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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.”

Daily News

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.

Daily News

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.”

Daily News

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.

Daily News

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.”

Daily News

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.

Daily News

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.

Daily News

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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Daily News

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. 

Cover Story

Study in Determination

Hubert Benitez

Hubert Benitez

Hubert Benitez is a dentist by trade. He got into that field because he wanted to serve people — and because he wanted to make a difference. He eventually left dentistry for academia because … well, he still wanted to serve people and make a difference, but in an even more profound way, by creating pathways to higher education. This focus has become a passion, one that he brings to his new role as president of American International College.

At the recent commencement ceremonies for American International College, Hubert Benitez, DDS, the school’s president, was at the podium, handing out diplomas, and offering traditional greetings to the graduates — something along the lines of ‘congratulations, and good luck.’

And in what would have to be considered an unusual twist, many of them said the same thing back to him.

Indeed, Benitez had been on the job for only about a month before taking the stage at those ceremonies at the MassMutual Center — and delivering the commencement address while he was at it. Most all of the students accepting their diplomas knew that, and wanted to offer some words of encouragement.

“You don’t learn about an institution until you’ve talked to its people.”

Taking the helm just a few weeks before the end of a spring semester is highly unusual in higher education — most new presidents would prefer to start during the summer, when things are slower and they have time to ramp up, or at the start of a new school year. Benitez said he was given those options, but was also asked to consider starting in April by Board of Directors Chairman Frank Colaccino, a member of AIC’s Class of 1973 and member of the search committee that ultimately offered Benitez the job.

And he said he jumped at the opportunity, essentially because he couldn’t wait to get started with the next chapter in both his intriguing professional career — and in the history of the school, which first welcomed students in 1885.

“That is a non-traditional start date,” he acknowledged. “Because it’s a transitional phase — we’re closing, and also starting a new academic year. In retrospect, I think it’s been beneficial to start when I did, because I had the opportunity to work with my colleagues during a very stressful time — an academic year is ending, we’re close to commencement, we’re close to ending the fiscal year, and now we’re preparing the budget to present to the Board of Directors for approval.

the AIC campus

Hubert Benitez says his first visit to the AIC campus left him convinced that he wanted to be the school’s next president.

“It’s almost unheard of to start at that time, but I wanted to take up the challenge,” he went on. “And, more importantly, my colleagues were willing to welcome a new president in that time of flux.”

Benitez was anxious to start, and before that, he was anxious to apply, because in every way he can imagine, the school’s mission and its ongoing focus on first-generation students and those who may need a second chance to further their education reflects his own resume and his own focus within higher education.

He said that, throughout its history, AIC has created opportunities for many individuals and he wants to continue and build on this mission, making the school ever-more diverse and responsive to the challenges facing both traditional and non-traditional students.

He brings to that assignment an intriguing resume. Indeed, those letters after his name, DDS, indicate that he is a dentist by trade. He had a practice for more than 14 years, but eventually decided he couldn’t see himself “taking care of toothache for the rest of my life.”

Instead, he opted to change course and pursue a career in higher education, or “the academy,” as he called it, because it met a life-long desire to serve others while presenting many different opportunities to grow as an individual and lead others.

“I always saw my colleagues in higher education as individuals who were trying to find new directions, trying to research, trying to find new directions for healthcare for education … and that was something that was intriguing to me,” he said.

In his most recent position, Benitez served as vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Academic Innovation, and as acting chief inclusion officer at Rockhurst University (RU) in Kansas City, MO. Prior to Rockhurst, Benitez served as president and chief executive officer for Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences for almost five years, where he provided visionary and strategic leadership that included merging the school in Rockhurst (more on that later).

Hubert Benitez, right, was offering congratulations

While Hubert Benitez, right, was offering congratulations to students at commencement, they were offering it right back to him.

In his short but busy time at AIC, he has been “learning and doing,” as he put it and starting the hard work of creating an envisioning plan for the college, an effort involving many individuals and constituencies.

“Many people ask me, ‘what is your vision?’ he said. “I have a vision of what AIC will be, but the vision of AIC will be a shared vision, a vision created by faculty, staff, administrators, because I want to make sure everyone owns that vision.”

 

Something to Sink His Teeth Into

Benitez told BusinessWest that while he was at Rockhurst University, he was encouraged by recruiting firms to apply for various positions, most of them presidencies, across the broad spectrum of higher education. The presidency of AIC was not one of them.

“No one invited me to apply to AIC; I chose AIC, and I was hoping that AIC would choose me,” he said, adding that there were many things about the small, urban school that intrigued him, starting with the three words over the school’s banner: Access, Opportunity, and Diversity.

“When I see an institution that focuses on providing access to demographics of students, providing opportunities to students who haven’t been successful a first time, or a second time, and maybe this is their last opportunity, and when I see an institution that is working on maximizing the diversity of the future workforce … that is absolutely true to who I am, not only as a person, but as a professional.”

Elaborating, he said that the mission of AIC is true to his heart and a reflection of what he has devoted his career to in recent years. To understand those sentiments, we turn the clock back to his decision to transition from dentistry to higher education.

That transition occurred as he was pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship, when Benitez met a fellow DDS who became a mentor and eventually convinced him that his future shouldn’t be in dentistry.

“I believe in the value of mentorship, not only because it helps people move forward with their professional aspirations, but because mentors find in you what you may not have found in yourself,” he explained. “He saw in me a skill set, a desire for professional growth, a desire to work in higher education … he once told me ‘I don’t think you should stay in dental schools — I see you as a holistic administrator.”

This same mentor advised him that he would need a Ph.D., or another one, to be exact, this one in higher education administration, which he earned at Saint Louis University’s College of Education and Public Service.

He then “went through the academic ranks,” as he put in, serving in a number of capacities, including adjunct faculty, full-time faculty, program director, assistant dean, dean, provost, and chief academic officer, before becoming president and CEO of Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences.

There, as noted earlier, he helped orchestrate a merger with Rockhurst, a union that was different from many of this type because Saint Luke’s was successful at the time, not struggling as many schools are when they look to merge with a larger institution.

“This was the case of two very strong academic institutions, financially healthy academic institutions, coming together with a common vision,” he explained. “Our merger became an example of how two strong institutions can come together, as opposed to traditional mergers, where one institution has troubles and the other one does not, and I was proud to be part of that process.”

As noted, he would go on to vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Academic Innovation, and as acting chief inclusion officer at Rockhurst.

He was in that role, when, without the encouragement of any recruiters, he applied for the position of president at AIC, earned the opportunity to interview for it, and eventually visited the campus in January. It made quite a first impression, as he recalled.

“Sometimes when you visit a campus, and I’ve had the privilege of visiting many, you get a feeling, or you get what I call a vibe when you visit an academic institution,” he said. “My wife and I left this college and we looked at each other, and we knew it felt right.”

During that visit, he said he met with a number of faculty, staff, and students, who collectively presented a picture of what they were looking for in the school’s next president.

“My focus has always been on creating opportunities for access, for diversity, for equity, for inclusion.”

He summed it all up this way: “They said they were looking for someone who could help them and help this institution become prominent in the community while continuing to serve that demographic of student, and continue to provide that access,” he recalled. “If you hear that, and I look back at my story, you can’t be more mission-aligned and vision-aligned; it’s an alignment of the mission to who I am.”

