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MWCC Student Kaila Lundgren shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, left, and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago at the Department of Higher Education’s first Go Higher! event of the academic year.

Kaila Lundgren, a Pre-Healthcare Academy student at Mount Wachusett Community College, shared the stage with Massachusetts Secretary of Education Jim Peyser and Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago during the state’s first Go Higher! event, held Sept. 24 at Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School.

Lundgren, a 2015 graduate of Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School, told an assembly of 350 seniors that she was inspired to become a registered nurse to help her 7-year-old brother, who lives courageously with a rare, chronic kidney stone disease called cystinuria, and by her mother, who became an RN after studying at one of Massachusetts’ community college while raising a family of five children.

One of six student speakers, Lundgren said she chose MWCC because of its fast-track option into the college’s nursing program through its Pre-Healthcare Academy. Following a year of earning good grades in co-requisite courses, including anatomy & physiology, psychology and statistics, she and other academy students are immediately accepted into the healthcare program of their choice at MWCC. In less than three years, she will be graduating with her nursing degree and practicing in a field she loves, she said.

Lundgren, who also coaches field hockey at Mahar, advised the students to pursue their dreams.

“Follow your heart.”

Go Higher!, previously known as Go Public! gives Massachusetts high school students a chance to discover the programs and opportunities available at the state’s 29 public college and university campuses. The event at Monty Tech launched a series of statewide events that will take place at various high schools throughout the academic year to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Secretary Peyser encouraged the high school audience to take a close look at the Commonwealth’s 29 public community colleges and universities for the abundance of program options that cost a fraction of private institutions.

“Massachusetts public higher education has a program and a course of study for you. Like all things in life, you get out what you put in,” he said.

Commissioner Santiago noted that two-thirds of all college students in Massachusetts are enrolled in the state’s public institutions. “College will transform you,” he said.

Monty Tech Superintendent Sheila Harrity and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education hosted the event, which was also attended by State Rep. Stephen DiNatale.

In addition to Lundgren, students representing UMass Lowell, Fitchburg State University, Worcester State University, Quinsigamond Community College and Massachusetts Maritime Academy also spoke about their college experiences.



Meg Hutchinson

Singer, songwriter and advocate Meg Hutchinson will present the keynote address during the third annual Mental Health Awareness Conference.

Each year, approximately one in five Americans suffer from some mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. To continue to raise awareness about mental health and wellness, Mount Wachusett Community College, Heywood Hospital and the SHINE Initiative are presenting the third annual Mental Health Awareness Conference.

The free conference will take place Thursday, Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Leominster. Boston-based singer-songwriter, poet and mental health advocate Meg Hutchinson is the featured speaker. The conference will also include a panel presentation and luncheon. Following the presentations, 150 MWCC nursing students will participate in the QPR (question, persuade, refer) suicide prevention training. Seating is limited, and reservations are required.

“This conference provides yet another opportunity to share relevant and fact-based information about mental wellness with the community,” said Paul Richard, executive director of the SHINE Initiative, whose mission is to recognize mental illness in children and young adults as a mainstream health issue.

“For far too long, mental health has been viewed as a topic too delicate and too uncomfortable to speak openly about,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “It is imperative, on a local and national level, that open dialogue take place in our communities, in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our homes, because this is an issue that has everything to do with learning, employment productivity, and the quality and enjoyment of life. We are honored to again join the SHINE Initiative and Heywood Hospital in presenting this important conference,” he said.

“Heywood Hospital is proud to partner with MWCC and The Shine Initiative to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with mental health,” said hospital President Winfield S. Brown. “One of Heywood’s top priorities is to increase local capacity to provide support services for those who suffer from mental illness or addiction, and continue to carry the message that suicide is preventable.”

Hutchinson, a frequent keynote speaker at universities, conferences and teaching hospitals around the country, grew up and attended schools in the Berkshires and now lives in the greater Boston area. She recently finished filming Pack Up Your Sorrows, a feature-length documentary that explores topics near to her heart: creativity, healing, mindfulness in education, mental health advocacy, and wellness, and how these elements converge in making the world a better place. The film is told through the lens of Hutchinson’s personal story and includes interviews with leading psychologists, neuroscientists, authors, historians and spiritual teachers.

