State of the University Address to the Campus Community
May 03, 2011
J. Keith Motley, PhD, UMass Boston Chancellor
Good afternoon and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to join with me in reflecting on our great enterprise: the University of Massachusetts Boston.
In preparation for a long season of construction, last fall I told you that I was hopeful of seeing you all with mud on your shoes. I didn’t make that wish solely or simply out of excitement regarding construction or because I simply want to be better dressed than the rest of you. No, I made that wish out of a desire for us all to spend the next several years deeply mired in the site and locus of human creativity and human capacity.
Too often when we think of mud, we think of it as an irritant. We think of it as that sticky substance which, after the rain, splatters our clothing, cars, homes, furniture and other adornments. Despite its ubiquitous presence on the earth, we, particularly those of us in the post-industrial world, will walk, drive and travel wide distances to avoid contact with it. Yet it is the stuff to which our young children, in their earliest years, have a nearly irresistible attraction. They can barely wait to get their hands and feet into the miry clay, forming hills and valleys, constructing castles and villages where there was, moments before, a desolate plain. Note how their active imaginations see in the admixture of dirt and water a new world teeming with creatures and critters to be discovered and adventures to be explored. While you, who have been socialized into contemporary sanitation, see a mess needing to be cleansed and disinfected, the children through the power of their imagination and creativity have entered into the deep reaches of human capacity simply by connecting with the mud.
That’s why I want you to walk in the mud, and in so doing join with the ancients who looked at that muck and felt the human connection so strongly that their earliest lore indicated that all of life was formed from the mud – millennia before modern scientists theorized about a primordial soup. Perhaps because they spent so much time in the mud, they concluded that it is the basic creative stuff of all of existence on this earth.
Out of the mud springs the food we depend on for life.
In the mud lay the animals that humans first learned to domesticate.
Out of the mud we fashioned early forms of habitation – from rudimentary mud-huts to something akin to complex apartment-like dwellings.
Through the mud, paths, routes and roads were pounded out, connecting the familiar “us” with the unfamiliar “other” in the earliest forms of transportation.
I want you to walk in the mud where for the several millennia of our existence we have learned the cycles of growth and renewal associated with farming and cultivation, cycles still reflected in the structuring of our institutional life, not the least of which is the academic year we still follow.
Fortunately, the University of Massachusetts Boston community has not traditionally waited for formal construction projects in order to walk in the mud. Well before new buildings were conceived or official ground-breakings were scheduled, our students, faculty and staff have been cultivating new efforts and breaking new grounds:
· The Strategic Plan Implementation Design teams and workgroups have been working feverishly in a very broad-based and communicative way to gather information and ideas in committee meetings, sub-committee meetings, departmental outreach meetings, and even pass-someone-in-the-hall meetings. They are working very, very hard, under Provost Winston Langley and Dean Steve Crosby’s leadership, to keep this process open and as inclusive as is humanly possible. Very shortly they will be sharing their findings at an open meeting of the faculty council with the intention that all of you will provide feedback to the process. In this way we can all play a part in advancing our university toward its future.
· As has become quite typical of this time of year, a great deal of uncertainty remains around the Commonwealth’s budget and funding for higher education. This year our governor does not have the luxury of using stimulus funds to cover deficits in education as he has for the last two budgets. We will all track this process very closely. We will make every effort to pursue decisions that will have the least impact on our academic core and that help us advance our strategic priorities. We continue to look to you for creative ways of running a bit leaner while remaining highly effective.
· Enrollment management continues to reap a rich harvest that has grown into an exciting, dynamic and vigorous student body. The total spring 2011 undergraduate and graduate enrollment has increased by 8.6 percent. Should this increase remain consistent through the end of the enrollment period, the university’s student population will be 15,760 students, or 300 more than last fall.