 

Course of Action

Getting back to his unusual start date, Benitez said it has been beneficial in a number of ways, especially in the manner in which it has enabled him to get a head start on his work, and do a lot of that ‘learning and doing’ he mentioned.

The ‘doing’ part concerns everything from commencement to putting the budget together for the new year, he said, adding that the ‘learning’ takes many forms and is ongoing.

For starters, it involves meeting with every employee on the payroll, he said, adding that this is what he did when he was president of Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences, an exercise that became a tremendous learning experience.

“First and foremost, I need to know my colleagues’ aspirations — what are their needs?” he explained. “I always say that people come first, and if I can learn to understand each and every person’s personal and professional aspirations, I can serve them better. You don’t learn about an institution until you’ve talked to its people.”

Benitez said he’s already met with senior staff and many groups of employees, and has a schedule packed with one-on-one interviews for the next few months.

He’s also meeting with students, taking in events, meeting with the faculty senate and individual faculty members, all in an effort to learn more about the school, where its stakeholders want to take it, and how it will get there.

“But while learning, we’re also doing,” he said, adding that he and team members have been preparing for both the new school year and the first “envisioning exercise,” as he called it.

“We’re already gathering a group of faculty, staff, and administrators in a room and start to envision what the future of AIC is going to look like,” he said.

“There has to be ownership of the vision, “he went on. “It’s not ‘here’s the president’s vision and others will execute it’ — in my mind, that will never work; it will never have ownership. People need to feel that they belong and that they have a sense of ownership.”

As for his own vision for the school, Benitez said he wants an AIC that is heavily involved in the community and responsive to the constantly changing needs of its students, the community, and area businesses.

“It’s not ‘what can the community do for AIC?’ On the contrary; it’s ‘what can AIC do for the community?’” he explained. “I see an AIC that is vibrant, that creates an environment where, when I walk through the corridors of this institution, it feels like home for all. I should be able to walk the campus and say ‘do you feel at home here?’ If I hear everyone saying ‘yes,’ I think we’re doing our job.”

While working on the visioning process, and as part it, Benitez said he will continue and hopefully broaden AIC’s mission of providing access and opportunities, work that has become the focal point of his own career in higher education.

“My focus has always been on creating opportunities for access, for diversity, for equity, for inclusion,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s been on working with minority populations and creating pathways into higher education for demographics of students where higher education is not always seen as a viable option.

“Some of my colleagues will say ‘it makes sense to you — you come from a Latino background, a demographic group under-represented not only in the health professions but in education in general,’” he said. “And I say ‘yes, it does make sense to me, but it’s the right thing to do.’ And that’s why I’ve devoted the majority of my career to that work of creating transitions, pathways, and pipelines for students from under-represented backgrounds to arrive in higher education, earn a degree, and obtain a better way of living for themselves.”

 

Grade Expectations

Benitez said he shook more than 600 hands during those commencement exercises earlier this month, which he described as a humbling experience in many respects.

Most humbling were those wishes for good luck from the students, he said, adding that they certainly resonated with him.

He understands there are many challenges facing the school, from the uncertainties stemming from the pandemic, to ongoing enrollment issues stemming from smaller high school graduating classes and a host of other issues, to that ongoing task of creating more pathways to higher education.

He not only understands them, he embraces them and wants to tackle them head on. That’s why he took this job, and that’s why he took that early start. There’s plenty of work to do, and he wanted to get right to it.

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will celebrate its 137th commencement on Saturday, May 7 at 10 a.m., at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, with President Hubert Benitez presiding. Benitez takes the helm as the college’s 12th president on April 11. The board of trustees unanimously selected Benitez to lead the institution in February.

International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee and AIC alumna Marcella MacDonald will deliver the commencement address to graduate and undergraduate students and receive an honorary degree from the college. MacDonald, who graduated from AIC in 1985, will receive an honorary doctor of laws, honoris causa, awarded for outstanding achievement.

MacDonald graduated with a bachelor’s degree from American International College in 1985. While attending AIC, she credits now-retired Coach Judy Groff with welcoming her to the college that eventually led to her becoming a softball All-Conference student-athlete and an All-American honorable mention her senior year. Following completion of her undergraduate studies, MacDonald attended New York College of Podiatric Medicine in New York City, graduating with a doctoral degree.

While attending to a successful podiatric practice spanning more than 30 years that focuses on caring for the senior population, MacDonald has likewise achieved monumental athletic success. In 1994, she was inducted into the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame for softball in her hometown of Manchester, Conn. In 2005, she was inducted into the AIC Athletics Hall of Fame, also for softball. Most recently, in 2019, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

According to MacDonald, she approaches swimming “in its purest form: one bathing suit, cap, and goggles. No wetsuits or performance enhancements.” To that end, she has conquered the English Channel, “the Mount Everest of open water swims,” she said, amassing 17 solo crossings from England to France, including three double crossings of the English Channel by herself — that is England to France, then return to England, in one shot, more than 40 miles. MacDonald holds the distinction for the most solo crossings for an American woman.

Among her international and national accomplishments, MacDonald successfully tackled Loch Ness in 2015, swimming 23 miles in just under 12 hours; the Maui Channel in six hours; and Lake Sunapee, N.H., a punishing, 10-hour qualifying swim in 60-degree water. Among other accomplishments, she has participated in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim five times, where she was highlighted in the Discovery film The Big Swim. She has participated in the annual Swim Across the Sound to encourage past swimmers to get reacquainted with the sport. In addition, she swam the Molokai Hawaiian Channel, a feat of 17 hours, 27 minutes, 20 seconds. But, as she says, “who’s counting seconds?”

MacDonald and her wife, Janet Galya, reside in Andover, Conn., where she can frequently be spotted training for open-water swims early in the morning before patient hours and on the weekends at Connecticut state parks and the shore.

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SPRINGFIELD — After a two-year hiatus, American International College (AIC) will continue its annual Desmond Tutu Public Health Awareness Lecture Series on Wednesday, April 6 from 11:30 a.m. tp 12:30 p.m. with “Can You Hear Me Now? Loneliness, COVID, and Social Connectivity,” presented by Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer and chief administrative officer for Mercy Medical Center.

Roose has been affiliated with Trinity Health Of New England since 2013, having also held the positions of chief of Addiction Medicine and Recovery Services and vice president of Behavioral Health at Mercy Medical Center. In his current role, he has led the health system through the COVID-19 pandemic, enhanced quality and safety, and facilitated operational improvements, demonstrated by achieving three consecutive ‘A’ grades from the Leapfrog Group, an organization advocating for patient safety and quality and transparency in healthcare.

“The School of Health Sciences at AIC is fortunate to have Dr. Roose accept our invitation to speak to our students,” Dean Karen Rousseau said. “While we often hear about the long-term physical effects of the COVID pandemic, healthcare professionals will also encounter the resulting long-term emotional and mental-health needs of patients. We are fortunate to have a tremendously adept individual in the community who can speak to these issues both as a physician and public health expert.”

During his time with Trinity Health, Roose spearheaded the expansion and renovation of opioid-treatment programs, developed new partnerships with community providers, opened a clinical stabilization service, and integrated addiction care into the hospital and Emergency Department with a goal of transforming care and improving operations to enable all people to receive high-quality care.

