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SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University announced the appointment of Basil Andrew Stewart as vice president for Finance and Administration after a comprehensive national search. Currently, he is vice president for Finance and chief financial officer for Lasell University and assistant treasurer and chief financial officer of Lasell Village in Newton. At Western New England, Stewart will serve as the chief financial officer for the university.

“WNE will benefit greatly from Stewart’s breadth of experience in higher education and expertise in strategic planning as we move forward with a bold new vision for WNE as a model for what a 21st-century traditional university can and must become,” university President Robert Johnson said. “Now more than ever, institutions need to be as agile and transparent with their finance and technology operations as they are with their academic programming to ensure long-range growth and financial stability. Stewart brings that innovative mindset.”

Stewart will be responsible for the university’s finance and budgeting, internal audits, facilities management and construction, campus police, risk management, information technology, and auxiliary services. As CFO, he will serve as chief advisor to the president on financial and administrative matters and will have administrative responsibility to the board of trustees by providing administrative support to its finance, audit, and investment committees.

Prior to his current post, Stewart served as chief financial officer and senior vice president for Finance and Administration at Merrimack College and held controller posts at such prestigious institutions as MIT, Northeastern, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Smith College, and Wentworth Institute of Technology. He held auditing posts for the Gillette Co. and Coopers & Lybrand.

Stewart earned his MBA and a BBA in accounting from UMass Amherst. He is a board member of the Boston Consortium for Higher Education and Boston Senior Home Care Inc. and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Inc. and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants Inc. He holds designations as a chartered global management accountant and certified public accountant.

Stewart, who joins Western New England University in June, succeeds retiring Vice President for Finance and Administration Richard Wagner, who also served as director of Institutional Leadership and Planning for 18 years.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Western New England University (WNEU) $649,111 for a five-year grant to offer scholarships to students. The target populations are students who are high achievers in high school whose family demonstrates they will benefit from financial aid. The grant will create a community-outreach program to increase the number of high-school and middle-school students entering and succeeding in STEM fields.

The grant, titled Sustainable Pathways to Success for Low-income STEM Students Emphasizing Research and Innovation, was awarded to Jingru Benner, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and a team of educators from the university including Dean Hossein Cheraghi, Michael Rust, and Anthony Santamaria from the College of Engineering; Raymond Ostendorf from the College of Arts and Sciences; and Bryan Gross, vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing. Benner will serve as principal investigator and project director.

The project will increase the number of high-school students who have access to enroll in the WNEU Mechanical Engineering program. The grant provides funding for an annual need-based scholarship that will be added on top of each student’s WNEU merit scholarship and can be combined with the university’s Women in Engineering or FIRST Robotics Scholarships.

In addition, the grant will fund critical resources for students in the program to receive targeted support to help them successfully graduate. The resources will include mentored research with faculty, entrepreneurship development, community-service projects, the option for participation in learning communities, and expert guest presentations. Students will also have access to customized career consultations to begin early career planning.

“The world needs the best and brightest minds to solve the problems of today — and those yet to be imagined,” WNEU President Robert Johnson said. “This grant will help us to welcome more deserving and high-achieving students into our supportive community. We are grateful for Dr. Benner and the team’s efforts to bring this important National Science Foundation grant to WNE.”

The program will study the impact of immersed research experiences combined with entrepreneurial mindset training on student retention and degree completion. It is the first National Science Foundation S-STEM grant awarded to WNEU, now nationally ranked with a top-100 Engineering program.

“The premise is that the combination of research experience, to deepen the student’s technical knowledge, and entrepreneurship skill development, to train the students to identify innovative opportunities and integrate classroom learning to create value for society, will improve the pathway to success for STEM students in achieving their career goals,” Benner explained. “The strategy for implementation is carefully designed and will be used in conjunction with other student services on the WNE campus.”

Such an investment has the potential to not only transform individual lives, he noted, but those they will impact through their future careers.

“The NSF grant is a vote of confidence that this program will advance the understanding of the relationship between the proposed activities and student success,” Gross said. “The findings from this project will add new knowledge toward defining what effective curricular and co-curricular activities work to improve the persistence and success rate of college students from low-income communities in STEM fields.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Connecticut Bar Assoc. (CBA) announced Professor Jennifer Levi as the 2021 Tapping Reeve Legal Educator Award winner. The award is presented to legal educators who have made significant contributions to the cause of legal education over a period of years and have distinguished themselves as legal educators of the highest quality.

Levi serves as a professor of Law at Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law. She has dedicated her career to fighting for the rights of women, children, the poor, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered clients, and was a founder of the law school’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies, which is now part of the School of Law’s Center for Social Justice. In addition, she is a nationally recognized expert on transgender legal issues and the director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project litigating precedent-setting cases establishing basic rights for LGBTQ people.

Established in 2012, the Tapping Reeve Legal Educator Award is presented to a member of the Connecticut Bar Assoc. who is a member of the faculty, a clinical instructor, or an adjunct instructor at UConn, Quinnipiac, Yale, or Western New England University law schools, or a member of the CBA who has contributed greatly to the legal education of his or her colleagues. The recipient must have demonstrated sustained commitment and made significant contributions to the cause of legal education in the state and have distinguished himself or herself as a legal educator of the highest quality as a teacher, scholarly writer, or both.

Judge Tapping Reeve, the namesake of this award, was an American lawyer, educator, and jurist. He is recognized as founding a law school in Litchfield, Conn. considered to be the first formal school of law in the U.S. offering a vocational curriculum for future attorneys.

Levi will be formally awarded this distinction at the 2021 Celebrate with the Stars virtual event on Thursday, April 8.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Maria Toyoda, currently the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of Political Science & Legal Studies at Boston’s Suffolk University, has been appointed senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost at Western New England University, effective July 12.

President Robert Johnson announced the appointment, citing Toyoda’s successes in cross-disciplinary collaboration, commitment to student success, procurement of grant funding, modernization of processes, and mobilization of faculty as partners in the recruitment process at her prior institution.

“We are honored to have Dr. Toyoda join us at an important inflection point in the history of Western New England University,” Johnson said. “Currently, the WNE community is crafting a shared ambition to guide us through the next phase of our evolution. Her expertise and leadership will be instrumental as WNE stakes its position as a model for the new traditional university, one that provides an education grounded in professional studies, enhanced by the liberal arts, and renowned for mentored research that produces graduates who are work-ready and world-ready.”

Toyoda will be the university’s chief academic officer and oversee the academic integrity of all colleges, schools, and institutes on campus. The position is responsible for working with the deans and faculty to maintain the quality of current programs, develop new programs, and oversee the academic-appointment process.

“Institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to train active and civically engaged citizens who are discerning in both their consumption and production of information,” Toyoda said. “WNE’s aim of shaping future citizens imbued with personal values of integrity and accountability, tolerance and respect, and social responsibility aligns with my own ideals around education that emphasizes mastery, practice, creativity, perceptiveness, and personal growth.”

In her current role at Suffolk University, Toyoda oversees 18 departments with 200 full-time faculty and staff with responsibility for an undergraduate population of 5,000 students. On March 30, she was honored as one of Get Konnected’s 50 Most Influential People of Color in Higher Education. She received her PhD and master’s degree in government at Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University with honors in values, technology, science, and society.

Toyoda succeeds interim Provost Curt Hamakawa, who will return to his previous position as professor of Sport Management. Hamakawa is also the director of the Business Study Abroad program, the Business Honors program, and the Center for International Sport Business in the university’s College of Business.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — “National Security Priorities in Biden’s First 100 Days” will be the topic of a discussion by Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law Dean Sudha Setty on Thursday, April 15 at noon. The cost for this virtual event, presented by the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts, is $10 (free for students).

Setty will discuss various national-security priorities of the Biden administration, including investigations into domestic terrorism, anticipated policy changes regarding targeted killings, and foreign-policy priorities.

Setty became dean of the School of Law in 2018 and has served on the faculty since 2006. She is the author of National Security Secrecy: Comparative Effects on Democracy and the Rule of Law, the editor of Constitutions, Security, and the Rule of Law), and has written dozens of articles on national-security law and policy.

She was recognized as part of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Top Women in the Law in 2019, and the WNEU School of Law honored her with the Catherine J. Jones Professor of Year Award in 2009, 2016, and 2018. She was recognized in 2015 as a Trailblazer by the South Asian Bar Assoc. of Connecticut and received the 2017 Tapping Reeve Legal Educator Award from the Connecticut Bar Assoc. In July 2018, she was elected to membership in the American Law Institute.

The April 15 event is sponsored by Glenmeadow, Sir Speedy, and Wilbraham & Monson Academy. For more information and to register, visit the World Affairs Council of Western Massachusetts website at www.wacwestma.org.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Thomas Hull, associate professor of Mathematics at Western New England University (WNEU), recently published his latest book, Origametry: Mathematical Methods in Paper Folding. In his book, Hull takes a deep dive into the math behind origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding.

“This is the first book of its kind,” he said. “Origami can be studied with math in many ways, such as using geometry, calculus, or matrices. This is the first book that brings all these different approaches together to streamline them into a cohesive theory.”

Hull’s research uses graph theory, combinatorics, geometry, and other areas of math, with applications in engineering, materials science, art, and education. He is a leading expert on the mathematics of origami, having given talks on this topic all over the world.

“Interest in origami has been increasing over the past eight years, especially among engineers and physicists,” he said. “They see origami-inspired mechanisms as novel ways to do things like deploy large structures — such as solar panel arrays — into outer space or to make nanoscale robots. This book gathers the math needed to study such applications in one place.”

Hull has been practicing origami since he was 8 years old and studying the mathematics behind origami for the past 30 years. He holds both a PhD and a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Hampshire College.

Several of the origami models he has invented are well-known among origami artists, including his ‘five intersecting tetrahedra’ model, a star-like structure, featured on the cover of his new book, which the British Origami Society voted as being one of the top 10 origami models of all time.

“The book took over 10 years to write,” he said. “In addition to the fundamentals of origami math, it also contains research that I did with undergraduate students at Western New England University.” Hull often brings the art of origami into his math classes, and every year he has undergraduate students working with him on origami-related research. In the fall 2021 semester, he will offer a math course at WNEU on the mathematics of origami, using his new book as a guide.

“Faculty like Dr. Hull who take part in research and discovery are actively participating in their field and have access to cutting-edge insight in the subject matter they teach,” said Curt Hamakawa, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “By sharing that insight in the classroom — in this case incorporating origami lines and 3D configurations to teach math — they bring life to the academic world and provide the opportunity for students to witness the evolution of an industry.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — After successfully holding classes primarily on campus under stringent COVID-19 safety protocols throughout the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, Western New England University (WNEU) announced plans to return to unrestricted in-person learning for the fall of 2021.

The announcement was made by WNEU President Robert Johnson in a letter to the campus community on March 16. Of the roughly 3,000 colleges and universities tracked by the College Crisis Initiative, Western New England University was one of just 27% of schools nationwide that resumed primarily in-person teaching last fall that continued throughout the spring through careful adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols.

The letter describes the plan for all on-ground courses to be in classrooms without social-distancing restrictions in place.

“We must thrive in uncertainty by being well-informed, decisive, and extremely well-prepared,” Johnson said. “The decision to return to campus in this way has not been made lightly or without a great deal of planning.” He added that detailed feedback and support from university administration, along with guidance from state and national health experts, led to this decision.

He noted that, while the university will prepare for mostly on-ground, in-person, unrestricted classes to resume in the fall, detailed contingency plans are in place if WNEU needs to revert to classrooms with social distancing. “We will be ready to execute our plan in a quick and organized manner that will reduce class sizes and add more hybrid options to the course schedule.”

Johnson expressed to the community that he looks forward to a return to the close interaction with students that is a hallmark of a WNEU education. “I want to emphasize that university faculty and staff will be fully prepared to deal with whatever our situation may bring, as has been the case all along. I am both cautious and optimistic in all that we are planning for you.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University will host high-school students and their parents in a virtual open house that will be streamed live on Saturday, March 6 from 10:00 a.m. to noon. The event is free, but advance reservation is required by visiting visit.wne.edu or calling the Admissions Office at (413) 782-1312.

Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions Michelle Goodfellow will lead guests on a live, virtual tour of the campus; introduce them to the university’s new President, Robert Johnson; and show them what life is like as a Golden Bear. Along the way, prospective students and their families will interact with current students, learn about how the university has been able to safety welcome our students back to campus, win prizes, and learn about academic opportunities within the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Engineering. Also featured will be the new 4U University Advising Program and options for academic support, admissions and financial aid, living on campus and commuting, student activities, athletics, and more.

“I am so excited to have a chance to meet our prospective students at this event,” Goodfellow said. “Even though we are not able to have large numbers of students on campus, I am confident that those that attend virtually will get a true sense of the Golden Bear spirit that exists on our campus.”

To wrap up the event, Goodfellow will host a live panel, where guests will be able to ask questions directly to current Western New England students.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law’s Center for Social Justice was awarded a $6,000 DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) mini-grant from Health New England (HNE). The grant provides funding to local nonprofit organizations that are actively addressing racial health equity and disparities, and at least one of the CDC’s social determinants of health (SDOH).

