Chancellor’s 2015 Convocation Address
Annual Fall Convocation Address
Thank you, Nolan, for that warm introduction, and for representing us proudly as a student trustee. It’s great to have you back on campus after your summer in Washington, D.C., working in Senator Markey’s office. Nolan’s internship is just one example of the incredible opportunities available to our students through programs such as the Young Leaders Network, which partners with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. He was such an example of excellence in D.C. that he was asked to continue in Senator Markey’s office here in Boston. Now you finally have the opportunity to vote—use it wisely. And by the way, great job yesterday at the Board of Trustees meeting.
Welcome to our Board of Trustees, particularly Trustee Jeffrey Mullan, who we are so pleased will serve as our keynote speaker today. Welcome to our distinguished guests, students, faculty, staff, Provost Langley, Vice Chancellor O’Connor, Vice Chancellor Cappello, graduate student Joey Nguyen, and undergraduate student president Kathleen Elliot.
Although he is not with us here today, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the new president of the University of Massachusetts system, Marty Meehan. As many of you know, President Meehan chose to visit our campus on Day One of his tenure to engage with students about his vision for our university. As an alumnus, and former chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, President Meehan understands on a personal level the exciting opportunities that await our students, faculty, staff, and administration. He has stood up, and he is standing up, for this campus, so we will let him off the hook for today.
Given that we do our work here in the intellectual engine and great capital city of this commonwealth, I want to thank Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston’s city councilors for all of their leadership, support, and actions on behalf of our community.
I also would be remiss if I did not mention all of our great senators and representatives, who continue to fight for this university and our entire University of Massachusetts system. We appreciate their commitment to public higher education in Massachusetts and look forward to working with Governor Charlie Baker, Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago, and Chairman of the Board of Higher Education Chris Gabrieli.
We are working to build upon the great partnerships we shared with the previous administration, particularly in launching the Deval L. Patrick Chair in Social, Political, and Economic Innovation this past June.
I’d also like to thank my beautiful wife, Angela, for again being by my side as I offer this address, kicking off another invigorating year at the University of Massachusetts Boston. You were the one who loved this place first, as a graduate of the MBA program, and remind me that I was late to the realization.
I am so grateful all of you are here today for this special ceremony.
As many of you know, this past year we have been celebrating the golden anniversary of this, the student-centered urban public research university of the commonwealth’s great capital city—the University of Massachusetts Boston. This has been not only an opportunity for celebration but also an opportunity for reflection. These past 50 years have seen tremendous accomplishments even during periods of great struggle and uncertainty, much of which you can find in this great chronicle of our collective history: UMass Boston at 50. We celebrate the stewardship of our vision despite myriad obstacles.
Today, our reflection should not focus only on the past. We must look toward the next 50 years, envisioning the continuously rising trajectory for a university that has gained an even larger role in contributing to the advancement of knowledge around the globe.
Our story is one of humble beginnings. However, it was fueled by an audacious vision.
So the story begins as reported in the Boston Globe in 1964 with Audrey Taub from Everett. Audrey Taub had the distinction of being the first student accepted to the new University of Massachusetts Boston—at a time when no one knew where it would be located. Nevertheless, Audrey paid the $100 semester tuition and parlayed it into two master’s degrees and a career as a systems engineer with MITRE Corporation.
Like those with the founding vision of this institution, we must never underestimate the determination and resolve of our students. Regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds or personal histories, our students always seek opportunities for intellectual and social development, and at our university, here in Boston, they earn the opportunity to become great contributors to their local and global communities.
Despite our humble beginnings, when we opened for classes 50 years ago last week in Park Square, founding chancellor John Ryan declared that we should build a university that is “equal to the best”! Now, that’s a tall order for any institution, but especially for one located in Boston, a mecca for global higher education. Chancellor Ryan’s declaration revealed an audacious vision for this institution.
What we have been celebrating for the past year is the University of Massachusetts Boston’s progress toward making that founding vision a reality, our amazing first 50 years of accomplishments despite long odds.
I don’t mean to dwell excessively on those long odds, but I think it’s important that we understand the opening chapters of our story so we can begin to outline our next 50 years.
