General News

Steve Alves is the director and producer of the film “Food for Change.”

The director of the movie “Food for Change” will screen portions of his film and facilitate a discussion about the positive impacts of community involvement as well as his educational beginnings at a community college on March 2 at Mount Wachusett Community College.

“I want to encourage students and the general public to attend this screening. This film is a story of what can be done when people come together and are engaged with their community, which aligns with Mount Wachusett Community College’s ongoing commitment to service learning and volunteerism,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino.

“Food for Change” is a documentary film focusing on food co-ops as a force for dynamic social and economic change in American culture. The project began when filmmaker and co-op member Steve Alves was asked to make a film for the Franklin Community Co-op, located in Greenfield, Massachusetts. What resulted is a film detailing the history of co-ops and their influence.

At the free screening, Alves will show clips from the film as a means to spur discussion, stressing the impact that students can have if they work hard for their communities.

“As a group, we can come together to create pantries, create co-ops and community gardens and do a lot to not just deal with the food issues but deal with the structural issues that keep us away from each other and don’t let us become aware, active citizens,” Alves said.

But Alves’ appearance will not just be about the impact that students can have on their communities, but on their own lives. As a former community college student himself, Alves plans to discuss how this prepared him to be a film maker and how students can be bold and successful even if they do not have a lot of resources.

“I want to hold myself up as an example to the students of how I went into film making and by extension if you have a drive and a plan… you can go for it,” Alves said.

The screening and discussion will take place on Thursday, March 2 at 12:30 p.m. in the MWCC multi-purpose room. The public is encouraged to attend.

Mount Wachusett Community College will be holding special FAFSA Friday workshops on Fridays throughout February, March and April at the school’s Gardner and Leominster campuses.

These workshops will allow participants to get help with the completion of the 2017-2018 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ahead of the state’s May 1 deadline.

The workshops run every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the Gardner campus at the Advising Center from Feb. 24 through April 28. Workshops will be held on Feb. 24, March 10 and 24, April 7 and 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. in Room 111 on the Leominster campus.

Registration for each event and a list of pertinent documents that participants must bring are available online at calendar.mwcc.edu.

Work from “Sculptures” by Mark Burnett includes this torso crafted out of bronze.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s East Wing Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of sculptures by Leominster resident Mark Burnett who will discuss his work at a free gallery talk on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Burnett’s exhibition entitled “Sculptures” features bronze works of art from the sculptor who works in mediums as varied as stone and fruit.

In his artist statement, Burnett recounted his first encounter with carving was with apples, in the third grade, a project in which his mother proudly saved for years. Burnett lives in Leominster, Massachusetts, works as a firefighter and hopes to further his art education and continue to demonstrate his artistic ability and exhibit his pieces to a public audience.

All are welcome to visit the gallery, attend the reception on Friday, Feb. 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and participate in the free gallery talk that will take place on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The exhibition is currently underway and will run until March 9.

The East Wing Gallery, housed in the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center on the Gardner Campus, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to the exhibit from Burnett, a number of student works are shown in the space.

Bamidele Dancers & Drummers leads a drum circle in the cafeteria at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Mount Wachusett Community College is set to celebrate Black History month with a series of five events that include speakers, performances and screenings to educate and engage students at the college.

The month of programming begins with the Bamidele Dancers & Drummers (BD&D) leading a drum circle of celebratory African rhythms on Feb. 1 at 12:30 p.m. The BD&D are art educators, composers, musicians, dancers and choreographers from Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean who are dedicated to the preservation of African and African rooted cultures through dance, music and song. They will lead an interactive drum circle.

A screening of the film Race, which explores the story of Jesse Owens, will take place on Feb. 8 at 12:30 p.m. The THINKFAST: Black History Month Game Show will take place on Feb. 9 and ask students to test their knowledge of Black History Month. On Feb. 22 at 12:30 p.m., the PBS film Underground Railroad: The William Still Story will be screened telling the story of the African-American abolitionist who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, writer, historian and civil rights activist.

On Monday, Feb. 27, a keynote speaker will discuss barriers of woman of color in the workplace, education, and healthcare. The Tea Time Speaker Series presentation will take place from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

All events are open to the public.

Rollstone Bank & Trust’s Chief Operating Officer Arthur Feehan and Linda L. Racine, Executive Vice President Retail Banking and Marketing, present MWCC President Daniel Asquino and Executive Director of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation Carla Zottoli with a check for $10,000 to go towards the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Scholarship Fund.

