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MWCC student Louis Ayisi, seen here with Governor Deval Patrick, represented his school at the Department of Higher Education's "Go Public!" event in Worcester

MWCC student Louis Ayisi, pictured with Governor Deval Patrick, represented his school at the Department of Higher Education’s “Go Public!” event in Worcester.

Mount Wachusett Community College pre-engineering and honors student Louis Ayisi delivered one of six student speeches to a large assembly at Wednesday’s Massachusetts Department of Higher Education “Go Public!” event at Worcester’s North High School. With Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary of Education Matthew Malone on hand, Ayisi helped showcase MWCC to 350 high school seniors from Worcester South, Worcester North and Burncoat High Schools.

“Go Public!” brings together impending graduates at high schools throughout the state, promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs and the merits of an education at one of the Commonwealth’s 29 public campuses.

Ayisi, who emigrated from Ghana to the United States seven months ago, has found his niche at MWCC and in North Central Massachusetts. Two semesters into his college education, he has maintained a 4.0 GPA while also volunteering as a math tutor at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.

“Your past is an experience, and today is an experiment. So use your past in your experiment to achieve your expectation,” he said, while detailing his personal, academic and community-engagement experiences over the last seven months.

Following his speech, Ayisi joined MWCC admissions representatives at the subsequent college fair, which also featured demonstrations of STEM-related subjects. Additional student speakers represented UMass Medical School, UMass Lowell, Quinsigamond Community College, Fitchburg State University and Worcester State University.

The event was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and GEAR UP, a federally funded program providing early-college awareness activities to more than 7,000 students in seven high-poverty districts.

Administrators from Nepal's Far-Western University selected MWCC as one of a handful of stops on a multi-college US tour.

Administrators from Nepal’s Far-Western University selected MWCC as one of a handful of stops on a multi-college US tour.

Mount Wachusett Community College welcomed a delegation of six Nepalese educators seeking exposure to the best practices in higher-education administration on a multi-college US tour. Far-Western University in Nepal was established in 2010, and top administrators selected MWCC due in large part to its commitment to sustainability, as well as its applicable educational models and comparable rural setting.

MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino and vice presidents from several campus departments highlighted such topics as modern curriculum building, student services, grading systems and foreign-exchange programs. Following the meeting in MWCC’s Murphy Room, administrators from Far-Western University toured the campus and specifically the biomass facility, which converts woodchips into heating and electricity.

“We had a very fruitful discussion with our colleagues from Far-Western University in Nepal today,” said President Asquino, who was presented with a Dhaka topi, a popular Nepalese hat.  “We shared thoughts on curriculum teaching and learning. Our students, faculty and staff were able to exchange ideas that will inform the future of both of our institutions.”

Representing Far-Western University were Dr. Narad Awasthi, dean of Faculty of Education; Dr. Bhawani Chand, dean of Faculty of Science and Technology; Bharati Joshi, dean of Faculty of Management; Registrar and Professor Hem Raj Pant; Dr. Tek Raj Pant, dean of Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; and Controller of Examinations Kumar Thapa.

During their tour, administrators received a thorough overview of MWCC’s wind turbines, biomass-heating system and solar-energy systems, all of which will help to inform future sustainability practices at the Nepalese university.

Far-Western University hopes to increase its own conservation efforts in an area where deforestation has become commonplace, said Registrar Raj Pant. Raj Pant also said that the Far-Western campus receives a great deal of wind, and university officials aim to harness this resource and create a similar energy output to that of MWCC.

Based on their guests’ additional interests, MWCC leaders explained specific campus departments and services, including Online Learning and the corresponding Massachusetts Colleges Online, Disability Services, Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development and the Visions and Rx Programs.

The International Center of Worcester and Executive Director Royce Anderson coordinated the Massachusetts portion of the trip, which will also include stops at Worcester State and Clark Universities.

The Second Worcester District's two state representative candidates debated at MWCC in advance of the Nov. 4 general election. Pictured, from left, Steve Wendell of WGAW AM 1340, incumbent Jonathan Zlotnik and challenger Garret Shetrawski.

