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Westfield State focuses on relevant, lifelong learning

WESTFIELD STATE UNIversity’s strongest points of pride – our 42,000 alumni – speak volumes about Westfield State’s impact and relevance as they enrich communities and strengthen the workforce and economy across Massachusetts. Further underscoring the university’s relevance is its recently approved strategic plan, a move to a lifelong learning model and an institutional commitment to our community, state and region.

That strategic plan, approved by the state Department of Higher Education, serves as a road map for our institution. The plan is anchored by both the timeless tenets of accessibility and affordability included in our 180-yearold mission and forward-thinking practices that will help define us as a premier public comprehensive university in the Northeast.

With a focus on four main goals – student experience, enrollment, culture and resources – the plan preserves and advances the university as it responds to the challenges faced by all higher education institutions: the continued decrease in the number of high school graduates; the increased scrutiny of the return on investment of a college degree; and the rising demand for favorable student outcomes, new education delivery methods, and a more personalized college experience.

When I compare notes with higher education leaders across the nation on what their respective universities are doing to create the student experience of tomorrow, our answers are consistent.

Research indicates that high-impact

SEE TORRECILHA, PAGE C2 “It is true that the conventional model of a four-year education is outdated. We must engineer a new approach that defines our role and relevance through a lifelong model, a continuum of learning throughout our graduates’ professional careers.”

Ramon S. Torrecilha, president, Westfield State University

Ramon S. Torrecilha

CONTINUED FROM PAGE C1

practices, active learning, internships, undergraduate research and creative activities and service learning all contribute favorably to the learning process, retention, the opportunity gap, graduation rates, and career outcomes.

As our university works with its partners to emphasize these widely adopted practices and strengthen society’s college-going culture overall, the university must also differentiate itself to remain competitive in today’s knowledge- based economy.

It is true that the conventional model of a four-year education is outdated. We must engineer a new approach that defines our role and relevance through a lifelong model, a continuum of learning throughout our graduates’ professional careers. Alumni should be encouraged to enter a “membership” in a continuum of learning.

Nearly half of the students seeking graduate degrees from Westfield State also received their bachelor’s degrees from here. This indicates that our students are inclined to that continuum of learning. We must better formalize and stretch that continuum to meet our alumni along their careers – where and when they need their alma mater the most. In turn, the “membership” allows for improved lifelong learning and greater alumni engagement with the university.

Adopting a model of lifelong learning will have a healthy domino effect as the contributions of our alumni to the communities in which they work and live have further positive cultural and societal impact.

In addition to shaping the problem-solvers of the future, the university has an institutional obligation to grow and contribute to Westfield, Western Massachusetts, and, beyond that, New England. We value our role in enriching the region’s potential and joining community and statewide partners to further grow cultural and economic capital.

Westfield State University is sought after to help define what our community should become. We proudly answer that call, whether serving as the lead institution in the Pioneer Valley STEM Network, a contributing partner to the Westfield Education to Business Alliance (WE2BA), a driving stakeholder on the Regional Planning Core Team associated with MassHire, or educating a student body largely from Massachusetts.

Westfield State will not rest on our laurels. Our students and community depend on our commitment to advance our relevance through positive change and advancement.

Ramon S. Torrecilha is Westfield State University’s 20th president. You can learn more about Westfield State and its programs online at westfield. ma.edu.

Westfield State University takes great pride in its alumni and their contributions to the communities in which they live and work. Its recently approved strategic plan focuses on a move to a lifelong learning model and an institutional commitment to the community, region and state, says president Ramon S.

Torrecilha. (WESTFIELD STATE UNIVERSITY PHOTO)

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