Lt. Governor Karyn Polito Visits MWCC to Meet with Early College Students
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito visited Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus Thursday to discuss early college programs with a math class of high school students taking college-level courses at MWCC.
“We want to create an environment where there are no barriers for any student in this Commonwealth to continue their education,” Lt. Gov. Polito told the students. “We need more programs like this to engage you, our future workforce, to want careers and to prepare yourself for careers within the STEM field.”
The classroom was made up of students in the college’s Gateway to College and Pathways Early College Innovation School programs. Through these two programs, students are able to accelerate the path of their education. Both programs allow students to earn free college credits toward an Associate degree or certificate while completing their high school degree.
That is what attracted Aria Flematti, of Orange, to the Pathways program, she told the Lt. Governor who was joined by Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, Rep. Stephan Hay, Rep. Susannah Whipps, and Rep. Jonathan D. Zlotnik.
“If I could accelerate my learning and get a degree and do it all for free why would I not?” she said explaining that this offers a big savings on the overall cost of college.
Upon closing her visit with students, Lt. Gov. Polito said that she valued the time they had taken to talk with her about early college opportunities and how the administration can encourage more people to consider the option. The administration has been highlighting early college programs, she said, and the opportunities they offer for students to further their education.
MWCC Hosts Speaker Discussion on Gender Identity
Mount Wachusett Community College’s Tea Time Speaker Series held an interactive discussion and presentation titled “Gender Identity: Understanding Identity and Sexuality,” on Monday, Sept. 25.
“Your gender identity is your interpretation of who you are,” keynote speaker Laura Farnsworth told a room of over 150 students, faculty and staff. “You don’t need to be put in a box. In fact, I wish we’d get rid of all the boxes.”
Farnsworth is the program director for Safe Homes & Greater Worcester PFLAG with The Bridge of Central MA Inc. During her discussion, she addressed the ever-evolving issues of gender and identity. The discussion takes place at a time when understanding identity and sexuality can be challenging and the language extremely nuanced.
Learning which words or phrases are most accurate, respectful, and useful is an important goal for classroom and workplace interactions. The training examined key terms and concepts for understanding gender diversity, sexual orientation, and for communicating with students and colleagues.
The Tea Time Speaker Series fosters conversation among the college community and greater community on social and cultural issues and awareness. MWCC President James Vander Hooven said he was pleased to have these ongoing discussions at the college and that they aid him in his own journey of lifelong learning.
The next Tea Time discussion, which is open to the public, will be held on Monday, Oct. 30 from 12 to 2 p.m. That discussion is titled “White Privilege? Understanding Systems of Power.”
MWCC Foundation, Inc. Adds Three New Board Members
Three new members have been added to the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors.
“We are so excited for these new members. They broaden the base of expertise on the board, expanding on the areas of business development, the arts and industry,” said Carla Zotolli, Executive Director for the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation, Inc.
The MWCC Foundation is a private, independent, non-profit organization that was established in 1971. The foundation serves as an avenue for the community to assist with the financial support of MWCC. The objective of the foundation is to financially support the educational, social, recreational, and cultural mission of the college and to benefit the students and communities the college serves. The foundation does this by providing scholarships to MWCC students, enhancing academic programs and facilities, supporting public and cultural events, and encouraging professional development for faculty and staff.
The new board members Roy Nascimento, Eve-Marie Ceryanek and Keith D. Boissoneau officially joined the board at its Tuesday, Sept. 19 meeting.
Keith D. Boissoneau, CPA, MST has been employed with Sterilite Corporation since 1997 and has been Vice President of Finance since 2001. Sterilite Corporation is located in Townsend and is the largest plastic housewares company in North America. Boissoneau serves on several local non-profit boards, including as Treasurer of both the United Way of North Central Massachusetts and the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the St. Paul’s Catholic Schools Consortium.
Boissoneau was recently recognized as the Catholic Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Catholic Admissions and Advancement Professionals of New England for his effort in creating and leading an endowment campaign at St. Leo School in Leominster. Boissoneau holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration – Accounting from Fitchburg State University and a master’s degree in Taxation from Bentley University.
Eve-Marie Ceryanek has a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education as well as a Performer’s Certificate from the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam and a Master of Music degree, Summa Cum Laude, in Flute Performance from New York University. She completed a post-graduate year of study in Flute Performance at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Brussels, Belgium, where she won a First Prize in Chamber Music.
For the last ten years, Ceryanek has been an adjunct faculty member at Cushing Academy, where she teaches flute lessons and coaches chamber music ensembles, and she also maintains a private teaching studio at her home in Princeton. Her students are regularly accepted into District, All-State, and All-Eastern music festivals, as well as into conservatories and universities as music majors. Ceryanek also serves on the Board of Directors for the Worcester Youth Orchestra, and previously served for six years on the School Improvement Council of Wachusett Regional School District.
