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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Exit Interview: Vice Chancellor Patrick Day

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“It has truly been an honor, and I mean that. It sounds cliché, but I don’t mean it as a cliche. An honor and a privilege to serve at UMass Boston. It was a dream come true coming here.”

 

 

 

In the days after Commencement, Patrick K. Day, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, revealed that he will be leaving the University of Massachusetts Boston at the end of June for a new job at the University of the Pacific in California. Shortly after his announcement, the Mass Media was able to obtain an interview. Read our Q&A with the outgoing administrator below.

What have you learned from UMass Boston?

Wow, that’s one of those questions where it’s hard to figure out. Well, that list is so long. I think of the highlights. I’ve learned a lot about the incredible insight students can provide someone like me in their work. If you’re listening, if you pay attention, there is a depth of insight that students will provide you that will make you a better professional.

I’ve learned a great deal about what it means to build a university. UMass Boston is growing, and building, and rebuilding. So I’ve learned a great deal about the exciting opportunity that that is but also the incredible challenge that that is, to really build a new institution. 

I think I have learned a lot about the commitment of students. I think I have learned the incredible power of diversity in a lot of different ways. Boston’s one of those cities — as a lot of entry point cities are, particularly in this part of the country on the coast — a place where diversity means so many different things, and they are powerful in equal ways.

What I learned working here is about class, and about nationality ethnicity, and about the richness of those diversities, and how they play very powerful roles in a place like Boston in ways that race plays and has primacy in other parts of the country. Even though I think all those things are still in other parts of the country, I think there is an awareness of those kinds of things. I think that learning has made me a much better administrator, learning from students.

I’ve learned how to prepare for a lot of different weather in the course of one week. I’ve learned to always keep a coat. 

What’s your best memory of your time at UMass Boston?

My best memories are always of the students and have to do with student achievement, and student awards, and individual conversation with a student. There are some very poignant thank you cards that I’ve gotten from students that were some of my best moments, when nobody’s around. Where a student has shared with me the impact that we’ve been able to have on their life, those are some of the best moments. 

I think the opportunity to create a new office, U-Access, that is working for students who are dealing with food insecurity, temporarily homelessness, and emancipation from foster care — that was a pretty good moment, to be able to launch that and hire a director for that. That was one of the best moments. 

Gosh, I think early on, when we started creating traditions, and we started to see those things happen — the opening weeks, things that were not here when I got here. We created Lavender Graduation and Latino Graduation. 

When I say, “we created,” I don’t mean, “when I sat down by myself and created.” We created opportunities for those things to grow and those things to happen. Those are the best moments, watching students take something to another level.

Even the Mass Media, watching the Mass Media grow and get stronger. When I got here, there were some challenges, and beginning to create professional development opportunities for students to go to conferences and learn things: to me, because that’s what I do, that gets me excited. It’s making that product come out.

Seeing the student government get stronger, going in there and seeing a full room of people who are participating in the senate: that’s the stuff that gets me. Those have been my best moments, for sure. 

What have you liked most about working at UMass Boston?

That’s easy, the students. No question. Gosh, that’s the easiest question I’ve been asked all year long. This is an unbelievable group of students, and I can’t give you any sort of one definition because our students are so diverse in so many really exciting ways.

What I see in UMass students is they’re hardworking, and they are particularly committed to improving their lives. So I see students who — whether they be a traditional-aged, full time, first-time freshman, or a veteran that’s returning after being in combat, or if it’s an older adult student, who has raised a family and now they’re returning to school, or it’s a first-generation person who has come to the institution and they’re the first in their family — I see so much in each one of those stories that’s about working very hard and about being incredibly committed.

But I want to say this too, because that can sometimes be a real common narrative about our students: I find our students to be incredibly interesting.  I find that our students here have so much to share in terms of their experiences. I’ve been able to learn so much by listening to them, interacting with them. I think that that’s one of the stories that we need to tell more is how fascinating the students are when you sit and have a conversation.

You can go all over the world in the course of one day and four conversations. To be able to walk down a hallway or through the Campus Center and and have that experience — that’s extraordinary. There aren’t many places on the planet where you can do that. 

So if we’re so great, why are you going?

That’s a fair question. You know, it’s been seven years, and it’s been seven really good years. I think it was one of those opportunities that provided some advancement for me, as it is most times when we transition.

I’m going to work with another exciting group of students in another part of the country. It was one of those moments where it’s both head and heart. There’s the heart part that makes you feel very connected to where you are, but then there’s the head that says, “You’ve been committed for quite a while, and it’s now time to consider that next stage.”

Listen, I love the students here, and they would only make it hard for me to leave.

What lessons do you think UMass Boston has for University of the Pacific?

I think lessons are always two-way streets, but I think what I will certainly take to Pacific is a broader, powerful understanding of the unquestionable improvement in quality of university environments when there is a tremendous amount of diversity. There’s simply no question that it is a better and stronger environment. I think that’s a lesson that UMass Boston will always be able to teach any institution. It certainly taught me that, and it’s a lesson that I will continue to take with me. 

I think that I will take to Pacific the importance of having close relationships with students and staying connected, so when you’re making policy decisions, such as student health insurance, you bring students into that and let them weigh in. You have a conversation. You pull students together to say, “What do you think? Give me your perspective before we make a decision that’s going to impact you, and not just you, but the people behind you.” 

