On Thursday, Sept. 14, West Chester University held this year’s welcome back address from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Asplundh Concert Hall. Hosted by WCU President Christopher Fiorentino, the event focused on accomplishments from the students and faculty as well as plans for the new year.
A major campus concern is the limited availability for student parking. This address officially unveiled that over the next two years, WCU campus will have a 460-spot-parking garage.
Another addition is the inclusion of a completely student-run Saxby’s coffee shop. When students work at Saxby’s, they will have a co-curricular transcript that will allow students to earn credit for their time working there. Saxby’s Chief Executive Officer said, “this program is our moonshot: a way to make the world better by teaching young people what it is like to be entrepreneurial and run their own business.”
Other academic programs are being introduced next year, including a Biomedical Engineering degree.
West Chester University’s sustainability ventures were also heavily featured throughout the address. On Oct. 22, 2015, known as National Campus Sustainability Day, WCU transitioned to geothermal energy and high efficiency natural gas boilers. This, the university reports, “has significantly impacted its carbon footprint by reducing its rate of carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 37 percent.” Many were surprised to learn that WCU has the United States’s second largest university geothermal distribution system.
This event also promoted initiatives taken by students. Professor Mahoney’s strategic social media classes, all of whom were in attendance to livetweet the event, were represented on stage by a couple of students. Additionally, a Women In Business organization was formed, making it the 287th organization on campus.
Rodney Kaplan, Student Government Association Treasurer and Sykes Student Union Director—like several students representing varied factions of the WCU community—got the chance to speak on stage. When asked how he felt about the experience, Kaplan said, “I think it was a super cool experience. I like that we’re trying to change up the state of the university address to make it more focused on the students…I think that every student that spoke, what they were saying was relevant to programs and different activities going on in the university.”
The interest in studying abroad has led the university to create the Global Rams program. This initiative focuses on assisting low-income students to travel, learn, and immerse themselves in other cultures. More details are said to come out in the near future.
West Chester University also recognized the accomplishments of one of its professors, Professor Tammy James, with the 2017 Civility Award. Her work for the university includes being a professor for the Department of Health, serving as the coordinator for Academic Support Services for Student Athletes, participating in an athletic mentoring program, an athletic advisory board and creating a leadership/life skills class for student athletes.
The ceremony culminated by celebrating the success of the “Becoming More” campaign. From 2013-2017, West Chester University raised $57,618,455, exceeding their goal by $7 million. $18.4 million of that will go into creating 420 new scholarships for students of all fields and backgrounds. Attendees of the ceremony were invited to tents outside the building distributing snacks and journals.
Reflecting on the messages of the event, one of the speakers, Timothy Brown, professor of communication studies said, “I love the connection between what we can do in a classroom and how people are learning it and applying it outside of the classroom…I think those are all good things for the students and the university.”
When questioned about what he hoped students would take away from the state of the university address, Fiorentino said, “This is about their success. Everybody on this campus is focused on helping the students to be successful. If there are challenges that they face there’s somebody here to help them. We want them to reach out. We want them to be successful. We want them to feel welcomed on the campus. The message to the employees…it’s all of our responsibility to focus on the success of our students. That’s what I’m hoping the students are feeling today.”
Halle Nelson is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in English literature and deaf studies. She can be reached at HN824858@wcupa.edu and on Twitter @Halle_N_Nelson.