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Contact Summer 2018

The summer 2018 cover of Contact magazine

Contents

Being the Best Nurse I Can Be
Community Corrections
At Home in the Lab
Rising to the Occasion
Head of the Class 
Opportunity Knocks
Applied Scholarship
Persistence Pays Off
Change of Scenery
Public Service Passion
Helping People
A Transformative Vision

 

Being the Best Nurse I Can Be

Julia Zamanian and Claribell Gomez in their nursing uniforms

Julia Zamanian ’18 has idolized the nursing profession her whole life. The daughter of a nurse, she’s seen the impact these important health care workers have on a patient’s recovery and is eager to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Zamanian, like her fellow nursing students, completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree this spring with an immersive practicum designed to help students strengthen clinical knowledge and skills in preparation for practice.

In the practicum, student nurses work under a registered nurse clinical preceptor as well as a faculty preceptor, helping the students integrate their classroom work into the “real world” setting.

Zamanian completed her practicum at the bustling UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. “I worked under the supervision of my preceptors that allowed me to independently deliver the nursing duties that are done throughout the course of a shift,” she said. “I performed patient assessments, administered medication, documented care plans, attended interdisciplinary rounds, communicated with doctors, discharged and admitted patients, and more. Throughout my time in clinical, I was able to assume more responsibility.”

Keeping a close eye on Zamanian was her preceptor, Claribell Gomez ’12, who has been with the UMass Medical Center for six years.

“I was so excited to learn that my preceptor was a Fitchburg State alum,” said Zamanian. “It made me comfortable knowing that she went through the exact same process as I did and that we could relate.”

She also found Gomez to be a highly skilled practitioner and educator. “Claribell’s knowledge of nursing exceeded my expectations,” Zamanian said. “She always had a rationale for every action she performed and made sure I understood it. Her passion for nursing is inspiring.”

The feeling was mutual. “Working with Julia was great,” Gomez said. “She was the first senior nursing student for whom I had the opportunity to precept, and I loved taking her under my wing and teaching her things I know are going to be important. Julia picked up on things quickly and didn’t shy away from those challenging moments. She is going to be a great nurse.”

Professor Nancy Duphily, chair of the Nursing Department, said Fitchburg State’s program has student nurses making observations in clinical settings in their sophomore year. The hours and responsibilities increase over the rest of their undergraduate careers. In their junior years, for example, students go through seven week rotations in medical/surgical, mental health, pediatric and maternity wards.

“We try to integrate one theoretical concept to the next, to scaffold their knowledge,” she said. “They understand the importance of evidence-based practice, and they see wonderful examples.”

By the final semester, Duphily said, the students are completing 250 hours of practicum under the one-on-one supervision of a baccalaureate-level preceptor. “Many of our students are offered jobs right out of their practicums,” she said.

Zamanian is ready for the start of her professional career. “Fitchburg State equipped me with all the necessary skills to become the best nurse I can be,” she said. “I could not have done this without my instructors. I am so thankful for all of their help and compassion, and I am truly proud to be a graduate of this nursing program.”

Community Corrections

Paul Walter with Christopher MaloneyPaul Walter ’16 sees criminal justice through a holistic lens. “You can’t put everyone in jail forever,” he said. “The idea of reintegration appeals to me.”

Those concepts are central to the community corrections model, in which offenders experience supervised release. Walter has been part of that effort since joining the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office in Worcester as a paid intern in January 2017.

Walter works with offenders who have been convicted in the federal courts of sex crimes, drug offenses and bank fraud, among other infractions. From making sure offenders are drug-free to working with them as they write journals about their experiences and ongoing rehabilitation, it’s a diverse work day.

“You’ve got to push them,” Walter said. “A lot of them would rather go back to jail, where it’s more structured.”

Walter takes satisfaction from helping the probationers navigate the transition to life on the outside.

“There are many aspects of social work in what I do,” he said. “You’ve got to try everything with them before you (find them in violation) and send them back to prison.”

Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the District of Massachusetts Christopher Maloney ’89 is glad to see the interns getting such a robust look at the workings of the system.