The Second Worcester District’s two state representative candidates debated at MWCC in advance of the Nov. 4 general election. Pictured, from left, Steve Wendell of WGAW AM 1340, incumbent Jonathan Zlotnik and challenger Garret Shetrawski.

The two state representative candidates in the Second Worcester District debated several issues at MWCC’s Gardner campus on Oct. 15, less than three weeks before Massachusetts’ Nov. 4 general election.

Incumbent State Representative Jonathan Zlotnik, D-Gardner, and challenger Garret Shetrawski, R-Winchendon, articulated their views on gun control, medical marijuana, a potential natural gas pipeline and expansion of the Massachusetts Bottle Bill, government-mandated paid sick leave and casinos.

Steve Wendell of WGAW AM 1340 moderated the 90-minute debate, which was sponsored by the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce, MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement and The Gardner News.

The Second Worcester District is comprised of Gardner, Ashburnham, Winchendon and Precinct 1 in Westminster.

bionostics equipmentMassachusetts’ 15 community colleges have been awarded a $20 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to further state-wide initiatives addressing training and educational needs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as advanced manufacturing and healthcare.

Led by Massasoit Community College, the Guided Pathways to Success in STEM (GPSTEM) project will use the national Complete College America Guided Pathways to Success model to assist eligible students in obtaining degrees and certificates in STEM fields. The model focuses on reducing the time to complete certificates and degree programs, thus increasing the number of students entering the state’s workforce and transferring to four-year schools.

During the three-year grant period, the consortium will create or enhance a total of 24 STEM degree options and 58 certificate programs, through partnerships with business and industry, the Commonwealth’s workforce system, state universities and UMass. These collaborative pipelines will help students seamlessly transfer into baccalaureate programs and meet industry demand in specific STEM fields.

Mount Wachusett will receive $525,000 to create and enhance certificate programs in career readiness, hospitality, cyber security, information technology and other areas. MWCC is also currently overseeing a $15.9 million TAACCCT grant awarded last fall to the college and partnering institutions in Tennessee, Ohio and Louisiana to further training opportunities in advanced manufacturing.

The project will also build on the Career & College Navigator model, designed and implemented by the Massachusetts community colleges for the first round of TAACCCT funding in 2011.

“Creating key pipeline collaborations in the STEM fields in conjunction with the state universities and UMass will serve as a new model for creating comprehensive higher education and industry partnerships in the Commonwealth,” said Bill Hart, Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office.

The TAACCCT awards totaled $450 million to nearly 270 community colleges partnering with more than 400 employers nationally. The announcement made Oct. 3 by Vice President Joe Biden, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

(Photo courtesy of Mapping Thoreau Country)

(Photo courtesy of Mapping Thoreau Country).

In a show of college-wide support for the MWCC Humanities Project, faculty, staff and students will walk in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau to the summit of Wachusett Mountain, a spot the noted author and philosopher once labeled “the observatory of the state.”

Participants in the first “Hike for the Humanities” fundraiser on Saturday Oct. 18 collectively aim to raise $6,000 for the Humanities Project and corresponding $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant. Hikers will each raise a minimum of $200 toward the $6,000-goal, with the NEH matching all funds by 50 percent.

Participants will walk either the rigorous, five-mile route taken by Thoreau or a more moderate two-mile path.

Through this grant, MWCC has implemented an ongoing humanities initiative, both on campus and in the community, beginning with this year’s theme, “East Meets West in a Cabin in the Woods: Walden and Beyond.” Thoreau was selected as the initial focus of the Humanities Project due in part to his affinity for Wachusett Mountain, which he developed through a noteworthy 1842 expedition. Thoreau and his companion, Richard Fuller, walked 34 miles from Concord to the mountain’s summit, moving him to pen the essay “A Walk to Wachusett.”

Participating hikers include President Daniel Asquino, Susan Blake, Greg Clement, Lorie Donahue, Susan Goldstein, Festus Kiprono, Heather Layton, Caela Kathy Panagiotes, Provost, Kara Roche, LeaAnn Scales, Madhu Sharma, Brenda Shelling-Biggs, Michelle Valois, David Wyman and Carla Zottoli.

