Contact Winter 2019

The winter 2019 cover of Contact magazine


To Serve and Protect
Ready for Duty
Our Job is Helping People
Community Corrections
Order in the Court
Looking for Clues
A Helping Hand
A Watchful Eye
A Moot Point
A Community Problem

Complete Issue PDF

To Serve and Protect 

A student training in the 4+1 Police Program

That commitment is echoed in Fitchburg State’s programs that support public safety, especially our new 4+1 Police Program that serves as an innovative model for police training not only in the state, but also across the world.

Our continually evolving academic programs prepare students for careers in criminal justice and the law, as well as for other fields that increasingly intersect with law enforcement like human services, nursing, computer science and geographic information systems.

Through our Center for Professional Studies, the campus regularly hosts trainings and conferences that help advance the skills of those in public safety. And our University Police Department offers a variety of community education courses that help students, faculty and staff stay vigilant and prepared.

In the pages that follow, you will learn more about some of our institutional efforts in these areas and the accomplished alumni who are making a difference in their communities.

Ready for Duty

A group of students in the Police Program putting their hands together

The first recruit officer class of our groundbreaking police program has completed their training. Now they’re ready to change the world.

On a warm fall afternoon, the first recruit officer class of Fitchburg State University’s 4+1 Police Program took the oath of honor as badges were pinned to their chest. These nine students represent a bold experiment in police training, products of a program believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, if not in the world.

The five-year police program graduates police officers with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, plus certification to work full-time in municipal police departments across Massachusetts. It combines academic classroom preparation with a rigorous, 17- week physical and tactical police academy that took place this summer.

The new 4+1 concept was attractive to many other local state universities, but only Fitchburg State was selected by the Commonwealth’s Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) for its development and implementation. “I’m extremely proud of this inaugural cohort and what they’ve accomplished,” said Academy Director Lisa Lane McCarty. “This is the future of police training. These graduates have learned how to think critically to make better decisions, whether they’re responding to a dangerous incident or working to resolve differences in the community. Law enforcement is evolving to work better with all people, remove unconscious biases and prevent adversarial scenarios.”

“The training paradigm in policing is changing,” said MPTC Executive Director Daniel Zivkovich. “This program gives us the best of both worlds, with police officers who are not only highly trained to serve and protect, but also highly educated and exposed to many philosophical and strategic elements of policing. Police chiefs are enthusiastic, too, because it saves their cities and towns the expense of sending new hires to police academies. These graduates can hit the streets and begin work immediately.”

Daily academy workouts were complemented by firearms certification and emergency vehicle operations. The recruits practiced water rescue techniques and took an eye-opening tour of the state medical examiner’s office. Their physical training included taking a blast of pepper spray to the face to see if they could function under stress. “As a class, we have experienced blood, lots of sweat, and tears,” said Class Leader Ryan J. Richard ’18 of Shirley, who addressed his classmates at the graduation ceremony. “We learned that we are not nine individuals anymore, but we are a team. I would walk into any situation with you not knowing the outcome. We are a family born not from bloodline, but bonded in life by a blue one.”

Tyler Frati ’18 said, “I had an idea what I was in for, but all the practical training is pretty impressive,” he said. “Prior to this I was never presented with something where I really questioned myself. To be able to go through this is something I’m definitely proud of.” Jami S. Parker ’18 said she always dreamed of being a police officer. “I’m so happy I could be a part of it,” she said. She even found joy from the rigors of physical training. “The program just builds you up. It automatically makes you a better person.” MPTC Executive Director Zivkovich said the graduates of the program have demonstrated a commitment to a demanding code of conduct. “I tell any chief that asks about the program that if you hire one of these men and women, you will get someone who has demonstrated persistence, dedication and commitment to the profession that other candidates have not had to do.” Several members of the recruit class have already been hired for full-time jobs in local police departments.

To see the 2018 police program recruits in action, visit

Our Job Is Helping PeoplePolice Chief Edward Denmark ’98

Police Chief Edward Denmark in uniform and smiling

Harvard Police Chief Edward Denmark ’98 has been a police professional for 28 years. In addition to his work in local departments, Chief Denmark has taught criminal justice courses at Fitchburg State and has consulted internationally on the topic.

