SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A Springfield native on Thursday was named to lead the new University of Massachusetts downtown Springfield satellite center.

William Davila was named director of operations for the UMass Center at Tower Square.

Davila is a 1996 graduate of UMass-Amherst who holds advanced degrees from Boston College and the University of Hartford.

The 26,000-square-foot facility includes classrooms, specialized nursing classrooms, conference rooms and a computer lab. Its first classes in a variety of academic fields are scheduled for Sept. 2.

The 40 initial course offerings draw on key industry needs in the region, including advanced manufacturing, management, cybersecurity, information technology and casino management.

"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."

Davila says he plans to engage area businesses so they understand the opportunities available to their employees at the center.

"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," UMass President Robert Caret said. "The UMass Center at Springfield will fuel the economic well-being of the entire region."

Davila cited his own non-traditional start in higher education when touting the value of the Springfield center. After taking classes at two community colleges, he transferred to UMass.

"UMass for me was a second chance," he said.