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Richard Greco

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced the appointment of Richard Greco as assistant vice president for Academic Affairs and Student Life. With his experience and proven success in leading teams that drive student success, Greco brings a wealth of expertise and leadership to the institution.

In his new role, Greco will be leading efforts to integrate and align academic affairs and student life, ensuring a seamless support system for students. He will also spearhead innovative program development and foster community partnerships that provide meaning to students and community beyond the classroom.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Richard to our team,” Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Chief Operating Officer Nicolle Cestero said. “His skills and background will be instrumental in advancing AIC’s mission to not only provide innovative education, but also transformative student experiences. We look forward to the positive impact he’ll have.”

Bringing more than 25 years of management experience, both within and outside higher education, Greco previously served as dean of Liberal and Professional Studies at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) and has been a faculty member at AIC since 2012.

Greco holds a master’s degree in biology from the University of Saint Joseph, as well as bachelor’s degrees in human biology and biochemistry from AIC and an associate degree in general studies from STCC. He is currently working toward a doctorate in public administration at West Chester University.

Greco’s dedication to equity aligns with AIC’s values. “Access to education is crucial and is something AIC does quite well, as evidenced by our sizable percentage of first-generation students,” he said. “It provides wealth, not only to our students, but also uplifts their families, contributing to a more equitable society. This can help level the playing field for all, particularly those whose voices have often been left out of the conversation.”

Greco also underscores the importance of people as the college’s most valuable resource. “Our greatest assets are those who support us: our friends, family, colleagues, and the community members who help to define and direct our paths. By prioritizing people, we pave the way for success.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — K. Kevin Saremi has been a steadfast supporter of American International College (AIC) since his graduation with an MBA in 1983. Saremi and his wife, Deborah, who met as students at AIC, have both expressed appreciation for the support they received from what was then the College’s Placement Center.

In 2010, the Saremis demonstrated their commitment to the college with a substantial gift to create opportunities for future graduates. In recognition of their generosity, AIC renamed its Career Services Center as the Saremi Center for Career Development. The Saremi Center plays a pivotal role in offering guidance, tools, and resources for career success, both during and after a student’s tenure at AIC.

In late 2023, the Saremis reaffirmed their dedication to the college with a generous donation to modernize the Saremi Center. This recent contribution funded a refurbishment of the center’s space as well as supporting program enhancements. As AIC adapts to evolving workforce and student requirements, the Saremis’ benevolence remains a cornerstone of support for student success.

Beyond their philanthropic endeavors, Saremi co-founded and operates the real-estate firm Saremi LLP with his wife. He serves as the president of Future Health, an educational company focused on health and wellness, and holds the position of chairman of the board at Insurance for Students. Additionally, he is the founder and former CEO of Consolidated Health Plans in Springfield.

Having served as a trustee of AIC since 2006, Saremi currently holds key positions, functioning as the vice chair of the board, vice chair of the executive committee, and chair of the finance, pension, and insurance committee.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Members of the Springfield community are invited to attend the second annual Parents as Partners on the Pathway to Higher Education forum, presented by American International College (AIC) in collaboration with the Coalition of Experienced Black Educators Inc. and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership.

The event will be held today, Jan. 30, from 5 to 8 p.m. at AIC’s Schwartz Campus Center Auditorium, second floor, 1000 State St., Springfield.

The partnership between AIC and the two community groups is designed to empower parents to support their children’s academic success. At last year’s inaugural event, organized by state Rep. Bud Williams, many families gained valuable insights into how those who have navigated similar paths can greatly impact a young person’s future potential.

This year’s forum will provide a data-driven exploration of the pathway to college. AIC President Hubert Benitez, alongside educators and students, will share insights into how various factors from grades K-12 can shape a student’s journey toward higher education. Attendees will also have an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the higher-education process and the crucial role parents play in their children’s college experience.

The event is free to attend, there is no cost for parking, and dinner will be provided. Registration is strongly suggested by calling AIC at (413) 205-3201; however, walk-ins will be welcome.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced the appointment of Devin Kindred as director of Residence Life and Student Conduct. This appointment reflects the college’s recognition of Kindred’s commitment to delivering an exceptional student experience.

In this new role, Kindred will oversee residence education, student conduct, and housing operations at AIC. Serving as the chief housing officer for the college, he will manage the daily functions of the residence halls, supervise the professional live-in hall staff, and administer the student-conduct process. His responsibilities encompass providing support to professional and paraprofessional staff to foster a supportive living environment and maintaining a code of conduct that prioritizes the well-being and success of all students.

Before assuming his new position, Kindred served as AIC’s assistant director for Residential and Commuter Student Living, managing housing operations and commuter-student relations. In addition to this role, he facilitated the Safe Zone – LGBTQ+ education series presented to more than 50 faculty and staff on campus.

Before joining AIC, Kindred held positions as a residence-hall director at Sacred Heart University and residence director at Stonehill College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in human resource management from Western New England University, and later attained his master of education in higher education leadership from Endicott College.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Hubert Benitez, president of American International College (AIC), recently took center stage at the sixth annual International Conference of the Occupational Therapy Assoc. of Morocco (OTAM) on Jan. 6, in Kenitra, Morocco. The conference recognized Benitez with the 2024 Leadership Excellence Award, shining a spotlight on AIC’s commitment to expanding international collaborations.

In his keynote speech, titled “The Role of Higher Education Leadership in Creating Innovative, Entrepreneurial, Diverse, and Interdisciplinary Environments,” Benitez emphasized how international partnerships in higher education play a crucial role in bringing people from different countries and cultures together.

The conference, boasting presenters from five continents, stands as the flagship event of OTAM, founded and led by AIC Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Said Nafai.

During his visit to Morocco, Benitez embraced the opportunity to formalize key international partnerships with Ibn Tofail University and the International University of Casablanca. These agreements reaffirm AIC’s commitment to collaboration in higher education and fostering cultural exchange.

The news of these partnerships generated a media buzz in Morocco, garnering attention from several national news outlets. Benitez expressed his enthusiasm about the collaborations, noting that “these agreements are intended to explore and establish programs that foster mobility for both undergraduate and graduate students. The partnerships are also designed to create academic models that support advanced education opportunities, facilitate student-exchange programs, encourage professional development and academic advancement for faculty and staff, and explore the possibilities of joint degrees and certifications.”

The newly forged alliances complement AIC’s existing international partnerships with Universidad Andres Bello Santiago de Chile, Universidad Catolica de El Salvador, St. Paul University in the Philippines, and Badr University in Cairo.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is set to host a Registration Rush event for the spring 2024 semester on Monday, Jan. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The event offers a convenient opportunity for on-the-spot application review, registration, and financial-aid support.

Prospective and returning students are encouraged to attend the event being held at AIC’s Shea Memorial Library at 1000 State St. in Springfield. The college’s Admissions and Financial Aid teams will be on hand to assist with the application process, FAFSA submission, and class registration, all in one visit.

Those who complete the process during this one-stop experience will be eligible to join classes when AIC’s spring semester begins on Wednesday, Jan. 17. For additional information, contact AIC Admissions at (413) 205-2101 or [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — UMass Amherst and American International College (AIC) signed an agreement allowing AIC to use clinical simulation laboratories and classrooms at the UMass Amherst Center at Springfield following a fire on the AIC campus in July. The agreement will assist AIC nursing students in continuing their education uninterrupted as repairs are made to AIC’s health-sciences facilities.

“As an institution that is deeply committed to Western Massachusetts and Springfield and to our partner institutions, we recognized the urgency of not only helping AIC nursing students continue their studies, but also addressing the need for primary caregivers amid the ongoing nursing shortage,” UMass Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes said. “This is about neighbor helping neighbor in a time of need — and meeting the workforce needs of our region, especially in an area as critical to the Commonwealth as nursing.”

The July 27 fire on AIC’s campus in Springfield, sparked by a lightning strike, caused extensive damage to Courniotes Hall, which houses the college’s nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and public health programs.

“After the destruction of Courniotes Hall, AIC swiftly reaccommodated classroom and office space for faculty on the AIC campus. However, rebuilding simulation labs with just a few weeks before the start of the semester would not have been possible,” AIC President Hubert Benitez said. “We are tremendously grateful for the outpouring of support shown by the community at large, including the generosity of UMass in helping us secure this critical space. This partnership enabled the college to move forward quickly while allowing our nursing students to continue their studies uninterrupted.”

Under the agreement, the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing at UMass Amherst and AIC’s nursing program have developed a schedule to share instruction space at Tower Square in downtown Springfield through May 2024. This fall, more than 50 AIC students have used the facilities for instruction, assessments, and other activities.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced the appointment of Christopher Putnam as director of Institutional Assessment, Research, and Effectiveness. This appointment reflects AIC’s recognition of Putnam’s dedication, expertise, and valuable contributions to the college.

In his new role, Putnam will be responsible for overseeing assessment and evaluation processes designed to measure the effectiveness of the institution’s programs and services. Additionally, he will provide leadership in research and analysis, strategic planning, and ensuring compliance with accreditation standards.