The first 50 years reveals this university fending off various forms of isolation: our institution was wanting in facilities, financial resources, programmatic resources, and public support for our classification as a first-rate institution of higher education.
Even before the founding of this university, neighboring private institutions—and even Boston State College—worked to block its enabling legislation, fearing competition from a “public university.”
When we first opened for classes 50 years ago, they were held in a partially renovated Boston Gas building, where both construction and learning occurred hand in hand. Sound familiar????
It took 10 years to locate and build our campus, and then, of course, it was built where no one wanted to build. As one of our great founders, Attorney General and Speaker of the House Robert Quinn, would remind us, it was built on the Mile Road Dump, as this location was once called. (Look how far we have come!) And when we finally did build a new campus, it came riddled with design and construction flaws that continue to give us challenges that we have overcome today. (If you haven’t already done so, think parking!)
The university experienced programmatic isolation. The growth of programs into critical areas of study was resisted by other universities and even our sister campuses, making it difficult to cater to the diverse interests of our diverse student body.
There was a sentiment tolerated that these students didn’t need certain programs; that they could go elsewhere for their programs of choice. For example, it took a Boston Globe exposé to help us overcome the obstacles standing in the way of establishing our own nursing program, which is now in place—and nationally ranked. Until just a few years ago, this campus received no support for an engineering program.
The resistance and obstacles we faced mirrored low expectations, in many circles, for our students. Indeed, in the realm of public sentiment, the idea of an “urban public university” seemed to conflict with the audacious vision that has guided our university.
Nevertheless, here we are today. We at the University of Massachusetts Boston have overcome physical, programmatic, scholarly, and perceptual isolation to be included and recognized as Among the Best! Given the obstacles and exclusions we have overcome in the first 50 years, we had reasons to scream and pull our hair out… but we also have had reasons to celebrate, to throw galas, to write books, and to parade joyfully through the Boston Common.
As we have celebrated our 50th anniversary, this past year alone marked incredible physical progress, including:
- The opening of our 220,000-square-foot Integrated Sciences Complex, a fresh face to the University of Massachusetts Boston—and the newest and largest public research facility in Greater Boston;
- The dedication and opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, which brought a national spotlight—with President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and numerous other dignitaries—to campus. Today the EMK Institute attracts teachers and learners from around the world who are interested in becoming more civically engaged and educated;
- The construction of University Hall (formerly known as General Academic Building No. 1), which will soon house specialized space for art, chemistry, and performing arts students, among others, when it opens in 2016;
- The progress on the very mundane-sounding Utility Corridor and Roadway Relocation Project, which is essential to providing redundant utility services to all of our buildings and will ultimately make our campus more pedestrian- and bike-friendly and ease traffic;
- The completion of the 800-foot section of the HarborWalk on the north side of campus, providing greater educational and recreational access to our precious waterfront.
I appreciate your ongoing patience with our campus transformation, understanding that these short-term inconveniences are critical to our long-term goals to better learn, teach, and grow together as one university community. Your patience and hard work have made this peninsula a destination point in one of the greatest tourist cities in the world.
I told you when I came back home to this campus that we were going to get “mud on our shoes.” Some of you didn’t believe me, but here we are today. Splash around in it, because from there rises enhanced teaching and learning spaces, a campus more open to all.
Let’s take one example:
- Our Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy opened a Genomics Core facility inside its laboratory in the new Integrated Sciences Complex. The facility will help investigators and clinicians analyze samples, identify contributions to disease risk, and reveal complex mechanisms.
We continue to broaden our research and academic enterprise in other ways.
- The McCormack Graduate School now offers two new tracks in the Master of Public Administration Program: Municipal Management, and Leadership, Gender, and Public Policy;
- The College of Management, already offering nationally ranked programs, has introduced the Professional MBA, offering students the opportunity to complete their MBA over 16 months by taking courses on Saturdays and online;
- We approved numerous new doctoral and master’s programs during the 2014-2015 academic year, including the following:
- PhD in applied physics
- PhD in early childhood and education and care;
- PhD and MPA in global comparative public administration;
- EdD and PhD in leadership in urban schools;
- MS in urban planning and community development, to name a few
- The College of Liberal Arts introduced a new interdisciplinary minor in human rights in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies;
- The quality and reputation of our programs have continued to improve:
- U.S. News & World Report recently rated our university 31st in the nation for ethnic diversity.
