General News

Theatre at the Mount Jeff Boisseau and LG Karyn Polito

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Theatre at the Mount Technical Director Jeff Boisseau during the June 23 reception.

Mount Wachusett Community College’s Theatre at the Mount is the recipient of a $49,600 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to update its sound system.

The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, administered through a partnership between MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, fosters the growth of the creative economy by supporting building projects in the nonprofit arts, humanities and sciences. This new round of funding includes 68 capital grants totaling $8.9 million and 23 planning grants totaling more than $400,000. Grants range from $7,000 to $300,000 and are matched from private of other public sources.

The grant, which will be matched by MWCC, will be used to replace the theater’s aging analog sound system. The updated digital sound system will improve the audience experience, particularly for patrons who require hearing assistance or other special needs.

“Making high quality theater affordable and accessible for everyone is our highest priority,” said Professor Gail Steele, director of Theatre at the Mount. “This grant will allow us to make major strides in achieving our goal.”

The award was announced during a reception in Worcester on Thursday, June 23 with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. Jeff Boisseau, technical director and set designer, and Joseph Stiso, vice president of planning, development and institutional research, accepted the award on behalf of the college.

“Our administration is proud to support these capital investments in the creative economy,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “The rich history of our cities and towns is an important draw for out-of-state visitors, and these grants will help direct private investments into these projects.”

Now entering its 40th year, Theatre at the Mount is in the midst of a makeover, including a new lobby, box office and ADA improvements as part of a $41 million addition and renovation project to the Gardner campus.

“We’re very grateful to receive this grant,” Boisseau said. “We’re hoping to have these new features installed before we reopen later this year.”

Located in the college’s Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center, Theatre at the Mount serves the community as a premier regional theater presenting high quality entertainment at affordable prices. TAM’s season consists of five full-scale musicals and plays, a spring children’s show and a fall touring production performed at local elementary schools. Additionally, TAM offers summer drama programs for children and teens and sponsors the annual TAMY Awards program, which celebrates excellence in high school musicals.

In a statement earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker noted the new investments will drive tourism and benefit residents and visitors for years to come. Since 2007, CFF has invested nearly $92 million in the state’s creative sector for projects in more than 130 cities and towns.

“We thank Governor Baker and his administration for its continued support of this vital source of creative capital,” said Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The grants are highly competitive. In this round of funding, the state received 146 applications seeking nearly $25 million for projects with total development costs of more than $200 million. Steele, Boisseau and Grant Writer/Development Specialist Moira Adams are the lead investigators for the project. In 2013, Theatre at the Mount received a $30,000 CFF grant to replace its lighting system.

Upcoming Theatre at the Mount productions include Almost, Maine on June 24, 25 and 26, and Hairspray on Aug. 12, 13, 19, 20 and 21. Due to current construction, these performances will take place at Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham. For more information, visit mwcc.edu/tam or contact the box office at 978-630-9388.

 

MCO Award Pratt Santiago Levasseur

MWCC librarians Ellen Pratt, left, and Suzanne Levasseur received their Course of Distinction Award from Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago during the MCO annual conference.

In January 2001, shortly after attending a conference on tele-learning, Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel Asquino founded Massachusetts Colleges Online, which grew into a consortium of the state’s 15 community colleges and nine state universities.

In appreciation for his leadership, the consortium presented President Asquino with a Contributor of Distinction Award during its annual conference this spring at Greenfield Community College. MWCC librarians Ellen Pratt and Suzanne Levasseur were among the faculty members statewide to receive Course of Distinction Awards for their online courses.

More than 2,600 courses are offered through MCO. The Course of Distinction (COD) award is named after the Bay State’s unique association with the “Sacred Cod.” The award recognizes faculty from throughout the state who have developed and teach innovative and exciting online courses.

MCO Dan Vin Commissioner

President Asquino receiving his Contributor of Distinction Award from Dean Vincent Ialenti and Commissioner Carlos Santiago.

“Would an organization like MCO have been created without the leadership of Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel Asquino? Probably. Would it have happened so quickly? No way,” Vincent Ialenti, MWCC Dean of Academic and Institutional Technology, said in presenting the award. The president, who plans to retire in early 2017 after nearly 30 years at the helm of MWCC, was recognized for his role as the founder of Mass Colleges Online and for being one of its “greatest advocates,” Ialenti said.

Pratt, MWCC’s distance education and outreach librarian, and Levasseur, reference and instructional services librarian, were reconized for their Research Skills course, which introduces students to the skills necessary to write a college paper and develop critical thinking. More than 3,300 students have enrolled in their course over the past two years.

