STEM

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

Gov. Deval Patrick and MWCC pre-engineering student Louis Ayisi at the Department of Higher Education’s Go Public! event in Worcester.

Mount Wachusett Community College pre-engineering and Honors Program student Louis Ayisi delivered one of six student speeches to a large assembly at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education “Go Public!” event held Oct 15 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’s North, South 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.

- Cameron Woodcock

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.

Linda Coyne

Linda Coyne has enrolled in MWCC’s new Health Information Management program to blend her existing computer technology experience with her emerging interest in healthcare.

Mount Wachusett Community College is rolling out several new and revised academic programs to prepare students for a wide range of careers.

“We’re excited about these new opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Melissa Fama, Vice President of Academic Affairs. “The new and redesigned programs will serve needs expressed by local employers and students will be better prepared to enter the workforce or transfer, so this is a win-win for our region.”

Health Information Management, Hospitality, Cyber Security, Analytical Laboratory and Quality Systems, and Liberal Arts programs with STEM concentrations in biological science, chemical science, physics and pre-engineering are among the additional degree and certificate offerings available when the new academic year begins in September.

Existing programs that underwent changes to align with the most current industry trends include Graphics and Interactive Design (formerly Computer Graphic Design-Print/Web); Media Arts and Technology (formerly Broadcasting & Electronic Media); Energy Management; and Medical Coding.

As part of college initiatives focused on the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Mount Wachusett has added new concentrations in these disciplines to its existing Liberal Arts and Sciences programs.

The Liberal Arts Biological Science concentration provides students with the first two years of a typical biology program so they can transfer into a bachelor’s degree program as juniors. This associate degree may also be used as a pre-professional program for aspiring physicians, veterinarians, dentists, and pharmacists.

Similarly, the Liberal Arts Chemical Sciences and Liberal Arts with Physics or Pre-Engineering provides students the first two years of a standard college courses in preparation for transfer into four-year programs as juniors and ensuing careers.

In response to new federal laws regulating how medical records and medical coding structures are maintained, MWCC has developed an associate degree program in the expanding field of Health Information Management. Individuals working in HIM play a key role in ensuring that healthcare organizations are compliant with state and federal regulations regarding capture, storage, and release of all medical data.

This field is seeing rapid expansion that will require significant new hiring of HIM-credentialed people to meet workforce needs over the next decade. In this career, individuals with an interest in the medical field and information technology skills contribute greatly to the healthcare industry without being direct care providers.

Several certificate programs have been added to the college’s short-term academic programs. The Analytical Laboratory and Quality Systems certificate program prepares students to gain entry level positions as laboratory and quality technicians for manufacturing companies and other organizations. Example positions include quality inspectors, calibration technicians, quality control analysts, document control technicians and manufacturing production technicians.

The Cyber Security certificate helps students launch a career in information technology security. In this program, students learn how to install operating systems and applications and study networking topics, as well as learn how to secure and protect these technologies against possible exploits and attacks. Students may use this certificate as preparation for the CompTIA Security+ SYO-201 exam or as a foundation for ongoing security studies.

The new Hospitality certificate program provides students with a strong foundation in the hospitality industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this field are projected to increase an average of 15.5 percent through 2018.

Massachusetts has been awarded a grant from Complete College America (CCA) to aid the state’s efforts to increase the number of college students who complete degree and certificate programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The grant, announced on Nov. 26 by the U.S. Department of Higher Education, will allow nine Massachusetts public campuses to design academic innovations through CCA’s Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) in STEM Careers Initiative. Mount Wachusett Community College is among the recipients and will develop industry field “pathways” utilizing GPS in the areas of health care, advanced manufacturing/ engineering, and biotechnology and life sciences.

The technical assistance grants awarded to Massachusetts, three other states and the District of Columbia are supported by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Other recipients include Bristol, Bunker Hill, Cape Cod, Greenfield, Middlesex and Quinsigamond community colleges.

“We are pleased to be recognized by CCA for our commitment to growing a highly skilled, high wage workforce,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “The technical assistance available through this award will augment our ongoing, cutting-edge STEM initiatives and support programs for students seeking careers in this field, and help us create new opportunities for the future.”

The goal of GPS is to help students persist in their studies and then graduate into promising STEM careers. During the two-year period of the grant, Complete College America will provide technical expertise to the schools, to help them develop STEM completion goals and analyze local labor market conditions and workforce needs.

The initiative builds on progress already made through the Vision Project, Massachusetts’ strategic agenda for public higher education, and the Transformation Agenda, a multi-year, $20 million dollar project financed by the U.S. Department of Labor to create new community college training programs in the state aimed at unemployed or underemployed adults.

GPS strategies include the use of academic “maps” to guide students from the start to the finish of their academic program, enabling them stay on track and complete their degrees without wasting time and money on courses that don’t advance their training in a particular STEM field. CCA will also assist campuses in creating integrated technology platforms to help advisors track student progress and performance.  Massachusetts campuses will work collaboratively to design a new associate’s degree in STEM that would give students a solid foundation for transfer into a four-year program, where they could begin STEM coursework at an advanced level of study.

