Academic Activities and Events

Female WSU student explains her research during CURCA presentations

Celebrate the Success of Westfield State University Students!

This web page lists the activities, achievements, events, work, and community service efforts of Westfield State students and helps to celebrate their success!  Examples of the student activities and events listed here include Theatre Arts department theatrical productions, student attendance at conferences, student and alumni accomplishments and awards, honors presentations, participation in community service events, and student and alumni research paper and book publication.  Go Owls!

Academic Year 2022 - 2023: Academic Activities and Events

February 17, 2023 - Westfield State alum Jacob Kapinos - Mathematics, wins Grinspoon Teaching Award

Jacob Kapinos (’21), a current WSU graduate student, was named as one of several 2023 Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award winners. The winners will join fellow winners from around the Pioneer Valley at a banquet in their honor at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on May 3.

Congratulations to WSU alum and graduate student Jacob Kapinos for being awarded an “Excellence in Teaching Award” from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation in partnership with the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation.

For more details:

January 20, 2023 - Victoria Nesmelova - English and Mathematics major has a paper accepted for THAT Literary Review

Congratulations to Westfield junior Victoria Nesmelova, whose creative non-fiction piece On Religion at Eleven has been accepted for publication in THAT Literary Review, a nationally distributed magazine affiliated with the Department of English and Philosophy and the College of Arts and Sciences at Auburn University at Montgomery.

Victoria will graduate in 2024 with majors in English (literature concentration) and Math. This is her first publication.

Victoria attended the campus Submit-a-thon (a joint effort between the English Department and Persona, the campus literary magazine) last semester. Congratulations, Victoria!

January 18, 2023 - Westfield State English Alum Keith Leonard

Keith Leonard reading from his recently published book Ramshackle Ode in 2016
2007 alum Keith Leonard reading from his book Ramshackle Ode in 2016

The English Department congratulates Keith Leonard (2007), whose poem More Frank is up at Poetry Daily today. The poem was originally published in The Gettysburg Review.

December 5, 2022 - Sarah Bratt - Music Therapy Major and English Minor student is published

Westfield State student Sarah Bratt, Music Therapy Major and English Minor

Westfield State University student Sarah Bratt recently had a poem published in the journal Last Leaves.  The poem Sarah wrote is entitled I Wrote a Magnet Poem on the Green Room Fridge.  Sarah is a Music Therapy major and an English minor.   Sarah and the published poem are in the accompanying photo.

Congratulations, Sarah! We are proud of you!

December 5, 2022 - Senior Honors Project Presentations

2:00: Welcome/Opening Remarks: Dr. Hillary Sackett-Taylor, Honors Program Chair

2:15: Madeline Borowski (English; School of Education, Arts, Communication and Humanities); Title: Jane Eyre and The Modern Reader: A Pedagogical Approach

2:45: Madeleine Carey (Criminal Justice and Psychology; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: The Effect of Pet Images on Stress Reduction

3:15: Irene Dimitroglou (Nursing; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: You Are What You Eat, and So is Your Baby! The Effects of the Prenatal Diet on Children's Likelihood to Develop Psychopathology Later in Life: An Integrated Review

3:45: Nicole Erickson (Elementary Education and Liberal Studies; School of Education, Arts, Communication, and Humanities); Title: Social-Emotional Learning Strategies, Student-Teacher Relationships, and Academic Success

4:15: Hannah Robins (Elementary Education and Liberal Studies; School of Education, Arts, Communication and Humanities); Title: Supporting Students in the Elementary School Classroom: Social Emotional Learning

4:45: Sadie Petta (English; School of Education, Arts, Communication and Humanities); Title: Clean, Professional, and Annoying: What Teachers Can Learn from Student Attitudes Toward Grammar Instruction in a Middle School English Language Arts Classroom

5:15: Closing Remarks: TBD

November 16 - 19, 2022 - Westfield State University Theatre Arts Department and Department of Music - WILD PARTY

Westfield State University Theatre Arts Department and Department of Music proudly present


A steamy prohibition tale, Andrew Lippa's Wild Party was an Off-Broadway gem that garnered an array of industry accolades, including Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Obie awards. Based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 narrative poem of the same name, this darkly brilliant show features one of the most exciting, pulse-racing scores ever written. Lovers Queenie and Burrs decide to throw the party-to-end-all-parties in their Manhattan apartment. After the colorful arrival of a slew of guests living life on the edge, Queenie's wandering eyes land on a striking man named Black. As the decadence reaches a climax, so does Burrs' jealousy. Partially Developed and Received Readings at The O'Neill Theater Center during the 1997 National Music Theatre Conference Originally Produced in New York City by The Manhattan Theatre Club.

Directed by Eric Parness with Music Direction by Daniel Adam Monte, Wild Party is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International. All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI (

Westfield State's Theatre Arts and Music Departments present Andrew Lippa's Wild Party

Andrew Lippa's Wild Party at the Ely Campus Center Studio Theatre

November 3 - 6, 2022 - Westfield State students attend Model United Nations Conference at the University of Pennsylvania

Model United Nations Conference

Westfield State students Jomayrie Cruz, Enaria DaSilva, Iyanu Doxy, Jordan Frazee, Gabriel Hahn, Kevin Hennessey, Aron Smith, and Andrew Walchenbach attended the University of Pennsylvania's Model United Nations Conference in Philadelphia.  Advised by Professor Brian Steinberg of Political Science, the students attended the conference that has a fifty-five year history in the setting of America's first capital and home to the nation's first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin.  

The International Relations Club has attended many Model UN Conferences over the years that have included future diplomats, politicians and activists from Canada, the United States and abroad. At the conference, delegates have the opportunity to test their debating skills in 26 simulated committees.

Melanie Voss ’21, a previous Model UN attendee and political science major from Wrentham, Mass., believes that having access to Model UN opportunities as an undergraduate will serve her well in the future. 

“The experience gained in Model UN is unique,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to learn about foreign policy and other countries in a situation where you feel included. It also allows you to get into the minds of these countries and their UN delegates.”

October 29, 2022 - Music Therapy students at Passages conference

On Saturday, October 29, a group of 13 Music students attended Passages, a conference for music therapy students and new professionals hosted by Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Tessa Cacioppo, a senior music therapy major at WSU, was one of the conference organizers. In addition, two music students presented at the conference. Sarah Soller-Mihlek, music therapy major, presented on intersectionality, community-building, and advocacy in the riot grrrl punk scene in a presentation titled WWKD (What Would Kathleen Do): A BI-POC Perspective on Riot Grrrl Punk in NYCDanielle Deacon, music education major, discussed music spaces as sources of support and security in a presentation titled Music was my lifeline: Advocacy for youth struggling with homelessness in mental illness. 

