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Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) launched a new graduate degree concentration and certificate program that focuses on public healthcare administration. The master of public administration (MPA) in public healthcare administration concentration and the public healthcare administration certificate were approved recently by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

“Public healthcare is a priority, now more than ever, and we are excited about Westfield State’s new MPA in public healthcare administration concentration and certificate program because their curriculum provides an opportunity to better support our public healthcare system with high-quality, skilled workers,” said CGCE interim Dean Stefanie Sanchez. “The degree concentration — or the standalone certificate — addresses an ongoing need for healthcare leaders and administrators in several different capacities. With a focus on management and leadership, both options provide a clear path for advancement in the workforce.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for healthcare managers is strong and projected to grow 32% through 2029 — much faster than the average for all occupations. As the large Baby Boomer population ages, and more people remain active later in life, an increase in the demand for healthcare services is expected.

Graduates of the degree and certificate programs will be prepared to take on public healthcare challenges as government and nonprofit leaders, where they will lead the charge to create healthier communities. Students in both interdisciplinary programs benefit from an inclusive, supportive environment in which faculty are committed to their success and where they build relationships with their classmates that will continue long after they graduate. They will learn from full-time faculty and practitioners whose expertise is in nursing, biology, communications, healthcare economics, and policy.

MPA Program Director Charles DiStefano explained that, for many years, public-service leaders in Western Mass. have developed leadership and management skills in public management, nonprofit management, and criminal justice administration through Westfield State’s MPA program. Now, future leaders seeking to make their mark in public healthcare administration can benefit from the same specialized opportunity. Additionally, he added, successful public healthcare administrators are leaders within their agencies who effectively gain and foster political allies, nurture relationships within their communities, and build public trust.

“We have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic amazing examples of strong, effective leaders at the federal, state, and local levels, and we have felt the effects of failures by public healthcare officials,” DiStefano said. “By offering this concentration and certificate now, we demonstrate Westfield State’s commitment to nurturing leaders in the public healthcare community who will not succumb to fear or pressure from special interests, and who instead act in our collective best interest to keep us safe and healthy.”

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s (WSU) College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) will host a virtual information session for its master of Public Administration and master of science in Criminal Justice programs on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. on Zoom.

The two programs — and all of Westfield State University’s graduate programs — offer students an affordable, flexible experience. The ability to attend full- or part-time — while taking courses in the late afternoon, evening, and online during fall, spring, and summer sessions — is responsive to the needs of today’s adult learner.

Westfield State’s master of Public Administration (MPA) — sponsored by the departments of Political Science; Criminal Justice; Geography, Planning, and Sustainability; and Economics and Management — prepares students to develop as professional administrators in public, nonprofit, and criminal-justice settings.

“Our students are public-service-minded and are seeking to enhance their leadership and management skills,” said MPA Program Director Charles DiStefano. “The MPA program offers a collaborative learning experience, where you will learn from professors and fellow students who have a wide range of public-sector experience and expertise.”

The Criminal Justice graduate program focuses on theoretical and applied issues in law enforcement, corrections, administration, and public law. Its goal is to further critical thinking about significant issues in crime and criminal justice. Judges, lawyers, managers, and criminal-justice researchers supplement the faculty, bringing many practical considerations to the study of the discipline.

“The master of Criminal Justice provides a great opportunity for those who work in the criminal-justice field to advance their education and, potentially, their career,” said Program Director Christopher Kudlac. “It also provides a way for those interested in entering the field to earn a master’s degree to make themselves more marketable.”

Information-session attendees will have the opportunity to speak with outreach-team members and faculty about the programs and application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University (WSU) is again one of Massachusetts’ top public universities among its peers, according to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges 2021 list. The rankings underscore the university’s commitment to accessibility, affordability, and intentional outcomes.

In this year’s release, Westfield State is ranked 90th among 170 institutions in “Regional Universities – North.” It is ranked ahead of its peer Massachusetts state universities in both that category and U.S. News’ Best Public Schools, where it placed 26th.

Rankings were determined by a number of factors, including a peer assessment, retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, class sizes, student/faculty ratio, student selectivity, and alumni-giving rate.

“We are proud to receive this noteworthy recognition,” said Roy Saigo, interim president of WSU. “The university meets students’ needs by providing pathways to an accessible, high-quality, affordable, comprehensive education and experience.”

