MWCC STEM Building Ceremony

Participants in Mount Wachusett Community College’s Building Beyond Tomorrow ceremony marking the start of construction on its $41 million science building include, from left: State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik; Gardner Mayor and MWCC Trustee Mark Hawke; former MWCC Board of Trustees Chair Jim Garrison; Senator Stephen M. Brewer; MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino; State Rep. Stephen DiNatale; Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance Commissioner Carol Gladstone; Representatives from Architerra and Shawmut Construction; and MWCC student leaders.

With a nod to its future and that of its students, Mount Wachusett Community College celebrated the start of construction of its eco-friendly science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) addition during a “Building Beyond Tomorrow” ceremony on Earth Day, April 22.

“Today we celebrate not just the assembly of bricks and mortar, but we truly lay a foundation literally and figuratively for the future of our school, our students, alumni, and indeed the future of our greater community,” MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino said to the gathering of students, faculty, legislators, community leaders and college supporters.

The new building will replace existing laboratories nearly a half-century old and will enhance the learning environment for all students, particularly those seeking careers in the STEM fields, he said.

“Our STEM students include first-generation college students aspiring to be the first in their families to attain higher education.

Many of the students are participating in the college’s STEM Starter Academy, a program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Education, as well as the STEM SET Scholars program, funded through a grant by the National Science Foundation which awards up to $3,300 per year to participants.

“This building represents a tremendous investment by the Commonwealth in the future of our region’s students and graduates,” he said. “Today’s families and students are seeking ways to fund a college education in an era where student loan debt has ballooned and placed a tremendous financial burden on so many graduates.

“Increasingly, more students are recognizing the value of beginning their academic studies at MWCC before transferring for a bachelor’s degree and other advanced degrees in the profession of their choice.  By helping them during these foundation years, Mount Wachusett Community College plays a key role in meeting state and national goals of filling a shortage of graduates both at the state and national level to remain competitive globally.”

Carol Gladstone, Commissioner of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, noted that the project is one of many DCAMMM projects at MWCC in recent years, including the construction of two wind turbines in 2010, the Garrison Center for Early Childhood Education in 2006, the Senator Robert D. Wetmore Center for Innovation in 2004, and the biomass heating system in 2002.

During her first groundbreaking ceremony since being appointed earlier this year, Commissioner Gladstone said the project blends new, state-of-the-art construction with much-needed renovations that tie in with the college’s nationally recognized sustainability initiatives. “But what’s really most important is the purpose – the students – who are preparing to become nurses, dental hygienists, physical therapist assistants, scientists and other technology specialists to serve the Commonwealth.”

Long-serving State Senator Stephen M. Brewer, State Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, a member of MWCC’s Board of Trustees and an MWCC alumnus, were among the other featured speakers.

The new building is one of “so many wonderful things that have happened at Mount Wachusett Community College,” to benefit students, veterans and the region, said Senator Brewer, a key supporter of the new building during his tenure in office.

The $41 million project includes a 44,000 square-foot addition, 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.

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. Shawmut Design & Construction, also based in Boston, is overseeing the 18-month project as construction manager. Completion is anticipated in fall 2016.

Amenities in the new building will 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 hub and increased accessibility to the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center.

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.


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.

– Cameron Woodcock

Marion Stoddart

Renowned environmentalist Marion Stoddart, whose grassroots efforts led to the restoration of the Nashua River – once considered one of the country’s most polluted rivers – will share her experiences as a civic leader and pioneering activist during two presentations March 6 at Mount Wachusett Community College.

The events will include the viewing of the award-winning, 30-minute documentary, “Marion Stoddart: The Work of 1000,” which tells the inspirational story of the former suburban housewife who mobilized a community to save the polluted Nashua, proving that an “ordinary” person can accomplish the extraordinary. A presentation by Stoddart and a question and answer session will follow. The presentations will take place from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Café of MWCC’s Gardner campus, 444 Green Street, and from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the college’s Devens Campus, 27 Jackson Road. The events are free and open to the public and are sponsored by MWCC’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, the LaChance Library, the Green Society student sustainability club, and the office of student life.

In the early 1960s, Stoddart was a housewife and mother of three in Groton, Mass., who decided to take on the seemingly impossible – cleaning up the Nashua River. Flowing through north central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, the Nashua River was once one of the 10 most-polluted rivers in America. During her years of advocacy, Stoddart organized a massive citizen effort to rescue the river. She lobbied successfully for legislation, including the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act. Continuing that record of success, she petitioned the federal government for millions of dollars of promised funds to fight the pollution – and won. Her dramatic success in mobilizing the community showed people that change was possible.

Thanks to the efforts of Stoddart and the Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA), the non-profit she founded in 1969, the river has been restored to become a vital natural resource for wildlife and people. The river is now an internationally recognized environmental success story and a locally celebrated natural resource.

Stoddart, a citizen leader committed to a lifetime of grassroots organizing and coalition building, is the recipient of many awards for her work as a pioneer in environmental activism, including the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Global 500 Award. The NRWA is recognized nationally as a model for natural resource protection and for its community-based environmental education programs serving thousands each year. Stoddart continues to empower and motivate by speaking to hundreds of professionals, students, and community organizations every year about the difference each of us can make.

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Samantha Stelmack, center, of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, with members of The Green Society and community during her recent visit to MWCC.

The Green Society student sustainability club hosted a presentation Nov. 26 on two invasive beetles in Massachusetts to raise awareness in the community.

Samantha Brady Stelmack, forest pest outreach and survey coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, provided an overview of the damage in the state and in the country being caused by the invasive Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash borer. The free lecture drew students, faculty and members of the greater community.

Both species have a devastating effect on the environment and the economy, Stelmack said. During the presentation, she explained ways to identify infestation and precautions that can be made. Since the Asian longhorned beetle was detected in Massachusetts in 2008, local, state and federal entities have been working together to fight the infestation that has had devastating effects in Worcester and has placed the entire Northeastern U.S. on high alert. Worcester’s Asian longhorned beetle infestation has required the removal of more than 30,000 trees and has spread into neighboring towns.

The emerald ash borer has destroyed millions of ash trees since it appeared in the U.S. a decade ago. It was detected in the Berkshires in August 2012.