October 15, 2022 - Westfield State Music Education Students Attend Together With Pride: LGBTQ-Inclusive Practices in PreK-12 Music Education

Westfield Students attend Together With Pride workshop

On Saturday morning, seven music education students attended the workshop "Together With Pride: LGBTQ-Inclusive Practices in PreK-12 Music Education" with Dr. Nicholas McBride and Rex Sturdevant at Hartt School - University of Hartford. This was an exceptional workshop and our students were thoughtfully engaged.

Academic Year 2021 - 2022: Academic Activities and Events

July 19, 2022 - Communications Major Aidan O'Neill

WSU Comm major Aidan O'Neill '25 wins second place in a nationwide contest

Aidan O'Neill video

WSU Comm major Aidan O'Neill '25 won second place in an inspiring nationwide contest. Winners in Christophers’ contests show how one person can make difference: 

Winners in Christophers’ contests show how one person can make difference | Crux

"Second-prize winner Aidan O’Neill of Chicopee, Massachusetts, a Westfield State University communications major, uses his gifts to help people who face a different kind of barrier in their everyday lives, as he described in his film, “One Person-Big Difference.” His video centers on his involvement with the Special Olympics in his hometown.

'Ever since I was a freshman in high school,' Aidan recalls in the video, 'I have worked alongside my family and friends in the Greater Springfield Special Olympics, which provides opportunities for children and adults with mental or physical disabilities. I support them as a ‘unified athlete’ — an athlete who gives support and guidance to others as well as competing alongside them in the same sport.'

'It’s helped me realize we are all the same in our hearts, talent and enjoyment of success and accomplishment of victory in sports,' he says."

Here is the link to Aidan's video. It's just over 2 minutes long and will bring a lift to your day.

June 10, 2022 - Westfield Nursing Alum Cody Cleveland

Guest columnist Cody Cleveland: Nurse staffing falls short, yet health care needs are tall

A student nurse administers an IV pump

Cody Cleveland is a nursing Westfield State student alum who is speaking out as a guest columnist for the local paper about the challenges with nursing enrollment and education. 

We are SO proud of our strong nurses out there using their voices for positive change.

June 9, 2022 - BIOL0377 Stream Ecology Students make headlines

WSU ENVS students in the news

Authentic learning experiences at WSU!

Students from Dave Christensen's Summer Session I Stream Ecology (BIOL0377) course make headlines.  Jessica Levy, a student at Westfield State University, uses an electrically charged wand while electro-fishing in Kinne Brook on the Huntington/Chester line as students Anisa Muse, Esra Karaarslan and Valerie DeJesus follow behind to catch the stunned fish for data collection.  After the fish are identified and measured, the released unharmed.  The class taught by Dave Christensen is part of a project that monitors the health of the brook after a dam was removed in  2013.

May 24, 2022 - Music Composition Student Sam Masoud

Great News from the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival

Sam Masoud Sound Design and Music

This past Saturday at the Virtual Awards Ceremony for the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Sam Masoud, Music Composition '23 received the Randy Lutz Allied Design National Scholarship for his work as the Music Composer and Assistant Sound Designer for the Fall 2021 Theatre Arts Program's Production of MARISOL.

Sam was the KCACTF Region 1 Finalist for Allied Design and this past spring participated in National Virtual Festival. He presented his work to nationally recognized theatre professionals and attended workshops/panels related to theatre design.

Many congratulations to Sam! He is an incredibly talented and dedicated student and we are proud that this talent and hard work was honored at the national level!

A video about Sam's path to Music Composition is available here.

April 25 - 27, 2022 - Senior Honors Presentations

Senior Honors Project Presentation Schedule – Spring 2022

Monday, April 25, 2022
Loughman Living Room

  • 12:45: Welcome/Opening Remarks: Dr. Hillary Sackett-Taylor, Honors Program Chair
  • 1:00: Sabrina Dawicki (Psychology; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: Sex Education Analysis: The Experiences and Perceptions of Sex Education among College Students
  • 1:30: Amy O’Sullivan (Economics and Mathematics; School of Business, Mathematics, Computing, and Sustainability); Title: Mathematics of Pricing Models
  • 2:00: Natalie Maslak (Political Science; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: Under the Broken Umbrella: Massachusetts State Truancy Laws and Impacts on Students with Mental Health Concerns
  • 2:30: Jean Ganek (Biology; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: The Influence of Microplastic Color and Odor on Feeding Preference in Daphnia magna
  • 3:00: Sarah Tormey (Business Management and Economics; School of School of Business, Mathematics, Computing, and Sustainability); Title: How the Coronavirus Continues to Impact Student-Athletes
  • 3:30 – 4:15 BREAK
  • 4:15: Welcome/Opening Remarks: Dr. Vanessa Diana, former Honors Program Chair
  • 4:30: Sara Liptak (Criminal Justice and Psychology; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: Child Maltreatment: Reviewing Effective Legal Practices to Psychological Well-Being
  • 5:00: Carley Devlin (Nursing; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Bariatric Sensitivity Modules to Improve Nursing Students Attitudes Towards the Bariatric Population
  • 5:30: Morgan Briggs (Communication and English; School of Education, Arts, Communication, and Humanities); Title: The Marriage of Reason and Romance: An Evolution of Feminist Issues in Jane Austen’s Novels
  • 6:00: Odette Benes (Communication; School of Education, Arts, Communication, and Humanities); Title: Directioners: A Documentary
  • 6:30: Closing Remarks: Dr. Hillary Sackett-Taylor, Honors Program Chair

Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Scanlon Banquet Hall C

  • 12:45: Welcome/Opening Remarks: Dr. Rebecca Morris, Associate Dean, School of Business, Mathematics, and Computational Sciences
  • 1:00: Shealynn Conway (Biology and Chemistry; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Using Dihydrofolate Reductase (DHFR) as a Model Enzyme to Study Protein Engineering
  • 1:30: Maninder Singh (Environmental Science and Regional Planning; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services; School of Business, Mathematics, and Computational Sciences); Title: Effects of Removing Asian Bittersweet on Tree Growth
  • 2:00: Chase Rogers (Athletic Training; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Does the Cutting Movement Assessment Score (CMAS) Predict Ground Reaction Forces?
  • 2:30: Bridget Madden (Criminal Justice and Psychology; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: Police Officer – Crisis Clinician Co-Response on Mental Health Calls
  • 3:00 – 3:45 BREAK
  • 3:45: Welcome/Opening Remarks: Dr. Brian Jennings, Associate Dean, Assessment and Accreditation
  • 4:00: Kaylea Cornwell (Criminal Justice and Psychology; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: Exploring the Alternatives to Incarceration for Drug Offenders
  • 4:30: Samantha Falcone (Biology; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Functional Morphology of the Feeding Apparatus in Chain Pickerel, Esox niger: Adaptations for Manipulation and Consumption of Large Live Prey
  • 5:00: Elizabeth Sears (Communication and English; School of Education, Arts, Communication, and Humanities); Title: "After the Fire"
  • 5:30: Alexandra West (Health Science; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: The Satisfaction of Contraception in Today’s Female University Students
  • 6:00: Fiona Cioch (Nursing; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Do You Feel Safe at Home? Assessing Nursing Students' Ability to Care for Patients Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence
  • 6:30: Closing Remarks: Dr. Hillary Sackett-Taylor, Honors Program Chair

