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Doing What She Loves

Amber Wilson ‘08

From the time she stepped foot onto campus, Amber Wilson knew that Anna Maria College was the perfect fit for her. She loved the spiritual environment and was fond of having the campus set in the woods of Paxton, yet very close to Worcester. When looking at colleges, she had five schools on her list, but AMC was always at the top.

Amber had applied to AMC for its Art Therapy program, which she had discovered at a college fair. She was not familiar with this program but remembered, “When I saw an ‘Art Therapy Major’ sign on one of the tables at the fair, I had an epiphany and knew down to my core that this was what I wanted to pursue.”

There are many professors that Amber learned from and was inspired by. Art professor, Alice Lambert, was especially important to Amber’s college education. Amber shared, “I can’t say enough about her; she made me into a disciplined artist by offering me constructive criticism when needed. I didn’t always accept it and she wasn’t always my favorite, but by the time I graduated it was Professor Lambert that I knew I would miss the most.”  Amber also acknowledged Professor Michael Boover for his honesty and appreciation for the simple pleasures of life. She had said she experienced a lot of spiritual growth from his down-to-earth style of teaching.

Amber now works at Atria Senior Living in their Kennebunk, Maine location as an Engage Life Director. Her job is to develop an engaging and enriched monthly calendar of events with “whole-person component programming.” These are programs designed to encourage residents to explore mental, spiritual, physical and emotional wellbeing. This is done through civic engagement, creative expression, outings, and cultural events.

Amber stated, “If AMC had not provided me the opportunity to complete a summer internship, I probably never would have walked in Atria Senior Living’s doors and my life would be completely different!” Amber has taken what she learned from a variety of classes from AMC and has applied them to her position. She teaches acrylic, watercolor painting, calligraphy, therapeutic arts, meditation and guided imagery; all of which she learned at AMC.

“Although nothing has been smooth sailing, I am proud of my independence and accomplishments. There are many obstacles in life, but the more you get through them, the stronger you become. Take advice from loved ones, but never doubt what your gut says. If you are able to face your fears, you can face anything.”

A Real Hot Shot
Greg Vigneaux '13
Greg Vigneaux '13 is a real hot shot alumnus. Literally. He works for the United States Forest Service on the Elk Mountain Hotshot Crew based out of the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California. A Hotshot Crew is an elite wildland fire suppression resource that can be ordered to respond to wildland fires burning anywhere in the nation. Crews do not fight fire by using water. Rather, they use chainsaws and hand tools or set fires themselves in order to create a continuous break in the vegetation around the fire known as a 'fire line' or 'hand line.' Progression of a fire is prevented by removing fuels in its path.
Greg is a recent graduate of the Self-Design Degree Program at Anna Maria College. He originally entered AMC after taking several courses at Mount Wachusett Community College and enrolled in the Fire Science Program after a campus tour and discussion with then director of the Fire Science Program, Everett Pierce. Greg was in the Fire Science Program for several semesters before learning about the Self-Design Degree option from Fire Science professor, Matt Hinds-Aldrich. He then created the degree, Wildland Fire Management.
After finishing his courses in December 2012, Greg took some time to ski and begin the daunting process of finding a job with a Hot Shot crew. There are about 100 crews nationally, each with only one to two annual vacancies and hundreds of applications from aspiring crew members. It is a very competitive hiring process. Greg landed his job with the Elk Mountain Hotshot Crew in early spring and spent his inaugural year, mid-April to mid-October, fighting wildland fires in California and Alaska.
Greg credits two Anna Maria College faculty members with having an impact on his college experience and his career, "Matt Hinds-Aldrich and Sue Swedis (Associate Professor in Environmental Science) both had an enormous impact on my time at AMC. In addition to being instrumental during the design process for my degree, they both challenged me academically and as a result, changed the way I think."
As Greg pursues his master's degree, he reflects back on AMC. "What I learned [at Anna Maria College] became immediately helpful in the field and has continued to help me while I pursue my graduate degree."
To learn more about the Elk Mountain Hotshot Crew, visit

joe bellil1The Ticket to Success
Joe Bellil G '90

Joe Bellil G ’90 had known about Anna Maria College since his teen years when he worked summers at Treasure Valley Boy Scout Camp. In 1988, he was looking for an affordable, quality Masters in Business Administration program, and AMC’s Executive MBA Program provided him the opportunity he had been seeking.

“I knew that getting an MBA would be an important tool that would help me climb the nonprofit management ladder.   I was working full time, so I only had the weekends available to attend classes and to study,” Joe recalls.  “AMC’s Executive MBA Program met my educational needs while being both affordable and flexible.”

Anna Maria’s setting appealed to Joe, too. “I always enjoyed the early morning drive out to AMC.  I appreciated going through rural towns and seeing all the beautiful landscapes.  I think other students in the class also liked their commute- it set a good tone for the day,” he shares.

With his AMC degree, he was able to move from the area of accounting to management.  “The MBA was my ticket to get in and I just had to prove my skills after that.  I’ve moved up various levels in nonprofit management,” he adds.

