty Supply, also offered financial guidance, highlighting the need to maintain consistent prices, account for hours of labor, anticipate overhead costs and challenges, set aside profits and cater artwork to individual target markets. She will graduate this semester with an Associate Degree in Art.

Fall presenters also included Ben Mikles, who has extensive experience painting large-scale murals in many venues, both temporary and permanent using spray paint and brushes. Mikles spoke about his technique, materials, and process.

The Art Student Lecture Series was launched during the spring 2014 semester, with presenters Jennifer Mondestin, who discussed her recently published graphic novel and other commissions; Dylan Safford, who presented on digital painting using Photoshop; Robert G. Osborne who discussed his three decades experience as an artist and gallery owner in New York City; and Corinne Goodrich, who demonstrated plein air painting techniques.

- Cameron Woodcock

 

 

MWCC student Susan Shute displays a brochure of pictures she took at North Pack Monadnock, her personal "Walden." Shute was one of several students who showcased Thoreau-inspired projects as part of "East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord."

MWCC student Susan Shute displays a brochure of pictures she took at North Pack Monadnock, her personal “Walden.” Shute was one of several students who showcased Thoreau-inspired projects completed during the first semester of “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord.”

Wrapping up a successful first semester of “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord,” students showcased Thoreau-themed projects during a Dec. 4 exhibit. Funded through a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the MWCC Humanities Project’s first-year theme is encouraging students to consider the lasting relevance and modern application of Thoreau’s philosophies.

“This is the best event of all and the real reason why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said English Professor and Humanities Project Coordinator Michelle Valois, referring to the presentations and exhibit as singular focus on student outcomes.

MWCC students John Alden and Susan Shute each selected the location that represents to them what Walden Pond meant to Thoreau. Alden read an essay titled “My Walden,” an account of his varied experiences at Fitchburg’s Coggshall Park. Shute displayed a brochure of pictures she took at North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield, NH.

Michael Niall read a comparative essay, “The Hermitage and the Cathedral, or Just the Everlasting Water,” on Thoreau and E.B. White’s individual relationships with nature, as described in “Walden” and “Once More to the Lake” respectively. Valois described Niall’s essay as “a healthy mixture of analytical and creative learning outcomes,” which exemplifies a community-college education.

Bethany Proctor and Samantha Rutkowski narrated a slideshow of Thoreau-inspired student sculptures, which were created using natural materials and displayed in the exterior and interior of MWCC.

Media Arts & Technology student Jack Dawson discussed “Opportunity,” an aptly titled picture taken on the road leading to MWCC. The picture reflects the inspirational nature of several Thoreau passages, as well as Dawson’s enthusiasm for his post-MWCC career.

East Meets West will continue during the spring semester with a Feb. 11 book discussion of “Being Henry David” at the MWCC Commons; a March 5 book discussion of “The Transcendental Murder” at Leominster Public Library; a March 26 book discussion of “American Primitive” at Fitchburg Public Library; and an April 15 poetry reading by Gail Thomas, author of “No Simple Wilderness: An Elegy for Swift River Valley,” at Athol Public Library. All spring events will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

This fall, the campus community also chose its second-year theme, “Myth, Monsters and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” based on Mary Shelley’s classic. The 1818 novel will promote discussion on the societal and personal effects of technological advancements, the potential pitfalls of these innovations, and our collective attitude toward difference.

MWCC biotech photo

MWCC’s Biotechnology/Biomanufacturing degree and certificate programs have received a gold industry endorsement.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Biotechnology/ Biomanufacturing degree and certificate programs have received a gold endorsement from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Education Consortium (MLSEC). The MLSEC is an initiative convened by MassBio and the MassBioEd Foundation to facilitate partnerships between the life sciences industry and higher education in order to more effectively match graduating students with the jobs companies are seeking to fill.

The MLSEC celebrated the successes of 17 degree and certificate programs at 10 community colleges and other educational institutions during a Dec. 2 ceremony in Lexington. Guest speakers included David Cedrone, Associate Commissioner for Economic and Workforce Development and STEM and Executive Director of the STEM Advisory Council at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education; and Matt Sigelman, Chief Executive Officer of Burning Glass Technologies.

Dr. Melissa Fama, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dean Janice Barney and Professor Lara Dowland, chair of MWCC’s biotechnology department, joined educators and stakeholders in the life sciences industry at the event, which recognized the programs’ accomplishments and explored how the institutions and industry can continue to work together to cultivate and support the next generation of the life sciences workforce.

“One of our main objectives at MWCC is to ensure that all of our STEM students receive relevant, practical training and are immediately suited to fill in-demand careers,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “Receiving a gold endorsement from the MLSEC reinforces our belief in this educational approach and our desire to provide continued pathways for careers in biotechnology, biomanufacturing and other STEM fields.”

