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Oct. 20, 2010

In This Issue
MWCC's 'Rainmakers' Secure $9.2 Million in 30 Days
New Grants Will Enhance Student Success
MWCC's Division of Access & Transition Awarded $3.6 Million GEAR UP Grant to Expand Fitchburg Program
Candidates in 1st Congressional District to Debate at Gardner Campus
MWCC Hosts Community College Student Life Association Conference
United Way Youth Venture Fall Kick-Off Draws 400 Area Students
Upcoming Events
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MWCC's 'Rainmakers' Secure $9.2 Million in 30 Days

MWCC's Institutional Advancement DepartmentSecuring grants for an organization is a time-consuming, highly competitive process, particularly in this economy. So learning your organization is receiving one is fantastic news. Learning that in one month your organization has been awarded several - totaling $9.2 million - is cause for celebration.

MWCC's office of Institutional Advancement, comprised of Associate Vice President Joseph Stiso, Director of Grants Development Heather Layton, and Staff Assistant Karen Payne, experienced that remarkable achievement this semester, when the college received word on Oct. 1 that it had been awarded its sixth federal grant within 30 days to enhance student success and expand student services.

The $9.2 million in funding - spread out over the next six years - includes five grants from the U.S. Department of Education: $2 million for the coveted Strengthening Institutions Program grant (Title III); $1.95 million to continue the college's existing Student Support Services TRIO program, known as the Visions program; $1 million to launch a new Student Support Services program to serve eligible health science majors; a $3.6 million GEAR UP grant to expand the services provided by the Division of Access & Transition; and a $400,000 Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant, to create the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. The sixth grant, awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides $271,000 to purchase new equipment, including simulated patients, for the nursing labs in Gardner and Devens.

Housed within the division of Advancement and External Affairs, the Institutional Advancement office takes a team approach to developing grant applications that are directly linked to the strategic objectives of the college and involve extensive research and planning, Stiso said.

"The only thing that's odd is the timing of all these awards. It's just a fabulous coincidence," he said. "The success in not coincidental. Success is the leadership. We have strong executive leadership in charting the agenda for seeking external funding, we have a talented development team, we have the data from the office of Institutional Research, and we have engaged and dedicated faculty and staff who are at the front lines, whether that is providing student services or teaching in the classroom, who see first-hand on a daily basis the needs of our students and work with the development team to build these cases for support. Our success is pivotal on their input and their involvement," he said.

"These folks are busy serving students, and they articulate the need and they help to find solutions. The development office takes that information and develops strategies and compelling cases and provides evidence of why these projects are necessary," explained Stiso, who serves on the national board of the Council for Resource Development, an affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges, is president of the Greater Gardner Community Development Corp. and serves on other local organizations.

"It's a team process," agreed Layton, who serves on the federal funding task force of the CRD. "We do our part, but it involves working with other areas of the college to come up with the concepts. It's been many years of working on these grants and concepts, and it all just came together. It's very exciting."

The most recent awards do not include several additional grants secured the office secured earlier this year, including a National Education Association grant for the art department.

Obtaining the Title III grant was no easy task. Payne joined the office when the college was awarded a Title III grant in 1989. After sharing a Title III award with Greenfield Community  College in 1992, MWCC made eight subsequent attempts since 1999 before receiving this new grant.

"Ninth time's a charm!" Stiso joked.

Pictured: MWCC's "rainmakers," Heather Layton, Karen Payne, and Joe Stiso.

New Grants Will Enhance Student Success

A wide range of new and enhanced services for students will roll out with the recently awarded federal grants, including a college-wide approach under the Title III grant to implement MWCC's "ASPIRE Strategy - An Academic Success Program to Increase Retention and Engagement."

Under this federal Strengthening Institutions Program grant, the college will receive $400,000 a year for five years for curriculum redesign and restructuring, as well enhanced advising and student services to increase retention and graduation rates. The ASPIRE Strategy will enhance intake assessment, improve connections to faculty and peers through smaller group and virtual orientations, engage students in creating individual learning plans with advisor support, and eliminate the barriers encountered in highly enrolled first-year courses.

"Title III really is an institutional change grant. It's transformational," said Executive Vice President Ann McDonald, who also oversees the Student Services division that includes the offices of admissions, enrollment, advising & counseling, financial aid, student life, the Visions program, and the health office. "Title III demands that you shake up how you do things and the whole institution reverberates with that change, and you really are doing a new way of doing business for the betterment of the students."