Monty Tech MWCC EMT dual enrollment course

Through a new partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College, Monty Tech’s Health Occupations students have access to a dual enrollment program that offers eight college credits and an EMT certification.

The rate at which Massachusetts residents earn college degrees will pivot from growth to decline by 2022 unless the state’s public higher education system, which educates more than half of all undergraduates, is able to increase the number of students who enroll and earn diplomas, according to a newly release report from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

The Degree Gap, the Department’s annual Vision Project report on the status of public higher education in the Commonwealth, was released at an event held at The Boston Foundation on June 8. The report suggests that employers who are already having difficulty meeting current workforce needs in high-demand fields will face even greater challenges in the next few years, as the state’s high school population continues to decline at the same time that an estimated 660,000 college-educated workers plan to retire.  Of those job openings requiring post-secondary education or training, two-thirds will require a college degree.

Increasingly, the higher education system will also be called upon to leverage its traditional role of offering associate’s and bachelor’s degrees by also offering certificate and continuing education programs to ensure that students develop career skills needed to be successful.  The demographic challenges facing the state mean that public colleges and universities are likely to fall short of meeting the need for new associate and bachelor’s degrees by 55,000 to 65,000. The Degree Gap predicts that 80% of those “missing” degrees needed to fill the state’s talent pool in the next decade will be at the baccalaureate level or higher.

Mount Wachusett Community College is featured in the report for its innovative Math Modeling program, which provides math remediation to high school seniors, and a new dual enrollment partnership with Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School. The Math Modeling program, launched in 2013, has nearly quadrupled in size and continues to expand. It is offered Leominster High School, the Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation, Fitchburg High School, Gardner High School  Monty Tech, Murdock High School in Winchendon, and Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham, with two additional North Central Massachusetts high schools planning to participate this fall.

“The Degree Gap highlights important issues our Commonwealth must address to prepare our workforce to fill jobs which are currently going unfilled, and help employers find skilled employees in the future,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “It’s clear we need more degree earners and certificate program graduates, including those in the critical STEM fields, and I am pleased our administration has already taken steps to start tackling these challenges.”

“Studies have shown that the vast majority of Massachusetts job openings in the next decade will require a degree or certificate beyond high school, and our administration is working hard to expand training and educational opportunities,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser.  “The higher education system is a critical partner in helping our students and workers meet the needs of our changing economy, and we are focusing on ensuring they are prepared to succeed in college and in their careers.”

“The Degree Gap affirms that the state’s public higher education system must redouble its efforts to help more students earn college credentials, especially those from underrepresented communities who are much less likely to earn degrees,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “I will urge the leadership of our system to focus on what we are calling ‘The Big Three’ priorities for the coming academic year: making college more accessible and affordable, closing achievement gaps, and improving completion rates.”

The report’s findings align with several recent economic forecasts that project that a lack of available talent may constrain economic growth. Although the Commonwealth has more adult degree-holders than any other state—51.5 percent of adults ages 25–54—the state is projected to end the decade with fewer working age college-educated residents than it began with unless the rate of degree production improves.

“Our aging population and slow-grow¬ing labor force are expected to curb job growth significantly in coming years,” said Michael Goodman, professor and executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and co-editor of MassBenchmarks, the journal of the Massachusetts economy published by the UMass Donahue Institute in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “This makes closing the achievement gap and improving access to affordable and high-quality higher education an essential economic and social imperative.”

“Massachusetts’ knowledge economy richly rewards those who are trained or well educated, but rebuffs those who are not,” said Paul Grogan, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation.  “Knitting together the needs of our workforce with our educational infrastructure is crucial to encourage economic mobility, stem the rising tide of inequality, and ensure the growth and prosperity of our Commonwealth.”

The Degree Gap also examines capacity issues in two programs preparing students for careers in high demand fields: nursing and computer science. Officials at several public campuses report that they are unable to grow their programs for a host of reasons, ranging from lack of space and faculty hiring constraints to a shortage of clinical placements for nursing candidates.

The report details a series of new state and local campus initiatives to address The Degree Gap, including:

• The Commonwealth Commitment: Beginning in fall 2016, students in selected majors who begin at a community college and continue their education at a state university or UMass campus will receive a series of financial incentives to earn a bachelor’s degree in less than four and a half years, at an average savings of more than $5,000 per student.

• 100 Males to College: The University of Massachusetts Amherst, Westfield State University, Springfield Technical Community College, Framingham State University and MassBay Community College are collaborating with public schools in Springfield and Framingham to create college-going opportunities for low-income male students who would be the first in their family to attend college. Of the first cohort of Springfield students, 56 of the 59 seniors were accepted to college.

