Individual donors and partner organizations are propelling WCU students to greater success. Discover the latest happenings from across our Foundation’s initiatives.
Santander Bank’s $50K Supports WCU’s First-Generation Students and Entrepreneurship
In a difficult year for everyone, Santander Bank has made things easier for West Chester University’s first-generation students by providing $50,000 for several programs that give the students real-world business experience while bolstering local commerce.
WCU juniors and seniors who are among the first in their families to attend college are eligible for three-credit Santander internships that, this year, supported the Chester County’s Covid-19 response as well as local startups, small businesses, and non-profits. Students completed their internships in the summer or fall of 2020.
Pattie Diggin directs WCU’s Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center and is administering the Santander programs, which align with the University’s entrepreneurship programming and education.
“Thanks to Santander’s generosity, we are able to match first-generation students eager to put their classroom knowledge into action with small businesses that have need of their skills,” said Diggin. “Students have an opportunity to learn what is needed to start and develop a new business or venture.”
“Santander believes that education can be transformational for future generations, as well as the future of our communities and economies,” said Seth Goodall, Executive Director, Corporate Social Responsibility at Santander Bank. “We are proud of our partnership with West Chester University. Together, we enable collaboration between first generation college students and small local businesses during a time when innovation and technical assistance are critical. We look forward to seeing the success of these students and businesses for years to come.”
All of the Santander internships supported business in Chester County. For example, these three first-generation WCU students demonstrate the local and regional impact: Ruth Agbokah (West Chester, PA), Gabriella Velazquez (East Stroudsburg, PA), and Eduardo Franco (Kennett Square, PA).
Senior marketing major Ruth Agbokah completed a Santander marketing internship this fall with the West Chester Business Improvement District (BID). She completed several marketing projects and was included in virtual board and committee meetings.
One of her projects was updating Google business profiles for local businesses. Agbokah contacted the companies’ owners and discussed with them how and what information to update. Talking with entrepreneurs and business owners helped her improve her communication skills, she noted, admitting that she is quite shy.
To assist retailers during the pandemic-related closure of Gay Street, she used skills from her business GIS minor to develop a map of parking locations. She found her marketing coursework essential to creating materials and flyers for Halloween promotions and Small Business Saturday, for which she helped design a shopping bag.
“Small business is the foundation of our town,” said Agbokah. “I grew up in West Chester and want to give back to my community.”
Agbokah also worked with the West Chester Public Library to promote a “storybook tour” that took children and their adults on a walk through West Chester’s uptown in September. Families were encouraged to read a story together by following a map to the 14 retail locations where individual pages from the picture book were displayed in the window. Foot traffic to those businesses increased and feedback from families was positive. West Chester Borough Mayor Dianne Herrin also supported the Story Walk.
“This internship was the first time I was able to apply what I learn in my marketing courses to a real world situation. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity.”
Agbokah says she walked her hometown and saw it in a different light, thanks to her experience behind the scenes with the BID.
As the undergraduate assistant for the University’s Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center, Gabriella Velazquez says she already has “strong ties to entrepreneurship.”
This fall, Velazquez conducted census outreach in Coatesville as an intern with entrepreneur Chaya Scott, a community leader in Coatesville and owner of Chaya Scott Consulting, LLC. Her role was to conduct research into the reasons why certain people did or did not complete the U.S. Census; compile and present the results; create marketing plans to encourage completion of the census by specific populations; and execute some of those strategies.
In addition to contacting Coatesville community organizations such as the library, churches, and the local League of Women Voters, she reached out to her WCU peers through student organization leaders, although the virtual environment “made it difficult to directly connect with some people.”
A senior marketing major, Velazquez found her classwork in “marketing research and social media particularly relevant. The social media pages I created on behalf of the Coatesville census initiative gained 200 followers.”
Velazquez volunteers with SCORE, is president of the campus chapter of the American Marketing Association, and is on track to enter WCU’s MBA program after graduation in May. She appreciates the value of “corporations that exhibit a strong commitment to serve the community – like Santander.”
At the beginning of his internship with RestoreChesterCounty.org, the Chester County commissioners’ online resource to assist the community in the pandemic reopening process, Eduardo Franco was putting in 20 to 30 hours a week creating the Spanish-language version of the site’s pages and documents. His supervisor, Ernie Holling, who leads the Covid-19 Business Task Force and is executive director of the Chester County Association of Township Officials, noted, “We had to ensure when we built it bilingually that everything was idiomatically correct for the Chester County population.”
And it had to be done in only eight days.
Holling said Franco delivered, providing accurate translations of CDC and Pennsylvania health guidelines, toolkits for both businesses/organizations and residents, plus toolkits for 21 community sectors including construction, nonprofits, real estate, and transportation. Franco collaborated via Zoom and phone with an intern from Villanova on the initial work and on subsequent updates.