GPS quite literally offers navigational guidance as we move, through the Vision Project, toward our goal of national leadership among state systems of higher education,” said Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland. “The nature of our state’s economy demands that we ramp up the number of graduates who are prepared to take advantage of opportunities in STEM-related industries.”

The grant announcement follows Governor Patrick’s November 13 release of “Expanding the Pipeline for All: Massachusetts’ Plan for Excellence in STEM Education,” a strategic plan that ties economic development to teaching and learning in the STEM fields.

Biotechnology students David Boivin and Michelle Despres and Assistant Dean Donna LaMura demonstrated how to extract DNA from strawberries during the Department of Higher Education’s Go Public! event in Worcester.

Student Trustee Jillian Johnson and biotechnology students David Boivin and Michelle Despres helped showcase Mount Wachusett Community College at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Go Public! event on Nov. 12 at North High School in Worcester.

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. Approximately 400 seniors from North, South, Doherty and Burncoat high schools attended the Worcester event.

Johnson, a dual enrolled student in the Pathways Early College Innovation School who started college early to get a jump start on her goal of becoming an orthodontist, shared stories about college life, academics and leadership and civic engagement opportunities available at MWCC.

“My favorite thing about the Mount is the environment. It’s very supportive and everyone’s behind you. They want to see you succeed,” she said.

In addition to Johnson, students representing UMass Medical School, UMass Lowell, Fitchburg State University and Worcester State University also spoke about their college experiences. Following the presentation, the high school students attended an admissions fair and STEM-related demonstrations.

The DHE collaborated with GEAR UP, the federally funded college access program, to organize several events across the state this fall. GEAR UP Executive Director Robert Dias served as program emcee.

This year’s events focused on STEM majors, certificate programs and internship opportunities. Boivin and Despres joined Donna LaMura, Assistant Dean of the School of Business, Science, Technology and Mathematics, to guide students in a quick experiment on extracting DNA from strawberries. AiCo Abercrombie, Assistant Director of Strategic Enrollment Management, fielded questions and distributed information about MWCC’s academic programs.

Mount Wachusett Community College has received a five-year, $640,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for students in STEM fields. The grant will provide scholarships and support services to 150 full-time students in science, technology, engineering and math programs.

The goal of the scholarship program is to provide a supportive academic environment that will ensure STEM students graduate within two to three years with an associate degree and to promote student transfers to a four-year STEM program after graduating from MWCC. The college will recruit 30 students each year into four STEM majors: biotechnology; computer information systems; pre-engineering and natural resources.

Participating students will become members of the program STEM SET (Students Embracing Talent) and will be eligible for faculty mentoring, professional and peer tutoring and monthly enrichment building activities including field trips, guest speakers and small study groups. Scholarships will be granted based on financial need and academic standing. Recipients have the potential to receive up to $3,300 as they complete their associate degrees.

“This National Science Foundation grant will provide our students with an incredible opportunity to make significant advancement in the STEM fields and correlates with the Commonwealth’s goal of increasing STEM education, jobs and workforce development,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino.

“This major NSF grant will enable our students to join a competitive cohort of future scientists and will also position the college to further advance the state’s STEM initiatives,” said Janice Barney, dean of MWCC’s School of Business, Science, Technology and Math.

Last fall, Governor Deval Patrick and state officials announced MWCC will receive $37.9 million in capital funds for a new science and technology building and renovations at the Gardner campus. The 39,000-square-foot addition will provide upgrades to classrooms and laboratories that support the college’s science and health care programs. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2014 and be completed in fall 2015.

This is the largest NSF grant that MWCC has received to date. Representatives from academic affairs, financial aid, access and transition, admissions, academic support, and student services will work collaboratively as an advisory committee for the grant.

Admissions applications are being accepted this summer for the fall semester. New and current students are eligible for the scholarships.For more information, contact the Admissions Office at 978-630-9110.

 -Stephanie Nebes

Dean Janice Barney and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman at the Massachusetts STEM Summit.

Janice Barney, dean of MWCC’s School of Business, Science, Technology, and Math, joined more than 1,200 business, government and education leaders at the ninth annual Massachusetts STEM Summit to discuss science, technology, engineering and math programs that will promote STEM education from early childhood to adulthood.

The summit, hosted by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, and the UMass Donahue Institute, provided an opportunity to discuss the statewide STEM plan to prepare state residents with the skills necessary to fulfill jobs required to advance an innovative economy.
 
Massachusetts is frequently cited as a leader in STEM education. In March 2011, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, along with Innovate+Educate, a national non-profit connecting industry and education with states to advance STEM education, recognized the state as the national model for STEM initiatives.
 
During the conference, Dean Barney had the opportunity to meet NASA astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman, an alumna of UMass Amherst.