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AIC Welcomes Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris to Desmond Tutu Public Health Awareness Lecture Series

AIC is pleased to present the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Lecture in Public Health featuring Helen R. Caulton-Harris, Commissioner of the Division of Health and Human Services for the city of Springfield. Caulton-Harris will speak about the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing efforts to address social determinants of health including racism, poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness, and how AIC students can become involved in those efforts. Her lecture will take place from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesday, April 5, in the Schwartz Campus Center Auditorium.


“The School of Health Sciences at AIC is thrilled to have Commissioner Caulton-Harris as our keynote speaker this year,” said Dean of the School of Health Sciences Karen Rousseau, PhD, RN. “Commissioner Caulton Harris is a champion for public health in our region and has worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our diverse community.”


Caulton-Harris is the first Black woman to hold the title of Commissioner of the Division of Health and Human Services. In that capacity, she is responsible for administrative oversight of four city departments, Veterans, Elder Affairs, the Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control Shelter, and the city’s libraries. She is also responsible for the direct supervision of the Springfield Department of Health and Human Services and Health Services for the Homeless. She has played a prominent role in developing policy for the health and human services needs of underserved populations on the local and national levels.


As a testament to her Public Policy work, Caulton-Harris has received numerous awards including the AIDS Action Award from the Action Committee and the Rebecca Lee Award from the Harvard School of Public Health. She was named Women of the Year by the Springfield Postal Service and received the Paul Revere Award from the Massachusetts Public Health Association. In 2015 she was named a member of the inaugural class of 100 Outstanding of Color from Western Mass and Conn. In 2016 the African Hall Steering Committee of the Springfield Museum Association bestowed on her the prestigious Ubora Award. In 2020 she was saluted as a Woman of Impact by Business West.


Caulton-Harris was appointed to the board of Holyoke Community College (HCC) by former Governor Mitt Romney and reappointed by former Governor Deval Patrick and is the immediate past chair of HCC. She is also the immediate past chair of AAA of Pioneer Valley, becoming the first Black Woman to chair the boards of AAA and HCC.


Caulton-Harris has been appointed to the Public Health and Food Policy Councils for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She has also been appointed by the Secretary of Minority Health in Washington DC as a member of the Region 1 Health Council and appointed by former Governor Charlie Baker to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Advisory Board.


AIC established the Desmond Tutu Public Health Lecture Series in 2010 to bring awareness to the issue of public health. Its namesake, Archbishop Tutu served as the inaugural speaker. The event is free and open to the public.

AIC GIves is a Great Success

The final figures are in, showing AIC Gives was a triumph. The College's first-ever comprehensive Giving Day on March 1, 2023, exceeded expectations. The total amount raised in those 24 hours was $403,048, a whopping 98% increase from the previous year's Athletics Giving Day.


"I want to thank the more than 1,400 donors who helped make AIC Gives a resounding success," said Joe Long, Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement. "Our supporters blew us away with their generosity as we exceeded all our goals and met about every challenge presented."


The numbers are impressive: averaging $195 per donation, the largest single gift was $50,000. Athletics was a big draw for donors, raising more than $300,000. Other top categories raising the most money included Academics, Student Engagement, Faculty/Staff, DEIB, and Greatest Need, raising more than $100,000.


The AIC community was fully engaged, with support coming from 1,447 donors, a 21% increase from the year before. Among these donors were 245 students, 240 parents, 218 faculty and staff, and 253 alumni, who all contributed to the cause from 39 states and 12 countries.


The impact of this support will be felt across 28 academic programs, 23 athletics teams, 3,000 students, and 293 faculty and staff members. Long says every one of AIC's 3,000 students will benefit from the generosity of donors. "Their investment in AIC will impact our students, our campus, and our future. We're so grateful to be a part of a community that lives our mission and is committed to providing opportunities for the next generation of AIC students."


And while he is celebrating this year's overwhelming response from the College community, Long is already planning for the next AIC Gives. "We've set our date for next year. We hope to see you on February 29, 2024!"

April Fools, Joke's on You!

Editors of The Yellow Jacket are putting the finishing touches on a tongue-in-cheek edition of the student newspaper. The April Fools issue, being released on Friday, March 31, was created by students in Professor Will Steffen's Creative Writing course, in conjunction with students in the Yellow Jackets Newspaper Lab course, and those who write for the paper independently. The budding reporters want the College community to know the stories in this issue are not meant to be taken seriously, as they were having fun with this exercise, while also practicing their journalism skills. 


AIC Student-Athletes Advocate for Mental Health

AIC Women’s Lacrosse is taking a shot to improve conversations regarding student-athletes' mental health in an upcoming home game against Southern New Hampshire University. The Yellow Jackets will join their fellow athletes from all ten Northeast-10 Conference teams by participating in Morgan's Message Day on Wednesday, April 12, in support of Morgan’s Message, an organization that advocates for the mental health of student-athletes.


Morgan's Message was created by the family and former teammates of Morgan Rodgers, a former Duke University lacrosse student-athlete who died tragically in July 2019 after battling mental health struggles. The organization’s mission is to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health and ensure that mental health and physical health for student-athletes are treated equally. 


“There is a perception that if someone is seeking help [for mental health], they are weak; however, that is not the case,” said AIC senior defender Lauren Smithers, one of the College’s Morgan’s Message Ambassadors. “There should be as much emphasis on mental health as there is on our physical health. It's okay not to be okay. You are not alone; there is an entire community ready to support one another. Let's continue [working] to end the stigma.”


AIC Celebrates Its First Graduate of the Western Mass Police Academy

Officer Curtis McGuire has become American International College's (AIC) first graduate of the Western Massachusetts Police Academy. Officer McGuire was among the members of the 65th recruit officer candidate class saluted in a graduation ceremony held at AIC on Friday, March 17, 2023. 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." President 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 said. Benitez concluded by thanking 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."


Officer 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," said McGuire.


For the ten-year Army veteran, graduation fulfills a lifelong dream to work in law enforcement. At forty-five, 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. But when things at home were more under control, I was able to focus on becoming an officer."


The event came at a time 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 ma'am, 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."