General News

The newest members of the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees were sworn in last week. Pictured from left to right are Board Chairman Robert Antonioni, Student Trustee Gina Vilayphone, Trustee Denise Kindschi Gosselin, Trustee Claire Freda, Trustee Dean Tran and MWCC President James Vander Hooven.

Three community leaders joined the Mount Wachusett Board of Trustees last week after being appointed by Governor Charlie Baker.

“I am pleased to welcome these community leaders to the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees. I know that they will not only work to better the college, but provide important insights into their communities and areas of interest,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven. “They will each be a tremendous asset to the college as we continue our focus on providing students with a quality, affordable education.”

Claire Freda, Denise Kindschi Gosselin, and Dean Tran officially joined the board during a swearing in ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 10. Following the ceremony, Robert Antonioni, who has served on the board since 2015 and is an attorney with Antonioni & Antonioni Law Office, presided over his first meeting as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

“This is very much a wonderful honor and I look forward to working with my fellow board members, staff and most importantly the students,” said Bob Antonioni during the meeting.

MWCC President James Vander Hooven shakes hands Leominster City Councilor Claire Freda after she was sworn in to the college’s Board of Trustees.

Claire Freda is a licensed real estate appraiser and broker who has been involved in local government in Leominster in numerous forms. She has been serving as an at-large councillor since 2010, and was the Ward 3 Councillor from 1994 to 2009. She served on the Leominster school committee from 1987 to 1994. Freda is also involved with government at the state level, serving on the Local Government Advisory Council and Massachusetts Municipal Association since 1994 and has been the Women’s Elected Municipal Officials Chair since 2012. In addition to government involvement, she has been a member of the Leominster Rotary Club for 23 years and president for six.

“I’m excited about being on the board because there are so many pieces that I’m interested in that the college is involved with,” Freda said.

Denise Kindschi Gosselin, Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at Western New England University. She is also a retired Massachusetts State Police Trooper. Gosselin served as a Detective for the Hampden County and Hampshire County District Attorney’s Offices. She specialized in the investigation of crimes against women and children. Her duties included investigation of all major crime and she participated in surveillance, undercover investigations, narcotics raids, and renditions. Gosselin’s career in law enforcement began after she graduated with a degree in law enforcement the same year her father graduated with his nursing degree.

“Graduating with him just filled my heart,” said Gosselin who explained a number of other members of her family have also graduated from the college. “I see Mount Wachusett as a family place for us and I feel like I owe a lot here. It’s where I started my career. I became the first (MWCC) female campus police officer.”

MWCC President James Vander Hooven shakes hands Fitchburg City Councilor Dean Tran after he was sworn in to the college’s Board of Trustees.

Dean Tran is a Senior Manager at Avid Technologies, Inc. where he oversees personnel and projects across three continents and is responsible for over $200 million in annual revenue. Tran is also a member of the Fitchburg City Council. He has been a councilor at-large since 2001 and has held council positions including Vice President and Chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee and City Property. Tran also serves on the Executive Board for the NVC Boys Scout of America, Board Corporator for the YMCA and Massachusetts Municipal Association. In his spare time, he is a volunteer coach for the Fitchburg Youth Soccer and Youth Baseball.

“Mount Wachusett Community College is a beautiful campus that provides an exceptional and affordable education,” said Tran. “I am excited for the opportunity to work with President Vander Hooven, the staff and the Board of Trustees to increase enrollment and bring prosperity to the College.”

The 15 Massachusetts Community College Presidents have signed a joint statement to unite in their opposition to the violence, bigotry, racism and hate witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

The Presidents of the 15 Community Colleges of Massachusetts unite to voice our opposition to the violence, bigotry, racism and hate we witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

The students on our campuses across the Commonwealth reflect the rich diversity of our nation. Our philosophy of teaching and learning has, at its core, the promise of inclusive excellence and social justice. We embrace our shared values of global citizenship and prize the richness of cultural wealth in our diverse communities. We respect people from all nations, cultures, background, and experience and welcome them to join our community of scholars and learners, for therein lies the hope and the future strength of our nation and our world.