The rankings are available at www.usnews.com/colleges and on newsstands.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s (WSU) College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) will host a virtual information session for the master of social work program on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. on Zoom.

The program, one of only four located in Western Mass., is also offered at the YWCA at Salem Square in Worcester.

The master of social work (MSW) program is fully accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and prepares students to become licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) and to work in a variety of positions in the human-services field. The program aims to prepare advanced-level social-work practitioners who have specialized knowledge and skills for clinical practice, based on a firm generalist foundation.

“The MSW program at Westfield State University provides students with a competitive, accessible, and affordable social-work education,” program Director Maria del Mar Farinam said. “As future social-work professionals, students will be exceptionally well-prepared to meet the increasingly complex needs of the diverse communities served by our profession.”

With full- or part-time options — and the consistency of having all of one’s classes on Monday and Thursday evenings — the MSW program offers flexibility and affordability.

Information-session attendees will have an opportunity to speak with faculty and members of the outreach team about the program and its application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for all attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

WESTFIELD — The College of Graduate and Continuing Education (CGCE) at Westfield State University will host a virtual information session for the master of science in accounting (MSA) program on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

The graduate program is designed to foster leadership skills and prepare students for successful careers in public and private accounting. It allows students to complete the additional 30 credit hours necessary to fulfill the educational requirements for the certified public accountancy (CPA) license in Massachusetts and several other states.

The program offers a foundation curriculum for students who have a business background but lack the necessary coursework in accounting to complete a series of prerequisite courses as part of the master’s program. This curriculum can be completed entirely online with courses offered on a rotating basis (students can also take courses in person). The advanced curriculum is for students with an undergraduate major or concentration in accounting. It includes 10 courses (the majority are offered in a hybrid format, and certain courses are 100% online) that can be completed in only two semesters. The MSA program offers students flexibility and affordability to achieve a greater degree of sophistication in accounting and auditing.

Information-session attendees will have an opportunity to speak with faculty and members of the outreach team about the program and its application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for all attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Cellular service on the Westfield State University campus is expected to significantly improve now that a new cell tower has been installed atop Scanlon Hall.

Westfield State partnered with the Mass. Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) and Mass. State College Building Authority (MSCBA) on the project. The installation was completed earlier this month by Berkshire Wireless, a subcontractor for Verizon Wireless.

“Verizon recently has increased its network coverage and capacity at Westfield State University, with a new cell site near Scanlon Hall,” said Verizon Wireless in a statement. “It provides robust 4G LTE services throughout the campus, as well as parts of Route 20, Western Avenue, and the surrounding neighborhoods. The new cell site includes an emergency battery backup and generator to ensure 24/7 availability to services. We’re proud to have made this investment in the Westfield State University campus community.”

Improving cellular service on campus has been a decade in the making, according to Stephen Taksar, Westfield State’s vice president of administration and finance.

“We are thankful to our partners to complete the project to provide better and more reliable cell service on campus and in the surrounding community,” he said.

In addition to improved and more reliable cell service, the university will also generate revenue by leasing the space to the cellular provider. According to Taksar, a 10-year contract was signed, which will generate $240,000 over the term. The $24,000 per year will go toward the university’s Residential Life area to support services and programming for resident students.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — A virtual information session for Westfield State University’s (WSU) master’s degrees in counseling and applied behavior analysis will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. Individuals interested in careers as behavior analysts, clinicians, family and marriage counselors, and guidance or adjustment counselors should consider attending to learn how a graduate degree could help them attain one of these positions.

The Department of Psychology offers a 60-credit graduate program designed to serve the student who plans to enter the applied fields of counseling or psychology after receiving a master of arts degree. The program offers four specialized tracks: school guidance counseling, school adjustment counseling, forensic mental-health counseling, and mental-health counseling.

Westfield State also offers a 48-credit master of arts degree in applied behavior analysis to individuals who work, or aspire to work, in a number of different settings, such as schools, including regular and special-education classrooms; business and industry; healthcare; and other community-based settings.

“Westfield State’s graduate training in counseling meets all requirements for entry licensure in school counseling and all pre-master’s content and field experience requirements for mental-health counselors,” said Robert Hayes, chair of graduate programs in Psychology. “We particularly value small classes for technique-related courses, where graduate candidates receive outstanding individual attention, as well as group supervision during the development of their counseling skills. Counseling is both a science and an art, and our graduate training program attends to both.”

