General News

Yoav Elinevsky

Professor Yoav Elinevsky, chair of MWCC’s Math Department, and his partners in the college’s Math Modeling Initaitve, Patrice Lincoln and Veronica Guay, are among this year’s Innovation Fund grant recipients.

With the start of the new academic year, the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation, Inc. has provided funds totaling $32,000 for five innovative projects conceived by college faculty and staff.

“The Innovation Fund allows us to financially support inventive staff and faculty and give them the opportunity to implement their concepts.” MWCC Foundation Executive Director Carla Zottoli. “We applaud all of the applicants for embracing innovative practices and aligning their proposals with the college’s strategic plan.”

The college’s Math Modeling Academic Initiative, which is designed to increase the college and career readiness of high school graduates, will expand during this academic year through a proposal presented by Professor Yoav Elinevsky, Patrice Lincoln, Dean of Access and Transition, and Veronica Guay, Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Math.

Math Modeling began in fall 2013 with seniors at Leominster High School and Leominster High School Center for Technical Education Innovation. Last year, the project expanded to include seniors at Fitchburg High School and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School. During this academic year, the 2016 Math Modeling cohort is expected to exceed 500 students as Gardner, Athol and Murdock High Schools join the partnerships.

Margaret Jaillet, Assistant Dean of the School of Health Professions, Public Service Programs and Social Sciences, was awarded a grant to expand the college’s Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course offerings by purchasing a second set of training equipment. MWCC’s Basic Emergency Technicians program provides students with the opportunity to become state and nationally certified. Purchasing a second set of equipment will allow the college to double the EMT offerings and expand enrollment.

Veterans Services Director Robert Mayer received funding to purchase two laptop computers to implement the TeleHealth Computerized Health Assistance program for student veterans. As part of its VITAL program, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides electronic “face-to-face” health consultations with veterans who are unable to travel to Northhampton or Bedford VA hospital sites.

Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement was awarded a grant to initiate an international service project this academic year. The project will provide students with an opportunity to contextualize classroom learning through international service.

Professor Michelle Valois received a grant to support the MWCC Humanities Project, which is now beginning its second year. The Humanities Project engages students and the community, supports inter-disciplinary teaching and learning, strengthens the humanities at the college, and collaborates with community partners to bring lectures, discussions, and other events to the public.

Photo caption – With assistance from the MWCC Foundation, the college’s Math Modeling Program will expand to more high schools this academic year.

Musicians at the Mount New student orientation Sept 1 2015

Incoming MWCC student Ruben Figueiredo visits with  Musicians at the Mount club members Mike MacLean, with guitar, and Trevor Hanson during the college’s orientation for new students. MWCC’s academic year begins on September 2.

More than 1,000 new Mount Wachusett Community College students earned accolades for deciding to invest in their future through higher education, during a series of orientation sessions hosted by the college. Sessions were offered for day and evening students, veterans, dual enrollment students and students enrolled in specific healthcare programs.

A majority of the incoming day students attended orientation on September 1 in advance of classes beginning Wednesday, September 2 at MWCC’s main campus in Gardner, satellite campuses in Leominster, Devens and Fitchburg, and online.

President Daniel M. Asquino and college administrators welcomed the group with advice ranging from ways to achieve academic success to navigating around the main campus while a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building is under construction and other campus renovations are underway.

When completed next year, the renovations and new building will transform the college and enhance the academic experience for all students, he said.

Coordinated by the office of Student Life, the orientation sessions provide students with an opportunity to learn about college life and MWCC programs and activities. Students met with faculty, deans and advisors, toured the campus, received information about campus resources, and attended a student club expo. The event also included a presentation by national motivational speaker Jermaine M. Davis. He encouraged the students to identify their passion in life and then persevere until they achieve their goals.

“As you achieve your goals, your life will inspire other people,” said Davis, who also delivered a presentation to faculty in the afternoon.

“There are not too many opportunities in our lives when we can take the time and energy to invest in ourselves. This is one of those times for you,” said Dean of Students Jason Zelesky, adding that the college community recognizes each students as individuals. “You matter. Your success matters. And we want nothing more than to watch you grown and to see you achieve your educational goals.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Melissa Fama, Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement, Student Government Association President Carrie DeCosta, and Student Trustee Tom Berger also were among the featured speakers.

MWCC Leadership Academy 2015 backpack drive

Community service during the 11th annual Summer Leadership Academy included an outpouring of donations for school children in foster care. Volunteers filled 123 packpacks with school supplies.

Fifty-six incoming Mount Wachusett Community College students learned new skills, met new friends and volunteered in the community during the college’s 11th annual Summer Leadership Academy.