Maloney worked to build a pipeline for Fitchburg State interns after he delivered the University’s commencement address in 2014. “We’ve always used interns in federal probation, but we didn’t have a connection with any particular school,” Maloney said.

“They’re all hard working, they’re all dependable,” Maloney said. “They’re getting a great experience and they’re filling a valuable need that we have.”

Internships are highly recommended in the criminal justice program, and each semester Fitchburg State students go to a variety of settings to apply the skills they’ve learned in class. They are assigned to police agencies, correctional institutions, courthouses and probation departments, among other settings.

And this summer, the first cohort of the University’s 4+1 police program – wherein graduates will complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as full certification to serve any municipal police department in the state – will complete a regimen that includes emergency vehicle operations, firearms instruction and physical training. That cohort graduates in September.

As an undergraduate, Maloney was not required to complete an internship but shadowed an uncle who was a probation officer in Boston. He was intrigued by the balance of law enforcement with the high purpose of helping turn others' lives around.

He’d found his career path. Sworn in as a federal probation officer in 1992, Maloney now heads the state office and has helped create opportunities for Fitchburg State students by bringing conferences to the campus and embarking on projects that will incorporate a variety of disciplines.

“The internship program has opened up a lot of other things with the University,” he said, “and I’m happy about that."

At Home in the Lab

Meghan Umbrello in her lab coatMeghan Umbrello ’18 has always enjoyed being in laboratories. When she was looking at colleges four years ago she was drawn to the facilities at Fitchburg State’s Antonucci Science Complex and the faculty members she met.

Umbrello ultimately landed on a major in chemistry, because of its mix of lab work and mathematical concepts. As a junior, Umbrello learned about an internship opportunity at New England Peptide in Gardner. The company manufactures custom peptides—chains of amino acids used in a variety of laboratory and pharmaceutical applications—for clients all over the globe.

Umbrello got the internship, which turned into a part-time job at summer’s end. Umbrello said she proved herself by taking on any task that was assigned and always demonstrated an interest in learning more.

“I’m using the same skills I learned in general chemistry at Fitchburg State,” she said. “I understand the process beyond just the procedure.”

She said her time at New England Peptide has exposed her to other career paths within the sciences, which is just one benefit of the internship experience. “I would highly recommend anyone interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields to get hands-on research experience or an internship, because it opened my eyes to several opportunities that I didn’t even know were options,” she said. “I also think it’s a great way to get experience before graduating to put you at an advantage when applying to jobs or graduate school after your undergraduate career.”

Umbrello is considering continuing her education down the road.

Rising to the Occasion

Steve Borges giving a presentationSteve Borges ’90 believes the recipe for a rewarding career is a good education, a solid skill set, a little bit of luck and a lot of personal initiative. Now the executive vice president and chief executive officer for Nypro Healthcare, a Jabil company, he’s had great success navigating the international business world and is committed to helping others chart their own courses.

One way he has done so is by fostering a robust internship program at his own company. Borges looks for evidence of drive when he’s making hires. “When I look at resumes, I always look for some level of experience,” he said. “It shows me they know what teamwork is, and it gives them an opportunity to share their experiences.”

Borges grew up in Somerset and learned about Fitchburg State from his sister, who studied education. “I wanted a smaller school where if I wanted to, I could actually know my professors,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a number.”

He studied business management and saw an opportunity to put his studies into practice. “I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but one smart thing I did was get an internship at GTE on Route 128,” he said. He started off in the telephone company’s stockroom and then learned about its production planning processes.

After completing his degree in 1990, Borges was hired. His responsibilities grew to managing government contracts, and stayed with the company for three years. On the lookout for a job with greater growth potential, Borges applied for a job in Florida with Jabil, Inc., a global manufacturing services company.

“I got the job the same day I interviewed and told my parents I was leaving,” Borges said. “You need good skills and a little bit of luck.”

The company grew by acquiring other firms, including Nypro’s health care operations. He spent a year and a half at Nypro’s headquarters in Clinton before returning to Florida, where he’s based.

Borges helps pay that spirit forward through the internship programs he has fostered, along with presentations to students. Earlier this year he was the executive-in-residence at Fitchburg State, meeting with groups of students, faculty and senior staff.

