The Edvolution Continues: Western NE is Latest College to Graduate to University

By John O. Harney

Western New England College of Springfield, Mass., was awarded “university” status by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and will change its name to Western New England University on July 1, 2011.

Why the name change? Western New England will develop a Ph.D. program in Engineering Management to join its existing Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis. But as we noted in Higher E(d)volution: Six Mass State Colleges “Re-branded” as Universities, the main reason institutions make the jump from college to university usually has more to do with marketing than actual offerings.

Western New England noted in its announcement: “While the name will change, President [Anthony S.] Caprio says the character of the institution will not. ‘We have no plans to sacrifice the personal attention provided to students, the collegial atmosphere on campus, or the flexibility that comes with being a relatively small institution,’ says Caprio. ‘The goal of the university’s founders was to provide outstanding academic programs with a professional focus that prepare our graduates to become leaders in their fields and in their communities. That commitment will remain in place, stronger than ever.’”

The announcement goes on to note mostly cosmetic changes: “Between now and July, Western New England staff will be working to make a myriad of changes to its Springfield campus, including updating signage and scores of publications to reflect the new name.”

Barbara A. Campanella, vice president for Marketing and External Affairs, added: “It allows us to compete more effectively with many of our peer institutions in other states that have become universities and with which we share common student applicants. … It also allows us to be more attractive to foreign students, given the different definition of ‘college’ outside the United States and the international perception that a ‘university’ represents the highest level of education possible.”

Western New England College was founded in 1919 as the Springfield Division of Northeastern College and served mostly part-time adult students. In 1951, an autonomous charter was obtained to confer bachelor’s degrees and what was then called the Springfield Division of Northeastern University was renamed Western New England College.


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