General News

mwcc-vet-student-breakfastOur campus will be closed tomorrow in recognition of Veterans Day. Please take the time for reflection and recognition of all the men and women who serve and have served our great country. I am grateful that so many veterans have found a home here at Mount Wachusett Community College. More than 250 students, faculty and staff are veterans. I was honored to gather with a group of student, faculty and staff veterans this week for our annual breakfast and was impressed, as I always am, by all that they contribute to our campus.

We strive to continue to offer excellence in education and opportunity for all or our veteran students. I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College has been named for the seventh consecutive year as a “Top Military School.” In addition, Military Times has designated MWCC a “Best for Vets” college for seven years. We have been in the top ten of those rankings every year. This year MWCC was ranked #4. If you would like to learn more about the MWCC Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, visit mwcc.edu/veteran. I extend my deepest gratitude to our staff in this center and across the campus who work with our student veterans as they pursue their academic goals.

Leading into the busy holiday season, about 90 percent of Fitchburg High School seniors will have one less item on their to-do list having already submitted their college applications for fall 2017. The third annual College Application Challenge will be held from 9:00am to 1:30pm on November 15, 2016 at Fitchburg High School.

Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg High are again partnering to bring the Massachusetts College Application Celebration to the school next week. This is the fifth year Massachusetts has participated in the national initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Education’s GEAR UP program and the third year the event has been held at FHS.

“The FHS community has worked very hard to raise our graduation rate to the highest it has ever been. We know that the next step is to work to make sure that every student leaves FHS with many great options for college and career when they graduate. The Massachusetts College Application Celebration highlights our commitment to this goal and adds a great energy around building our school’s college going culture,” said Fitchburg High School Principal Jeremy Roche.

GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) is administered by MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition in partnership with the high school through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The majority of students in the graduating class of 2017 have received intensive college access and success services since middle school.

“With so much preparation behind them, students were eager to participate in the application challenge this year,” said MWCC GEAR UP Director Andrew Goodwin.

Specific services include academic counseling, tutoring, homework support, after school academic and social activities, college awareness and financial aid workshops, MCAS and PSAT/SAT preparation, and college admissions assistance.

To attend this event and speak directly with students about their college plans, please contact Andrew Goodwin, MWCC GEAR UP Director at 978-630-9243 or via email at a_goodwin@mwcc.mass.edu. To learn more about the GEAR UP program, please visit: http://mwcc.edu/access/programs/gearup16/

Mount Wachusett Community College ranked number four across the country in the Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings for 2-year colleges conducted by Military Times, an independent news and information source for service members and their families. MWCC, continuing its long-held commitment to veterans and their families, moved up two spots from its 2016 rank.

The eighth annual rankings factor in the results of Military Times’ comprehensive school-by-school survey of veteran and military student offerings and rates of academic achievement. More than 500 colleges took part in this year’s detailed survey.

MWCC launched its Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success in 2010 to address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life. The dedicated veteran center offers computer access, free printing, student meeting and study space, and opportunities for veteran students to talk and connect with other like-minded individuals. Textbooks and laptops are loaned at no charge.

The Director of Veteran Services is a full-time advocate for veteran students. He educates the college staff and faculty on veteran challenges, counsels students and arranges for clinical meetings if necessary.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as a top military-friendly school. This reflects the positive, helpful attitude that students can expect from all departments of the college. We pride ourselves on being student friendly, so it is a natural extension for us to be military friendly as well,” said Robert B. Mayer, Director of Veterans Services at Mount Wachusett Community College.

Student veterans are active members of the campus community, participating in such clubs and organizations as the Veterans Group and Student Government Association.

“As a veteran myself, I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College receives continuing recognition as one of the top colleges for veteran students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “MWCC has served our region’s veterans for decades and will continue to do so into the future by providing them with a robust network of support both on campus and with key partner organizations.”

MWCC maintains community partnerships with the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, the Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center operated by Veteran Homestead, Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services’ SAVE program, and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Military Times’ annual Best for Vets: Colleges survey asks colleges and universities to meticulously document a tremendous array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties; and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus. These institutions were evaluated in several categories, with university culture and academic outcomes bearing the most weight.
“We limit our list to encourage competition, and we genuinely hope this helps raise the bar for veterans on campus,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Best for Vets.