Previously, he served as director of Quality Improvement and medical director in the Division of Substance Abuse at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y. Board-certified in family medicine and addiction medicine, he was named the 2013 Addiction Medicine Physician of the Year by the New York State Department of Health’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

While the in-person event is for AIC students in the School of Health Sciences, a Zoom link is available for members of the public-health community to attend remotely at no cost. To RSVP and receive the link, contact Kristi Gosselin at (413) 205-3565 or [email protected] by April 5.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will host a graduate open house on Tuesday, March 22 beginning at 6 p.m. in the Sprague Cultural Arts Center on the AIC campus located at 1000 State St. in Springfield.

The open house is for the working professional looking to attend graduate school and is designed to give prospective students access to all the information they need in one convenient location while providing an opportunity to meet faculty, staff, and other students in order to gain insight to AIC’s programs, admission processes, college financing, and housing.

According to Vice President for Admissions Kerry Cole, “AIC offers an array of master and doctoral degree programs in business, psychology, education, and the health sciences, including nursing, occupational therapy, and physical therapy, with blended and online programs, to help advance career opportunities. We know that time is extremely valuable between demanding work schedules and family life. Our goal is to offer an open house that welcomes working professionals and makes it easy for them to gather helpful information as they consider next steps in their career aspirations.”

To register for this event, visit go.aic.edu/portal/grevents. More information regarding graduate-degree programs at AIC is available online at www.aic.edu or by calling the Admissions Office at (413) 205-3700.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced it has earned the 2022-23 Military Friendly School designation.

Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,800 schools participated in the 2022-23 survey, with 665 recognized for going above the standard.

The 2022-23 Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May and October issue of GI Jobs magazine and can be found at www.militaryfriendly.com.

Methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by Viqtory with input from the Military Friendly Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher-education and military-recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer), and loan-default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

“American International College is proud to be recognized as an institution that assists individuals who serve our country,” said Nicolle Cestero, chief operating officer, executive vice president, and chief of staff at AIC. “As an institution that provides access and opportunity in a diverse community, we appreciate the opportunities and experiences provided by the Armed Forces for personal growth and leadership. Recognizing the solid foundation provided by military service, the college offers transfer credits for students’ time in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, helping active-duty service members and veterans get a head start on earning their degrees.”

Kayla Lopez, national director of Military Partnerships for Military Friendly, added that “Military Friendly is committed to transparency and providing consistent, data-driven standards in our designation process. Our standards provide a benchmark that promotes positive outcomes and support services that better the educational landscape and provide opportunity for the military community. This creates a competitive atmosphere that encourages colleges to evolve and invest in their programs consistently. Schools who achieve awards designation show true commitment in their efforts, going over and above that standard.”

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has appointed Susan Henrichon dean of the School of Education.

Henrichon joined American International College in 2018, bringing more than 30 years of experience in PK-12 public education, with more than 15 years spent in senior leadership roles. Most recently, she served as the associate dean of academic programs while teaching extensively in the School of Education, and additionally serving as a senior instructor and program supervisor for graduate students.

Prior to coming to AIC, Henrichon was an assistant superintendent of schools in Oxford and director of Special Education and Student Services for the Oxford Public Schools system. Before that, she was the director of Pupil Personnel Services in Monson, director of Special Education in Easthampton, director of Student Services for the Southwick-Tolland-Granville school district; special-education team leader in the Holyoke Public Schools; and assistant department head of Quality Assurance at the Monson Developmental Center.

Henrichon has been recognized by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for her work. Her professional affiliations include the Massachusetts Assoc. of School Superintendents, the Worcester County Superintendents Assoc., Massachusetts Administrators for Special Education, the Western Massachusetts Special Education Directors Assoc., the Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the Council for Exceptional Children.

She received a doctor of education degree in educational administration at Northcentral University in Phoenix; her certificate of advanced graduate studies in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts; a master’s degree in education, special education, from Westfield State University; and a bachelor’s degree from Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H.

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SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) Admissions office will offer virtual information sessions for prospective graduate-degree program applicants during March.

Information sessions provide an opportunity for attendees to speak with admissions counselors and faculty virtually to learn more about the admissions process, available programs, financial aid, and more.

In addition to general information sessions, there are several specialized sessions for advanced-degree programs in the School of Health Sciences, the School of Education, and the School of Business, Arts and Sciences. Interested participants are invited to visit go.aic.edu/portal/grevents for a complete list of the information sessions and to register.

To learn more about graduate-degree programs available at American International College, visit www.aic.edu or call (413) 205-3700.

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SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) board of trustees announced that Hubert Benitez, DDS, PhD has been unanimously selected as the 12th president of the 137-year-old institution. Benitez will succeed President Vince Maniaci, who is retiring after 17 years of service.

Hubert Benitez

“We believe Dr. Benitez is a leader who embraces the mission and strategic vision of American International College,” said Frank Colaccino, board of trustees chair. “Although these are challenging times for higher education, in the institution where Dr. Benitez previously served as president, he successfully expanded enrollment and developed new programs, while he increased the financial health and sustainability of the institution. He did this in a spirit of teamwork, ownership, and accountability, along with dedicated community outreach and engagement. As evidenced by his own career path, Dr. Benitez is an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. He is committed to providing access, opportunity, and pathways for student success.”

Benitez will join American International College on April 11.

“I am extremely humbled to have been selected as AIC’s new president and cannot be more excited to join an institution with such a rich history and strong commitment to access and opportunity,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with the AIC faculty, staff, and students, as we, together, envision how to further impact the communities we serve. I am grateful for this opportunity and consider it the honor and privilege of my lifetime.”

In his most recent position, Benitez served as vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Academic Innovation and as acting chief inclusion officer at Rockhurst University (RU) in Kansas City, Mo., a comprehensive institution of higher learning that offers educational programs to a diverse student population in business, communications, education, engineering, healthcare, humanities, performing and visual arts, science, and mathematics. Among his responsibilities, Benitez had direct oversight of strategic planning, institutional effectiveness, accreditation and assessment, distance education/e-learning, and the Prosperity Center for Financial Opportunity.

Prior to Rockhurst, Benitez served as president and CEO of Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences in Kansas City for almost five years, where he provided visionary and strategic leadership that included growing and diversifying the college’s academic portfolio; promoting a culture of assessment; increasing the visibility of the institution through community presence, engagement, and outreach efforts; engaging in recruitment and enrollment-management practices that increased the college’s population while meeting the needs of a new and diverse demographic of students; and implementing a financial strategy that increased the institution’s fiscal stability and outlook.

Benitez received his first doctoral degree in dentistry from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Latin America. He subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Connecticut Health Sciences Center, later earning a PhD in higher education administration from Saint Louis University’s College of Education and Public Service. He is a graduate of the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, and he completed the Executive Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He has dedicated the last two decades to higher education as an academic and administrator, and 15 years prior as a clinician.

A member of numerous academic organizations, boards, and advisory committees past and present, Benitez currently serves on the board of directors for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City and the board of trustees for Cristo Rey Kansas City, a Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth high school; is a peer reviewer for Middle States Commission on Higher Education; is a member the Hispanic Advisory Committee for Kansas City Public Schools; and is a member of the KC Rising Steering Committee, a body of the KC Rising initiative, composed of business and community volunteers from across the Kansas City metropolitan area who are committed to regional collaboration. His professional associations include the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, the American Assoc. of Hispanics in Higher Education, the American Dental Assoc., and the Golden Key International Honor Society, among others.