• STEM Starter Academy: All fifteen community colleges are offering free summer sessions at which local high school students tackle remedial math coursework, take part in science and engineering challenges and visit local employers to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. A recent program evaluation found that STEM Starter Academy students enrolled as full-time students at a rate 13 percentage points higher than the general community college student population.

A copy of The Degree Gap report can be downloaded here.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Doug Petersen, second from left, this year’s Harold E. Drake, Jr. Citizen of the Year, is joined by Jay Davis Drake, President Dan Asquino, Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli and Foundation Board of Directors Chair Ray Martino.

Service to the community and to students was the prevailing theme of the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation’s annual celebration, which offered guests a “passport into the future” of MWCC and its students, as well as an opportunity to reflect back on key figures in the college’s history and hear from several inspiring, recent graduates.

Long-serving community volunteer Douglas J. Petersen was recognized with the 2016 Harold E. Drake Jr. Citizen of the Year Award. Jay Davis Drake, a former chair of the MWCC Board of Trustees and a former member of the foundation, presented the award to Mr. Petersen in memory of his father, treasurer and former president of Royal Steam Heater Co. and Lynde Hardware & Supply, Inc.

The award recognizes community members who exemplify Harold Drake’s extraordinary commitment to the North Central Massachusetts region.

The event also recognized the academic success and civic engagement of MWCC students and showcased the new science and technology building under constructions and continuing renovations to the Haley building for an audience of college supporters, benefactors, students and community leaders. Guests proceeded through the campus with “passports” in hand, stopping at various destinations to learn more about the college and its programs. Stations included the Center for Civic Learning, the LaChance Library, the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics, the Veterans Success Center, K-12 Partnerships and the Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development.

Joined by his family, Mr. Petersen said he was humbled to receive the award. Among his many professional associations, business ventures and community causes, he serves as chairman of the boards for the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, and is also a member of the MWCC Foundation Board of Directors and a member of the HealthAlliance President’s Council.

“Doug has made a fantastic difference in our community,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

In one of several surprise announcements, Dr. Asquino was presented with the Foundation’s Harold E. Drake, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for his three decades of service to the college and to the community.

Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli announced two new, endowed scholarships created through the generosity of Hubbardston residents Barbara and Jim Carpenter in recognition of Mrs. Carpenter’s parents, George and Bernice (Johnson) Babineau. The Babineau-Johnson Nursing Scholarship and the Babineau-Johnson Veterans Scholarship were each endowed for $50,000 by the Carpenters, which will help MWCC students for “generations to come,” Zottoli said.

To underscore the importance of creating endowed scholarships, the Foundation also transferred $10,000 from its general scholarship fund to create a new scholarship fund by selecting a winner from among the guests’ “passports.” Outgoing Student Trustee Tom Berger was the chosen winner, and will be able to name the scholarship and work with the foundation to determine the criteria of the annual scholarship.

Recent graduates Benjamin Spurr of Barre, a Navy Veteran who is now headed to UMass, Amherst to continue his studies in biological sciences and biotechnology, and Bella Ballin of Worcester, who will transfer this fall to Carnegie Mellon University to continue her studies in chemistry, were this year’s student speakers, sharing details about the way the college and the foundation helped transform their academic experience.

The foundation also recognized 81-year-old Aurea Carrion of Leominster, who graduated last week with an associate degree in Human Services, and presented a video of graduate Chelsea Garrity of Barre, who is now on a service trip to Costa Rica, giving her Commencement speech.

Several past recipients of the Citizen of the Year Award were among the attendees, including Ronald Ansin, Kim Ansin, former Senator Stephen M. Brewer, James Garrison, Charles Bowles and Richard Flanagan. The event was sponsored by Royal Steam Heater Co. Workers’ Credit Union, Enterprise Bank & Trust, Heywood Hospital, Fidelity Bank, North Middlesex Savings Bank, Rollstone Bank & Trust and Simonds International. Proceeds from the event support student scholarships.

“Our foundation scholarships help hundreds of students achieve the dream of education,” Zottoli said. “It is truly their passport to a brighter future.”

4-Color_MWCC_Sphere_400x400Mount Wachusett Community College is adding five new programs to its academic offerings.

The new programs include credit certificate programs in Substance Abuse Counseling, Community Health Worker and Public Relations, and associate degrees in Liberal Arts & Sciences Law Track and Liberal Arts & Sciences Earth Systems Track.

“These new certificate programs will serve needs expressed by local employers. People who have a degree in a related major, or those who are currently working in the field, are encouraged to enroll in these programs to update their skills,” said Dr. Melissa Fama, Vice President of Academic Affairs. “The new tracks in our Liberal Arts & Sciences degree were developed in response to students who expressed interest in transferring to four-year colleges and universities in these fields.”