Rollstone Bank & Trust recently donated $10,000 to the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Scholarship Fund that is set to provide approximately $15,000 in scholarships annually to students at Mount Wachusett Community College beginning next year.

“We are grateful to Rollstone Bank & Trust for this donation that will have a positive impact on MWCC students for years to come,” said MWCC President Daniel Asquino of the donation.

The donation from RBT was presented to President Asquino and Executive Director of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation Carla Zottoli by RBT’s Chief Operating Officer Arthur Feehan and Linda L. Racine, Executive Vice President Retail Banking and Marketing.

“RBT is happy to support MWCC and the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Scholarship Fund,” said Racine. “MWCC is an asset to our area, and a truly innovative institution. We are proud to help them continue their work.”

The donation will go toward a new scholarship fund in Dr. Daniel Asquino’s name that will begin distribution next year. The goal for the endowed scholarship fund is $300,000, which will allow the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation to award approximately $15,000 in scholarships to deserving students every year.

President Daniel M. Asquino (center) stands with Kennedy Owino of Fitchburg, Diversity Committee Co-Chair Maria Gariepy, Rebecca Schlier of Westminster, Diversity Committee Co-Chair Carla B. Morrissey, Gemini Walter of Leominster, and Rachel Adams of Fitchburg after presenting the students with their President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition awards.

Four MWCC students have been honored in the fifth annual President’s Commitment to Diversity Scholastic Competition that sought out poems, essays and artwork highlighting the value diversity brings to learning and working.

This year’s winners are Rachel Adams of Fitchburg, Kennedy Owino of Fitchburg, Rebecca Schlier of Westminster, and Gemini Walter of Leominster. Each will receive a free, three-credit academic course for use during the spring or summer semesters.

The competition was developed by MWCC’s Diversity Committee to highlight the value of diversity to work and educational environments. Students are encouraged to submit papers, posters, essays, research work, art work or other original, creative work related to issues of diversity or identity, such as those involving disability, race, socio-economic status, veteran status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and national origin.

Adams, a business administration student, wrote an essay entitled “I am invisible” with the goal of showing what it is like to be someone with an invisible disease. Not every struggle is seen and it is important to celebrate even the smallest victories, she said of her piece.

“Some people have a ball and chain around their ankle and it’s called an invisible illness,” Adams wrote in her essay. “It’s time to look at someone and really look at them. It’s time to celebrate small achievements of the day and be proud.”

Owino, a pre-engineering student, was honored for an essay entitled ‘When will it happen’ that explores the difficulty of making choices and being brave in an uncertain world.

“I champion that diversity should bring us together, not tear us apart,” he wrote. “Diversity is appreciating others for who they are.”

Schlier, a Gateways to College student, created a painting called “Mask” that depicts a multi-colored figure removing a theater-style mask. The piece embodies the experience that Schlier has undergone at Mount Wachusett Community College, where she has been able to remove her own mask.

“The mask represents how I had to be at my old school; I had to bottle up stress and sadness in order to fit in,” she wrote in her explanation of the piece.

Walter, a Human Services major, is the competition’s first three-time honoree, following up on his winning essay on what it means to embrace diversity with a free form literary piece designed to get people thinking about the impact of their words.

“When you last said goodbye to a child,” he writes, “did you let them know they are part of the chain of humanity, that they make a difference in this world?”

Walter’s piece asks the reader what message they are giving to children; encouraging the reader to empower children to accept diversity in all its forms and create a more accepting society as a result.

In addition to the awards and free academic course, the students’ work was displayed on MWCC’s campus.

Following the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education vote in Boston Tuesday, Dr. James Vander Hooven (fourth in from the left) stands with (from the left) Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos E. Santiago, MWCC Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega, MWCC Board of Trustees Member and Massachusetts Board of Higher Education Member Jasson Alvarado Gomez, MWCC Presidential Search Committee Chairman Richard A. Cella, and Massachusetts Board of Higher Education Member Sheila Harrity who acted as the chair for the vote.

The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) voted Tuesday to approve Dr. James Vander Hooven as the third president of Mount Wachusett Community College since the school was founded in 1963.