Joe has been the Vice President of Public Affairs for Easter Seals Massachusetts for almost ten years.   He is modest about his accomplishments.  “My role is to keep Easter Seals informed on legislation and regulations that may impact its services and the disability community in general.  I also am involved in youth leadership and systems advocacy,” he explains.  Moreover, Joe is a respected and well-known figure on Beacon Hill, where he tirelessly helps Easter Seals Massachusetts actively support people with disabilities and their families by encouraging state legislators and administrators to create and support programs that help people with disabilities gain greater independence.

Joe is enthusiastic and passionate about his work, but his greatest joy is his family.  “I have a wonderful wife and an energetic, eight-year-old boy who enjoys playing all different types of sports in Holden.” 

Walsh Anne
A Musical Icon
Anne Walsh '84
Anne Walsh '84 chose to attend Anna Maria College for a few reasons. One was that she was interested in music therapy and AMC had the only nationally accredited program in New England at the time. The second reason was that she wanted a smaller college where she would get the attention from professors that she needed and where campus life was not too overpowering. Third, she liked the location, because it was close to her family. Anne says, "Anna Maria was a perfect setting for me to learn as a young lady. I have fond memories and so many friends to this day."
Although she had grown up dancing and did not start singing until she was 15 years old, Anne knew that music was a way to help and heal people. She attended AMC with very little musical knowledge, even though she knew she could sing. What she found during her years on campus was a love for voice as an instrument. Anne credits Dr. Robert Goepfert, the then Music Department chair, as being a wonderful mentor and a "very kind man." In addition, she fondly remembers the guidance and tutelage from professors Malama Robbins, Jane Lahikainan Martin, Janetta Petkus, Maureen Britt Connors, Roger Greene, and Sister Lorraine Gagnon.
After graduating with a degree in Music Therapy, Anne went on to California State University of Long Beach to study for her Master's in Voice. Her passion for music led her to pursue opera and then musical theatre in California. For the last 10 years, Anne has focused her musical performance endeavors in jazz. In 2009, she put out Pretty World, a jazz collection featuring tunes with a Brazilian feeling, along with unique arrangements of jazz standards and lyricized versions of contemporary instrumental jazz classics. The record was nominated for a Grammy for the musical arrangement by her husband, Tom Zink, on the track "In the Still of the Night." In 2011, she released the record Go. Both albums have received national and international recognition and airplay and have allowed Anne and her band to perform nationally and internationally in places such as Brazil and Romania.
For the past eight years Anne has been teaching at AMDA L.A. (Academy of Music & Dramatic Arts), the famed college and conservatory for the performing arts.
For more information about Anne Walsh, visit

Summer Fall Alumni Mag 09.pdf - Adobe Acrobat ProFulfilling a Dream
Michael  Molla '84

Unlike many students whose parents question their decision to major in art, Michael Molla ’84 had the full encouragement of his family to pursue an art degree – if he attended a small, private college.

“They knew I would only flourish in that environment,” Mike recalls. “It was important for them, and me, that I had a broad based education that offered a comprehensive student centered experience.”

Accompanied by his grandfather, Mike came to campus for an interview and portfolio review with Professor Ralph Parente, then chair of the art department.  Professor Parente began the review by asking him to talk about each of the 15 pieces in his portfolio for which Mike was well-prepared.  Professor Parente then asked a question that caught him off guard.

Within minutes of flipping through his portfolio, Professor Parente asked Mike to describe in detail, ‘How do you think?’  “I remember responding nervously that I don’t really know,” shares Mike.  “I was prepared to talk about each piece of work in my portfolio, not answer the type of question he was asking.”  According to Mike, Professor Parente responded, “this is one of the first questions you will ask yourself on your journey to become an artist this September here at Anna Maria.”

For Mike, his education started right then and there and continued through his four years at AMC.  “Professor Parente systematically raised my creative and professional aspirations beyond what I ever thought possible,” he says.

Mike’s education was rounded out by other faculty and staff, including Dean of Students, Hollie Ingraham, Sr. Rollande Quintal, SSA ’62, and Sr. Paulette Gardner, SSA ’67.  “Their commitment to students...continues to echo in both my heart and mind today.  They helped inform, educate and develop values that are reflected in my daily work to this day,” he claims.

After graduating, Mike planned to become an art teacher, but teaching jobs were in short supply in the wake of Proposition 2 ½, which impacted school systems in Massachusetts. Utilizing his experience as a resident assistant at Anna Maria, Mike accepted a full-time job as a Resident Director at Fitchburg State College. This led to a residence life position at Denison University in Ohio, followed by a stint as Assistant Dean of Student Life at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Maryland.

Fulfilling a dream to combine his dual love of art and student affairs, Mike moved to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, one of the top art colleges in the country.  After rising through the ranks to become a chief student affairs officer, Mike currently serves as MICA’s Vice President for Operations. Although very happy in his current role, he hopes to one day serve as a college president.

Mike credits Anna Maria College with providing him with both a strong academic and co-curricular preparation and for supporting his aspirations. “Every moment at AMC, whether in the classrooms, studios or participating in student organizations, I felt as though the entire College was there to support my personal and educational journey,” he comments. “We could not get away with just being average students at AMC; we were expected to be great students.”