- Our nursing, rehabilitation counseling, public policy, and graduate education programs also were ranked among the magazine’s top 100 listings.
- Our MBA program is ranked no. 41 in North America by TopMBA, and our College of Management was named one of the best for veterans.
- Our Venture Development Center was named a “Game Changer” by the Boston Globe and has been featured in Science magazine.
- The University of Massachusetts Boston as a whole was recently rated among the “Best in the Northeast” by the Princeton Review.
- Since 1980, we also have enjoyed continuous funding from the U.S. Department of Education to operate a TRIO Student Support Services Program.
- We were recently awarded a $2.1 million grant over five years to continue this work, which helps increase good academic standing, retention, and graduation rates among students, and fosters a climate to support success.
Indeed, we have made some considerable headway since our earlier days of programmatic isolation. As is always the case, our progress rides on the backs of the people who work to make it happen.
In this respect we owe a debt of gratitude to the dedicated staff who make sure our university home remains a welcoming and stimulating learning environment for all who study, work, and visit in our midst.
Each year, I recognize individuals who have been integral to the successful operation of this university with the Chancellor’s Achievement Awards. Thank you to this year’s winners: Kahrim Wade from Central Reprographics, and Mary Simone from Information Technology Ed Tech and Learning Commons, for their unwavering commitment to our university community.
While I have this moment to reflect on the excellence in our staff, there is someone special I want to talk about. This person has been teaching as an adjunct on this campus for a long time and is currently teaching in our Honors College. Every year, without fail, she invites me to come and visit with her class.
While this person is a giant, you still might easily overlook her—but she can never be missed if you spend any quality time on this campus and are in need of assistance. She is virtually everywhere:
- If you need to park or get on a shuttle
- When you need to eat
- When you need a room in the Campus Center
- If you need to buy books
- When you tour the harbor on our boat
- If you need something printed professionally
- When you want something recycled
Any of these services we come in contact with during the course of our work on campus have been indelibly imprinted by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Services Diane D’Arrigo.
Yet, with all of this on her plate, she is nonetheless someone who is always looking to take care of me. I barely walk into an event before I hear “Chancellor, can I get you something? There is tea on the way. Is there enough fruit for you? Should I send for something else?” And somehow I know that there are others on this campus who have had this same experience with her. Her care and concern for all of us make her a joy to be around, and I want to thank Diane for the wonderful, joyous spirit that she contributes to our campus community. Your love for the university and its great mission helps to keep us all going. Now, believe it or not—I may actually make it to your class!!!
I am also aware that the progress that this university has experienced would not be possible without the outstanding work of our esteemed faculty.
Whether you have been part of our faculty for decades, or you are just beginning your journey with us this fall, we have you to thank for the students we attract and the rankings that we climb. As I told our newest faculty members during their welcome reception earlier this month: You put the soul in our teaching soul at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
- This year we are welcoming 43 new faculty members for the first time. Let us greet them with a warm round of applause,
- We also congratulate 26 faculty members who receive tenure this year, also deserving of our praise.
- And three faculty members have been promoted to full professor:
- Christopher Zurn, Philosophy, College of Liberal Arts;
- Richard Fleming, Exercise and Health Sciences, College of Nursing and Health Sciences;
- Edward Miller, Gerontology, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.
I am also proud to welcome our new dean of the McCormack Graduate School, David Cash, and our new vice provost for information technology and chief information officer, Robert Weir. We are so very happy to have you on board.
We are also very fortunate that we have such a strong research enterprise, which is growing stronger every year in order to meet the widespread interests and ravenous study habits of our fabulous students.
Despite a difficult external funding environment, external funding continues to grow at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Through collective efforts by faculty and research and support staff, our total amount of external grants and contracts reached $63.2 million in fiscal 2015, a 5.2 percent increase over the previous year.