"The aspects of this grant are intake and support, and the curricular side, which is key," McDonald said. From the time students walk through the door to enroll at MWCC, staff will work to identify their goals and any barriers they have to succeed or complete their academic program. They'll receive an education plan and support services as needed to help them achieve their goals, and faculty will receive support as they implement revised curriculums.

Joseph Stiso, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement, will serve as coordinator of the ASPIRE project, which entails two components. Karen Costa, director of Student Success, will be the activities director overseeing the integrated advising component. Don Westover, director of Instructional Design & Distance Learning, will serve as the assistant activity director, and has oversight of the reformed curriculum component.

To implement the ASPIRE strategy, college administrators, faculty and staff will continue to work closely with the offices of Institutional Advancement and Institutional Research. Susan McHugh, executive director Information Technology Services and the ITS department will play a significant role in implementing new technology and software. The grant will create three additional positions, including a full-time student success specialist, a full-time enrollment advisor, and a full-time instructional designer, as well as provide funding for faculty stipends, and tutors.

"The first year is the critical year because many students do arrive unprepared for the rigors of college," said Dr. Melissa Fama, vice president of Academic Affairs. "The ASPIRE Strategy will provide the opportunity for faculty and student services personnel to work together to increase student success."

The two TRIO Student Support Services grants - one to continue the existing Visions program through 2016 and the other to launch a new program to serve eligible students who are majoring in health sciences programs - will be overseen by Gaurav Khanna, director of SSS Programs. The Visions program, which serves 200 students annually and is in its 32nd year at MWCC, and new Rx program, which will serve 120 students annually, are part of the college's advising and counseling services, overseen by Glenn Roberts, associate dean of Enrollment Services.

These two, five-year grants, totaling $2.95 million, will help low-income students, first-generation college students and students with disabilities achieve their academic goals. The grants will support five full-time positions and 10 part-time positions directly providing student services.

John Walsh, director of Admissions and a veteran of the U.S. Navy, will oversee the new FIPSE grant, which provides $400,000 over a three-year period to create a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Services, a U.S. Department of Education initiative. The center is aimed at providing MWCC  veteran students (veterans of the U.S. military; students who have completed service or who are currently serving in the military, and/or their dependents) with the necessary support and resources to help them succeed academically. The center will provide resources for academic and personal support, individually and through programming, with a personalized approach.

Pictured: Among those who will be administering MWCC's new grants are, in front, Don Westover, John Walsh and Karen Costa, and in back, Glenn Roberts, Ann McDonald and Gaurav Khanna.
Division of Access & Transition Awarded $3.6 Million GEAR UP Grant to Expand Fitchburg Program 
GEAR UP 2016-2017A sign leading into Fitchburg High School welcomes visitors to "a college readiness high school." That message could not have been more apparent on Wednesday, Oct. 13, when officials from Mount Wachusett Community College and Fitchburg Public Schools announced that the college's Division of Access & Transition has received a new $3.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to extend the GEAR UP program in the city's middle and high schools.

The new GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) grant will expand the partnership between the school system and the college that began in 1999 and will provide $608,000 in resources each year through 2017. Under this new award, every current sixth and seventh grade student enrolled in Fitchburg's public schools will receive support services designed to foster academic success through the day they graduate from high school in 2016 and 2017.

The announcement, made in MWCC's Student Success Center at Fitchburg High School, was attended by school and college officials, state legislators, representatives from partnering organizations, MWCC Division of Access & Transition staff, and a group of two GEAR UP graduates, two current high school students and two Longsjo Middle School students who will be among the 800 students benefiting from the new grant.

MWCC Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Garrison noted that in 1999, 400 students were enrolled in the program, and of that class, 83 percent went on to enroll in a public or private college or university, including MWCC, Fitchburg State University and others. Students are doing "extremely well" under the current mathematics-focused grant, he said, noting that the new grant will provide an academic emphasis on science.

"This really is a partnership that will provide wrap-around services from the sixth grade on," MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino said. "This is about the children and making sure every individual graduates with the support they need and are prepared for college. We want to make sure with this grant, that they're successful."

