UMass Boston

Chancellor, White House Advisor Urge Students to be Change Agents in Convocation Addresses: “This is Your Time to Shine.”

09/15/2022| Crystal Valencia

UMass Boston Alumna and Outgoing White House Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy ’76 Delivers Keynote Address

Chancellor speaks at Convocation
Image By: Bob Durling

“ This convocation is not just the start of your better future, it’s the start of a better future for all of us. ”

A UMass Boston education will give you exactly the right knowledge and experience you’ll need to be a powerful agent of change, Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco told the campus community during Convocation Wednesday.

The chancellor spoke about students preparing to take on the most important issue of our time, climate change. And his examples were stark— a receding glacier in Peru that could trigger an avalanche and wipe out the entire city of Huaraz, epic flooding in Pakistan that is destroying livelihoods and has killed more than a thousand people, and 20 million people at risk of famine in the Horn of Africa due to drought.

Often, when facing existential issues like this, we can feel hopeless. But I would argue that you don’t have to feel this way,” Chancellor Suárez-Orozco said. “Because I know UMass Boston will empower you to take them on.”

While students, faculty, and staff were welcomed back to classes last week, Wednesday’s convocation—which officially marks the beginning of a new academic year— served to remind the UMass Boston community of their shared mission.

“My single message to you today is that learning how to make the world better is exactly why you are here,” Chancellor Suárez-Orozco said. “I believe this is why our mission is more important than ever.”

Watch convocation on UMass Boston's YouTube Channel.

Chancellor serves students at the Convocation Barbeque

“As I see it, higher education must prepare young people to tackle complex challenges precisely like the intersection of climate change and inequality. Because at its best, education advances truth, social justice, and quality of life,” he said. “We can stop hopelessness in its tracks by learning and understanding our connection to these issues – as students, citizens in our communities, and residents of planet Earth.”

Chancellor Suárez-Orozco welcomed White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy ’76, a UMass Boston alumna, who gave the keynote address, UMass Boston: Where Your Journey Begins.

McCarthy was appointed by President Joseph Biden as the first White House National Climate Advisor in 2021. Previously, she served as assistant administrator and administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the administration of President Barack Obama. Among her signature accomplishments is crafting the climate and clean energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, passed into law in August 2022. This historic legislation includes nearly $370 billion in tax incentives and programs aimed at accelerating the nation’s transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to one powered by wind, solar and other clean energy.

Gina McCarthy

McCarthy announced that she will be leaving her White House post at the end of this week, but would continue to fight for climate justice.

“I know so many of you are here because you already have a commitment to a better, more equitable world,” she said. “You already understand that too many people in too many countries have been left behind. In the United States of America we have people who don’t have access to clean water or breathing clean air. So now it’s your chance to take hold of these inequities. It’s your chance to take advantage of the education this school has to offer so you can embrace the change that we all want and need to see.

“This is your time to shine. This is your moment of opportunity. So please grab all that UMass Boston has to offer.”

Earlier in the program, Provost Joseph Berger welcomed 25 new tenure-track faculty members recruited to campus this year through national searches. Another 61 faculty members were recognized for being promoted to the rank of associate professor, full professor, senior lecturer, and senior lecturer II.

Faculty at the UMass Boston Convocation

Provost Berger also spoke about the university’s forthcoming strategic plan, saying he will share more details in the coming weeks; it will be a main topic for discussion at an all-campus meeting on September 28.

“This is a pivotal moment for UMass Boston as we look to the future with a renewed dedication to equity, a commitment to anti-racism and health promotion, permanent leadership, a new quad that will enhance our beautiful campus, and a new strategic plan, For the Times,” he said.

The convocation speakers all encouraged students to stay hopeful, and McCarthy added that they should also be “obnoxiously impatient.”

“…Now is the time to deliver an equitable and secure future for every human being, and we don’t have any time to lose,” she said. “This convocation is not just the start of your better future, it’s the start of a better future for all of us, so go make that future come alive.”