Participants attended educational workshops designed to enhance their academic and leadership skills, took part in team-building activities and completed civic engagement projects. Sponsored by the office of Student Life in collaboration with the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, the two-day program took place August 25 and 26 at the college’s Gardner campus.

Service projects included a back-pack drive to benefit children living in foster care in Massachusetts. Through donations from students, faculty, staff and local organizations and businesses, the drive yielded 123 backpacks filled with an array of school supplies. The drive  exceed the goal of 100 backpacks and broke the program’s previous record of 93.

Leadership Academy participants also volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts’ ReStore center in Leominster and Cathy’s House, a residential program for women veterans in Winchendon under renovation by the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center. Volunteers also helped prepare the college’s Fitness & Wellness Center, nature trail and campus grounds for the start of the new academic year on September 2.

The Leadership Academy is designed to give new students a jump start on their first semester, said Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement. College faculty, staff, alumni and current students take part to ensure a meaningful experience for the incoming students, he said.

“This is one of the most exciting times of the year. It’s so rewarding to see new students come in as strangers and gain friends and confidence during the two-day program.”

“Leadership Academy is a great way to become involved in school and a great way to get to know your peers,” said volunteer Carrie DeCosta of Winchendon, president of the Student Government Association.

Student Trustee Tom Berger, also of Winchendon, said the service component provides new students with an opportunity to meet people at the college and in the community.

“It gives people a sense of pride and accomplishment to be able to give back to the community.”

Zoe Hammond of Templeton, who will begin her college degree as a dual-enrolled high school student in the Pathways Early College Innovation School, said she enjoyed the experience.

“It was great to meet people before starting classes.” Hammond said she particularly enjoyed a martial arts exercise that guided each student to break a solid board with their hand during a lesson on overcoming challenges and barriers. 

“It was inspiring.”


Louis Ayisi

Pre-engineering student Louis Ayisi is headed to Carnegie Mellon University this fall, and has also been selected to participate in the year-long i-Trek research program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Louis Ayisi, a pre-engineering student at Mount Wachusett Community College, is one of 15 students selected for the 2015-2016 i-Trek research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The competitive program is open to undergraduate students from varying schools who are currently pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) and are interested in gaining research experience.

i-Trek (I Turn Research into Empowerment and Knowledge) provides undergraduates students with support as they conduct a self-defined, community-based research project. Working with MIT mentors and professors, students select a research project, work together as a virtual team during the school year, then return for a two-week data collection trek the following June at a location selected by the team.

Along with defining and executing their research ideas, students are guided through the process of funding, organizing and publicizing their research. At the end of the project, team members lead a STEM-focused outreach initiative for high school students based on their research. Participants gain research skills, grant and fundraising experience, and leadership skills to help make them competitive candidates at a graduate institution.

The team’s project, proposed by Ayisi, will focus on the conversion of waste products into energy and clean water.

Following a semester of college in Ghana, Ayisi moved to the U.S. in March 2014 to continue his studies. The Leominster resident selected MWCC for its strong pre-engineering program and transfer opportunities.

“I was attracted to the Mount’s motto, ‘Start Near…Go Far.’ I said to myself, ‘This is exactly what I want to do,’” Ayisi recalled. “The pre-engineering curriculum was strong and transferable toward a bachelor’s degree at the universities I was interested in.” He was accepted this spring into Carnegie Mellon University, Purdue University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Harvey Mudd College and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, to name a few.

This fall, the 21-year-old is transferring to Carnegie Mellon on a generous university scholarship to pursue a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. While at CMU, he will simultaneously complete his associate degree at MWCC. He plans to return to the Gardner campus in May for Commencement. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he intends to enroll in graduate school and ultimately work as an engineering consultant and professor.

Ayisi attributes his academic success to the support he received from his faculty and staff mentors at MWCC, including Professors Aliza Miller, Shawn Case and Peter Olszak; Janice Barney, Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Math; Sharmese Gunn of the division of Access & Transition; President Daniel M. Asquino and the college administration; and the MWCC Foundation. He is one of MWCC’s STEM SET scholars, a program funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation; a member of the STEM Starter Academy, a program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education; and the college’s TRIO Visions Program.

Among many academic and civic activities, he is a member of the Honors Program, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the National Society of Leadership and Success honor society, the National Student Math League, and Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities. He served as a student ambassador in the admissions office, as president of the Math Club, as a calculus and chemistry tutor in the college’s Academic Support Center, as a math tutor at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, and as a volunteer during the United Way Day of Caring.