To make a donation, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/mwcchike, click “donate to a fundraiser” and select a team participant.

Mount Wachusett Community College art student Amber Martinez created this Thoreau-inspired environmental sculpture as part of the college’s ongoing humanities project.

Mount Wachusett Community College art student Amber Martinez created this Thoreau-inspired environmental sculpture as part of the college’s ongoing humanities project.

While Mount Wachusett Community College professors find innovative ways for their students to examine Thoreau, the author’s lasting influence has also extended into the community.

On Wednesday night, the college held the second event in its ongoing series, “East Meets West in a Cabin in the Woods: Walden and Beyond,” the first year-theme of the MWCC Humanities Project. Approximately 45 people gathered at Levi Heywood Memorial Library for UMass Lowell Associate Professor Susan Gallagher’s presentation on the historic connection between Thoreau and climate-change research.

Thoreau observed the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord between 1851 and 1858, and his observations on nature allow scientists to monitor climate change over the last 150 years, she said.

Inspired by Thoreau and his deep appreciation for nature, students in Art Professor Tom Matsuda’s Sculpture 1 course are manipulating sticks, leaves and other natural materials to create temporary environmental sculptures throughout campus. Student sculptures are also reminiscent of those created by Andy Goldsworthy, the renowned British artist who works almost exclusively with natural materials.

“I like sculptures made from nature, and the college’s emphasis on Thoreau inspired me to develop this project,” said Matsuda. “For students, it opens up a different way of thinking about art and an appreciation for what’s around us and encourages creative problem solving. The response from faculty, staff, students and the community has been great.”

Amber Martinez, an art major from Winchendon, arranged leaves into a spiral shape on a rock. The way Thoreau and Goldsworthy connected with nature motivated her to forage for natural materials to create a sculpture, she said. “It was a wonderful experience to get out of the convention of traditional art.”

Fitchburg resident and art major Garrett Watson created the only indoor sculpture, a composition of twigs that is displayed in a skylight of the college’s art wing. “Working with raw materials, such as saplings, is different than many of the other things we’ve done,” he said. Just as Thoreau famously adopted a modest lifestyle while living at Walden Pond, Watson followed “a simple idea and design” to create his sculpture.

The MWCC Humanities Project will continue with five additional October events, beginning next week at the Gardner campus. A film screening of “Into the Wild” will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m. in room 127. A lecture titled “Thoreau’s Relevance for Our Time” will run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Cafeteria.

Further events include a fundraising hike at Wachusett Mountain on Saturday, Oct. 18; a book discussion of “Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild” on Tuesday, Oct. 28; and a performance by Thoreau re-enactor Richard Smith on Thursday, Oct. 30.

The MWCC Humanities Project was established through a 2013 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. “East Meets West in a Cabin in Concord: Walden and Beyond” will feature a full slate of free events spotlighting various works written or inspired by Thoreau, as well as a campus-wide, interdisciplinary initiative.

For more information and a full list of events, visit http://mwcc.edu/humanitiesproject.

Chris JasonFor one night, Theatre at the Mount will become “Sinatra at the Mount,” as Mount Wachusett Community College welcomes Chris Jason and the Sinatra Live Big Band on Friday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Jason is considered one of the premier Sinatra interpreters in New England and has been performing as the “Chairman of the Board” for the last 15 years. Along with his eight-member band, Jason plays tribute to Sinatra over 200 times per year, capturing the legendary singer’s cadence, swagger and elegance.

This benefit concert presented by the MWCC Foundation will provide continued scholarship support to deserving students.

General admission tickets are $40. VIP tickets are also available for $80, which includes reserved seating and a complimentary cocktail reception.

Tickets are available by email, phone or at the Theatre at the Mount Box Office Monday through Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Email cdefosse1@mwcc.mass.edu, or call 978-630-9387 or 978-630-9276.