Fitchburg Schools Superintendent Andre Ravenelle said the GEAR UP program provides "seamless" support for students as they transition from middle school to high school and on to college. High school Principal Rich Masciarelli added that with the new grant, "We don't have to skip a beat and can move into this third cycle of support for our students."

College officials thanked the region's Congressional delegation for its support in securing the federal grant, making the partnership the only one in Massachusetts to receive a third consecutive award.  "Without their support, we would not be standing here today," said Pati Gregson, vice president of Access and Transition, who joined the college in 1999 as director of the first GEAR UP grant.

State Senator Jennifer Flanagan and State Representative Stephen DiNatale also expressed gratitude for the funding, and enthusiasm for the partnership for the services it provides to local students.

In addition to the Fitchburg Public School District, MWCC is once again partnering with Fitchburg State University, Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School, North Central Massachusetts Boys & Girls Club, Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, MWCC Foundation, Inc., Fitchburg Police Department and UMass Medical School.

With this new award, MWCC's Division of Access & Transition is now serving 3,500 students in North Central Massachusetts public schools through a variety of federal and state grant-funded programs that are addressing state and national education goals.

Pictured: Anthony Semidey, back center, a resource specialist with MWCC's Division of Access & Transition, has served as a counselor to students in all three GEAR UP grant programs, including 2005 graduates Fernando Garcia and Joana Dos Santos, at left, 2011/2012 students Mayra Salome and Kai Yang, at right, and 2016/2017 students Wilmary Perez and Sofia Hall-McDonald.

Candidates in 1st Congressional District to Debate at Gardner Campus 

Congressman John W. Olver and two challengers in the 1st Congressional District race, Republican William L. Gunn, Jr. and Independent Michael Engel, will debate on Oct. 26 at Mount Wachusett Community College's Gardner campus. The one -hour debate will begin at 7 p.m. in the Commons area.

Hosted by MWCC's Center for Democracy & Humanity, the debate will be moderated by Professor Jim Korman and will include a panel of local journalists.  The 1st Congressional District spans Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester and Middlesex counties.

Olver, has represented the district since 1991 following 18 years in the state Legislature. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee and chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. He also serves on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and all land conservation, habitat restoration and water management activities conducted by the Department of Interior; and on the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, among other agencies.

A former chemistry professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Olver earned his B.A. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his M.A. from Tufts University and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gunn was raised in Palmer and is now a resident of Ware. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, he is owner of WLG Construction and works as a project manager for the Palmer Community Development Department. He is an active member of the Western Massachusetts 912 Project and has led several contingents to Washington, D.C. to protest the Health Care Reform Bill and other issues. He co-organized the Ware RTC Committee and is a volunteer with the Salvation Army, hospitals and the Howard Street program in Springfield.

Engel, of Southampton, is a professor emeritus of political science at Westfield State University, where he taught American politics and served as chair of the Multicultural and Ethnic Studies program. He is owner of Cherry Picked Books in Easthampton and served on the Easthampton Board of Selectmen from 1990 to 1995 and the School Committee from 1996 to 1998. Born and raised in New York City and its suburbs, Engel earned a bachelor's degree in political science from City College of New York before being drafted to serve in the U.S. Army. Following his service in the U.S. and in Germany, he returned to the City University of New York to earn his master's degree and Ph.D.

MWCC Hosts Community College Student Life Association Conference 

CCSLA conference 2010More than 100 student leaders and student affairs representatives from Massachusetts community colleges attended the Community College Student Life Association's annual conference Oct. 14-15, hosted by MWCC and held at the Colonial Hotel in Gardner.

Greg Clement, assistant dean of students at MWCC and president of the CCSLA, said this year's theme, "Key Elements of Leadership Past, Present, Future" reflected on the past three decades that the colleges' student life representatives have gathered, and on current opportunities that will continue to benefit others in the future.

Prior to the conference, student leaders at each of the community colleges orchestrated a variety of fundraisers to raise money to benefit this year's recipient, YouthBuild of Boston, a 20-year-old nonprofit organization that focuses on training youth to revitalize communities. Each year the students engage in a friendly competition to see which campus raised the most money for the selected charity. This year, the campuses collectively raised $3,368. MWCC's Student Government Association raised $1,318 - more than one-third of the total - earning recognition as the top fundraiser this year.