Military Times also factors in data from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as three Education Department sources: the IPEDS Data Center, College Scorecard data and the Cohort Default Rate Database.

The rankings appear online at MilitaryTimes.com, as well as ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com and in a special magazine issue of Military Times in mid-November. The release of this year’s list also marks Military Times’ inaugural declaration of the month of November as Veterans Month.

For more information about MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, please visit: mwcc.edu/veteran.
To view the full Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings and survey methodology go to: www.militarytimes.com/bestforvets-colleges2017.

New lab classrooms in Asquino Science CenterMount Wachusett Community College students, faculty and staff; Massachusetts leaders; and the greater community will dedicate the new Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center in recognition of President Asquino’s 30 years of leadership at Mount Wachusett Community College at a ceremony on Tuesday, November 15 at 2 pm.
The public opening of the new building, a state-of-the-art addition to the Gardner campus, will be commemorated with a speaking program including Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone, as well as a ceremonial ribbon cutting, unveiling of the naming of the building, and tours of the new facilities.

Along with honored guests, college staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, and community members will be in attendance.

“This new Science Center offers real opportunity for our students,” said Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees Chair Tina Sbrega. “Opportunity is something President Asquino has relentlessly pursued throughout his 30 years at the helm of this great college. Our students will be better prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders. We are all so proud to recognize President Asquino’s commitment to students and our college by naming this building in his honor.”

Following more than a year of construction and extensive renovations, the new science center replaces existing laboratories nearly a half-century old and will enhance the learning environment for all students, particularly those seeking careers in STEM fields.

The Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center includes LEED Gold rated labs, classrooms, and student study space for the college’s continued pursuit of academic excellence.

The $41 million project includes the 44,000 square-foot science center, a new 2,300 square-foot greenhouse and renovations throughout the existing Arthur F. Haley Academic Center. MWCC received $37.9 million in state capital funds for the project, as well as a $500,000 grant from Massachusetts Life Sciences for laboratory equipment.

From an economic standpoint, this is the largest construction project in North Central Massachusetts, which in itself helps boost the region’s economy by providing work for Massachusetts businesses and bringing more traffic to local businesses and service providers. Additionally, the project was completed on-time and on-budget.

Designed by Boston-based Architerra, Inc. to meet LEED Gold certification for efficiency and sustainability, the new building will contain energy-efficient features to tie in with the college’s commitment to sustainability. Construction began in spring 2015. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, oversaw the 18-month project as construction manager.

Over the past 15 years, MWCC has been the recipient of top state and national sustainability awards, including the American Association of College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Wildlife Federation.

Amenities in the new building include eight new classrooms and laboratories, four lab prep rooms, 24 new faculty offices, student study space and interior glass walls to highlight STEM student innovation. Renovations to the Haley Academic Center include a new visitor entrance, a multi-purpose room, an academic advising suite, a refurbished student-centered campus commons and increased accessibility to the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center.

Immediately following the dedication, Mount Wachusett Community College is hosting an Open House from 3:30 to 7pm. The public, past MWCC staff and faculty, and all community partners are encouraged and invited to attend. For more information, please contact Lois Cox at 978-630-9101.

President Asquino; Panelists Ernest Martineau, Michelle Dunn, Jack Maroney, Tamara E. Perini, Daisy Bacener, Joseph D. Early, Jr., Diane Power; event organizer Sharmese Gunn

Left to right: President Asquino; Panelists Joseph D. Early, Jr., Ernest Martineau, Daisy Bacener, Michelle Dunn; Moderator Jen Flanagan; Panelists Jack Maroney, Tamara E. Perini, Diane Power; event organizer Sharmese Gunn

Mount Wachusett Community College welcomed over 250 guests to its Gardner campus this morning for a public forum moderated by State Senator Jennifer Flanagan to address the issues surrounding opioid addiction and abuse, a critical problem impacting too many families and communities across the Commonwealth.

The free forum, Opiates in North Central Massachusetts: Education for Community-Wide Crisis Response, took place on Monday, Oct 31 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. with a breakout session for dialogue and NARCAN® training following the panel forum.