Wednesday, April 27, 2022
University Hall – Multipurpose Room

  • 12:45: Welcome/Opening Remarks: Dr. Ziblim Abukari, Associate Dean, School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services
  • 1:00: Tess McDonald (Psychology; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: Assessing Westfield State University's Sexual Violence Prevention Program
  • 1:30: Madison Gage (Nursing; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Nursing Prelicensure Employment and its Impact on Transition to Practice
  • 2:00: Guided Wellness Meditation
  • 2:30: Marissa Mayhew (Health Science; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: The Effects of Meditation on Chronic Pain
  • 3:00: Gregory O’Connor (Music; School of Education, Arts, Communication, and Humanities); Title: Studying Jazz through Transcription
  • 3:30 – 4:15 BREAK
  • 4:15: Welcome/Opening Remarks: Dr. Sabine Klein, Associate Dean, School of Education, Arts, Communication, and Humanities
  • 4:30: Josselyn Donahue (Biology; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Exploring the Association between TP53 Mutational Patterns and Four Cancers - Breast, Ovarian, Cervical, and Lung Cancers
  • 5:00: Amber Stearns (Environmental Science and Geography, Planning, and Sustainability; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services; School of School of Business, Mathematics, Computing, and Sustainability); Title: Removal of Winged Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) Results in Increased Species Richness in Eastern Floodplain Forest, USA
  • 5:30: Nora Olsen (Psychology; School of Criminology, Psychology, Social Justice, and Public Policy); Title: Better Together: Examining the Impact of Gender and Competition on Cooperation
  • 6:00: Matthew Wandishion (Biology; School of Health, Natural Sciences, and Human Services); Title: Comparing the Bacterial Gut Microbiome in Golden Retrievers Using Nanopore Sequencing
  • 6:30: Closing Remarks: Dr. Hillary Sackett-Taylor, Honors Program Chair

April 24, 2022 - Westfield Art Department - Student Art

Student Art Show 2022

Student Art Show poster 2022

April 21, 2022 - Westfield Theatre Arts Student and Faculty Panel Discussion

Westfield State Theatre Arts production "Lucky Stiff"
Lucky Stiff

Drama Across Disciplines: The Business of Gambling and "Lucky Stiff"

Westfield State University Theatre Arts Program and the Department of English, in collaboration with the Economics and Management Department, proudly presents:

Drama Across Disciplines: The Business of Gambling and "Lucky Stiff"

Thursday, April 21, 2022, following the 8pm performance of the musical "Lucky Stuff" at the Ely Studio Theatre

Join a panel of students and professors for a discussion of WSU’s production of the musical “Lucky Stiff” and its portrayal of the business of gambling.

Moderators: Prof. Eric Parness (Theatre Arts Program) and Dr. Robert Chatt (Economics and Management)

April 12, 2022 - Westfield State Health Sciences Student Lexi West

Satisfaction of Contraception in Today's Female University Students

With great pleasure, the Department of Health Sciences announces Lexi West's honors project, "Satisfaction of Contraception in Today's Female University Students," has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Reproduction, Contraception, Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Many know Lexi as a tour guide for our Admission's Department.  Health Sciences could not be happier to have her representing WSU!  Hats off to our Honor's Program as well!

December 10, 2021 - Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA)

Westfield State University hosts annual fall celebration of student work from its Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity

A Buckner at CURCA presentation

Westfield State University student research and creativity will be celebrated Friday, Dec. 10, at a virtual event sponsored by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA). The public is invited to view the presentation at The annual event showcases 120 diverse projects presented by more than 250 Westfield State students that include videos, posters, digital storytelling, and original poetry.

 “Through independent work and course-embedded projects, participating students—with the help of their faculty-mentors—have applied the process of research to real-world issues and communicated their work in knowledgeable and creative ways,” said CURCA Director Lamis Jarvinen, Ph.D. 

In addition to the asynchronous celebration, several synchronous live events will be held. Each event has a separate Zoom link, which will be available at

12-1 p.m., English Department: CURCA Storytelling project – Students will share their powerful stories using live and digital techniques created in a course taught by Professors Catherine Savini and Beverly Army-Williams.

12:30-1:30 p.m., Biology Seminar Series: Jarrod Petersen ’19 – WSU/CURCA Student Summer Research Fellow Jarrod Petersen ’19, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, will speak about his research experiences when he was a Westfield State undergraduate student. He will also discuss his current research at Brown University, “The Effects of Increased Elasticity on Force Production in the Locomotor Muscles of Snakes.”

1-2 p.m., CURCA SSuRF Presentations – 2021 Student Summer Research Fellows will present their projects, followed by a Q&A session.

2-3 p.m.,  CURCA Poetry Reading – Run by Persona, students, faculty, and staff are welcome to recite poetry in a friendly and welcoming environment during this open mic event.

December 6, 2021 - Westfield State Sports Medicine Student Olivia Elie

Westfield State University student earns NEACSM Undergraduate Research Experience Award for study of treadmill-walking mechanics

Olivia Elie, Sports Medicine Student

Westfield State University senior Olivia Elie received an Undergraduate Research Experience Award from the New England chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine (NEACSM). The movement science major from Rockland, Mass., received the award for her study of treadmill walking.

Elie researched the mechanics of split-belt treadmill walking, when a person walks simultaneously on two treadmill belts that are moving at different speeds. This act has the potential to correct asymmetric walking in clinical populations like amputees; however, this process and its inner workings are not fully understood by experts. 

Elie observed how adapting these forces changed if the difference in belt speeds was introduced abruptly or gradually and how quickly these adaptations wash out when the belts return to moving at the same speed. 

Her research has shown that adaptations of push-off force due to gradual onset split-belt walking take longer to wash out than those due to abrupt split-belt walking. Abrupt onset split-belt walking challenges balance more than gradual onset walking. This observation may have significant clinical implications for the future once experts better understand how we adapt our forces to gradual onset split-belt walking. 

November 29, 2021 - Westfield State Public Relations Students

Westfield State University students launch campaign to raise awareness, money for Northampton’s Manna Community Kitchen locker program

Manna Community Kitchen tile

Westfield State University public relations students are launching a campaign, Secure a Lock on Homelessness, to raise awareness and support for the locker program of Manna Community Kitchen in Northampton.

Events—featuring games and raffles, with prizes such as Apple AirPods, a Yeti tumbler, and more—will be held:  

  • Dec. 4, noon to 5 p.m., Target, Holyoke Mall; 
  • Dec. 7, 9 a.m. to noon, Dunkin’, Ely Campus Center, Westfield State, 577 Western Ave.; and 
  • Dec. 9, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tim & Jeanne’s Dining Commons, Westfield State. 