“I enjoyed being able to contribute to local businesses’ success and know that my impact is beneficial,” Franco said.
An accounting/marketing double major due to graduate in May 2021, Franco interned from mid-May to the end of August. Like many students, he had work experience in retail, restaurants, landscaping, and the like, not in an office. That made the shift to a completely virtual environment for both school and the internship “jarring,” he said, and his collaborative experience on the Covid-19 Business Task Force all the more valuable for the connections it offered.
“I really appreciate getting hands-on experience with successful business leaders and learning from their inspiration in a team setting,” he said. “I learned more about business strategies: formulating ideas and implementing them and using caution before executing them.”
In addition to the internships, Santander’s funding also makes it possible for WCU to provide first-generation students scholarships and funding for a fellowship program, a business plan competition, and micro-grants.
An initiative of Santander Bank, Santander Universities supports universities and students around the world to prosper, focusing on education, entrepreneurship, and employment.
About Santander Bank
Santander Bank, N.A. is one of the country’s largest retail and commercial banks with $89.5 billion in assets. With its corporate offices in Boston, the Bank’s 9,100 employees, 575 branches, more than 2,000 ATMs and more than 2.1 million customers are principally located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Madrid-based Banco Santander, S.A. (NYSE: SAN) – one of the most respected banking groups in the world with more than 147 million customers in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. It is overseen by Santander Holdings USA, Inc., Banco Santander’s intermediate holding company in the U.S. For more information on Santander Bank, please visit www.santanderbank.com.
WCU Hoists Final Steam Beam on SECC
At the threshold of its 150th anniversary year, West Chester University has hoisted the last steel beam needed to “top off” the framing of The Sciences & Engineering Center and The Commons, the newest and largest building in the University’s 149-year history currently under construction. President Fiorentino recently visited the campus construction site, located directly across from WCU’s Student Recreation Center along 275 North Campus Drive in West Chester, to sign the 12″ high x 39′ long beam prior to its lift and lofty placement. The project’s lead benefactors joined him to mark the historic moment and sign the beam: Founder, President, and CEO of ProMetrics Marc Duey, who gifted $1 million on behalf of the Duey family; Student Services, Incorporated (SSI) Chair of the Board of Directors Bernie Carrozza ‘66, representing SSI and its gift of $1 million; and West Chester University Alumni Association (WCUAA) President Bill Scottoline ‘74, representing WCUAA and its gift of $150,000.
Known traditionally as a formal “topping off” ceremony, the longstanding construction custom commemorates the completion of a building’s framing phase. Painted “West Chester University gold” and bearing the University’s 150th anniversary logo, the beam is the outer-most and highest beam in the NW corner of the facility.
The building’s construction is especially timely, as STEM students are needed now more than ever to help advance and heal the world in which we live. “Digital convergence, artificial intelligence, and advanced engineering design will make our students engage like never before and open a gateway to integrating across disciplines to present eloquent solutions to the vexing challenges of today, like COVID-19, and of tomorrow,” said Marc Duey, founder of numerous health care companies, including West Chester Biomedical AI, LLC; ProMetrics, Inc.; Atrin Pharmaceuticals; Felicitex Therapeutics, Inc.; and TarMeta Biosciences.
Upon completion in the spring of 2021, the new $130-million facility will be home to the University’s rapidly growing health science curricula, physics, and the new biomedical engineering program, as well as expansive academic and support spaces.
“For the SSI family the new facility epitomizes and captures the essence of our mission – putting students first,” said Student Services Incorporated Board President Bernard J. Carrozza ’66. “SSI would like to commend all of the partners who had the vision to provide and the future to create. It is not just about stone and steel, it is about students and stability, students and opportunity, students and their specialness…”
President Fiorentino reinforced the University’s unyielding commitment to students despite the enormity of a global interruption. “In a year that has been nothing short of a roller coaster for our University and our world, today is both a highlight and a triumph,” remarked President Fiorentino. “At West Chester University, nothing — not even a pandemic — will ever stand in the way of our mission of advancing student success. The Sciences & Engineering Center and the Commons will be an educational game-changer for students in the sciences, as well as for the entire campus community. Thank you to everyone who played a part in making this dream a reality.
Recognizing that meaningful connections happen in a variety of settings, the facility will also feature a Commons, a welcoming and stimulating environment for students to gather, eat, and work. The 800-seat residential dining facility will encompass more than 16,000 square feet of the building’s entire second floor. An intentional and progressive design will encourage students to use the facility as a third space and an exciting location to meet, get a healthy meal between classes, and engage in other formative, non-academic activities.
In addition to serving students’ academic and co-curricular needs, the building will also include a 450-car parking garage.