“As a mission-driven, not-for-profit health plan, Health New England seeks to improve the health and lives of all people in our communities,” said Susan Silver O’Connor, vice president and general counsel for Health New England. “With this grant, Health New England deepens its commitment to addressing racial inequality and health disparities in Springfield and beyond through our partnership with the Center for Social Justice. Health New England supports the critical work of the center in dismantling structural inequality to improve health outcomes and increase health equity through education and dialogue.”

SDOH are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes; these include healthcare access and quality, education access and quality, social and community context, economic stability, and neighborhood and built environment.

“We are deeply grateful to Health New England for their support of this critical initiative and look forward to working with them as a partner in addressing the pervasive issue of racism as a social determinant of health in our community,” said Ariel Clemmer, director of the Center for Social Justice.

The grant seeks to dismantle systemic racism in two ways. Clemmer explained that the project will “first educate the WNE University community about the connection between racism and health disparities and the structural barriers to equity that exist across society, and then will work to facilitate racial healing and relationship building between and among our institution and the local community through healing-circle conversations.”

Since its launch in 2019, the Center for Social Justice has been a key stakeholder in the pursuit of social justice in its community and beyond. In the last year, the center has sponsored or hosted more than a dozen events, including various know-your-rights trainings and programming, panel discussions addressing the racial disparities of COVID-19, and lawyering in the time of Black Lives Matter, as well as speakers like Evan Wolfson, who is considered an architect of the marriage-equality movement. Its work is entirely grant-funded from supporters like HNE and MassMutual, as well as individual donors.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) faculty, colleagues, family members, and students are invited to participate in a commemorative event in memory of Assistant Vice President of Marketing Communications Dave Stawasz, who passed away peacefully on Jan. 28, surrounded by his family, after a courageous two-year battle with stage-4 colorectal cancer.

Stawasz was a graduate of South Hadley High School and Syracuse University. His early career was as a news producer at WWLP and then later at WFSB. He joined the university in 2004.

“During his cancer battle, Dave taught us so much about courage, perseverance, and love, all of which were pinnacles of who Dave was,” said Bryan Gross, vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing. “As a beloved member of our university family, we want to honor his distinguished memory as well as support his wife and daughters, who meant everything to him.”

Stawasz was a loving family man and committed husband to his wife of 25 years, Lisa, and the proud father of his two daughters, Paige and Kristen, both of whom are currently enrolled as undergraduate students at colleges in the New England region.

Steps for Stawasz is a virtual walk taking place throughout the month of April in his honor. Participants will log as many virtual steps as they can during the month by either walking or running while collecting donations along the way through friends and family sponsorships. By signing up, participants will receive a link to share on social media. From there, participants can create a personal giving page to collect donations and update progress. Details and instructions can be found by clicking here.

Interested individuals can also make a direct donation on the website without participating in the walk. All proceeds will go directly to the Stawasz family.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University announced that all current students (class of 2021 to class of 2024) will be offered two graduate courses free of charge with acceptance to a WNEU master’s-degree program upon completion of their bachelor’s degree.

“As our undergraduates consider next steps, especially with the current economic climate, we want to help provide them with the opportunity to advance their credentials in what could prove to be a difficult time as the nation returns to post-COVID normalcy,” said Matt Fox, executive director of Graduate Admissions.

According to the NACE Job Outlook Survey, 2021 hiring will be “more positive than expected given that the pandemic shut down the economy, plummeted the stock market, and raised the unemployment rate.” Nearly 17% of organizations responding to the NACE survey plan to increase their hiring levels of 2021 graduates, compared to 2020 graduates, and about 53% plan to maintain their level of hiring.

Andrea St. James, assistant dean of the Delbridge Career Center at WNEU, is encouraged by this report. “It is important for students to stay focused on the job-search process and to make connections,” she said. “By utilizing this time and taking advantage of this opportunity, it increases your value in the marketplace. It demonstrates a commitment to continuous and active learning. This is one of the most important qualities employers look for when hiring. The sooner you begin your degree, the sooner you will finish. It makes perfect sense.”

Fox outlined the many benefits this opportunity offers, including improving employment and future advancement opportunities, deferred undergraduate loan payment, and what essentially equates to a 20% reduction in graduate tuition.

“Online course offerings allow for flexibility and the ability to advance your education from anywhere,” she noted. “Students can launch their careers while beginning their graduate degrees. This new initiative is our way of taking some of the financial pressure off students and help them do that, especially in light of current external circumstances.”

For more information, visit www1.wne.edu/admissions/graduate/two-grad-courses.cfm.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — On Tuesday, 157 law-school deans from schools across the country, including Dean Sudha Setty from Western New England University School of Law, published a statement addressing the 2020 election and the events that took place in the U.S. Capitol last week. It is unusual for such a diverse group of law deans to come together to speak as one on an issue that falls outside the purview of legal education.

Dean Setty noted, “as legal educators, we know that, to meet this moment in our democracy, our foremost job is to educate lawyers of conscience and character. This joint statement reaffirms that fundamental role and the work that lies ahead for our profession.”

“The violent attack on the Capitol was an assault on our democracy and the rule of law,” reads the statement. “The effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election was a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution. Lives were lost, the seat of our democracy was desecrated, and our country was shamed.”

The joint statement goes on to reflect upon the roles that lawyers played in recent events and affirm the deans’ commitment to working together to repair the damage to democratic institutions and rebuild faith in the rule of law.

“Many lawyers and judges worked honestly and in good faith, often in the face of considerable political pressure, to ensure the 2020 election was free and fair. However, we recognize with dismay and sorrow that some lawyers challenged the outcome of the election with claims that they did not support with facts or evidence. This betrayed the values of our profession.”

The deans conclude with a call to action. “As legal educators and lawyers ourselves, we must redouble our efforts to restore faith in the rule of law and the ideals of the legal profession. We have enormous faith in the law’s enduring values and in our students, who will soon lead this profession. We call upon all members of the legal profession to join us in the vital work ahead.”

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SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University Small Business Legal Clinic is accepting applications from entrepreneurs and small-business owners seeking legal assistance for the spring semester 2021. Under faculty supervision, law students assist clients with legal issues including choice of entity, employment policies, contract drafting, regulatory compliance, and intellectual-property issues relating to trademark applications and copyright. This is a free service available to local businesses that might not have the resources to obtain such services.

The Small Business Clinic has assisted more than 350 small businesses since it opened. “The clinic is a great resource for entrepreneurs who lack the finances to retain an attorney,” Associate Clinical Professor of Law Robert Statchen explained. “By using the clinic’s services, businesses can avoid problems by getting legal issues addressed early and correctly. It also provides students with a great opportunity to get real-world experience.”

The clinic requests that small-business owners submit their applications by Friday, Jan. 1. Applications received after that date will be considered if additional resources are available. Students will begin providing services in late January. For more information, call the Legal Clinic at (413) 782-1469 or e-mail Marie Fletcher, Clinical Programs administrator, at [email protected].