The Instagram- and Facebook-based public awareness campaign will take place via the handle @secure.a.lock.on.homelessness and use the hashtags #DollarsForLockers, #LockOnHomelessness, and #DonateToSecure.

A non-profit organization founded in 1986, Manna Community Kitchen provides hot meals and a comforting place of rest to those in need.  Its recently created locker program aims to help the unhoused population by providing a safe place for them to secure their personal belongings free of charge. Personal storage space was one of the most requested items among the individuals in Northampton’s unhoused population during Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz’s workgroup report, published in 2019, according to Manna. As of today, all 24 lockers are filled and Manna has a waiting list of unhoused individuals wishing for one. The organization hopes to add more lockers soon.  

November 3, 2021 - Westfield State Alum Josh Garcia

WSU Graduate Wins Mayors Race in Holyoke

Josh Garcia, who received his undergraduate degree and his Master's Degree in Public Administration from Westfield State University is now mayor of Holyoke, MA.

Alum Josh Garcia elected mayor of Holyoke

Joshua Garcia prevails in Holyoke mayor’s race

HOLYOKE — History was made Tuesday night in Holyoke, which elected its first ever Latino mayor: Joshua Garcia.  At-Large City Councilor Michael Sullivan conceded shortly after polls closed at 8 pm ...

November 3, 2021 - Westfield State Alum Victor Davila

Victor Davila and Professor John Wagner

Victor Davila, a Westfield State graduate of the class of 2008, easily won re-election to the Ward 6 seat on the Springfield City Council. Victor was a double major in economics and political science.  Here, he is pictured with Professor John Wagner of Economics.

September 28, 2021 - Westfield State Alum Damian Alexander

Damian Alexander Other Boys

Alumnus Damian Alexander has had his graphic novel Other Boys published by First Second.  Other Boys tackles the emotionally difficult topics of growing up with the loss of a parent, bullying, classism, gender stereotyping, and homophobia.  This work resonates with some of us as adults while also offering hope to youth who are currently trying to survive these experiences.  Damian Alexander is a cartoonist & storyteller who grew up around Boston. Other Boys is his first graphic novel, published with First Second in 2021. He has also created illustrations for The Trevor Project, and you can stumble across his short comics & essays on Huffington Post, Narratively, and The Nib. When he’s not doodling or making comics he loves gazing into his Victorian dollhouse, watching animated movies, reading sad ghost stories, and building miniatures. He lives in sunny California with his partner, Kevin, and their rascally cat Alfalfa.

Academic Year 2020 - 2021: Academic Activities and Events

July 13, 2021 - Westfield State Health Sciences Students

Westfield State students produce, donate over 1,000 activity kits to local Boys & Girls Club

Health Sciences students donate to local Boys and Girls Clubs

Westfield State University health sciences students created and donated more than 1,000 “healthy living” activity kits in June to the Boys and Girls Club of West Springfield.

The project was created when the COVID-19 pandemic forced faculty members to devise new ways to teach in a vast majority of its courses. Traditionally, in the Health Science Department’s “Public Interventions” course, students develop a plan to practice and implement a health program in the community, but many of the sites that hosted University students were closed this past academic year.

Under the direction of Karen Sladyk, Ph.D., professor of health sciences, spring 2021 students gathered supplies and designed “healthy living” activity kits for children ages 6 to 12, building off the COVID Playbook the students published (via Kindle Press) in fall 2020.

“The kits included physical games, crafts, social development group skill-building, and tasty snack projects,” said Sladyk.

Course participants collected supplies donated by Westfield State faculty and staff and stored them in a Bates Hall classroom.

“Several students participated in packaging the supplies, making samples, and writing directions for the kits—social distancing and wearing masks while in the supply room,” Sladyk explained.

Finished kits were organized by health science majors Mikayla Weafer ’21 and Mohammad Saleh ’22.

May 18, 2021 - Social Work Student Fiona O'Sullivan

Westfield State University senior Fiona O’Sullivan receives ‘29 Who Shine’ Award

Fiona O'Sullivan - Social Work

Westfield State University senior Fiona O’Sullivan of Ludlow, Mass., has been recognized as the University’s 29 Who Shine award recipient for 2021. These awards are presented annually by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to 29 graduates throughout the Commonwealth who exemplify the values of community service and academic experience. Each recipient attends a Massachusetts community college, state university, or University of Massachusetts institution and is nominated by a faculty or staff member. The celebratory event was held virtually on May 13.

This year, in recognition of the challenges faced over the past year, award recipients were selected for their willingness to help others impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Westfield State is honored to have another passionate student recognized by the Department of Higher Education for their contributions to the Commonwealth,” said Roy H. Saigo, Ph.D., interim president of Westfield State University. “Fiona embodies the type of graduate that the University strives to produce, one who has developed the knowledge, skills, and character essential to become a responsible leader and an engaged citizen.” 

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Sullivan initiated a card drive at a Springfield-based hospice agency, where she had volunteered as a companionship provider. O’Sullivan collected more than 200 cards to share with patients experiencing isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions, and as a result of her initiative, she was offered and accepted a full-time position as a bereavement coordinator at the agency which she will begin soon.

May 4, 2021 - Business Management Students Sophia Kelleher and Robert Munson

Westfield State University students win Grinspoon awards for entrepreneurial spirit

The Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative (EI) recognized two Westfield State University students on April 28 for their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. The students—seniors Sophia Kelleher and Robert Munson—were among 61 collegiate-level entrepreneurs representing 56 businesses or business concepts to receive awards during the annual event.

Real estate entrepreneur Harold Grinspoon founded the Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative in 2003 (a program of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation) to elevate the importance of entrepreneurship and recognize entrepreneurial excellence among college students.

Kelleher, a senior business management major from Southwick, will receive an EI award for Studio by Sophia, LLC, which is an online hair accessory shop that combines her love for design and sewing. She makes by hand each accessory—headbands, scrunchies, bow scrunchies, and hair ties. The business has grown from manufacturing five to 10 headbands a month, to an average of 100 per week over the last four months.

Munson, a senior business management major from Plainville, Conn., was recognized for his new business concept The Par Card, a first of its kind multi-course golf membership. The Par Card will allow members to choose the courses they wish to belong to and pay a similar price to the average single course membership. Munson was also selected to represent Westfield State in the annual community bank-sponsored elevator pitch Contest.

April 30, 2021 - Spring 2021 CURCA Celebration

CURCA Celebration Flyer 2021

On behalf of the CURCA Committee, we are thrilled and honored to showcase the diverse and impressive work of our WSU students!  Despite the numerous challenges and obstacles of Covid-19, our students continued to engage in research and creative projects. We have over 270 student presenters spanning over 160 diverse projects from all three Colleges, along with the Wall of Words, and student music performances.  We hope that you enjoy and share our virtual asynchronous Celebration with friends and family starting Friday morning, April 30th at your leisure.  In addition, at this link, find a Celebration Booklet listing the student presenters and acknowledgment for the many individuals who’ve helped to support and put this event together!