Participants attended a variety of workshops on leadership topics and heard from several speakers, including MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, Executive Vice President Ann McDonald and Bill Hart, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office. Motivational speaker Jermaine Davis, founder of Jermaine M. Davis Seminars & Workshops and a communications professor at Century College in Minnesota, delivered the keynote address.

President Asquino thanked the student leaders for attending the conference and remaining engaged on their campuses. "By being involved at your college, you are making a difference in your life and in the lives of others," he said.

Hart, who attended Bunker Hill Community College before pursuing a bachelor's and master's degree, said as a student, he recognized the impact community colleges make in the lives of students and in the communities they serve. "I realized, this isn't just a building. This is a place that makes people who they want to be."

Pictured: MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino and Greg Clement, assistant dean of students and president of the CCSLA, with MWCC student leaders Caroline Horovitz, Edwin Martinez, Scott Brown, Bridgette Woodcock, Christina Lajoie and Betsy Cox.

United Way Youth Venture Fall Kick-Off Draws 400 Area Students 

UWYV 2010The region's next generation of changemakers gathered to learn how to hone their social entrepreneurial skills during the United Way Youth Venture Fall Kick-Off conference Oct. 14. United Way Youth Venture is a partnership between MWCC's Center for Democracy & Humanity, the United Way of North Central Massachusetts and Ashoka's Youth Venture to empower the region's youth to serve their communities.

The conference featured welcoming remarks from MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino, Phil Grezwinski, president of the United Way North Central Massachusetts, Fagan Forhan, director of experiential learning and civic engagement at MWCC, and Bret  Carr, outreach/virtual program association for United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley in Boston. The conference also featured a variety of workshops, as well as a keynote address from Molly Barker, a triathlete and founder of Girls on the Run, a nonprofit now operating in over 160 cities across North America.

More than 400 UWYV participants from elementary, middle and high schools throughout North Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire attended the day-long conference, held at the SpringHill Suites in Devens. The United Way Youth Venture program, which has expanded to now be located in 15 middle and high schools and other organizations in Leominster, Shirley, Fitchburg, Ayer, Winchendon and Gardner, inspires and invests in teams of young people to create and launch their own sustainable, community-benefiting ventures.

"This event provides a tremendous opportunity for these young people to network with their fellow changemakers, share ideas, and discover ways their teams can work together for the greater good," said Kumar Raj, UWYV coordinator at MWCC.

Pictured: Members from United Way Youth Venture teams at Ayer-Shirley Middle School and the Lura White Elementary School in Shirley gathered for a group photo during the conference.

Upcoming Events

Rumble in the Jungle, 2009"What Goes Around," an exhibit of new work by Gardner native Ann Tracy is on display through Nov. 12 in the East Wing Gallery of the Raymond M. LaFontaine Fine Arts Center. An artist's reception will take place Saturday, Nov. 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. in the gallery. A graduate of Gardner High School, Tracy took a summer drawing class at MWCC with Professor John Pacheco as a teen, then used that painting in her portfolio for college applications. She received  a bachelor's degree in sculpture and a master of fine arts from Boston University College of Fine Arts. Her work has been on exhibit in numerous  galleries in Massachusetts, New York, Florida, New Hampshire and Maine. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery will be closed on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Theatre at the Mount presents the children's musical Berenstain Bears on Stage on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. Join Papa, Mama, Brother and Sister Bear as classic Berenstain Bears stories are presented and commented on by guitar-strumming Cowboy Joe, the world's foremost expert on the famous residents of Bear Country. All seats are $5 and are available by calling the box office at (978) 632-2403, or online at

Students interested in learning about the spring 2011 course Introduction to Europe are invited to attend an information session on Tuesday, Oct. 26 from 12:30 to 1:30 in room W11. Students may also meet with Professor Bonnie Toothaker on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 to 12 in room 361. This three-credit, multi-faceted course allows students the opportunity to experience the cultures of England and France through short-term travel. Classroom coursework will culminate with a 10-day trip to London and Paris in May.

The Party Smart Mocktails and Fatal Vision Program will take place Tuesday, Oct. 26 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the South Cafeteria as part of MWCC's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Awareness Week. Proceeds will benefit the Student Government Associations annual Thanksgiving Food Drive. The event is sponsored by the offices of Student Life and Health Services, the Public Safety Department and CATS.