The vote took place at a special meeting in Boston, with members of the board speaking to Dr. Vander Hooven’s experience and commitment to accessible higher education.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Vander Hooven, a thoughtful, reflective leader who brings a strong background in fundraising and a proven track record of building community relationships,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I believe the breadth of his past experience in classroom and administrative roles will serve Mount Wachusett well, and I am pleased to see the value he places on student diversity.”

The vote followed a recommendation by the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees in December to approve Dr. James Vander Hooven as the college’s next leader. Current President Daniel M. Asquino, who announced his retirement last year, will remain at the college through a transition period with the new president, who will begin his official duties as president March 19, 2017.

“I am looking forward to working with Dr. Vander Hooven during this transition,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.  “We are fortunate to have the support and engagement of so many community partners,” said Asquino. “I look forward to introducing Dr. Vander Hooven to the region and our partners as well as the outstanding faculty, staff and students at Mount Wachusett Community College, so that he is ready to hit the ground running.”

This robust transition will allow for campus and community conversations with President Asquino and incoming President Dr. Vander Hooven and a thorough review of the college’s history, partnerships and strategic direction for the future.

“I know I have big shoes to fill, but with the support of the students, faculty, staff and the greater community I know we can do great things together,” Dr. Vander Hooven said to the Board of Higher Education Tuesday morning before the unanimous vote. Dr. Vander Hooven thanked the Board of Higher Education, the MWCC Board of Trustees and the MWCC Presidential Search Committee for the process. “Through that process, I learned so much about the students, staff, faculty, business leaders, local government and the greater community and by the end of the process I was even more energized and convinced that this community has incredibly strong support for this community college,” added Dr. Vander Hooven.

“President Asquino has been an incredible leader and community partner,” said MWCC Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega. “We will miss him tremendously and are delighted that he has agreed to remain on to ensure a smooth transition to Dr. Vander Hooven’s leadership. We are all looking forward to working with him and are impressed with Dr. Vander Hooven’s experience, his innovative spirit and commitment to community partnerships,” added Sbrega.

Dr. Vander Hooven has been committed to access and opportunity to higher education since first stepping into a nontraditional classroom, as an instructor, where he was the youngest person in the group. At that point, he began focusing his energy and time on increasing opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds.

As the president of Tohono O’odham Community College in Tucson, Arizona, Dr. Vander Hooven successfully raised more than $9 million for the construction of the college’s new main campus. He has also served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, New Hampshire, and Regional Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at National American University in Denver, Colorado.

Most recently, Dr. Vander Hooven served as the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. In this role, he was the College’s chief enrollment officer, managed recruitment activities, enrollment and admissions processes, and administered the Office of Financial Aid. He also oversaw the Office of Transfer, Career, and Internship Services.

The breadth of his experience gives him a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities of educational leadership. He is dedicated to building strong teams designed to achieve important goals and improve student outcomes.

Dr. Vander Hooven attained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The Ohio State University. He received his Master of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Wyoming. In 2009, he was awarded his Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from the University of Maine, where he focused on student access. His dissertation was titled, “Lessons From Success: The Experience of Women Who Successfully Completed an Associate Degree While Parenting Children.”

He lives in Keene, New Hampshire.

The check presentation took place at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus. Pictured from left to right are • Norman Webb, Former President and current board member, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907; • Sarah Savoie, MWCC Veteran’s Affairs; MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino; • James Benton III, President, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907; • Charles Hodgkinson, Vice-President, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907; • Carla Zottoli, Executive Director, MWCC Foundation, Inc.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907 have continued their ongoing support of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s Veteran’s Memorial Scholarship Fund with a donation of $2,000.

President Daniel M. Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli, and Sarah Savoie from MWCC Veteran’s Affairs department recently accepted the generous donation from Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907 President James Benton III. Vice President Charles Hodgkinson, and former president and current board member Norman Webb.

“We are constantly working to best serve our veteran students and scholarships are an important part of the equation,” said President Asquino. “I am grateful to organizations such as Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 907 that help support our Veteran’s Memorial Scholarship.”

The scholarship was established to recognize the important role played by MWCC in ensuring that the sacrifices and service of veterans who served the country will not be forgotten. Director of Veterans Services at MWCC Robert Mayer said that the school has always been supportive of veterans, extending back to work with Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans over 50 years ago.

“The tradition continues due in no small part to Chapter 907 of the Vietnam Veterans of America,” Mayer said. “Their annual contribution not only helps support our current student veterans, it serves to remind us all of the service to our country performed by veterans of the Vietnam War.”
Scholarship funds are awarded to new or returning full-time students who were honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or are currently serving in the Reserves or National Guard.