April 27, 2021 - Seniors Honors Presentations

Monday, April 27, 2021, 12:45 – 5:30 p.m.

  1. Hannah Griswold - Exploring the Effectiveness of Oral Care Education in Prelicensure Nursing Students
    Inadequate oral care can contribute to the development of pneumonia in hospitalized patients. As nurses are the providers of this intervention, oral care education for nurses is imperative. This study examined the retention of oral care education in an undergraduate baccalaureate nursing program. The study explores whether there is a loss in oral care knowledge over time from sophomore to senior year in nursing students. A case study and questionnaire were distributed electronically to first-year through senior-level nursing students at Westfield State University. The subjects were 11 participants from each nursing cohort with first-year students being the control group. Results suggest that oral care knowledge is not being lost from sophomore to senior year. Demographic data suggests that oral care knowledge acquisition and retention may be more impacted by clinical experience than classroom experience. Senior students performed best out of all groups and had the most experience in the clinical setting. While didactic learning is valuable, informal education gained from outside clinical experience may improve oral care knowledge. This finding supports encouraging students to work in the clinical setting in addition to attending classes and clinicals for school.
    Keywords: knowledge retention, knowledge reinforcement, oral care, nursing students, undergraduate, education
  2. Adam Hanna - Collective Efficacy within Communities
    The paper investigates community cohesion and how crime is impacted by strong or weak levels of neighborhood bonds. Community members can come together and build a form of resilience against unwanted behavior: resilience and efforts against crime will be the main discussion. The sociological ideology of collective efficacy will be the primary theoretical focus while previous theories, such as the broken windows and social disorganization theory, will help explain the evolution of this theory. Residents and community members in neighborhoods that have stronger bonds and higher amounts of collective efficacy are thought to be efficient in reducing crime. Police organizations will be discussed as a resource in helping build community support and trust. Communities experience criminal activity and may use this as a pathway to help limit anti-social behavior. In addition, this paper uses geographic mapping tools to identify certain trends in neighborhoods in Boston, Massachusetts to understand whether community shared areas can provide insight into why crime is more likely to occur in a particular section of Boston.
  3. Andrew Warren - Marijuana Impacts in Massachusetts
    The legalization of marijuana is an ever-evolving topic that is shrouded with claims and questions regarding many different factors in society. This paper aims to investigate the relationship between the legalization of marijuana and crime, traffic fatalities, sin tax revenue, and dropout rates. Statistical analysis was conducted with limited data sets from 13 states for the specific years 2008 and 2016. Our analysis showed that the legalization of marijuana has a significant impact on property crimes. However, violent crimes, traffic fatalities, sin tax revenue, and dropout rates were found to be unaffected by the legalization of marijuana.
  4. Gabrielle Trudeau - Fibonacci Matrices and Graphs
    The 2x2 Fibonacci matrix is a well-known matrix and has been studied extensively since it was first introduced in 1951 by Professor J.L. Brenner. We extend the definition to higher dimensions and define and study n×n Fibonacci matrices, which we call Virahanka matrices in honor of the Indian linguist Virahanka, who was the first to define and study the Fibonacci sequence between 600 and 800 A.D. We start by introducing language, definitions and notations specific to these matrices and prove several theorems about their structure and properties. To study these matrices, we combine different areas of mathematics including linear algebra, graph theory, and discrete structures. In particular, we connect the matrices to their associated graphs and the recursive formula for Fibonacci numbers. Finally, we are presenting a construction algorithm for deriving an (n + 1) × (n + 1) matrix from the n × n matrix.
  5. Kaitlyn Kelly - The Impact of COVID-19 on Division III Collegiate Student-Athletes
    The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all collegiate practices and competitions. The following study explored how this disruption in athletic activity has influenced the collegiate student-athlete’s mental health. Student athletes at a Division III university were asked to complete a survey that gathered information regarding post-cancellation physical activity level and the student-athlete’s level of anxiety and depression related symptoms. Likert scales were used to quantify the level of physical activity whilst student-athletes self-reported mental health symptoms based on hand selected questions from the Beck Anxiety Inventory and Beck Depression Inventory. The results suggest that a lack of physical activity correlates with a higher reporting of depressive symptoms as compared to those who continued physical activity. There appears to be no significant correlation between a lack of physical activity and anxiety related symptoms. In conclusion, based on the surveyed population, it appears that while physical activity may help manage symptoms of depression, it may not be a factor for managing symptoms of anxiety.
  6. Thalita Neves - Immigrants’ Rights and Law
    The major goal for my Senior Honors Project was to reduce the burden that immigration assistance programs face and to help immigrants by researching commonly asked questions about legal matters and putting the answers to those questions into a video format that is easily accessible through YouTube. The guiding question at the beginning of the project was “what questions do immigrants often have when dealing with the immigration system?” When trying to find the answer to this question, my main source to gather questions were family and friends who had gone through the immigration system and had questions along the way. Another source I gathered information from was the immigration assistance programs in MA. Although I reached out to many programs in MA, I worked specifically with one such immigration assistance program to determine which questions were most pressing for those they serve. After I gathered the questions, I started my research into each question drawing on federal immigration laws. Using the questions and answers I was able to research, I then made a video in the hopes that it would reach a larger audience of people and be easily accessible. I will also be sending out the link to the YouTube channel via email to all the immigration assistance programs I originally contacted at the beginning of the year in order to spread the information I’ve gathered to the correct population.
  7. Matthew Giebel - Understanding the Effects of Stress on the Rate of Wound Closure within the Female Reproductive Tract
    Wound healing of the skin is a well-known process; however, wound healing within mucosal environments lacks understanding. Further adding to this unknown process are the possible negative effects of stress hormones on this process. Using human ectocervical cells, innate immune cells, and stress-related hormones, wound healing within the mucosal tissue of the female reproductive tract was investigated. Significantly, it was found that cortisol, a stress-related hormone, has detrimental effects upon anti-inflammatory macrophages while it is able to increase the healing properties of inflammatory macrophages. In addition to this significant finding, anti-inflammatory hydrocortisone was found to increase the wound healing rates of all macrophage types. Furthermore, we observed a difference in wound healing rates amongst THP-1 and primary monocytic cell lines. Our findings are able to suggest that the presence of cortisol, hydrocortisone, macrophage type and cell line all further impact the rate of wound closure within mucosal tissue.
  8. Cassandra Stockhaus - Flexibility of Batoid Tail Vertebrae in Relationship to the Tails Function
    Functional morphology of the tail of batoid fish in relation to defensive and locomotor ability. Batoid fish are more commonly known as skates, rays, and guitarfishes. These fish are close relatives of sharks but differ in features such as the position of the gills and structure of the feeding apparatus. Another major difference is in the shape of pectoral fins. In batoids, these fins are enlarged, connect with the head and in most species, they are used as the primary method of swimming. Those that primarily use pectoral locomotion also have long slender tails with reduced or no tailfins. In many stingrays, the tail also has a dorsal spine coated in venom that is used as a defensive weapon against predation. In skates, the tail is shorter, thicker, lacks a spine and has two reduced dorsal fins positioned near its end. Skate tails are used as sensory structures, but skates have been observed swinging their tails into turns when maneuvering close to the seafloor. While the tails of these batoids may be useful to their survival and locomotor abilities, there is little know about their underlying anatomy. Here we describe the anatomy of the tail vertebrae in little skate, Leucoraja erinacea and Atlantic stingray, Dasyatis sabina and determining how the shape of the vertebrae influence their flexibility for use in turning and defensive stinging, respectively.
  9. Alexis Taupier - Mitigating a Monster: Using Psychobiological and Environmental Knowledge to Intervene in the Development of Psychopathy toward Reduction of Crime
    Psychopathic disorder is a personality disorder, characterized by a lack of human emotion and odd, impulsive behaviors. In those individuals who demonstrate severe psychopathic symptoms and behaviors, imprisonment is a common consequence. Despite current and past research, the causes of psychopathy remain unknown. Extensive exploration of current research suggests that psychopathy develops initially from a genetic predisposition, and environmental factors determine the course the disorder takes through life. To illustrate this, an overview of what is currently known about psychopathy will be discussed followed by examination of theories explaining the development of psychopathy from a combined psychobiological and environmental perspective. Suggestions for possible interventions during childhood and adolescence are offered towards the goal of minimizing symptom severity and ultimately a reduction of criminality.

