At convocation last September, Chancellor J. Keith Motley gave some unusual advice to the university community.
"Be prepared to get mud on your boots," he told the crowd, referring to the upcoming construction on campus that will be an inevitable part of the university's master plan.
At the annual State of the University address on May 3, Chancellor Motley recaptured the theme of muddy shoes to tie together the past academic year's highlights- and the future of UMass Boston.
The mud, Chancellor Motley explained, is both literal and metaphorical.
He encouraged the audience to get muddy shoes not only from the upturned earth brought by construction, but from the often-messy processes of thinking, teaching, and learning.
The chancellor cited achievements from Project ALERTA's receipt of the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award to the Beacons volleyball team's Little East Conference Championship title, to show the university's commitment to growth and creativity. He also offered some very positive statistics that seem to indicate that the state of the university is better than ever.
UMass Boston, he said, "has been elevated to the top tier of the University-Based Cancer Research" for its U54 grant proposal, which it was awarded in partnership with the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. The university has also been ranked as one of the greenest colleges in the country by the Princeton Review, and the university system is the 33rd highest-rated American university, public or private, according to The Times of London.
Chancellor Motley also shared the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of the university's various programs. The university's nursing program is ranked 50th nationally, he said, with the rehabilitation counseling program at 56th, clinical psychology program at 83rd, and public affairs at 90th. Applause broke out when he emphasized how the rankings show that the UMass Boston College of Nursing and Health Sciences is the third-ranked school for nursing in New England, behind only Boston College and Yale University.
The chancellor also offered specific information about construction and the master plan. UMass Boston will break ground on an Integrated Sciences Complex on June 8. Soon, Chancellor Motley said, "The breathtaking view of the Campus Center set against the Boston Harbor... will... be rivaled by the glittering structure at the entrance, signaling the University of Massachusetts Boston's state-of-the-art teaching and research experience."
Chancellor Motley encouraged the hundreds of faculty, staff, and students who attended the address to embrace the transformative and generative possibilities of the metaphorical mud of change and growth, urging community to "spend the next several years deeply mired in the site and locus of human creativity and human capacity."
"My wish for mud on your shoes should not be confused with my excitement for new construction," he explained. "Rather, I have made this wish because... [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."