Ayisi was named to the President’s List for academic achievement during each of his semesters at MWCC, and this spring, was the first recipient of the Roberts Scholar Award, named in memory of long-serving administrator Glenn Roberts. He also was a student speaker at a higher education advocacy event at the Statehouse, and during a state DOE event in Worcester with former Governor Deval Patrick.

“I was motivated and honored to be involved,” Ayisi said. “At the Mount, the people are near and dear, and they can empower you to reach your dreams. Every student should realize the Mount is a well-positioned catapult, ready to send its students wherever they want. Just fix yourself in it, and let the sky be your stepping stone,” he said.

“Louis exemplifies the best sort of student who takes every opportunity to participate and explore, all while challenging himself to excel,” said Dean Barney. “It has been our privilege to work with him at the start of his educational path, and we stand proudly behind him while he continues his journey toward future excellence.”

STEM Starter Summer Academy photo 3 Ifra and Marissa

Mount Wachusett Community College students Ifra Hassan and Marissa Pitisci are among the students participating in the college’s Stem Starter Summer Academy.

Along with typical summertime activities, Adam Leyenaar spent the better part of the season getting a jump start on his college degree.

A 2015 graduate of the Parker Charter School, Leyenaar was one of 16 area students participating in Mount Wachusett Community College’s eight-week STEM Starter Summer Academy. Students received up to two free college courses, textbooks, a substantial stipend, academic support and tutoring.

“I want to be an immunologist, so I need a good background,” said Leyenaar, who plans to earn an associate degree in medical laboratory technology so he can work in the field while pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Funded through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the STEM Starter Summer Academy is open to high school graduates or qualifying MWCC students who place into college-level English and math courses and are enrolling in one of MWCC’s STEM majors in the fall.

Qualifying MWCC STEM majors include allied health, biology, biotechnology, chemistry, computer information systems, fitness leadership and exercise science, medical laboratory technology, natural resources, physics and pre-engineering.

STEM Starter Summer Academy photo 2 Adam and Joe

Students Adam Leyenaar and Joe Vasilak solve a math problem in a recent spacial reasoning workshop.

Courses offered during the summer academy included intermediate algebra, introduction to functions and modeling, life science for allied health, anatomy and physiology I, general chemistry II and introduction to psychology. In addition to the coursework, students helped run experiments at Rapoport Lab at Harvard Medical School, visited AbbVie medical labs in Worcester, and toured the construction site of MWCC’s new STEM building, which will open in 2016. The students also participated in MWCC’s Summer Leadership Academy.

“Our students have had an outstanding summer and are ready to continue their studies this fall with two courses already under their belt,” said Christine Davis, MWCC’s STEM Starter Academy recruiter. Students from more than 10 area towns enrolled in the rigorous program, and tackled classes in an accelerated format that will prepare them for their careers, she said.

Many of the academy students are also recipients of STEM SET scholarships. These awards of up to $3,500 per year are available to qualifying STEM majors through a grant the college received from the National Science Foundation.

Ifra Hassan enrolled in MWCC’s liberal arts biological studies program with the goal of continuing her studies in medicine and become a doctor. Hassan said she chose the college for its supportive environment. “I wanted to start my career where I will receive teachers’ support,” she said.

Next year, up to 30 students will be accepted into the Stem Starter Summer Academy. For more information, contact MWCC’s admission’s office at 978-630-9110 or


MWCC Beam signing ceremony group photo

State, local and college officials joined in Mount Wachusett Community College’s beam signing ceremony, signifying the completion of the structural frame of the college’s new science, technology, engineering and math building, slated to open in 2016. Attendees included President Daniel M. Asquino, retired state Sen. Stephen Brewer, Senator Anne Gobi, State Representative Stephen DiNatale, State Representative Susannah Whipps Lee, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and MWCC Foundation board member Jim Garrison.

Poised with pens in Mount Wachusett Community College’s school colors of blue and green, state elected officials joined college and community leaders, trustees, foundation board members, students and contractors on Tuesday, Aug. 11 to mark a milestone in the construction of MWCC’s new 44,000-square-foot science and technology building.

This centuries-old tradition of signing the steel beam that “tops off” a building signifies the completion of the structural phase of a construction project. Dozens packed in to MWCC’s North Café to permanently add their signatures to the 10-foot beam, which will be the final and uppermost beam secured to the building frame next week.

“Thank you all for being here on this historic occasion,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “This is another step forward in the modernization of our campus and a brand new STEM building ready for occupancy a year from now.”

State Senator Anne Gobi, representing MWCC’s Senate delegation, described the new building as an “investment in education and an investment in the future” of the North Central Massachusetts region. “This community college has been a true building block for scores and scores of students,” Gobi said.