April 21, 2021 - 2021 Virtual Mass Undergrad Research Conference

We're so proud of the 25 Westfield State students who will be presenting at Friday's Massachusetts Undergraduate Research Conference. They are listed below. In addition, our own Professor Zahra Caldwell is the Keynote Speaker, and WSU senior Political Science major Sumner Lewis will be moderating the live Q&A with Prof. Caldwell at 10:30 on Friday.  Please tune in and support our impressive Owls!  Live events are indicated as "zoom" in schedule below. Prerecorded presentations are available asynchronously and can be accessed now.

Presenter Title Area of Study Category Sponsor Schedule
Daizha P. Baptiste Does the Inclusion of Native Communities in Conservation Projects Influence Outcomes and Avoid Conservation Refugees? Environmental Studies Video Presentation Tim Parshall 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Grace Brunner Differential Gene Expression Associated with the Pathogenesis of Schizophrenia Biology Video Presentation Mao-Lun Weng 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Jankaleishka Burgos Cruz The Color of Silence: A Newspaper Column to Empower BIPOC Students Journalism Video Presentation Catherine M. Savini 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Madison Emma Czerniawski Personality Traits and Health Insurance Plan Attributes: An Economic Choice Experiment Economics Video Presentation Hillary Sackett-Taylor 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Jenna D. DeLisi I Hope We Will Remember Communication Video Presentation Elizabeth H. Preston 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Matthew James Dibbern Adaptations for Underwater Walking: The Anatomy and Mechanics of the Dorsal and Anal Fin Rays in Flounder Biology Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Jason B. Ramsay 12:30-1:15, Springfield Lounge - Zoom
Meaghan Edith Donahue Ideal Free Distribution in Mallard Ducks Biology Video Presentation Karen Sladyk 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Olivia Samantha Elie Visual Perturbations during Standing Balance in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis Kinesiology Video Presentation Brian Paul Selgrade 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Samantha Paige Falcone Functional Morphology of the Feeding Apparatus in Chain Pickerel, Esox niger: Adaptations of Manipulation and Consumption of Large Live Prey Biology Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Jason B. Ramsay 2:30-3:15, Salem Lounge - Zoom
Jean Ganek Investigating the Origins of Same Sex Behavior Biology Video Presentation Jessica Deene Stephens 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Lauren Ann Gray The COVID-19 Pandemic: What Do Students Need and How Can Professors Help? Community / Public Service Video Presentation Catherine M. Savini 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Olivia Rose Houde Twin Sisters, Different Wombs: Lessons from San Antonio, USA, and Kumamoto, Japan Urban / Regional Planning Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Samuel Ndegeah 9:30-10:15, Springfield Lounge - Zoom
Sara M. Kolinski How the Use of Social Media Has Influenced the Spread of COVID-19 Public Health Video Presentation Karen Sladyk 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Emily Rose Kyser Obese NLRP12-Deficient Mice Exhibit Increased Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes and High Circulating Leptin Levels Biology Video Presentation Kim Berman 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Alexander Patrick Lapierre Same-Sex Family Values: The Effects on Children Raised in Same-Sex Parenting Households Sociology Video Presentation Karen Sladyk 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Fatima Abdulrahman Massaee ABA-Signaling Pathway and the Response to Drought in Arabidopsis thaliana Biology Video Presentation Mao-Lun Weng 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Julianna L. McGovern Understanding the Physical and Psychological Effects of Chronic Back Pain: Applying Interventions and Treatment Public Health Video Presentation Lynn Pantuosco-Hensch 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Holden Nelson Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Their Degradation Products: Remediation Strategies for Afflicted Communities Chemistry Video Presentation Roderico Acevedo 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo
Paige Pressey The Influence of Urbanization on Ecosystems and Humans Environmental Studies Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Tim Parshall 2:30-3:15, Cape Cod Lounge - Zoom
Sarah L. Reilly When the Struggle to Focus Becomes a Focus on Stress: Having More Self-Reported ADHD Symptoms Leads to Higher Levels of Academic Stress Psychology Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Princy Quadros Mennella 11:30-12:15, Salem Lounge - Zoom
Renee Michelle St Jacques A New Description of Muscle Architecture in the Adductor Mandibulae Complex of Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias Biology Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Jason B. Ramsay 2:30-3:15, Salem Lounge - Zoom
Renee Michelle St Jacques Insertion and Deletion Mutation Analysis in Arabidopsis thaliana Biology Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Mao-Lun Weng 8:30-9:15, Worcester Lounge - Zoom
Grace Scott Templeton The Man and the Myth of Edgar Allan Poe: A Qualitative Analysis of What History Has Taught Us to Believe English Literature Research in Conversation & Video Presentation Andrew Thomas Kozikowski 3:30-4:15, Cape Cod Lounge - Zoom
Allison Webster Examining the Effects of Remotely-Delivered Pet Therapy Psychology Video Presentation Thomas Alexander Daniel 4:00-5:00, YouTube/Vimeo


December 16, 2020 - Westfield State University alumna Anna Therien ’20

Westfield State alumna and professors publish article in Journal of Park & Recreation Administration

Anna Therien, class of 2020

Westfield State University alumna Anna Therien ’20, and Professors Robert S. Bristow, Ph.D., and Timothy LeDoux, Ph.D., had an article published for a special issue of the Journal of Park and Recreation Administration titled “Innovative Methodologies in Park and Recreation Management Applying LiDAR for Parks and Protected Area Management.” The article details the use of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) remote sensing to assist park managers in the planning and overseeing of the land and to learn about local history.  

