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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


DClogoThe American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is spearheading a national effort to engage students in the topic of economic inequality and its impact on democracy through a three-year initiative. Leading the 31 participating institutions in this effort are Mount Wachusett Community College and Keene State College. All participants are members of AASCU’s American Democracy Project (ADP) or The Democracy Commitment (TDC).

Participating institutions will invite students and community members to confront the complex causes of economic inequality through the development of curriculum that will be applied to many areas of study and hands-on learning opportunities. Specifically, students will study the relationship between public policy, economic inequality, economic opportunity, and social mobility. These strategies, including the introduction of a course in economic inequality for students at two- and four-year schools, will be designed for further adoption by campuses across the country.

“AASCU is excited to assemble this group of two- and four-year institutions that together will examine and address the growing economic inequality in this county, a trend that poses a serious threat to our democracy,” remarked George Mehaffy, AASCU’s vice president of academic leadership and change.

MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and The American Democracy Project at Keene State College will spearhead national efforts, which also promote community outreach, civic pathways for student success, and prepare undergraduates for lives of informed civic engagement. Most activities will take place on participating campuses, with the two lead institutions providing support and networking by hosting national conference calls and webinars.

“We are proud to partner with AASCU, Keene State College, and colleges and universities across the country on this timely initiative,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “More than ever before, our students are graduating into a global society that is stratified across lines of economic class and political ideologies as much as they always have been across issues of gender, culture and religion. As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that our students have the opportunity to think critically and creatively about these issues—and discover their own abilities to initiate change in areas of public policy, economic opportunity and inequality, and social mobility,” he said.

MWCC faculty participating in the initiative include Julie Capozzi, Elmer Eubanks, Shane Martin, Yvonne Noyes-Stevens, Maureen Provost, Tom Montagno, Kate Smith, Dan Soucy and Michelle Valois. They will join Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement staff members Fagan Forhan and Shelley Errington Nicholson.

“I am thrilled that Keene State College and MWCC are partnering with AASCU to involve students in discussions and experiences that demonstrate the ways that economic inequality affects our society—this issue is urgent and relevant to every state in our nation. The approach we are taking on this topic leverages critical thinking, community engagement, and academic preparation, which will make a real impact on our students now and in the years to come after graduation,” said Keene State College President, Dr. Anne Huot.

National Network of Participating Schools

In addition to Keene State College, four-year institutions include Buffalo State (SUNY); California State University, Chico; California State University, Monterey Bay; Cleveland State University; Dalton State College (Ga.); Ferris State University (Mich.); Indiana University Northwest; Missouri State University; Northeastern Illinois University; Northern Kentucky University; Richard Stockton College of New Jersey; Salisbury University (Md.); Slippery Rock University (Penn.); St. Cloud State University (Minn.); SUNY Cortland; Texas A&M University-Central Texas; University of Houston Downtown; Weber State University (Utah); Western Carolina University (N.C.); and Wright State University (Ohio).

In addition to MWCC, participating two-year institutions include Allegany College of Maryland; De Anza College (Calif.); Kirkwood Community College (Iowa); Lone Star College, Kingwood (Texas); Manchester Community College (Conn.); Monroe Community College (N.Y.); Moraine Valley Community College (Ill.); Santa Fe College (Fla.); and Tarrant County College, Southeast Campus (Texas).

ADP and TDC, representing four- and two-year schools, respectively, create a variety of civic-engagement and academic-enrichment initiatives that encourage graduates to become informed, engaged participants in our democracy. TDC is modeled after ADP, and both organizations are sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.



MWCC’s Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition, created to recognize National Entrepreneurship Month in November, is open to North Central Massachusetts innovators.

Area residents are invited to submit to the Mount Wachusett Community College Center for Entrepreneurship’s 2014 Business Plan Competition for an opportunity to win prizes valued at more than $7,000. The competition, launched in November to coincide with National Entrepreneurship Month, supports MWCC’s mission to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in North Central Massachusetts.

The competition gives the region’s innovators in the business and nonprofit sectors the opportunity to submit business plans and vie for cash and in-kind prizes. Five finalists and a single grand-prize winner will be selected.

Business plans from individual applicants or teams will be accepted through an extended deadline of midnight, Wednesday, Dec. 31. Five finalists will be selected and invited to participate at an awards dinner in January. During the awards dinner, all five finalists will present to a panel of judges. Each applicant will provide a 90-second business plan pitch, followed by a 10 minute presentation.

Qualified entrants are encouraged to start or grow a business or nonprofit organization within the college’s service area, which includes Ashburnham, Ayer, Ashby, Athol, Barre, Clinton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Hardwick, Harvard, Hubbardston, Lancaster, Leominster, Lunenburg, Oakham, Orange, Pepperell, Petersham, Phillipston, Princeton, Royalston, Rutland, Shirley, Sterling, Townsend, Templeton, Westminster and Winchendon.