Come join the fun at MWCC's annual Scary Karaoke, Thursday, Oct. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the North Café. The event features $100 cash door prize every hour and cash prizes for best costumes. The event, sponsored by CATS and the office of Student Life, is free for all MWCC students, faculty and staff. 

Discover MWCC and College Majors Expo will take place Thursday, Oct. 28 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Commons. Learn about certificate and degree programs, explore college services, hear from alumni, meet with admissions, financial aid and career counselors , talk with professors and tour the campus during this free event. For more information, call the Enrollment Center (978) 630-9284 or email

MWCC's Fitness & Wellness Center will host a free Zumba dance party on Friday, Oct. 29 beginning at 6:45 p.m. Adults participating in the one-hour dance class are invited to bring their children, ages 3 to 11, who can simultaneously attend a Halloween party from 6:30 to 8 p.m., featuring a jumpy house, games, a costume contest and prizes. The Zumba program fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a unique fitness program. The new dance program is one of over 65 group classes offered at the center each week, including aqua aerobics, arthritis classes, Silver Sneakers classes and more. For more information, contact the MWCC Fitness & Wellness Center at (978) 630-9212.

A seasonal flu clinic for students, faculty and staff will take place Wednesday, Nov. 3 from noon to 2 p.m. in the nursing lab, room 242. Vaccines will be administered by the Practical Nursing students and their instructors, Kathleen Panagiotes and Janice Keskuls. Priority will be given to those at high risk for complications from the flu or care for others at high risk. Pre-register in person in the Health Services office, room 133. The fee is $10 for students and $15 for employees.

MWCC's Division of Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development will host three information sessions on Thursday, Nov. 4 on online training programs the college offers in conjunction with Career Step, a leading online heathcare education company for careers in the healthcare industry. Information sessions on medical transcription and medical coding and billing will be held at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. in room 123 at MWCC's Devens Campus, One Jackson Road, 27 Jackson Place. Attendees will learn more about the college's introductory free laptop and back-to-school discount offer for those who enroll in the online programs. For more information, visit or call (978) 630-9575.
MWCC, the Montachusett Opportunity Council, and Cleghorn Neighborhood Center are seeking volunteers to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) to prepare income taxes for taxpayers who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Computer-literate volunteers are needed who are willing to obtain IRS certification after successful completion of approximately four to eight hours of training in both tax law and income tax preparation. Prospective volunteers are invited to attend a one-hour introductory session at the Gardner campus on Wednesday, Nov. 17 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in room 250, or from 5 to 6 p.m. in Room 240. For more information, contact Vice President Jacqueline Feldman at  (978) 630-9309 or Professor John Reilly at (978) 630-9296.

MWCC is offering Information Sessions on a number of academic programs. Upcoming sessions will take place on the following dates: Accelerated Business Administration Transfer Degree: Nov. 16, 3 to 4 p.m., Gardner campus, room 125; Biotechnology/Biomanufacturing: Oct. 25, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Devens campus, room 214; Clinical Laboratory Science: Nov. 17, 3 to 4 p.m., Heywood Hospital Laboratory Education Area; Complementary Health Care/Physical Therapist Assistant: Nov. 19, 2 to 3 p.m., Gardner campus, room 125; Dental Hygiene: Nov. 17, 2 to 3 p.m., Gardner campus, room W11; Energy Management: Oct. 21 and Nov. 18, 3 to 4 p.m., Devens campus; Nursing A.S. Degree: Nov. 9, 2 to 3 p.m., Gardner campus, room 204; and Practical Nursing Certificate: Nov. 23, 2 to 3 p.m., Gardner campus, room 204. In addition, small group information sessions are offered daily Monday through Thursday beginning at 3 p.m. Prospective students are asked to call the Enrollment Center at (978) 630-9284 (TTY (978) 632-4916), or send an email to Prospective students interested in the Biotechnology/Biomanufacturing program are asked to call Tami Morin at (978) 630-9578, (TTY (978) 632-4916), or email
Archived issues of Mount Wachusett Community College e-News can be found online at To submit to the MWCC e-News or request coverage for your event, contact the Public Relations Office at (978) 630-9547. 
Janice O'Connor
Director of Public Relations
Mount Wachusett Community College
(978) 630-9547