Information-session attendees will have an opportunity to speak with faculty and members of the outreach team about the program and its application process. The $50 application fee will be waived for all attendees. To RSVP, visit www.gobacknow.com. For more information, call (413) 572-8020 or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s (WSU) teacher-education program has received full, seven-year accreditation with commendation from the Assoc. for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) for its wide-ranging, growing work in anti-racism education. WSU is the first institution of higher education in the AAQEP membership to receive commendation from the organization.

“Educator preparation at Westfield State has been a vital and integral part of Westfield State University since Horace Mann founded the institution in 1839 as the Westfield Normal School. It is Horace Mann’s philosophy that we continue to embrace: to welcome all students — regardless of fortune, ethnicity, gender, or religion. This remarkable heritage is embodied by our Education Department,” said Roy Saigo, WSU’s interim president. “National accreditation by AAQEP continues the affirmation of Westfield State University’s longstanding tradition of excellence in teacher preparation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and region.”

The WSU Education Department’s teacher-education program is designed to prepare educators to teach effectively within a democratic society. Its mission is informed by several pillars, including critical engagement with diversity, social justice, community building, scholarship, and reflective practice. Program coursework and field experiences provide students with the understanding, knowledge, and skills that will enable them, as teachers, to engage with diversity and issues of equity, build inclusive learning communities, embrace the scholarship of teaching and learning, and adopt a reflective practitioner mindset.

These principles — which undergird the Teacher Education program — set expectations that are essential for those who will teach in K-12 schools, and collectively are needed to provide the foundational knowledge for WSU students to become effective, caring, and equitable teachers.

Robert Kersting, WSU’s interim provost, in recognizing the faculty, staff, and librarians whose collective efforts made AAQEP accreditation possible, noted that “Westfield State University strives for excellence in each of our academic programs, and this prestigious accreditation with commendation is a clear example of that success.”

The Accreditation Commission also commended the university’s education programs for their concerted and deepening work in anti-racist education, as these efforts permeate the preparation of educators, are embedded in and impact the wider campus culture, and reach into the community through campus- and program-based partnerships.

All education students participate in annual Anti-Racist Education Town Hall events featuring relevant themes like the School-to-Prison Pipeline, share common readings across courses, and participate in guest lectures on campus.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University appointed Maggie Balch dean of students. She will report to Vice President for Student Affairs Gloria Lopez, and will oversee student activities and leadership, student conduct, residential engagement, and the Career Center.

An accomplished student-development professional, Balch has more than 20 years of experience in the field.

“We are thrilled to welcome Maggie to campus, where her considerable expertise in student development, engagement, and support will serve our students well,” Lopez said. “She exemplifies the strong commitment to student well-being and to the student experience that’s critically important to us at Westfield State.”

Balch most recently served in a similar position for the past five years at Rhode Island School of Design. Prior to that, she held progressively advancing positions in student life at Brandeis University for 12 years, ranging from director of Residence Life to associate dean of Student Life.

“There is a deep affection for Westfield State among the students, staff, and faculty I have met and a sincere investment in the holistic development of students,” Balch said. “I am eager to meet everyone and become involved in such a dynamic and engaged community.”

Balch earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Pennsylvania State University and master’s degree in higher education administration: student affairs at the University of Connecticut. She later held positions in residence life at Washington University in St. Louis, Indiana University, and UMass Dartmouth.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University (WSU) and Holyoke Community College (HCC) have partnered to create an affordable pathway for students who earn an associate degree in biotechnology from HCC to transfer credits and pursue a bachelor’s degree from WSU.

The transfer agreement benefits students by providing an affordable option to enroll at HCC for two years and take high-level science courses that can be applied at Westfield State. With the agreement in place, students will experience a smooth transfer process between the two schools.

“Westfield State University is honored to continue our long relationship with Holyoke Community College, this time providing a bridge between an associate degree in biotechnology and the career that community-college students want to pursue,” said Roy Saigo, interim president of Westfield State University. “This partnership also underscores the Westfield State’s commitment to facilitating accessible and affordable degree options for everyone, regardless of background.”

Under the articulation agreement, students will receive credit from Westfield State for program-related courses completed at HCC. They can apply those credits toward the requirements for a bachelor of science degree in biology, with a concentration in biotechnology, at WSU.