The prize package provides over $7,000 in cash awards, advertising and consulting opportunities, including a cash award; $1,000 in print and digital advertising in the Sentinel & Enterprise; a free three-credit academic course at MWCC valued at $600; a free noncredit class at MWCC valued up to $150; a full-page profile or advertisement in upcoming MWCC publications; graphic design services from a professional graphic designer; a free consultation with a marketing vice president; a free one-hour consultation with an attorney, 2,000 free business cards and more.

The competition’s premier sponsor is the office of Ronald M. Ansin, and the Sentinel & Enterprise is the media sponsor. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

Competition judges and sponsors are Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Ken Ansin, Community Bank Director at Enterprise Bank, Tina Sbrega, President and CEO of GFA Federal Credit Union, Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce President Jim Bellina, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce President David McKeehan, Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce President Melissa Fetterhoff, and Linda Racine, Executive Vice President of Rollstone Bank &Trust.

For more information about the Business Plan Competition and to submit an application, go to http://mwccbusinessplan2014.istart.org.


Mount Wachusett Community College is offering a two-week Quality Systems Intensive Training Program for adults with prior work experience and/or college credits who wish to join the growing workforce of quality professionals in North Central Massachusetts. bionostics equipment

To provide accelerated training and expand career possibilities for area job seekers, MWCC will offer the two-week program Dec. 8 through Dec. 18 at its Devens campus, 27 Jackson Rd. The program is ideal for unemployed or underemployed adults and veterans. The program is also ideal for incumbent workers who would like expanded career potential within their current companies.

The skill set of a quality professional has become increasingly marketable, as job opportunities exist not only in the manufacturing industry, but also in the fields of healthcare and finance. Specifically, quality professionals work at diagnostic labs and banks, as well as insurance, mortgage, pharmaceutical, medical-device, and plastics companies.

Students will receive exposure to regulated and international quality systems, continuous improvement techniques, and the tools used toward the benefit of an organization’s bottom line.

The 32-hour program meets Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The program cost is $1,200 and scholarships are available for eligible students.

For registration information, contact Meghan Koslowski at mkoslowski@mwcc.mass.edu, or Christian Reifsteck at creifsteck@mwcc.mass.edu, or call 978-630-9144. Additional program information is available through Gretchen Ingvason at gingvason@mwcc.mass.edu or 978-630-9576.



Mount Wachusett Community College students and faculty welcomed Thoreau Society Executive Director Michael Frederick for a Humanities Project lecture on Thoreau’s influence on contemporary nonviolent reformers. Civ_Dis_Medal_175

While Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience,” and guiding philosophies served as inspiration for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick noted fundamental differences between Thoreau and his more passive disciples.

Published posthumously, “Civil Disobedience” was originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government,” and Frederick said the original was more consistent with Thoreau’s viewpoints.

Thoreau was also “consistent on the use of force” in opposing government and supported abolitionist John Brown, who sought to arm slaves and bring about their violent rebellion, said Frederick.

Finally, Frederick said, “Our concept of civil disobedience [and that of Gandhi and King, Jr.] is one of collective action. Thoreau’s was one of individual action.”

The final Humanities Project event of 2014 will take place Dec. 4 and feature student presentations and exhibits. For more information about the MWCC Humanities Project and a full schedule of events taking place this spring, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

Associate Professor of Nursing Collene Thaxton briefs practical nursing students following the completion of disaster training at MWCC's Devens campus.

Associate Professor of Nursing Collene Thaxton briefs practical nursing students following the completion of disaster training at MWCC’s Devens campus. The mannequin was one of five requiring treatment in a tornado simulation that also included two participating MWCC professors.

After months of preparation, teams of Mount Wachusett Community College practical nursing students tended to hospital “patients” further injured as a result of a simulated tornado.

The Nov. 7 disaster simulation at MWCC’s Devens campus included five lifelike mannequins and two professors with varying afflictions, debris strewn across the floor, and tornado sound effects. Impending graduates applied skills gained through nearly two years of nursing coursework, as well as a lecture on emergency response and public health issues by Judy O’Donnell of Wachusett Medical Corps.

“We need to get students ready for disaster situations. This is the culmination of what has gone on since January,” said Associate Professor of Nursing Collene Thaxton, who led two separate simulations, each consisting of a rescue and triage team. “We really stress the importance of communication in disasters because you never know what to expect.”

With 15 minutes to complete the simulation, student rescue teams diagnosed and provided preliminary treatment to patients based on the severity of their injuries. Rescue teams then transported patients by stretcher to nearby triage teams for further treatment, including CPR, blood work and the dressing of wounds.

“I was nervous at first, but once I started, I got into nursing mode,” said Ari-Ann Ashley, a member of the first rescue team. “I feel that now I have an idea of what to do if something like this actually happened in the real world.”

“My mind was racing, but I tried to keep it together and figure out who to triage first,” said Isabelle Mascary, a member of the second triage team. “I think this helps students because it puts us in a situation we haven’t been in before, and we can figure out what went wrong and what we can do better.”