Rachel Sazonick in the Nypro building

Nypro’s interns work in different divisions within the company, from finance to engineering to quality assurance. They do valuable work for the company, Borges said, making the relationship mutually beneficial.

“I tell the interns, this is going to be as great as you want it to be,” he said. That’s how Rachel Sazonick ’20 has approached her experience at Nypro. Sazonick is pursuing a degree in business accounting and learned about the internship at Nypro through Professor Michael Greenwood. Her classroom training came in handy for the financial aspects of the internship, but the experience had other benefits. “I learned how to work on my own as well as with a team, which became very helpful when being on my own during the end of the company’s fiscal year when everyone was focusing on meeting deadlines,” she said. “I also learned to speak up and ask for help when I needed it.”

She also picked up valuable interpersonal skills. “This internship has definitely helped clarify my future plans,” Sazonick said.

Head of the Class

Matthew Daniels teaching studentsThe sixth-graders shuffle into the classroom at Leominster’s Sky View Middle School, chatting amiably with each other as they take their seats for the day’s lesson. The subject is science, and they will be going over different aspects of weather.

Their teacher, Matthew Daniels ’18, is just a few weeks away from graduating with a (bachelor’s) degree in middle school education. He captures their attention quickly by asking them to recap some of the material they covered earlier and calling on some by name to define weather fronts and low pressure systems.

Daniels has teaching in his blood. “My mom’s a teacher and a lot of my dad’s family are teachers,” he said. As a high schooler in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Daniels was able to do an internship teaching 8th graders. He loved it.

When he was looking at colleges, Daniels was attracted to the climate he observed at Fitchburg State. He also loved that he was in a real classroom from his earliest collegiate days, observing 5th graders at the McKay Arts Academy on the university campus. “I got to see different styles of teaching through different techniques,” he said. “We were always reflecting on real-life scenarios.”

His experience teaching at Sky View Middle School confirmed he’s chosen the right path.”

Observation and Reflection

Watching from the rear of the classroom at Sky View, as he has on many occasions this semester, is William McSheehy ’70, ’82, a program supervisor in Fitchburg State’s Education Department. Himself a retired teacher and principal, McSheehy notes how Daniels engages his students’ focus and keeps the lesson on track to accomplish the day’s learning objectives.

William McSheehy with Matthew DanielsAfter several formal observations of Daniels’ classes this semester, the two share an easy rapport when they debrief after the class wrapped up.

“The student teachers I see now are better prepared than most of the teachers I hired as a principal,” McSheehy later recalls. “They hit the ground running.” McSheehy traditionally supervises two to three student teachers each semester. All of the student teachers he observed received full-time teaching jobs after graduation, and he credits the University’s solid education program for making sure the candidates are ready for the workforce.

In addition to mastery of their subjects, McSheehy said the teacher candidates are equipped with excellent classroom management skills.

“They have a huge repertoire of strategies,” he said. “I tell the Education Department, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.’”

An Evolving Program

Fitchburg State—which began as the Normal School at Fitchburg in 1894—was founded to prepare teachers.

While the institution has diversified and grown in the years since, the Education Department remains a core component of the institution’s life. Dozens of teachers graduate from the program every year.

Professor Nancy Murray said getting teacher candidates into classrooms as soon as possible has long been a key component of the program. Starting with hours of classroom observation from their first year, their teaching responsibilities grow until their capstone student teaching experience. Along the way, they are exposed to different age groups and disciplines, along with special education classrooms, Murray said. 

“Our course on emotional-behavioral issues and autism spectrum disorder is definitely trend-setting,” she said. “We’re constantly revamping the program to meet our candidates’ needs and the needs of their students. By the time they’re into their practicums, they’re ready to go.”

Teacher candidates are taught to reflect on their practice from day one. Their ability to evaluate their lesson plans and their impact in the classroom will be central to their success as future teachers, Murray said.

The curriculum is also structured so that students are taking—and passing—their state licensure examinations before their final semester of student teaching.

