This month, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors named Dr. Christopher Fiorentino as the 15th president of West Chester University. After Greg Weisenstein retired last spring after eight years, Fiorentino was appointed as interim president while a search was called for WCU’s next president. Fiorentino was chosen out of three other finalists.
For Fiorentino, West Chester was a temporary home at first.
“At the time I joined, I thought I was just going to be here for a year,” said Fiorentino.
Fiorentino first arrived on campus in 1983 as a graduate student, filling in for an economics professor who was on sabbatical. He soon moved up in his career at West Chester by becoming the interim dean of the College of Business and Public Affairs, now the College of Business and Public Management. In 2013, Fiorentino became the vice president for External Operations.
“It wasn’t until [former President] Madeline Adler was considering leaving, that I felt I had accumulated enough experience to become president,” said Fiorentino.
According to Fiorentino, now that his 33-year career has resulted in presidency, he’s looking forward to what’s to come.
“We are here for the success of our students,” he said. “We’re looking at ways that we can improve upon what’s going on here.”
Before his presidency, WCU became the largest university in the state system with enrollment steadily increasing.
Still, Fiorentino knows there is plenty of work to be done. He noted trying to increase graduation rates and closing unsatisfactory achievement gaps as some of the challenges he’ll tackle in the coming months.
When asked about notable projects in the coming years, he took pride in the completion of the College of Business and Public Management Center.
“We have additional facilities that are being planned right now for new academic buildings and a new dining hall,” he said.
He noted potential projects taking place in the Francis Harvey Green Library in the wake of a more digital world.
“It’s really repurposing a big facility that had one use that really changed dramatically because of technology,” he said.
The project would include turning the library full of rarely used books into a more useful learning resource for students.
Fiorentino also spoke of adding plenty of new programs to the university’s already growing list of undergraduate and graduate programs, with engineering being one that he hopes to add in the near future.
Additionally, a new general education curriculum is in the works for launch in 2018. According to Fiorentino, it will include a “very focused first year experience” to prepare students for their college career. He remarked that every program will have a capstone experience at the end.
With increasing enrollment numbers and students ranging from all different backgrounds, forming an inclusive environment on a college campus is an issue plenty of universities face today.
Fiorentino reflected that for a long time, West Chester has been working toward that goal.
“We continue to strive to have a welcoming community that is set up for all of the members of the community to be successful,” said Fiorentino. “We’re not perfect, obviously. We have challenges, but universities are typically welcoming places. Any college students who are not being prepared to function in a diverse world are just simply not being prepared for what they’re going to be encountering.”
In his job as dean of the College of Business and Public Management, he noted that spending a lot of time with students was the highlight of his work.
“Our students come here with a work ethic, with a purpose,” he said. “They work hard for their success, they go out into the work force and continue to work hard, and that’s recognized.”
Fiorentino mentioned the reputation of WCU students that he hears about nearly every day. He went on to say that West Chester students are noted for their “willingness to roll up their sleeves and work hard.”
When asked what his favorite place was on campus, he said the academic quad.
“You walk around there on a nice day, you’ve got people sitting out in the grass and in the Adirondack chairs,” he said. “I can always engage in conversations, and invariably, students will stop and talk to me or faculty will stop and talk to me. I will say that’s my favorite place.”
According to Fiorentino, he believes the university’s calling is to provide an education that enables students to move up in the world. He continues to stand by the university’s commitment to student success.
“I love to get up every morning and get in here,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to work.”
After 33 years, he declared that it’s “very nice to feel that way about a place.”
Sunny Morgan is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at SM848270@wcupa.edu. Her Twitter is @SunnyMorgan97.