Retired Senator Stephen M. Brewer, who was instrumental in securing funding for the $41 million project that also includes renovations to the 40-year-old campus, also shared inspiring remarks during the event. Throughout the commonwealth, public schools, colleges and universities are undergoing expansions and renovations to meet the needs of 21st century students, invigorating the campuses and presenting students with greater opportunities to achieve their academic goals, he said.

“Everything that we do should be about the next generations, and that will happen here.”

State Representative Stephen DiNatale and State Representative Susannah Whipps Lee, an MWCC alumna, congratulated the college on behalf of the House delegation that represents the college’s service region. “These investments, these kinds of endeavors mean jobs. Education means jobs,” DiNatale said.

Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees and also an alumnus, spoke of the economic significance of the college and the new construction project to the city and region. “We’re ecstatic that this is coming to fruition.”

Lea Ann Scales, MWCC Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships, served as emcee. When the building opens in 2016, it will include state-of-the-art labs and other amenities to enhance the education of all MWCC students, she said.

The building is designed to meet LEED gold certification to tie in with the college’s existing sustainability initiatives. The project is being administered by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance. Shawmut Design & Construction serves as construction manager.

ubms student speakers Murdock

Rachel Dickens, Sean Sutton, Zach Mallette and Jocelyn Cormier of Murdock High School were the student speakers during the UBMS year-end celebration.

When 2015 high school graduate Rachel Dickens heads off to Northeastern University this fall, she’ll bring everything she needs for her dorm room, along with first-hand experience with college life, solid study skills and a free semester’s worth of academic credits that will transfer toward her bachelor’s degree.

The Murdock Middle/High School graduate has just completed her fourth year in Upward Bound Math and Science, a year-round federal TRIO program administered by Mount Wachusett Community College for Gardner, Athol and Winchendon students.

More than 50 high school students participated in the program’s six-week residential component, which took place this summer at Fitchburg State University and included academic courses, extracurricular activities, career exploration and field trips.

The students were recognized for their academic success during an inspring awards ceremony on Aug. 6. Dickens was joined by fellow Murdock graduate Jocelyn Cormier and rising Murdock seniors Sean Sutton and Zach Mallette as the event’s featured student speakers. This fall, Cormier plans to study video game design at Fitchburg State, while Sutton and Mallette plan to serve the country in the military after graduating from high school in 2016.

“UBMS is really an incredible opportunity. It prepares you for the future,” said Dickens, who earned 12 college credits through MWCC’s dual enrollment course offerings while in high school.

The UBMS program is offered to students who have an aptitude for math and science and are in grades 9 through 12 at Gardner High School, Athol High School and Murdock Middle/Senior High School in Winchendon. Two-thirds of the students are from low income or first-generation college families and have an identified need for services. The supervised residential component acquaints students with campus life while providing an opportunity to grow academically, socially and culturally, said Angele Goss, Director of MWCC’s UBMS and North Central Mass Talent Search programs.

This summer, rising juniors, seniors and recent high school graduates took college courses in statistics, English and communications, while freshmen and sophomores participated in pre-college courses in science, math and foreign language. All of the students attended workshops on leadership and careers, took part in a variety of recreational and educational programs, went on field trips to colleges, universities and museums, and participated in a family fun night.

“Mount Wachusett Community College has been helping people find access to higher education for over 50 years,” Lea Ann Scales, Vice President of External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnership, explained to the students and their families during the ceremony. “We appreciate your participation, we’re excited about your future, and we’re delighted you have had a great summer.”

ubms 4

UBMS and MWCC alumnus CJ Husselbee, third from left, who plans to join the Peace Corps after graduating this fall from UMass, Amherst, thanked Access & Division leaders for their support and encouragement over the years. Pictured with CJ, from left, prior student activities officer Ralph Hogan, Vice President Lea Ann Scales, student activities officer Kyle LaTulippe, UBMS Director Angele Goss and Patrice Lincoln, Dean, Access & Transition.

Winchendon resident Charles “CJ” Husselbee, a graduate of the UBMS program, an alumnus of MWCC and a soon-to-be graduate of UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, shared his experiences over the past six years with the program, beginning as a student participant and continuing through this summer as a senior staff member. After graduating from UMass this December, he plans to enter the Peace Corps. Husselbee thanked the leadership and staff of MWCC’s Division of Access & Transition for their support and encouragement over the years, and described the characteristics that set UBMS students apart from others: leadership, resilience, ability to be open-minded, independence and motivation.“Take every opportunity provided to you from this program and make the most of it,” he said.

MWCC’s North Central Massachusetts Upward Bound Math and Science program began in 2008 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2012, the college received a five-year, $1.3 million grant to continue funding the program. Now completing its eighth year at the college, UBMS prepares high school students for success in high school and college in the fields of math and science.