In addition to an extensive selection of published works, Benitez has been a guest lecturer in the U.S. and abroad and has been the recipient of federally and privately funded research grants. His work ethic and commitment has been recognized by Univision Kansas City for his ongoing support for Hispanic heritage and by Universidad Piloto of Colombia for forging international and interdisciplinary exchange programs. He has been a recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Award and received special recognition for service to the community through Excellence in Education. His contributions to Suffolk County from the Office of Minority Affairs have been praised, in addition to being selected as one of the Top 25 Advocates for Latino Empowerment in Long Island, N.Y.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) has appointed Michael Dodge associate vice president for Academic Affairs following a national search.

Dodge has been with AIC since 2018, previously serving 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 Memorial Library, and was instrumental in the success of the AIC’s Plan for Excellence (APEX) program for students, serving as director of the program. In addition, he served as the principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Education Title III Grant program.

While maintaining several of his previous responsibilities, as the associate vice president for Academic Affairs, Dodge will serve as the chief of staff to the executive vice president for Academic Affairs (EVPAA), including responsibility for day-to-day operational support for all areas reporting to the EVPAA, including the schools of Business Arts and Sciences, Education, and Health Sciences. Among his many areas of responsibility, Dodge will represent the Office of Academic Affairs to internal and external constituencies to develop comprehensive and integrative structures and processes to support student success and timely graduation. In addition, he will assist in the institution’s assessment processes and support development of meaningful and measurable institution, program, and course student-learning outcomes. He will research and analyze new program proposals from concept to market.

Prior to 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 first earning his master’s degree in student affairs in higher education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and his bachelor’s degree in secondary education and English at the State University of New York Oswego.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College announced that Henry “Joe” Long Jr. joined AIC as associate vice president for Institutional Advancement on Nov. 29. Long will oversee all development operations, including major gifts, planned giving, annual giving, grants, advancement services, and constituent records.

With more than 20 years of experience in fundraising, team building, and securing major and planned gifts, he comes to AIC from UMass Amherst, where he served as the executive director of Development for Libraries. At UMass Amherst, he partnered with a dedicated staff to enhance philanthropic support for all three library locations and strengthen donor stewardship and communication.

Prior to UMass, Long worked at Springfield College for more than a decade with success in major giving, athletics development, and parent giving. Additionally, he has held numerous advancement leadership roles at Plymouth State University, including alumni director and interim director of advancement.

Long served as a member of the board of directors for the Council of Advancement and Support of Education, District I, from 2009 to 2016, and currently serves on the African American Development Officers (AADO) network and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Diverse Philanthropy and Leadership Conference committee.

His wife, Moira Long, is the head women’s volleyball coach at Springfield College.

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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. The ceremony will be held in the Schwartz Campus Center auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

The ceremony includes the presentation of colors by the U.S. Marine Corps, the display and historical significance of the POW/MIA Missing Man table by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, and keynote speaker Brig. Gen. John Driscoll.

Driscoll was born in Boston, raised in Melrose, and has lived in Springfield for the past 25 years. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1989 with a degree in mechanical engineering. An Army ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate, he was commissioned as a field artillery officer. He deployed to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm as the company fire-support officer, and later served as the company fire-detection officer, battery platoon leader, and assistant task force fire-support officer.

Driscoll has held numerous leadership positions, including but not limited to commander of 101st Regional Training Institute, the 1-181 Infantry Battalion, and the Recruiting and Retention Battalion. He has served as battalion executive officer for the 104th Infantry Battalion and UMass ROTC Instructor. His service also includes stints as G1 director of personnel for the Massachusetts Army National Guard and chief of operations of the Central Command Joint Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

Driscoll has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Army Parachutist Badge, and Ranger Tab. He holds dual master’s degrees in defense management and strategic studies.

AIC’s multi-generational Alumni Veterans Committee sponsors the annual event, which includes alumni spanning more than 50 years. In keeping with tradition, freshman English students are asked to write a patriotic essay, with the committee selecting standout works. The top three winners are announced at the event, with the first-place essay read at the event.

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SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) Admissions office will offer in-person and virtual open houses and information sessions for prospective undergraduate- and graduate-degree program applicants during October.

Timed to coincide with Homecoming weekend, the undergraduate open house will take place on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon, giving interested students an opportunity to catch the AIC Homecoming football game beginning at noon, along with other athletic events.

An undergraduate information session will take place earlier in the month, on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m. Information sessions provide an opportunity for attendees to speak with Admissions counselors to learn more about the admissions process, available programs, financial aid, and more.

Numerous graduate information sessions, offered virtually, will be held during October for interested applicants in the areas of business, arts and sciences, education, and health sciences, including a specialized session dedicated to the doctor of physical therapy program. An open house for all graduate-level programs will take place on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 11 a.m.

Interested participants are invited to visit www.aic.edu/visit for a complete list of dates, times, and to register. To learn more about undergraduate- and graduate-degree programs available at American International College, visit www.aic.edu or call (413) 205-3700.

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SPRINGFIELD — Since its launch in the fall semester of 2020, the American International College (AIC) master of science program in Cannabis Science and Commerce has been an online degree program. Beginning this fall semester, the Micro Emerging Markets: Cannabis certificate program will additionally be offered fully online.

The MS program in cannabis science and commerce, a 30-credit graduate program, is designed for individuals interested in a career in the cannabis industry, providing students with an understanding of the science, business, and legal issues associated with the industry. The program offers education in the areas of basic science, including chemistry, horticulture, cultivation, uses, and delivery systems; business management, marketing, and operations; and federal and state laws and policies.

The Micro-Emerging Markets: Cannabis certificate program offers three business courses in rotation. There are no prerequisites to enroll other than a high-school diploma or GED equivalency. Non-matriculated students are welcome to enter the program.

The first course of the certificate program, “Cannabis Entrepreneurship,” examines customer groups, products, and services in the recreational market. The effect of price, quality, and competitors will be explored relative to competing effectively. This will involve key components of the industry, including legal aspects, business models, financing, and marketing.

In “Cannabis Business Operations,” students will analyze the evolving cannabis marketplace and investigate the complexities and challenges of this sector. This course will conduct an in-depth look at the key components of different business types, how the sector is evolving, starting and operating a cannabis business, in addition to financial constraints, investments, and strategic marketing in the industry.

The final course of the certificate tackles “Law and Ethics of Cannabis,” which examines the legalization of cannabis. Discussion around the legal and ethical implications of cannabis use, its legalization, criminal activity, and marketing will be explored, in addition to perspectives of law enforcement, business owners, and recreational uses.

According to the 2021 jobs report issued by Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis website, 321,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs across 37 states were supported by legal cannabis as of January this year. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have now legalized adult recreational-use marijuana, including Connecticut, the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis this June. The cannabis job growth in 2020 represented a doubling of the previous year’s U.S. job growth. In 2019, the cannabis industry added 33,700 new U.S. jobs for a total of 243,700. Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, spiking unemployment, and economic recession, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the U.S. That represents 32% year-over-year job growth.