The School of Law Small Business Legal Clinic was established to afford law students with an opportunity to provide practical consultation to entrepreneurs starting new and building existing small businesses in the community. This initiative strengthens alliances within the community by using the resources of the university to foster new business development. For more information or to complete an online application, visit www1.wne.edu/law/centers/small-business-legal-clinic.cfm.

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SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University will host high-school students and their parents in a virtual open house that will be streamed live on Sunday, Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to noon. The event is free, but advance reservation is required at visit.wne.edu or calling the Admissions Office at (413) 782-1312.

Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions Michelle Goodfellow will lead guests on a live virtual tour of the campus, introduce them to the university’s new President, Robert Johnson, and show them what life is like as a Golden Bear. Along the way, prospective students and their families will interact with current students, win prizes, and learn about academic opportunities within the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Engineering. Also featured will be the new 4U University Advising Program and options for academic support, admissions and financial aid, living on campus and commuting, student activities, athletics, and more.

“I am so excited to have a chance to meet our prospective students at this event,” Goodfellow said. “Even though we are not able to have large numbers of students on campus, I am confident that those that attend will get a true sense of the Golden Bear spirit that exists on our campus.”

To wrap up the event, Goodfellow will host a live panel, where guests will be able to ask questions directly to current students. For a complete list of virtual open-house dates and times, visit visit.wne.edu.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law will present a virtual discussion titled “What is the Black Agenda in America Today?” on Thursday, Oct. 29 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. as part of the Wellen Davison Speaker Series.

Entrepreneur, activist, and author Elaine Brown will be discussing recent events involving policing brutality and the deaths of unarmed black citizens. Western New England University President Robert Johnson will provide the welcome address, and Professor of Law Bridgette Baldwin will serve as moderator.

Brown is executive director for the Michael Lewis Legal Defense Committee, the former minister of information and chairman of the Black Panther Party, and author of A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story and the Condemnation of Little B. She is also the CEO of Oakland & the World Enterprises, a nonprofit organization dedicated to launching and sustaining for-profit businesses for ownership by formerly incarcerated and other people facing extreme barriers to economic survival. Brown attended Temple University, UCLA, Mills College, and Southwestern University School of Law and has lectured at colleges and universities around the world.

The Wellen Davison Seminar is named after former Professor of Mechanical Engineering Wellen Davison, who taught in the College of Engineering for 38 years. In 1989, the university inaugurated the Wellen Davison Seminar in his honor, and it is now an annual professional-development event striving to improve the teaching and learning environment at the university.

This 90-minute event is free and open to the public. To register in advance, click here.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University School of Law and Massachusetts Fair Housing will present a virtual panel discussion on “Eviction in the Time of COVID-19: the Next National Crisis” on Friday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

A panel of experts will discuss the impact the coronavirus has had on an already-existing housing crisis. Bringing important perspectives on the subject will be panelists Joel Feldman, attorney and shareholder at Heisler, Feldman, & McCormick, P.C.; Michael Doherty, clerk magistrate for the Western Division Housing Court; David Leveillee, attorney at the Rhode Island Legal Services Housing Law Center; and Rose Webster-Smith, program coordinator for Springfield No One Leaves.

Serving as moderator will be Alexander Cerbo, a third-year Western New England University law student and editor in chief of Lex Brevis.

Of particular interest to legal professionals, fair-housing advocates, and members of the higher-education community, the one-hour event is free and open to the public. Contact Cerbo with questions at [email protected]. To register, visit www.fhcrconference.com.

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SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University will host high-school students and their parents in a virtual open house on Sunday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon. The event is free, but advance reservation is required by clicking here or calling the Admissions Office at (413) 782-1312.

Kerri Jarzabski, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management and Retention and dean of first-year students, will lead guests on a live virtual tour of the campus; introduce them to the university’s new President, Robert Johnson; and show them what life is like as a Golden Bear. Along the way, prospective students and their families will learn about academic opportunities within the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Engineering; the new 4U Advising Program and options for academic support; living on campus and commuting; student activities; athletics; and more.

“I am so excited to have a chance to meet our prospective students at this event,” Jarzabski said. “Even though we are not able to have large numbers of students on campus, I am confident that those that attend will get a true sense of the Golden Bear spirit that exists on our campus.”

To wrap up the event, Jarzabski will host a live panel with student leaders, where guests will be able to ask questions directly to students. After the formal event, prospective families will be able to join academic breakout sessions, watch a video overview, and join a Zoom session for each college.

For a complete list of 2020-21 Virtual Open House dates and times, click here.

Cover Story Education Special Coverage

Writing the Next Chapter

Robert Johnson, president of Western New England University

Robert Johnson, president of Western New England University

At least once, and perhaps twice, Robert Johnson strongly considered removing himself from the mix as a search committee narrowed the field of candidates to succeed Anthony Caprio as president of Western New England University (WNEU) in Springfield.

It was early spring, and the COVID-19 pandemic was presenting every institution of higher learning, including UMass-Dartmouth, which he served as chancellor, with a laundry list of stern — and, in some cases, unprecedented — challenges.

Johnson told BusinessWest that the campus needed his full attention and that it might be time to call a halt to his quest for the WNEU job. But he “hung in there,” as he put it, and for the same reason that he eventually decided to pursue the position after at least twice telling a persistent recruiter that he wasn’t really interested.

“We are at an inflection point in higher education,” said Johnson, who arrived on the campus on Aug. 15, just a few weeks before students arrived for the fall semester. “Western New England has a good balance of the liberal arts and the professional schools, along with the law school, that puts it in a unique position to write the next chapter when it comes to what higher education will look like.

“I think it’s fair to say that, when we think about higher education, the last time we’ve seen the level of transformation that is about to happen was just after World War II, with the GI Bill and the creation of more urban public universities, community colleges, and the list goes on,” he continued, as talked through a mask to emphasize the point that they are to be worn at all times on this campus. “As we think about the world of work and the future, colleges and universities will be educating people for jobs that don’t exist yet, utilizing technologies that haven’t been created to solve problems that have yet to be identified.”

Elaborating, he said today’s young people, and he counts his son and daughter in this constituency, are expected to hold upwards of 17 jobs in five different industries (three of which don’t currently exist) during their career. All this begs a question he asked: “what does an institution of higher learning look like in an environment like this, where the pace of change is unlike anything the world has ever seen?”

The short answer — he would give a longer one later — is that this now-101-year-old institution looks a whole lot like WNEU, which, he said, is relatively small, agile, and able to adapt and be nimble, qualities that will certainly be needed as schools of all sizes move to what Johnson called a “clicks and mortar” — or “mortar and clicks” — model of operation that, as those words suggest, blends remote with in-person learning.

The process of changing to this model is clearly being accelerated by the pandemic that accompanies Johnson’s arrival at WNEU, and that has already turned this fall semester upside down and inside out at a number of schools large and small.

