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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Student Senate Took Shape Under Robert George in 1985

Management BA & MA, 1987

Management BA & MA, 1987

The University of Massachusetts Boston’s Student Government Association began in the fall of 1985, when the committee of students who appropriated student funds reformed its constitution. Robert George lead the transition. 
“Being on the committee charged with coming up with a new governing structure, working alongside the faculty, staff, professors, and administration; learning to integrate skills of managing an academic institution… [All] that was an eyeopener,” George said.
In only his second year as a student government representative, George was elected chairman of the Student Activity Committee and oversaw its metamorphosis into the Student Senate. 
“The extracurricular activities were helpful in focusing me,” he said. “Being responsible for over a million dollars of Student Activities funds and working with the administration was a wonderful learning experience. My favorite activity was being involved in Student Government. That was extremely exciting.” 
The experiences George had while helping to shape the student government on campus were most memorable because they offered practical lessons in developing the skills he needed to become comfortable as a senior manager. 
“One of the most important things that I learned,” George said, “is that there are no permanent enemies in the world of politics. Compromise is important. You always have to show dignity and respect. One of the things that I do remember is having all of these various factions, different organizations, who sometimes you may not agree 100 percent with what they stand for, but you have to acknowledge that they do exist and treat them fairly in terms of funding and opportunities.” 
As a leader in student government, George especially appreciated the encouragement he got from seeing African Americans in leadership roles around him. For example, the Director of Student Financial Aid at the time.
“I recall her stopping me one day in the hallway and complementing the way I carried myself as a young man on campus at functions,” George said. “Individuals who really didn’t have to would stop and complement you for the things that you’re doing on campus, and I still remember them to this day.” 
Though some names escape his memory, the faces of those who inspired his studies stick in George’s mind. He remembers Professor Beard from the now titled McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies for his dynamic teaching style. John Corrigan, the UMass Boston chancellor at the time, would make a point of having conversations with those involved with student leadership. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Charles Desmond, also helped shape George’s ideas and goals. 
“Being involved in Student Activities was extremely helpful in terms of multitasking and dealing with different individuals and different personalities. One of the most exciting things we did was when Reverend Jesse Jackson was running for president. We were able to work in conjunction with the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies and have him come to UMass on his tour and speak to the student population.” 
George chose to attend UMB after high school because it was affordable and convenient. He lived in the Boston area, and UMB seemed like the best option for the degree he wanted. 
“UMass had a reputation of a good school of management,” he said. “I did my research around the greater Boston area. It was affordable, and most importantly, I thought I could get a good education – which I did.” 
George also had an office in Wheatley Hall where he did extracurricular work for Student Activities. He was also a part of the Black Student Center, and in the fall seasons, he would spend his evenings on the practice field with UMass Boston’s division three football team. He played defensive tackle, and place kicker. 
“That was phenomenal,” he said. “We had a lot of heart and a lot of fun. We didn’t have a winning team, but we built relationships with each other and with the coaching staff. Because we weren’t a full fledged sanctioned program with a lot of money, you just had to find the time to do it on your own, so you had to build up a lot of discipline, and develop relationships with individuals on campus you would not otherwise know. When we had away games, if we had to travel out of state to play, you spend a weekend with these guys and the coach, so you develop long lasting relationships.” 
As a student, George sensed a unique focus among his classmates. Everyone he met went to UMB of their own volition, not just because their parents or society told them, but because they wanted a successful college experience. For George, UMB was a pitstop on the way to something greater. 
As a student leader on campus, George caught the attention of administrators at the Boston Zoological Society after the folks at the UMass Boston career offices gave him a recommendation. 
“Administrators at the career offices recommended that I contact Boston Zoological Society about the availability of an internship. I saw several plans for large indoor tropical forests and other exhibitory that was not close to anything we had anywhere in Boston. I was brought into the position, and worked hard to obtain the position, and upon graduation I was hired full time.” 
After graduating, he became the Manger of Community Relations and Events at the Franklin Park Zoo. Now, he is the Executive Vice President, responsible for all business operations of the zoo. He manages all aspects of administration, from the front office operation to human resources, to the admissions and memberships department, as well as the IT department. 
“When I came here, the zoos in Boston were relatively unsuccessful,” George said. “Over the years, I’ve seen us grow to where we have some national credibility. Zoo New England has an opportunity to change individuals’ behaviors by teaching about wildlife and conservation in an engaging way. We have an impact upon the world’s environment. I’m very excited about what I do, and I hope to continue to do it for a long time.” 
When Robert George thinks back on his time at UMass Boston, he feels proud. 
“You’re at an institution that continues to grow and you should take every advantage of the learning opportunities they have,” George said. “I just hope that UMass continues to grow and be around for another fifty – a hundred years, and most importantly, the students there get what I got: a wonderful learning opportunity to use throughout my life. I got a wonderful education from being at UMass Boston.”