· The University of Massachusetts Board of Visitors have been meeting throughout the last year. Board members include 47 accomplished alumni and individual leaders from the for-profit, nonprofit, and public sectors. To help the university realize its goals, the board agreed to focus primarily on plans for campus development, fundraising, and alumni relations. It will nurture and cultivate a large and growing group of ambassadors who, through their expertise and engagement, will contribute to the university’s progress and rising reputation.
· We have a new slate of officers for the student senate and new student trustee
- I want to congratulate Bianca Baldassarre as the newly elected student trustee for academic year 2011-12
- USGA President Travis Henderson and Vice President Dan McDowell
- GSA President Robert Goodwin
- And congratulations to all members of student government that have been elected!
· Speaking of new Presidents, President-Elect Robert Caret will be visiting the campus on May 10th. We have a full itinerary for the day and you will be receiving invitations to meet and greet the new leader of the University system.
· For the second year in a row, the University of Massachusetts Boston has been named in The Princeton Review's Guide to 311 Green Colleges for its longstanding commitment to sustainability. The Princeton Review partners with the U.S. Green Building Council to produce the guide, which evaluates colleges and universities on their environmentally-related policies, practices, campus infrastructure, and academic offerings. This university is one of the greenest colleges in the country, with a 96 “green rating.”
· The Beacons women’s volleyball team clinched the 2010 Little East Conference Championship for the second year in a row, advancing all the way to the elite 8 of the NCAA National Championship Tourney at Washington University in St. Louis.
· Colleagues, you are a part of a university system which has been committed to cultivating the ground in preparation for the growth of a world-class university. Colleagues, you reap what you sow. The University of Massachusetts has been rated as one of the 200 best universities in the world by the Times of London’s 2010 World University Rankings; it is the only public institution in New England to be so honored. Ranked 56th in the overall list, fourth in Massachusetts, and sixth in New England, it was the 14th highest-rated American public university, and the 33rd highest-rated American institution, public or private. We share this honor proudly with the four other campuses in the University of Massachusetts system.
The University of Massachusetts Boston is also breaking ground on new knowledge and new collaborative relationships that serve the public good.
· Project ALERTA was chosen as one of 15 programs out of 458 nominated to receive the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the highest honor an after-school and out-of-school program can receive. Project ALERTA was the only program in Massachusetts to win this year. Lucia Mayerson-David, founder of Project ALERTA, took a Dorchester fifth-grader to Washington, D.C., to receive their award and accept a $10,000 grant check from First Lady Michelle Obama.
· The University of Massachusetts Boston has been elevated to the Top Tier of University-Based Cancer Research for achieving the highest score of all proposals submitted from across the nation, our partnership with Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Center has been awarded a prestigious $13.7 million U54 grant by the National Institute for Health. Specifically, this partnership will focus on understanding the reasons for significant cancer disparities and the impact on racial and ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged or underserved populations. Thanks to the partnership’s outstanding leadership team of UMass Boston’s Adan Colon-Carmon and the DF HCC’s Karen Emmons, UMass Boston joins the ranks of elite institutions that are waging war on cancer for the benefit all of people.
· The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at UMass Boston has been awarded a $16.8 million, five-year grant-the largest single grant award in university history-from the U.S. Department of Education to help state vocational rehabilitation agencies help people with disabilities find paid work in their communities. The goal is to create a model for the state agencies, train the agencies to implement the model, and evaluate its effectiveness. We look forward to the result of ICI’s efforts as they perform a national evaluation of existing state agencies.
· The Success Boston Report is being released under the leadership of our own Vice Provost for Academic Support Services, Joan Becker with signatures from 30 presidents of Boston area colleges and universities. This initiative to improve the college completion rates of Boston Public School students at Boston area colleges is a glowing example of public private partnerships and our level of engagement with our city to address its critical issues.
· The Center for Social Policy was awarded a prestigious five year, $500,000 grant by the Boston Foundation to support the center’s work as the analytical and evaluation partner focusing on the foundation’s people- and place-based investments and interventions in the Fairmont Corridor section of Boston.