Panelists include Robert C. Bureau, associate director and faculty member at Assumption College’s Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Program; Dr. Phoebe Moore, assistant professor in the Psychiatric Department at UMass Medical Center in Worcester and a clinical child and adolescent psychologist who specializes in youth anxiety disorders; and Dr. Anne Procyk, a naturopathic physician practicing nutritional and integrative medicine to treat mental health disorders at Third Stone Integrative Health Center in Essex, CT.

For more information and to register for the conference, contact MWCC’s Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development at 978-630-9525 or online at

More than 100 students at the Mount packaged 21,078 bags of macaroni and soybeans with a tomato basil sauce for local food banks on Thursday.

More than 100 students at the Mount packaged 21,078 bags of macaroni and soybeans with a tomato basil sauce for local food banks on Thursday.

GARDNER – Packaging macaroni during the 20th annual United Way Day of Caring, Jennifer Gariepy had flashbacks to her youth.

“I actually grew up on some of these,” said Ms. Gariepy, a student at Mount Wachusett Community College. “I remember eating them … recently I was down at a low point and had to go back on them, actually.”

More than 100 students volunteered their time packing 21,078 bags of macaroni and soybeans with a tomato basil sauce for local food banks on Thursday. The event is one of the Mount’s largest community service endeavors every year.

“It’s part of the fabric of the college,” said MWCC President Daniel Asquino.

Students, who typically volunteer to work an hour shift, say the event helps them appreciate what they have and boosts their self confidence.

“It feels great knowing this is going to go to people who need it,” said second-year student Jason Alvarado Gomez.

To Ms. Gariepy, it feels better than great.

“It’s so different to be on the other side of the table,” she said. “It’s so nice to help someone who has been where I have been.”

When she had to go back to a food bank as an adult to support her two children, she remembered feeling disbelief.

“I thought, ‘oh my god, I can’t believe I have to go to a food pantry’,” Ms. Gariepy said. “I came to think of it as kind of a gift from God. When you’re down and out, it’s okay to accept it.”

This was Ms. Gariepy’s first time volunteering at an event like the Day of Caring. She had heard about it from a friend and seen posters advertising it around the school.
As soon as she had the information, she knew it was something she wanted to do.

During her shift, she was all smiles as she counted out the bags of macaroni, packaged them in shipping boxes, and taped them up. It was, she said, “fairly easy work,” but she knew how much it would mean to someone.

This is the Mount’s third year participating in the Day of Caring. During their shift, the students packed the one millionth bag of food over the United Way of Northern Worcester County’s 20 years.

“Thank you for packing these thousands of meals,” said United Way President Phil Grzewinski. “By what you are doing here today, you are allowing greater food security.”

advanced manufacturingMount Wachusett Community College will celebrate the third annual National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2 with a free event featuring demonstrations, guest speakers and tours of the college’s Manufacturing Workforce Certification Center and Devens campus.

Manufacturing Day was established in 2012 to help change public perception of manufacturing and underscore the shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts and in the country. MWCC’s celebration provides an opportunity for the public to learn about Massachusetts manufacturing initiatives involving the college’s business partners, as well as view and participate in demonstrations showcasing current and upcoming programs.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. with registration and a light breakfast, followed by welcoming remarks from MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino and a presentation of manufacturing partnerships awards by Jacqueline Belrose, MWCC Vice President of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development, and Dennis Bunnell, chair of the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Board.

Featured speakers include Thatcher Kezer, MassDevelopment’s senior vice president of Devens, and State Representative Susannah Whipps-Lee. Demonstrations from 10:30 to noon will include CAD design & 3-D printing, mechatronics, a manufacturing aptitude challenge, biotechnology and quality. Information about MWCC’s manufacturing training programs and admissions will also be available.

Serving as a networking and informational event, the expo brings together industry representatives and job seekers. Attendees can tour the manufacturing and skills-training labs and participate in hands-on exercises and individual information sessions. The event is being sponsored, in part, through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT III) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We are proud to once again sponsor an event in recognition of National Manufacturing Day to raise awareness about the job opportunities available in North Central Massachusetts and the industry partnerships that actively work to close the gap between trained workers and employer needs,” said President Daniel M. Asquino.