For more information about the UBMS program, click here.

Tom Berger MWCC Student Trustee

Tom Berger, right, a business administration major at Mount Wachusett Community College, is welcomed to the board by MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, center, and Trustee Amanda Landry during a swearing-in ceremony on Aug. 6.

Thomas Berger, a business administration major at Mount Wachusett Community College and a veteran of the U.S. Army, has been appointed student trustee on the college’s Board of Trustees for the upcoming academic year.

The Winchendon resident was elected by his peers to the one-year position during the spring semester and was sworn in on Aug. 6 during a brief ceremony at the college. As student trustee, he serves as a full voting member on the 11-member board.

“We welcome Tom to the Board of Trustees and look forward to his service, insight and dedication,” said board Chair Tina M. Sbrega.

“Tom is highly engaged on campus and in the community, and is a strong advocate for his fellow students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

Berger said he is looking forward to serving on the board and being a voice for all MWCC students.

“I thank my family, friends and the faculty and staff at Mount Wachusett for being there for me over the past year and a half of my college experience,” Berger said. “Their support has made a tremendous difference. I enrolled at the Mount to earn a college degree and have gained so much more.”

An active campus leader, Berger has served this past year on the Student Government Association and is a graduate of MWCC’s Leadership for Life program. He currently serves as vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, as a peer mentor with the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program, and as a member of the Veterans Group, a student club affiliated with the Student Veterans of America. As a first-generation college student, he is also a member of MWCC’s Visions Program, a TRIO student support services program.

This coming year, Berger will serve as vice president of the state-wide Student Advisory Council, an organization that represents all 29 public colleges and universities in Massachusetts.

He has participated in many charitable endeavors including the United Way Day of Caring, the Student Emergency Fund, Habitat for Humanity of North Central Massachusetts, and the SGA Thanksgiving food drive. Earlier this year, he launched a Laptops for Veterans fundraising initiative to purchase new computers for the college’s Veterans Success Center for use by student veterans.

After graduating in May 2016, he plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business management. Raised in a family with a history of military service, Berger served in the U.S. Army from 1991 to 1998 and was stationed for much of that time in South Korea and Germany.



Shelby, 7, examines cell structures as scientist Rosalind Franklin did in 1951, during the All American Girl Doll Time Machine class.

After over 20 years, the American Girl doll phenomenon is still going strong with young girls excited to learn about the background of different dolls and what it was like to live in a different era.

The All American Girl Doll Time Machine was one of many classes offered this summer to children of all ages through Mount Wachusett Community College’s Adventure Academy program. In this class, students received an 18-inch doll on the first day of class that is theirs to keep. Each day, they made different crafts for their doll, and explored a new historical era through the stories published by “American Girl.” Additionally, each class paired STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education with the daily history lesson.


Academic Adventure Academy students David, 11, and Peter, 10, test the composition of minerals by using different chemical elements in a forensic science class, CSI Duties of a Detective.

A visit from Mad Science of Western New England provided the group of young girls with interesting experiments correlating with lessons on female scientists, including Nobel-prize winning physicist and chemist Marie Currie, anthropologist and primatologist Jane Goodall, marine biologist Sylvia Earle and chemist and molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin.

Shelby Forhan, a first-time student at the All American Girl Doll Time Machine class, said she enjoyed the program, which she attended with her sister. “The most exciting part of the program was making a TV, clicker, dog, dog bed, and passport for my doll, who I named Riley after my sister,” she said.

“This is something great for the girls to enjoy,” said Academic Adventure teacher Ashley Chicoine. “I had an American Girl doll when I was younger, so I thought this would be perfect. The girls get to make different crafts for the dolls each day. At the end of each class they do approximately 15 minutes of independent reading on a book about one of the American Girl dolls so they can learn more about the American Girl and their background.”

Nearly 800 teenagers and children throughout the region have participated in MWCC’s annual  Adventure Academy, which offered more than 30 classes and sports programs including Mine Craft, Legos, Hogwarts School of Wizardry, Beginning Veterinary Medicine, drama classes, pottery, basketball, soccer, martial arts and tennis. A majority of the classes are taught by area elementary school teachers on summer break and incorporate lessons in STEM and STEAM education. The program also includes a full lunch and all supplies and materials.

This year, 10 scholarships were given to students through Day Camp Dreamin’ which serves nine North Quabbin towns.

“Through Academic Adventure, we really strive to get both genders into the STEM fields,” said Dawn Gilliatt of MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development.  “Not many summer programs offer history incorporated with STEM activities.”

-Katherine Best