· The university is officially partnering with MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, to form the UMass Boston Mentor Research Alliance, a first-of-its-kind center that will support the advancement of youth mentoring efforts. The alliance aims to create an open and efficient exchange of youth mentoring research among researchers, practitioners, and policy makers, with an ultimate goal of improving the lives of the nation’s underserved youth. UMass Boston Professor of Psychology Jean Rhodes, the nation’s leading expert on youth mentoring, will serve as the alliance’s first research director.
As we push forward into the future, new and creative academic programs are being proposed at the masters, doctoral and certificate level ever broadening our offerings to respond to the interests of our students and faculty. You can look for new programs in applied economics, global governance and human society, business administration, applied linguistics and transcultural and community studies. If you’re a student here in the months and years to come, you are likely to be pointed toward new and expanding horizons.
Our continued efforts to build on the quality of our academic heritage are truly beginning to flower as our story unfurls to the world. US News and World Report has ranked:
· our nursing program at 50th nationally,
· the rehabilitation counseling program at 56th,
· the clinical psychology program ranks 83rd
· and the public affairs program sits at 90th.
· The College of Science and Math has cracked the top 100 for the first time in its history – and the only nursing schools in New England ranked higher than the College of Nursing and Health Sciences are BC and Yale.
We are breaking new ground internationally.
We have implemented study abroad programs for faculty in Australia, Hong Kong, Portugal, Haiti and Albania. In each case, faculty members have been accompanied by at least one student in their international studies. These efforts in support of faculty development are also opportunities to further orient the university in matters local and matters global.
The mud that I wish for you not only germinates with new life, new knowledge and new ideas, it also is the foundation upon which human civilization is built. Cover it with the wonders of concrete, plastic, and glass; landscape it by growing grass, plants, flowers, and trees; plan it logically with the interconnections of roads, technology, institutions and domiciles; yet beneath it all, shifting and moving, living, breathing and breeding is the mud, dirt and clay from which we spring, still giving topographical shape, form and boundary to the world we like to make ourselves believe we control.
And so we build!
Just a few weeks ago we held a powerful groundbreaking ceremony on the Edward M. Kennedy Center for the United States Senate. There University of Massachusetts Boston students Abel Rey Cano, Neil MacInnes-Barker, and Juliette Rorie, read the historic floor arguments of Senators in the heat of debate around the 1964 civil rights legislation. In the years to come the new EMK center will be a locus of education, preservation, research and information regarding the Senator, the Senate that he served and the causes which he advocated so masterfully. We are proud to see this institution rising up out of the ground on our campus.
And in just a few weeks hence, we will do it all again.
Yes we will hold another historic groundbreaking. You’ve seen the cranes, the trucks and construction workers. You will hear the sounds and feel the rumble of pile-drivers. On June 8th we will hold another groundbreaking as we celebrate the launching of construction of the Integrated Sciences center, the first new academic building erected on the Columbia Point campus since 1974. The breathtaking view of the Campus Center set against the Boston Harbor as you make the first turn around the campus beltway will soon be rivaled by the glittering structure at the entrance signaling the University of Massachusetts Boston’s state-of-the-art teaching and research experience which will be had both in its faculty and its facilities.
But we aren’t stopping there. You really can’t escape. The disruption you see out front, you can expect to see in the Beacon’s parking lot. In March we selected Wilson Architects, a Boston-based firm that specializes in academic building design, as the architect for General Academic Building number 1. The facility, which is slated to open in 2014, will define and frame the new Central Quad, serving as the intersection of new pedestrian pathways through the campus. The building, itself, will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, specialized teaching spaces, as well as lounge and study spaces for the entire campus community - and it will also include much needed new homes for several academic programs.
The transformation of our campus will be a powerful collaboration of students, faculty, staff and our unions as exemplified by our PLA agreement.
