The three professors honored with Chancellor’s Awards for Distinguished Faculty at last spring’s Commencement exercises reconvened recently to discuss their work, the mission of UMass Boston, and the future of their disciplines in a time of rising global uncertainty.
Professors David L. Levy, Jan Mutchler, and Shirley Suet-ling Tang each spoke November 17 as part of “The New Campus: Reflections on Growth and Change from Distinguished Faculty.”
At commencement, Levy received the award for Distinguished Scholarship, Mutchler was recognized for Distinguished Research, and Tang was honored for Distinguished Teaching. All three have seen UMass Boston evolve during their tenures, adding innovative programs and centers that embody the university’s commitment to intellectual inquiry and public service.
Levy, who has taught in the College of Management for 25 years, was the driving force behind the creation of UMass Boston’s internationally recognized PhD program in Organizations and Social Change.
“We’ve grown a reputation as the business school in the U.S. with this distinctive approach,” Levy said, noting the program’s focus on sustainability, workforce diversity, and globalization.
“I’ve strived to build it, again with help from colleagues, and build it into a place that I’m proud to work and surrounding myself with people that we’ve enticed to work to come to work from around the world, and people who share a common vision and values, “ he said.
Levy offered a brief comment on the surprise election of Donald Trump, who has expressed skepticism about climate change.
“The physical world has its own reality, regardless of the ruling ideology in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Mutchler, a professor of gerontology who joined the university in 1999, said UMass Boston changed the course of her career.
“Up until the time I came to UMass Boston, I led what I think of as a very conventional academic life,” Mutchler said, describing her experience mining U.S. Census data. “I came to a campus that was really doing things in a different way, prioritizing different things than we saw on many campuses.”
The university created one of the first gerontology programs in the country, and followed up by establishing the Gerontology Institute and the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging, which Mutchler now leads. These pioneering decisions put UMass Boston at the forefront of a growing area of study regarding the lives of older Americans.
“At the time that I began my career, aging was really sort of a niche field,” Mutchler said. “It was really meant, at the time, to be something that was controlled for so it didn’t mess up your models.”
Tang, an associate professor of Asian American studies, began teaching at UMass Boston 15 years ago after working with immigrant and refugee populations in Revere and Lynn. Her innovative course on Asian American media literacy gives students the forum and techniques to share their experiences through digital storytelling.
The resulting videos “document and clarify struggles by individual students, many with immigrant or refugee family backgrounds, growing up in racially mixed working class neighborhoods while seeking higher education access and opportunity.” she said. They are core constituents in UMass Boston’s process of growth and change.”