Event sponsors include North Middlesex Savings Bank, Heat Trace Products LLC, Heywood Hospital, W.E. Aubuchon Co., Inc., Simonds International Corporation, GFA Credit Union and Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about Theatre at the Mount, visit mwcc.edu/tam. To learn more about Chris Jason and the Sinatra Live Big Band, visit chrisjasonentertainment.com.

 

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas speaks with Mount Wachusett Community College biotechnology students Dana Procell and Savannah Cooke during a tour of the college’s Devens campus Monday. The Congresswoman joined state and college officials to celebrate the start of Manufacturing Week.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas speaks with Mount Wachusett Community College biotechnology students Dana Procell and Savannah Cooke during a tour of the college’s Devens campus Monday. The Congresswoman joined state and college officials to celebrate the start of Manufacturing Week.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rachel Kaprielian, and dozens of regional business and community leaders gathered at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Devens campus on Monday, Sept. 29 to celebrate the start of Manufacturing Week.

The event marked the success to date of a $15.9 million multi-year Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant MWCC and three partnering schools in Ohio, Louisiana and Tennessee received last fall to develop and expand advanced manufacturing programs in partnership with industry.

Governor Deval Patrick proclaimed Sept. 29 through Oct. 3 as Advanced Manufacturing Week in Massachusetts, underscoring the administration’s support of the robust advanced manufacturing industry and its workforce throughout the Commonwealth. The week-long celebration coincides with national efforts to promote the role advanced manufacturing plays in the economy, with the third annual National Advanced Manufacturing Day being celebrated on October 3.

“It is both gratifying and timely to see North County manufacturing experiencing a renaissance,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “We are grateful for the Congressional assistance we received to be the lead institution with three other colleges to develop curriculum in conjunction with employers’ needs. We have seen 70-percent placement among our 82 graduates and are amazed at the opportunities in North Central Massachusetts for mid-level employees.”

As she visits companies throughout her district, Congresswoman Tsongas said she is “constantly struck by the level of innovation” she sees among industry and public partnerships. Mount Wachusett “is committed to educating the workforce, the young people and the not so young, is committed to being a partner with local businesses, and is mindful of the true manufacturing skillset needed,” she said.

“Manufacturing is thriving and growing in all parts of the state, not just in Boston,” Secretary Bialecki said. “Schools like Mount Wachusett are listening to businesses and understanding what it means to train people for 21st century advanced manufacturing careers.”

Secretary Kaprielian quipped that “every day should be manufacturing day” because of the industry’s enduring significance to the state’s economic development. “This is not your grandfather’s manufacturing, and it is not dirty, polluting or imported. It is knowledge-based with a career ladder,” she said. “Nowhere are you training people better than at the community college level. Mount Wachusett is an example for the rest of the state.”

President Asquino welcomes students and job seekers to the college’s Manufacturing Day expo, held Oct. 3 at the Devens campus.

President Asquino welcomes students and job seekers to the college’s Manufacturing Day expo, held Oct. 3 at the Devens campus.

The manufacturing week kick-off event included a tour of the college’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Center and biotechnology labs. Speakers also included State Senator Jamie Eldridge, State Rep. Stephen DiNatale and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke.

The event also coincided with Monday’s White House announcement that the Massachusetts Community Colleges Consortia will receive an additional $20 million grant under the final round of TAACCCT funding. The 15-member group, led by Massasoit Community College, received the grant to continue advancing state-wide initiatives addressing the training and educational needs in the STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – as well as advanced manufacturing and healthcare. The Consortium was awarded the highest-funded of 66 U.S. DOL grants.

At MWCC, the new round of funding will be used to create and enhance certificate programs in career readiness, hospitality, cyber security, information technology and other areas.

In recognition of National Manufacturing Day on Oct. 3, MWCC’s Devens campus hosted an Advanced Manufacturing Career Expo. Attendees toured the manufacturing and skills-training labs and participated in hands-on exercises and individual information sessions.

Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer with student veterans during this fall's orientation.

Director of Veterans Services Bob Mayer with student veterans during this fall’s orientation.

For the sixth consecutive year, Mount Wachusett Community College has been recognized as a top military-friendly school for creating a culture of positive energy and academic support for veterans, active military members and their dependents.