“Western New England has a good balance of the liberal arts and the professional schools, along with the law school, that puts it in a unique position to write the next chapter when it comes to what higher education will look like.”

Indeed, a number of schools that opened their campuses to students have already closed them and reverted to remote learning. Meanwhile, others trying to keep campuses open are encountering huge problems — and bad press: Northeastern University recently sent 11 students packing after they violated rules and staged a gathering in one of the living areas, for example, and the University of Alabama has reported more than 1,200 cases on its campus in Tuscaloosa.

It’s very early in the semester, but Johnson is optimistic, even confident, that his new place of employment can avoid such occurrences.

“The decision to go with in-person learning was essentially made before I got here, and I think it was the right decision,” he explained, noting that students are living on campus and only 16% of the courses are being taught fully online, with the rest in-person or a hybrid model. “We’ve tested more than 2,500 individuals, and we’ve had only three positive cases, all asymptomatic. It’s worked out well so far, but this is only the end of the first week.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, and we take it day to day,” he went on, adding that the school’s smaller size and strict set of protocols, such as testing students upon arrival, may help prevent some of those calamities that have visited other institutions. “We’ve been very judicious, and our small size makes us a bit different. We’re kind of like Cheers, where everybody knows your name; we don’t have tens of thousands of students that we have to manage.”

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked with Johnson about everything from the business of education in this unsettled time to the next chapter in higher education, which he intends to help write.

Screen Test

Flashing back to that aforementioned search for Caprio’s successor, Johnson noted that it was certainly different than anything he’s experienced before — and he’s been through a number of these, as we’ll see shortly.

Indeed, this was a search in the era of COVID-19, which meant pretty much everything was done remotely, including the later rounds of interviews, which usually involve large numbers of people sitting around a table.

Robert Johnson says he’s confident

Robert Johnson says he’s confident that WNEU, a smaller, tight-knit school, can avoid some of the problems larger institutions have had when reopening this fall.

“It was all Zoom, and it was … interesting,” he said of the interview process. “You don’t know if you’re truly connecting or not. As a person being interviewed, you have much more self-awareness of not only what you’re saying but how you’re saying it, and your own non-verbal communication, because you can see yourself on the screen.

“You have to make sure your background is right, the lighting is right, you’re wearing the right colors, all that,” he went on. “It’s like being on TV, literally, because the first impression people get is what they see on screen.”

Those on the search panel were nonetheless obviously impressed, both by what they saw and heard, and also the great depth of experience that Johnson brings to this latest stop in a nearly 30-year career in higher education.

Indeed, Johnson notes, with a discernable amount of pride in his voice, that he has worked at just about every type of higher-education facility.

“I worked in every not-for-profit higher-education sector,” he noted. “Public, private, two-year, four-year, private, Catholic, large, medium, and small — this is my seventh institution. And I think that gives me a unique lens as a leader in higher education.”

Prior to his stint at UMass Dartmouth, he served as president of Becker College in Worcester from 2010 to 2017, and has also held positions at Oakland University in Michigan and Sinclair College, the University of Dayton, and Central State University, all in Ohio.

As noted earlier, when Johnson was invited by a recruiter to consider perhaps making WNEU the next line on his résumé, he was at first reluctant to become a candidate.

“The search consultant, who I happen to know, called me two or three times, and I did not bite,” he noted. “But as she told me more, and I learned more about Western New England University, I began to take a look. I knew about the school, but I had never taken a deep dive into the institution, its history, and what it had to offer.”

He subsequently took this deep dive, liked what he saw, and, as he noted, hung in through the lengthy interview process because of the unique opportunity this job — at this moment in time — presented.

Since arriving on campus, he has made a point of meeting as many staff members and faculty as possible, but this, too, is difficult during the COVID-19 era. Indeed, meetings can involve only a few participants, so, therefore, there must be more of them.

“We can’t have any of those big ‘meet the president’ meetings,” he noted. “So I’ve had six, seven, or eight meetings with small groups or facility and staff, and I probably have another 15 or 20 of those scheduled. I’m getting to know people, and they’re getting to know me; I’m doing a lot of listening and learning.”

Overall, it’s a challenging time in many respects, he said, adding quickly that higher education was challenging before COVID, for reasons ranging from demographics — smaller high-school graduating classes, for starters — to economics and the growing need to provide value at a time when many are questioning the high cost of a college education.

“The business model for higher ed was going to change regardless — I think, by 2025, given demographics and a whole host of other things, colleges and universities were going to have to figure out how to do business differently,” he told BusinessWest. “I think COVID, overnight, expedited that.

“The business model for higher ed was going to change regardless — I think, by 2025, given demographics and a whole host of other things, colleges and universities were going to have to figure out how to do business differently. I think COVID, overnight, expedited that.”

“It was a Monday, and seven to nine days later, every college in the country was teaching remotely and working remotely, in ways we never imagined,” he continued. “So the very idea that colleges and universities will go back to 100% of what that old business model was is a non-starter. So the question is, ‘how do we reinvent ourselves?’”

Courses of Action

As he commenced answering that question, he started by addressing a question that is being asked in every corner of the country. While there is certainly a place for remote learning, he noted, and it will be part of the equation for every institution, it cannot fully replace in-person learning.

“Some would say that online learning is the way, and the path, of the future,” he noted. “I would say online learning is a tool in terms of modality, but it is not the essence of education.”

Elaborating, he said that, for many students, and classes of students, the in-person, on-campus model is one that can not only provide a pathway to a career but also help an individual mature, meet people from different backgrounds, and develop important interpersonal skills.

“Some would say that online learning is the way, and the path, of the future. I would say online learning is a tool in terms of modality, but it is not the essence of education.”

“For the student coming from a wealthy family, I think they need socialization, and they need a face-to-face environment,” he explained. “For the first-generation student whose parents did not go to college, I think they need socialization. And for students who come from poor families, they need socialization.

“My point being that online learning is not a panacea,” he continued. Some would argue that, if you have online learning, it would help poor kids go to college. I would say that the poor kids, the first-generation kids, are the very ones who need to be on that college campus, to socialize and meet people different from themselves. And the same is true for those kids coming from the upper middle class and wealthy families — they need that socialization.

“In my humble opinion, face-to-face never goes away,” he went on. “But does that mean that one might be living on campus five years from now, taking five classes a semester, with maybe one or two of them being online or hybrid? Absolutely. I think the new model is going to be click and mortar, or mortar and click.”

Expanding on that point while explaining what such a model can and ultimately must provide to students, he returned to those numbers he mentioned earlier — 17 jobs in five industries, at least a few of which don’t exist in 2020. Johnson told BusinessWest that a college education will likely only prepare a student for perhaps of the first of these jobs. Beyond that, though, it can provide critical thinking skills and other qualities needed to take on the next 16.