Prior to assuming his new role, Putnam served as AIC’s student-success data analyst and demonstrated exemplary leadership in several key areas. This included the supervision of AIC’s New England Commission for Higher Education five-year report, a mandated periodic evaluation of the content and relevance of the college’s mission.

Before joining AIC, Putnam held positions as a graduation and transfer credit specialist and manager of Student Services at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif. He began his career in higher education at California State University (CSU) Sacramento, where he worked in admissions and records and academic advising.

During his time at CSU, Putnam pursued his master’s degree in higher education leadership. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and subsequently obtained a certificate in web programming from Cosumnes River College.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has introduced an online master of science in forensic psychology program. This new offering, complementing the college’s established in-person program, is tailored for those with a bachelor’s degree interested in psychology, criminal minds and behavior, and the workings of the criminal-justice system. Applications are now being accepted for the inaugural program for the spring 2024 semester, set to begin in January.

According to Susanne Swanker, dean of AIC’s School of Business, Arts, and Sciences, the program is designed to meet the evolving needs of today’s students. “We are excited to offer this program in an online, asynchronous modality. This move reflects AIC’s commitment to adapting to the changing educational landscape, allowing us to reach a broader audience of aspiring forensic psychologists, empowering them with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in this critical field.”

Director of Graduate Psychology Lina Racicot, distinguishes AIC’s online forensic psychology program as a unique opportunity to study the psychopathology of criminal minds and behavior, from serial killers to individuals with co-morbid mental-health and addiction issues.

She added that students will delve into various subjects, including policing, evidence practices, victimization, risk assessment, and other specialized topics. “This program presents an exciting prospect for those aspiring to work as case managers, victim advocates, court and corrections personnel, or pursue doctoral programs with a forensic specialization to become psychologists.”

After earning their degree, many forensic psychology students embark on careers in public and private settings, including prisons, youth facilities, social services, and mental-health agencies. Some even explore careers as forensic researchers or positions with federal and state agencies.

To assist students in building the necessary technical and learning skills, AIC offers a free orientation course for online learners. Click here to learn more about the program.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — For the second year in a row, American International College (AIC) has achieved recognition from U.S. News & World Report as a top performer in social mobility within the National Universities category. AIC’s 2024 ranking of 93 positions the college in the top 25% nationwide, among the top six in Massachusetts, and the leader in Western Mass. in this category.

Social mobility is one of the key areas evaluated for excellence by U.S. News to help students and families identify colleges that align best with their needs. This category assesses how well schools graduate economically disadvantaged students, a demographic that, according to the publication, faces greater challenges in completing their college education. By factoring in graduation rates of Pell-awarded and first-generation students in their rankings, the report highlights institutions like AIC that excel in fostering social mobility.

AIC President Hubert Benitez said the ranking is a testament to the college’s ongoing commitment to ensuring access to higher education.

“AIC, and its faculty and staff, understand that earning a college degree is vital in increasing and achieving social mobility,” he noted. “For this reason, AIC continues to strive to offer a high-quality education at an affordable cost, leading to a successful career path. In doing so, it is committed to helping every student, despite their background, to succeed.”

According to research conducted by the Hamilton Project published by the Brookings Institution, higher education plays a crucial role in providing opportunities for disadvantaged Americans to transform their economic circumstances. In an era marked by increasing inequality and limited social mobility, enhancing access to education holds the potential to promote equality of opportunity for all.

“Today, students who attend higher-education institutions come from diverse backgrounds, and the landscape shows vast social and economic disparities,” Benitez said. “Despite inherent obstacles, AIC is keeping true to its commitment to prepare and serve lower-income students, and it continues to take steps toward bridging the gaps, focusing on being an institution where access, opportunity, equity, and belonging are defining characteristics.”


After the Fire

The top of Courniotes Hall is covered with plastic

The top of Courniotes Hall is covered with plastic now while AIC leaders discuss both short-term winter preparations and a long-term strategy for the building.

When a lightning strike set fire to Courniotes Hall at American International College (AIC) on July 27, the safety of everyone in the building was the paramount concern; fortunately, no one was hurt.

The longer-term concern is for the future of the heavily damaged building, and that process has only begun.

In between was one key question: what to do with all the health programs based at Courniotes and all the students and faculty who typically work and learn there — and do it before the fall semester, which was only a few weeks away.

That process has not been easy, and it’s far from over, said Karen Rousseau, dean of the School of Health Sciences at AIC. But with no programs or classes curtailed (though many have been relocated), the experience has been a valuable lesson in pivoting — and may pose opportunities to “reimagine” the design of the building once it’s repaired and renovated.

“The night of the fire was pretty devastating, but immediately the next morning, we got to work trying to figure out where to put classes that were housed in that building and how we would function,” Rousseau told BusinessWest, listing challenges from replacing the nursing program’s simulation-lab equipment to relocating cadavers and identifying new space for physical and occupational therapy labs and a large number of classrooms.

Part of the solution was finding temporary space in the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences, across State Street from Courniotes Hall, as well as other buildings on campus. Meanwhile, most of the nearby colleges and universities (and some from across Massachusetts) reached out offering space.

AIC took up one offer: from UMass Medical School – Baystate, located in Tower Square in downtown Springfield, which offered not only classroom and faculty space, but also storage for equipment and free parking for students.

“The night of the fire, we had students come to watch it, and they were concerned and sad. But we said, ‘we’re going to make sure it’s business as usual. We don’t know what it is right now, but we will make sure it’s OK for you.”

“UMass fortunately had this space that they weren’t using a tremendous amount; they use it for their accelerated baccalaureate program, but they’re mostly out on clinical placement in the fall,” Rousseau said. “So it was serendipitous that we were able to work around their schedule; primarily, it’s our junior nursing class that needed labs in the fall.”

AIC also quickly rehabbed the basement of its Amaron Hall to use as classrooms and storage for occupational therapy and physical therapy, and it will begin renovating the Lissa Building, which is attached to Courniotes Hall and also sustained damage in the fire, with the goal of opening it to students this spring; meanwhile, a building next to Lissa will be renovated to become an occupational therapy lab and training room where OT students learn how to work with patients on activities of daily living.

In short, the entire health sciences curriculum felt the weight of the fire and its aftermath, but AIC’s leaders made sure all students were able to continue their education this fall.

“I don’t want to make it sound like it was easy,” Rousseau said. “And it’s not all perfect, but it’s good. I mean, the students are receiving their education, and the faculty are happy they all have their own offices. To be able to say that, when we lost all those offices, is a miracle. And a lot of equipment from the labs had to be replaced.”

Karen Rousseau

Karen Rousseau says it hasn’t been easy, but students have been able to continue their studies following the July 27 fire.

They got creative, Rousseau added, because … well, because they had to.

“All of our [health sciences] students flowed through there. The majority nof the faculty for physical therapy was over there, and occupational therapy, and all of the nursing faculty. So all the nursing, PT, and OT students walked through there all the time. A lot of people were affected.”


No Interruptions

The reason AIC had to act quickly, and the reason so many other institutions reached out, was a shared feeling that interrupting the students’ education was unthinkable.

“This was devastating to the students,” Rousseau said. “The night of the fire, we had students come to watch it, and they were concerned and sad. But we said, ‘we’re going to make sure it’s business as usual. We don’t know what it is right now, but we will make sure it’s OK for you.’ That’s what we keep telling students: ‘it’s been OK, and it’ll continue to be OK. It will get better and better as we have more time to roll out our plans.’ But they were really nervous.”

In the longer term, AIC has engaged the services of an experienced project manager to navigate the logistics of assessment and reconstruction of Courniotes Hall.

“We haven’t had a final ruling from insurance, but it’s sounding like we will renovate and restore, maybe not in the same exact configuration, but within that same footprint — but, again, that’s not official,” Rousseau said, noting that the top of Courniotes is now covered in plastic, but some kind of temporary roof will likely need to be erected before winter sets in.

AIC’s much-discussed strategic plan for 2022-27 is called “AIC Reimagined,” and AIC President Hubert Benitez has taken to calling the future of the fire-damaged structure “Courniotes Reimagined,” sensing an opportunity to determine if the building’s current design and layout best serve students and faculty, and making changes as needed.

“He wants to pull faculty together and plan what would be appropriate for the future for that building and whether that means more space, whether we’d look to expand, and address any needs we might have,” Rousseau said. “This was OK when it was built in the ’90s, but if we had to rebuild it, we wouldn’t build it the same way. So, what would it look like? Do we want to replace it exactly the same, or do we need to make some changes? This is an opportunity. You can always use more space than what you had.”

AIC leaders are seeking engagement from students and faculty about what the building should look like for the future, she said, but stressed that the long-term planning process has only begun.

“Our focus right now is on the interim piece for the nursing lab and the occupational therapy lab; that has to come first because we want to get our students back on campus as soon as we can — hopefully for spring. We need more space for OT than what we have right now. We’re making do right now, but we need more.

“And then, with nursing, we don’t want them to have to go downtown to do their simulation and their nursing-practice skills,” she added. “And that is a bigger need in the spring for students. There are a lot more students that have to go through the lab in the spring. It’s important to us that they’re back home.”

This unusual year in AIC’s health sciences programs comes at a time when the medical world is still experiencing staffing shortages in many fields, particularly nursing, Rousseau said, but colleges nationwide have weathered a dip in enrollments in those programs.

