ON A BRIGHT AND BREEZY AFTERNOON LAST AUGUST, some 650 Wentworth students made history by becoming the first to graduate from the Institute under its brand-new designation as a university in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

And with that feat, the Class of 2017 put an exclamation point on Wentworth’s remarkable progress of late—the steady upward course that the Institute has been tracking in recent years. In her Commencement remarks, President Zorica Pantic told the graduates and their families that the new status more accurately describes Wentworth today and, “underscores our collaborative effort in developing the Institute into a full-fledged residential university.”

Others have offered similarly positive analyses. Keiko Broomhead, vice president for enrollment management, said the designation adds value overall to the Wentworth diploma, while Carissa Durfee, director of the Center for Student Engagement, said it would help to attract more applicants to Wentworth by increasing the Institute’s name recognition.

“For me, it’s not that becoming a university will somehow make Wentworth better,” says Candace Naste, BSA ’07, MARC ’10, president of the Wentworth Alumni Association (WAA). “Rather, it’s how this elevation demonstrates to the community and our peers the continued advancement of the Institute. The word I hear most from our graduates is ‘pride.’”

SHOW OF HANDS: President Zorica Pantic´ (front, center) and faculty and staff members celebrated Wentworth’s university status at a campus event in September. Photo: Joshua Touster

SHOW OF HANDS: President Zorica Pantic´ (front, center) and faculty and staff members celebrated Wentworth’s university status at a campus event in September. Photo: Joshua Touster

What’s Next?

But as transformative as university status is for Wentworth, its long-range impact remains an open question. While there is unanimous agreement that the new status represents a major step forward, there are questions, too, most notably: What now? What’s next for Wentworth, the university?

The implementation of master’s degree programs over the past nine years made the university designation possible, and those same disciplines—design, management, engineering, and sciences—will continue to be a major focus for this new Wentworth iteration. The transition to university status speaks to an emphasis on the future of graduate studies.

Not long after his arrival in July, Eric Overström, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, established a committee to explore graduate studies at the Institute. In the fall, his team held open meetings to solicit feedback from community members. Input from that ongoing process, said Overström, will figure prominently in the overall strategic process for graduate studies.

A Whole New Level

“University status means a lot of things—some of them more tangible than others,” says Overström, “but fundamentally it is recognition of the quality and value and academic impact that we have here. It’s a whole new level for Wentworth.”

The new designation puts Wentworth in a broader, stronger field for national rankings, making it more challenging to compete in that arena. But it also enhances the Institute’s appeal among international students who prefer “universities” over “colleges,” said Overström. He said the university label, coupled with adding undergraduate majors in biomedical engineering, biological engineering, and applied sciences, gives Wentworth more leverage in attracting top students and recruiting faculty.

But some things aren’t changing. No matter the precise course ahead, regardless of the new university descriptor, the Institute’s name and bedrock academic purpose— to empower, inspire and foster innovation—remains intact. After all, this is still Wentworth.


–Dennis Nealon