Page 12 - BusinessWest January 20, 2021
P. 12

SThe Year of the Entrepreneur
tarting in 1996, BusinessWest has, at the start of each year, ing this company to new places and a higher plane.
presented something we call the Top Entrepreneur award. And while we’re at it, we would like to salute all the entrepre-
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 We do this to pay homage to a long — as in three centuries neurs slugging it out across our region. They all deserve some credit long — tradition of entrepreneurship in Western Mass., and to rec- at this ultra-challenging time for anyone trying to own and operate
ognize companies, institutions, and individuals who are carrying on that tradition today. Over the years, the winners have included traditional entrepreneurs — those leading tech companies, multi- faceted corporations, and some family-owned businesses that have been part of the landscape for decades, if not a century or more — and also some non-traditional entrepreneurs — a college president and a hospital CEO, for example.
This broad diversity is by design, and it shows that we’re honor- ing entrepreneurial spirit as much as we are entrepreneurs.
Which brings us to this year’s honoree — the partners and leader- ship team at Golden Years Homecare Services, an East Longmeadow- based company that started with home care and has since diversi- fied into staffing, behavioral-health services, and other realms (see story, page 13). An entrepreneurial mindset prevails from top to bottom and in every aspect of this enterprise, and it has enabled the company to set and maintain a torrid pace of growth since.
We salute Cesar Ruiz, Lisa Santaniello, and other partners and managers who are aggressively rewriting the business plan and tak-
a business.
Indeed, running a company has never, ever been easy. But in
these times, everything is much more difficult. As we’ve said on many occasions, one of the things that has inspired us during these times has been the manner in which the region’s business commu- nity has responded.
In short, it has been entrepreneurial. Business owners and man- agers have responded to adversity with imagination and determina- tion, finding new revenue streams, new ways of doing business, and new avenues for growth. Examples abound, including everything from outdoor dining at restaurants to manufacturers retooling to make PPE. At Golden Years, the pandemic actually helped fuel a surge in home-care business, as many families came to view the home as a safer alternative to nursing homes and other facilities.
Looking back, one might call 2020 the ‘year of the entrepre- neur.’ Those at Golden Years stand out, certainly, and they are most deserving of this prestigious honor. But all the entrepreneurs who have bravely battled COVID-19 deserve to take a bow. v
  Women’s Colleges Play Critical Role
ing the accomplished, inspiring
Kamala Harris become the next vice president, and it doesn’t escape me that this thrilling milestone comes at the
same time the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 1.1 million American workers have left the pandemic-challenged labor force — and 865,000 (80%) of them are women. The contrasts of this moment provide some context for understanding the significance of women’s colleges, and for championing the important place they hold in our world.
The Women’s College Coalition counts just 36 American women’s colleges, down from 46 six years ago and about 230 in 1960. Our numbers have dwindled against a back- drop of social, political, and economic shifts for women, shifts that have resulted in more options and opportunities across the board, but especially in the realm of higher edu- cation, where women students have out- numbered men for five decades, prompting many to ask: what purpose do today’s wom- en’s colleges serve?
A recent study by Kathryn A. E. Enke, published by the Women’s College Coalition, looked at access, opportunity, and outcomes at today’s American women’s colleges and compared them with coed liberal-arts col- leges and public universities. Her findings reveal a modern profile of women’s college students that may surprise those who still view these schools as places where Ameri- ca’s elite daughters are groomed to uphold the professional, and personal, status of their forebears.
y Sandra Doran
e’re just days away from watch-
Rather than resembling the student popu- lation at private liberal-arts colleges, women’s college students are demographically akin
to students at public colleges and universi- ties, meaning they’re older, more diverse, and less economically advantaged. While we still imagine that the average college student is 18 to 24 years old, that age bracket includes only 50.6% of students at women’s colleges; at private liberal-arts colleges, it’s 90.9%, and at public universities, 77.5%.
More than half of students at wom-
en’s colleges identify as students of color (51.2%), compared to 38.5% at private liber- al-arts colleges and 43.6% at public univer- sities. Enke also found that full-time, first- time undergraduates at women’s colleges are more likely to have been awarded a Pell Grant than students at liberal-arts colleges (43.2% vs. 32.6%), meaning they are more likely to come from families with limited financial means. At Bay Path, 56% of our students are Pell-eligible.
Why is this significant? According to an analysis published by the Pell Institute, low- income, first-generation students dispro- portionately come from ethnic and racial minority backgrounds, and they tend to be older, less likely to receive financial support from parents, and more likely to have mul- tiple obligations outside college, all factors that require a more intentional and support- ive college experience.
One real power of women’s colleges exists in the influence of academic and social experiences, which the Pell Institute describes as “studying in groups, interact- ing with faculty and other students, par-
ticipating in extracurricular activities, and using support services.” These experiences are shown to foster success in college, and intentionally, repeatedly, and enthusiasti- cally creating a learning environment and culture that embeds these experiences into the educational model is what defines wom- en’s colleges.
Our schools don’t just shepherd women to their diplomas; we create a distinct and dedicated space for women to build intel- lectual confidence, enduring community, and unwavering tenacity — because we know they’re going to need every last bit of it as they pursue their ambitions.
Enke’s research also measured retention and completion rates at women’s colleges
at 62.2%, private liberal-arts colleges (which tend to serve the most economically privi- leged students) at 68.9%, and public schools at 54%. We’re proud to note that the reten- tion rate of all traditional undergraduates at Bay Path is 77%.
The past year has laid bare the persis- tent circumstances that continue to disrupt women’s ambitions, impede our incomes, and restrict our potential. With women’s colleges up against the financial and demo- graphic headwinds shaking the entire high- er-ed sector, we must dig deeper, hold faster, and aim higher, while keeping the initial mission of women’s education at the center of all we do: to expand access, create space, and nurture the intellect for women who deserve to realize their dreams. v
Sandra Doran is president of Bay Path University.
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