“But enrollment across colleges in general is down for all professions, so I think it’s a symptom of the times,” she added. “A lot of people are worried about college debt, and you can go to work right away and still make an OK living wage because unemployment has been so low. There’s also the fact that we’re at that cliff where the birth rate has dropped off, so we’ve just got less people coming out of high school.”

And while nursing opportunities are still soaring — the profession has seen many older entrants who are changing careers to take advantage — there’s also lingering burnout from the pandemic, she added.

“You heard a lot of negativity around anything in healthcare. So I think that’s impacted healthcare. But it’s starting to rebound again — because then people heard about how much travel nurses make.”


Grit and Gratitude

Benitez recently expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from the community following the fire. “I want to acknowledge the remarkable resilience and unity displayed by our faculty, staff, and students. It is this collective effort from our community that gives me confidence that we will overcome this adversity together.”

Rousseau agreed. “We wanted to reassure our students that we’re still open for business. We’re going to figure it out. And we’re trying to listen to them when there are issues.

“There are some things we can’t control, you know,” she added. “They don’t really want to be in class in a different building and not having their usual space. And the nursing faculty are farther across campus. The biggest struggle is that we’ve lost a large parking lot, so we’ve got some growing pains around figuring that out, making sure it’s OK before we start having snowbanks to deal with, too.”

But all those issues pale in comparion to the main one: ensuring that life continues at AIC, and so do the college careers of its nursing, PT, and OT students.

“We’ve tried to be thoughtful, to make sure this had the least amount of impact on students,” Rousseau said. “We’ve tried to reassure students that AIC is still here, and that we’re an equal partner in their success.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced that Michael Dodge has been named executive vice president for Academic Affairs. He has been serving in this role on an interim basis since March 2022.

In this position, Dodge serves as AIC’s chief academic officer and is responsible for the academic operations of the college, including strategic planning for, and day-to-day operations of, the schools of Business, Arts & Sciences; Education; and Health Sciences. He represents the Office of Academic Affairs to internal and external constituencies and is responsible for developing and overseeing comprehensive and integrative structures and processes to support teaching and learning, student success, retention, and graduation.

In addition, he oversees the institution’s accreditation and academic-assessment processes and supports the development of meaningful and measurable institution, program, and course student-learning outcomes. In this role, he has worked in tandem with deans, program directors, and faculty in developing new program proposals, consistent with the goals of “AIC Reimagined,” the college’s strategic plan. In addition, he supports partnerships with academic institutions, community colleges, and high schools, and has been directly involved with articulation agreements between AIC and Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College.

“I am truly honored and excited to take on the permanent role of executive vice president for Academic Affairs at American International College,” Dodge said. “The college’s mission of fostering academic excellence, cultivating a vibrant learning community, and preparing students for success aligns perfectly with my passion and vision. I look forward to continuing our journey toward educational innovation, empowering students, and making a lasting impact on their lives. Together, we will elevate the standards of excellence and forge ahead in shaping a brighter future for all those who are a part of the AIC family.”

Upon his arrival in 2018, Dodge served as dean of Student Success and Opportunity. As dean, he had oversight of the tutoring and advising programs on campus and the James J. Shea Sr. Memorial Library, and was instrumental in the development and success of the AIC’s Plan for Excellence (APEX) program for students, serving as its director. He additionally served as the principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Education Title III Grant program. He was promoted to associate vice president for Academic Affairs in January 2022.

Before joining AIC, Dodge worked for more than a decade at UMass Amherst in a variety of teaching and administrative roles. He earned his doctorate in educational policy, leadership, and administration at UMass Amherst after earning his master’s degree in student affairs from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and his bachelor’s degree in secondary education and English from the State University of New York Oswego.

“I have observed in Dr. Dodge an unwavering commitment to the college’s mission,” AIC President Hubert Benitez said. “He has fostered collaboration and has shown an appreciation for working collectively with his academic peers to fulfill the college’s vision. Most importantly, Dr. Dodge understands that there is much more work to be done at AIC, and he is looking forward to working with colleagues and units of the college in areas related to assessment, accreditation, academic quality and integrity, and academic innovation, all in an environment of stability and inclusivity for faculty and students.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has made a significant advance toward meeting the evolving demands of the workforce with the introduction of a new Division of Arts, Media, and Design within the School of Business, Arts, and Sciences. This division encompasses redesigned undergraduate programming in the bachelor of arts and bachelor of science curricula, launching with the upcoming fall 2023 semester.

Frank Borrelli, assistant dean of Student Support and Experiential Learning, and chair of the division, expressed that this initiative was inspired by AIC’s 2022 strategic plan, “AIC Reimagined,” which includes a goal to enhance the college’s academic landscape.

“The academic offerings within the Division of Arts, Media, and Design are designed to provide students with hands-on learning experiences, facilitating the cultivation of skill sets aligned with the requisites of the job market,” he said. “Our newly introduced majors encompass not only professional internships but also classroom settings that foster effective communication, innovative creation, and productive collaboration.”

This new division will introduce four undergraduate majors, each crafted to provide students with a comprehensive foundation. The offerings include public relations & social media administration, digital media production, arts and entertainment management, and graphic arts and design.

Moreover, AIC unveiled six new undergraduate minors that complement these majors. The minors include public relations and social media administration, digital media production, arts & entertainment management, graphic arts and design, fashion design and merchandising, and music technology & production.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Division of Occupational Therapy (OT) Services at American International College (AIC) announced its receipt of a $15,000 grant from the Hope for Youth and Families Foundation, established by Bob Bolduc, former CEO of Pride Stores.

This grant will facilitate collaboration among the division, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services of Springfield (MLKFS), and the MLK Charter School of Excellence in Springfield to implement the evidence-based mental-health promotion initiative “Every Moment Counts.” The objective of this program is to empower participating youths, including 60 students in the MLK after-school program and 340 students at the MLK Charter School, through engaging activities tailored to promote mental health, enhance self-esteem, and foster resilience.

This partnership is the result of a proposal developed by Professor and Post-professional OTD Faculty Lead Dr. Allison Sullivan, who also serves on the board of directors at MLKFS. AIC’s faculty leadership in this initiative offers valuable field-work opportunities for emerging practitioners enrolled in AIC’s Occupational Therapy program. Sullivan and her AIC colleague, Dr. Christine Helfrich, will provide comprehensive training to AIC OT students and staff members at both MLKFS and the MLK Charter School of Excellence on the principles of the “Every Moment Counts” program to enhance mental well-being in children. The first training session begins in late August.

Bolduc expressed his enthusiasm for the project. “We are very happy to support this joint program between AIC and MLK center because they are both solid organizations who are working together to assist youth and families in our fine city.”

Sullivan extended her gratitude to Bolduc for the generous contribution that has given life to this initiative.

“As an MLK board member, it has been my great desire to leverage my education and expertise to further the center’s mission to achieve Dr. King’s dream,” she said. “Moreover, as an educator, I find tremendous satisfaction in offering our students an opportunity to apply their mental-health skills and knowledge in implementing cutting-edge social-emotional learning activities with local youth. This collaboration with community organizations underscores the distinct value of occupational therapy. As a parent of two children who attended Springfield Public Schools, this endeavor holds personal significance.”

Sullivan is optimistic about the project’s objectives, which include fostering positive mental health among the participating children, as well as creating new opportunities for community staff and college students. Through innovative programs, this project aims to dismantle barriers that disproportionately impact the health and well-being of young members of the Springfield community.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is actively working to prepare for the upcoming fall semester following last week’s large structural fire that severely impacted two of AIC’s essential academic buildings: Courniotes Hall and the adjoining Lissa building.

Preliminary investigation results indicate that the fire was caused by a lightning strike during a powerful storm that passed through the area. Both Courniotes and Lissa were integral to the college’s health sciences program, accommodating critical departments including nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and public health.

AIC’s administrative team, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is diligently developing a comprehensive plan to address both the immediate and long-term consequences of the fire. The immediate priority is to relocate the affected classes, clinical simulation labs, and faculty and staff offices to suitable alternative locations. This measure will ensure minimal disruption to academic operations and safeguard the continuity of educational activities for students.

The leadership of the college deeply appreciates the support and solidarity offered by various sources during this challenging time. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Gov. Maura Healey, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal have all reached out to offer their assistance in moving AIC forward. Moreover, leaders from many local colleges and universities have generously offered their help.

Efforts are ongoing to stabilize Courniotes Hall and assess the extent of the damage. Frank Colaccino, chair of AIC’s board of trustees, has been actively involved in this assessment and is dedicated to helping guide the college through the recovery process. With his assistance, AIC has engaged the services of an experienced project manager to navigate the logistics of assessment and reconstruction, which is expected to be a months-long journey.

Recognizing the importance of ensuring a smooth transition during this period of recovery, the campus community will soon be provided with details of a relocation plan, including temporary facilities, academic schedules, and safety measures. Chief Academic Officer Michael Dodge and the college’s deans have worked to identify on-campus spaces for affected faculty, staff, and classes to occupy, beginning on the first day of the fall semester.