“American International College is excited to offer both a graduate-level program that offers courses focused on developing business acumen in a field that is experiencing a meteoric rise and a certificate program that is a business-based offering that provides courses in a developing field,” said Susanne Swanker, AIC’s dean of the School of Business, Arts and Sciences. “AIC is positioning itself to be an educational leader in this rapidly emerging market that offers entrepreneurial and employment and opportunities for the future.”

For more information regarding these programs, visit www.aic.edu/cannabis.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced that Velmer Burton Jr., Jennifer McDonough, and Louis Izzi Jr. will join its leadership team.

Burton joins AIC on July 12 as executive vice president for Academic Affairs. As part of his responsibilities, Burton will advance the academic priorities and goals of the college in a fiscally responsible manner, balancing expenses and revenues and managing growth, with an emphasis on new and enhanced programming, student learning, and quality of instruction in a student-centered, culturally diverse, and inclusive environment. He will oversee undergraduate and graduate degree programs in AIC’s School of Business, Arts and Sciences; School of Education; and School of Health Sciences.

In his most recent executive positions at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Burton has served as senior vice chancellor of University Strategy and Performance and professor of Criminal Justice, with the goals of building external constituencies, collaborating with the institution’s communities, and enhancing offerings and outreach initiatives within the local community. As executive vice chancellor and provost at UA Little Rock, he also served as the university’s chief academic officer, overseeing 164 academic programs supported by 500 full-time faculty. He was responsible for personnel and planning across six colleges, as well as all academic issues and initiatives, operations, and programs.

As provost, coupled with providing internal and external leadership for the division of Academic Affairs, he monitored departmental and college governance document processes, co-chaired the university budget review committee, worked with the executive committee of the university’s faculty senate, expanded tenure-track and tenured faculty and full-time instructors, and implemented the ‘teacher-scholar model’ to ensure quality teaching and scholarship. In addition, he oversaw Higher Learning Commission Accreditation efforts and activities.

With a goal of building external constituencies, Burton collaborated with the institution’s University District to bridge academic programs, offerings, and outreach initiatives with the local community. An advocate for diversity and ensuring a culture of respect and opportunity, Burton is committed to work with stakeholders to foster the continuation of a diverse and inclusive AIC.

McDonough joins American International College on July 1 as vice president for Institutional Advancement. She brings nearly 40 years of experience in the advancement profession, incorporating institutional leadership positions and philanthropic consulting services focusing on campaigns and ongoing development, as well as alumni-engagement program planning, implementation, and assessment; talent development; and leader and partner involvement.

In her previous roles as a vice president for University Advancement/Development and Alumni Relations, she was responsible for comprehensive teams and programs that included annual giving, major and principal gifts, planned giving, corporate and foundation relations, prospect research, donor relations and stewardship, alumni engagement, alumni and donor records, and communications.

As a former executive associate with Bentz Whaley Flessner, a national and international fundraising consulting and services company, McDonough served an extensive number of diverse private and public higher-education institutions across the country, including AIC. Her consulting work also extended to nonprofits in the academic medicine and healthcare, social and community service, and arts and culture sectors. She has been actively engaged at both strategic and tactical levels with presidents, senior staff, trustees, volunteers, deans, faculty, and advancement staff and teams.

McDonough brings substantial and varied consulting experience, with multi-million to billion-dollar campaigns and with cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship strategies impacting individual philanthropic commitments and overall fundraising results.

Izzi, who joins the college on July 12, will lead the Yellow Jackets as the vice president for Athletics. He joins AIC from the University of Bridgeport (Conn.), where he served as vice president for Athletics and Enrollment Management since 2019. While at Bridgeport, Izzi was responsible for the strategic planning, leadership, development, and operational and personnel management of the university’s NCAA Division II athletics program, providing management oversight and direction of all operations and strategies related to undergraduate, graduate, domestic, international, and online recruiting efforts. Additionally, he worked closely with the university’s Office of Institutional Advancement to cultivate and steward gifts for the Athletics department.

Prior to his role at the University of Bridgeport, Izzi served as director of Athletics at New England College in Henniker, N.H., a Division III institution with 18 varsity sports, club and junior varsity teams, and intramural and recreational programs. While at New England, he administered a comprehensive national recruiting plan to increase student-athlete enrollment by 38%; implemented an academic plan to improve student-athlete academic success and retention, achieving the highest department GPA in 20 years; and worked with Institutional Advancement to increase yearly giving, including procuring a major gift for a new athletics center.

Before accepting the position at New England College, Izzi was the assistant director of Athletics Administration at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. for 17 years, while also serving as head men’s ice hockey coach at Johnson & Wales and Nichols College for 15 years.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced four promotions, most effective July 1.

Nicolle Cestero has been promoted to chief operating officer, executive vice president, and retains her title as chief of staff. Cestero joined AIC in July 2011 as the associate vice president for Human Resources. Since that time, she has assumed increasing levels of responsibility and scope of duties. In 2012, she was named vice president for Human Resources and Title IX coordinator. She was promoted to senior vice president for Human Resources and Title IX coordinator in 2016, and two years ago, she was named chief of staff and senior vice president for Human Resources.

Among the responsibilities in her newly expanded position, Cestero will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the college, while continuing to serve as advisor to the president, playing an integral role in implementing AIC’s strategic plan. Cestero will oversee the college’s legal matters and support presidential and institutional initiatives to ensure project deadlines are met and targeted outcomes are attained. She serves on the president’s cabinet and all individual board committees. Additionally, she will play a key role, in collaboration with the board of trustees, in the nationwide search for President Vince Maniaci’s successor following the recent announcement of his retirement at the end of the 2021-22 academic year.

Matthew Scott has been serving as vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students since July 2020. He will add Title IX coordinator to his area of responsibilities. With that addition, he will be the designated official from AIC with primary responsibility for coordinating compliance with Title IX, including providing leadership for Title IX activities; consultation, education, and training; and helping to ensure that the institution responds appropriately, effectively, and equitably to Title IX issues.

As vice president and dean of students, Scott oversees the Division of Student Affairs, which includes Student Life, the Saremi Center for Career Development, and Dexter Health and Counseling Services. The following programs and services fall under his purview: residence education; student conduct; student activities; diversity and engagement; campus recreation programs such as intramural sports, fitness, and wellness programs; and the Fitness Center.

Jessica Chapin has been promoted to director of Athletics and will oversee all aspects of AIC athletic programs. Chapin joined AIC in 2014 as the compliance coordinator. Among her duties, she is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the athletics department, including oversight of compliance with ensuring NCAA Division I and Division II rules and bylaws, retention, financial aid, and new-student recruitment, collaborating with offices across campus. She is the Title IX deputy coordinator for Athletics.

In 2017, Chapin was appointed to a four-year term with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Management Council, serving on the national student-athlete advisory committee, convention planning team, committee on infractions, legislation committee, and research committee. She currently serves on the NCAA’s women’s volleyball regional advisory committee and was recently appointed to a four-year term on the NCAA committee on infractions. She currently serves on the executive committee of both the Atlantic Hockey Assoc. and the National Intercollegiate Rugby Assoc.