Now I’d like to recognize just a few of the individuals who continue helping us grow:
- Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance Maria Ivanova was honored as one of 32 inaugural 2015 Andrew Carnegie Fellows by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, tasked with pursuing research on the challenges facing U.S. democracy and international order in the next 25 years;
- Institute for Asian American Studies Director Paul Watanabe was sworn in as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders after being nominated by President Barack Obama;
- Professor of Management Systems Jeffrey Keisler was awarded the Fulbright-Aalto University Distinguished Chair for the 2015-16 academic year, where he will research methods for technology. He is the first University of Massachusetts Boston professor to earn the honor bestowed on just 40 scholars each year;
Last May, at commencement, we honored three faculty members who impacted our university community profoundly:
- Professor Jean Rhodes, of our Department of Psychology, received the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Scholarship;
- Professor Erik Blaser, of our Department of Psychology, received the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Teaching;
- And Professor William Robinson, of our School for the Environment, received the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service.
Thanks to each of you, Professors, for your outstanding work. We look forward to hearing from you at the Distinguished Faculty Lecture this fall.
Yesterday, I received some terrific news. It is my pleasure to announce the establishment of the “Robert and Donna Manning Faculty Excellence Awards.” This wonderful act of philanthropy on the part of Trustee Manning and his wife will fund a $10,000 annual award on each University of Massachusetts campus to a faculty member who exhibits excellence in teaching. Gifts like this reveal how profoundly the work of our faculty impacts students and our communities.
Congratulations to our entire body of faculty for all of your achievements. We look forward to your inspiring leadership in the months and years to come.
This semester marks the 50th anniversary of the first classes held at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Our first class at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Class of 1969, brought 1,227 students from Greater Boston to Park Square, pursuing higher education here because they were denied opportunities elsewhere, often based on stereotypes.
Last week, 17,000 students arrived on our beautiful waterfront campus, empowered by the opportunity to earn a degree from Boston’s only urban public research university. They hail from more than 150 countries around the world, representing a range of faiths, beliefs, and social, ethnic, and family backgrounds, and they chose our educational destination above all others because they know the doors are open here.
- Our Honors College starts off this year with its largest freshman class to date, with nearly 200 students, and enrollment in our Honors College has increased by 127 percent since its founding two years ago;
- Our graduate enrollment continues to increase, as we have topped 4,000 students for the first time in our history!
I’m very proud to announce that this year the J. Keith Motley Scholarship has been awarded to Linh Dang. Though he could not be with us today, I wanted us to celebrate an incoming freshman who participated in one of our great pre-collegiate programs, kept a 3.2 GPA in high school, matriculated at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and was nominated for the scholarship by members of the pre-collegiate program staff. He is a student who demonstrates the type of resiliency and determination to succeed despite the obstacles faced that make so many want to work and serve at this university.
Each year we recognize, with the John W. Ryan Award, the junior with the highest grade point average. The award commemorates our first convocation as a university, our first chancellor, and celebrates excellence in the student body.
This year, it turns out, I am pleased to announce that two juniors start the new academic year with perfect 4.0 GPAs, so we have two 2015 Ryan Award winners! They are:
- Shane Robert Heger, who is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in nursing; and
- Zachary John Sullivan, who is pursuing a bachelor of science degree in information technology through the College of Management with a concentration in systems administration.
Both Shane and Zachary enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Boston during the fall 2013 semester, have maintained full-time status for four consecutive semesters, and have earned an A grade in every class they have taken!
Shane, whose mother and uncle studied at the University of Massachusetts Boston, tutors his classmates on campus and volunteers at St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Hillside Humane Society, and Unconditional Love Pet Rescue. He says he discovered a calling for helping others at 11 years old, after African missionary priest Bishop Dennis visited his church and changed his life. Shane’s dedication to his studies kept him away this morning. His clinical schedule conflicted with convocation, but his mother, Karen Heger, and grandmother, Helen Sellon, are here to celebrate his achievement without him. When Zach isn’t studying, he does work-study as an office assistant and volunteers as a Peer LEADer for our learning community Management LEAD. He also helps peers as a MASTer or Mentor for Academic Success Techniques, and served as an academic peer advisor last summer. Zach is here with his mother, Laurene Murphy.
