veterans success center

MWCC student leader John Day received the Dean Sullivan Award at the Community College Student Leadership Association's annual conference in Wakefield.

MWCC student leader John Day received the Dean Sullivan Award at the Community College Student Leadership Association’s annual conference in Wakefield.

Mount Wachusett Community College student leader John Day was recognized for his enthusiasm and dedication, qualities demonstrated by Dean Richard Sullivan, formerly of Cape Cod Community College (CCCC).

Day received the Dean Sullivan Award at the Community College Student Leadership Association’s (CCSLA) annual conference, held Oct. 16 through 17 in Wakefield, months after receiving the MWCC Peter J. Trainor Leadership Award.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, Day recruited 200 volunteers to package over 20,000 meals for the MWCC edition of September’s 19th Annual United Way Day of Caring. He also serves as president of Beyond Str8 and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, as well as treasurer of the Student Government Association (SGA), an ambassador for Saltmoney.org and a mentor for Students Serving Our Students (SOS).

“I am very humbled and touched that my MWCC advisors, particularly Associate Dean of Students Greg Clement, nominated me for this award and put so much thought into the submission letter,” said Day. “Opportunities at MWCC are abundant, and the people I’ve met have led me into the various roles I currently perform.”

“John is an ideal candidate for the Dean Sullivan Award. In a short amount of time, he has become an active participant in student and veteran affairs and a mentor and advocate for students from all backgrounds,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, who spent seven years as Sullivan’s colleague dean at CCCC and also praised Day’s leadership in the Day of Caring. “Dean Sullivan’s number-one concern was always the well-being of his students. He would bend over backwards to help any student in trouble, and John exemplifies these qualities.”

During his two-plus years at MWCC, Day has also served as SGA Vice President, an orientation leader and a work-study employee in the Veterans Success Center.

“John is an exceptional role model for MWCC students. His greatest characteristics are his kindness and energy,” said Clement. “He takes advantage of all the opportunities offered here and encourages other students to do the same. ”

The CCSLA is comprised of all 15 Massachusetts community colleges, as well as New Hampshire Technical Institute and Nashua Community College in New Hampshire.

- Cameron Woodcock

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

Massachusetts officials paid a recent visit to MWCC’s Veterans Success Center. Pictured, from left, Stephen Bassett, outreach coordinator, Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center and an MWCC alumnus; Michelle Saunders, Chief Operating Officer, Veteran Homestead, Inc. and the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center; pre-engineering student Jeff Young; business administration student Nick Bonfilio; Kristine Larkin, Director of Veteran Services; Bryan Sanderson, human services student; Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone; Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee; President Daniel M. Asquino; Kelli Bator, allied health student; Gabriel Nutter, Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services SAVE Team; Sarah Savoie, veterans certifying official; and NEADS assistance dog Sammy.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone and Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee paid a visit to MWCC on January 15 to discuss the college’s thriving Veterans Success Center and how to replicate it at public colleges and universities throughout the state.

The two officials met with President Daniel M. Asquino, MWCC Veteran Services Director Kristine Larkin, student veterans, community partners and others, and praised  the center as an exemplary model to assist veterans transitioning to college.

“We came out here very purpose-oriented,” Secretary Malone said. “We are looking at the Veterans Success Center and talking about key characteristics that must be in place in order to provide these types of services. What we are looking at is replication across the Commonwealth. We want to see a bunker on every campus, based on what we’re seeing here. We’re very interested in putting together a set of recommendations based on best practices, and Mount Wachusett is, in my opinion, is the best in this work in the Commonwealth.”

In 2010, MWCC was one of 15 colleges in the country selected to establish a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success through a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Serving as national models, the centers were created to help ease the transition to college life for veterans and their families, as well as to provide ongoing support for current active members of the military and their families. The center addresses the unique academic, financial, physical and social needs of veterans transitioning to college.

The three-year, $400,000 grant ended last fall, and MWCC has now fully incorporated the center into its campus operations. While MWCC has a long history of serving veterans, the new success center has become a hub of activity on campus and an integral part of the college’s culture, President Asquino said.

Secretary Nee noted that Massachusetts leads the nation in terms of providing veteran services on the federal, state, community and nonprofit levels. Yet the challenge remains in helping veterans and service members navigate that “very complex” benefits field.

Peer support and mentoring is a key component of the veterans center’s success, as well as the college’s recognition of veterans as an important population, he said. Veterans “add to a rich academic environment and they contribute to the college in ways that are highly beneficial, not just to fellow vets but to the entire student body and the faculty.”

Secretary Malone praised the college as “one of the most innovative public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth. In addition to its successful veterans center, the college is recognized for its groundbreaking endeavors in the areas of early college high school, access and transition programs for K-12 students; green energy, and advanced manufacturing, he said.

Mount Wachusett is “one of the most innovative public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth,” Malone said, noting the college’s early college high school, gateway programs, advanced manufacturing partnerships with industry and sustainable energy initiatives.

“You think about cool stuff happening in education, it’s happening at Mount Wachusett Community College. The goal always at Mount Wachusett is closing gaps and increasing opportunities. That’s what they do well. And it’s a unique part of the state. North Central Massachusetts has a great sense of collaboration, purpose and partnerships.”