Michael Eriquezzo has been promoted to director of Marketing and Communications. He will have oversight of all aspects of institutional digital and traditional marketing, web, and public-relations functions for the college, including the semi-annual Lucent magazine with a circulation to more than 30,000 alumni. Eriquezzo came to AIC as the art director and senior designer in 2017 from Go Graphix in East Longmeadow, where he served as project manager and creative lead, and the Children’s Study Home, where he was the external communications manager.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will host its 13th annual President’s Cup Golf Outing on Friday, June 18 at Wintonbury Hills Golf Club in Bloomfield, Conn. The co-chairs for the event are AIC board of trustees member Gale Kirkwood and former board of trustees member Stephen Davis. Proceeds from registrations and sponsorships directly benefit AIC scholarship programs, which are essential in the college’s support of students and future alumni.

Since the President’s Cup Golf Outing began in 2007, the tournament has raised more than $500,000 toward scholarships for deserving students. Nearly all of AIC’s undergraduate students receive financial aid from the college and other sources. Despite these resources, some students still struggle to pay for their education and graduate in a timely manner. Privately funded scholarships represent an investment in the future success of students who look to AIC to further their education, and for an opportunity to achieve a degree in a diverse and welcoming campus community.

Academic accessibility is important to Davis, who recognizes that financial need can be all that stands between a potential scholar and the realization of a college education. “I am excited to be involved in this year’s golf tournament,” he said. “The proceeds help fill a big void toward our students’ tuitions.”

In keeping with its mission, many students who attend American International College are the first in their family to attend college. Each year, the success of the President’s Cup is a direct result of the involvement and support of AIC alumni, friends, vendors, and partners.

Kirkwood assures entrants that participation in the event is more than just a fun day on the links. “Regardless of your score after a wonderful round of golf,” she said, “you can take pride in knowing you have supported AIC’s deserving, hardworking, and equally wonderful students.”

Many sponsorship opportunities are available in addition to foursome and individual golfer registrations. The event’s gold sponsor is C&W Services. Given recent modifications to some COVID-19 restrictions, the tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 9:30 a.m., with check-in and continental breakfast available in advance. A BBQ lunch will be served, and an awards dinner at the conclusion of the tournament will round out the day.

For more information about the President’s Cup, including sponsorship support, foursomes, and individual golfer participation, or to donate items for the raffle, call (413) 205-3520 or e-mail [email protected]. Registration is available online at www.aic.edu/presidentscup. The registration deadline is Friday, June 11.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) President Vince Maniaci announced plans to retire at the end of academic year 2021-22. At the time of his retirement, Maniaci will have served the college for 17 years.

Joining AIC in 2005, Maniaci’s stated aim was to cultivate and progress “a diverse, urban community; strong co-curricular, athletic, and academic connections; and student-centered, culturally aware programming.” Meanwhile, faced with a multi-million-dollar deficit, he made drastic changes to business as usual, helping set the college on a steady trajectory toward fiscal health within one year of his arrival.

During his time as president, Maniaci successfully increased undergraduate and graduate programming through the doctoral level, resulting in robust enrollments; expanded athletic programs and improved sports venues; contributed to the revitalization of the college with new construction and renovation of campus facilities in support of academics, athletics, and student life; enhanced campus safety with increased personnel and technology upgrades; and pursued grant funding, including a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2006, after an initial downsizing and retrenchment, AIC began to grow programming and enrollment. New programming in recent years has included a minor in Spanish, the addition of a master of science in cannabis science and commerce, the statewide expansion of the master’s in education program, and the establishment of a low-residency program. Health Sciences has experienced steady growth with the introduction of exercise science, family nurse practitioner, and a doctorate in occupational therapy.

At the time of Maniaci’s arrival in the fall of 2005, graduate enrollment was approximately 380 students. As of the fall 2020 semester, the total graduate enrollment has expanded to nearly 1,250 and includes 22 program offerings. Undergraduate enrollment has grown as well. In recent years, despite downward trends in college enrollment in the Northeast, AIC has boasted two of its largest incoming first-year classes, with a current undergraduate population nearing 1,400 students.

Major grants have contributed to building the college’s success and enrollment numbers. In 2015, AIC received a grant of more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education allocated over five years. The Student Support Services grant was earmarked for operational and scholarship funding to benefit the AIC Core Education program.

AIC received a one-time $347,000 Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant in 2016 from the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) in support of the College’s Nursing Education Achievement Program. The college was also awarded a $150,000 matching grant from the George I. Alden Trust in Worcester to help offset costs incurred by the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences building project.

In 2019, the college received a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop the AIC Plan for Excellence program, a shared curricular experience designed to achieve four main learning goals for students, including intellectual development and lifelong learning, personal growth, social and cultural competency, as well as career and professional development.

New construction and renovation of campus facilities in support of academics, athletics, and student life contributed to the revitalization of the college under Maniaci’s leadership. The Saremi Center for Career Development was created to provide internship opportunities for students through an extensive job database and assists with job-interview preparation and personality and leadership assessments to match skills with job titles. The development of the Center for Academic Success supports students — especially first-year, first-generation scholars — helping them realize academic success through to graduation and employment. The full renovation of the 500-seat Esther B. Griswold Theatre boasts a performance venue that supported the development of a theater-arts program and major. The adjacent West Wing Gallery, along with a new communication center in the lower level of the building, broadened the scope of the Karen Spague Cultural Arts Center.

The complete overhaul of the Dining Commons in 2016 (the first in 50 years) included the new and improved Stinger Pub, a popular spot for small gatherings of students and employees. The renovation of the James F. Shea Library, a full-service learning center complete with group study rooms, project-development spaces, study pods, and open reading areas, is tailored for students who wish to study in groups or alone.

Built in 2018, the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences offers spacious classrooms and hands-on labs for undergraduate and graduate students in exercise science, nursing, physical therapy, public health, and occupational therapy. The 20,000-square-foot facility provides AIC students with simulation, rehabilitation, and human-performance laboratories, as well as smart classrooms, ample study areas, faculty offices, and conference space.

A major campaign in support of athletics resulted in new and upgraded indoor and outdoor venues, among them a fitness center and athletics performance center, a field dedicated to rugby practice, the Ronald J. Abdow Field, the John Hoyt Track, the MassMutual Field, the Alumni Varsity Club Field, and the Judy Groff Softball Field.

The Schwartz Campus Center, the hub for student life, benefited from the creation of the Colaccino Lounge and deck, renovated campus store, an upgrade to the Hive café, and the addition of Starbucks. Built in 2008, Acorn Heights offers apartment-style, co-ed housing for academically successful students age 21 and up. Most recently, the construction of Acorn B, the first-ever housing exclusively for graduate students, was added to the list of projects that have enhanced campus life and helped AIC compete in the rapidly changing landscape of college recruitment and retention.

“I am proud to reflect on the many achievements that we have accomplished as an institution over what will be the course of 17 years,” Maniaci said. “Every individual on the board of trustees, as well as the faculty and administration, have all contributed to the elements that make AIC unique among colleges and universities. We share a collective passion for the mission of American International College and a sincere dedication to provide access and opportunity to a diverse population of students who are inspired to grow in both knowledge and experience, and who entrust their education to us. That tradition has been the cornerstone of the institution for 136 years and will continue well into the future.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Division of Communication and the Arts at American International College (AIC) will present a collection of student work during the Spring Festival of Communication and the Arts. As the end of an unusual academic year concludes, the festival will virtually celebrate student achievements in differing departments under the division’s umbrella. The launch date is May 4, and the site will remain online for viewing through the summer months.

