Parent Support President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

Parent Support Group President and Student Michel Cocuzza and PSG member Angela Celley stand in front of tables of donations gathered in the North Café at Mount Wachusett Community College Monday.

The second annual Holiday Toy Drive organized by the Parent Support Group at Mount Wachusett Community College distributed presents to 52 families this week.

The toy drive was hosted by MWCC’s Parent Support Group that collected donations since Dec. 1 from faculty, staff, and students. According to PSG President and MWCC Student Michel Cocuzza, the donations came flying in and quickly filled two storage rooms. The gently used or new toys, books, games, and holiday decorations were then distributed on Dec. 19 and 20 to families within the MWCC community.

“I am so pleased to see students helping students, especially in the middle of finals and the holidays,” said MWCC President Dr. Daniel M. Asquino. “This is just one example of the generous spirit of support that students, faculty, and staff at Mount Wachusett Community College share every day.”

These donations can be a huge help during the holidays, according to Cocuzza, especially to student parents.

“Being a student parent is a difficult task. Most of us go to school full time and struggle financially,” Cocuzza said. “With the help of PSG and our advisor, we were able to assist 52 families.”

PSG Club Advisor Ann Reynolds said that it was the hard work of the PSG team that made the event possible.

“It would be remiss of me to not give a shout-out to Michel and all our dedicated PSG members for their hard work on making this event such a success,” Reynolds said. “We hope the Toy Drive will be a MWCC tradition.”

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

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

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

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

gardner-news-dan-asquino-legacy-sept-10-2016GARDNER It was quite a series of events that brought Mount Wa­chu­sett Community Col­­lege President Daniel M. Asquino to where he is now — 75 years old and retiring from a job he’s had for almost 30 years.

“Like everything else, it was kind of an accident,” he said.

He’ll wrap up his time at the Mount in January as the longest-tenured public higher education president in the state, serving since 1987.

But before all that stability, he was told by his high school guidance counselors he wasn’t “college material,” was a self-described “pretty rough kid,” and wanted to be a police officer but didn’t have good enough eyesight to pass the exam.

At the time that he was accepted into college to pursue his undergraduate degree, he was leaving the Navy after four years in 1965 and already had a family with two children, with a third child on the way.

Without much money and a broken-down old car, his family spent about a year living back home in New Bedford with his parents while he was attending college nearby.

After that, Asquino said, his family spent time living in subsidized housing and was on welfare and food stamps.

Ultimately, it was education that provided him a path forward from those growing pains of early adulthood.

A father of four and grandfather of nine, Asquino and his wife have a home in Bourne and also live in Cranston, Rhode Island, to take care of her elderly father. Asquino grew up in New Bedford with two brothers and a sister.

His father was a bricklayer and his mother a homemaker.

He said he had “great parents, but we were poor.”

He wasn’t always the best-behaved child, and he recalled that he would get into fights sometimes in high school while taking part in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program of the armed forces.

He credits partaking in a local Boys Club — before the organization name changed to Boys & Girls Club — as being a positive outlet for him, learning physical activities such as judo, weightlifting and boxing.

Never being one that was interested in school, Asquino worked in construction for a few years before joining the Navy in 1961.

He was stationed at various posts in the U.S. over his four years in service, including Chicago, Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia.

A main role of his was working as a court-martial reporter.

While in the Navy, he started taking college courses in general requirements such as English and mathematics.

Thanks to the GI Bill, he also had financial support for college thereafter.

“I didn’t think it was fun at the time, but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” Asquino said about his military service.

He would study political science, economics and philosophy during his time as an undergraduate at Southeastern Massachusetts University, now UMass Dartmouth.

After that, he attended graduate school at UMass Amherst and earned a doctorate degree in Public Administration and Political Science.

While he was working on his doctorate, he interned at the Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges, saying, “Really, the rest is history.”

In 1971, he officially began his career working at the board as an assistant to the president, and subsequently moved on to positions at Bristol Community College and Cape Cod Community College.