Roy M. Nascimento has been president and CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce since January 2015. The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, an over 800-member business organization, provides leadership on issues and activities important to the local economy. A 19-year veteran of the chamber profession, Nascimento previously served as president and CEO of the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce beginning in 2006. He is a past president of the board of the Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE) and is a past chair of the New England Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (NEACCE) and the MACCE Council of Chambers.
Nascimento holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a master’s degree in public administration from the Sawyer Business School at Suffolk University. He is also a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management at Villanova University and the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.
MWCC Hosting Speaker Discussion “Gender Identity: Understanding Identity and Sexuality”
Mount Wachusett Community College’s Tea Time Speaker Series will hold a discussion and presentation titled “Gender Identity: Understanding Identity and Sexuality,” on Monday, Sept. 25 from 12 to 2 p.m.
The keynote speaker for this event will be Laura Farnsworth who is the program director for Safe Homes & Greater Worcester PFLAG with The Bridge of Central MA Inc. Following a luncheon, the presentation will begin at 12:30 p.m. The discussion takes place at a time when understanding identity and sexuality can be challenging and the language around gender and sexuality continues to evolve rapidly.
Learning which words or phrases are most accurate, respectful, and useful is an important goal for classroom and workplace interactions. The training will examine key terms and concepts for understanding gender diversity, sexual orientation, and for communicating students and colleagues.
The Tea Time Speaker Series fosters conversation among the college community and greater community on social and cultural issues and awareness. The event will take place at MWCC’s Gardner campus in the Multipurpose Room. The event is open to the public and registration is available at mwcc.edu/teatime.
MWCC to Open Food for Thought Campus Pantry
Mount Wachusett Community College officials have announced that the school will open an on-campus food pantry at its Gardner campus this fall as the campus community seeks to address food insecurity among MWCC students. The announcement also kicked off a month-long food and fundraising drive.
“Two out of three community college students are food insecure and the Mount is not an exception to that,” said Southern New England Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA Jana Murphy who spearheaded the creation of the food pantry last year while she was a student at MWCC. “We have students come in who haven’t eaten in days and they are not able to concentrate in class at all. Even having one meal at school can make a difference in how they do in their classes. We also have a lot of students who have kids and don’t know how they are going to put a meal on the table. It is my hope that the Food for Thought Campus Pantry can be an assistance to any of our students in need.”
The Food for Thought Campus Pantry, which will officially open in October, was announced at the annual Day of Caring celebration at MWCC’s Gardner campus on Friday, Sept. 15. Food insecurity among community college students is becoming an increasing threat to student success, according to Murphy. Students involved with the Students Serving Our Students (SOS) program, which is operated out of the Senator Stephen M. Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement, took it upon themselves to do something about this issue by opening the food pantry. The on-campus location with student-friendly hours is a first for the college.
The announcement marked the beginning of a month-long food and fundraising drive. The drive was kicked off by a generous $1,000 donation from Senator Stephen M. Brewer. The effort will help kickstart the operation of the food pantry that will operate exclusively on donations and fundraising efforts.
The Food for Thought Campus Pantry will be operated in partnership with the Gardner Community Action Committee, which will provide food items for students living in the following towns: Gardner, Templeton, Westminster, Ashburnham, and Hubbardston. SOS mentors had already been referring students to these services, which will now be available on campus. Gardner CAC Executive Director Julie Meehan said that she is looking forward to the collaboration.
“Students are working hard to further their education and make a better life for themselves. If we can work with the school to help eliminate the barrier of hunger, or any other barrier, to a increased self-sufficiency, it just makes sense to develop and strengthen this relationship,” she said. “It’s exciting to see the founding students of the food pantry so passionate about helping other students and the strong desire to see their fellow students succeed.”
According to Murphy, research makes clear community college students experience higher food insecurity than the rest of the population. The Wisconsin Hope Lab recently released data from their 2017 study on food insecurity and homelessness in which they surveyed over 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states. The results from the study found two out of three community college students are food insecure.
Mount Wachusett Community College is no exception to the growing student food insecurity problem, according to Murphy. Peer Mentors of the SOS program report over 90 percent of students who were seeking services or referrals from SOS mentors during the 2016/17 academic year were struggling with food insecurity.
The SOS office is currently running a food voucher program as well as giving out snacks and prepackaged meals to students in need. During the 2015-16 academic year, 246 vouchers were given to 30 students. Of the students who received vouchers in the fall semester of 2015 there was a 100 percent retention rate and for the students who received vouchers in the spring 2016 semester there was a 77 percent retention rate.
“It is important for the food pantry to be located on campus as many of the community pantries are not accessible to students due to conflicting class schedules and lack of access to transportation,” said Murphy.