“We are proud of our partnership with Westfield State University that allows students to earn their associate’s degree at Holyoke Community College and transfer seamlessly to Westfield State to earn their bachelor’s degree and beyond,” HCC President Christina Royal said. “Programs like these offer affordable pathways for students to begin their careers with less debt and enter the next phase of their lives as leaders in the medical and science fields.”

Continued growth in biotechnology and medical research is expected to increase demand for these workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, MassBioEd reports that nearly 12,000 jobs are forecast to be created through May 2023.

“Massachusetts has one of the highest concentrations of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the world, and a degree in biotech typically translates to careers with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement,” said Emily Rabinsky, Biotechnology program coordinator and professor of Biology at HCC. “Furthermore, it provides students with career opportunities in which they can play a role in positively impacting others’ lives.”

HCC offers an associate degree in arts and science with a concentration in biotechnology. In 2018, the college opened a 13,000-square-foot Center for Life Sciences that features a dedicated biotechnology lab and instructional cleanroom like those used in the biotechnology industry.

“During a time when molecular and cellular biology is of the utmost importance, Westfield State’s biotechnology program provides students with the content knowledge and skills to be prepared for any career in the biotechnology field, including vaccine development, genetic engineering, and biofuels,” said Jennifer Hanselman, dean of WSU’s College of Mathematics and Sciences.

“HCC provides a quality foundation in sciences and mathematics, allowing students to make a seamless transition into Westfield State’s program,” she added. “Housed within our Biology Department, the Biotechnology program supports the shift from ‘student to scientist’ through individualized mentoring, research, and internship opportunities.”

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University, in partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Capital Assets Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), announced the selection of Holyoke-based Daniel O’Connell’s Sons Inc. to serve as construction manager for the university’s $40 million Parenzo Hall renovation project.

The construction manager selection committee — consisting of three DCAMM representatives, architect James Loftus of Miller Dyer Spears of Boston, and David Riggles, associate director for Projects and Space Management at Westfield State — received 12 responses to DCAMM’s request for qualifications and eight final proposals for the project. The final construction-manager selection was made based on the firm’s qualifications, experience, past performances, and reviews of performance records in comparison to the others.

“We are pleased to select Daniel O’Connell’s Sons through a competitive procurement process to carry out this significant enhancement to Westfield State’s facilities,” said DCAMM Commissioner Carol Gladstone. “Through this infrastructure project, we will help support the Western Massachusetts economy by creating new space for advanced and hybrid learning for students and young adults, while also partnering with a local construction business.”

The university plans to transform the 64-year-old Parenzo Hall — the oldest building on campus — into a state-of-the-art hub for student success and development. Renovations will include the creation of two new centers — the Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE) and the CoLab (collaboration laboratory). The renovation of swing space to relocate current Parenzo Hall tenants is underway and expected to be completed this winter. Groundbreaking for Parenzo’s reconstruction is anticipated in summer 2021. The renovation is expected to take approximately two years.

The CoLab will leverage technology to serve as a nexus for innovative collaboration in Western Mass., partnering with K-12 school districts, community colleges, and industry partners. It will teach students and community partners how to productively engage in online and hybrid environments that increase flexibility for students, facilitate co-enrollment, expand course choices, and provide a bridge to employment. The CoLab will work with community colleges to ease the transfer process by offering financially supported hybrid-style programs and boot camps. It will work with chambers of commerce and economic-development boards to broker relationships, inform curriculum, and secure support.

The CSSE will address the university’s goals of increasing retention and graduation rates, as well as reducing achievement gaps and the continuing decline in the number of working-age adults. In addition, it will increase student preparation for advanced learning and support exploration of career pathways in elementary and high schools to prepare them for on-the-job training. New and in-demand certificate programs and advanced study options will be offered to its business partners, utilizing technology.

The renovation project is a strategic investment for Westfield State and has been on the university’s master plan as a top priority, according to Vice President for Administration and Finance Stephen Taksar. “In addition to improving our primary instructional space, it will also significantly reduce the deferred maintenance on campus,” he said.

The Commonwealth is helping to finance the project via a $21.25 million spending bill that was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker during a July 2018 visit to campus.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University (WSU) appointed Kate Burke associate director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. In her role, she will be responsible for the development, management, and oversight of alumni outreach and engagement initiatives as well as providing leadership to the Alumni Relations team for the management of the Alumni Association and the Lifetime Owls program. In addition, she will provide oversight of the annual-fund communications, campaigns, and giving programs.