Please give Shane and Zach a hearty round of applause for both their academic accomplishments and their commitment to giving back to their community.
We have undoubtedly come a long way and overcome many obstacles over the last 50 years to arrive at this point.
Rather than dwell on the challenges this institution has faced in the past, let us now turn to the future and answer the question that ought to dictate the actions we take and the decisions we make today: What must the University of Massachusetts Boston become in the next 50 years?
(1) The University of Massachusetts Boston must be an institution that leads in inclusion. So much of the past 50 years has been dedicated to overcoming barriers that created exclusion—exclusion from high-quality university education, exclusion from academic and social experiences, and exclusion from solid careers and salaries.
The next 50 years will be about leading in the areas of inclusion. To be sure, diversity is a defining element of our university—it’s the first thing visitors notice when they walk through our halls. But diversity alone is not enough.
You see, diversity speaks to the creation of identities. It speaks to the recognition, honor, and dignity that we all must experience in spite of our differences. Inclusion, on the other hand, is predicated on the idea that everybody is included in principle, if not in fact. In principle, everyone is “in”—there are no outsiders. The human community is not—and must not be—a competition for membership. Rather, membership is a right assumed at birth.
Over the next 50 years, the University of Massachusetts Boston must continue to lead in inclusion. We have already opened the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, an institution that focuses on research-supported practices that increase inclusion regionally, nationally, and around the globe. Guided by this beacon, the university will produce groundbreaking research in areas in which we already lead—disparities in health, education, income, housing, and social access in broad areas of the natural sciences and learned societies, and in technical and professional opportunities—as well as others we will soon discover. This dimension of our university community, our commitment to a more fair and just society, will continue to lead us all the way through our first century of existence.
(2) The University of Massachusetts Boston must be an institution that leads in student success—that is, an institution at which students successfully learn, achieve, graduate, and go on to a lifetime of health and prosperity.
As a world-class public university, we must anticipate new measures of student success that track performance beyond graduation dates, and we must get out in front of this demand. More than anticipating a mandate, we should be a part of formulating those measures so that they make sense for our institution and for our constituency.
We must understand that all higher education stakeholders have an interested perspective on student success.
- Employers want assurances that college graduates are ready to become productive employees.
- Students and parents expect we will provide graduates the opportunity to achieve more than their preceding generations—to live a better life, to earn a better income, and to have a better understanding of the world.
- Policy makers require an understanding of the economic return from local, state, and federal investments in higher education.
We must engage with these realities, though it is not always comfortable for us, because these stakeholders are engaged with these concerns in a serious, and in some cases desperate, struggle for answers. We cannot ignore their views.
Amid these sometimes conflicting demands, we must keep in the forefront of our ambitions the importance of producing good human beings:
- Skilled workers and innovators? Yes.
- Wealth creators? Yes.
- Contributors to the economy? Yes.
- Civically engaged individuals? Yes.
- Culturally attuned individuals? Yes.
All of these characteristics, and many, many more, contribute to the full flowering of what it means to be human. And that, colleagues, is our true goal as an institution of higher education—no matter how corny, naïve, or elitist it may sound to you or to others. Our mission to help develop human beings leads to, among other things, morally and socially conscious societies, and the reach of the commitment to those values encompasses the human family. A sustainable global culture and society depend upon that mission, and our next 50 years will be driven by it.
(3) The University of Massachusetts Boston must be an institution that leads in collaborative efforts with government, industry, and the academy across the commonwealth, the region, the nation, and the world.
Historically, isolation and exclusion had been the normative state of the academy, perhaps because some maintained the ideological posture that there were people and institutions that did not want to work with universities.
That is not who we have been at the University of Massachusetts Boston, nor who we will be. This university currently has many wonderful collaborations, ranging from cancer research in the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy, to our partnerships with the real estate industry and other businesses to provide internship and employment opportunities, such as this past summer’s CVP Career Academy. In fact, we collaborate with academic and research institutions on every continent.
