Westfield State University officially opened the Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens Science & Innovation Center with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and naming event on Friday, May 5. The brand new 54,000 square-foot structure houses laboratory and learning spaces for the departments of Biology, Environmental Sciences, Nursing and Allied Health, and Chemical and Physical Sciences, and it serves as the soon-to-be home to our new physician assistant master’s program slated to launch in January 2018.
Whether you are a current student exploring the building through your studies, an alumna/us or friend returning to campus, or another one of our valued visitors, be conscious of the building’s namesake. One of Westfield State’s most distinguished alumni, Dr. Nettie Maria Stevens, is credited with one of the largest scientific breakthroughs in the genetics field—the discovery of the X and Y sex chromosomes. I am so proud to say that this luminary is an alumna of Westfield State University and her trailblazing example serves as a source of inspiration for Westfield State students to realize their passion and build a career in the sciences.
As visitors walk through the new building, the modern appearance and state-of-the art layout are striking, but the building itself represents much more than contemporary aesthetics. More importantly, it physically centralizes the teaching of and solidifies the university’s commitment to the high-demand STEM disciplines, educating and preparing more than 600 students in these majors.
And, as generations of alumni are educated and trained in these high demand fields, our graduates will have immeasurable impact on our local, regional, and statewide economy. Not only do the vast majority of our students hail from Massachusetts, the vast majority stay in Massachusetts to start and build their careers.
With 93 percent of Westfield State University’s first-year students coming from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is not surprising to learn that 80 percent of our new alumni who responded to our most recent post-graduate survey have stayed in Massachusetts to begin their careers. Although we recruit a considerable amount of our undergraduate students from Eastern Massachusetts (40 percent), more than half (56 percent) of our more than 36,000 living alumni live in Western Massachusetts, with nearly 15,000 residing in Hampden County alone.
Although the building is and will continue to be instrumental in grooming the next generation of STEM professionals, the new building benefits all students and faculty. All students have the opportunity to take courses and labs in the Stevens Center and I hope those experiences serve as pivotal parts of their experience at Westfield State. Aside from coursework, the building’s layout provides optimal space for undergraduate research projects—a key element in student engagement and retention, with all majors.
Knowing Dr. Stevens’ story and her significant contributions to science and society, I look forward to the endless opportunities in scientific discovery in the very building that bears her name on the campus of her proud alma mater, Westfield State.
Ramon S. Torrecilha