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Opinion: Dr. Manohar Singh: The Arc of Western Connecticut State University’s Rising

(l-r): State Rep. Patrick Callahan, State Rep. Bob Godfrey, State Rep. Rache Chalesky, Danbury Mayor Roberto Alves, State Rep. Raghib Allie Brennan and State Rep. Farley Santos with WCSU (Interim) President Dr. Manohar Singh
(l-r): State Rep. Patrick Callahan, State Rep. Bob Godfrey, State Rep. Rachel Chalesky, Danbury Mayor Roberto Alves, State Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan and State Rep. Farley Santos with WCSU President (Interim) Dr. Manohar Singh (center)
(l-r): State Rep. Patrick Callahan, State Rep. Bob Godfrey, State Rep. Rachel Chalesky, Danbury Mayor Roberto Alves, State Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan and State Rep. Farley Santos with WCSU President (Interim) Dr. Manohar Singh (center)

DANBURY, Connecticut — Universities, as august institutions of learning, are transformational yet foundational pillars of society. They promote economic prosperity, enrich community culture, facilitate political discourse, and foster progress, innovation, and harmony, thereby playing a crucial role in nation-building. Celebrating the 1,122 graduating students at the 126th Commencement ceremony filled me with immense pride, and I felt a rejuvenated sense of solemn responsibility as President of Western Connecticut State University to keep conquering the challenges and continue to serve our communities’ education needs and building our nation stronger.

Reflecting on the remarkable progress our institution has made over the past year in responding to recent challenges and continuing to build upon Western’s 120 years of rich legacy, I felt a deep sense of gratitude toward our community of allies, supporters, and advocates of higher education. The resurgence, which we have aptly named “Western Rising,” is a testament to the collective efforts and unwavering support of our entire community. It truly takes a village to rebuild and elevate a university, and the Western village has risen to the occasion with unparalleled dedication and resilience.

Rising above the challenges is the journey that Western community started this year with a solid surefooted first step – restoring our financial stability by eliminating our current and next year’s deficit through cost efficiencies and additional resource generations and building our reserves to $11M. Working with Danbury and other regional schools’ leadership, Western’s team has been able to reverse the past year’s declining enrollment trend into positive enrollment growth territory, yielding a 10% increase in our incoming class size in Spring 2024. Reflecting the trust that students and their families place in our institution, the robust early signs point towards similar growth in the size of the incoming class for Fall 2024. Our first-year student retention numbers are up from 70% last year to 73.9% this year, resulting from our renewed focus on enhancing students’ academic success, personal wellbeing, and access to financial support. While these foundational strides toward stability and growth have been achieved through meticulous planning and prudent management by Western’s dedicated faculty and staff, the finest example of the village coming together is the exemplary support we received from state legislators, senators, and state leadership. Elected leaders’ commitment to higher education has ensured that we continue to provide world-class education to our students as they contribute to Connecticut’s socio-economic prosperity and growth.

These shared accomplishments are not mere checkboxes; they are the building blocks of community partnerships for student success, the very essence of our mission to create opportunities for the next generation of conscientious leaders. For instance, our Pre-Collegiate Access Program is enabling 74 students to join WCSU in fall 2024 compared to only 17 last year, keeping our promise to expand access to education. We have also enhanced opportunities for community college students, resulting in a 30% increase in fall 2024 transfer commitments compared to the same period last year. While WCSU remains a catalyst in promoting equity, embracing inclusivity, and celebrating diversity with 27% of its student population being Hispanic, the recently conferred Hispanic-Serving Institution designation provides us the opportunity for additional federal support and strengthens our resolve to enhance access, affordability, and inclusivity to underserved student populations.

The success of an educational institution rests upon the foundation of a collective vision pursued by the consultation, persuasion, and consensus-building virtues of the shared governance model. This past year, Western has witnessed an unprecedented show of strength emanating from a collaborative spirit built upon transparency, mutual trust, and integrity across various stakeholder groups. This a clear reflection of our singular focus on shaping a shared vision and moving collectively toward realizing what is captured in the crafting of Western Rising – Strategic Plan 2024-2030 being launched in summer of 2024.

Reflecting our ethos of advancing discovery and sharing knowledge, ideas flourish and ambitions take flight at Western as evidenced by our expanding innovative academic offerings. In response to students’ aspirations and employer needs, several new degree programs in emerging areas like Special Education, Artificial Intelligence, Visual Arts, Nursing, Popular Music, Health & Wellness Management, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity are being launched. Additionally, guided by the interests and preferences of our local community and regional high school populations we are expanding our sports programs by adding seven new sports including Track and Field, Ice Hockey, and Golf.

One of the most heartening aspects of Western’s rising trajectory has been the revitalization of our community engagement efforts. To our village, I express my deepest gratitude for your continued trust and support as we build upon this revitalized momentum. Your belief in our mission and your investment in our shared success have been the wind beneath our wings, propelling us to new heights. As we move forward, we remain committed to honoring your trust.


Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.