We will advance community-engaged scholarship and community engagement. The University of Massachusetts Boston has a rich history of mission-driven commitments that engage the campus with local, state, regional, national, and global communities. In the context of a public urban research university, the mission of community engagement is most clearly expressed through community-engaged scholarship. I remain aware that if community-engaged scholarship and community engagement are going to be part of the institutional identity of this research university, it has to be encouraged, supported, and valued as scholarly activity. That is why I have asked Provost Langley to:
- find a way to ensure that an adequate organizational structure be created to enable us to fulfill our commitment to engagement and community engaged scholarship, and
- to begin creating three new Chancellor’s Awards for Community-Engaged Scholarship and Community Engagement, to be awarded, by selection committees of their peers, to faculty, staff, and students and given out at convocation each year.
In the next 50 years, we must more intentionally seek deep and productive partnerships with those who share our values and vision, while we still work to uphold the academic integrity of our faculty and our scholarship. We cannot become what we envision in isolation. We must expand our sphere of operation by allowing for more integrative relationships, scholarship, and research; there is no more important time for this than now, as we live in a world that is increasingly losing patience with obsolete barriers to solving problems such as poverty, warfare, environmental decay, and global warming.
(4) The University of Massachusetts Boston must be an institution that is more intimately involved in the broader field of education.
Most of you know of the university’s leadership role in Success Boston. You know that we serve more than 2,500 Greater Boston students through our pre-collegiate programming. You know about our award-winning work in early-childhood education, and you know of the many teachers, administrators, and scholars we educate in the College of Education and Human Development. We have partnerships with more than 80 school districts throughout the state. Our concern for and involvement in education have never been questioned.
Yet in the next 50 years, we must intentionally seek answers to these questions:
- What do the young come to know?
- How do they come to know what they know?
- Who gets access to what knowledge?
- Who gets to produce and use that knowledge?
As you can see, inclusion remains central to our inquiry. In our so-called knowledge economy, the distribution and accessibility of knowledge are critical to the well-being of both our citizenry and our democracy. Over the next 50 years, we intend to impress an even larger footprint in the realm of education—in Boston, to be sure, but also across our nation and around the globe.
(5) The University of Massachusetts Boston will be an institution that leads in globalization. There are many definitions of and perspectives on globalization, some of which extoll its benefits, others of which decry its injustices. Without discounting many of its destabilizing impacts, there are many dimensions of the irreversible globalization process for which higher education, and the University of Massachusetts Boston in particular, must take leadership.
On our campus and through our programs, students must come to understand that the globe is our “common home”; as such, each of us must uphold our responsibility to care for our physical planet and all of its inhabitants.
Globalization occurs as humans learn about different parts of our common home; it occurs when people grapple with different styles and cultures; it occurs when individuals learn to live and work with individuals from other places.
For the next 50 years, we will facilitate globalization through:
- More curricular offerings and changes;
- More joint research with institutions overseas;
- More study abroad options for students;
- More joint- and dual-degree programs with overseas institutions;
- More professor and staff exchanges, with internships linking the local with the global;
- More infrastructure to support crossing city, regional, national, and cultural boundaries and borders;
- More graduates capable of working and finding their niche anywhere in the world.
There is, perhaps, no realm to which the shrinking of the globe is a more urgent matter than in the exchange of knowledge and culture, for these are the rails upon which this great engine of globalization may best be steered and directed to the benefit of humankind, especially if we are to eliminate the prejudices we harbor about one another.
(6) Finally, in the next 50 years, the University of Massachusetts Boston will lead the discussion around the broad need for the integration of knowledge and the release of the human imagination that will have great bodies of data available.
For some, the unity of knowledge is considered a utopian dream; and yet deep investigation reveals that knowledge, as Edward O. Wilson argued, is one at bottom. It has been passed down to us in divided form, for political and ideological reasons, as well as for the creation of wealth and the supposed enlightenment of humanity. However, you will note that prior to the 17th century the disciplinary divisions in which so many of us in higher education have been socialized did not exist. Such divisions obscure an underlying unity that is frequently expressed in patterns of resemblance, which emerge from deep investigation.