“That very first job that a student gets out of college — they’ve been trained for that. But that fifth job … they have not been trained for that,” he said. “And I think the role of the academy in the 21st century, the new model, is all about giving students and graduates what I call the agile mindset, which is knowledge and the power of learning — giving students essential human skills that cannot be replicated by robots and gives them the mindset to continually add value throughout their professional careers.

“We’re educating people to get that first job, and to create every job after that,” he continued. “We’re making sure that every person who graduates from college is resilient and has social and emotional intelligence and has an entrepreneurial outlook, which is not about being an entrepreneur; it’s about value creation and having those essential human skills. What that means, fundamentally, is that no algorithm will ever put them out of a job.”

To get his point across, he relayed a conversation he had with some students enrolled in a nursing program. “They said, ‘this doesn’t apply to us,’ and I said, ‘yes, it does, because there are robots in Japan that are turning patients over in hospitals. So if you think technology does not impact what you do, you’re mistaken.’”

Summing it all up, he said that, moving forward, and more than ever before, a college education must make the student resilient, something he does not believe can be accomplished solely through online learning.

“How do I put the engineer and the artist together, give them a real-world problem, and say, ‘have at it, go solve it?’” he asked. “They have to be face to face, hands-on. We can come up with alternate reality, virtual reality, and all the technology you want, but at some point, people have to sit down and look each other in the eye.”

Bottom Line

Returning to the subject of the pandemic and the ongoing fall semester, Johnson reiterated his cautious optimism about getting to the finish line without any major incidents, and said simply, “get me to Thanksgiving with everyone still on campus.” That’s when students will be heading for a lengthy break after a semester that started early (late August) and, to steal a line from Bill Belichick, featured no days off — classes were even in session on Labor Day.

But while he wants to get to Thanksgiving, Johnson is, of course, looking much further down the road, to the future of higher education, which is, in some important respects, already here.

He believes WNEU represents that future, and that’s why he “hung in there” during that search process.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Josie Brown has been named interim dean of the Western New England University (WNEU) College of Arts & Sciences.

“Dr. Brown stood out to me for her passion and compassion — that is, her unquestioned loyalty and commitment to Western New England University and her abiding devotion to the well-being of our students,” said Curt Hamakawa, acting university provost. “Over her 18-year tenure at Western New England University, Dr. Brown has earned the admiration, respect, and support of her peers and colleagues, as well as the legions of students who have graced our campus over this period.”

Brown joined the College of Arts & Sciences faculty in 2003, most recently serving as assistant dean for Arts and Sciences; professor of African-American, Caribbean, and Black Literatures; and student advisor, as well as the Study Abroad assistant director.

As an undergraduate, Brown double-majored in English and African-American Studies at Bates College. She then went on to pursue a master’s degree in English at Queens College in New York. Brown earned her Ph.D. in English from Stony Brook University with a concentration in African-American, Caribbean, and Post-colonial Literatures. In September 2019, she was honored by the African American Female Professors Award Assoc.

“Dr. Josie Brown is a scholar of many talents. She is an outstanding teacher, an authority in Caribbean literatures, a superb higher-education administrator, and an expert and a leader in diversity,” said Saeed Ghahramani, who will be rejoining the university’s College of Arts & Sciences faculty, where he previously served as dean since 2000.

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SPRINGFIELD — The Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law’s Center for Social Justice and Springfield Public Forum will present an interview with Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, on Thursday, Sept. 10 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

This is the first event in the Center for Social Justice’s new Gervino-Ward LGBTQ+ Speaker Series, which provides a venue for conversations about legal issues significant to the LGBTQ+ community. The virtual event is free and open to the public. Registration is required at bit.ly/Gervino-Ward.

Freedom to Marry, the successful campaign for marriage equality in the U.S., is widely considered the architect of the movement that led to nationwide victory in 2015. During the 1990s, Wolfson served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case that launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry, and has participated in numerous gay-rights and HIV/AIDS cases. In 2012, Wolfson received the Barnard Medal of Distinction alongside President Obama. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale College and his juris doctor from Harvard Law School.

Wolfson will be joined by WNEU School of Law Professor Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, who will moderate a Q&A-style event.

“The Center for Social Justice and Springfield Public Forum are thrilled to welcome Evan Wolfson as the center’s inaugural Gervino-Ward LGBTQ+ speaker,” Center Director Ariel Clemmer said. “Particularly during these challenging times, it is important that we come together and have candid conversations about what it takes to make change. Evan Wolfson is a venerable example for us all.”

Wolfson now devotes his time to advising and assisting diverse movements and causes in the U.S. and around the world. Based in New York City, he has been named a Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown Law Center, where he teaches law and social change; a Distinguished Practitioner in Grand Strategy at Yale University; and senior counsel at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm.

The Gervino-Ward LGBTQ+ Speaker Series is made possible by a generous donation from WNEU Law School alumna Elena Gervino; her wife, Kathleen Ward; and their two daughters. The mission of this series is to draw awareness to emerging trends in LGBTQ+ law and continuing social-justice concerns that might affect LGBTQ+ clients or practitioners. Lectures will be held during the lunch hour and are open to students, alumni, the university community, and the general public.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — PeoplesBank and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Western New England University (WNEU) College of Business are working together to help students expand their entrepreneurship education beyond the classroom.

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WNEU works to develop students’ entrepreneurial mindset. Through co-curricular efforts, such as Startup Weekend and the cross-disciplinary business/engineering “Product Development and Innovation” course, students are able to create ideas, products, and services that have market potential. PeoplesBank is taking this one step further by providing grant funding to advance qualifying startups that show promise and demonstrate success.

Joseph Ferrera, a 2020 graduate of the Entrepreneurship program at Western New England University, is the first recipient of a PeoplesBank grant. He founded Double O Joe, a Ludlow-based videography startup, in his sophomore year and continued to advance the business model through his entrepreneurship courses at WNEU. He is currently serving several small businesses in the Greater Springfield area. The grant funded a more advanced drone and camera in order to continue to grow his customer base and video offerings.

Matthew Bannister, first vice president of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at PeoplesBank, congratulated Ferrera on his success in starting the business and getting it launched. “We are pleased that our grant could assist Double O Joe in continuing to develop his business. Small businesses, powered by entrepreneurs, are vital to the economic health of our region, and we applaud both Double O Joe and Western New England University for their efforts in this area.”

Mary Schoonmaker, assistant professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Western New England University, added that “it is rewarding to see Joe’s efforts with his startup be acknowledged through this PeoplesBank grant. He has worked hard on growing the business over the past 18 months.”