SECC Project Benefactors
The three-story facility is being built with the initial support of two critical leadership gifts. Founder, President, and CEO of ProMetrics Marc Duey, also an adjunct professor at the University teaching in the Marketing Department and the Pharmaceutical Product Development Program, in association with the Duey family, made a generous gift of $1 million toward the important project. ProMetrics serves the decision support needs of specialty biopharma executives with a focus on patient-level data impacting prescription efficiency. Under the direction of Mr. Duey, ProMetrics has served over 150 clients, completed more than 10,000 projects, and played a role in the launch of dozens of specialty brands that have reached sales in excess of one-billion dollars per year.
Student Services, Incorporated (SSI), also made a generous gift of $1 million to the project, thanks to Student Services, Incorporated Chair of the Board of Directors Bernie Carrozza. Student Services, Incorporated is a not-for-profit organization designed to serve the students of West Chester University. SSI is committed to WCU students and stands ready to ensure that they have whatever they need to meet their academic goals. The objective of the corporation is to initiate, regulate, and operate the financial matters of the University’s co-curricular student activities.
The West Chester University Alumni Association also contributed significantly to the building project with a generous donation of $150,000.
“At a time when West Chester University enrolls more than 4,000 STEM majors, Marc and Maureen Duey; Student Services, Incorporated; and the West Chester University Alumni Association are investing in the next generation of WCU graduates who will enhance our region and our world as innovative engineers, nurses, nutritionists, physicists, public health professionals, and scientists,” said West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino at the facility’s groundbreaking ceremony on April 27, 2019. “All of us are grateful to these generous benefactors who are creating new possibilities and great opportunities for an increasing number of WCU students who are dedicated to preparing themselves for high-performance careers that will make a considerable difference to many.”
Lenovo’s Gift of Laptops Benefits Promise Program Students
As the pandemic shuttered businesses and higher education in March, West Chester University students who lacked technology did not lack support. While staff in WCU Information Services and Technologies (IS&T) rallied resources – and their own determination – to ensure students could continue their courses remotely, the West Chester University Foundation was addressing needs from behind the scenes.
One of the early success stories involves nearly $20,000 in laptops donated by Lenovo through initial dialogue with Teresa Hudson, director of IS&T’s Educational Technologies & User Services. The IS&T Help Desk team was able to quickly configure and get these laptops to WCU students in need so that they could continue their coursework remotely. WCU proudly recognizes Lenovo for donating 26 laptops to students in the University’s Promise Program, which supports unaccompanied homeless and foster youth.
As WCU’s Single Point of Contact for unaccompanied foster and homeless youth, Tori Nuccio, interim associate director of Financial Aid, said that within a week of announcing the move to alternate modes of instruction, “We distributed some of these laptops to students who did not have their own computers. The Promise Program is extremely grateful to Lenovo and the team in IS&T who was able to set these laptops up for student use before our transition to remote work.”
The donation was coordinated through the WCU Foundation. Helen Hammerschmidt, director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for the foundation, cited the huge impact this collaboration offers the University’s most vulnerable students and said the donation came at a time “when so many of our students are in need of critical technology to stay on track with their education. Shining a light on this donation elevates not just Lenovo’s commitment to social responsibility, but also the plight of students across the country who lack the basic necessities we all take for granted.”
David Hamilton, Lenovo’s public relations lead, North America, noted that Lenovo’s inspiration to support the WCU Promise Program arose from the company’s commitment “to increasing access to opportunity by providing smarter technology to all. The students served through the Promise Program have faced significant adversity. We hope the technology provided will help them further their educational goals.”
Lenovo is a Fortune Global 500 company with 57,000 employees and operating in 180 markets around the world. Focused on a bold vision to deliver smarter technology for all, we are developing world-changing technologies that create a more inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable digital society. By designing, engineering and building the world’s most complete portfolio of smart devices and infrastructure, they are also leading an intelligent transformation to create better experiences and opportunities for millions of customers around the world.
Lenovo Foundation and Community Relations invests in advancing STEM Education programs, increasing access to opportunity for diverse populations, and empowering employees to improve global communities.
For an additional look at how businesses have helped our students adapt during the pandemic, as well as ways the University is helping the community, visit WCU’s Business and Community Partners web page.
Working Together: WCU & the Chester County Community
As neighbors help neighbors all across the nation, communities continue to lift the human spirit by working together in ways, great and small, to defy the impacts of COVID-19. Evidence of this could not be more apparent than in the numerous partnerships, acts of kindness, and goodwill that have been generated by the many faculty, students, staff, and alumni of West Chester University. Reaching deep into Chester County and beyond, the University’s community of educators has joined forces to act as a resource for area citizens, as well as a mighty collective that has welcomed rolling-up its sleeves to help in whatever way it can.