Additional nursing students participated in disaster simulations on Nov. 14.

- Cameron Woodcock

To promote conscientious discussion on the topic of suicide, Mount Wachusett Community College’s Honors Program is inviting the public to a student-led panel discussion that will also feature area leaders in mental health. One-Day-At-A-Time-Logo

Titled “One Day at a Time,” the free event will take place Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 12:30 p.m. in the North Café at the Gardner campus. MWCC students Phil Stan and Stevie LaBelle organized the event as an extension of their abnormal psychology course and a service-learning project to meet Honors Program requirements.

“We want to de-stigmatize suicide and demonstrate that it’s okay to talk about it,” said Stan, who will co-moderate the forum with LaBelle. “Suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death, but unless we open up lines of communication, we can’t offer the help that these people need.”

Acknowledging the sensitivity of the topic, Stan said organizers will create a secure environment in which participants can freely express their concerns, speak to MWCC guidance counselors and obtain information on area support services.

The panel will include former State Senator Bob Antonioni, whose advocacy for mental health stems from experiences in his personal life; Michael Ellis, project coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Program at Heywood Hospital; and MWCC student Carrie DeCosta, who will recount her personal triumphs.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, according to The Trevor Project. The Center for Disease Control reports that the year 2012 saw 40,600 reported suicides in the US, including one every 12.9 minutes.

“Often, simply asking if someone is okay can make a huge difference,” said Stan.

Three Murdock High School seniors are earning MWCC academic certificates through the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program. Pictured, from left, Andrew Phelps, Amber Dignan, Melanie Cranfill, andCVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

Three Murdock High School seniors are earning MWCC academic certificates through the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program. Pictured, from left, Andrew Phelps, Amber Dignan, Melanie Cranfill, andCVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips.

For the third consecutive year, Murdock High School seniors in the Robinson-Broadhurst Career Tech Scholarship program are earning academic certificates at Mount Wachusett Community College while simultaneously finishing their diplomas.

Through a generous grant from the Winchendon-based Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation, Amber Dignan and Melanie Cranfill are pursing MWCC certificates in allied health, and Andrew Phelps is working toward a certificate in computer information systems. Participants also earn certificates in automotive technology and accounting.

Created as a pathway to higher education, the one-year, dual-enrollment program provides full scholarships for Murdock High School students to earn workplace credentials and first-year credits toward corresponding associate-degree programs at MWCC.

“I chose to participate in this program because I wanted a change in my learning environment and wanted to get a head start in college,” said Cranfill.

“The program is an amazing opportunity to further my education at virtually no cost,” said Phelps. “I have learned that programs like this are wonderful things to try and work hard for because not everyone gets to have a year of college for free.”

Overseeing the program are Assistant Dean of Transitions Programming Deb Bibeau, MWCC Foundation Director Carla Zottoli, CVTE Transition Counselor and student advisor Shaunti Phillips, and Murdock High School guidance counselors Anne Marie Borsky and Rachel Weinhold.

The Murdock guidance counselors credit the Robinson-Broadhurst program with providing an opportunity to enhance offerings at the high school and give students a jumpstart on their college and career plans.

All five members of last year’s cohort earned a certificate in allied health. Three of these students are now enrolled in the Department of Higher Education’s STEM Starter Academy at MWCC.

“Being in the Robinson-Broadhurst dual-enrollment program and the STEM Starter Academy was seriously a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who is now pursuing a degree in health care. “I was exposed to what college was like while I could still participate in senior events. Plus, I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt.”

CJ Husselbee, a first-generation college student and an initial participant in the Robinson-Broadhurst program, earned an associate degree in Business Administration from MWCC and transferred this fall to the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

“Before this, I didn’t know if I could afford college. The Robinson-Broadhurst program was really the difference between me going to college and not going.”

A 2014 study by the American Institutes for Research explored the correlation between access to early college and advancement in secondary and higher education. These students are five-percent more likely to graduate high school, 20-percent more likely to earn their college degrees simultaneously, 21-percent more likely to enroll in a two-year school and four-percent more likely to enroll in a four-year school.

- Cameron Woodcock

Let's Get Ready photo

Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales represented MWCC at the 2014 College Access and Success Briefing. Pictured, from left, Bruce Sacerdote, professor of economics at Dartmouth College; Martha Savery, director of public affairs and communications for the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority; Eric Waldo, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative; Richard M. Freeland, commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts; and Scales.

Mount Wachusett Community College Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales joined a panel of several higher-education professionals at the 2014 College Access and Success Briefing to discuss pathways for underrepresented students.

Presented by Let’s Get Ready and the National Partnership for Educational Access, this year’s event continued a series of annual discussions promoting solutions to the barriers associated with college completion. The discussion took place Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Also participating in the 2014 panel were Richard M. Freeland, commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts; Eric Waldo, executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative; Martha Savery, director of public affairs and communications for the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority; and Bruce Sacerdote, professor of economics at Dartmouth College.

Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, moderated the three-hour panel discussion.