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SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) College of Pharmacy Health Sciences and Big Y Foods, Inc. Community-Based Residency Program has received accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the American Pharmacists Assoc. (APhA). The accreditation establishes criteria for training pharmacists for the purpose of achieving professional competence in the delivery of patient-centered care and in pharmacy services.

The purpose of the post-graduate year one (PGY1) Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program is to build upon the doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) education and outcomes to develop community-based pharmacist practitioners with diverse patient care, leadership, and education skills who are eligible to pursue advanced training opportunities, including post-graduate year two (PGY2) specialized residencies and professional certifications.

ASHP’s Commission on Credentialing extended the accreditation of the residency program through 2024. The accreditation means the program meets or exceeds the national standards set for a residency training program.

The WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Big Y Foods Community-Based Residency Program is the only such university-based initiative in Western Mass.

“We provide the ability to tailor the residency to the interests of the resident. Big Y, as a local, family-owned company, supports the resident to excel and advance the practice of pharmacy where the impact can be felt and seen in the community,” said Kam Capoccia, WNEU clinical professor of Community Care and PGY1 Community-Based Residency Program director. “Our program provides opportunities for the resident to teach students, patients, healthcare professionals, and members of the community. Some of our graduates have stayed on with Big Y and some have pursued a PGY2 residency in ambulatory care.”

Big Y Pharmacist Dr. Amanda Pelland became the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) specialist for Big Y Pharmacy & Wellness Centers after completing the residency. “This unique position was created for me based on the research and experiences in that one year of training,” she said. “The program provides opportunities to create innovative programs and to do more as a pharmacist.”

This year, the residency program graduated its fifth resident. Three of the graduates are Big Y pharmacists who have created new pharmacy services, and two graduates went on to pursue PGY2 ambulatory-care residencies.

WNEU College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences also offers a PGY1 Community-Based Pharmacy Residency Program with Walgreens. This program began in 2014 and is also accredited by ASHP and APhA.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) School of Law Dean Sudha Setty announced the appointment of nationally renowned legal scholar and advocate Jennifer Taub to the School of Law faculty.

An authority on the 2008 mortgage meltdown and related financial crisis, Taub’s research and writing centers on ‘follow the money’ matters, promoting transparency and opposing corruption. Her new book, Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime, will be published on Sept. 29. Taub was a co-founder and organizer of the April 15, 2017 Tax March, where more than 120,000 people gathered in cities nationwide to demand President Trump release his tax returns.

She will join the School of Law faculty in August, teaching white-collar crime, civil procedure, and other commercial and business law subjects.

Taub’s 2014 book, Other People’s Houses: How Decades of Bailouts, Captive Regulators, and Toxic Bankers Made Home Mortgages a Thrilling Business, was praised by Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller in his 2015 edition of Irrational Exuberance and won a “must-read nonfiction” honor at the Massachusetts Book Awards. She is also a co-author of the sixth edition of Corporate and White Collar Crime: Cases and Materials.

Taub’s scholarly writing on corporate governance, financial market regulation, and banking law reform has been published in law journals and peer-reviewed volumes, and she has testified several times before U.S. congressional committees as an expert, including as an invited witness for the Senate Banking Committee and a House Financial Services subcommittee.

Taub has been the Bruce W. Nichols Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and a visiting professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and the University of Connecticut School of Law. She also served as a visiting fellow at the Yale School of Management. Before joining Western New England University School of Law, she was a professor at Vermont Law School.

Prior to joining academia, Taub was an associate general counsel with Fidelity Investments. She received her bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Yale University, with distinction in the English major, and her juris doctor, cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where she was the Recent Developments editor at the Harvard Women’s Law Journal.

“We are delighted to welcome Jennifer Taub to the WNE School of Law community,” Setty said. “Her groundbreaking scholarship on economic justice and good government, her dedication to the craft of teaching, and her commitment to serving the community are some of the tremendous attributes that she brings to the School of Law.”

Taub has appeared on cable news programs including MSNBC’s Morning Joe and CNN Newsroom to discuss legal matters, including the special counsel investigation into links between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign. She has written opinion pieces for a variety of platforms, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the CNN opinion page, Dame Magazine, the Baseline Scenario, Race to the Bottom, Pareto Commons, the Conglomerate, and Concurring Opinions.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) announced the addition of a new master of science program in construction management to the list of graduate-degree offerings.

“Construction management is defined as a professional service that uses specialized project-management techniques to oversee the planning, design, and construction of a project, from its beginning to its end,” said Kenneth Lee, founding chair for the Construction Management department, as well as professor and chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WNEU.

U.S. News and World Report ranks construction manager first in “Best Construction Jobs” and 43rd in “100 Best Jobs” with a low unemployment rate of 2.3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website shows that the job outlook growth (2016-26) for Construction Managers is 11% (faster than average), with a median salary of $93,370 per year.

“Construction projects can range from improving intersection traffic flows to massive, multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects with a decade-long development environment, each [needing] specialized people with specialized skill sets to manage,” said Christian Salmon, assistant professor of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management at WNEU.

With courses rooted in civil engineering, industrial engineering, and engineering management, the program strives to provide a well-rounded knowledge base in engineering as it pertains to construction management. Elective opportunities in business and management will give students a perspective into the business world that will prepare them for management and leadership roles.

“The MS in construction management is a great fit with our existing undergraduate and graduate programs offered by our College of Engineering,” said Matthew Fox, executive director of Graduate Admissions. “We continue to accept applications for new graduate candidates, and those starting the construction management program this fall will be able to earn their master’s in as few as 18 months studying part-time or in one year studying full-time.”

The program is tailored for students to choose from three options to complete the degree. The all-course option allows students to complete the 10 graduate courses that include open electives, choosing from courses in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering as well as engineering management and business. Through the project or thesis options, students will work with a faculty advisor to take a deeper dive in a topic of interest, culminating in a final report and presentation.

Applications are now being accepted for the MS in construction management program. Classes begin Sept. 28. To learn more, call the Office of Graduate Studies at (413) 782-1517 or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University’s board of trustees announced the unanimous appointment of Robert Johnson as the institution’s sixth president, according to Kenneth Rickson, board chair. Johnson succeeds Anthony Caprio, who has served as WNEU’s president for more than 24 years — the longest presidential tenure in the history of the university.

“We believe we have found the perfect leader to build on our growth as an institution as we chart a course for Western New England’s second century,” Rickson said. “A scholar in the areas of educational leadership, cultural diversity and leadership, marketing and enrollment management, and the future of work, Dr. Johnson is a renowned thought leader who speaks and writes about the future of work, the agile mind, the agile university, and innovating for social impact.”

Johnson currently serves as chancellor of UMass Dartmouth. He will begin his new role as president of WNEU on Aug. 15.