The West Chester University Foundation has just released a communication to businesses, community partners, and the University community that details the numerous ways that WCU is working actively to help its neighbors and friends during this unprecedented time. From sending healthy snacks to Chester County Hospital to promoting local restaurants that are open for delivery/takeout to helping children in the community to everything in between, WCU has joined many in Chester County in order to make a difference.
Providing valuable WCU resources has been a critical component of this ongoing effort. Now more than ever, businesses located in the University’s backyard need boots-on-the-ground to help them survive in today’s unsettling environment and thrive in tomorrow’s changed workplace. The examples are as diverse as they are many and include WCU’s School of Business offering free marketing support from senior marketing majors to area businesses impacted by the global health crisis; the Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center providing free summer virtual interns for startups and small businesses; the Twardowski Career Development Center continuing to support business’ brand presence within the WCU community through opportunities like virtual mock interviews, virtual resume reviews, and general information sessions; and the growing list continues.
“Keeping everyone in our community safe, while supporting the success of our students, remains a priority,” said West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino. “I could not be more proud of the people who comprise this University and make WCU what it is every day. Our community’s desire to come together, act, and respond in intentional ways is fueled by the fact that we welcome challenges. We welcome being a catalyst. We welcome being a partner that can be relied upon.”
“As a critical anchor institution in the region that contributes more than $500 million in economic impact and with a community of students and faculty that approaches 20,000 people, WCU is here for you to be a resource as you navigate the uncharted waters ahead,” stated WCU Foundation CEO Christopher Mominey and Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations Helen Hammerschmidt in a joint letter to partners in the community.
$114,023 Raised for Student Emergency Aid Fund
Celebrating student excellence each year, West Chester University’s Presidential Scholarship Community Gala draws more than 400 friends from the Commonwealth to an annual benefit designed to fund Presidential Scholarships for WCU students who have earned academic distinction. Like many events in the nation this year, however, the spring 2020 scholarship gala was cancelled due to a global pandemic that has prompted the necessity to practice social distancing and limit public gatherings. Upon hearing the financial challenges that students and their families continue to experience due to the COVID-19 outbreak, numerous sponsors of the gala have made the decision to redirect their gifts to a Student Emergency Aid Fund that has been explicitly established to help students who have been impacted directly by the global health crisis. To date, $114,023 has been given by generous community partners and individuals to the essential-need Fund launched by the WCU Foundation.
“Scholarship assistance, housing, food, basic goods, and services—countless avenues of support for our students are required at this critical time,” wrote WCU Foundation CEO Christopher Mominey in a letter to alumni and other friends of the University. “The WCU Foundation, in collaboration with our dedicated corporate partners, has established the Student Emergency Aid Fund to assist WCU students who are experiencing hardships and finding themselves with financial and emotional struggles that they never saw coming.”
The Student Emergency Aid Fund will assist WCU students who are facing technology gaps that were previously filled through existing on-campus resources; confronting unanticipated expenses due to reduced work hours; experiencing financial aid and tuition payment difficulties; and who are working through the new challenge of completing the semester remotely.
West Chester University students who are experiencing difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic are urged to apply for assistance through the following link: Student Emergency Aid Appeal. Members of the community who wish to help these West Chester University students are invited to visit http://go.wcufoundation.org/student-aid to learn more.
As a University practice, it remains important to intentionally uncover and then remove barriers that impede student success. In addition to the Student Emergency Aid Fund, annual Presidential Scholarships are awarded to students who merit academic distinction. Since its inception in 1983, the Gala has raised more than $1.2 million in scholarship dollars for such West Chester University students. Funded entirely by private donations, the Presidential Scholarship is a renewable, four-year award.
Amidst a global pandemic that has adversely affected students’ lives in significant ways, the following are among those generous corporate partners and individuals in the community who are actively making a difference in WCU students’ lives by way of the Student Emergency Aid Fund and/or Presidential Scholarships:
GALA SPONSORS: Aramark; Arthur Hall Insurance; Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP; BB&T (Now Trust); CALECO Laundry; Citadel; Dilworth Paxson, LLP; First Bank; H.B. Frazer Company; Hobbs and Company, Inc.; Jobsite Products, Inc.; Krapf Bus Companies; Lamb McErlane PC; Lobar, Inc.; MacElree Harvey; Meridian Bank; Monarch Staffing; NJM Insurance Group; Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP; Philadelphia Phillies; Radius Systems, LLC; SEI Investments Company; Sodexo; Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young LLP; TD Bank; The Party Center; University Student Housing, LLC; Visual Sound; Warren Financial; Wilmington Trust; WCU Alumni Association; and West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc.
EVENT SPONSORS: Citadel; M&T Charitable Foundation; Meridian Bank; PSECU; TD Bank; and Univest.