In response to the overwhelming desire of many community members to contribute financially to the rebuilding project, the Office of the President, alongside the Office of Institutional Advancement, is planning a fundraising campaign to kickstart the reimagination of Courniotes Hall. Further details will be communicated soon.

College President Hubert Benitez expressed deep gratitude for the outpouring of support from so many. “I want to acknowledge the remarkable resilience and unity displayed by our faculty, staff, and students. It is this collective effort from our community that gives me confidence that we will overcome this adversity together.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Courniotes Hall on the campus of American International College (AIC) was struck by lightning around 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, causing a massive fire. Springfield firefighters fought the blaze during a severe thunderstorm.

Campus police performed a walk-through to ensure that no students, faculty, or staff were inside and that the building was cleared. Courniotes Hall houses AIC’s nursing program and provides classroom space for additional health-sciences courses. While there is significant damage to the building, AIC’s leadership pledged to take all actions necessary to ensure students are provided with continuity in their course of studies this fall.

“AIC is known for its resilience, and we will come back stronger than ever thanks to the help of our community,” AIC President Hubert Benitez said. “We want to sincerely thank our first responders, including Springfield fire and police departments, as well as our campus police, who acted swiftly to help mitigate further damage to our campus.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced the appointment of Shefali Desai as the newest member of its board of trustees.

With a career spanning more than 30 years in the financial-services industry, including 22 years at MassMutual, Desai brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her new position on the AIC board. In her role as head of Worksite at MassMutual, she has been instrumental in driving the success of MassMutual’s Worksite business, offering voluntary benefit and executive group life solutions through employers to the mass market.

Before assuming her current position at the company, Desai served as the leader of the Strategy and Analytics team for MassMutual Workplace Solutions. Additionally, she has served as the Emerging Market sales manager of the MassMutual Retirement Services Sales Division.

A graduate of Babson College, Desai joined the Bucknell University Parents Board in 2022 and has been actively involved in a variety of initiatives, including new-student orientations, fostering diversity and inclusion efforts, and providing career-counseling support.

With her extensive background in the financial-services industry, Desai’s presence on the board of trustees aligns with AIC’s core mission of empowering students, fostering academic excellence, and driving innovation in higher education.


Local Connections


Editor’s note: This article is the first installment of a new, monthly series on professional-development efforts at area colleges and universities. It’s as broad a topic as it sounds, and the higher-education community has certainly developed myriad strategies to help businesses find talent while helping area professionals access career ladders to advancement — and will share, during this series, the many ways they’re doing just that. Our first visit is to American International College in Springfield.

Hubert Benitez

Hubert Benitez says it’s critical that colleges understand what businesses need in terms of worker skills and competencies.

At a time when employers in most sectors are struggling to attract and retain a workforce, leveraging the impact of the region’s colleges and universities is more important than ever.

That’s part of what Hubert Benitez, president of American International College (AIC), conveyed during an address to a recent Rise and Shine Business Breakfast sponsored by the Springfield Regional Chamber.

He highlighted that AIC graduates, coming from diverse backgrounds and primarily from the local area, make significant contributions to the economic development of the region — and that retaining talent within the community is key to enriching the social fabric of Greater Springfield and the surrounding region.

“Let’s explore how we can come together and join forces to serve the best interests of Springfield and Western Mass.,” he said. “That is the focus of our work at AIC.”

The intriguing part is how the college intends to boost workforce development and the regional economy — and it involves robust connections and communication with area businesses, in a number of sectors, to determine what they need, and what higher-education leaders can do to meet those needs.

“It’s critically important,” Benitez told BusinessWest shortly after that event. “Workforce development is one of the major focus areas of our education.”

Take, for instance, healthcare, one of this region’s key economic drivers — and, in particular, the persistent need for talented nurses.

“What we need is the employers to truly look at the academic institutions as their partners in this, because we need to be sitting at the table to hear what their needs are specifically.”

“There is no state that is not hurting for a nursing workforce,” Benitez said. “So our approach has been, let’s work together with the major industries in the region; how can we help provide that workforce? And it has to be a joint effort.”

That’s because students who study at area colleges must have a reason to stay here after they graduate. When they leave, he noted, AIC has done its job providing them with an education, but it has not fulfilled its mission to meet the workforce needs of Western Mass. or the Commonwealth at large.

“So we have to create an environment where the student understands that, if they pursue their nursing degree at AIC, they have a clear transition plan to the workforce at one of the major hospitals or hospital systems in the region.”

To that end, AIC has worked closely with Baystate Medical Center and the Trinity Health system to create models to fulfill their specific workforce needs. Benitez and his chief of staff have participated in strategic-planning sessions for workforce development at Baystate, and have also spoken with the leadership of Mercy Medical Center about creating a model to draw more advanced-practice providers to the hospital and the Trinity system.

“We heard firsthand, ‘we need more of this, more of this, and more of this,’” he said. “We have to be working together. If I don’t know — if the academic institution does not know — what they need, and what are the skillsets they’re looking for, there is no way the academic institution is going to be able to fulfill those needs.”

Not only does a college need to understand the needs of industries into which its graduates will enter, he explained, but it must to be nimble and willing to move in the direction of creating or reformatting initiatives that will fulfill these specific needs.


AIC is taking steps to better integrate career preparation into its programs.

“How education has been delivered in the past may not be what employers are looking for,” Benitez told BusinessWest. “That may take form of certificates, certifications, short courses of instruction, staff development. Some may say, ‘well, we really don’t need more of these at the baccalaureate level, but what about a certification with this specific skillset?’ We are looking to fulfill that.

“What we need is the employers to truly look at the academic institutions as their partners in this, because we need to be sitting at the table to hear what their needs are specifically. It’s that close working relationship that I would say is critically important,” he went on, adding that keeping young professionals local is a two-way street, an effort in which businesses must be engaged as well.

“Why should a graduate stay here in Western Mass.? That’s more on the employer side of things. How do they engage the graduate, entice the graduate to stay local and not go elsewhere? That goes beyond pay; that goes beyond benefits. It’s more, how do we make them feel that they have a good career trajectory here at Western Mass.? That’s part of what the employer has to look at as well.”


Partnering for Progress

Benitez stressed that four-year colleges like AIC aren’t the only important players in cultivating a local economy with plenty of young talent.

“As you look around and you read in the press, ‘we need more nurses, we need more physical therapists, we need more of this, we need more of that,’ well, some of those professions and careers are created at the community-college level. I am a full supporter of the community-college enterprise.”

Indeed, he explained, AIC has partnered with Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College on housing agreements, whereby students who attend community college can live at AIC and use its services. “That’s how much we value the relationship between AIC and the community colleges.”

Workforce-development efforts begin even earlier than that, however — with efforts at the high-school and even middle-school level to instill in young people an interest in careers where opportunities abound.

One example is working with middle- and high-school students to entice them to explore careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, Benitez noted. “It’s a two-pronged, even three-pronged approach: we’re working with vocational schools, technical schools, community colleges, and the public school systems because we know that’s where the appreciation for the skillset begins. We’ve got to grab the kids really, really early. And we’re working toward that goal.”

One new partnership between AIC and two community groups — the Coalition of Experienced Black Educators and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership — promotes access to higher education by empowering parents to support their children’s academic success, which, in turn, will benefit the region’s economy if those young people earn degrees and stay local.

“How do they engage the graduate, entice the graduate to stay local and not go elsewhere? That goes beyond pay; that goes beyond benefits. It’s more, how do we make them feel that they have a good career trajectory here at Western Mass.?”

Another new new initiative aims to strengthen AIC’s commitment to equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge for successful careers. The college is among 10 member institutions to benefit from a three-year, $2.5 million grant awarded to the Yes We Must Coalition (YWMC) by Ascendium Education Group to integrate career preparation into four-year degree programs.

This grant — titled “Addressing Inequity in College Retention of Low-income Students: Collaboratively Creating Pathways to Careers in Four-year Degree Programs” — will provide AIC with resources to implement new strategies to promote career readiness. The award will support a partnership among AIC, Jobs for the Future, and Sova Solutions to ensure that students from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed in their chosen fields.

More effectively integrating career preparation into AIC’s four-year degree programs is a step that recognizes the evolving demands of the employment market, Benitez noted. By aligning academic coursework with real-world skills, students will be better equipped to navigate their future careers upon graduation. The degree programs slated for redesign include psychology, biology, business, sociology, theater, and criminal justice.


A New Mindset

To Benitez’s original point however, for any college to adequately meet the needs of the regional economy — and adequately prepare its graduates to succeed within it — it must first know what those needs are.

“I’m telling my industry colleagues and the business colleagues, ‘what do you need as it relates to the workforce? Maybe we can deliver that for you.’ I’m not going to my colleagues and saying, ‘look, AIC is asking for this, this, and this.’ No, on the contrary, I’m saying, ‘what do you need? Let me know because I think I can deliver that for you.’”

In his remarks at the chamber breakfast, he emphasized the importance of collaboration and working toward a greater good in the realm of higher education. “This area is blessed with having so many institutions of higher learning. But it’s not about competition; it’s about working together for the common good.”

