Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success

Mount Wachusett Community College, long recognized nationally for its comprehensive veteran services, has again been named to Military Times’ Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings.

MWCC was ranked seventh nationally among two-year colleges in the Military Times' Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings.

MWCC was ranked seventh nationally among two-year colleges in the Military Times’ Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings.

Released alongside Veterans Day, the independent news project evaluates organizations based on their support systems and campus cultures to provide a reference point for service members, military veterans and their families. In order be considered for the rankings, MWCC and other colleges meticulously documented these services through a survey with over 100 questions.

MWCC was ranked seventh nationally among two-year schools in a list that includes a total of 140 four-year, two-year, online and nontraditional schools. The list will be published in issues of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, Marine Corps Times and Military Times EDGE magazine, as well as online at MilitaryTimes.com, ArmyTimes.com, NavyTimes.com, AirForceTimes.com and MarineCorpsTimes.com.

“Given this award’s proximity to Veterans Day, we express our collective gratitude to veterans throughout this country, including those we are fortunate to call MWCC students,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “These students strengthen our campus community, and we are proud to provide the services that help them flourish.”

“This is a school whose faculty and staff are genuinely good people who sincerely care about our veteran population,” said Veterans Services Director Robert Mayer. “I can’t express how good it makes me feel to know that, wherever they go on campus, our veterans will be taken care of.”

MWCC launched the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success in 2010 to address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs of veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life. Student veterans are also active members of the campus community, participating in such clubs and organizations as the Veterans Group and Student Government Association.

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.

MWCC also maintains community partnerships with the Montachusett Veteran Outreach Center, the Northeast Veteran Training & Rehabilitation Center operated by Veteran Homestead, Inc., the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services’ SAVE program, and local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

The residential and educational partnership between MWCC and the NVTRC, run on a portion of campus property, served as the focus of a recent segment on WGBY in Springfield.

Daniel M. AsquinoAs we prepare to recognize the service of all the men and women who have served our country, I urge all of you to take the opportunity to reflect on the importance of Veterans Day and the contributions and sacrifices made by millions of Americans. About 350 veterans are currently attending Mount Wachusett Community College, and I am proud of their accomplishments both in service to their country and in our classrooms. I want to thank each of these students for their service.

The majority of these students served their country in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The history of our college has always been closely tied to our veterans. When members of our local Veterans of Foreign Wars post visit us each year to make a contribution to support student scholarships, past commander and MWCC alumnus Don Progen and others remark that when they returned home from Vietnam, they found Mount Wachusett Community College to be, “a haven.”

We strive to continue to be that haven for our veteran students. These students bring great leadership skills to our campus and ultimately to our workforce. They are a tremendous asset to our communities. I am proud that Mount Wachusett Community College has been named for the fifth consecutive year, as a “Top Military School” and is also a designated Yellow Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In addition, USA Today has named MWCC as one of its “Best Colleges for Vets” in 2014. Most recently, WGBY in Springfield filmed a segment spotlighting our residential and educational partnership with the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center, run on a portion of campus property by the Fitchburg-based nonprofit Veterans Homestead, Inc. To view this inspiring video, go to http://ow.ly/DOW4r.

If you would like to learn more about our Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, visit mwcc.edu/veteran. I extend my deepest gratitude to our staff in this center and across the campus who work with our student veterans as they pursue their academic goals.

The campus will be closed on Veterans Day as we honor our veterans.  Please take the time for reflection and recognition of our heroes.

MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success has become a vibrant hub on campus. The college has received national recognition from several organizations for its support for veterans and military personnel, including being named for the fifth consecutive year to the Military Friendly Schools list. Staff members and student veterans include front row: Andrew Brunell, David LeBlanc, Andy Kinglsey, Nick Guthmiller; back row, Nate Radke, Center Director Kristine Larkin, Jeff Young, Chris Miller, Adam Tenney, MWCC VA certifying official Sarah Savoie, Mitchell Landry and Nicholas Jamieson.

For the fifth 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 2014 Military Friendly Schools list, released by Victory Media, names the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace military students and ensure their success in the classroom and after graduation. Now in its fifth 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.

“We are proud and honored to be recognized for our ongoing commitment to the men and women who courageously serve our country, and to their families who also make a tremendous sacrifice,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “It is our privilege and duty to support these heroes within our communities as they pursue academic and career goals. Moreover, their presence and active participation on our campus enriches the entire college community.”

A designated Yellow Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs with a long history of supporting veterans, MWCC was cited for the wrap-around support provided through its Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success and vibrant Veterans Group student organization, which is Student Veterans of America chapter.

In 2010, MWCC was one of 15 colleges in the country selected to establish a model center through a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Though the three-year, $400,000 grant concludes this month, MWCC is fully incorporating the center’s services and programs into its array of comprehensive student support services. The veterans’ success center is now serving more than 300 students each year. Support services address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs to veterans, military personnel and military families transitioning to college life.

“I got here just as the center was starting up and got to see how it progressed over the years,” said Marine Corps veteran and business administration major Nick Guthmiller, who served in Iraq. “This veterans center has really helped me out. The first semester I was here I really struggled with the transition of going from one world to a completely different world. Being around other veterans who are going through the same thing really helped ease the transition.”

Ruth Robertson, who serves in the Army Reserves, enrolled at MWCC this fall and is pursuing a career in health care. The support she found at the center and among her peers has already made a tremendous difference in her transition to college, she said. “I feel comfortable here.”

In August, MWCC was recognized as one of 250 colleges and universities taking part in President Obama’s new “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.

 

Kristine Larkin

Kristine Larkin, assistant project director of MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, recently received an Unsung Hero Award from Veteran Homestead, Inc., a Fitchburg-based nonprofit organization that built and operates the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center, located on MWCC’s Gardner campus, as well as many other services and programs for veterans.

Larkin was recognized for her support and service to Veteran Homestead. She was presented with the award during an event sponsored by Veteran Homestead on Sept. 30.

“I’m thankful for being recognized,” she said. “I share this recognition with my colleagues at Mount Wachusett Community College who have made my transition and success possible, as well as all of our community partners and our veteran students.”

The center, established in January 2011, and other services for student veterans have helped MWCC create a culture of positive energy and enthusiasm for its military students. Established through a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the center is among the first 15 in the county selected to serve as national models and has become a staple in the lives of student veterans at MWCC. Support services address the unique academic, financial, social and physical needs to veterans transitioning to college life.

Collaborating with nonprofit community partners and building strong relationships with student veterans are contributing to the center’s success in serving students, Larkin said.