Westfield State University

Partnerships Draw Synergy, Opportunity

Through the years Westfield State University has maintained strong relations with the surrounding community. We consider our university to be an integral part of the fabric of the communities of Western Massachusetts and a defining part of the history of the city of Westfield.

While the crux of our mission is to educate, we understand part of that mission is to represent, sustain and participate in our regional economy. We have maintained an open-door policy with state and local elected officials, school officials, business leaders and others to hear concerns and share ideas of where our university can offer resources that mutually benefit our students and the community.

Our society is in a unique position. In a short period of time the pandemic has created challenges for many businesses. Many organizations are revisiting best practices to determine whether current operational structures are viable in this “new normal.”

Like government, large and small businesses and non-profit groups, our university is re-evaluating day-to-day operations and determining whether we should stay-the-course or devise better practices and policies that align with our long-term goals. But as we look inward to evaluate our processes, we intend to also look outside the University to see where partnerships make sense.

Our goal is to maintain our current relationships but expand our reach to make Westfield State University a focal point for government, community groups, businesses, and non-profits. A simple, obvious example is partnering with our local schools. Westfield Promise, one our signature partnerships, is an early college program offered through Westfield State in partnership with Westfield Public Schools, Holyoke Public Schools and Springfield Public Schools. The program enables students to earn up to 12 college credits by the time they graduate high school, greatly increasing the likelihood that they’ll earn a college degree.

We’ve opened our athletic fields to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association hosting high school baseball, softball, and track from throughout Western Mass. Our athletic fields have also hosted the Babe Ruth Little League World Series.

We have or are in the process of developing academic pathway relationships with area community colleges. The Westfield Education to Business Alliance presented the 2022 Career Expo at our Woodward Center in February where close to 700 students from Westfield High Schools participated. The Education to Business Alliance has also tapped our faculty to give talks on government and political science topics. We offer the Woodward Center facilities to the Hampden County Sheriff’s department to train future correctional officers.

In August we will hold a town-gown visioning session with Westfield Mayor Mike McCabe. Our goal will be to come up with ways the city and university can work together to formulate events or other ways we can use the university to engage residents. We envision developing a creative maker space in Westfield square. The space can be dedicated for creative and innovation activity, classroom instruction artist studios and performance space.

We look forward to further meetings with the business community to determine their needs. Over the past few years, we have heard the term “skills gap” in a variety of business settings. As an institution of higher education, we should be listening when business leaders voice concerns. To meet the challenges of an uncertain economy, our public universities need to evolve, develop and extend their purpose and their mission to include outside groups in partnerships beneficial to both parties. In weathering difficult times, it helps to know you have friends you can lean on. 

The next stage of growth at Westfield State University requires strong community engagement and developing close relationships with external constituents. Pursuing this goal through educational innovations, collaborative partnerships and translational research the theme, “Building a Bridge to the Future: Restoring our Health” was chosen to act as a guide to engage the campus community to envision a collective path and direction focused on physical, mental, financial, structural and cultural health. This theme gives further definition to the 2019 – 2024 Westfield State University Strategic Plan. Strong, beneficial partnerships are the key to developing solid foundations to ensure long-term success. We are excited for the journey ahead.

Linda Thompson is president of Westfield State University.

To learn more about Westfield State, go online to westfield.ma.edu.

Businesses Featured in this Article

Related Businesses

Related Articles