Through discussions with area providers, the college developed the new substance abuse counseling certificate, which prepares students to obtain Massachusetts state recognition as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and to seek employment within the industry. Area facilities are poised to open to serve the needs of clients in various stages of recovery. This certification would allow for individuals to seek employment within the industry.

The Community Health Worker certificate program will prepare students for careers in the healthcare field, providing education and guidance to clients and patients about managing their medical procedures and diseases, such as asthma or diabetes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of community health workers in Massachusetts is projected to grow by 22% by 2022.

The Public Relations certificate program is designed to meet current job market opportunities for students who have a background in communications or public relations. The certificate program combines training in graphic design, writing, business, marketing and media arts technology.

The Liberal Arts & Sciences Law Track degree program is designed for students seeking a pre-law program with the goal of transferring to a four-year college or institution, and the Liberal Arts & Sciences Earth Systems track will provide students with a focused transfer program to pursue a bachelor’s degree in geology, meteorology or astronomy.

For more information, contact the MWCC Admissions Office at 978-630-9110 or email admissions@mwcc.mass.edu. For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed certificate programs and other important information, please visit our website at http://mwcc.edu/catalog/gainful-employment.

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Sheila Boria and Aurea Carrion

Jose Mangual, academic counselor for students enrolled in MWCC’s English as a Second Language program, has a ready answer for prospective students who feel they are too busy, too old or not ready to enroll in courses.

He introduces them to students who once had the same concerns, but now are succeeding not only in the ESL program, but in MWCC academic programs as well.

“If someone says, ‘I’m too old, I’m in my 40’s and I’ll be the oldest student there,’ I say, ‘Have you met Aurea Carrion? She is 81!’ ”

Mangual served as host of the ESL program’s annual year-end celebration, which recognized the achievements of residents new to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Uruguay, Brazil, Egypt, Ghanna, Syria and Vietnam. The festive event, held at the Leominster campus, featured laughter, encouragement, and array of traditional food.

Special recognition was given to students who recently advanced in or completed their ESL courses, as well as to Ms. Carrion, who graduated with an associate degree in Human Services, and Sheila Boria, who earned an academic certificate in Human Services.

Carrion, who previously earned an associate degree from MWCC in 1990 in Secretarial Studies, worked as a liaison between the community and the Fitchburg and Worcester public schools. She retired from the Worcester Public School system in 2006.

Since then, she returned to MWCC to pursue her interest in the human services field and earned her academic certificate in Human Services in 2013. “I never get tired of studying,” she said. Her goal is to continue working in the human services field.

In addition to serving as president of the ESL club, Ms. Carrion has volunteered countless hours at the Leominster campus and most significantly, serves as an inspiration to fellow students. “It’s never too late!”

“I said if she can do it, I can do it. She was my inspiration,” said Ms. Boria, who will continue her studies and aspires to become a lawyer. “This is important to me. This is my future.”

 

 

2016 Gateway & Pathways valedictorians Christian and Bella 2

Valedictorians Christian Rossi, Jr. & Bella Ballin

Aspiring doctors, nurses, physicists, teachers and police officers, as well as many teenagers who are the first in their families to attend college, are among the largest dual enrollment graduating class at MWCC.

This year’s graduates of the Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College program were recognized during a May 20 ceremony at MWCC. The dual enrollment programs, offered in partnership with the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, as well as Athol High School, allow students to use school choice funding to earn their high school diploma while simultaneously earning college credits, an academic certificate, or an associate degree.

With 73 graduates from 26 towns and cities this year, the graduating class is the largest ever at MWCC. This year also marked the 10th graduating class of the Gateways program and the fifth Pathways graduating class.

MWCC President Daniel Asquino was the featured speaker, sharing personal anecdotes with the students and the hundreds of family members and friends gathered for the occasion.

When told as a child he couldn’t play sports because he was born with a disability, he persevered until he could. When told he didn’t swim well enough to become a lifeguard, he self-trained and not only became a lifeguard, but rescued three people who were clinging together for survival amid a rough surf.

When told by a high school guidance counselor he “wasn’t college material” he served the country in the Navy, then went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree while simultaneously working and raising a family on modest means. When he wanted to become a college president, he was told he couldn’t because he was on the “wrong track” – an administrative path rather than an academic path. He is now completing his 29th year as president of MWCC.

“If I can do it, you can do it,” he encouraged the graduates. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do it. Conquer the world. Do for yourself, do for your family, and don’t forget to give back to your community.”