“These endorsements ensure that community college biotechnology students and biotechnology certificate earners are provided with the information and experience they need to be successful candidates for careers in the life sciences industry,” said Lance Hartford, Executive Director of the MassBioEd Foundation. “Designing educational programs off of the competencies that life sciences companies require from employees ensures that students receive skills relevant and applicable to the research and manufacturing jobs available.”

“The Massachusetts life sciences industry depends on highly trained workers at every stage of the drug development and manufacturing process,” said Robert K. Coughlin, President & CEO of MassBio. “By producing graduates ready to join industry, these endorsed programs are helping fill the pipeline of industry workers to ensure that our life sciences supercluster can continue to grow and get therapies to patients around the world.”

Each educational program was evaluated based on program overview and scope of services, demonstration of laboratory practices, lab techniques and competencies. Also evaluated were workforce pathway development including its utilization of an advisory board, career services offered, and opportunities for work simulations and internships.

 

120214032

MWCC Honors Program students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle led a panel discussion on suicide awareness, which was attended by approximately 100 students. Pictured, from left, Honors Program Coordinator Sheila Murphy; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; MWCC student Carrie DeCosta, Stan, former State Senator Robert Antonioni, and LaBelle.

Mount Wachusett Community College Honors Program students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle led a poignant panel discussion to promote suicide awareness and discussion and encourage their peers to think past the stigma attached to mental illness.

The three-person panel included former State Senator Robert Antonioni; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; and MWCC student Carrie DeCosta. Representing three different perspectives on suicide and mental illness, the panelists shared their individual accounts with approximately 100 MWCC students in the college’s North Café.

“Suicide and depression do not discriminate,” said Stan, while introducing the Dec. 2 event. He lamented that suicide represents the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24, yet is still regarded as a “social taboo.”

“Elected officials look for issues to champion. That issue found me in 1999,” said Antonioni, referring to the year he lost his brother to suicide.

“Suicide is seen as a stigma to avoid, but it shouldn’t be. It should be on the forefront of everyone’s minds, and we should look to intervene and help,” he said.

“The way to get around this stigma and provide opportunity for discussion is to have forums” throughout the community, said Ellis. He encouraged students to seek education on suicide and mental illnesses, respond proactively to clear risk factors, participate in prevention training and learn to be accepting and tolerant of mental health issues. “Every single one of us has a role to play.”

“It’s important to share my story because you wouldn’t think by looking at me that I struggled with mental illnesses,” said DeCosta. “I was determined not to be a statistic and beat my illness.”

LaBelle and Stan, MWCC’s Student Trustee, organized the event as an extension of their abnormal psychology course and as a service learning project in the Honors Program.

“The fact that this many people showed up means the conversation has started,” LaBelle said.

MWCC Research Analyst Shawn LaRoche, who recently earned a certificate of completion from the Association of Institutional Research's Data and Decisions Academy, is congratulated by President Daniel M. Asquino.

MWCC Research Analyst Shawn LaRoche, who recently earned a certificate of completion from the Association of Institutional Research’s Data and Decisions Academy, is congratulated by President Daniel M. Asquino.

Mount Wachusett Community College Research Analyst Shawn LaRoche recently earned a certificate of completion from the Association of Institutional Research’s Data and Decisions Academy. MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino nominated LaRoche for the academy’s Presidential Scholarship.

The online, self-paced program for institutional-research professionals at two-year schools builds practical skills to enhance data-informed decision making in higher education, which in turn supports MWCC’s vision of a diverse, adaptive community of lifelong learners.

LaRoche was identified by President Asquino as an exemplary employee whose ascension could be further accelerated through specialized training. In this program, LaRoche completed courses in Longitudinal Tracking for Institutional Research and Survey Design.

“The need for skilled institutional research professionals has greatly intensified as data increasingly drives our strategic-planning efforts, which aim to help students succeed,” said President Asquino. “Shawn has emerged as a vital part of this process at MWCC, and we are glad we could nominate him for this professional development  opportunity.”

Leveraging his 12 years of prior experience in data collection and analysis, LaRoche completes the majority of MWCC’s external reports and provides administration and faculty with actionable and timely information.

“The skills I gained in the courses have already paid dividends in a number of projects, including research related to student progression through developmental education,” he said. “I am also more prepared for conducting larger-scale surveys thanks to the practical experience I gained in the courses. Advancing my skills in these areas is not only a benefit for me but for everyone at MWCC. I am grateful to President Asquino for his support of my participation in the program.”

In his spare time, LaRoche coaches Barre youth soccer and baseball, and serves as treasurer for Barre youth baseball.