MWCC offers a variety of credit and noncredit STEM programs at its Devens campus, including the Advanced Manufacturing Industry Readiness Training program, Quality Systems Training, the Analytical Laboratory & Quality Systems and Mechatronics certificate programs, and associate degree and academic certificate programs in biotechnology/biomanufacturing.

To register, call the Devens campus at 978-630-9569 or email


Patriot Riders flag ceremonyStudents and employees at Mount Wachusett Community College paused in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks, then joined in a card-writing project to thank men and women in the region who serve as first-responders and in the military.

The Patriot Riders returned again this year to lead flag ceremonies at the Gardner and Devens campuses, which were followed by a reading by Bob Mayer, MWCC Director of Veteran Services. Carrie Progen, a 1995 alumna from Ashburnham who worked at the World Trade Center, was among those remembered.

Student Government Association President Carrie DeCosta, who lost a friend in the attack on the World Trade Center, distributed patriotic ribbons to those who signed thank you cards to who serve others. Cards will be available for signing at the Gardner campus through Sept. 18 before they are distributed to active military personnel, veterans and first responders in the region.

President Asquino signs a thank you card to first reponders and service members, an initiative organized by SGA President Carrie DeCosta.

“We want our service men and women, our veterans and our first responders to know they’re appreciated, and they’re appreciated every day, not only on days of tragedy,” DeCosta said.The events were coordinated by the college’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, and the Student Leaders in Civic Engagement (SLICE) program, a new initiative of MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.


President Asquino photoThe start of a new academic year is always an exciting time at MWCC, and this year is no exception.

Over the summer, we broke ground on our new science, technology, engineering and math building and began much-needed renovations to the Gardner campus. The end result – modern facilities that will benefit all students, a renovated theatre, enhanced accessibility, and new office and meeting space – will make the temporary inconveniences during construction wholly worthwhile.

When completed in 2016, the new STEM building will include new laboratories, specialized space, and general classrooms, the replacement of the existing greenhouse and critical upgrades and accessibility improvements to the Haley building.

As the year unfolds, we’ll also witness more than physical changes to our college. Several new academic programs, new student support services, new faculty and staff, new transfer agreements, and new civic engagement initiatives will enhance our existing resources to help students build up their academic and career skills in preparation for the workforce or a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, MWCC continues its outreach into the community, through our students and alumni, as well as our many partnerships with K-12 school districts, business and industry, nonprofit organizations and individuals.

This month, the MWCC Humanities Project begins its second year with “Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” an in-depth look at Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, and its relevance in today’s world. Throughout the year, free events will take place at the college’s Gardner campus and in the community at public libraries and other venues. The MWCC Humanities Project is funded through a matching $500,000 grant the college received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality humanities programming and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

Among the many other highlights this fall, we are once again collaborating with business and industry to celebrate national Manufacturing Day on Oct. 2 at our Devens campus; and we will again join the SHINE Initiative and Heywood Hospital to present a free, Mental Health Awareness Conference on October 8.

I encourage members of our college community and the greater to take part in these thought-provoking events and discussions. In the words of 21st century philosopher Patricia Churchland, “Being engaged in some way for the good of the community, whatever that community, is a factor in a meaningful life. We long to belong, and belonging and caring anchors our sense of place in the universe.”

Together, we build a better future for all.

Jackie Shakar, chair of MWCC's Physical Therapist Assistant program, recently returned from a teaching opportunity in Italy.

Professor Jackie Shakar, chair of MWCC’s Physical Therapist Assistant program, recently returned from a teaching opportunity in Italy.

MWCC Physical Therapist Assistant students began classes this semester with an international instructor.

Professor Jackie Shakar, chair of MWCC’s PTA program, spent a portion of her summer break teaching the Graston Technique to colleagues in Italy. She has been a Graston Technique instructor for over 10 years, typically teaching one seminar a month throughout the U.S. This was the first time she had the opportunity to teach in another country.