We reject, in the strongest possible terms, hateful rhetoric, harmful actions, or attempts to diminish the values or identity of our community members, while remaining committed to the fundamental right of free speech. These actions will not gain a foothold on our campuses. We will provide safe and secure environments for our students, faculty and staff. We will continue to embrace the diversity that makes our institutions strong.

Our community colleges are democracy’s colleges. The teaching and learning that happen at our 15 colleges speaks to the immense compassion and potential that enrich our nation. In these times that test our resolve as leaders, we renew our pledge to our communities. You are all welcome and valued; your religion, race, ethnicity, language, citizenship, and gender are honored. We will continue to learn together. Hate has no place at our Massachusetts Community Colleges.

On behalf of the Presidents of the Massachusetts Community Colleges,

James Vander Hooven
President, Mount Wachusett Community College

Mount Wachusett Community College student Gina Vilayphone has been sworn in last week to the college’s Board of Trustees.

Mount Wachusett Community College student Gina Vilayphone was sworn in last week to the college’s Board of Trustees, following a spring election by her peers as the board’s student representative.

On Thursday, Aug. 10, the Communications major was sworn in and participated in her first trustee meeting. The Leominster resident, originally from Gardner and having graduated from Gardner High School, is a full voting member representing all students attending Mount Wachusett Community College.

“Gina is a confident and engaged member of our Mount Wachusett community. She will work to bring together our students and represent them on the board. She has a passion for engaging students from all of our locations in Gardner, Devens, Fitchburg, and Leominster. I know she will enthusiastically represent all of them,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven.

A non-traditional student majoring in Communications, Vilayphone will be entering her second year at Mount Wachusett Community College. She is a mother who is passionate about connecting with others, continuously working for positive change, and strongly believes that everyone can succeed with the right support and acknowledgment.

“I really want the satellite campuses to come together. My wish is for other campuses to get more involved,” said Vilayphone. “I want people to get involved in their community more than anything else.”

Mount Wachusett Community College student Gina Vilayphone was sworn in last week to the college’s Board of Trustees.

She participates in the Visions Program and is an active member of the Student Government Association. She said that she genuinely loves to help others and aspires to impact society and the college in a positive way. Her previous career in the beauty service industry led her to become an internationally published hair and makeup artist. Her work has been featured at New York Fashion Week, and published in Vogue Italia, Lula London, and Huf Magazine. Through her work in the beauty industry, Vilayphone has connected with many individuals and empowered them to build confidence in themselves.

“I’m really looking forward to representing the students and advocating for the students,” said Vilayphone who said she hopes to help connect other students as well.

Gina is one of eight Mount Wachusett Community College students that were elected by their peers to student government leadership positions in April. Those representatives are:

Sophomore Representatives:
Olivia Rose Howes, Phillipston
Ashley McHugh, New Ipswich, NH
Samantha Shippell-Stiles, Westminster

Freshman Representative:
GiaBao Truong, Fitchburg

At Large Representatives:
Taylor Rameau, Westminster
Gabriel Roberts, Athol
Sarah Urbina, Sterling

MWCC President James Vander Hooven.

Students, Faculty and Staff of Mount Wachusett Community College,

Over the past few days, our country has witnessed the result of hate. To say that it has been disturbing would be an understatement. As the events of Charlottesville unfolded, I immediately started thinking, “I should put a statement together that clearly and unequivocally demonstrates that we, at Mount Wachusett Community College, stand firmly against hate in any form.” So, what took me so long?

In all honesty, I’ve struggled first in how to address what has been so contrary to my core values to my own children. Some of you may know that I have three children, ages nine, seven, and four. I always assumed that I would teach my children about evil and hate by referencing some distant generation. I never assumed I would reference today’s news reports. Or I assumed that I would be referencing people exterior to our own country. Yes, this is naïve thinking, I get that, steeped in my own privilege and life experiences. I have never said to someone else, “I know how you feel” because, especially in situations like this, I do not. I have never been on the bruising end of any –isms. That is my definition of privilege. I have struggled coming up with a way to address this with my own children and that makes me sick to my stomach.