“Park management is concerned with trails, campsites, wildlife, forest health, and the natural environment,” said Dr. Bristow, professor of geography, planning, and sustainability (GPS). “I’m fascinated with the cultural environment found in parks and protected areas. When I’m hiking in the woods and I come across an old cellar hole, I want to know more about who lived there, what kind of business was there.”  

Therien and Dr. Bristow published an article in North America Archaeologist in August 2019 titled “Discovering archaeological landscapes in parks and protected areas.” Therien wanted to address a local project and follow her research interests in geospatial environmental analysis for parks and protected areas. Therefore, she and Dr. Bristow collaborated with Dr. LeDoux, assistant professor of GPS, to research and write a second article that focuses on technology.  

LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that enables the user to see what is under the tree canopy or clouds by shooting pulses of light thousands of times a second from an aircraft to objects on Earth’s surface. When the signal reflects, the return time and intensity are measured by the sensors’ interactions with objects on the surface like walls, cellars, and foundations. This information is combined with other data recorded on the aircraft such as altitude and aircraft orientation to create three-dimensional information about features on the ground which are then used to create high-resolution images. The features usually hidden under tree canopies or clouds are measured down to the centimeter. The result is an incredibly precise measurement that can be manipulated in GIS mapping software.  


December 14, 2020 - Virtual Photography Exhibition

Virtual Photography Exhibition features the work of Paul Bloomfield's Introduction to Photography class

This Photography Exhibition features Paul Bloomfield’s class, Introduction to Photography.  The student work is very inventive.  It is compelling and sparks an interest as to what may be next.  Congratulations to Paul and his class for exploring the unknown in a unique way.

The exhibition may be seen here.

Photography Art Image Gallery

December 4, 2020 - Fall 2020 CURCA Celebration

CURCA Celebration Flyer December 2020

On behalf of the CURCA committee, it is an honor to announce our Fall 2020 CURCA Celebration this Friday Dec. 4.  This event is asynchronous and features an opening ceremony of original poetry readers, welcome messages, Wall of Words, and over a hundred original student-presentations from all three Colleges. We are especially excited by the equal contributions from all three Colleges, a true credit to an institution-wide commitment to student applied experiences. Despite the challenging climate and disruptions of Covid-19, students, with the help of their faculty mentors, created some impressive and creative original work! An electronic CURCA Celebration booklet listing the student presenters can be found here.

The Biology Conference schedule can be found here.

November 24, 2020 - Regional Planning Major Kareem Wedderburn and Westfield alumnus Bud Williams, 1973

We recognize first-year Regional Planning major Kareem Wedderburn for receiving the Springfield Museums' prestigious Ahadi Youth Award for 2020.

Kareem Wedderburn (2024) and Bud Williams (1973)
State Rep. Bud Williams and First Year Student Kareem Wedderburn
State Representative Bud Williams (left) and first year student Kareem Wedderburn (right)

Here's the story, in case you missed it...

Kareem was honored alongside State Representative Bud Williams, a 1973 Westfield Grad, recipient of the Ubora Award.


November 23, 2020 - Westfield State University students launch campaign to benefit Children’s Advocacy Center program

Children's Advocacy Center of Hampshire County logo

Westfield State University public relations students are launching a social media campaign next week that is focused on a pledge to enhance community awareness of online sexual exploitation and human trafficking, and will also raise money for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Hampshire County’s CSEC Program (Commercial Exploitation of Children).

Called Behind the Screen, the virtual campaign will be held Dec. 1–8 via Facebook and Instagram. The money raised from the campaign will be donated to the CSEC program to buy gift cards for basic needs that will be given to the victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking who receive services through the program. Campaign participants will take a pledge to educate themselves on child abuse and child exploitation.

Taught by Professor Suzanne Boniface, Westfield State’s Advanced Public Relations course students will host an online Bingo game as part of the campaign, and it will feature prizes such as a Yeti cooler, Apple AirPods, and much more. This will take place on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #behindthescreenCSEC. Professor Boniface’s students will coordinate and manage content and engagement on the social media platforms.

“Under Civic Engagement at Westfield State University, the Advanced Public Relations students are working to bring awareness in our community to the disturbing trend of sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children,” said Boniface. “The WSU students are working diligently on this campaign to bring a better understanding of these issues to the public, let others know that there is help out there, and to raise funds for victims who have suffered under these circumstances. In turn, the students are learning about social justice and how to address it within their field of study.” 

October 20, 2020 - Westfield State alumnus Jarrod Petersen ’19, professor publish paper in Journal of Experimental Biology

Westfield State University alumnus Jarrod Petersen ’19 and Assistant Professor of Biology Jason Ramsay, Ph.D., recently had a paper titled “Walking on chains: the morphology and mechanics behind the fin ray derived limbs of sea-robins,” published in the September 28, 2020, issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Their research revealed that the design of sea-robin limbs may have practical applications in the development of human limb prosthetics. “The remaining muscles from an amputated leg, which are typically close to the trunk of the body, may be able to power a prosthetic limb build like a sea-robin limb,” said Dr. Ramsay.

“We have known for centuries that sea-robins had these small limbs for walking. It was also known that the limbs were modified fin rays. What we did not know was how such multi-jointed, flexible structures were capable of being used as limbs. It seemed counterintuitive. We now know what features are required for this ability and can use those data in comparisons of other living species and fossil species to get a better idea of when these modifications first arose in the evolutionary history of sea-robins.”

The Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB) is the leading primary research journal in comparative physiology and is published by The Company of Biologists, a not-for-profit publishing organization dedicated to supporting and inspiring the biological community.

Dr. Ramsay served as a mentor and faculty advisor for Petersen’s senior honors thesis. “He suggested the sea-robin project, something of personal interest,” Petersen explained. “He thought it might bridge his interests with fish morphology and my clinical interest.”

A North Attleboro native, Petersen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology from Westfield State in 2019 and distinction as a recipient of the Westfield State President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Brown University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

October 8, 2020 - Westfield State University students teach urban planning to local Boys and Girls Club participants

Westfield State University Regional Planning students

Westfield State University students are teaching local children about urban planning, thanks to a new collaboration between its Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability (GPS) and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield. 

Called GPS Kids, the ongoing program was developed during the fall 2019 semester out of a Westfield State regional planning course called “Unjust City,” taught by Alina T. Gross, Ph.D., assistant professor of Geography, Planning and Sustainability, who has a history of involvement with diversity and social equity issues. In the course, 20 students learned about community engagement and studied equity issues in urban planning, such as the exclusion of historically marginalized groups.  

“So, we started discussing this,” said Dr. Gross, “and we established that kids have been historically marginalized in the planning process.”  

She connected with Kellie Brown, the Boys and Girls Club’s director of operations, and the partnership took off.  