Knowledge brings with it a certain freedom, while incomplete knowledge tinges that freedom with disjointedness. Incomplete knowledge:
- Limits our capacity to effectively build social and human community;
- It curbs our ability to deal with an interconnected world and to engage effectively in a truly global society;
- And it forestalls our power and competence to fully engage social problems that we face today and in the future.
I am confident that this magnificent university—shaped by humble origins, ardent opponents, and unwavering allies—will knock down the artificial barriers that prevent our apprehension of the unity of knowledge and clear the pathway toward the noblest human pursuits in this world.
Despite the herculean efforts of many, so much of our interaction with this campus seems to be a negotiation with digging, building, construction, redirection, and parking. The normal flow of people and transportation has been disrupted and rerouted. Our harborside campus is accented by piles of dirt and deep holes, our older buildings are regularly accessorized by scaffolding, and the promise of new and reinvigorated spaces for research, teaching, and learning often feel outweighed by the adjustments required to facilitate their coming.
The many sacrifices and inconveniences that I have euphemistically referred to as “mud on your shoes” are a necessary and significant part of this vision for the next 50 years. Our journey toward the century mark must pass through the awkward terrain of new construction and new programming. But this temporary awkwardness will pass, and we will hit our stride as the premier research university we know ourselves to be.
If we have overcome great disparities in facilities, financial resources, programmatic resources, and support of our status as a first-rate institution of higher education, and
- we have still graduated great academic, civic, business, and government leaders;
- still become a go-to institution for solving problems in the city, state, region and nation;
- and still produced scholarship that is renowned throughout the globe
then how can anyone accept anything less than excellence for and from us? That is, excellence for and from our students, excellence in the way we serve our society, and excellence in the production and distribution of new knowledge in the world.
From this peninsula, we are blessed with expansive views of the Atlantic horizon, the skyline of Boston’s downtown, and the Blue Hills. We are drawn by these vistas into a drama that plays out in the story of our city and nation to be all that it can be. We are drawn into the drama of a seaport colony, intent on being a “city on a hill”—with a calling to lead and yet having to wrestle with the earthy, human issues of every era.
What I am suggesting today is that we must be ready to play our part in this grand, noble, and often contentious theater, whether we are called to play the mind, the heart, or the soul of our stakeholder constituency. To do that, we must demonstrate inclusion; we must stimulate broadly the success of students; we must demonstrate the viability of collaboration across sectors and fields; we must place educational access and efficacy in the foreground of our efforts; and we must humanize the process of globalization. And all of this must be understood as one and the same effort with building a meaningful whole of human existence.
Our vision for the next 50 years of the University of Massachusetts Boston remains tied to the aspiration of the city for which it is named, tied to the nation that it inhabits, and tied to the world it serves. The grandest aspirations of the human race:
- That “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
- That “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”
- That “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
These audacious aspirations and all those that our history of striving and struggle have engendered in the human spirit lie at the root of our vision for this university and the community of learning, scholarship, and service that it engenders year after year.
With its humble past, its history of being excluded, the skewed perceptions of its quality; with all the “mud on the shoes,” and the struggle for space, I am proud of the University of Massachusetts Boston. I am proud of our resiliency and strength. I am proud of the scholarship we produce. I am proud of the good work that we do.
- I am proud of the students who enter our classrooms and travel our hallways!
- I am proud of the faculty, which is second to none in the world!
- I am proud of the staff, which keep the university running and facilitate every day the noble work we do!
We are no longer some campus or a fractioned part of a university system that can be isolated by some data point, vicious intention or unintended consequence. We are not perfect. I am not perfect. But we strive to become better every day and promise never to compromise our integrity on our way to doing it.
We are the University of Massachusetts Boston—a vital part of a great university that spans the commonwealth and gifts valued citizens to the world, and I am proud to be your chancellor.
Onward and upward, you mighty community of noble human beings, to the next 50 years of excellence!
Note: This is an edited version of Chancellor Motley's remarks, as prepared for delivery.