The word “community” is in our name. It is the only truly important word in our name. Within our walls and at all of our campuses, we stand for community. We stand for caring for and about each other. We stand for discussing ideas that build upon the very foundation of our country. The ideals that our predecessors, veterans, and current heroes fight for. Freedom means we don’t always like another’s perspective or opinion. But we stand for treating each other with respect, especially as each of our students pursue their academic and social goals.

Please forgive my delay. We all seem to come to grips with these events in different ways. I plan to continue a dialogue with my own children and will initiate a dialogue with the College community as well. To that end, I invite the College community to join me in a roundtable discussion on Friday, August 18th from 12-1 in the Multipurpose Room at the Gardner Campus. I look forward to a respectful discussion focused on how we can continue to demonstrate MWCC’s role in fulfilling the most important word in our name.

Sincerely,

Jim Vander Hooven

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, MWCC President James Vander Hooven and members of the Gardner Women’s Circle of Giving visited the Summer UP Jackson Park site last week.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and members of the Gardner Women’s Circle of Giving visited the Summer UP Jackson Park site last week along with Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven.

Both the City of Gardner and the Women’s Circle were instrumental in helping to fund Summer UP. The program, coordinated by Mount Wachusett Community College, operates five sites where meals and activities were provided to elementary and middle school students throughout the summer. At the Jackson Park site in Gardner, approximately 75 students made use of the program daily.

The Women’s Circle contributed to Summer UP this year with a donation of $6,100. At Jackson Park on Wednesday, Women’s Circle members Deb Hubbard, Tina Sbrega, and Darlene Morrilly presented MWCC President James Vander Hooven with the donation.

The Women’s Circle contributed to Summer UP this year with a donation of $6,100. At Jackson Park on Wednesday, Women’s Circle members Deb Hubbard, Tina Sbrega, and Darlene Morrilly presented MWCC President James Vander Hooven with the donation.

The Summer UP locations are safe spaces for elementary and middle school students from Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner to spend their summer hours. With five different locations, many of the participants can even walk to the locations that provide activities and meals for free. Summer UP has locations in Fitchburg at Park Hill Park and Lowe Park, in Gardner at Jackson Park and Olde English Village, and in Leominster at Allencrest Apartments.

A group of Mount Wachusett Community College students and alumni, faculty and staff gathers in front of the recently completed mural at the West Street Parking Lot in Gardner along with city officials. Pictured from left to right are MWCC Art Professor Tom Matsuda, MWCC Dean for the School of Liberal Arts Laurie Occhipinti, Corinne Goodrich, Assistant Director for the Gardner Department of Community Development & Planning Joshua Cormier, Allyson Bois, Kayla Rameau, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Sahar Ghavimi, Ben Mikles, Camilo Amarles, WMCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, Jon Chevrette, MWCC President James Vander Hooven, and Renee Tambling. Not pictured: Artist Mike Littlewood.

A mural depicting local landmarks and welcoming visitors to the city was unveiled recently after a summer of hard work by a group of Mount Wachusett Community College Art Students.

“Thank you to the students and everyone else that has been involved with this,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven at the unveiling on August 9. “It’s really remarkable and beautiful work.”

The mural spanning the entire back wall of the downtown West Street Parking Lot was completed over the summer by a group of nine MWCC students and alumni. The project displays different Gardner landmarks including Dunn Pond, City Hall, and the famous Gardner Chair. Also included in the project was the painting of electric boxes at traffic lights throughout the city. The project followed another mural completed two years ago by MWCC students at Jackson Park in Gardner.

“This is beautifying Gardner. Public art is beautiful and it brightens up otherwise not so beautiful areas,” said Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke who explained this would not be the last project between MWCC’s art department and students and the city. “You can see people are already enjoying this… it is great work. Thank you all. And thank you Mr. President for allowing us to collaborate once again.”