The 2015 Military Friendly Schools list, released by Victory Media, names the top 15 percent of American colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace military students and ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation. Now in its sixth year, the list serves as the primary resource for service members and military families seeking education and captures best practices among schools in supporting military students.

The list features 1,600 institutions and was compiled through research and a data-driven survey of more than 8,000 schools approved for Post-9/11 GI Bill funding. Qualifying campuses will be featured in the G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools, among other Victory Media publications.

“It is our responsibility to foster an environment in which student veterans can thrive, both in the classroom and on campus,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “This award is a testament to our student veterans who courageously serve our country and then make the decision to transition to college life. We also have a wonderful staff in the Center of Excellence for Veteran Affairs and a supportive group of faculty and students.”

“This title we’ve received is not in name only; we’ve earned that status,” said Veterans Services Director Robert Mayer.

A designated Yellow Ribbon School with a long history of supporting veterans, MWCC was cited for the wrap-around support provided through the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and the Veterans Group student club, an affiliate of the Student Veterans of America.

Established in 2010 the veterans success center now serves more than 350 students each year, addressing the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life.

“The college has an excellent support team for veterans, and Bob is very involved in helping us succeed,” said Tom Berger, a business administration major who served in the U.S. Army from 1990 to 1998. “I enjoy being part of this peer group of students and getting involved in the college and local community.”

In August 2013, MWCC became one of the first 250 higher-education institutions to implement President Obama’s “8 Keys to Success” initiative to help boost academic opportunities and improvement employment outcomes for veterans. The eight keys build on the administration’s work to provide veterans and military families with a high-quality, affordable education and highlight specific ways that colleges and universities can support veterans as they pursue their education and employment goals.

In MWCC’s sixth year of recognition as a military-friendly school and service through the Veterans’ Success Center, and second year of implementing the “8 Keys,” its staff is still poised to increase the breadth of services to veterans.

- Cameron Woodcock

Purity Apiri was one of 200 volunteers who packaged meals for those in need during MWCC’s United Way Day of Caring project on Sept. 18.

Purity Apiri was one of 200 volunteers who packaged meals for those in need during MWCC’s United Way Day of Caring project on Sept. 18.

Capitalizing on its students’ eagerness to participate in community-engagement activities and a successful first year, Mount Wachusett Community College hosted its second annual United Way Day of Caring at its Gardner campus on Thursday, Sept. 18.

Through the leadership of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, more than 200 volunteers packaged 20,736 meals for food pantries and veterans centers in North Central Massachusetts. An additional 200 meals are being made available to MWCC students struggling with food security through the college’s Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program.

“Civic engagement has been the cornerstone of our college for the last two decades, and it is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, whose educational philosophy and college curriculum have long stressed civic engagement. “As Americans, we have an obligation to give back, and we are thrilled that our students and faculty can confront the major issue of hunger by helping  individuals in North Central Massachusetts.”

MWCC became a Day of Caring host site for the first time in 2013, following years of participation in the program and appeals from students wishing to donate their time. This year, the center organized 75-minute volunteer shifts from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. to accommodate students’ class schedules and maximize the number of meals distributed throughout the community.

“This is a very important undertaking because we are supporting food pantries throughout North Central Massachusetts, most of which have low stocks,” said Fagan Forhan, Director of the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. “Volunteer turnout this year has surpassed our expectations, so we made the decision to up the ante from 16,000 meals to 20,000 meals.”

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.

Forhan credited the increased turnout to MWCC student and AmeriCorps VISTA John Day, who spearheaded the recruitment process. Among the many volunteers, MWCC student Jasson Alvarado Gomez arrived at 7 a.m. and unloaded an entire truck by himself.

“I get to school at 7 a.m. every day, so I was happy that I could help set up before the event started,” said Gomez, who, in his first year of volunteering, worked three shifts. “Helping people gives me so much energy, and I love doing it.”

MWCC participated along with numerous other organizations in North Central Massachusetts, recognizing the 19th Annual United Way Day of Caring.