“I had a great time teaching in Italy and it was an excellent learning experience, as it was the first time that I had to use an interpreter,” she said.

The Graston Technique is an instrument-assisted system of soft tissue mobilization typically used by physical therapists and their assistants, athletic trainers, occupational therapists and their assistants and chiropractors.

As a physical therapist, Shakar uses GT extensively with her patients. In her classes at MWCC, she teaches a unit on soft tissue mobilization and introduces students to the Graston Technique.

A physical therapist since 1983, Shakar has taught at the college level since 1988, including the past 20 years at MWCC. She earned a master’s degree in physical therapy from Boston University in 1983 and later returned to Mass General Institute of Health Professions to receive her transitional doctoral degree.

In addition to teaching, she maintains a part-time clinical practice primarily in neuromusculoskeltal physical therapy. She currently see patients at Central Mass Physical Therapy and Wellness in West Boylston.


UWYV - North Middlesex Regional High School

The Bright Lights Project, comprised of North Middlesex Regional High School team members Marina Sheid, Jordan Keating, Nu Nu Laphai, Kaitlyn Istnick, Margaret Ritchie ,Liz Palmer and Ben Dauphinais-Szabady works to donate and install environmentally friendly LED lights in businesses and private homes around North Central Massachusetts.

This fall, United Way Youth Venture of North Central Massachusetts returns to schools throughout the region to continue the great work being done by middle and high school students.

Now starting its 13th year, the program works with students to help them transform their passions into independent community service projects. Through their participation in the UWYV program, students have been able to implement instrumental change  throughout North Central Massachusetts on a variety of issues including supporting foster youth in need, raising awareness about autism, and educating the youth on building positive relationships with local police departments.

United Way Youth Venture got its start in 2002 when the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Mount Wachusett Community College, and Ashoka’s Youth Venture partnered to found the program to help schools integrate youth-based social ventures into their curriculum, afterschool activities and special events.

“It is inspiring to see young people identify solutions to challenges they see in our region, then build a plan to address these challenges in innovative and creative ways,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This program has grown exponentially over the years and serves as a model that demonstrates the power of today’s youth to initiate change that benefits citizens now and in the future.”

“United Way Youth Venture is very much on the cutting edge because it is tapping into the entrepreneurial power of young people who want to address important community issues,” said Phil Grzewinski, President of the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

During the 2014-2015 year, United Way Youth Venture strengthened its position in the community through the support of its school partners by engaging more than 4,000 youth across North Central Massachusetts. Through seed funding investments, 41 new Venture Teams were successfully started on their journey to making an impact in the local community. UWYV is run through Mount Wachusett Community College and as such creates a pipeline to higher education.

“We’ve enjoyed the opportunities this past year to collaborate closely with our school partners,” said Lauren Mountain, Associate Director of UWYV. “The outcomes of these relationships are evident through the significant increase of students interested in forming Ventures, and also in the frequency of curriculum integration, which leverages UWYV skill development workshops to bring classroom learning to life.”

Last year, the UWYV program was especially impactful at its home institution, Mount Wachusett Community College, with the launch of four new Venture Teams through the MWCC Changemakers Program, which helps MWCC students in supporting the strategic goals of the college. These engaged students, who created projects to support MWCC incoming students, local veterans and adjunct faculty, have taken great strides to enhance the college experience for both students and staff.

The UWYV program is currently offered to students at the following partner schools: Ayer Shirley Middle and High School, Murdock Middle/High School, Leominster High School & CTEi, Sky View Middle School, Samoset Middle School, Fitchburg High School, North Middlesex Regional High School, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School, Sizer School, Parker Charter, and MWCC.

“United Way Youth Venture gives the power to those who wouldn’t necessarily have a say in what’s happening and gives them the chance to make an impact,” said participant Helen Muma, now a freshman at Leominster High School.

To learn more about what is happening with United Way Youth Venture or become involved in the program, visit or email the staff at



Frankenstein image - JPG

An image of Frankenstein’s creature created by Mount Wachusett Community College Graphic and Interactive Design alumnus Dylan Safford.