Panelists included Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau; Michelle Dunn, Founder/President of the A.E.D. Foundation, Inc. and co-director and president of Alyssa’s Place; Jack Maroney, CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Westminster; Tamara E. Perini, MSW, LCSW UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital and the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office; Daisy Bacener, Chief Probation Officer for the City of Fitchburg; District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr., Office of Worcester County District; and Dr. Diane Power M.D. OB/GYN UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital.

The panelists discussed the multi-generational aspects of opioid addiction, the coping skills needed by families with a loved one suffering from addiction, dealing with the crisis as a public health issue and not a criminal one, potential changes to drug prescription practices, and the value of NARCAN® as a live-saving measure.

Senator Flanagan led the panel through many other important topics including what organizations are working to solve the issues, saying that community colleges are on the front line in meeting the need for services head-on with training and programs.

Senator Flanagan of Leominster has worked tirelessly on this issue during her two terms in the House of Representatives and after being elected to the Senate in 2008.  She currently serves as Chair of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee and Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Opioid Addiction. Senator Flanagan was also appointed as Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, and is a member of the Public Safety Committee and Homeland Security Committee.

An audience of over 250 attendees hears advice from a panel of opioid addition experts in the Mount Wachusett Community College Theatre.

An audience of over 250 attendees hears advice from a panel of opioid addition experts in the Mount Wachusett Community College Theatre.

Both in the House and Senate, Senator Flanagan played critical roles in passing several key pieces of legislation relative to mental health and substance abuse. The most recent being an act to increase opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery signed into law in 2014, which provides people with an opportunity to access treatment and an act relative to substance use prevention signed into law in 2016.

There were many positive moments in the forum, such as when Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau relayed the success story that Fitchburg Police have saved 100 lives by administering 100 NARCAN® treatments since June 2015. NARCAN® blocks the effects of opioids and can reverse an overdose.

Following the forum, Michael Ellis, Coordinator of the Men’s Suicide Prevention Project, Regional Behavioral Health Collaborative, and Heywood Hospital provided free NARCAN® training for over 60 participants. The training included interactive, practical instructions for an engaged audience who asked many follow up questions.

Participants who did not opt for the training attended a dialogue facilitated by Jason Zelesky, Dean of Students at Mount Wachusett Community College. The dialogue helped participants personalize what they’d just heard in the forum, increase their understanding of this complex issue, and provided participants with the opportunity to discuss root causes to the issue as well as potential solutions.

“This is the crisis of our time,” said Dr. Daniel Asquino, president of the college. “But our hope is that this will not be the crisis of tomorrow. Today’s event gives us all a better sense of what we can do to combat our region’s opioid epidemic by working together and increasing our understanding of the causes, early warning signs and resources available to help those in need.”

The event concluded with time for attendees to meet with resource organizations including AdCare Hospital of Worcester, Inc.; The A.E.D. Foundation; American Addiction Centers; Heywood Hospital CHART Program;  Montachusett Opportunity Council, Inc.; Montachusett Suicide Prevention Task Force; Mount Wachusett Community College Admissions; Mount Wachusett Community College Gateway to College; the Office of District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.; Recovery Centers of America at Westminster; the SHINE Initiative; and Spectrum Health Systems Inc.

This Tea Time Speaker Series was a recipient of the 2016 MWCC Foundation Innovation Grant and was sponsored by: Mount Wachusett Community College’s Diversity Consortium; Gateway to College; the Workforce Diversity Pipeline Program which is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health; The North Central Massachusetts Minority Coalition/Three Pyramids, Inc. This event was also sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in partnership with the American Association of Colleges & Universities, in an effort to examine Citizenship Under Siege through public forums and conversations.

Mount Wachusett Community College has launched a new substance abuse counseling certificate program and is hosting a free community forum with NARCAN® training to bolster public resources and address the opioid crisis that is impacting our region, the state and the nation.

The free forum, Opiates in North Central Massachusetts: Education for Community-Wide Crisis Response, will take place on Monday, Oct 31 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. in the North Café at the Gardner campus. The public is encouraged to attend.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan will serve as moderator. Panelists will include Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau, Michelle Dunn, co-director and president of Alyssa’s Place, Jack Maroney, CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Westminster, and Tamara E. Perini, MSW, LCSW UMass Memorial – HealthAlliance Hospital, and representatives from the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office.