The Food for Thought Campus Pantry will operate out of room 192 at the Gardner campus Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Students who are not able to access the food pantry during these hours can contact the SOS office, with SOS mentors will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to open the pantry on request. The food pantry is available to any student enrolled at Mount Wachusett Community College and no proof of income is required. For more information contact Jana Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MWCC Hosting Resource and Volunteer Fair
Mount Wachusett Community College will host over 20 area nonprofits for a resource and career fair next Thursday.
“This is an excellent opportunity for students and community members to explore both volunteer opportunities and services within their communities,” said Southern New England Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA Jana Murphy who organized the event.
Beginning at 10 a.m. and running until 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21, a gathering of area nonprofits will take place at the college’s indoor commons. Representatives of over 20 groups will be on hand to discuss both volunteer opportunities within their organizations as well as the resources and services they offer. These organizations include the Gardner Community Action Committee, MWCC Veterans Services, United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg, Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army.
The general public is encouraged to attend, whether they are seeking volunteer opportunities or want to better understand the nonprofit resources within the region. The event will take place at the indoor commons at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner campus and is organized by the college’s Brewer Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement.
Bemis Student Center Unveiled at Mount Wachusett Community College
The Bemis Student Center was unveiled at Mount Wachusett Community College’s Gardner Campus Wednesday, with students, faculty, staff, area guests and officials celebrating the new student space.
“I am very excited that we now have this new space that provides a place to be separate from our academic responsibilities, while remaining on campus. I know that this new space will become the new hot spot on campus for our varied student body and will help foster a sense of community. We are proud of our diverse student body and this gathering space will provide us the opportunity to intermingle,” said MWCC Student Government Association President and Pathways Early Innovation School sophomore Samantha Stiles.
The dedication on Wednesday celebrated the completion of the 100-day long construction of the 4,500 square foot facility. The space creates a new epicenter of student life and activity in the heart of the Gardner campus. The student center features a lounge and meeting space, group study area, game room and televisions. In addition to indoor space, the center will open out to a green space with outdoor wifi and seating. The college has had student-dedicated spaces in the past but this will surpass them all and truly be student-centered from the outset, said MWCC President James Vander Hooven.
“The need for this space was reinforced for me during the first week of classes. I entered the cafeteria around noon and there were students literally sitting on the floor. The Bemis Student Center will provide a welcomed space for students to relax, game, study, and interact,” said President Vander Hooven.
Everything about this project centered on improving students’ experiences and giving them a space to pass the time between classes, socialize and build a sense of community, according to Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Jason Zelesky.
“This project has truly been a labor of love. Students, we hope you enjoy this space. Use it as your office, living room, game room, backyard and hangout. This is your campus. This is your home. Enjoy,” Zelesky told students at the dedication.
Zelesky oversaw the summer project. The Bemis Student Center represents a tremendous amount of hard work and partnership, he said. Among those partnerships was a generous donation of $500,000 from the Bemis Corporation through the Bemis Community Investment Fund. Executive Vice President of Bemis Associates, Inc Scott Howard said that during his time on the MWCC Board of Trustees he saw great things happening but knew that appropriate space was a restricting factor for students.
“People are realizing that great spaces lead to great collaboration,” he said. “We wanted to help create a space that would motivate and inspire people to work together … and put them in a creative space of mind so that they can come up with ideas.”
Additional assistance came through the Massachusetts State College Building Authority. This is the first time that a community college has worked with the MSCBA on a building project and the college was excited for the opportunity, said Zelesky.
The student center opening was followed by Fall Fest, one of the school’s main events greeting students back to campus.
MWCC President Vander Hooven Testifies in Favor of Affordable College
Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven testified before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Higher Education in favor of affordable college Monday.
The president was one of numerous community members and officials who spoke at the committee’s public hearing at Leominster High School on Monday, Sept. 11. The discussion centered around Senate Bill 702 and House Bill 640, both aimed at strengthening higher education opportunities. The bills came about as the state explores different options for affordable college, with the day’s discussion centering around current affordability concerns and what “free” or “debt free” college could look like in the Commonwealth.
“These initiatives would directly support our collective missions by improving student success and helping institutions provide affordable, accessible and high-quality education,” said President Vander Hooven. “I’d like to speak in favor of initiatives that provide free or debt-free college.”
Those who testified stressed the financial difficulties many students face as they transition from high school to college. President Vander Hooven told the committee that nearly 60 percent of the college’s students receive financial aid and 25 percent attend for free. However, there are still hardships faced by many students, such as working long hours on top of classes to ensure their family has enough to eat.
“For community college students, costs are more than tuition and fees. It’s textbooks, transportation and food insecurity just to name a few. Any effort to provide free community college should require such attention to the true cost of education for our students,” “The presidents of the 15 community colleges of Massachusetts stand ready to work with the members of the legislature to explore these details and how we can best serve students.”
