SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – William A. Dávila, a Springfield native and longtime executive at non-profit institutions, has been named director of operations for the UMass Center at Springfield.
A 1996 graduate of UMass Amherst who holds a master’s degree in social work from Boston College and a doctorate in education from the University of Hartford, Dávila said he is excited to help bring opportunity to his home town. “I want people to feel this is a center that is welcoming to them,” he said. “My message is that this is a gateway to opportunity.”
The UMass Center at Springfield is a new facility housed in Tower Square in downtown Springfield. Its 26,000 square feet includes classrooms, specialized nursing classrooms, conference rooms and a computer lab. A Welcome Center where prospective students can learn about courses is already open. Classes begin Sept. 2. (www.umasscenteratspringfield.org)
UMass President Robert L. Caret said, “With this appointment, the campuses of the UMass system, in partnership with the local community colleges, are ready to deliver important, life-improving educational programs to the people who need them most. The UMass Center at Springfield will fuel the economic well-being of the entire region.”
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said, “As we consolidate the university’s Springfield area programs in this central location, I know William Dávila as a well-respected and active advocate in the community who will help residents take advantage of these opportunities. As the Commonwealth’s flagship campus, UMass Amherst will play a leadership role in creating new career paths in the region.”
J. Lynn Griesemer, executive director of the UMass Donahue Institute and co-director of the UMass Center at Springfield start-up with John Cunningham, CEO of UMassOnline, said, “Will emerged from a strong pool of candidates as the obvious top candidate. His appointment provides the center with an extra “kick-start” in the Community.”
Through the UMass Center at Springfield, the UMass campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell as well as Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College and UMass Online are able to bring their strengths to a variety of programs.
The 40 initial course offerings draw on key industry needs in the region, including management, cybersecurity, healthcare and education.
“The community needs more of these professional skills,” Dávila said. “This is a perfect match.”
As the Springfield center develops more courses and certificate programs, Dávila expects to see more cooperation with the community colleges and area private colleges as well.
Dávila cites his own non-traditional start in higher education when touting the value of the Springfield Center. After little success at a community college out of state, he took classes for a year at STCC and then transferred to UMass Amherst. “UMass for me was a second chance,” he said.
In addition to his academic work there, he became a student senator. “A lot of the leadership skills I have today, I learned at UMass,” he said.
Dávila said he intends to work hard to engage area businesses during the first year of the center’s operation so they understand the opportunities available to their employees. “We will invite area businesses to use our space. We have high technology, teleconferencing capability. We want people to see it,” he said.
Besides businesses, Dávila said, outreach will include nonprofits, health services, the community colleges and any population that may lack a family history of higher education.
“Springfield is looking for good quality higher education – a lot of people are looking to improve their lives,” he said.
Dávila was most recently division director of the outpatient services division of the Gandara Center and was previously deputy executive director of the Children’s Study Home. His earlier career includes experience in higher education and directing a mentoring program.
He is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a member of the Springfield College School of Social Work Advisory Board. Gov. Deval Patrick appointed him to the state Criminal Record Review Board, and he is an active member of the National Council on Problem Gambling, the Sisters of Providence Health System Foundation and the board of Partners for a Healthier Community.