Some of the graduates will remain at MWCC to continue their associate degrees, while many who have already reached that milestone plan to transfer to a public and private college or university. Several of the graduates plan to serve the country in the military or directly enter the workforce.

Bella Ballin of Worcester, who earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts: Chemical Science from MWCC two days before receiving her high school diploma, was the Pathways class valedictorian.

“Who would have thought that teens from all different towns and all different backgrounds would come together not only as a cohort or a class but as a family? Right from the start we managed to forge bonds so strong that we didn’t want to stray from each other. As our bonds grew, so did our maturity, adaptability, independence and knowledge,” she said.

This fall, she will transfer to Carnegie Mellon University to continue her studies in chemistry.

Christian Rossi, Jr. of Winchendon, homeschooled prior to enrolling in the Gateway program, graduated from MWCC Wednesday with an associate degree in computer information systems and academic certificates in cyber security and IT support specialist. He plans to transfer this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

He wryly shared that while he thought he was well versed in many topics before enrolling, he came to realize there’s always more to learn, such as the day a classmate had a pizza delivered to the college for dinner rather than packing food.

“Now why I hadn’t thought of that, I cannot say, but I know that I will remember it in case I ever find myself hungry at my next school.”

MWCC’s partnerships with the public school districts represent “the pillars of support for our students,” said Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement.

“It is through these partnerships that together, we have built a true community here at MWCC. We have created a place where students feel supported, encouraged and safe. We have built a place where new paths are forged and lives are transformed.”

Pathways Early College Innovation School graduates:

Bella Ballin, Yasmin Barroso, Kaci Bradshaw, Levi Bushnell, Angelique Chaput, Calvin Clinkscale, Holland Crane, Michael Frye, Chandler Giuffre, Sara Khan, Margaret Linzey, Renata Menezes, Emily Perkins, Tea Preston, Michael Racine, Jr., Lucy Rivers, Riley Saisa, Adrian Sanders, Kelsey Schecker, Rachel Stankaitis, Joseph Williams

Gateway to College graduates:

Thayna Aguiar, Kelsey Allaway, Rebekah Amburgey, Arturo Aponte-Cruz, Jacob Bancroft, Taysia Baronowski, Kyle Bates, Katriona Bell, Rene Bergeron, Anders Bigelbach, Nicole Boufford, Shane Carroll, Nicole Cibor, Emanuel Corbeil, Mariah Courtemanche, Emmilly DeMatos, Lyndsey-Leigh Flahive, Bailey Fluet, Coco Fortier, Stephanie Garnhum, Gregory Germagian, Cassandra Gurney, Leshay Hicks, Adoria Kavuma-Winburn, Alyssa Kazanowski, Jamison Lajoie, Lisette Llapa, Rafaela Lopes, Audrey MacDonald, Brianna Martinez, Hayley McAuliffe, Anastasia Panageotes, Camila Pereira, Raul Pereira, Nicholas Powell, Lorena Rocha, Christian Rossi, Jr., Courtney Ruble, Alexander Schilling, Lauren Scioli, Mya Shepard, Milagros Silva Olivera, Constance Tazelaar, Emilia Torres, Pablo Trillas, Jasmine Welch, Beth Winters, Christopher Zukowski

 

Visions & Rx Awards with Sara Williams

TRIO Student Support Services award recipients, from left, Megan Bernard, Elizabeth Fogle and Michel Cocuza with Sara Williams, Management Assistant.

During its annual awards ceremony , MWCC’s Visions and Rx programs celebrated the achievements of graduating and continuing students.

Many of this year’s graduates are continuing on for bachelor’s degree at a private or public four-year college or university.

Sarah Adams, a past Visions program participant who earned an associate degree in art in 2012 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in art from UMass, Amherst, was the featured speaker.

The Visions Program, which has been offered at MWCC for more than three decades, assists eligible students enrolled in any non-healthcare major. The Rx program, which focuses on supporting students pursuing healthcare majors, is graduating 35 students with associate degrees and certificates.

The programs, funded by the U.S. Department of Education TRIO grants,  help guide participants throughout the college experience and assist those who wish to transfer to a four-year institution by offering a variety of services, including intensive academic advising, transfer and personal counseling, professional tutoring and supplemental instruction. The Visions and Rx programs support income-eligible students, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities.

During the May 13 awards ceremony, graduating Visions Program students were recognized with a number of achievement awards. The President’s Award was presented to Chelsea Garrity, Stevie LaBelle and Amanda Favreau. The TRIO Student Support Services Award was presented to Elizabeth Fogle, Michel Cocuzza and Megan Bernard.