To that end, he noted that, in his first year since becoming president, AIC has actively engaged with scores of individuals and community leaders, seeking opportunities for collaboration. “We want to be invitational to the community, not asking for anything, but to ask them, ‘how can we work together?’”

This focus outside the campus, on how AIC can be a catalyst for a stronger regional economy, is part of what Benitez means when he says he wants to reimagine a college education.

“We continue doing that every single day — reimagining how we deliver education, the cost of education, reimagining the sense of belonging in an educational enterprise, but also how we teach students,” he told BusinessWest. “Students today come to academic institutions with a completely different mindset. They think differently about the world. They think differently about the profession. Some of them even question the value of an education.

“That is our reality,” he went on. “So how we deliver education, how we communicate with them, has drastically changed. We think about reimagination every single day.”


Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage


We are excited to announce that BusinessWest has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 169: July 3, 2023

BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks with Hubert Benitez, president of American International College

Colleges are in many ways at a crossroads, emerging from the pandemic years but still battling long-term trends toward fewer applications and heightened competition. On the next installment of BusinessTalk, BusinessWest Editor Joe Bednar talks with Hubert Benitez, president of American International College, about that institution’s holistic approach to standing out in a crowd, one that prioritizes not only academics, but also campus culture and a sense of belonging, as well as connections with the community on workforce-development efforts aimed at strengthening the region’s economy and keeping graduates here. It’s must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Families with young children throughout Massachusetts have taken part in the first-ever community approach to early screening for developmental delays and disabilities.

In April 2023, the Massachusetts Act Early Campaign held the inaugural Massachusetts Developmental Monitoring and Screening Week at more than 30 sites across the Commonwealth, including six in Springfield.

The campaign was designed to generate conversations about child development and increase awareness of the importance of developmental monitoring and screening. The response rate to follow-up surveys indicates approximately 500 children were either screened or completed a developmental-monitoring checklist during the week-long event.

Campaign co-sponsors included United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Boston’s Children’s Hospital, the state’s Head Start Assoc., and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition programs. Children who did not pass the screen or developmental-monitoring checklist were referred to their pediatrician and/or Family TIES of Massachusetts. Participating families were also provided with “Learn the Signs. Act Early” informational pamphlets.

The screening week was co-led by American International College Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Kate Barlow and Carla Therriault from United Way of Massachusetts Bay. Barlow has been serving as the Act Early ambassador for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2019.

Massachusetts Act Early aims to educate parents and professionals about healthy childhood development, early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, the importance of routine developmental monitoring and screening, and timely early intervention whenever there is a concern. To identify children with delays, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screenings be conducted at pediatric wellness visits for infants and toddlers.

However, Barlow said, “more than half of the children who need early-intervention services are not receiving them, which is why developmental monitoring and screening in the community are so important. Early-intervention services are free to families in Massachusetts, yet families do not have access.”

Barlow calls the screening events especially timely given the release of the Massachusetts Early Childhood Agenda in January, listing developmental monitoring and screening as a top initiative. She represents the Massachusetts Act Early Campaign as the lead advocate for that initiative as well. “The statewide initiative to raise awareness was a great success, but we need a champion in the State House to make effective change in Massachusetts,” she said.

Barlow is offering to share the structure of the campaign with her counterparts in other states so the effort to monitor and screen children early can be replicated in other parts of the country. Those who would like more information may email her at [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Karen Rousseau, dean of the School of Health Sciences at American International College (AIC), has been recognized as a member of the Commonwealth Heroines class of 2023 by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW). This state-established body is responsible for assessing the status of women in Massachusetts and making recommendations to enhance access to opportunities and promote equality.

Each year, in collaboration with state legislators, the commission acknowledges and celebrates remarkable women who have made significant contributions to their organizations and communities. Legislators are encouraged to nominate one woman from their constituency, highlighting her impactful contributions, even if they have not received widespread media attention. Rousseau was nominated by state Sen. Jacob Oliveira as the honoree in his Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester district. She is among 126 women across the state who will be honored during the MCSW’s 20th-anniversary celebration at the Massachusetts State House on Friday, June 23.

“The Commonwealth Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make all the difference in their communities,” MCSW Chairwoman Sarah Glenn-Smith said. “Thousands of women in every community across the Commonwealth perform unheralded acts on a daily basis that make our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and towns better places to live. Commonwealth Heroines use their time, talent, spirit, and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others in their community. They are mentors, volunteers, and innovators. They are the glue that keeps a community together.”

With a career spanning four decades, Rousseau excelled as a practicing registered nurse and has dedicated more than 30 years to nursing education. Her areas of expertise include maternal/newborn and pediatric nursing, as well as nursing management. Before holding the position of dean of the School of Health Sciences at AIC, she served as director of the Division of Nursing and contributed as a professor in both the undergraduate and RN-to-BSN programs.

“I’m appreciative of this recognition,” Rousseau said. “I’ve always strived to be a role model to help our nursing students here at AIC be successful in their careers. People look up to and respect nurses, so I always bring that health lens to whatever I do.”

In addition to her leadership role at AIC, she is actively involved in various nursing organizations, including Beta Zeta at Large of Sigma Theta Tau, the Organization of Nurse Leaders, ACAD for Academic Leaders, the Healthcare Partnership for Western Massachusetts, and the Pioneer Valley Interprofessional Education Collaborative. She previously served as a co-chair for the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative, where she worked toward creating seamless educational pathways for nursing.

Outside of her professional commitments, Rousseau is deeply dedicated to her community. She serves on the board of directors for Chicopee’s RiverMills Senior Center and actively participates in the Comprehensive Plan for Chicopee 2040 and the Chicopee Charter Review Commission. Her past involvement with the School Wellness Committee further demonstrates her commitment to the well-being of others.

In choosing Rousseau for recognition, Oliveria said it was his honor to work with MCSW to select someone who truly embodies what it means to serve.

“Whether through her efforts in newborn and pediatric nursing or now with the development of her students at American International College, Karen has spent her life serving others,” he said. “I can’t think of a more deserving individual to recognize. I’m proud to call her my constituent, and I’m grateful for all the incredible work she’s done in her career. I look forward to seeing what she’ll accomplish next.”

Healthcare News

‘I Need to Be a Nurse’

Meghan Kalbaugh

Meghan Kalbaugh plans to progress toward her master’s degree while working full-time as a nurse.


Meghan Kalbaugh’s mother was a nurse who worked in emergency rooms and on patient floors at local medical centers, including Baystate, Mercy, and Holyoke. Her example was a quiet one.

“Surprisingly, we never really talked about it growing up,” said Kalbaugh, who graduated from American International College (AIC) this spring with a bachelor of science in nursing degree. “It was always just my mom; she was a nurse, and she would come home, and I didn’t really have it in my mind to be a nurse.”

But in high school, Kalbaugh participated in a healthcare-careers program, thinking she wanted to be a veterinarian. She eventually realized that wasn’t for her, but she stayed in the program because her parents convinced her to follow through and finish it.

“So, my last year, I became a CNA because the final year of the program is doing a CNA course that’s completely paid for because it was dual enrollment with Holyoke Community College,” she recalled. “Throughout the course, I fell in love with taking care of people and forming a really special bond with my patients. I came home one day, and out of the blue, I was like, ‘I need to be a nurse. I love this, and I want to further my education.’”

Kalbaugh’s original goal when she enrolled at AIC was pediatrics, and she still loves that work, but a labor and delivery rotation changed her mind, and that has become her preferred setting down the road. “But I’m actually starting my nurse residency at Baystate on July 24, and I’ll be in the heart and vascular unit, because labor and delivery wasn’t hiring new graduates. I figured going to a different unit will still provide me with valuable skills and experience. So I’m really excited; I’ll get some heart and vascular experience and then hopefully, within a year, move over to labor and delivery.”

The past four years weren’t easy for Kalbaugh and her classmates, she said, due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“What draws me in is how rewarding it is, knowing I’m helping people and making an impact in their life and changing lives every day; I absolutely love that.”

“It was really, really hard doing it all online from home, especially not seeing the professors in person and not having lectures in person, and just being alone. The coursework was challenging, and that was a time when we all really needed each other, and we couldn’t be with each other. So it was hard, honestly, managing like the isolation from everyone. I’m a very social person, and I just wanted to be around my peers so we could help each other and talk about concepts and be able to like connect with our professors.”

That said, “I’m happy we got through it as a class and were able to come back in person. I was so relieved. I remember the day that they told us we could come back, and I was so excited. I thought, no more of this awful being alone.”

After all, Kalbaugh is, as she noted, a people person, and she values the connections she can make as a nurse.

“What draws me in is how rewarding it is, knowing I’m helping people and making an impact in their life and changing lives every day; I absolutely love that.”

That’s not the only draw for nurses these days. As hospitals and organizations struggle to fully staff and retain their nursing teams, career opportunities abound.

“Everyone is hiring, and they’re offering great incentives, sign-on bonuses, and there are lots of new positions opening,” Kalbaugh said. “There’s a lot of room for growth in healthcare, too, whether that’s climbing up to manager or supervisor or advancing your practice, like becoming a nurse practitioner. There’s a lot of room for growth.”

That’s why she’ll be back at AIC in the fall to start pursuing her master’s degree: to open up new avenues for career growth.