Following his testimony, Representative Natalie Higgins of Leominster asked whether the school had the capacity to handle additional students, citing worries that colleges and universities in the state might become overwhelmed with an influx of students if “free” college came to pass. President Vander Hooven explained that the school is well positioned throughout the region at the college’s three campuses to educate students who would make use of such a program.
The president also stressed there are many current programs students are making use of to get an affordable education, including free early college programs. More information on financial aid and early college programs is available at mwcc.edu/financial/ and mwcc.edu/access/programs/dual-enrollment-pt/.
The new 4,500-square-foot student center is set to be unveiled next week and is near the cafeteria and bookstore, two other popular spots for students.
The student center will also connect with the student services offices. In tandem with that, the college decided to move the campus police offices to be across from the student center, and enhance the space and technology police have at their disposal in the process.
The overall design of the area’s layout is open, as concrete walls were taken out and people in one room will be able to see people in another room, separated by glass walls.
“This puts a lot of things together for us. It gives us more availability to students,” Mount Wachusett Chief of Police and Public Safety Karen Kolimaga said. “That visibility, they know we’re here. They know where to find us.”
Kolimaga said that she, the lieutenant and staff assistant had separate offices prior, but are now joined together in the new space.
She explained the other officers would use office space in the college’s basement area, which wasn’t always as private a space as needed for certain situations, such as interviewing someone.
In the new headquarters though, there is a secure room designated for interviews. Additional new features include a dispatch center and screens from which security camera footage can be viewed.
In general, the new headquarters offer the police greater security. A card swipe is needed to authorize entry and there is bulletproof glass.
Kolimaga said the campus police, including her, are comprised of 10 officers along with a civilian staff assistant.
One of those officers covers the satellite campuses in Leominster and Devens and the other nine are in Gardner.
She described the crime rate the campus police see as being lower than what municipal officers would typically deal with, and said the most frequent crime on campuses is larceny, which often happens when someone leaves their belongings unattended. She also said occasionally the police have to break up fights.
But the campus police are also involved in much more than what people traditionally think of law enforcement doing. Kolimaga spoke of a rather lengthy list of activities they do to help students out.
When students lock themselves out of their car or need their car to be jump-started, the police are there for assistance.
When students seek advice on how to navigate resources for a domestic incident they experienced, the police are there to point them in the right direction and guide them through the process.
Campus police also instruct self-defense classes and active shooter training, should that ever happen, to ensure faculty and students are prepared.
Another major aspect of the job is securing the facilities at night, such as the power plant, checking on all systems to make sure the college’s infrastructure is working as it should.
The phrase “community policing” is often used in the context of efforts in society to improve the relationship between local police departments and residents, but Kolimaga sees that concept not as new, but really the foundation of what good police officers do.
“As far as I’m concerned, policing is community policing and always has been. We are very much a resource for the public and that’s what we should be and that’s what community policing really is, interacting with the public,” she said.
After graduating from college, Kolimaga said she began her career as a dispatcher in Worcester and then in Athol.
She decided to enter the police academy while working in Athol and became an officer in 1989. From there, she worked her way up the ranks to sergeant and then lieutenant.
In 2006, she began serving as the police chief at Mount Wachusett Community College. She recalled that while she was in Athol, she served as the school resource officer and taught children the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program; some of those children she has since seen again as grown-up college students.
“I’ve always been community-minded,” she said. “This was kind of a natural progression and I enjoy it. I plan on finishing my career here,” she said.
The campus police have maintained consistency in terms of staff size during her tenure, she indicated, but otherwise have seen several changes, such as becoming armed beginning in 2015.
In earlier years, it was common for people to confuse the campus police as being security workers, but she said the police have the same powers municipal departments such as the Gardner Police have, with the jurisdiction for campus police being the Mount Wachusett Community College properties.
Kolimaga described having the new space and technology for campus police as the “next growth step” for the department.
MWCC Students Begin Fall Classes
Mount Wachusett Community College sprang to life on September 5 as classes began at the college’s classrooms in Gardner, Devens, Leominster and Fitchburg.
“The beginning of the semester is an exciting and energetic time on all our campuses. Whether students are brand new to the school or returning for another year, faculty and staff are eager to help them transition into the semester as smoothly as possible,” said MWCC President James Vander Hooven.
The first day of classes began on September 5 for the college’s semester-long courses as well as an accelerated option that allows students to split their semester into two cycles.
While both full-semester courses and Cycle 1 courses begin at the same time, Cycle 1 courses will end on October 25. Accelerated Cycle 2 courses begin on November 1 and wrap up with full-semester courses on December 23. These options allow students to build a class schedule that fits with the rest of their lives, setting them up for success.
The full academic calendar is available online at mwcc.edu/academic/academic-calendar/ along with course listings.