“What’s nice as a faculty member is to watch them grow and develop in their skills and their confidence,” Murray said. “It’s the best part of our job.”

Opportunity Knocks

P.J. Cignarells working at a computer
P.J. Cignarella ’18 recognized he had just been given an opportunity for advancement. 

While an underclassman in the University’s game design program, game design Professor Les Nelken asked for volunteers for the upcoming PAX East game expo in Boston. Nelken, who had joined the faculty directly from the game industry, had a former professional colleague in need of help at his booth.

“I put my hand right up,” said Cignarella, who had been hearing throughout his time at Fitchburg State that networking was critical to success in his chosen field.

The connections he made at that expo led to a part-time job and then the paid internship Cignarella is completing this summer. He’s designing levels for the game “Mothergunship,” creating elements of virtual terrain for players.

Illustrating the potential of virtual work space, Cignarella will do his design work from his home in Scituate, because the game company’s headquarters are in the Czech Republic.

“The program I’m using to create the game is the same software I was taught to use at Fitchburg  State,” Cignarella said. 

The Game Design major has had a full-time internship requirement since its inception. That immersive experience is fundamental to the game design major, explained Nelken.

“There are certain things and procedures that there simply isn’t the bandwidth to reproduce in traditional university classes,” Nelken said. “Iteration, for example, is the key to making something good, but there’s only so much time in a semester.”

The semester-long game design studio capstone course was designed to facilitate that type of learning experience. Students work in teams to plan, design, develop, test, and prepare for publication a significant game project, in an environment that closely mirrors a professional game studio. The capstone course will be housed at the University’s ideaLab on Main Street starting this fall.

Cignarella said his classroom experience was great preparation. “Fitchburg State’s given me a great foundation to prepare me for the professional game designing world,” he said.

His work experience on the game has taught him a lot about game production and efficiency.

“It’s been incredible to see the inner workings of how a professional game is put together,” he said.

Applied Scholarship

Applied scholarship students
The University already offers students a strong foundation of applied learning through its existing internship and practicums, and continues to add more academic departments into the mix and opportunities at greater scale.

“As students graduate, they need to show a portfolio that demonstrates they’ve had some real-world, hands on experience to be competitive in their post collegiate lives,” said Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Alberto J.F. Cardelle. “The families of our incoming students are asking for these kinds of programs. They want to know that their students will get experiences in which they can apply their learning.”

The Douglas and Isabelle Crocker Center for Civic Engagement, founded at Fitchburg State in 2008, helps local organizations thrive and develop competencies in best practices, empowers people to build a better community, and maximizes collaboration between the University and the surrounding area. Earlier this year, its new Community Scholarship Group launched to help bring faculty expertise to community concerns, and provide meaningful experiences to students in the process. Visit the Crocker Center webpage to learn more.

Here are some of the other community projects already taking place that bridge the talents and efforts of Fitchburg State students and faculty in the area surrounding campus.

Success is Brewing

Scott Cullen and his wife, Jackie, are longtime craft brewers. After trying their hand at a number of beer varieties, they decided to open their own business, River Styx Brewing, in Fitchburg last year.

"It’s busy,” Cullen said. “We have 11 beers on tap at a time and food trucks serving every day we’re open. I’m trying to work as hard as I can with other local companies to help keep business alive in Fitchburg.” Supporting local commerce was also an objective of Professor Michael Greenwood’s business policy class, whose capstone project this spring involved conducting a comprehensive strategic analysis and recommendations for the brewery.

Gabriel Gavrilov ’19 was the project leader. “It’s a real world project, working with a real client,” Gavrilov said.

“Scott was very cooperative.” Students interviewed the Cullens and studied the market forces affecting craft brewers as well as the local commercial climate. 

The team’s recommendations included marketing more to the Fitchburg State community, enhancing the brewery’s social media presence to engage customers in conversation, and improving the company’s website. 

“We definitely see growth potential,” said Gavrilov. “This is real consulting, real experience, real results,” Greenwood said. “After working with these students, I’d go into battle with them anywhere.”

A Historic Campus

Professor Elise Takehana (English Studies) looks around the Fitchburg State campus and sees history. 