With a degree beyond the BSN, she noted, “you get to be an advanced-practice provider … and, obviously, there’s a better paycheck, and you have more autonomy. So I’m definitely going to keep going because I can see myself doing that, and I believe I have the capability.”

The three-year master’s program is fully online, except for clinical experiences, she explained, an ideal model for people who are actively working full-time or have children and families and other responsibilities.

“I like how it’s broken into one class at a time to make it more easily manageable for people who are working full-time like me,” she said. “So I’ll be working full-time at Baystate and doing this. My unit manager is pretty awesome; I told her I was going to keep going, and she seems like she’ll be very flexible with my schedule and hours, which is good.

“It’s a great way to keep people moving up and progressing as they learn because so much help is needed,” she added. “I mean, you need nurses working, but you can actually continue your education as well. That’s a cool model. And after my first year at Baystate, they’ll give me some tuition reimbursement as well, which is amazing.”

In short, Kalbaugh is a woman with a plan.

“I’m very excited, and also very nervous because it’s going to be a lot. But challenge hasn’t stopped me before, so I’m excited.”


—Joseph Bednar

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will host a virtual information session for the college’s graduate programs on Wednesday, June 7 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

As wages tend to increase with higher degrees, AIC’s graduate-degree programs are designed to give students expertise that helps them increase their earning potential and advance their careers. The median annual salary for workers with a master’s degree was around $81,848 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to bachelor’s degree holders, who earned about $69,368.

Master’s degree holders also tend to have lower unemployment rates than those with a bachelor’s degree. In 2021, the unemployment rate for workers with a master’s degree was 2.6% compared with 3.5% for those with bachelor’s degrees, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This brief, informative session will allow prospective students to gain insight into the 20-plus graduate-degree programs at AIC as well as the opportunity to speak with admissions staff about the application process.

To register, visit www.aic.edu or click here. For more information, call (413) 205-3201.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — A new partnership between American International College (AIC) and two community groups working to promote access to higher education is designed to benefit families in Springfield by empowering parents to support their children’s academic success.

AIC joined hands with the Coalition of Experienced Black Educators (COEBE) and the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership to organize a recent community forum called “Parents as Partners on the Pathway to Higher Education,” reflecting the college’s values of access and community. The event, initiated by state Rep. Bud Williams, equipped dozens of families with valuable insight into the higher-education process and the crucial role parents play in their children’s college experience.

During the forum, keynote speaker and AIC President Hubert Benitez emphasized the importance of removing barriers to higher education and making it accessible to everyone, irrespective of their background or financial situation.

“AIC continues to fulfill its promise of working collaboratively with its community members and partners to increase awareness of the value of an education and to create structured pathways for students to pursue a higher-education degree,” Benitez said. “Collaborating with COEBE is another example of how members of our community can work together to continue to promote equality of opportunity and support the social mobility of the people of Mason Square and the city of Springfield.”

AIC was recently recognized as a top performer for social mobility by the 2022-23 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. AIC’s ranking tied for number 69, placing second in Massachusetts in the report’s National College category, behind only UMass Boston.

Although the cost to obtain a college degree may be perceived as a barrier to higher education, the forum participants learned that the actual expense is frequently lower than the published ‘sticker price’ because students often obtain financial assistance through grants and scholarships. At AIC, 100% of students receive some form of financial aid.

The value of obtaining higher education was further supported by a recent study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce, which revealed that young Americans without a college degree are unlikely to find economic stability and are more likely to be stuck in low-earning jobs than not by age 30.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) and Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) continue to work together for the benefit of Springfield residents, this time to address the housing needs of STCC students.

A new agreement between the two colleges will allow STCC students to reside in the AIC campus residence halls and apartments, located less than two miles away. AIC President Hubert Benitez and STCC President John Cook will take part in a signing ceremony for the student housing agreement today, May 3, at 11:30 a.m., in the lobby of the Esther B. Griswold Theatre in the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center at AIC.

This partnership further strengthens the bond between the institutions, which renewed an articulation agreement last year to facilitate the seamless transition of STCC graduates and qualified candidates to AIC.

Under the terms of the housing agreement, AIC will provide affordable housing options for STCC students age 18 and older who are enrolled full-time and are in good academic standing. STCC students residing at AIC will also have access to the college’s health and counseling services, library, laundry facilities, gym, and other support services. Dining and parking plans will be available for an additional cost.

According Benitez, “this is an important partnership between a private and a public college to assist Springfield students in overcoming barriers to higher education that may be limited by several factors, including accessible and affordable housing. The signing of this housing agreement is designed to provide pipelines to higher education and immersive college experiences that open doors for young adults in our community.”

This option will help many students in the Greater Springfield area who require secure housing, allowing them to attend STCC full-time, according to Cook.

“This is true ecosystem work for two colleges closely connected by way of State Street,” he noted. “Given the housing needs of community-college students now, and the opportunity to preview baccalaureate pathways down the road, we are thrilled to see the realization of this effort.”

Cook added that the agreement will also benefit out-of-town students looking to attend STCC because of its unique programs such as dental hygiene, sonography, energy systems, and manufacturing/CNC.

“We are thrilled about our partnership with AIC to offer students a traditional residential experience while pursuing their degree at STCC,” said Darcey Kemp, vice president of Student Affairs at STCC. “Students who live on college campuses often find it easier to engage in campus events and take advantage of the amenities, support, and services provided. We look forward to offering this option to our students.”

AIC Vice President for Student Affairs Matthew Scott conveyed his pleasure in partnering with STCC to provide on-campus housing to its students. “In line with AIC’s mission, this collaboration allows us to expand access to affordable education and support services for students. We look forward to welcoming STCC students to our campus community and hope this initiative will create new pathways and opportunities for students.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Representatives from American International College (AIC) and Holyoke Community College (HCC) signed a historic agreement that will allow HCC students to live in residence halls and apartments on the AIC campus in Springfield.

“This is definitely a momentous event for both AIC and HCC,” Sharale Mathis, HCC vice president of Academic and Student Affairs, said during the signing ceremony at HCC. “As we know, our students come in with a whole host of challenges, and it’s fortunate to have such a partnership with AIC that will help us address their basic needs.”

The agreement calls for AIC to discount its room rates for HCC students, making college housing available and affordable to community-college students for the first time at AIC. The housing option will be offered to all HCC students 18 years and older who are enrolled full- or part-time and in good academic standing.

“I think today is a hallmark on how public and private institutions truly should work together,” AIC President Hubert Benitez said. “This is a prime example of two teams, two institutions, that have a similar mission of providing access and opportunity.”

According to the agreement, HCC students who opt to live at AIC will have access to other amenities there as well, including health services, the college library, laundry facilities, and a gym. A food plan and parking are also available for an additional cost. There is no age limit for students, couples can live together, and campus apartments are also a possibility.

The AIC housing option will allow HCC to expand its recruiting range of student athletes and might also benefit international students, as well as those struggling to find affordable places to live.

“We’ve been committed to addressing housing insecurity and homelessness for many years, and looking for different ways to strengthen partnerships in support of our students has been a primary goal,” HCC President Christina Royal said. “This agreement does more than just provide housing for our students; it will also give them a taste of college life beyond HCC. It gives them a window into what their futures will look like when they think about transfer possibilities and helps immerse them in another college environment, which are all big wins for our students.”

HCC students could be moving into AIC housing as early as August for the fall semester, which begins at HCC in September.

“The more we can create these bridges, the more we can create and strengthen these pipelines, the better our communities will be served,” Benitez said.

40 Under 40 Class of 2023

Director of Athletics, American International College: Age 35

Jessica ChapinJessica Chapin was a decorated collegiate athlete. In 2010 alone, she was named the University Athletic Assoc. Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, the Brandeis University Female Athlete of the Year, and a State Farm Women’s Basketball All-American; in 2018, she became a New York State Section 5 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.

And then she went to law school, aiming to be an attorney.

But while coaching basketball during that time, she had a realization: that her passion was really in athletics. So, she changed course, enrolled in Springfield College, where she earned a master’s degree in Athletic Administration, and eventually found herself running the Athletics Department at American International College (AIC).

There, Chapin provides leadership for a department of 25 intercollegiate and four club sports, overseeing nearly 45 full-time coaches and another 20 staff members and more than 650 student athletes. She’s responsible for the strategic direction, administration, and supervision of all phases of athletics, including budget management, alumni engagement, fundraising, marketing, enrollment management, personnel management, long-term vision and strategic planning, crisis management and discipline, Title IX and gender equity, facilities, and more.

“Athletics was something I missed, something that was the foundation of my life,” she said of her decision to leave law school, and she’s gratified when student-athletes at AIC make similar journeys of self-discovery. “I love seeing a light go off in the minds of young adults who often come to college not necessarily knowing what they want to do, being able to work with them, seeing the struggles, but then seeing them come out on the other side.”

Chapin also serves with the NCAA on its Division II Management Council, the highest appointment in the organization’s governance structure outside of the President’s Council. In that role, she’s an active participant in the division’s decision making.

She’s also a believer in the value of the athletic experience as a character-building exercise, saying student-athletes possess qualities many others do not, which can serve them well over a lifetime in whatever career they choose.