Initial funding for the Data and Decisions Academy is made possible by a $1.92 million grant from Lumina Foundation for Education. The Association of Institutional Research, which hosts the academy, is based in Tallahassee, Florida.

20141119_095457-2

Fitchburg High School seniors complete college applications as part of the school’s first year of participation in Massachusetts College Application Celebration. More than 86 percent of the class completed college applications, exceeding the 80-percent goal set by MWCC Division of Access & Transition. Assisting FHS students, and wearing red t-shirts, are GEAR UP and TRIO staff members.

A majority of Fitchburg High School seniors celebrated Thanksgiving with more than a meal under their belt. By the holiday, more than 86 percent of the class had completed college applications, exceeding a goal set by the high school’s administration and guidance staff and MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition.

MWCC and Fitchburg High partnered to bring the Massachusetts College Application Celebration event to the school for the first time during the week of Nov. 17, with the goal of encouraging 80 percent of the senior class apply to at least one college of their choice by Thanksgiving. This is the third year Massachusetts has participated in the national initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP program. The high school is encouraging 100-percent participation by spring.

“It was a great success,” said Andrew Goodwin, MWCC GEAR UP Director. By encouraging seniors to apply early, they are more likely to apply to several schools and find the best match for their academic goals, he said.

Bringing the application celebration directly to Massachusetts high schools coincides with key state education goals of providing college access to all students and closing achievement gaps, said state GEAR UP Director Robert Dias, who paid a visit during the Fitchburg event.

Damaris Cabrera, who has participated in MWCC’s Educational Talent Search program since middle school, said the application drive is making a big difference for students. The college access programs she has participated in have helped her realize the importance of higher education and the various financial aid programs available to help make that goal affordable, she said.

“I’ve received the information I need to help me prepare for my future.”

Medical assisting is one of several new transfer agreements between Massachusetts vocational-technical schools and community colleges.

Medical assisting is one of several new transfer agreements between Massachusetts vocational-technical schools and community colleges.

Massachusetts Community Colleges and the Commonwealth’s Career and Technical High Schools have developed new articulation/transfer agreements aimed at creating seamless pipelines to higher education and reducing the time to completion for vocational high school students entering community colleges.

The seven new transfer agreements were recently signed at the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA) annual meeting and will assist with transitioning vocational high school students to community college degree and certificate programs in STEM fields, the trades, health care, business and other high-demand middle skills careers. The seven new statewide agreements were developed this past summer under the leadership of the Massachusetts Community College Executive Office (MCCEO) and built upon a four-year partnership between MCCEO, MAVA, and the Commonwealth’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that was created in 2010, when the first pipeline agreement was developed in the field/trade of Drafting.

According to Bill Hart, Executive Officer of MCCEO, “The 15 Community Colleges across the state continually partner locally and regionally with high schools on pathways to college programs. However, in this particular partnership with MAVA and DESE, we created a statewide collaborative model that provides clear pathways for motivated students to have access to higher education in disciplines and career fields in which they already know they have an interest and some experience.”

The agreements that are developed through this inclusive process with both community college faculty and vocational high school teachers ensure that articulation and transfer for these programs is done in a uniform and consistent way, Hart said.

“Each year Mount Wachusett Community College awards college credit to incoming students who have completed occupational career pathways at their high schools,” said Dr. Melissa Fama, MWCC Vice President of Academic Affairs. “Students from Monty Tech, Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation, Murdock High, Fitchburg High and other area high schools benefit each year by transferring credits from high school career programs. The addition of seven new transfer agreements will increase the number of articulated credits available to students and assist them along the way to certificate and degree completion.”

There are now a total of 14 collaborative agreements that allow for vocational high school students in specific programs to be awarded credits at community colleges for work already completed at the vocational high school level.

“This is a win-win situation with vocational technical school graduates being well prepared to continue their education at our quality community colleges in the Commonwealth. We are encouraged that this collaborative articulation model will continue to be expanded to many additional occupational career paths,” said David Ferreira, Executive Director of MAVA.

The seven new agreements are in the high-demand fields of Hospitality Management; Business Technology; Health Assisting; Medical Assisting, Carpentry, Heating, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration; and Machine Tool Technology (Machine Manufacturing).  Previous agreements in addition to the original in Drafting include: Transportation; Arts and Communications; Information Technology; Manufacturing Engineering; Culinary Arts; and Early Childhood Education. For more information on the Massachusetts Community Colleges & Vocational High School articulation agreements visit www.masscc.org.

hunger banquet majority

Students representing the world’s poorest shared meager bowls of rice and water, while a much smaller group, representing the world’s wealthiest, dined on a full meal. This exercise took place throughout the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement’s hunger banquet, which raised awareness about poverty and income inequality.