Parent Support President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

Parent Support Group President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG member Angela Celley stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

The second annual Holiday Toy Drive organized by the Parent Support Group at Mount Wachusett Community College distributed presents to 52 families this week.

The toy drive was hosted by MWCC’s Parent Support Group that collected donations since Dec. 1 from faculty, staff, and students. According to PSG President and MWCC Student Michel Cocuzza, the donations came flying in and quickly filled two storage rooms. The gently used or new toys, books, games, and holiday decorations were then distributed on Dec. 19 and 20 to families within the MWCC community.

“I am so pleased to see students helping students, especially in the middle of finals and the holidays,” said MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino. “This is just one example of the generous spirit of support that students, faculty, and staff at Mount Wachusett Community College share every day.”

These donations can be a huge help during the holidays, according to Cocuzza, especially to student parents.

“Being a student parent is a difficult task. Most of us go to school full time and struggle financially,” Cocuzza said. “With the help of PSG and our advisor, we were able to assist 52 families.”

PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds said that it was the hard work of the PSG team that made the event possible.

“It would be remiss of me to not give a shout-out to Michel and all our dedicated PSG members for their hard work on making this event such a success,” Reynolds said. “We hope the Toy Drive will be a MWCC tradition.”

Dr. James Vander HoovenThe Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees voted tonight to recommend that the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) approve Dr. James Vander Hooven as the next president of the college. The BHE is expected to take up the matter at their January 17th meeting. Today’s vote follows a nationwide search for the next leader of the college following President Daniel M. Asquino’s announcement of his retirement earlier this year. President Asquino is expected to remain at the college through a transition period with the new president. Following approval by the board of higher education, Dr. Vander Hooven will serve as the third president of Mount Wachusett Community College, which was founded in 1963.

“We are confident that Dr. Vander Hooven has the leadership skills and experience to lead Mount Wachusett Community College forward,” said Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega. “We have been very fortunate that the college has benefited from the exemplary leadership of President Asquino for the past three decades,” added Sbrega. “Dr. Asquino’s willingness to continue to serve with Dr. Vander Hooven will ensure a seamless and successful transition for the college, its students and the greater community.”

Dr. James Vander Hooven has been committed to the ideas of access and opportunity in higher education for the majority of his professional career. After a few years of secondary teaching and administration, Vander Hooven found his true calling when he stepped foot into a nontraditional classroom and he was the youngest person in the room. From that evening on, he has focused his energy and time on increasing opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals.

Dr. Vander Hooven is currently serving as the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. In this role, he serves as the College’s chief enrollment officer, manages recruitment activities, enrollment and admissions processes, and administers the Office of Financial Aid. He also oversees the Office of Transfer, Career, and Internship Services.

Prior to joining Landmark College, Dr. Vander Hooven was president of Tohono O’odham Community College, a Tribal College located on the Tohono O’odham Reservation in Arizona. In that role, he oversaw the $9 million construction of a new main campus, strengthened programs in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and developmental education, and represented the Tribal Colleges in annual presentations on Capitol Hill.

In previous roles, Dr. Vander Hooven has served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, New Hampshire, and Regional Dean of Academic and Student Affairs at National American University in Denver, Colorado. The breadth of his experience gives him a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities of educational leadership. He is dedicated to building strong teams designed to achieve important goals and improve student outcomes.

Dr. Vander Hooven attained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The Ohio State University. He received his Master of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Wyoming. In 2009, he was awarded his Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from the University of Maine, where he focused on student access. His dissertation was titled, “Lessons From Success: The Experience of Women Who Successfully Completed an Associate Degree While Parenting Children.” He lives in Keene, New Hampshire. View James Vander Hooven’s resume at mwcc.edu/presidents-transition.

Dr. Vander Hooven was selected following a national search lead by Search Committee Chair Richard Cella and a committee comprised of college and community representatives. The committee was assisted in the search by R.H. Perry and Associates, a presidential search firm. “I commend the Board of Trustees and the search committee for their thorough and thoughtful approach to the process,” said Sbrega. “Over the past two weeks, the college and greater community participated in a series of forums with all of the finalists,” explained Sbrega. “The campus and community engagement with this historic search is deeply appreciated.”

For more information on Dr. Vander Hooven and the search process, click here.