“It’s definitely gratifying to be a part of all this,” she said. “Sports generally teaches us things that we don’t get to experience otherwise: being on a team, the importance of teamwork, of collaboration, so many things. I feel like, when students are taught by coaches, they learn lessons they might not learn any other way.”


—Joseph Bednar

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Law-enforcement professionals looking to further their education can now get a master of science degree in criminal justice through American International College (AIC). The fully online program is designed to appeal to criminal-justice professionals looking to enhance their skills and credentials, as well as provide the next step for students completing their undergraduate degrees at AIC. The program is now accepting students for the summer 2023 semester, which starts Monday, May 22.

Susanne Swanker, dean of AIC’s School of Business, Arts, and Sciences, expressed enthusiasm about the program, stating, “AIC is excited to build on its rich and successful undergraduate program in criminal justice by offering a master of science in criminal justice. This program will prepare individuals to advance in their careers in the criminal-justice field, including law enforcement, the courts, and corrections, highlighting the expertise that shapes accomplished criminal-justice leaders.”

The MS in criminal justice provides specialized knowledge of public policy, organizational management, and administrative processes, along with advanced graduate leadership and research training. In addition to foundational theories of criminology and criminal justice, students will explore policy design and implementation alongside emerging trends in the field. The program will provide the skills, knowledge, and practical experience needed to protect and serve the public through a wide range of careers, enabling students to develop as ethical and skilled decision makers in the various branches of criminal justice.

“Here at AIC, our master of science in criminal justice program provides a cutting-edge curriculum designed to equip both new and seasoned professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to tackle the unique challenges of the 21st-century criminal-justice system,” Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Regina Sanderson said. “In addition, our students have the option to specialize in their areas of interest through a range of concentration choices.”

The program offers students specializations including social justice and public policy, victim studies, executive leadership, homeland security, and intelligence studies. These specializations allow students to focus on an area of interest unique to their career goals. They can also serve as stand-alone certificates for those interested in enhancing their educational goals and learning activities that overlap across disciplines but remain connected by a single shared subject.

Graduates can apply their skills to many types of law-enforcement positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% growth for protective-service occupations between 2020 and 2030. With a master’s degree, graduates can access the most desirable and highest-paying positions in the law-enforcement field.

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SPRINGFIELD — Officer Curtis McGuire has become American International College’s (AIC) first graduate of the Western Massachusetts Police Academy. McGuire was among the members of the 65th recruit officer candidate class saluted in a graduation ceremony held at AIC on March 17. The newly minted officers marched to the music of a bagpipe into the Griswold Theater, where they were welcomed by family, friends, and fellow members of law enforcement.

AIC President Hubert Benitez offered a warm welcome speech to the graduates and joked about being in a room full of officers, saying, “I’ve never felt so safe.” Benitez told the graduates he has family members in law enforcement, and he holds police near and dear to his heart. “For AIC, this is a special day that we get to host this great event,” he continued, and thanked the officers for their service.

“I am absolutely overjoyed for Officer McGuire,” said Roberto Gonzalez, AIC chief of Police. “He will continue to serve with the AIC family, and his graduation from the academy, the first for the college, represents a great success.”

McGuire trained under the Campus Police for a year and a half before attending the academy, and now returns to AIC, where he will serve as a campus police officer. “I found a home here [at AIC] and intend to stay for quite a while,” he said.

For the 10-year Army veteran, graduation fulfills a lifelong dream to work in law enforcement. At 45, McGuire was the oldest graduate in the ceremony. “I delayed this for many years because my daughter, who is autistic and epileptic, needed our family’s attention,” he explained. “But when things at home were more under control, I was able to focus on becoming an officer.”

The event came at a time when many police departments around the country are struggling to recruit and keep officers. When asked if it was a difficult time to join the force, McGuire answered, “no … you’ve got to be the change you want to see. We bonded at the academy and learned how to work together to do good. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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SPRINGFIELD — The School of Business, Arts, and Sciences at American International College (AIC) has begun recruiting students for three new academic degree programs designed to prepare students for fields in high demand. Launching in the fall of 2023, these new offerings expand AIC’s academic portfolio of more than 40 interdisciplinary programs grounded in the liberal arts.

AIC’s new cybersecurity program will equip students with the technical and business knowledge needed to secure high-paying and growing jobs in this field. Students will assess modern cybersecurity challenges threatening privacy, security, and safety and gain the knowledge and hands-on technical skills to protect digital assets from cybercriminals. Cybersecurity is an ideal degree for people who want to work in a future-focused field with a high earning potential. And with 33% job growth by 2030, opportunities continue to grow.

The new bachelor’s degree in public administration program at AIC was developed to provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in public-sector roles. This program emphasizes experiential learning, with projects in government administration, public health, social science, history, and more. Public administration is a field for those who want to enact change in their communities and beyond. With more than half of all federal workers nearing retirement age, demand for fresh talent is set to skyrocket in the coming years.

The esports and gaming administration program at AIC offers a business degree with a gaming-industry specialization, providing business fundamentals that will last a lifetime. This program addresses the greatest needs in the esports and gaming industry, identified through interviews with major companies, including Capcom and Riot. AIC’s coursework will provide students with the necessary context for understanding the games industry and a basic understanding of how technology-based companies get things done. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of jobs in esports nearly doubled, growing a staggering 85%.

“We are pleased to expand the college’s academic program offerings with new degree pathways that will lead to in-demand careers for our students,” AIC Interim Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Dodge said. “Additionally, these three new programs will help to realize the college’s strategic plan, ‘AIC Reimagined,’ that charts an ambitious course forward.”

AIC is partnering with the Lower Cost Models Consortium (LCMC) and Rize Education to offer these programs with approximately 80% of the coursework on-campus and the remaining 20% in an online environment. The LCMC is a strategic partnership of private colleges and universities collaborating with Rize Education to provide access to a cutting-edge curriculum that prepares students for successful careers.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) welcomed representatives from Holyoke Community College (HCC) to its Springfield campus on March 2 to celebrate a transfer agreement they signed last summer and brainstorm ideas for future partnerships.

President Christina Royal and a cadre of faculty and staff from HCC toured the AIC campus with President Hubert Benitez and other AIC officials and then sat down to talk over lunch.

“We were excited to visit AIC to learn more about their academic programming and student services and identify pathways for our students,” Royal said. “One of the things I noticed is how similar our demographics are, so I know that students who start at HCC will feel at home when they transfer to AIC. President Benitez and AIC have a strong commitment to supporting the community-college transfer student.”

Last June, the two colleges signed an articulation agreement to make it easier and less expensive for HCC students to transfer to AIC through the latter’s Direct Connect program.

Direct Connect transfer students automatically receive a $4,000 scholarship, in addition to earned merit scholarships, before any need-based aid is awarded. This means Direct Connect students can earn up to $18,000 in financial gift aid — not loans — before being evaluated for additional need-based aid. Unlike other transfer articulation agreements, the Direct Connect program at AIC allows students to study and major in their area of interest while attending HCC.

“We believe that AIC offers HCC students a great opportunity for advancing their education through a seamless transition from HCC to AIC,” Benitez said. “We welcome the opportunity to serve community-college students and look forward to a strong relationship between our two institutions.”

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced it has received a $35,000 grant from the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation to support the college’s commitment to embracing diversity and fostering a sense of belonging.

The grant will assist in establishing an Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) on campus to expand the breadth and scope of activities and initiatives that support the College’s DEIB objectives as outlined in AIC’s newly released five-year strategic plan, “AIC Reimagined.” On Dec. 6, the college also received a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to support the establishment of this office. With these grants, the creation of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging will help AIC create and sustain an organizational environment and culture that readily acknowledges and celebrates DEIB by achieving a more diverse and inclusive undergraduate and graduate student body, faculty, and staff.

“We are proud to be selected by the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation as a partner making an impact on the lives of those living in Hampden County,” said Joe Long, AIC’s interim vice president for Institutional Advancement. “Their investment in AIC, our mission, and our new strategic plan is inspiring. We are committed to rewarding their belief in AIC by working tirelessly to create a robust DEIB program that connects all students, faculty, staff, and community members and AIC.”

The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation supports a variety of nonprofit organizations seeking to improve quality of life for those living in Hampden County, with a particular focus on areas such as education, the arts, social services, and health.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Division of Exercise Science at American International College (AIC) announced that its Graduate Strength and Conditioning Program has been approved for continued recognition through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Education Recognition Program (ERP). The recognition renewal period is three years, lasting through Sept. 20, 2025.

Recognition through the ERP demonstrates that the AIC Graduate Strength and Conditioning Program meets the requirements to prepare students for the NSCA-CPT and CSCS certifications and is committed to quality.

“This accomplishment exemplifies all the hard work and dedication our faculty provides to students to set them apart from other students entering the field as young professionals,” said AIC Division of Exercise Science Director Susan Lachowski, adding that “this recognition also enhances our visibility and credibility within the field on a national level.”

The NSCA recognizes exemplary programs that provide the best education to students looking to become leaders within the field of strength and conditioning. “We look forward to this partnership while providing a proven network of professional support for students as they embark on their careers in the strength and conditioning industry,” Lachowski said. “We believe the NSCA is a valuable asset, and NSCA program recognition underscores our commitment to the strength and conditioning profession we serve.”