Is the Police Profession Changing?

People have more expectations of police today, especially as the population becomes less homogeneous. Police are often scrutinized for use of force or treatment of minority groups, and those are behaviors that can be overcome by exposing yourself to people who aren’t like you. You start to understand that, for the most part, people are the same.

What is the Importance of Education in Policing?

The whole premise of policing has transformed. It used to be the main focus was law enforcement, but now we realize it’s more about overall safety and security. Education helps provide people with greater critical thinking skills, and that means police don't have to rely strictly on the law to try to maintain peace. Police education today includes exposure to different cultures and psychological and sociological issues that can make officers better understand people’s circumstances.

What Has Been Your Experience Teaching? 

I’ve found the students to be very introspective. They ask a lot of questions, and their responses to the questions I pose show a level of deep thinking that is essential to becoming a successful police officer. In the past, police officers have gone to school and later went to the academy, or vice versa. Those two experiences weren’t necessarily tied together. The new Fitchburg State police program ties academic learning to vocational learning. I think that provides a better opportunity to take theory and put it into practice.

Please Talk About a Benefit of Tying Police Training Theory in Practice.

As a police officer, approximately 10 percent or less of your job is actually law enforcement, even in the big cities. The reality is 90 percent of our calls are for service and helping people. That’s one of the things that sticks in my head: Has police training ingrained in officers’ minds that they’re in constant danger? If that becomes the embedded belief, that impacts the way they respond to people. If someone reaches for a cell phone, you think they’re reaching for a gun. You have to teach police recruits preparedness, but at the same time, you have to teach them that putting that skill into practice is rare. Most officers never pull their weapons. In training, recruits need to succeed through their patrol procedures or situational training without having to resort to force.

How is Fitchburg State's Program Part of that Solution?

This focus on applied learning and critical thinking gets more deeply incorporated early on in someone’s career. Anthropology, psychology, economics—all these areas of academic study intersect into what makes a society run and what makes people tick. My crusade is getting people to understand the brain science and the human limitations under stress. How do you get someone who doesn’t agree to see the other side of the story? It’s hard to get people to recognize that we’re more alike than we are different, and a difference of opinion doesn’t necessarily make someone evil, nor is it a sign of mental or ethical deficiency.

Community Corrections | Lynn Clifford ’90

Lynn Clifford

Lynn Clifford ’90 had her eyes opened by an undergraduate internship, working with drug-dependent adolescents in New Hampshire. “There were prep school kids as well as inner city kids, all with drug problems,” she said. “I saw that substance abuse doesn’t discriminate. And we found we could bring everyone together and create a community so they would have supports when they got home.”

Seeing the person beyond their infraction has informed Clifford’s practice for 23 years working for Massachusetts Probation Services. In the community corrections model, offenders take part in training and programming designed to help them address underlying issues. “We show them there is a road to recovery without their going to jail,” Clifford said. That includes responding to the opioid crisis, which Clifford describes as “off the charts. We have people being revived with Narcan three times a day. The disease of addiction used to have a stereotype, and it doesn’t anymore.”

The solution, she said, lies in holistic thinking. “We have to look at alternative means to address this problem,” she said. “Programs like drug courts can provide those supports.” Clifford is able to pass along what she’s learned in her career as an adjunct member of Fitchburg State’s criminal justice faculty, where she teaches on topics including community corrections and also supervises interns. “It’s a good balance for me to see the enthusiasm of young people who want to enter the field,” she said. “The foundation of the academics is excellent, but practical experience working with professionals in the field is also essential.”

That balance of coursework and skills training has her excited about the potential of the new police program. “What Fitchburg State is doing is amazing,” Clifford said. “It’s progressive, and the students I’ve been working with are exceptional.”

Order in the Court | Judge Anthony Marotta ’81

Judge Anthony J. Marotta at the stand

Judge Anthony J. Marotta ’81 has served as a defense lawyer, prosecutor and now a judge in the Worcester Juvenile Court.