From a landmark free speech case that once pitted student journalists against the administration, to the University’s launching the first special education program in Massachusetts, she sees stories that deserve to be told to a broad audience. Working with her students in a course called Experimental Writing and Media Conscious Storytelling, dozens of tales about the University and its history were compiled and will be adapted into an augmented reality experience.

“When We Were Normal,” expected to launch this fall, takes its name from the University’s original moniker, the Normal School at Fitchburg. It will be a digital walking tour of the campus’ seven oldest buildings. Students also played a role in creating the design and digital footprint upon which the tour will rest.

A College Town

Students in Professor Christa Marr’s Honors service learning class spent the spring semester exploring ways to recast the city of Fitchburg as a “college town.”

The students surveyed more than 700 members of the University by email and an in-person “listening project” on topics from desired businesses and events downtown to transportation and safety.

“We also sought to become more involved in community conversations by visiting the Fitchburg Art Museum, learning about the planned artists’ community at the former B.F. Brown School, attending a Fitchburg City Council meeting and interviewing members of the community about town-gown perceptions,” Marr said.

“This course will further examine this question in 2019.”

For the Children

Karen DeCiseroKaren DeCisero touched countless lives in her 34 years of life, said her father Phil DeCisero. Her Down Syndrome posed challenges, he added, but was no match for the joy with which she lived and loved her community in Leominster, including her work at the Johnny Appleseed Elementary School.

After her passing, her parents decided to use the money they would have spent on Christmas gifts that year and instead made a donation to the elementary school to help a child in need.

They soon learned there were additional needs in the school community, and the DeCiseros were ready to help. Their vision has evolved into Karen’s Closet, a charity serving children across the city.

The operation engages in a variety of fundraisers each year—including 5K runs and raffles—to support the mission, DeCisero said. But the volunteers who run the events aren’t getting any younger, he quipped. “We knew for the operation to last, we needed to set up a financial foundation.”

The Karen’s Closet Foundation plans to create an endowment of $650,000 to provide continued long term support and help pay annual expenses. Building that nest egg requires receiving grants from external organizations, but no one within Karen’s Closet had fundraising experience.

To kick-start that effort, one of DeCisero’s fellow board members looked to the Crocker Center.

Crocker Center Coordinator Professor David Weiss reached out to the English Studies Department in search of potential student candidates, and that led him to Faith Chesbrough ’18. An English major on the professional writing track, Chesbrough was happy to pounce on a potentially valuable experience. But as she learned more about what the organization does, the work took on additional meaning.

“The stories Phil told me touched my heart and inspired me to find people who would support their cause long beyond our lifetimes,” she said. “I care about people and organizations who care about the human condition and this internship hit close to home.”

She researched the grant opportunities that were available and then wrote the grant applications. She said she was grateful for the assistance of Director of Grants and Sponsored Programs Karen Frank Mays '09 at Fitchburg State as she navigated the complexities and jargon of the process.

“In class I learned a lot about good writing and how to say the most with the least amount of words, and this is the kind of writing that grant readers prefer, because they often have so many requests to review,” Chesbrough said. “Through this experience I learned to never give up, even when I was stressing out about juggling school, a part-time job, and an internship.”

Weiss said the Karen’s Closet partnership is a great example of the work the Crocker Center can do. “It’s all about connecting the dots between the university partners, the faculty and the students,” he said.

Persistence Pays Off

Jennifer MelansonFor Jennifer Melanson ’18, crossing the stage at commencement was the fulfillment of a long held dream.

“I completed two years of college right after high school, and then I got married and had three kids,” she recalled. “When they went off to college, I decided it was time for me to go back and finish my degree.”

Melanson, a nursing assistant in the intensive care unit at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, wanted to take advantage of the research opportunities available at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at the adjacent UMass Medical School, though they don’t typically take undergraduate research interns.

“I showed them that I am self-motivated and willing to work hard, if given the opportunity. My persistence paid off and I had a terrific learning experience.”

Melanson helped create a survey for families and caregivers of individuals with the rare disease known as Fragile X syndrome, a condition that causes a range of developmental problems. The survey was designed to gauge whether participants would enroll someone with Fragile X in clinical drug trials, and to identify barriers to participation.