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced it has received a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to uphold the college’s commitment to embracing diversity and fostering a sense of belonging.

The 2022 Flexible Funding Grant will support the establishment of an Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) on campus to lead and facilitate the College’s DEIB Plan, outlined in AIC’s newly released five-year strategic plan, “AIC Reimagined.” The office’s focus will be on recruiting and retaining diverse students, faculty, and staff. AIC’s goal is to identify its structure and staffing needs by the end of the 2022-23 academic year.

“We are very grateful for the Community Foundation’s support,” said Joe Long, AIC’s interim vice president for Institutional Advancement. “They are investing in AIC, our mission, and our new strategic plan. We are fortunate to have such a respected partner as the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts show their belief in us. We will work tirelessly to reward that belief with a robust DEIB program that connects all students, faculty, staff, and community members and AIC.”

Founded in 1991, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts seeks to enrich quality of life for the people of the region. The foundation received nearly 250 applicants for the Flexible Funding Grants this year, about twice as many as in 2021. One of the priorities for its funding decisions was organizations where the leadership is racially diverse.

“These grants allow grantee organizations to continue their core mission-driven work and to improve their efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion work while addressing community needs,” said Meredith Lewis, the foundation’s director of Community Impact and Partnerships.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has been recognized as a top performer for social mobility in the 2022-23 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. AIC’s ranking tied for 69th, placing the college second in Massachusetts in the report’s National College category, behind only UMass Boston.

“AIC, and its faculty and staff, understand that earning a college degree is vital in increasing and achieving social mobility,” AIC President Hubert Benitez said. “For this reason, AIC continues to strive to offer a high-quality education at an affordable cost, leading to a successful career path. In doing so, it is committed to helping every student, despite their background, to succeed.”

Economically disadvantaged students are less likely to finish college, according to U.S. News & World Report. However, some institutions, such as AIC, have shown an intentional commitment to increase access to education, and as a result are showing progress in advancing social mobility. This is done in part by enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students who have been awarded federal Pell Grants as part of their financial-aid packages. Most of these federal grants are awarded to students whose adjusted gross family incomes are under $50,000. Of the 1,168 undergraduate students enrolled at AIC for the fall 2022 semester, nearly half received a Pell Grant.

“Today, students who attend higher education institutions come from very diverse backgrounds, and the landscape shows vast social and economic disparities,” Benitez added. “Despite inherent obstacles, AIC is keeping true to its commitment to prepare and serve lower-income students, and it continues to take steps towards bridging the gaps, focusing on being an institution where access, opportunity, equity, and belonging are defining characteristics.”

The overall rankings from U.S. News & World Report assess more than 1,800 bachelor’s degree-granting institutions on 17 metrics and place the largest emphasis on a college’s retention and graduation rates.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will host its annual Veterans Day ceremony, dedicated to honoring and supporting those men and women who have served their country, on Thursday, Nov. 10 beginning at 11 a.m. in the Schwartz Campus Center auditorium. The public is invited to attend.

An AIC campus tradition, the ceremony is sponsored by the multi-generational alumni veterans committee, which includes alumni spanning more than 50 years.

The ceremony will begin with the presentation of the colors by the Westover Honor Guard and will include a ‘missing man table’ remembrance, a ceremony featuring a table set for one to symbolize and honor fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service members.

The keynote speech will be delivered by Brig. Gen. John Driscoll, retired commander of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. Driscoll served more than 33 years in the National Guard until his retirement in June 2022 and was honored as the 2015 Springfield Veteran of the Year. His other awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Army Parachutist Badge, and Ranger Tab.

In keeping with tradition, Douglas Mattson, the AIC first-year English student chosen as the winner of the college’s patriotic essay contest, will read his winning entry aloud. The ceremony will conclude with a laying of a wreath by the AIC veterans alumni committee and the playing of “Taps.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) named Michael Eriquezzo associate vice president for Marketing and Communications. He oversees the Office of Marketing and Communications and is responsible for advertising, design, web management, public relations, branding, and internal and external communications, including Lucent magazine, a publication with a print distribution of 26,000.

Eriquezzo joined AIC in 2017 as the chief graphic designer and visual brand manager for the college. He received a bachelor’s of business administration degree in marketing from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

Meanwhile, Tami Christopher has joined AIC as executive director of Student Success and Opportunity, tasked with leading the Center for Navigating Educational Success Together (NEST), which encompasses the James Shea Library along with advising, tutoring, accessibility and accommodations, and other specialized support initiatives that facilitate and support students’ educational success via student-centered educational services.

Christopher brings more than 10 years of experience supporting the post-secondary success of students, particularly those from traditionally marginalized communities. She has held leadership roles with Post University, the University of Bridgeport, and Middlesex Community College in Connecticut. She has supported post-secondary access and opportunity initiatives through research, policy, and program design work with CT Voices for Children, Our Piece of the Pie, and Ready CT.

She has worked closely with current U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on early college program development and has collaborated on college access and success initiatives nationally, including in Colorado, Maine, Rhode Island, and Texas. She earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

In addition, Millie Lopez-Cook has been hired as director of Human Resources and deputy Title IX coordinator. She will have oversight and responsibility for recruiting, training and development, employee relations, compensation management, health and welfare benefits, record management and diversity, equity, and inclusion for AIC. Additionally, as deputy Title IX coordinator, she will serve in an investigative role and ensure the timely resolution of reports of sex discrimination, sexual misconduct, or harassment.

Lopez-Cook brings to AIC an extensive background in human resources professionally in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors and as an academic, having taught human-resource management, organizational behavior, labor relations, and business management at the college level. She graduated with a master’s degree in science management from Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced Arlen Carballo as a new member of the board of trustees and long-time board member E. David Wilson as trustee emeritus.

Carballo is the executive director of Finance for MGM Springfield, overseeing all aspects of finance operations for both gaming and non-gaming areas. She has been part of the MGM Springfield team since the property opened in 2018, serving as the resort’s first director of Financial Planning.

Prior to MGM Springfield, Carballo was part of the opening team for MGM National Harbor in Maryland. She is a graduate of the MGM Resorts Management Associate Program and has held leadership roles across both finance and operations at MGM’s Bellagio and Mandalay Bay properties in Las Vegas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management from Northern Arizona University and is a graduate of the HACR 2022 Young Hispanic Corporate Achievers program.

Wilson joined the AIC board of trustees in 1991, while serving as president of Milton Bradley. A graduate of the Harvard Advanced Management Program, he was vice president of Parker Brothers before joining Milton Bradley as manager in the game division in 1980. He was later promoted to senior vice president of Sales by Hasbro Industries, the parent company, before being named president, a title he held until his retirement in 2005.

In June 2021, following 30 years of service to the institution, Wilson retired from the AIC board of trustees.

“Beyond the generosity of their philanthropy,” AIC President Hubert Benitez said, “the commitment, dedication, and service to the institution of our trustees are immeasurably important as we look toward a future that allows AIC to be a college of choice for students seeking a sense of belonging, innovative education, and profound student experiences.”

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 119: July 4, 2022

George O’Brien talks with Hubert Benitez, the recently appointed president of American International College

Hubert Benitez

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Hubert Benitez, the recently appointed president of American International College. The two discuss his latest assignment within academia, his goals for AIC, COVID, and the many other challenges facing colleges and universities today. It’s all must listening, so join us for BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local and sponsored by PeoplesBank.


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SPRINGFIELD American International College (AIC) has signed an articulation agreement with Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), formally establishing a close academic relationship between the two-year college and the four-year institution. 

This accord between American International College and Springfield Technical Community College aligns academic programs that enhance the seamless transition of STCC graduates and qualified candidates from STCC, and promote a smooth, successful transfer to AIC. 

This articulation agreement offers time and cost savings for students by recognizing the coursework pursued at the community college and demonstrates the ongoing commitment of both AIC and STCC to the community and its students, by ensuring that educational pathways are created for all those who wish to consider a degree in higher education. 

At AIC, the program is referred to as Direct Connect. Direct Connect transfer students automatically receive a $4,000 scholarship in addition to their earned merit scholarship, before any need-based aid is awarded. This means Direct Connect students can earn up to $18,000 in financial gift aid, not loans, before being evaluated for additional need-based aid. And, unlike some other transfer articulation agreements, the Direct Connect program at AIC allows students to study and major in their area of interest while attending their community college. 

“We are honored to have entered into a partnership with Springfield Technical Community College,” said American International College President Hubert Benitez. The execution of articulation agreements with our community colleges, exemplifies AIC’s vision of expanding the services we provide to our students and to the communities we serve. In this time where the value of education is being questioned, we are ensuring that students not lose time or credits in the transition.”  

“We appreciate the continued collaboration between STCC and AIC, and welcome, in particular, the program-specific nature of this partnership,” said STCC President John Cook. “As neighbors just over a mile from one another, it is wonderful to continue our shared commitment to college access and affordability.”    

More information about American International College’s Direct Connect program and other undergraduate, and graduate degree programs can be found online at www.aic.edu.