“Building on the leadership and legacy of Dr. Caprio is humbling and an honor,” he said. “His transformation and elevation of Western New England University for 24 years is historic. I look forward to engaging with the campus community to create a shared ambition in writing its next chapter in this extraordinary time, and navigating through this global pandemic and social unrest with a sense of humanity and civility.”

Johnson’s 30-year leadership career spans nonprofit colleges and universities in the Northeast and Midwest, including public, private, urban, rural, small, and large institutions with enrollments from 2,000 to more than 25,000 students. Prior to becoming chancellor at UMass Dartmouth, he served as president of Becker College in Worcester from 2010 to 2017. He has held leadership positions with Sinclair College, the University of Dayton, Oakland University, and Central State University in Ohio. His career reflects several firsts — not only as an African-American leader, but also as the youngest person to hold senior administrative roles.

Johnson’s tenure at UMass Dartmouth resulted in a number of significant accomplishments, including leading the region to create a framework for the blue economy, which will be an ecosystem to drive job creation, economic development, and entrepreneurship; launching a $188 million construction and renovation project for new housing and dining; the renovation of its Science and Engineering building; and securing the largest single research grant in the history of the university, $4.6 million from the Office of Naval Research.

As President of Becker College from 2010 to 2017, Johnson led enrollment growth for seven consecutive years by 23%, increased degrees awarded by 53%, and boosted the graduation rate by 29%. His innovative leadership elevated the reputation of the digital games program, ranked third in the world, and first in New England, by the Princeton Review. He also helped create the first bachelor’s degree in the U.S. in global citizenship. The U.S. Department of Economic Development designated the college as one of 60 schools as a University Center. Creating the Agile Mindset positioned its curriculum with a unique niche in the higher-education landscape.

“The Agile Mindset, which provides students the skillset and mindset to create new value with essential human skills to meet the demands of the future, will be critical to the academy in a post COVID-19 world,” Johnson said. “I look forward to working with our community to evolve the paradigm for the higher-education industry that steeps our students with a sense of humanity, grounding them in the liberal arts with an entrepreneurial spirit that spurs innovation and transforms the world.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Johnson to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and Gov. Charlie Baker appointed him to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and the Hate Crimes Task Force and the Black Advisory Council.

A native of Detroit, Johnson was inspired to pursue a life of education for the social good by his uncle, who was a classmate of Martin Luther King Jr. Johnson holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Touro University International, formerly a division of Touro College in New York City; a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Cincinnati; a bachelor’s degree in economics from Morehouse College in Atlanta; and a certificate in applied neuroscience from MIT Sloan School of Management.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Jennifer Beineke has been named the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award at Western New England University (WNEU). She is a professor of Mathematics in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. Winners of this prestigious award are nominated by students, faculty, and administrators for outstanding contributions as educators and advisors.

During the review process, current and former students praised Beineke as somebody who “made me see the beauty of mathematics” and “always pushed us to be our best.” Another added, “when I walked out of her classroom for the final time, I knew I was a different student and person than the one who had walked in.”

Faculty members describe Beineke as having “a natural gift for explaining challenging concepts,” and “using a variety of methods to engage students in thinking about and solving problems.”

Beineke, who has been teaching at WNEU since 2001, received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and French from Purdue University, and earned her master’s and Ph.D. degrees from UCLA. Her research is in the area of analytic number theory. In conjunction with the National Museum of Mathematics, she recently co-edited the three-volume series The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects.

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SPRINGFIELD — Sharianne Walker has been named dean of the Western New England University (WNEU) College of Business. Linda Jones, university provost, recently made the announcement, citing Walker’s dedication and commitment to the College of Business and her record of spearheading accreditation, strategic planning, and assessment projects at the university.

Walker joined the College of Business faculty in 1996, most recently serving as chair and professor of Sport Management, as well as co-director of the master of science in Sport Leadership and Coaching graduate program.

Walker is the co-author of the texts Managing Intercollegiate Athletics, Managing Sport Organizations: Responsibility for Performance, and Strategic Management in International Sport Management. Her current research focuses on revenue- and resource-development models in sports organizations, strategic management, and leadership. She has presented her research on leadership development, business operations, and revenue generation at various international, national, and regional conferences.

An influential figure in the growth of WNEU’s athletics program, she has served as a faculty fellow, an NCAA faculty representative, and chair of the Western New England Athletics Council, Athletic Direct Report, and was inducted into the university’s Downes Athletic Hall of Fame.

Walker was previously named Career Woman of the Year by the Massachusetts Business and Professional Women’s Assoc. and served as director of the Springfield Leadership Institute. She is currently chair of the board of trustees of Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park in Florence.

Walker earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Smith College, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in sport management from the University of Massachusetts.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) General Counsel Cheryl Smith was honored at the 15th annual “Leaders in the Law” event presented by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The event was held on March 5 at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel.

Smith was chosen from a field of nominees across the Commonwealth for the 2020 In-House Leader Award. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Leader Awards recognize general counsel and staff attorneys who are nominated by their colleagues, clients, and other legal professionals for being leaders in the community and forward thinkers.

For the past two decades, Smith had managed all litigation commenced against WNEU. She also supervised the legal and contractual aspects of a complex new ERP for the university. Additionally, for the past two years, she has served as the Title IX coordinator.

“Attorney Smith practices a special kind of leadership,” said Anthony Caprio, Western New England University president. “Her actions exemplify the noble traditions of the legal profession that are recognized and honored through this In-House Leaders in the Law award. I am thrilled to see her receive this recognition. Cheryl stands tall and always demonstrates that she can best lead folks through the issues at hand, however emotional or complex they may be.”

Smith began her academic career at Wellesley College and concluded at Western New England School of Law in 1983. At WNEU, she is a senior lecturer for “Human Resource Management,” “Legal Aspects of Human Resources,” “Business Law,” and “Business Communication.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — For the third consecutive year, the Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) Chapter at Western New England University earned the “highest honors” designation for its campus engagement and programming for the 2018-19 academic year.

According to Beta Gamma Sigma CEO Chris Carosella, earning highest honors “is indicative of a campus where academic excellence is highly valued and where the faculty and chapter leaders work diligently to enhance Beta Gamma Sigma’s stature on campus.”

One indicator of this engagement is participation at the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS), which chapter President Tessa Wood and Secretary Kathryn Wells attended last year. The GLS enables delegates to participate in professional-development workshops and share best practices with student leaders from other BGS chapters worldwide.

Marielle Heijltjes, chair of the Beta Gamma Sigma board of governors, extended her congratulations in a letter to College of Business Dean Sharianne Walker. In response, Walker said she is “delighted to see the students’ efforts recognized for all their hard work. I’m so proud that the WNE chapter has maintained its high level of engagement deserving of this recognition.”

BGS is the international honor society of AACSB-accredited business schools. Students who rank among the top 10% of their undergraduate class and top 20% of graduate programs are eligible for lifetime membership.