This month, the Mount Wachusett Community College Humanities Project begins its second year with “Myths, Monsters, and Modern Science: Frankenstein’s Legacy,” an in-depth look at Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, and its relevance in today’s world.Throughout the year, free events will take place at the college’s Gardner campus and in the community at public libraries and other venues. The MWCC Humanities Project is funded through a matching $500,000 grant the college received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to deepen and sustain quality humanities programming and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

Like many great works of science fiction, Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, explores what it means to be human in a rapidly changing world. Published nearly 200 years ago when the author was just 20 years old, the novel tells the tale about young science student Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in a scientific experiment.

The impact of Shelley’s novel has prevailed into the modern era, spawning countless interpretations, retellings, and inspirations, yet it bears little resemblance to the Hollywood adaptions that have dominated popular culture for decades, said Professor Michelle Valois, the coordinator of the Humanities Project.

“If, when you think Frankenstein, you think only of a grotesquely disfigured giant of a man who grunts and groans, then you only know half the story,” Valois said. “Though a work of the imagination, Mary Shelley’s novel offers an approach to these philosophical and ethical questions: Can science go too far? What does it mean to play God? How do we tolerate difference? Who are the real monsters?”

Fall events begin with a book discussion on Shelley’s Frankenstein, led by MWCC English Professors Michelle Valois, Susan Blake and Lorie Donahue, on Wednesday, Sept. 24 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the college’s LaChance Library.

A panel presentation, “Frankenscience? The Myths and Realities of Contemporary Science,” will take place Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Levi Heywood Memorial Library in Gardner. Panelists include Lara Dowland, chair of MWCC’s biotechnology/biomanufacturing program, and MWCC biology professors Thomas Montagno, Carrie Arnold and Heather Conn.

On Oct. 20, Fitchburg State University film and English Professor Joseph Moser will present “Monsters on the Big Screen.” The lecture will take place from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in MWCC’s North Café.

Members of the college community will participate in A Halloween Hike for the Humanities, a fundraiser for the matching NEH grant, on Saturday, Oct. 31 at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton.

Events continue on November 5 with a screening of Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in MWCC’s North Cafe; a lecture “Mary Shelley: The Woman Behind the Monster,” with Tufts University Professor Sonia Hofkosh on Nov. 12 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., in the Leominster Public Library; and a brown bag lunch discussion,What Makes a Monster?” on Nov. 18 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at MWCC’s Gardner campus, room 345.

Spring semester events include “Historical Perspectives on Frankenstein” with Mount Holyoke Professor Robert Schwartz at MWCC’s Gardner campus; a presentation at the Fitchburg Art Museum by Elizabeth Young, author of Black Frankenstein: the Making of an American Metaphor; a Monster Movie Marathon at the Leominster Public Library featuring James Whales 1931 classic Frankenstein and Kenneth Branagh’s  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; a lecture, “Girls and Their Ghost Stories: Feminism, Philosophy and Frankenstein,” at the Athol Public Library; and a film screening of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.

All events are free and open to the public. Registration is not required. For more information visit



CJ Husselbee

2014 graduate CJ Husselbee, who began his studies as a high school student, is featured in the DHE’s video on dual enrollment.

As nearly 300,000 students return to Massachusetts’ community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses this week, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) awarded competitive grants to increase access to college by students across the Commonwealth.

Twenty-five campuses, including Mount Wachusett, were awarded grants through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP). The program expands the state’s dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and earn credit for free or at a reduced cost. CDEP funding increased from $750,000 in FY15 to $1 million in FY16. MWCC was awarded a $50,000 grant.

The DHE has set a goal of increasing dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 students and is using a new dual enrollment video, outreach to high schools, and social media to promote opportunities on campuses. MWCC alumnus Charles “CJ” Husselbee, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in accounting this semester at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, is among the featured students in the video.

“Increasing collaboration between high schools and higher education is important to making a college education more affordable and creating more opportunities for students across the Commonwealth to succeed in college and their careers,”  Governor Charlie Baker said when announcing the grants. “These awards also present opportunities for college campuses and their regional partners to focus creatively on boosting college completion rates and advancing more students from diverse and underserved populations.”