Westfield State Celebrates Opening of the Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science and Innovation Center

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

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Westfield State University Holds Grand Opening for its Military Community Excellence Center

By: Tricia Oliver

On Saturday, April 29, 2017, Westfield State University hosted the official opening of its new Military Community Excellence Center. The new center creates a one-stop shop where veterans, active military members and their families can access, meet and connect with on and off campus service agencies.

According to Lisa Ducharme, the university's current veteran and military services coordinator and a retired noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, the comprehensive center is a vast improvement to the semblance of a center previously offered on campus.

"It was critically important to create the center in a way in which it can grow," said Ducharme, who explained that Westfield State serves approximately 250 military-connected students at any given time. The Military Community Excellence Center is located on the ground level of Bates Hall, centrally and conveniently located on Westfield State's main campus.

Establishing the center was made possible by $50,000 worth of funding included in the Massachusetts State Budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

"We appreciate the leadership and support of both State Rep. John Velis and State Sen. Donald Humason in advocating for this vital funding," said Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D. "Thanks to Rep. Velis, Sen. Humason and other members of the Massachusetts Legislature, a growing number of Westfield State students and their families will have a dedicated space that meets their many needs as they advance their education here."

President Torrecilha, Rep. Velis, and Sen. Humason was joined by Massachusetts Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Services Francisco A. Ureña to provide remarks at the event. Veterans; active duty, guard and reserves; military families; and the campus and local community were welcomed to the celebration.

"We are proud to now offer a designated center that meets the comprehensive needs of our veterans," said President Torrecilha, who explains that Westfield is often cited as a veteran-and- military-friendly university.

Westfield State University received the 2017 Military Friendly School designation from Victory Media, the publisher of G.I. Jobs, and was named a 2017 top school by Military Advanced Education & Transition magazine.

Complementary funding for the establishment of the center has come from a few sources, including the proceeds from the 2016 Holyoke Police Department's "Manuary" fundraiser.

The center opening is a precursor to National Military Appreciation Month. On Tuesday, May 2, the Military Community Excellence Center will host a 7 p.m. screening of the film "Almost Sunrise" which will be followed by a panel discussion on healing and recovery. The panel will feature veterans and social services professionals. The screening and discussion will be held at Dever Stage in Parenzo Hall.

To RSVP for the April 29 Military Community Excellence Center opening, visit To RSVP for the May 2 screening and panel discussion, visit

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Westfield State Alumni Association Gives 100%

The Westfield State Alumni Association Executive Council placed first in this year's #GiveAHoot Annual Day of Giving Challenge. This challenge called for 100% giving from all council members and was shared with the Foundation Board and the Campus Board of Trustees. Though the other groups are following close behind, we are incredibly proud of our alumni volunteers and their first place status.

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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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