A hunger banquet hosted by the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement raised awareness of world poverty and affirmed Mount Wachusett Community College’s status as a lead institution in an American Association of State Colleges and Universities initiative. MWCC and Keene State College announced Nov. 18 that they will co-lead 31 participating institutions in a three-year initiative on economic inequality.

The initiative calls for institutions to develop curricula and hands-on learning opportunities that will encourage students to confront the complex causes of economic inequality. MWCC’s hunger banquet mirrored those run by Oxfam International and provided students varying meals and levels of service, based on the distribution of income and on chance – very often the sole determinant of one’s economic standing.

“This is a small glimpse of some of the economic inequality worldwide,” said Shelley Errington Nicholson, director of community learning in the Center, while introducing the Nov. 20 event. Nicholson also described hunger as “a problem rooted in injustice,” and one that is solvable, though doing so is no easy task.

MWCC participants representing the 20 percent of high-income individuals were served a pasta entre with vegetables and rolls, though much of the food went uneaten. Middle-income participants, who comprise 30 percent of the population, served themselves rice and beans. Finally, students portraying the 50 percent of low-income individuals sat on the floor and received one ladle of rice, no silverware and a cup of water.

While students ate, faculty and staff speakers highlighted a range of statistics on world poverty and hunger, as well as avenues toward the suppression of both epidemics, including Oxfam and Feeding America. An estimated 2.5 billion people live in poverty, while 870 million suffer from chronic hunger.

Each ticket contained a persona of an individual helped by Oxfam, and several participants read their descriptions to the group. The Center donated all funds to the Students Supporting our Students (SOS) Office to assist MWCC students in need.

Students also engaged in a philosophical discussion on hunger led by Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Center Chair Daniel Soucy.

“We hope not to leave you in a state of despair, but to empower you by showing what we all can do,” said Associate Professor of Psychology and Sociology Julia Capozzi, who showed two clips from The Hunger Games to emphasize the growing power of the top one percent of income earners. “We try to pretend we’re all in the middle class and that poverty isn’t a problem, but [this situation] is not just a recession.”

Following the banquet, students from each income group reflected on the experience.

“I felt bad for the lower class because I had more food than them,” said Ruth Robertson, a dental hygiene major and a member of the high-income group. “I wanted to give them my food. That’s why I didn’t eat much of it.”

“I was happy with the middle class, and I would have felt guilty if I got in the higher class,” said Rebekkah Dietz, a liberal arts major, who said she was happy to receive a sufficient amount of food without wasting any.

“You feel like a leper, really,” said Stephanie Needle, a human services major and a member of the low-income group. “This is a fair depiction of how we treat people living in poverty in this country and why not a lot of people want to admit where they’re at.”

- Cameron Woodcock

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan speaks to representatives of local nonprofits during a workshop on the generational transfer of leadership. Senator Flanagan encouraged baby boomers to be mentors to millennials.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan speaks to representatives of local nonprofits during a workshop on the generational transfer of leadership. Senator Flanagan encouraged baby boomers to be mentors to millennials.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan joined Mount Wachusett Community College’s Center for Civic Engagement and local nonprofits for a workshop on the ongoing, universal transfer of leadership from baby boomers to Generation X and millennials. The Nov. 19 event in MWCC’s North Café was part of Enterprise Bank’s Non-Profit Collaborative and added to the 145 organizations previously trained by the Center.

Led by MWCC Director of Community Learning Shelley Errington Nicholson, the forum also included remarks from President Daniel M. Asquino and Director of Experiential Learning Opportunities and Civic Engagement Fagan Forhan.

To promote smooth leadership transitions and the inclusion of new voices, Nicholson explained the subtle differences between the three generations, including their core values, attributes, work ethics and values, and preferred work environments. Representatives also brainstormed potential strategies for integrating employees from different generations and shared effective methods introduced by their own organizations.

“If we’re going to be fair and provide leadership, we need to structure our environment so that people from different generations and cultures can succeed. This is what we try to do at MWCC,” said President Asquino, who also praised Enterprise Bank for its commitment to civic engagement. “We have to understand the people we work with and how they respond to situations and environments.”

“Baby boomers need to be mentors and help with institutional knowledge,” said Senator Flanagan. “The top people in companies need to be thinking forward – Who’s going to be part of this company in five years?”

Senator Flanagan also referenced the value of her internship under former State Representative Mary Jane Simmons and encouraged attendees to view colleges as “a pool.”

“The dynamic in our office has changed a lot by having student staff,” said Forhan. “It has grounded us in a different way and changed our perspective, and they feel ownership over their decisions.”

“How are you going to know what good customer services looks like if you don’t have those young voices?” said Nicholson. “We all have a dedication to work, but it looks different.”

- Cameron Woodcock