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Ramon Torrecilha recommended as Westfield State University’s 20th president

Dr. Ramon Torrecilha recommended as Westfield State University’s 20th president

WESTFIELD, Mass., October 28, 2015- Describing him as the top candidate with a solid vision for the university, the Westfield State University Board of Trustees unanimously recommended Dr. Ramon Torrecilha, a lifelong educator who has worked across higher education divisions and departments to build successful programs to support student success, as the sole finalist for the presidency of Westfield State University. Dr. Torrecilha is a faculty member and has served in a number of senior administrative positions including executive vice president, provost and as an acting president.

“Dr. Torrecilha is a dynamic leader whose experience across all aspects of public higher education, from academics to development, earned the confidence of both the campus community and the Board,” said Elizabeth D. Scheibel, chair, Westfield State University Board of Trustees.

If approved by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, Dr. Torrecilha would be the first Latino to serve as president in the university’s 176-year history.

 “On behalf of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, I want to say how impressed we were with the quality of the candidates, particularly with Dr. Torrecilha and his proven record as a leader. His personal story, including his immigration to the United States as a migrant worker at the age of 17 and how his life was changed through his education, mirrors the story of many of our students. His experience as a student in the state university system spoke to the heart of the Westfield State campus community,” said Steven Marcus, trustee and chair of the search committee.

A national search for a candidate began in January.

Board of Trustees members praise the selection

“Dr. Torrecilha has a track record of success,” said Trustee James Hagan. “With his excellent communication skills, I am confident that he will work collaboratively with all stakeholders, most importantly students, to make Westfield State University a better institution.”

 “Dr. Torrecilha is a perfect role model for students at Westfield State University,” said Student Trustee Justin Connolly ’16. “With an inspirational background, he is committed to student success, as well as student and faculty research.”

“Dr. Torrecilha’s story is impressive, from where he grew up to his struggle to meet his personal and educational goals,” said Trustee Luis Perez. “He is ready to take on this challenge and support the university’s dedication to creating an environment of diversity, moving the university forward to the 21st century.”

“Dr. Torrecilha’s ability to communicate and articulate a vision for Westfield State is most intriguing,” said Trustee Robert Martin. “I look forward to seeing Dr. Torrecilha work with members of the campus community to shape the vision to ensure it is a collective view that represents the interests of the university.”

Gratitude for Service and Commitment to Process

Trustee Scheibel thanked the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for their willingness to take on the duties and responsibilities of membership.

“This is a moment of opportunity for Westfield State University. There are many exciting initiatives underway across our institution. We are grateful to the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for their role in helping to shape Westfield State into a dynamic and diverse community where potential can be fostered and thrive,” said Scheibel.

“On behalf of the Board, I also want to thank the entire Westfield State community – our students, faculty, staff, alumni and neighbors - for their contributions to the process, taking time to engage in community forums and provide feedback via surveys. The Board reviewed and considered all the feedback; it was critical to our decision.

“Last, I want to thank the candidates themselves for sharing their experiences, insight and time. In many ways, Westfield State University is unique among the public higher education institutions in Massachusetts.  We are confident that we have chosen the right individual to lead us as our next president.”

About The Search Process

Westfield State’s presidential search process officially launched in January, with a search committee comprising 13 members of the campus community.

Board of Trustee members Steven Marcus ’88 and Terrell M. Hill ’92, were appointed to serve as the chair and vice-chair, respectively, at the April 2014 board meeting. The members of the Westfield State University Presidential Search Advisory Committee included: Katheryn Bradford, M.S., Director, Alumni Relations (APA); Justin Connolly ’16, Student Trustee; Junior Delgado, Director, Career Center (APA); Evelyn Dina ’16, SGA President, Student Representative; Margot Hennessy, Ph.D., Chair, Ethnic and Gender Studies, MSCA Chapter President; Terrell Hill ’92, M.Ed., Trustee; Robin Jensen, Chair (now former), Foundation Board; Ron’na Lytle, Administrative Assistant, Ethnic and Gender Studies and World Languages, (AFSCME); Steven  Marcus ’88, Trustee; Luis Perez, J.D., Trustee; Carlton Pickron, Ed.D., Vice President, Student Affairs (NUP); Henry Thomas, M.A., J.D., Board of Higher Education Representative; Edward Welsh, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Mathematics (MSCA).

On February 5, 2015, the Board of Trustees officially ratified Diversified Search of Philadelphia, PA to help manage the search process.

Two days of open Campus and Community Forums were held to gather input about the qualities people wanted to see in the next president. A position description was drafted to incorporate feedback received during the forums and was used in recruiting candidates. Ads were placed in several national education, business, and leadership publications in April with Diversified Search actively engaging prospective candidates and building the candidate pool. Applicants were asked to submit materials by July 1, 2015.

The pool of candidates was narrowed to a semi-finalist group of 13 in August. The Presidential Search Advisory Committee interviewed the semi-finalists over a two-day period off campus between August 27-29

On September 29, 2015, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee announced three finalists to be brought forward as candidates to serve as the university’s 20th president: Damian Fernandez, Ph.D., chief executive officer, head of school, Ethical Culture Fieldston School; Ramon Torrecilha, Ph.D., professor of sociology, former provost, vice president for Academic Affairs, California State University, Dominguez Hills; and Linda Vaden-Goad, Ph.D., provost, vice president for Academic Affairs, Framingham State University.

From October 5-16, the university held campus visits for each of the candidates to meet with the campus community and key stakeholders.

On October 27, Diversified Search notified the university that Damian Fernandez withdrew his name as a candidate for the position of president.

On October 28, the Westfield State University Board of Trustees voted to recommend Dr. Ramon Torrecilha as the final candidate.

About Dr. Ramon Torrecilha

Dr. Torrecilha is a lifelong educator who has worked across divisions and departments to build successful programs to support student success. He is currently a professor of sociology at California State University Dominguez Hills. Previously, he served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the university, where he designed and implemented a cohort-based, first-year initiative to increase student retention and graduation rates. As Provost, he invested in student research and supported more than 200 undergraduate research projects. He provided leadership and support to secure more than $16 million in grants and contracts and $600,000 to support faculty research and creative activity. Dr. Torrecilha also served as Executive Vice President of Mills College during which time he served as acting president on two separate occasions.  His many accomplishments at Mills include the design, implementation and successful achievement of a capital campaign that raised more than $130 million dollars on behalf of women’s education. Dr. Torrecilha also led a successful campus reaccreditation process resulting in an eight-year renewal from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and increased the alumnae participation rate by 10 percent. Dr. Torrecilha earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from Portland State University and his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The candidate interview with the Board of Higher Education is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, December 1 in at the offices of the BHE. The interview will not be live streamed on the internet; those wishing to see the interview must travel to the offices of the Massachusetts BHE at One Ashburton Place, Room 1401 in Boston to view the interview live.

Details as to Dr. Torrecilha’s official start date and contract negotiations will be undertaken with the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.