The forum, part of the college’s continuing Tea Time Speaker Series, is sponsored by the MWCC Diversity Consortium, Gateway to College, and Project Healthcare, a workforce diversity pipeline program funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.

Following the forum, Michael Ellis of Heywood Hospital will provide free NARCAN® training for participants. The prescription drug blocks the effects of opioids and can reverse an overdose.

“Today’s opioid users can be co-workers, family members, neighbors, friends, children, students and members of the community,” said Sharmese Gunn, senior learning specialist with MWCC’s Gateway to College program and forum coordinator. “Learning how to detect early use is one way to combat the epidemic that has plagued the region, and being prepared and educated can help save lives.”

Earlier this year, MWCC developed a new substance abuse counseling certificate following discussions with area healthcare providers. The 27-credit certificate program prepares students to obtain credentials in Massachusetts as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and to seek employment within the industry. Area facilities are poised to open or expand to serve the needs of clients in various stages of recovery. Courses include Issues of Chemical Dependency in Family Systems, Addictions Counseling, Psychopharmacology and a practicum.

For more information about the free community forum or to RSVP, please visit: mwcc.edu/response.

With a focus on the nature of work, Mount Wachusett Community College is kicking off its third year of Humanities Project programing with a Poetry Read-Aloud & Pizza Party on Thursday, October 20, from 6 – 8PM in the MWCC Library, Gardner Campus. This event is free and open to the public.

Attendees will have a chance to read their favorite poem from the selected work Kettle Bottom by award-winning author Diane Gilliam Fisher. This book of poems explores the West Virginia Mine Wars and coal mining life from the perspective of those who lived in coal camps, bringing a historical perspective to the theme of work.  Fisher’s poems draw upon her experiences as the child of parents who left the coal country of West Virginia and Kentucky.

Funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Humanities Project strengthens the college’s humanities curriculum; supports collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching and research in the humanities; examines the intersection between the humanities and other academic disciplines; and engages MWCC and the greater community in dialogue of enduring themes from the world’s many cultures and traditions.

For more information and dates for upcoming events, visit mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

Daniel Asquino, Shine Award RecipientThe SHINE Initiative held its tenth annual Keep Your Mind Open event on October 5, 2016 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. Among the evening’s highlights, Dr. Daniel M. Asquino, President of Mount Wachusett Community College, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Ed Manzi, Jr., Chairman of the SHINE Initiative and Chairman of Fidelity Bank.

President Asquino was recognized for his leadership in increasing mental health awareness through support of mental health and wellness conferences and events that have featured experts in the fields of mental health as speakers and panelists.

The SHINE Initiative aims to shine a light of understanding on the issues of mental health and was founded in 2004 under the guidance of a community-based advisory board and the directors and employees of Fidelity bank, based in Leominster.

Mount Wachusett Community College will continue its support of mental health awareness under Dr. Asquino’s leadership by sponsoring the upcoming Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Awareness Event on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at Great Wolf Lodge at 5:00 p.m.

For a list of mental health and wellness resources, please visit: mwcc.edu/hr/wellness.

united-way-day-of-caring-mwcc-sept-16-2016

Photo by Eddie Vargas

A group of nearly 200 enthusiastic volunteers at Mount Wachusett Community College worked in shifts throughout the day to more than double last year’s efforts to combat hunger in the region.

Through the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, students, faculty and staff teamed up in assembly lines to package 46,872 meals to serve families in need. The meals were distributed in the afternoon to food pantries and veterans centers in North Central Massachusetts.

The college became a Day of Caring host site in 2013, following years of participation in off-campus activities, and the event continues to grow each year, said Jana Murphy, a Liberal Arts & Sciences major who spearheaded this year’s packaging event in her role as this year’s Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA.

MWCC participated along with numerous other organizations in North Central Massachusetts, recognizing the 21st annual United Way Day of Caring.

Outreach, Inc., an Iowa-based nonprofit that also operates in the Northeast, provided supplies to create packages of meals consisting of macaroni and cheese and rice and beans.