He applied at Cape Cod to become president as well as at Mount Wachusett Community College, before he was offered and accepted the position as Mount Wachusett president in 1987, replacing Arthur Haley who had been with the college since its inception in 1963.

“That was 30 years ago. I had no intention of staying this long. But time goes by,” he said.

His time at the Mount has seen substantial expansion, with an enrollment of over 12,000 and the establishment of satellite campuses in Leominster, Fitchburg and Devens.

Connecting students to local employers and community service opportunities has been a major point of emphasis throughout.

With only about four months to go, Asquino said “I have no plans” for what he’ll do during retirement and indeed, that would seem to be the point of calling it quits — having the space to relax after a long history of work.

“I stayed because I love it. There’s always something to do. They are great communities,” he said. “I’ve been lucky. I’ve been fortunate.”

Story & photo by Andrew Mansfield, The Gardner News, Sept 16, 2016

Mount Wachusett Community College is launching its new public forum, the Tea Time Speaker Series, with a panel presentation exploring obstacles men of color face in today’s society, workforce and education system.

The first forum of the series, a Men of Color panel presentation and Black History Month luncheon, will take place Monday, Feb. 29 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in the North Café of MWCC’s Gardner campus. Seating is limited and reservations are required.

Panelists include University of Massachusetts Medical School: Brian Lewis, Ph.D., associate dean for student diversity and associate professor in the Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology department at the University of Massachusetts Medical School; Jesse Edwards, director of diversity and equal opportunity at UMass Medical School; Train Wu, senior outreach specialist/career coach with MWCC’s Workforce Diversity Pipeline Program; and Eric Rodriguez, Lead Organizer at United Neighbors of Fitchburg.

The forum is sponsored by MWCC’s Diversity Consortium, Gateway to College program and the National Workforce Diversity Pipeline program, a new initiative between the college and the Fitchburg and Leominster public school districts funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health for students interested in healthcare careers.

To reserve a seat, contact Sharmese Gunn at 978-630-9493 or sgunn@mwcc.mass.edu.

The Tea Time Speakers Series will take place on the last Monday of the month throughout the spring semester.

President Asquino photoThe New Year began at Mount Wachusett Community College not with the customary noisemakers of bells and horns, but with drills, hammers and saws as construction continues on our Gardner campus.

The patience of our students, faculty, staff and visitors during the modernization of our 45-year-old facility is greatly appreciated. In the coming weeks and months, renovations to our Advising Center, Commons Area, Theatre at the Mount, and main entrance will be unveiled, followed later this year by the opening of our new science and technology building.

Less obvious than these outwards signs of growth and improvement, but equally impressive, is the transformation taking place inside the classroom walls. 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.

This spring semester provides opportunities to help students build up their résumés as well as increase understanding on national issues, including race, income inequality, and citizenship. Continuing programs through the office of Student Life include alternative spring break with Habitat for Humanity, the Leadership for Life workshop series, and events commemorating Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Upcoming events include a not-to-miss presentation in March by Harvard political scientist and best-selling author Robert D. Putnam. This presentation comes to the Mount through our involvement with the national “Citizenship Under Siege” program sponsored by the American Association of Colleges & Universities and The Democracy Commitment, and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

In February, the MWCC Humanities Project continues its second year of programming 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. Free events will take place on the Gardner campus and in the community at public libraries and other venues, funded through a grant from the NEH to deepen and sustain quality humanities programming and curriculum throughout North Central Massachusetts.

The Division of Access and Transition is launching a Tea Time Speaker Series that will kick off on February 29 with a Men of Color panel presentation exploring the journey and obstacles of men of color in society, with an emphasis on those working in the field of healthcare.

Theatre at the Mount will reopen with a slate of new productions, we’re hosting a job fair for students and the public in March, and sooner than we realize, the season will conclude with our most joyous event of all, Commencement, on May 18.