The Criterion features a collection of student poems, essays, and artwork, many of which share insight into issues of the day, including college life during a pandemic, social justice, and the environment, under the guidance of William Steffen, assistant professor of English, and Kat Lombard-Cook, visiting assistant professor of Communication.

Express Yourself is a virtual museum featuring drawing, painting, collage, photography, and graphic-design works created under the tutelage of Kat Lombard-Cook; John Nordell, assistant professor of Communication; and Marty Langford, technology coordinator of Communication.

Each semester, AIC celebrates student artwork with an in-person art show in the West Wing Gallery of the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center. This semester, this virtual museum will feature student-created work. Concepts presented in the show include issues of social justice and migration, as well as visions of the world students want to see. In addition, this semester will feature a Grad Gallery, displaying the work of graduating seniors from AIC’s Division of Communication and the Arts. Culled from the students’ internship and capstone experiences, the gallery features photography, video, graphic design, and illustration.

The spring festival will also feature a Collective of Theater Work, said Frank Borrelli, Theater Arts director and chair of the Division of Communication and the Arts. “Even though this academic year has been an extraordinary one with classes focused on remote learning, students are still doing amazing work,” he noted. “This online festival provides an opportunity to utilize technology to share the student experience with a larger audience.”

For more information or to view AIC’s Spring Festival of Communication and the Arts, visit aic.edu/springfest or call (413) 654-1486.

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SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) men’s basketball locker room will enjoy a much-needed makeover with help from friends in the community.

Earlier this year, a group of alumni expressed an interest in doing something meaningful to help AIC men’s basketball in memory of their friend and former teammate, Frank Oppedisano, class of 1967. In addition to their fundraising effort, AIC Athletics engaged alumni and supporters during Athletics Giving Week last month. Donors were asked to consider giving to a general fund or team of their choice, with proceeds from the campaign earmarked to benefit student-athletes and athletic programs at the college.

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Andy Burkholder knew exactly where funds raised for men’s basketball could best be utilized.

“If you have ever been part of a team, you know that the wins are great, and the losses hurt,” he said. “The things you remember most are the times spent with teammates in the dorms, at the dining commons, and in the locker room. For more than 15 years, our team has had the same locker room. Athletics Giving Week success for men’s basketball will not only give our student-athletes much needed equipment and gear to represent AIC while they are on the road, but — in conjunction with funds set aside by friends of Frank ­— it will provide them with a destination of their own when they are home: a place of pride on campus where they can hang out and build important bonds.”

The new locker room will offer additional locker space, new flooring, and Yellow Jacket branding throughout, and will be named in honor of the Springfield native who was a four-year member of the basketball program. Before his passing in March 2020, Oppedisano was a regular at AIC men’s basketball home games and routinely provided congratulations after a win or unconditional support in defeat.

“Frank was truly proud to be a Yellow Jacket and was clearly invested in the success of student-athletes,” Burkholder said. “The new locker room named in his memory will be a place to build memories.”

Due to current health and safety regulations, the official dedication of the Oppedisano Locker Room will take place at a future date when the community can be invited to participate.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College’s (AIC) 81st annual Model Congress will convene virtually on Thursday, April 15 at 6 p.m. In lieu of the traditional weekend conference, AIC’s Model Congress is hosting a free-to-attend Zoom emergency session.

Founded in 1940, AIC’s Model Congress is the longest-running continuous congress of its type in the nation, and one of the college’s oldest campus traditions. Every year since its inception, AIC’s Model Congress has brought high schools from throughout New England to campus to write, debate, and pass legislation in a simulated congress. The program, completely student-run from program development to the organization and facilitation of the legislative sessions, celebrated its 80th anniversary last year. With support from faculty and staff, AIC student leaders have kept the program thriving and secured its place as an educational opportunity for high-school students throughout the Northeast for eight decades.

In 2021, the tradition will continue, albeit differently. This year, AIC’s Model Congress will convene with an emergency session only. Due to the pandemic, the committee sessions typically held throughout the weekend-long event are suspended. Any high-school student can register to attend. Zoom information will be provided to all participants closer to the date of the event. Since this is an emergency-style debate session, participants will not know the topic of the legislation until minutes before the session begins to simulate a true emergency session in Congress.

Since the purpose of this event is to uphold the tradition of AIC’s yearly Model Congress and have fun, no awards will be presented this year. High-school students interested in participating are invited to visit aicmodelcongress.org to learn more and/or register, or e-mail [email protected] for additional information. The registration deadline is April 15 at noon.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) announced it has earned the 2021-22 Military Friendly School designation.

Institutions earning this designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,200 schools participated in the 2021-22 survey, with 747 earning the designation.

The 2021-22 Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine and can be found at www.militaryfriendly.com.

Methodology and criteria were determined by VIQTORY with input from the Military Friendly​ ​Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher-education and military-recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey response set and government/agency public data sources within a logic-based scoring assessment. The institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer), and loan-default rates for all students are measured.

“American International College is proud to be recognized as an institution that assists men and women who serve our country,” AIC President Vince Maniaci said. “The college appreciates the value of the many educational and leadership experiences that occur in the Armed Forces and the excellent foundation that military service provides. In turn, we give transfer credits for students’ time in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, helping active-duty service members and veterans get a head start on earning their degrees.”

Kayla Lopez, national director of Military Partnerships for Military Friendly, added that “Military Friendly is committed to transparency and providing consistent, data-driven standards in our designation process. This creates a competitive atmosphere that encourages colleges to consistently evolve and invest in their programs. Schools who achieve designation show true commitment and dedication in their efforts. Our standards assist schools by providing a benchmark that promotes positive educational outcomes, resources, and support services that better the educational landscape and provide opportunity for the military community.”

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SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) Admissions office will offer virtual information sessions for prospective graduate-degree program applicants during February.

Information sessions provide an opportunity for attendees to speak with admissions counselors virtually to learn more about the admissions process, available programs, financial aid, and more.

In addition to general-information sessions, there will be two specialized sessions for advanced-degree programs in the School of Education (Tuesday, Feb. 2, and Thursday, Feb. 11) and a session dedicated to the master of science in nursing program on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Interested participants are invited to visit www.aic.edu/visit/graduate-admissions-events for a complete list of dates, times, and to register.

To learn more about graduate-degree programs available at American International College, visit www.aic.edu or call (413) 205-3700.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) Office of Admissions offers weekly virtual information sessions for undergraduate and graduate degree program applicants. Sessions will run through Dec. 18.

Information sessions are available Monday through Friday and provide an opportunity for attendees to speak with admissions counselors virtually to learn more about the admissions process, available programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, financial aid, and more. The School of Business, Arts, and Sciences and the School of Health Sciences will each have targeted information sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 9 and 10, respectively, at 7 p.m.

In addition, there will be special graduate and undergraduate virtual information sessions for the School of Education on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The graduate session begins at 5 p.m., undergraduate at 6:30 p.m. Attendees at the undergraduate session will have the chance to speak with students, faculty, and staff to gain insight to pathways that will lead to a successful career in education. Both undergraduate- and graduate-session participants will have the opportunity to speak in-depth with admissions counselors.

