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Office of the President

Dr. Robert E. Johnson

I am so pleased to join Western New England University as its sixth president. I am grateful, too, for the warm welcome that my wife, Michelle, and I received from the entire Golden Bear Family. I made the right decision in choosing to lead this great institution as it embarks on its second century.

First, I commend everyone from across campus who worked together to deliver a safe and successful semester opening. Their commitment to WNE and care for each other and our students shone through—evidenced by the many heartwarming interactions with students and families during move-in week. Given the anxiety-inducing nature of these COVID-19 times, this is gratifying and speaks to the core community values at the heart of Western New England University.

These are uniquely challenging times for all of us—WNE, the higher education sector, our nation, and our world. Students, families, faculty, and staff have faced the stress of a global health crisis and commensurate economic uncertainty.

Yet now is the time for possibility thinking as we take a hard look at how best to prepare our students to navigate career paths yet to be imagined. Like our students, I chose Western New England University because I believe it is a place of unlimited possibility.

This is not a time to settle for the status quo, to slow our momentum forward, or to let the challenges of today deter us from providing our students with both the content and context to build successful careers and lives of meaning and purpose.

This University was founded 1919 as the world was emerging from another pandemic. Its mission, then and now, was to help hardworking, ambitious students improve their lives through the transformative power of higher education.

As we embark on our second century, WNE’s reach has grown far beyond what its founders may have ever dreamed. We are no longer a regional player, but classified among nationally ranked universities in US News and World Report. The scope and breadth of our 90 academic programs has positioned us within the prestigious Doctoral/Professional Universities category in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. And more than 44,000 alumni around the globe proudly call themselves Golden Bears.

In our supportive and welcoming community, WNE offers our students real value—today and for the long run. That is why among students who receive federal financial aid, WNE is #5 in the nation and #1 in Massachusetts in preparing graduates who get jobs. What’s more, 10 years after graduating, our alumni earn an average of $6,916 a year more than 80% of the other institutions where our applicants typically consider enrolling.

In our global society, our nation, and within our communities, we are faced with a confluence of crises unlike any we have seen before. That is why we must ready our students—across all disciplines—to view the world through the lens of an entrepreneurial mindset. In an age where the average Gen Z student may hold 17 jobs in the span of their careers, we must equip them with the soft skills prized by employers—divergent thinking skills, social and emotional intelligence, empathy, and a sense of humanity. These uniquely human capacities cannot be replicated by technology and, when paired with an entrepreneurial outlook and a value-creation orientation, are the hallmarks of success in a complex and hyper-connected world.

Western New England University has the programs, size, capacity—and above all the dedicated people—to pivot to meet our challenges both internal and external and to emerge stronger as a model of 21st century teaching and learning.

At Western New England University, it is our to time to lead, to innovate, and to inspire. The actions we take today, at one of the most transformative times in history, will determine the tenor and shape of our future.

With gratitude,

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.