When I spoke to you about a Pathway to Excellence last year, I made reference to a world-class research university at the end of the Mount Vernon corridor looking out over the Atlantic, connecting to the rest of the world. In the wake of the Bayside property purchase last year I said that we would work with stakeholders to surface the interests, fears, and concerns around the development of the property and garner input on its future use. This week we will bring our stakeholders together, we will listen and share information, and plunge our hands into the mud, fashioning images and visions for what that property can be. We will continue to move forward as responsible neighbors and citizens as we advance the construction of what we all envision to be the gateway to our Pathway to Excellence.
The development of this great public research university will continue apace. Our published Master Plan is but a plan created at a moment in time for what we foresee as the future for the University of Massachusetts Boston. But it’s only as we walk in the mud, in the real stuff of days to day of learning, teaching and engagement that we clarify what really will come to be. Undoubtedly new possibilities and aspirations will arise. So you should not anticipate that the day will come where there will be no mud to negotiate, no dirt to avoid, where the messiness of real, not imagined, university life will end. We will keep building and growing, because our roots are planted deeply by the founders who established this institution to stand with the city, by the Boston State College ethos of “Education for Service”, and by a student-body, faculty and staff who continue the quest for new expressions of the meanings for excellence.
Finally, colleagues, I wish for mud on your shoes, because I want you to leave tracks behind that will tell others where we have been. This may seem like a strange thing to wish for, particularly for any of you parents that fight the good fight against filth in a household with young children. But without these tracks, others who come behind us will not know our work and the importance of our struggle through these times.
· I want faculty to build on our work, not simply repeat it. They will need some of you to be their mentors, to orient them to our academic norms, and to help propel them into their best work. That’s tracking mud through our halls.
· I want students from our communities to take full advantage of the resources this institution can bring, and not simply come to class and hurry home. They will need students like some of you to talk about your experiences and how they have helped you to grow, develop and mature. You help them to see themselves studying abroad, achieving honors status, and leading organizations. That’s tracking mud through our halls.
· I want administrators and staff to bring new and creative ideas and approaches that will extend upon what’s in place. They will need some of you to help them navigate the complexity and culture of the University of Massachusetts Boston with an ethic of care and a concern for excellence. That’s tracking mud through our halls.
Again my wish for mud on your shoes should not be confused with my excitement for new construction. Rather, I have made this wish because of what I see in you, if you connect with the best in human endeavors, the best in human creativity, the best in human thought. When we together cultivate this precious, sacred space that we have been granted to steward, I see the limitless possibilities before us – possibilities before which mere buildings pale in stature.
· Eliminating disparities in education and health for underrepresented peoples;
· Setting the tone for an international environmental sea change in thinking and behavior;
· Creating blueprints for peaceful resolutions to longstanding, historical conflicts;
· Spurring economic recovery for a state and a nation weary of recession-like thinking
· Empowering distressed communities through the application of democratic principles;
· Unleashing the dynamism of a youth movement to break the cycles of violence in our culture.
These, and so much more, are the muddy footprints many of you have already begun tracking through our halls. Our community, our Commonwealth, our nation, and world are changed because you meld mind and heart with herculean efforts focused on solutions to some of our most vexing problems. I commend you; I thank you for your tremendous contributions under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thank you for cultivating the relationships, resources and opportunities that have brought us to this brilliant point in our history. As this university begins to reap the facilities, resources and recognition from the seeds of faith and effort sown by so many, I would simply encourage you to keep tracking the mud and leading others to the patch of earth on a peninsula,
- Where we grow leaders for the next generation
- Where the best thought, reflection and planning to support our complex civilization germinates
- Where new knowledge is constantly cultivated and reseeded
- Where people and groups come to connect, engage and nourish relationships
- Where new structures to support excellence in learning and research are founded
- Where solutions to the world's most vexing problems are cultivated
- Where together we can increase the depth and width of the footprint that is the University of Massachusetts Boston and where the fruit of our collective labor is transformed lives, transformed communities, a transformed world
Thank you for all that you do. I am honored and proud to be your chancellor.
Note: This is an edited version of Chancellor Motley’s remarks as prepared for delivery.