Westfield State University names new interim president


WESTFIELD -- The Westfield State University Board of Trustees unanimously appointed on Monday Elizabeth "Liz" Hall Preston as interim president of Westfield State University.

The appointment was effective immediately, as Preston takes the place of recently resigned president and Pittsfield resident, Evan S. Dobelle.

According to MassLive.com, the trustees "took no action and made no comment" Monday on a report the board reviewed detailing Dobelle's spending habits, which prompted an investigation at the institution.

Preston has served as acting president since Dobelle left on Nov. 8.

From January 2011 to present, Preston served as Westfield's vice president of academic affairs (VPAA), the second-highest ranking leadership position at the university from which she has stepped down to assume service as interim president until a permanent successor is named. The trustees' action will require ratification from the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education.

"Liz Preston is a true servant-leader. She has come up through the ranks as a faculty member and administrator who is widely regarded as a consensus builder," said John Flynn, chair, Westfield State University Board of Trustees. "She understands Westfield State and the Massachusetts state university system and her skills will not only keep us on course but will enable us to move forward as an institution."

As VPAA, Preston was chief academic officer responsible for providing leadership and oversight of the university's academic departments and programs. This includes program review and improvement, accreditation and self-evaluation, assessment of student learning and advancement of student success, academic personnel decisions, budget development, fiscal accountability, program and curriculum development, and faculty support.

"Westfield State has an extremely long and proud history of which I am honored to be a part," said Preston. "I look forward to supporting the faculty, staff, and students as this new chapter in our history begins."

Her 24-year academic career at Westfield State includes faculty, administrative, and service positions. Most recently, prior to serving as VPAA, Preston was dean of faculty from 2008-2012. She is a full-tenured professor in Westfield State's Department of Communication and served three terms as department chairperson from 1995-2008.

The university itself is currently celebrating its 175th anniversary.

Preston will begin her appointment with funding in place for several important projects:

· Performance Incentive Fund (PIF) grant of $97,762 will support year-two work to develop the Institute for Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement.

· A second, new PIF grant of $97,682 will fund the first year of a three-year plan to jump-start a comprehensive, data-driven student retention initiative.

· A $124,892 internship incentive challenge grant from state, the legislature and the Dept. of Higher Education will support more student internships. Westfield State Foundation Director Mike Knapik and the advancement team have prioritized raising the matching funds this spring.

· $2 million appropriated for design work on the new Science Center has been released, and the university remains on track for groundbreaking in September 2014.

Preston holds both a doctorate and a master's degree in communication from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She graduated cum laude with departmental honors with a bachelor of arts degree in English from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. She is the author of numerous publications, papers, and presentations in the area of media literacy and the cultural impact of advertising.

To learn more about Preston's appointment and the university, visit westfield.ma.edu.


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