Learn.org ranked AIC 17th among colleges and universities for teaching and education degrees for academic year 2020-21. Learn.org provides free resources for students and working professionals to research potential schools and degrees by providing information on career opportunities and institutions of higher education that help individuals reach their goals. The organization called attention to AIC students’ ability to take part in a practicum or field-based research to ensure preparedness for future careers. It also credited the School of Education with employing “top-notch staff and faculty members, many of whom hold terminal degrees in their field.”

Participants interested in attending the School of Education sessions or any of the weekly graduate and undergraduate virtual sessions are invited to visit aic.askadmissions.net/portal/ei/search for a complete list of dates and times, and to register.

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SPRINGFIELD — In a letter to students, faculty, and staff, American International College (AIC) President Vince Maniaci praised the campus community for their diligence in working to keep everyone safe. He stressed that the college’s disciplined adherence to protocols does make a difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19, both on campus and in the community, thereby allowing for an anticipated successful completion to the fall semester.

The letter is in response to the rise of new cases of COVID-19 across Massachusetts that have resulted in changes to Massachusetts regulations effective Nov. 6. Maniaci acknowledged that, while most young people who contract the virus recover after having experienced only mild to moderate symptoms, “We must look beyond the borders of our campus and take our responsibility as members of the Greater Springfield community seriously and keep our friends and loved ones safe by continuing to do everything we can to stop the spread.”

Maniaci’s communication reiterated and provided links to new state regulations relative to gatherings, dining, stay-at-home orders, travel, and face coverings.

“We are all obligated to act in the best interests of our campus community. Students pledged compliance with guidelines upon return to campus in August, and faculty and staff are committed to do the same,” Maniaci said. “While there is no immediate end in sight, nor does anyone know how long our campus, the state, the nation, and the world will need to take such precautionary measures, we do know that, through compliance with protocols, AIC is contributing to the solution of how to continue educating our students with as little disruption and as much safety as possible.”

AIC announced last month that it would continue to opt for remote learning for the spring semester. More information about AIC’s health and safety precautions and protocols can be found at aic.edu.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The American International College (AIC) Admissions office is offering virtual information sessions for undergraduate- and graduate-degree program applicants.

Information sessions are available Monday through Friday and provide an opportunity for attendees to speak with admissions counselors virtually to learn more about the admissions process, available programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, financial aid, and more.

During November, in addition to the weekday information sessions, a special School of Health Sciences virtual information session for undergraduates is slated for Saturday, Nov. 7 for prospective students interested in gaining insight to programs in physical and occupational therapy, exercise science, nursing, and public health. The School of Business, Arts, and Sciences will offer a special program on Tuesday, Nov. 10 to showcase the more than 40 interdisciplinary program offerings at AIC that are grounded in the liberal arts.

Graduate virtual information sessions will be available during the month in the School of Health Sciences on Saturday, Nov. 7 and Tuesday, Nov. 10. On Thursday, Nov. 12, a session dedicated to the post-professional doctorate in occupational therapy will be offered.

The School of Business, Arts, and Sciences will provide virtual information sessions on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 9 and 10, to highlight graduate-degree programs in business, psychology, and cannabis science and commerce.

AIC’s School of Education invites individuals to learn more about its program offerings on Sunday and Thursday, Nov. 8 and 12.

Interested participants are invited to visit aic.askadmissions.net/portal/ei/search for a complete list of dates, times, and to register.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will honor a Springfield individual known to residents in Mason Square as Preacherman with a mural on the college’s maintenance building located at the corner of State and Reed streets. Born Randolph Lester, he was a well-known community member who was given the Preacherman moniker as he was often seen walking around the Mason Square area carrying a Bible.

Collaborating on the construction of the mural is Britt Ruhe, the founder of Fresh Paint Springfield, a creative initiative in 2019 that invited artists to paint building walls downtown. Ruhe is the director of Commonwealth Murals and manages the Community Muralist Institute, featuring individual mural installations that meaningfully engage and uplift communities.

AIC alumnus Andrew Cade, president of the Springfield Cultural Council and senior vice president of the Urban League of Springfield, supported the project with a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council and other resources to assist with the mural.

“The artist selected to paint the mural of Preacherman is Greta McLain,” Cade said. “She has extensive mural-making experience, exploring the ways that art can bring communities together, the power of visual language to activate voice, and the potential of art as a vehicle for hands-on organizing and educating. The mural will provide vibrancy to the neighborhood and tell the story of one of Springfield’s most iconic citizens.”

McLain created the “Home, Here” mural on the Chestnut Towers parking garage on Dwight Street.

“As an institution of higher education, AIC is pleased to partner with the Springfield Cultural Council and host the mural,” AIC President Vince Maniaci said. “The values of access, opportunity, and diversity that are central to the college align well with the Cultural Council, Commonwealth Murals, and the artist’s vision for this endeavor.”

Mural installation is expected to be completed by Saturday, Oct. 24.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) recently welcomed Lt. John Vanasse to lead the campus police department. Vanasse is an employee of G4S Secure Solutions North America, a leading international security-solutions group and the provider of campus-security services for American International College for more than five years.

Vanasse’s background and experience lend well to his new role at the college. Most recently, he was an instructor of Criminal Justice at Westfield High School. He has also served as a corrections officer and deputy sheriff at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Corrections. Additionally, while working in safety and security for the Springfield public schools, he managed a million-dollar budget, supervised security staff at schools throughout the district, developed safety and security training programs, and conducted investigations into major security infractions. Prior to relocating to Western Mass. 15 years ago, he was deputy director for Safety and Security at the Massachusetts State House and other state facilities throughout Government Center in Boston.

“Working for a college police department has always been a professional goal of mine,” Vanasse said. “I feel that it ties my work experiences in security, education, and law enforcement together well. Personally speaking, heading the police department of my late father’s alma mater makes it that much more special to me.”

Vanasse received his undergraduate degree in criminology and law from Suffolk University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College.

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SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) is ranked 17th among the top 50 colleges and universities for teaching and education degrees, as ranked by learn.org for academic year 2020-21.

Established in 2003, learn.org provides free resources for students and working professionals to research potential schools and degrees by providing information on career opportunities and institutions of higher education that help individuals reach their goals, including school connections, scholarships, and online college planning for quality and affordable education.

Citing AIC, learn.org highlights the college’s master’s programs, including its master of education in early childhood education and a master of education in middle or secondary education. The organization additionally notes that AIC offers a doctoral program with multiple tracks, the doctor of education in teaching and learning, and called attention to students’ ability to take part in a practicum or field-based research to ensure preparedness for future careers. The organization also credits the School of Education with employing “top-notch staff and faculty members, many of whom hold terminal degrees in their field.”

“AIC has, for over 130 years, invested in the value of access to education and understands the relevancy of giving back to community,” said Sheila Stamm, dean of AIC’s School of Education (SOE). “Our model in the SOE embraces the agency of teachers, leaders, and counselors as scholar practitioners supporting the currency of needs supporting all learners in PK-12. This focus is embodied in our mission, our values, and promise to the citizens of Massachusetts to provide capable, caring, and committed professionals deeply invested in the collective success of communities served.”

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