Associate Dean, Division of Graduate and Continuing Education, Westfield State University, age 33
Meaghan Arena’s career has gone to the dogs. And plenty of other places.
“I enjoy coming here every day,” Arena said of her role developing a host of Westfield State University’s continuing-education initiatives, many of them involving young people (and, occasionally, canines; more on that later). “I work with a really great staff, and no day is the same. I’ve been fortunate to be able to have a job that’s this flexible.”
Arena oversees a staff of 11, as well as seasonal and temporary employees, in maintaining programs such as College for Kids, a summer outreach for children ages 5-16, and Teen-U, a residential summer program for high-school students.
“In the kids’ program, they come to campus and take courses that are fun, but also learning-oriented,” she said. “There might be classes like Lego Engineering or Forensics Fun — and they are fun, of course, but they also have a science component to them.
“Teen U is similar, but for older students; they actually live on campus,” she said before listing a few of the offerings in that program. “This year, we’re running Westfield CSI, which is similar to Forensics Fun but more involved, teaching students about policing, fingerprints, and crime-scene investigation.” Other classes delve into subjects ranging from health to music.
“Meaghan helps serve the community by getting children and teenagers involved in college at an early age,” wrote Kelly Koch, a local attorney and former 40 Under Forty honoree, who nominated Arena. “She has taught them that college is within their reach and that it should be attainable for everyone.”
But Arena has other passions as well, including her work volunteering for the Dakin Pioneer Valley Animal Shelter; last year, she even involved Dakin staff and animals in College for Kids to teach children about kindness to animals.
“My master’s degree is in Humane Education, so animals and the environment have been part of my life for a long time. When I started working at the college, it was a wonderful opportunity to educate children about animals and about appropriate behavior with animals — again, in a fun way,” she said. “There’s a lot of flexibility here to do the things that mean something to you.”
— Joseph Bednar