Page 35 - 2022 Chester County Guide & CCCBI Membership Directory
P. 35

  Dr. George Fiore
CCIU’s Executive Director
 Dr. Kirk Williard
Director of CCIU’s Career, Technical & Customized Education division
While West Chester University (WCU) is a large school, with more than 17,000 students enrolled, it prides itself on its “small” feel. “We have an 18:1 faculty-student ratio,” said President Christopher Fiorentino. “We have a wide array of programs — business, health science. We have an outstanding pre-med program that has a very high placement rate into med school.”
At the same time,
WCU’s status as a public
university means that
it’s quite affordable compared to other institutions in the area. “We have an access mission as a state institution,” Fiorentino said. “A significant portion of our students comes from underserved populations. We have a laser focus on meeting our students where they are and moving them along to their goal.”
To ensure graduates meet the needs of employers, WCU establishes partnerships with the local business and nonprofit community. “We’ve learned a lot in talking to potential employers about what skills students need,” Fiorentino said, but in addition to those hard skills, WCU is also focused on soft skills that carry across industry sectors. “Students are going to
be not only changing jobs but changing professions numerous times over the course of their career, so we’re very focused on turning students into critical thinkers and problem solvers. They need to be good writers and effective oral presenters. They need to be sensitive to diversity, equity
and inclusion. They have to be able to work with people of all races and creeds and preferences. These things have become a major focus of our preparation.”
WCU also recently launched a biomedical engineering program to meet the needs of
a growing industry in Chester County. The program will be housed at WCU’s new Sciences & Engineering Center and The Commons, the largest building ever constructed in WCU’s almost 150-year history. It is expected to be fully operational by fall 2022.
  credits,” said Dr. George Fiore, CCIU’s Executive Director. CCIU also is working on ways to engage special education students at higher levels, Fiore adds. “One of the hardest-hit industries in terms of staffing shortage is the service industry. We have students who can do this. Expanding that access to create larger pools of employees is good for businesses and the community.”
For employers looking to fill empty seats, Fiore has this advice: “Think about how colleges engage students because they want their $45,000 a year. But how often
do you see a company come into schools and tell students they’ve come to recruit them? You have to engage the students and the parents who don’t see the ROI of four- year colleges anymore. Engagement from businesses is what’s going to create change.”
One of Chester County’s most storied institutions of higher learning is Cheyney University, the country’s oldest historically Black college or university.
Cheyney operates on a public-private partnership model that invites private companies to reside in underutilized on-campus spaces, where they provide paid internships for students, said Aaron A. Walton, Cheyney’s President. “We’re always looking for appropriate partnerships to complement the ones that have already moved on campus. We see great synergy in the relations that the partners can give to each other. We don’t bring in competing organizations.”
Many of Cheyney’s tenants work in biotech and other STEM fields, which “provides opportunities for students to have exposure to industries that heretofore minorities have been significantly underrepresented in,” Walton said. “We’re trying to tailor our offerings on campus to our partners. We let the partners inform the curriculum we’re building. That’s a unique approach.”
A major new frontier for Cheyney is cybersecurity. “We are just starting a certificate program in cybersecurity. We have the first cohort already filled,”Walton said. “We have employers who have already indicated that they will hire the individuals in that cohort.”
The university is also working on partnerships with a company that
Christopher Fiorentino
WCU President
At right: The new Sciences & Engineering Center and The Commons, the largest building ever constructed at WCU. 33

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