I think the other big lesson that I will take to Pacific is what it means to be a part of a community, what it means to be a university that is in the city of Boston, with a focus on the entire city and by definition the entire commonwealth. It’s certainly a real powerful connection to those who are around us, and what that means for the faculty, and what that means for the staff, and what that means for the students.

When you are a part of a community, you are a part of a community, which means you have responsibility. You are responsible for what happens in that community. You can’t just sort of be away from it just because you have some gates, if you will, real or perceived. Being a part of a community is just that, and a university can play a serious role in the improvement of communities.

What will you be doing at the University of the Pacific?

I will be heading the division of Student Affairs, as I do now. It will be a larger portfolio that I will be responsible for at the university. It will include Residential Life and Career Services, and some of the things that are not, as we are structured here, a part of what I do. That will be a cool, exciting opportunity for me.

It will be another stage of my career, and a very different kind of environment. It’s a private institution with multiple campuses, so I will have the opportunity to interact with a lot of different types of students in three different cities. It’s an exciting next stage. 

Who do you most want to thank?

Again, it always comes back to the students first. It’s a great honor to be a part of the collegiate experience of a student. It’s a great honor; it’s a privilege that people allow. By “allow,” I mean that they are participating with you and engaging, that they are walking with you as you walk with them. That’s the first thank you.

The second thank you is certainly to my staff in Student Affairs. They have been stalwarts of hard work and have done great things to not only change the culture of the division but also of our university. 

Certainly, tremendous thank yous to the Chancellor, and my Vice Chancellor colleagues that have been supportive as we’ve tried to build this thing called Student Affairs that was not nearly as big as it is now. I think it’s a much more active and engaged culture, whether it’s a speaker that we’re bringing in to talk about a serious world issue, or it’s a concert, or it’s just the energy happening on campus from students being around, or it’s student groups or SAEC and all the things they do throughout the year. Those to me are the people who have participated in this move forward, so I’m very appreciative to these folks. 

If you could change any one thing about UMass Boston, what would it be?

I would change what I think is going to be changed. I would create a residential option for students, for the students that desire it. That’s what I think our students need: the option, not for everybody, so that those students who do need that have that option. 

Why do you think we need dorms?

For a couple of reasons, well, many reasons. I think our students have said repeatedly now that they are interested in having that residential option, one.

Number two, I think that — well, I don’t think, I know. I talk to students who leave UMass Boston, who are from the neighborhood — and by “neighborhood,” I mean both close and from Greater Boston — who tell me that they are transferring to other universities simply because they can no longer do the commute. It’s too far, or their living situation is not such that it’s really conducive to being able to study, and that they need to have an on-campus option.

They are literally going to Salem State, going to Bridgewater, going to UMass Amherst because of the residential option. They say to me, “I’d like to be in Boston.” I’ve had them say to me, “I love UMass Boston. I just can’t commute from Medford every day. I just can’t do it and maintain my grades.” That’s another reason.

Third, what we do know is that residence hall living typically provides an opportunity for students that results in those students achieving at a higher level in terms of retention and graduation than those students who don’t live in the residences.

Again, the point is not that this is the only option, or this is the only focus. By no means. If you look at our retention numbers, they’re not just focused on students who would be living in the residence hall. They’re focused on all of our students, who we want to start on track and stay on track.

But we know. You talk about improving student success, you’re putting a kind of a puzzle together. There’s no one size, there’s no one intervention that’s going to work for everybody. It’s another piece of the puzzle that helps students be more successful. 

Here’s another piece. We’re the only urban — and by “urban,” I mean urban-serving — public research university in the United States that does not have a residence hall option. The only, in all of the United States. Keep in mind, I’m being very specific — urban public research university. We are a unicorn.

This no longer exists, and there’s a reason it doesn’t exist. Because students are saying they need to have at least an option. They may or may not choose it, but there’s a critical mass of students who are saying that they do want it as an option for them. If we are going to appropriately serve our urban mission as well as our mission as an institution of the Commonwealth, we need to provide that option for the groups of students that really do need it.

We’re not talking anecdotally. We have data. My comments, conversations are anecdotal, but we have broader data. Students are saying this needs to be an option on this campus.

And I want to be clear on this point — not to just get students we don’t currently have, like to get students from across the globe. Yeah, some of those students will avail themselves of that option, but we have enough students who are from right here, a ten-mile radius around us and even shorter distances, who want some kind of residential option.

In fact, we’ve looked at the data, and we’ve just aggregated the data. There’s no difference in the desire for housing in students who are from South Boston, Dorchester, right around here … there’s no difference in the desirability of housing in terms of how students answer those questions in that survey coming from students in those zip codes as those students who are coming from further out.

I think that if we’re listening to our students, our students have made it very clear not that they want to have a different university, not that they want to have everybody or a majority of people living on campus. That’s not what they’ve said. What they have said is, “We want to have this as an option.”

Recognize that UMass Boston will always be a primarily commuter institution, like most urban universities. It will always be primarily an institution where students live at home or in their own apartment.

For some first-year students and second-year students they want that option to begin with. And even then, then they’ll move out and live close to campus and start to develop their own life and so forth. It’s a transitional opportunity that I think we’re talking about for our students at this point.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

It has truly been an honor, and I mean that. It sounds cliché, but I don’t mean it as a cliche. An honor and a privilege to serve at UMass Boston. It was a dream come true coming here.

Certainly in terms of the students that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life to be a part of this institution for several years. 

 

 

Email Cady Vishniac or Patrick Day