The project was also a growth experience for the students and alumni who participated. In addition to the artistic expression that takes place in public art, there is a huge amount of work that goes into logistics, said Kayla Romeau who coordinated the project with MWCC Alumnus Ben Mikels.

“It was exciting to be out there being able to do our artwork but it is great to know that the community is this accepting of it,” she said explaining that neighbors would come check on the work and commend the artists on the effort.

MWCC Art Professor Tom Matsuda commended the students on all their hard work.

“I was so impressed by the efforts they put in this summer. They were texting each other. I was on the text list and there was text after text… it was so amazing to see the effort they put into this,” said Matsuda. “This was all made possible by our students. It is so great to see all the artwork around the city of Gardner and see that artwork bloom.”

The project was a follow up to the mural created at Jackson Park. Like that project, this was a collaboration between the city and college, with the artists not only getting the exposure of completing a public piece of art but receiving a $200 stipend for their efforts.

Allyson Bois stands in front of her section of wall.

Ben Mikles stands in front of his section of wall. Mikles said that he could never have completed his portion of the mural or helped coordinate the entire mural without the support of his wife and his newborn baby.

Camilo Amarles stands in front of his portion of the mural.

Jon Chevrette sits on his portion of the mural.

Kayla Rameau stands in front of her section of the mural.

Renee Tambling assisted with many sections of the mural.

Sahar Ghavimi stands in front of her portion of the mural.

Students in Mount Wachusett Community College’s Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree Program practice therapy exercises.

In a testament to the hard work of students and Mount Wachusett Community College’s ongoing effort to maintain high standards and practical relevance for its Physical Therapist Assistant Associate’s Degree Program, 100 percent of recent graduates who took their licensure exam in July passed.

“The PTA faculty expect excellence and the students deliver,” said Margaret Jaillet, Assistant Dean for MWCC’s School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences. “MWCC has long-standing, dedicated PTA faculty who have maintained clinical practice. It is my belief that this provides the faculty an opportunity to present curriculum with clinical relevance to today’s healthcare.”

Eleven of the thirteen PTA students who graduated in May took their licensure exam on July 6th. They all passed. The remaining two PTA graduates will be able to take their test in October. While exciting, this was not a surprise to Jaillet, who explained the program has always had excellent pass rates.

“The first time pass rate is always over 90 percent and the two year ultimate pass rate has been 100 percent for the last two graduating classes. The national average at other institutions hovers around 85 percent for both categories,” said Jaillet.

Physical therapist assistants carry out treatment procedures that assist with the rehabilitation of injured, ill, or debilitated people. The selective program prepares students to work in the healthcare field under the direct supervision of a physical therapist in a variety of settings. Those interested in the program can learn more at http://mwcc.edu/pta/.

Mount Wachusett Community College students work on a project on their laptop. Mount Wachusett Community College will be giving away 60 laptops to first-time, full-time liberal arts and science students enrolled in the fall semester.

In a push to get technology into the hands of future writers, designers and scientists, Mount Wachusett Community College will be giving away 60 laptops to first-time, full-time liberal arts and science students enrolled in the fall semester.

“For all of our students, but especially liberal arts students, written communication is incredibly important,” said Laurie Occhipinti, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, Education, Humanities, and Communications at Mount Wachusett Community College. “It’s recognizing they do need that technology. They do better with that technology. I don’t want students doing their homework on their cell phones.”

Full-time Liberal Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies or Undecided students enrolled at Mount Wachusett Community College this fall will be eligible to receive a free laptop and special orientation. The program includes a day trip to Boston with transportation and food
provided on August 25 and an orientation on August 31 with lunch provided.

“Part of that extended orientation is going to be a technology orientation. So here is how you can use your computer,” said “It’s giving them the tools to use the computer and we are going to give them a workshop on study skills and career development.”