“Working with the students from Westfield State has been a pleasure,” said Brown. “Their dedication to our club members has been a heartwarming experience. You could see the admiration the kids had for these college students, who took time out of their busy days to make a difference in their lives.” 

October 7, 2020 - Westfield State alumnus Nicholas Taliceo ’16 and professor co-author article to be published in Mathematics Magazine

Westfield State University alumnus Nicholas Taliceo ’16 and Professor of Mathematics Julian F. Fleron, Ph.D., recently had a paper titled “A Prime Example of the Strong Law of Small Numbers,” accepted for publication in Mathematics Magazine.

The peer-reviewed journal has been an international publication of the Mathematical Association of America, one of the largest societies of mathematicians, since 1947.

The two authors worked together and based the article partly on Taliceo’s senior honors thesis, titled Intercardinal Adjacencies: A New Landscape Metric. Dr. Fleron was the faculty advisor for the project.

“I did this work in the context of being a teacher and a mathematician,” he said. “Much of my career has focused on helping people find healthier perceptions of mathematics.”

A resident of Agawam, Taliceo graduated from Westfield State in 2016 with a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and the distinction of Commonwealth Honors Scholar, the highest academic distinction awarded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He earned a master’s degree in geospatial information sciences from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2018.

“This project, along with the first mathematics course I was enrolled in at Westfield State, inspired me to become a mathematics major,” said Taliceo, “and so began my lifelong passion and curiosity for mathematics.”

August 24, 2020 - Westfield Alumus Carmen Garner, Class of 2001

Carmen Garner and son

Carmen Garner, a Westfield State University and Urban Education Program alum from 2001, was featured on NBC Nightly News. The segment showcased Carmen’s non-profit, Inner City Anglers, which shows Black kids from the inner city they matter through the sport of fishing. Carmen’s organization was also recently highlighted in the Washington Post.

We continue to be proud of Carmen’s dedication to improving the lives of young people by giving back to his community.

Academic Year 2019 - 2020: Academic Activities and Events

May 1, 2020 - Westfield State University senior Carly Thibodeau

Westfield State University senior Carly Thibodeau receives ‘29 Who Shine’ award

President Torrecilha and Carly Thidodeau

Westfield State University senior Carly Thibodeau of Mendon, Mass., has been recognized as the University’s 29 Who Shine award recipient for 2020. These awards are typically presented annually by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education to 29 graduates throughout the Commonwealth who exemplify the values of community service and academic experience. Each recipient attends a Massachusetts community college, state university, or University of Massachusetts institution and is nominated by a faculty or staff member.

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, this year’s ceremony, scheduled at the State House in Boston, was canceled. Westfield State chose to honor its nominee separately, as Thibodeau’s accomplishment was recognized by the Westfield State University Board of Trustees at its quarterly meeting, held virtually April 30.

An economics and environmental science major with a 4.0 cumulative grade point average, Thibodeau is a recipient of the Westfield State University President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership and completed a senior honors thesis titled “Consumer Preferences for Sustainable Certification in Costa Rica’s Tourism Industry.”

Her involvement and leadership on campus included serving as captain of the women’s swimming and diving team, president of the University’s student ambassadors, an assistant in the Office of Student Affairs, a tutor for the Banacos Academic Center, and a lifeguard at the University’s pool.

May 1, 2020 - Spring 2020 Virtual CURCA Celebration

The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity is pleased to share the news of the Spring 2020 Virtual CURCA Celebration. You can find an electronic CURCA abstract booklet here, containing descriptions of the presentations, posters, and videos showcasing the impressive work of Westfield State University students.

The fact that so many students are participating is a true testament to the motivation, talent, and persistence of our students under incredibly challenging circumstances. We invite you to explore projects within and distant from your field, and appreciate the process that led to the culmination of many weeks and, in some cases, months of work. 

CURCA Celebration Poster 2020

April 4, 2020 - Westfield State students to raise money, awareness for Jewish Family Services

Westfield State students to raise money, awareness for JFS via Virtual Bingo on social media

Amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, members Westfield State University’s Advanced Public Relations course are learning to adapt by using social media to raise money for Jewish Family Services (JFS), a local non-profit which aids in refugee resettlement through its New American Program. The Baby Bingo Bash campaign consists of a virtual Bingo game that will be posted on Instagram @baby_bingo_bash and Facebook, as Baby Bingo Bash. The game will take place from Monday, April 27 to Tuesday, April 28.

Unlike the many other Bingo boards circulating around social media, this one will feature real prizes. The winners will be announced Wednesday, April 30, and prizes—such as a Yeti cooler—will be shipped to the winners. There will also be a Facebook fundraiser.

The New American Program works to resettle refugees from around the world to the Springfield community, with the belief that healing the world includes helping those fleeing political or religious persecution. The Baby Bingo Bash Campaign hopes to bring awareness to the needs of refugees in our area, particularly during the pandemic. The money will go toward New Baby Kits, which provide essentials, such as diapers, formula, clothing, first aid kits, and more.

Those preferring to donate to the program without participating in the Bingo game may do so at

February 10, 2020 - Westfield State University student Madeleine Hebert

Westfield State University student earns national honor at college theater festival

Theatre Arts student Madeleine Hebert

Westfield State University senior Madeleine Hebert was among 125 outstanding theater students nationwide selected at the Region 1 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) to represent this region April 6-10 at the KCACTF National Festival 2020 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington D.C. There, she will present her work to some of the industry’s top designers while meeting and networking with other regional facilities and attending productions at professional theaters in the nation’s capital.

Hebert, a Framingham native majoring in design and technology theater arts, was among 21 Westfield State students who attended the Region 1 KCACTF Jan. 29–Feb. 2 in West Barnstable, Mass., where they participated in competitions for acting, musical theater, directing, and design technology, as well as a job fair and open auditions for New England’s summer theater programs.

KCACTF’s Region 1 is comprised of colleges and universities in New England and eastern New York.  

“I am thrilled,” Hebert said. “I am so excited to return to D.C. for lighting, which is my passion. I cannot wait to grow and learn from the other finalists and mentors. KCACTF has reminded me that I love creating and working on this art form, and I look forward to trying to do it for the rest of my life.”

Hebert also received the KCACTF/Barbizon Award for Excellence in Lighting for her lighting design for the spring 2019 Westfield State Theatre Arts Program’s production of “The Tempest.” In addition, Hebert won a scholarship to attend The Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, Nev., a one-of-a-kind intensive training program for students from around the world to meet, learn from, and network with leading experts in live entertainment.

“Maddy’s growth as a theater artist has been recognized by professionals from regional theaters and New York City,” said James McNamara, Westfield State University associate professor of lighting and sound design. “Few students have presented their work on a national level, and we are incredibly proud to have Maddy represent a small focused undergraduate B.A. Theater Arts Program alongside major bachelor and master of fine arts programs.” McNamara described Hebert as a passionate, talented, and driven student.