Living with a rare disease herself, the topic struck a nerve. “I’ve been part of a clinical trial myself, so I know what it’s like,” she said. She’s hopeful her work may inspire others to take part in such trials, and in so doing help advance the understanding of rare diseases.

Behavioral Sciences Professor Lynne Kellner said a 12-credit internship is a requirement for Human Services majors. “It’s absolutely essential that they get the chance to apply in the field what they’ve learned,” said Kellner. “It’s an incredible confidence-booster for students, and it helps them solidify their goals.”

Melanson graduated in May and will continue her search for additional careers in medical research. “I think the best advice I can give a person seeking an internship is to not let a perceived lack of opportunity stop you from what you want to do,” she said. “Persevere.”

An Eagerness to Learn

Rachel Connor ’18 interned at Megan’s House in Lowell, a substance abuse residential treatment program for women. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching the ladies grow and learn from their mistakes, building rapport with them, and just getting to know each on an individual basis,” she said.

She was already a certified nursing assistant when she enrolled at Fitchburg State, where she learned about case management, an understanding of substance abuse and the importance of community-based supports. “I started my internship with confidence in myself and an eagerness to learn,” she said.

She also knows she’s on the right path. “This experience made it clear to me that my passion is with people who have substance abuse and mental health issues,” she said. “Before this internship I was unclear on what population I wanted to serve, but I know now that I want to work with people who are in recovery and are working on rebuilding their lives.”

Change of Scenery

Katrina SyrakosThe University’s network of internship sites is widespread, but being able to relocate can present financial hardships. Donor support puts these opportunities within reach.

For years, donor support has helped Fitchburg State successfully partner with The Washington Center, an independent, not-for-profit organization located in our nation’s capital that provides internships and seminars for more than 55,000 college students and young professionals from around the world.

Katrina Syrakos ’18 interned this spring in the policy office of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Initially, she was torn between a career in criminal justice and the law. “After this experience, I knew that I wanted to pursue law after graduation.”

Ethan Comrie ’18, also studying criminal justice, spent the spring semester at the U.S. Marshals Service, assessing security systems at courthouses and developing and editing plans for future courthouse projects. The experience has opened new career paths. 

“I would encourage anyone who has even briefly thought about doing an internship to at least look into it,” Comrie said. “It can have the biggest and most unexpected impact.”

Professor Joshua Spero coordinates the University’s Washington Center program. “If we want our students graduating with even greater paths toward careers and graduate school training, it’s essential for students to intern, and to have internship scholarship support.”

To consider making a gift, please contact the Development Office at (978) 665-4555.

Public Service Passion

Alexander Ramos with Stephen DiNatale, in DiNatale's office
Leominster native Alexander Ramos ’19 said his parents always told him it’s better to give than receive. “I’ve always had a passion for public service,” he said. “It’s why I hope to pursue a career in law and politics with the ultimate goal of serving others.”

Ramos is starting on that path by studying political science and interned this spring in the office of Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale ’79, seeing where the rubber meets the road in local government.

“As a political science major I’ve learned about the mechanics of politics, how political systems originate and how public policy is formed,” Ramos said. “In the mayor’s office, I was able to see how the city manages school spending, utility rates and passing of ordinances.”

“We’re providing students with real world experiences, and they’re taking some of the burden off my lean and mean staff,” DiNatale quipped. “Alex was a great addition.”

A Magnet For Students

Professor Joshua Spero, supervisor of the political science internship program, said experiential opportunities are essential. 

“Fitchburg State was an early pioneer to integrate experiential learning into the curriculum and it’s become a real magnet for all types of students,” said Spero. “The more the interns can articulate what they’ve learned and where they’re going to take their experiences, the better they will stand out to prospective employers.”

Ramos was elected by his peers this spring to serve as the student representative to the University’s Board of Trustees for the upcoming academic year. 

“I’ll take this internship experience with me to the board,” he said. “And who knows where all these experiences will lead me to over a lifetime?”

Helping People

Patrick James ’18 was looking for a career where he could help others. He had long been an advocate of physical fitness, so when he was looking at collegiate programs he was drawn to the health fields.