The program is an outgrowth of the Academic Program Discovery Academy that is a new summer program that pays recent high school graduates to take free classes before entering school at MWCC in the fall. Both are funded by a Performance Incentive Fund Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. While the academy was designed to prepare students as they enter college, this laptop will help them as they earn their Associate’s degree and beyond.

“The idea is to give a leg up to our students coming in who are going to specialize in liberal arts,” said Occhipinti. “It’s bridging that barrier and recognizing how important communications is for liberal arts students.”

The 60 laptops are available on a first come, first serve basis. Students must qualify for financial aid to participate in this program. Students meeting the enrollment and major criteria may visit mwcc.edu/build/discovery for more information on the requirements of the program and to enroll in the program.

Workers’ Credit Union President and CEO Doug Petersen joined Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vanderhooven and a group of participants at the Lowe Park Summer UP site in the last week of July.

Doug Petersen, president and CEO of Workers’ Credit Union, and Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven joined Summer UP participants and staff at Lowe Park in Fitchburg in the last week of July.

Petersen, whose company is one of the donors that makes Summer UP possible, stopped by to meet with the participants. Both Petersen and Vander Hooven were given shirts signed by the participants. It mirrors the tradition many participants undertake of signing each other’s shirts every year.  After being presented with the shirts, both Petersen and Vander Hooven participated in a pick-up frisbee game.

The Summer UP camps are safe spaces for elementary and middle school students from Leominster, Fitchburg and Gardner to spend their summer hours. With five different locations, many of the participants can even walk to the locations that provide activities and meals for free. Summer UP has locations in Fitchburg at Park Hill Park and Lowe Park, in Gardner at Jackson Park and Olde English Village, and in Leominster at Allencrest Apartments.

MWCC President James Vander Hooven is presented with a t-shirt at the Lowe Park Summer UP site in Fitchburg.

Workers’ Credit Union President and CEO Doug Petersen participates in a game of ultimate frisbee with MWCC President James Vander Hooven at the Lowe Park Summer UP site in Fitchburg.

Workers’ Credit Union President and CEO Doug Petersen shakes hands with one of the site supervisors at the Lowe Park Summer UP site in Fitchburg.

Jess Higbee works on an art project at the North Central Mass Talent Search Summer Program designed to teach students about geology ahead of a field trip to the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College.

The North Central Massachusetts Talent Search Summer Program brought middle school students to Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus to learn and have fun. The summer program that ran from July 10 to July 28 was designed to keep the “summer brain drain” from impacting the group of 25 students.

“We are making sure they stay sharp on their skills,” said North Central Massachusetts Talent Search Site Coordinator Kyle LaTulippe, who explained that the program also provided free breakfast and lunch to students and taught them about a balanced diet.

The summer program for sixth and seventh graders was designed with an integrated approach to learning that used fun summer projects on campus and field trips to keep students engaged during the summer break. The program grew this year to serve 25 students.

“It’s a fun program. It’s a nice mix between education and fun and we get to do interesting field trips,” said Moe Molai, who will be going into 8th grade in Winchendon this fall. “We do all sorts of college tours.”

But it wasn’t all fun and games. The program is also intellectually challenging and designed to tie into the curriculum students get year-round through the North Central Massachusetts Talent Search program, said LaTulippe. North Central Talent Search, which is federally funded and facilitated by Mount Wachusett Community College, is designed for low income or first generation college students. It provides additional opportunities for those students in the form of field trips, additional educational opportunities and mentoring in order to enhance the student’s ability to go to college.

“Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to be a vet and they’ve really opened my eyes to how many colleges offer that now,” said Jess Higbee, who will be going into 8th grade in Winchendon this fall.

By keeping the educational momentum going, as well as incorporating visits to colleges and instructors from the school year, continuity is maintained for students in the North Central Talent Search program, according to LaTulippe, and the program continues to carry home the message that college is attainable.

“It’s letting them know college is a place for them to go. A lot of first generation students don’t grow up with that perspective,” said LaTulippe.

The North Central Talent Search serves students from Athol Royalston Regional School District, Clinton Public Schools, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, and Winchendon Public Schools.