In his seven years on the bench in the Worcester Juvenile Court, Judge Anthony J. Marotta ’81 has seen the rising impact of the opioid crisis on the state’s most vulnerable population: children. Marotta worked in private practice and was an assistant district attorney prosecuting child abuse, sexual abuse and homicide before being appointed to the juvenile court judgeship.

In his current role, Marotta hears cases involving delinquency, children requiring assistance, truancy, runaways and those who have been sexually exploited. He sees harrowing cases, but also gets to play a role in hopefully giving children a brighter future. “There’s a big push for diversion and keeping kids out of the court,” he said, crediting the office of Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. for taking that approach to first-offense cases. “We can prevent them from having a record and they can get the help they need.”

But he has also seen a rise in more serious cases involving juveniles, such as gang and weapons-related infractions. The public may not be aware of that rise as the juvenile court is closed to public view. Still, Marotta finds the work joyful. “It’s the greatest job. At times it is difficult because you have someone’s liberty or someone’s kids at stake, but we’re about helping and doing the right thing for children,” he said. Marotta has worked alongside police officers throughout his career, and said education has improved the caliber of police work. “It’s absolutely critical,” he said. “I think police need specialized training to deal with kids, especially. Often it takes a greater degree of patience, a higher level of tolerance and more empathy.”

The value of education for police extends to all populations, he added. As the times and the issues have evolved, so too have the training needs for police professionals. “The more education police have, it can only help.

Looking for Clues | Ranee’ Maree’ Wright ’17

Ranee' Maree' Wright in her RN uniform

She grew fascinated by the topic of forensic psychiatry, so she enrolled in Fitchburg State’s online Master of Science in nursing (forensic) program. “Forensic nursing is the practice of nursing where the health and legal systems intersect,” Wright said. “Recognizing violence as a health care issue is the first step. We can see the impact that less nurturing environments have had over the generations. The environments in which children are raised affect their genes.”

Wright, who was presented the university’s Graduate Student Leadership Award at the winter commencement ceremony in 2017, works at the Wisconsin Resource Center, where her patients are prisoners receiving psychiatric treatment. It can be stressful work, but Wright is motivated by her core belief that everyone – even criminals – deserve to be fair treatment. “Working in a correctional setting with individuals who have been influenced by their environment can be challenging,” she said. “My continued desire to advocate for an underserved population that needs a nurse looking out for their health care needs keeps me motivated.”

That motivation is familiar to Professor Deborah Stone, who chairs the forensic nursing program at Fitchburg State. She graduated from the program herself and has been a member of its faculty since 2007. She said the online delivery model has allowed Fitchburg State to serve nurses across the United States and internationally. While nursing students have traditionally had their practical training overseen by practicing nurses, Stone said many of the forensic nursing students work with preceptors in law enforcement. “Most of our students end up creating new jobs for themselves,” she said, noting the rarity of such programs nationwide. “We’re privileged to do the work we do.”

Since graduation, Wright has had articles published and presented at national conferences. She works as a forensic nurse examiner at Aurora Medical Center Oshkosh where she cares for patients and collects evidence for law enforcement from victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, strangulation, child abuse, drug endangered children and perpetrators of violence.

She has also completed training as an intimate partner violence interviewer and working towards becoming a certified Green Dot Trainer on bystander intervention. She is also continuing her education, enrolled in a post-master’s psychiatric nurse practitioner certificate with hopes of graduating in spring 2021.

A Helping Hand | Lynn Barrieau ’92 

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers give children in the justice system a voice.

Lynn Barrieau at the courtroom

The organization was founded to provide advocates for children who have been removed from their homes for abuse or neglect. While attorneys represent other participants in court proceedings, from parents to state agencies, Barrieau said CASA’s sole responsibility is to the children. “You’re doing what a judge could do if he could leave the bench and see how a child is living,” she said.

“The child is the only one that’s never in the courtroom in these cases.” CASA volunteers, then, fill an important void.