He began his studies at Mount Wachusett Community College, where he completed an associate’s degree and certification in personal training.

“I wanted to see what else was available in the fitness arena,” he recalled. “I wanted to mix that with the clinical medical field.”

His research led him to Fitchburg State’s Exercise and Sports Science program, which in turn led him to focus his studies on cardiac rehabilitation. “It was pretty much everything I wanted,” he said.

James got to test that theory in detail this spring during his final semester when he interned four days a week in cardiac rehab at Heywood Hospital in Gardner. In his work at the clinic, James helped patients who were recovering from heart attacks and coronary artery disease and similar afflictions.

“I get to work with people one-on-one,” he said. “It feels good when I can help someone go from a heart attack to back in control of their lives again.”

Exercise and Sports Science students choose from a variety of internship settings as they complete their majors, from occupational and physical therapy to athletic training, coaching, fitness management and teaching physical education, among others.

Jacob Cifizzari ’18 did his internship a little closer to home base—the renovated Landry Arena at the Wallace Civic Center. “I’ve always loved being active and playing sports,” he said. He enlisted in the military after high school, but an injury cut that career short. “I decided I wanted to learn more about the body, the different systems of the body, and ways to help train people to prevent and recover from injury. I know what it feels like to be injured and away from doing something that you love.”

In his internship at Landry Arena, Cifizzari worked with student-athletes and their weight-lifting programs. 

“The best part was watching the athletes progress over time and playing a part in reaching their goals,” he said. Cifizzari said his classes had shown him the science behind physical training and the adaptations that occur through exercise. Working with student-athletes in person, he said, deepened that understanding. “It’s one thing to know the science behind everything, but the important thing is to be an effective communicator and be able to connect with your clients. The internship also helped me realize how rewarding and fun a career in strength and conditioning can be, and it helped me decide to continue my education at the graduate level.”

A Transformative Vision

Professor Lee Denike with Professor Charles SidesMention Professor Lee DeNike’s name to Communications Media alumni, and they light up as they recall his internship guidance when they were students.

“I consider him the father of the internship program,” said Janine Mudge-Mullen ’82. “It was rare for a college to offer so much hands-on training when I was studying in the video program.

It was just such an extraordinary opportunity to put me in a professional production environment, for a whole semester, where I produced videos alongside employees.” 

Mudge-Mullen, director of marketing operations at Stop & Shop, explained DeNike placed her at the video production facility at New England Telephone (now Verizon) where she spent the next 26 years working in various marketing roles in Boston and New York.

“He told me that the phone company was a good fit for me,” she said. “I’ve had an incredible career all set in motion by Professor DeNike.”

DeNike was one of seven new faculty hired in the 70s to bring experiential learning in media to Fitchburg State. Students in the Communications Media Department were required to take a full semester internship as upperclassmen, as well as a hands-on instructional course their freshmen year to complement classroom theory.

“These types of immersive experiences were pretty revolutionary at the time, although they’re becoming more commonplace now,” said DeNike. “Finding those internships sites was not easy at the beginning. You’d hear a lot of companies say, ‘Oh, you’re from Pittsburgh State College?’ But the excellent performance by the students helped us build a well-received program.

“The students manifested a strong work ethic,” DeNike continued. “They exhibited humility. They had an eagerness to learn and demonstrated mastery of the entry level skills required in their specialty. And they displayed a sense of obligation to those students who went before them and to those who would follow. Because of all that, they opened doors of opportunity that were unimaginable.”

Professor Charles Sides, DeNike’s successor, has kept those core concepts even as the major has grown. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Sides said. Communications Media interns today span the globe at sites that include household names like Comcast SportsNet, NBC, National Geographic and Walt Disney Entertainment.

“A lot of the people who are now supervising interns in the field were interns themselves,” Sides said. “They’re paying it forward and back.” Mudge-Mullen herself hired a Fitchburg State Comm Media rising senior this summer to work in Stop & Shop’s new photo studio. “It feels great to give back to the school and to offer this talented senior a chance to learn and grow as a professional.