Westfield Graduate Alumni, Dr. Judith Houle, Named Executive Director of MAVA

The Board of Trustees at MAVA (Mass. Virtual Academy) voted unanimously to name Dr. Judith Houle, the current interim director, as the permanent executive director for next year.

"We conducted a regional search - throughout New England and beyond - for our next executive director and as we went through the process, it became more and more clear to us that the person we wanted was right in front of us the whole time," said Daryl Essensa, chair of the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Houle brings a depth and breadth of expertise in educational leadership that few other instructional leaders can match, Ms. Essensa said, but it is her enthusiasm and commitment to MAVA's mission that makes her the ideal leader for MAVA at this time.

"I am humbled by the Board's faith in me and thrilled to help MAVA establish itself as a statewide leader in educational excellence," Dr. Houle said.

A former music teacher, principal, and curriculum director, Dr. Houle served as superintendent of schools for Belchertown from 2009-2014. More recently, she served as interim superintendent of schools for the Granby Public Schools while the school committee searched for a permanent superintendent.

"MAVA is a very unique and exciting school," Dr. Houle said. "In a very short time, I've come to realize what a difference this school makes in the lives of the students we serve."

Dr. Houle brings expert level qualifications in school administration, strategic planning, budget management, data collection, professional development, and the use of technology to enhance instruction.

A graduate of Barrington College, Dr. Houle earned her master's degree in educational administration from Westfield State University, and holds a doctoral degree in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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Life After Westfield Through the Eyes of Twelve GOLD Alumni

Twelve GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) Alumni recently joined current Westfield State students to discuss their career paths since graduation.

The event began with a panel discussion, where students heard from each of the inspiring alumni. After hearing each of their stories, students were given the opportunity to talk with the panel members from their specific fields at individual tables.

Our GOLD Alumni included Brittany Moniz '14, Kayleen Vangos '13, Austin Sahagian '12, Sara Cauley '16, Zach Forsythe '16, Chelsea Cox '16, Grant Cooper '16, Ashley Johnson '16, Rex Ramos '15, Evelyn Dina '16, Robert Jones '16, and Danny Dimatteo '16. They are pictured below with the Director of the Career Center, Junior Delgado M'03.

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Nestor visits with the Westfield Court at the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day Parade

Thousands of people wearing green, sporting funny hats and Irish-themed shirts lined the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day Parade route to cheer on bands, police, firefighters, Colleens and other marchers on Sunday March 19th.

Nestor made a guest appearance as he joined the Westfield Court in the city's 66th annual St. Patrick's parade. Check out his picture below.

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Westfield State Presents 'Connectivity Realized Through: Science, Math, Art' Art Exhibit

By Laura Phelon

In honor of its new Science and Innovation Center, Westfield State University will host the "Connectivity Realized Through: Science, Math, Art," art exhibit from March 21 through April 14. There will be an artists' reception on Wednesday, March 22 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Arno Maris Art Gallery.

Eight faculty members and 36 students contributed artwork to the show. The exhibit started as a collaborative effort between non-art faculty teaching art students. Art students interpreted their presentations and submitted work that creatively reflected the newly-learned subject interjected with their own thoughts and interpretations. Mediums on display range from video and animation and Photoshop, to charcoal, styrofoam, watercolor, photography, and more.

"The result was a diversified display of visuals that not only represented each area but, showed both energetic and creative spirit," said museum curator and exhibit organizer Faith Lund, adjunct professor of art. "Interesting and inventive applications lend a sense of intrigue."

In addition to the March 22 reception, the university will host a lecture by artist Kim Carlino on Wednesday, March 29 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Owl's Nest in the Ely Campus Center. Carlino was chosen to speak because some of her artwork mimics the theme of the "Connectivity" exhibit.

Both the exhibit and lecture are free and open to the public. The Arno Maris Art Gallery is located on the second level of the Ely Campus Center. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday- Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit

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Dr. Parviz Ansari Named Westfield State's New Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

By Tricia Oliver and Laura Phelon

Following a comprehensive national search, Parviz H. Ansari, Ph.D. has been selected as Westfield State University's new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dr. Ansari will report to President Dr. Ramon S. Torrecilha and will provide vision, planning, and leadership to shape the university's future. He will assume his new role at Westfield State on July 1.

According to Torrecilha, Ansari, as the university's chief academic officer, will most immediately provide key oversight to the university's move to a college structure and critical academic initiatives, including The Westfield State Experience, Westfield State's signature student success program that aims to increase student engagement, achievement, and retention.

"Dr. Ansari's innovative approach and influence in creating strategic relationships and student-centered advancements will benefit Westfield State's students and faculty alike," said Torrecilha. "We are delighted to welcome a senior administrator of Dr. Ansari's caliber to the Westfield State community to further enrich our academic rigor and learning environments that position our students for career and life success."

Ansari most recently served as the Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). He previously served as Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs there, achieving a 10-year high point in first-year retention and a sizeable increase in student diversity. He also provided leadership for institutional reaccreditation, the reorganization of academic affairs including the creation of the international affairs division, and an online-based Winter Session and forged strategic partnerships with area community colleges.

Prior to SIUE, he served in a variety of dean positions at Rowan University and Seton Hall University, both located in New Jersey. At Rowan, he was Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences before serving as Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics and the founding Dean of the interdisciplinary School of Biomedical Sciences; and at Seton Hall University, he most recently served as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. At both institutions, he was the architect of strategic plans that advanced the mission of university.

Throughout his career, he has held several teaching positions, performed research at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and completed a one-year fellowship with the American Council on Education at The George Washington University.

"I appreciate the opportunity to apply my background in public and private higher education to benefit Westfield State University," said Ansari. "I am eager to help lead the institution and oversee the Academic Affairs Division and I look forward to working alongside the members of the Westfield State community, including those with whom I had such positive interactions during the search process."

Ansari holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Science in Physics from Tufts University and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Pahlavi University (now Shiraz University) in Iran.

Ansari assumes the role of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs following Dr. Marsha Marotta's interim service as Vice President for Academic Affairs.

"I applaud and thank Dr. Marotta for her loyalty and dedication to Westfield State, as much of her work will have lasting impact on our students and university," added Torrecilha.

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