UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley kicked off the new academic year last week with an address to the campus community as part of the annual convocation activities. The speech, titled “The New Student-Centered, Urban Public Research University: Urban Mission with a Global Perspective,” highlighted recent university and faculty accomplishments, and challenged the students, staff and faculty in the packed Campus Center ballroom to expand their vision of UMass Boston’s urban mission.
“The challenges before us at the University of Massachusetts Boston are significant, and the needs compelling. But the advancement of technology and knowledge now permits us to make connections and find solutions impossible to imagine a decade ago,” Chancellor Motley said. “This is the blossoming of the urban character and the essence of the experience of the urban university…. I challenge each and every one of us here to embrace the mission, transcend the day-to-day, and exceed the customary. I urge each of you to understand the linkages, make the connections, and live the dream.”
The morning convocation speaking program included updates from newly appointed Provost Winston Langley and Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Ellen O’Connor, and concluded with remarks from guest speaker Walker Graham, an MIT biology professor known for his work in DNA research and innovative teaching methods. Following the ceremony, Chancellor Motley and his senior staff hosted a barbecue on the front lawn of the Campus Center.
The convocation marked the opening of what university officials are hopeful will be an auspicious year. Following months of budget preparations for a fiscal year 2010 spending plan, Chancellor Motley early this month announced a new budget that includes fee rebates for in-state undergraduate students; avoids staff and faculty layoffs and furloughs; and prevents major impacts to the university’s academic programs.
Additional good news comes from student enrollment, which is on track to top 15,000 for the first time this year, according to Kathleen Teehan, vice chancellor for enrollment management. UMass Boston’s strategic plan calls for enrollment growth to reach 15,000 in 2010, but an increased interest in public higher education and the economic downturn likely hastened progress toward reaching that goal a year early, according to Teehan.
“We’ve certainly seen a surge in applications and about a 7-8% increase in enrollment over last year,” Teehan said. “But what is equally interesting is that we’re also seeing more traditional freshmen, more diversity, and high-quality students. These are all positives for our campus.”