Some educational institutions have the image of stale organizations that resist change, but Western New England University has sought to be more progressive, President Dr. Anthony S. Caprio says. “We may be in New England, but we’re not conservative,” he asserts. Located in Springfield, Mass., the University offers its students undergraduate, graduate and law degrees. The institution’s history goes back to 1919, when Northeastern College founded the school as its Springfield division and offered part-time educational opportunities for law, business and accounting students.
However, in 1951, Northeastern chose to drop several of its satellite locations, which led the Springfield division to function independently. It then changed its name to Western New England College and moved several years later to its present location on Wilbraham Road in Springfield, Caprio says.
In July 2011, the College officially became Western New England University, which reflected its growth over the last nine decades. Today, Caprio says, the University rests on 215 acres and employs 205 full-time faculty members.
He notes that the University has stayed successful by developing a strong staff and carefully planning for the future. “[We do] it in a very systematic, thoughtful and realistic way,” he states.
A longtime veteran of higher education, Caprio became Western New England’s sixth president in 1996. Previously, his most recent positions were seven years as provost and professor of language and literature at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, as well as nine years as professor and administrator at American University in Washington, D.C.
After all these years, he enjoys the environment that the institution has nurtured. “That is one of the reasons I’m here,” he declares, explaining that the University has a culture focused on giving its students the best education possible. “People [here are always] thinking, ‘What do students need to get good positions and have a satisfying and fulfilling kind of life?’”
The University’s faculty also takes the perspective that its students can excel.
“As a result, [we have always] had a culture that remains that way,” Caprio says. “We want people to have the benefits of a solid education that blends liberal and professional studies. Our faculty have an attitude of ‘we’re here to work with these students.’”
The University recently made several investments to improve its offerings to students, Caprio says. These included the addition of online courses in a variety of fields, allowing students to take classes wherever they are in the world.
Western New England University also established its College of Pharmacy. Although the University had offered pre-pharmacy courses, the College marks its first major step in the health sciences field, and enrolled its first professional class in the fall of 2011. “We decided we were going to provide a full curriculum that leads students to the Doctor of Pharmacy,” Caprio recalls.
To house the College, Western New England constructed the $40 million Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy, which was the largest construction project in the University’s history. The four-story building features classrooms, laboratories and offices where students learn techniques with powerful, world-class technologies, including a gigabit network throughout the building to every desktop; ubiquitous wireless everywhere; fully digital media technology in every classroom; and two dedicated data centers in the facility to support faculty members’ high-end application needs.
“I reminded members of our community that this venture fit our people and our mission,” Caprio explains. “They bought into the process, much to their credit. Faculty and staff all agreed that this major undertaking was one we should pursue with enthusiasm.”
Western New England also had to adapt to changes when it became a university last year. “That involved paying close attention to the kinds of graduate programs we were adding to our already substantial number of existing programs in order to ensure that they fit our mission and built on existing strengths,” Caprio states.
This includes a Ph.D. program in behavior analysis, which is popular with students who want to undertake work with individuals with autism. While the University has already excelled with the addition, “I believe we will be the premier program in the United States because of our curriculum and our commitment to bringing to our University the finest faculty in the field and by giving priority to its growth through appropriate resources that will attract and retain the leaders in the field, and keep our curriculum dynamic and pace setting,” Caprio predicts.
As it moves forward, Western New England will need to plan carefully for the future by looking at its strengths and how it can grow upon them, Caprio says. So far, “It has been just a wonderful experience, because I would say I feel as if I’m at a totally different school because of the many changes in the physical plant and in the curriculum,” he says. “That is why I would say our future continues to be so bright.”
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