“I’m excited to join Westfield State University and the Institutional Advancement team,” Burke said. “I am honored to have this opportunity to work with such great and passionate alumni, students, staff, and volunteers. I’m eager to collaborate and engage with our alumni, donors, staff, and campus and community partners. I look forward to enhancing the student, alumni, and donor experience through creating and building upon alumni engagement and involvement programs and events, campus and community outreach, and fundraising initiatives.”

Burke reports to Erica Broman, vice president of Institutional Advancement and executive director of the Westfield State Foundation.

According to Broman, Burke comes to WSU with a wealth of external, alumni-relations, and development experience in both higher education and intercollegiate athletics. She has previously made an impact at Colorado School of Mines, Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Oakland University, University of Virginia, and Xavier University. Burke earned a bachelor’s degree at Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree from Indiana State University.

“We are pleased to welcome Kate and look forward to the level of sophistication that she brings to Institutional Advancement and the university,” Broman said. “We will rely on her leadership to work with the Alumni Association to advance the critical role our graduates fill in the success of our students.”

Daily News

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Education is accepting applications for the 2020-21 addiction counselor education (ACE) program. Classes will be held evenings and weekends starting in September 2020 and ending in May 2021.

The goal of this non-credit certificate program, offered at the university since 1991, is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and techniques necessary for the successful treatment of individuals and families afflicted by alcoholism and/or other drug addictions. This program has been highly instrumental in the professional development of individuals in Western Mass. who are either working or interested in the growing healthcare field of addiction services.

To help with this mission, Westfield State also offers the ACE program at a satellite location, in Pittsfield, to help train potential counselors in the Berkshires area to fill critical positions in treatment facilities that are understaffed and unable to fill open positions.

Applications for both programs are available online at www.westfield.ma.edu/ace. For more information, or to receive an application by mail, contact Brandon Fredette at [email protected] or (413) 572-8033.

Daily News

WESTFIELD — World-renowned political activist, professor, and author Cornel West will speak today, March 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Westfield State University’s Woodward Center. His talk, “The Power of Deep Education,” is expected to challenge audience members to explore humanity as a point of departure for thinking about the context of race, citizenship, love, and leadership.

A professor at Harvard University’s Divinity School who has also taught at Princeton, Yale, and New York universities, West will speak to how “servant leadership” and “deep education” are needed for “self-interrogation and social transformation at the heart of service.” The talk is free and open to the public.

“Dr. West brings a lifetime of scholarship, public discourse, and activism to the goals of the Anti-Racism Education (ARE) Project in Westfield State University’s Education Department,” said Andrew Habana Hafner, associate professor of Education. “The ARE Project aims to introduce a critical, multi-cultural perspective for the WSU Education Department community that is rooted in the intentional aim of dismantling racism, and its role in intersectional forms of oppressions.

A social critic and intellectual, West’s work focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society and the means by which people act and react to their “radical conditionedness.” He frequently appears on television shows (such as The Colbert Report and Real Time with Bill Maher) and has been featured in more than 25 documentaries and movies. He has recorded three spoken-word albums, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One, and Gerald Levert. He has a passion to communicate to a variety of people to keep alive Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.

West has written many books, including the influential Race Matters (1993) and Democracy Matters (2004). He will sign his books tonight after his talk and question-and-answer period. Books will be available for purchase.

To reserve a seat, click here.

Education

The New College Try

Diane Prusank

Diane Prusank

Diane Prusank says Westfield State University is a few years behind the other Massachusetts state schools in adopting the so-called ‘college structure’ for its Division of Academic Affairs.

In most respects, that’s a good thing, she told BusinessWest, because it has provided the 180-year-old institution with an opportunity to learn from what those other schools have done and shape a system that reflects what amounts to best practices. And that’s important, because going from 25 academic departments to four colleges is a significant change for students and faculty alike.

“It takes time for people to see how this works, time for people to talk with those at other institutions and say, ‘how did this go for you?’” said Prusank, who last spring was named WSU’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “So, in some ways, coming later than our sister institutions was really beneficial.”

