By Tricia Oliver
May 5, 2017 - Westfield State University celebrated the ribbon cutting and naming ceremony of the Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center. The state-of-the-art building is named after one of the university's most distinguished alumni - Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens – an early American geneticist behind the discovery of sex determination by chromosomes.
Dr. Stevens' seminal research at the turn of the 20th century laid the groundwork for more modern discoveries related to the identification of hereditary diseases; the understanding and study of human and animal development; and the onset of forensic sciences.
The 54,000 square-foot Science and Innovation Center is the new home for the university's STEM-related degree programs in Nursing and Allied Health, Chemical and Physical Sciences, Biology, Environmental Science and the soon-to-be launched master's in Physician Assistant Studies. The center features interactive classrooms and labs for all science concentrations, along with a variety of nursing simulation suites and other amenities to better serve the needs of students in these disciplines. In addition, the building offers specially-designed collaborative learning spaces for students that encourage the sharing of ideas and foster greater synergies between the majors.
"Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens deserves to be celebrated as a brilliant scientist and Westfield State alumna, but also for being a role model for future generations of young women – and men – especially those pursuing ever-growing and promising careers in the STEM fields," said Westfield State University President Dr. Ramon S. Torrecilha. "This new building provides our students with lab and learning spaces that feature the latest technology and research opportunities, better preparing them for future opportunities and success."
The Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center advances the Commonwealth's statewide strategy in promoting STEM. At Westfield State University, women comprise 51 percent of the student population. Within the university's STEM majors, there has been a 69 percent growth in male majors and an impressive 109 percent increase in female majors over the last 10 years. Nationally, only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce is female.
Today's ribbon cutting and naming ceremony featured several speakers including James J. Brosnan, a long-time member of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council. According to Brosnan, Massachusetts is economically resilient largely because of the strength of its STEM sector.
"With its collaborative learning spaces and state-of-the-art features, the Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center will provide tremendous opportunities to students pursuing degrees in a host of STEM fields," said Brosnan, who is also chairman of the Board of Trustees for the New England Association of Schools and College and serves as superintendent of the McCann Technical High School in North Adams. "This new center is a major asset that complements the strong programs and partnerships Westfield State University offers students – preparing them to thrive in the Commonwealth's growing STEM economy."
In addition to celebrating the opening of the new center, the ribbon cutting event paid tribute to Dr. Stevens and the important contribution of women in science. Dr. Stevens completed four years of coursework in only two years at the Westfield Normal School (now Westfield State University). In 1905, Stevens published a series of papers in which she demonstrated that the sex of an offspring is determined by the chromosomes it inherits from its parents. Her discovery had an immeasurable impact on science and society. However, despite the significance of her work, Dr. Stevens' notoriety went unheralded even as her male colleagues received recognition.
The building project is the culmination of more than five years of planning and collaboration among the university faculty and staff as members of the Westfield State Science Center Steering Committee and various state agencies including the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, Department of Administration & Finance, and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM).
For more information on the Dr. Nettie M. Stevens Science and Innovation Center, visit http://www.westfield.ma.edu/stevens-science-and-innovation-center.