Volunteers undergo 30 hours of training before taking a case, and will typically work with one child at a time, meeting with the child monthly over the course of a foster care case. Those cases can last 12 to 18 months, Barrieau said. Some CASA volunteers stick with the program for multiple years and multiple children, others may serve just one. “In the early years it was mostly retirees who volunteered,” Barrieau said. “Our base has really changed in the last five or six years. They’re younger and more diverse. I’m in awe of this generation that really does want to give back. To be a CASA volunteer, you don’t need anything other than a commitment to serve a child.” Barrieau, a member of the Fitchburg State Board of Trustees, said local police officers – like the future officers who just graduated from the university’s new program – are key resources for CASA. “The police really understand what’s happening at ground level,” she said. “They understand the activity happening at an address beyond the incident that led to a child being removed from the home.”

As the first recruit officer class members were told during their graduation ceremony, Barrieau said it’s important for them to appreciate the difference between law enforcement and policing. “It’s about extending relationships with the community you’re serving,” she said. “It’s about a life well-lived.” To learn more about CASA, visit

A Watchful Eye | Mark Fearer ’93, ’99 |Frank O’Donnell ’93

Law and order are necessary in a civilized society, but not sufficient. Keeping a watchful eye online is just as important to hold bad actors accountable.

Two alumni have spent decades honing their cybersecurity skills. Mark Fearer ’93 ’99 leads an information technology auditing team at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). His group examines stock exchange infrastructure (think DJIA and NASDAQ) to keep them available and secure.

Fearer, who lives just outside Washington, D.C., says that trust in our nation’s financial systems is key to their effectiveness. “Our mandate is to monitor the exchanges for compliance and make sure your financial orders are treated fairly and processed efficiently,” he states. Fearer is a double Falcon in computer science. He holds several industry certifications, is currently pursuing a doctorate in cybersecurity, and has taught classes in wireless tech. Fearer says that when he was an undergraduate, online security often was a bolted-on afterthought, something that inconvenienced users and did little to generate revenue.

“That’s all changed,” he explains. “Today, many corporations have board members who are experts in information security and bake it into the process of doing business.”

Frank O’Donnell ’93 is the president and co-founder of Mission First Consulting, which provides solutions that support the full lifecycle of preparing for, protecting against, detecting, and actively responding to the full range of threats facing U.S. interests here and abroad.

He agreed that cybersecurity has become a front-burner issue. “Technology is advancing at a pace never seen before in our history,” O’Donnell said. “As a result, the risks presented by our use of technology has far outpaced the ability to protect ourselves. Cybersecurity affects everyone. The cell phone user, small business owner, healthcare provider, Fortune 500 companies and the government. We are all vulnerable on some level. Those who have a risk mitigation plan, as well as a response plan are best suited to survive long term.” Fearer recalls, “I did my master’s thesis on a Windows NT firewall. I fondly remember a fellow Fitchburg State student shout, ‘Get a laptop!’ as I toted workstation towers under each arm to the computer lab. That was 1997. Now everything is connected, including planes, traffic lights, cars, homes, wristbands, and refrigerators. Then as now, the common denominator is connectedness. Good and repeatable practices must be employed in access control.”

Learn more about our cybersecurity concentration by visiting

A Moot Point | Christine Brigham ’08 |Matthew Costello ’13

The 2019 Fitchburg State Moot Court

Fitchburg State’s long history of success in the American Collegiate Moot Court Tournament has prepared several alumni for careers in law. Opposing counsel take their places and make concise, pointed arguments on the legal issues at hand before a panel of judges.

This dynamic plays out in appellate courts every day, and is modeled with great accuracy at the American Collegiate Moot Court Tournament, in which Fitchburg State has been excelling for years. The campus hosted the regional tournament again this November.

Past participants have gone on to complete their own law degrees and returned to campus to serve as coaches and judges, preparing another generation of attorneys and jurists.

Christine Brigham ’08, an associate attorney at Gelinas & Ward in Leominster, took the moot court class in her senior year. It was a major time commitment, complicated by the fact she was an older student balancing raising a family with her studies. But it was worth it. “The benefits I received from taking the class and competing far outweighed the time investment,” she said. “You learn how to digest a lot of material, think critically, think on your feet, and answer questions thoughtfully and succinctly. You practice how to fashion an argument and support it. All are necessary skills to get through the madness that is law school.”

Matthew Costello ’13 agreed. He had his sights set on law school even as an undergraduate and the Moot Court program helped convince him to enroll at Fitchburg State.