Elaborating, she noted that the delay, if it can be called that, in adopting this structure resulted from, among other things, apprehension that it might create silos at the university at a time when greater collaboration between the departments was and is the goal, as well as an additional (and perhaps unwanted) layer of bureaucracy.

But over the course of a 15-month planning period — one that included examination of what’s happened at the other state universities and other institutions of higher learning after they adopted the college system — it was determined that these fears were mostly unfounded.

In fact, that review showed the college structure fostered greater communication among faculty members within various programs, and also new collaborative efforts.

Jennifer Hanselman

Jennifer Hanselman

Juline Mills

Juline Mills

Emily Todd

Emily Todd

Once you place faculty essentially in proximity to each other in the kinds of meetings and events that colleges put together, they create a chemistry with each other that you don’t see when they’re spread out across 25 different departments,” said Prusank, who joined the university in 2008 as dean of Academic Programs and Accreditation.

“When there are eight of them in the room, they start to talk about things they have in common,” she went on. “And they start to create connections. Sometimes people worry that when you create the college system you’ve made silos, that these colleges will separate themselves from each other. But the truth is that those deans have conversations with other, and they make connections.”

Under the new system, WSU now has four colleges — the College of Graduate and Continuing Education, the College of Mathematics and Sciences; College of Education, Health, and Human Services; and College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Three new founding deans were also appointed in June: Jennifer Hanselman, former chair of the Department of Biology, was appointed interim dean of the College of Mathematics and Sciences; Juline Mills, most recently a professor in the College of Business at the University of New Haven, was named dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Services; and Emily Todd, former chair of the Department of English at WSU, was named interim dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

As for Prusank, she brings a great deal of experience to her new role as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs — and the process of bringing the college system to fruition.

Before coming to WSU a decade ago, she served as a faculty member, associate dean, and assistant provost at the University of Hartford. At Westfield State, in addition to her work as dean of Academic Programs and Accreditation, she’s served as dean of Undergraduate Studies, chair and faculty member in the Department of Communications, and chief of staff in the President’s Office.

Thus, she brings a number of different perspectives to the shift from 25 departments to four colleges. And from the lens of both a faculty member and administrator, she said it brings with it considerable promise for enhanced collaboration and innovation, as well as greater operational efficiencies.

“You get a lot of points of sharing that you didn’t have before,” she said, referring, again, to what happens when you bring the chairs of eight departments together for meetings of the individual colleges. “You get a lot of synergy, a lot of collaboration, and a lot of sharing. And that’s great for our students because it opens up more opportunities for them.”

Elaborating on the nature of these opportunities, she said they come in many different forms, from greater collaboration on curriculum and potential new programs of study to creation of new events, to the broadening of existing events, such as alumni gatherings, which might now involve graduates of several different (but related) programs instead of one.

“You get a lot of points of sharing that you didn’t have before. You get a lot of synergy, a lot of collaboration, and a lot of sharing. And that’s great for our students because it opens up more opportunities for them.”

“There’s synthesis and collaboration that opens doors for students that might not have been there before,” she explained.

Prusank told BusinessWest that a shift to the ‘college’ format is something that’s been under consideration at the university for some time.

“Westfield State has had this conversation periodically over the past few decades, as most institutions have,” she explained. “Eventually, the college structure found its way onto college campuses across the country.”

Discussions were ongoing when Ramon Torrecilha took the helm as president in 2015, she went on, adding that he essentially took the conversation to a higher level, asking the advisory committee on academic planning to research the college format, talk with campus constituencies, look at what other schools had done, and make a recommendation on what should be done moving forward.

The eventual recommendation was to take this step, she said, adding that what followed was a lengthy implementation period involving work to determine, among other things, how many colleges would be created and the composition of each one (the specific departments). When that work was completed, searches were conducted for the deans that would lead each college, as well as for the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

While there will be a period of adjustment to the new system, Prusank said the many types of benefits are becoming increasingly apparent to students and faculty alike. Chief among these benefits for students is greater access to assistance when its needed.

“With the older structure, when we had a dean of Undergraduate Studies, students who had academic issues or problems would have to go to that dean, and there are 4,500 full-time undergraduate students looking for one person,” she explained. “Now, with the four-college structure, there are four different points of access; it’s easier to get that individual quicker.”

There are many other benefits to this system, she told BusinessWest, adding that, while WSU may be the last school in the state system to embrace this structure, it is already making up for lost time.

— George O’Brien