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Kara Kapinos '87/G'89 Happy to Call Western New England Home for Her and Her Family

By Kenneth Stratton '19 THURSDAY, JUNE 6, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

To many, the completion of a bachelor’s degree is the end of their college experience. But for one graduate of Western New England College, that was only the beginning – though it would lead to a very different role on campus.

Kara Kapinos, assistant dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Business, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Western New England in 1987, and has been serving the University for much of her professional life.

“People call me the bad penny, because I keep coming back,” Kapinos laughed, reflecting on her over thirty years of service at Western New England. That first decision came as graduation approached in ’87.

Having enjoyed her undergraduate experience, Kapinos was involved on campus as President of the Management Association, a Eucharistic Minister, and a Student Ambassador among other roles. She decided to stay at Western New England – at least for a little while longer – to pursue her Master of Business Association degree.

Upon the completion of her M.B.A., Kapinos stayed on at Western New England, working in the Office of Alumni Relations until 1994. After that, she left Western New England behind for UMass Amherst…at least for the time being.

“I was there during the time when the Isenberg’s named the school,” Kapinos said, speaking of the Isenberg School of Management established at UMass Amherst. Kapinos enjoyed working with Eugene and Ronnie Isenberg on that project, but soon, Western New England called her home.

A position as Director Alumni Relations opened up at Western New England in 1998, and Kapinos quickly jumped on the opportunity to return to campus. Kapinos would spend the next nine years with Alumni Relations, responsible for building greater connections between the College and its alumni.

“It was my hope that we would establish something that would have a lasting impact on the student experience,” Kapinos said. And she accomplished that by establishing the Alumni Grants program.

“I really wanted that to be where alumni could give back to students or organizations and opportunities so that alumni would be ever present to the community in saying, ‘hey, we’re here for you,’” the Dean concluded.

Among Kapinos’s other favorite memories while working in Alumni Relations was a ceremony held in 2001, where honorary degrees were presented to alumni who graduated from Northeastern-Springfield before the institution became known as Western New England in 1951.

Another decision had to be made as 2007 approached: what Kapinos’s future was going to look like.

“I wasn’t sure after the alumni office, what my path was going to be…but I knew I wanted to do something with students,” Kapinos recalled, a sentiment she felt already once before, when she left Alumni Relations for the first time in '94.

But anyone who thought the “bad penny” was going to leave Western New England was wrong. She turned up in a new, albeit familiar place: the College of Business.

The move again gave Kapinos the opportunity to spend time with students and do administrative work. Kapinos became the assistant dean for undergraduate students in 2015.

“I’m not an academic, I’m just a manager…it just happened,” Kapinos laughed. While it might have come as a surprise at the time, Kapinos has enjoyed the role, and it gave her something in common with her mother, who was once the dean of business at Holyoke Community College.

But, the legacy parallels don’t end there. Kapinos’s father also attended Western New England while active as a state trooper, graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement in 1974. One final interesting parallel is that today, Kapinos is married to the University’s Director of Public Safety, Adam Woodrow.

“Education and law enforcement are huge in our family,” Kapinos said. “And it’s really neat to work where your spouse works,” the Dean added. She and Woodrow, in their two very different roles on campus, often put their heads together on University issues, bringing together different perspectives on college life. Both jobs are demanding, but being together at Western New England, she says the two understand the environment and what is asked of them as important figures on campus.

“I love what I do here, I love everything about working in the College of Business,” Kapinos said, adding that it really “has her heartstrings.” Kapinos explained that she particularly enjoys working with the Dean of the College of Business, Robert Kleine, who joined the University in 2016.

“He challenges me,” Kapinos said with a smile. “I really share his vision that we want to be a destination College of Business. We want to make clear to students…that we have unique programs you can’t quite get at a smaller university,” she explained.

Having been a part of the University in one way or another for over thirty years, Kapinos has seen a lot of changes to the school that what was once called “the best kept secret on Wilbraham Road.”

The Western New England name has gone international – and of course even changed from “College,” to “University.” The school has grown from a small commuter campus to a thriving institution with a large residential community. The library has moved out of Churchill Hall, and the College of Business has moved in.

As an undergraduate, the Dean had actually begun her studies at Simmons College in Boston, but quickly made a change.

“It just didn’t feel like a home for me,” Kapinos explained, thinking of her time at Simmons. She decided to give Western New England a try, and knew immediately, “it felt really good here.”

Even amid all its changes over the years, Kapinos still feels the same about Western New England, a place that has become a home for her and her family.