He took part in the competition as a freshman, despite warnings that he could be getting in over his head. “My greatest challenge was the steep learning curve attached to the course,” he said. “Fresh out of high school, I had to learn to sort through, and make sense of, several complex Supreme Court cases, replete with legalese. Beyond studying the law, which at first can seem like a foreign language, learning to craft and articulate cogent arguments before a simulated Supreme Court bench also proved challenging.”

But the experience paid off. At Suffolk University Law School, Costello finished his first year at the head of his class. “Moot Court allowed me to achieve that success,” he said. After law school, Costello clerked for judges on the state and federal benches in Rhode Island and began working this fall as a litigation associate at the law firm WilmerHale.

“Coaching the moot court team is my favorite part of my job,” said Professor Paul I. Weizer. “I get to work with a self-selecting group of motivated students who really commit to the material and the other student competitors. Each year, many of those students return to campus to stay involved with the program as a coach, a judge, or a resource for our current students. There have been so many success stories from this student population which is very inspiring to our current students who will someday repay the kindness shown to them and provide help for the next generation.”

A Community Problem | Tackling the Opioid Epidemic

Faculty members in a meeting

Faculty members are working with the Worcester District Attorney’s office on innovative projects to combat the opioid epidemic.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. has a saying when it comes to dealing with the opioid crisis affecting communities across the country: “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

Instead, Early—who was re-elected in November to another four-year term as the county’s top prosecutor—has engaged Fitchburg State and other community partners to come up with a multi-pronged response to the health and safety crisis.

University faculty members will work prosecutors on a pair of federal grant-funded projects that address the scourge head-on: a $360,000 project on innovative prosecution solutions for combating crime and illegal opioids, and a $500,000 grant for a comprehensive opioid abuse site-based program to support the county’s drug diversion initiatives.

“We will be mapping crime and overdose data, and gathering and analyzing other relevant data to assess the effectiveness of the program,” said retired Professor Beth Walsh (Behavioral Sciences), who will play a leading role in the effort. “We hope that this collaboration will result in programs that reduce the numbers of opioid overdose deaths and provide a better method for prosecuting drug dealers and treating drug users who commit crimes.”

Other faculty members involved in the project include Professors Jane Huang (Earth and Geographic Sciences), Hildur Schilling (Psychological Science), Thomas Schilling (Psychological Science), and Richard Wiebe (Behavioral Sciences). “You’re great partners,” Early told faculty members involved in the project. “Fitchburg State does great work and has a great criminal justice program. We can count on you”.

From Lawmaker to Regulator | Jennifer Flanagan ’04

Jennifer Flanagan at Fitchburg State

During her 13 years serving in the Massachusetts Legislature – first as a state representative from her native Leominster and then as state senator – Jennifer L. Flanagan ’04 used her platform to support treatment for substance abuse and mental health. When a ballot question in 2017 asked Massachusetts voters if they wanted to legalize recreational marijuana use, Flanagan was against it.

“This is a body-altering substance,” she said. The law was passed, however, and Gov. Charlie Baker asked then Sen. Flanagan to serve on the Cannabis Control Commission that would be tasked to draft regulations governing the new industry. “It was totally unsolicited,” said Flanagan. But she accepted the appointment, resigning her seat in the state Senate, knowing the importance of the task before the new commission.

“I realized there is a very big public health component to legalizing cannabis.” Flanagan completed a master’s degree in counseling with a concentration in children and adolescents at Fitchburg State in 2004, and said her academic training informed her work as a legislator. “My classes gave me insights into risky behaviors and family issues, and that was helpful in many of the bills I crafted,” she said.

And it’s protecting young people that informs Flanagan’s perspective as a member of the Cannabis Control Commission. “A big part of what I’m doing is making sure these products aren’t designed to appeal to kids,” she said, likening the regulatory process to regulations governing alcohol sales. “I want these operators to have responsible public impact plans.” The rollout of recreational cannabis dispensaries has been criticized in some quarters for going slow, but Flanagan is unapologetic. “We only have one chance to get this right,” she said. “Our actions have consequences."