Convocation 2001

J.P. Goodwin

In her “State of the University” speech at UMass Boston’s 37th Convocation on September 24, Chancellor Jo Ann Gora addressed both “problems and concerns,” and “strengths,” of the UMB campus. She also outlined her plan to make the college “a national model for public urban universities,” and recognized the contributions of individuals from throughout the University community.

“The more I learn about the university, the more I see great strengths and great potential. I have been made aware of the challenges we face, and my overwhelming sense remains one of optimism and enthusiasm,” declared Gora.

Chief among those challenges, according to Gora, is the appearance of the physical plant and grounds. “If we are to move forward energetically as a university, we must have a physical plant that is an attractive setting for work and learning,” Gora said. “Classrooms are sometimes not clean enough; the furniture is old, and the carpet is in dismal shape. Paint is chipped on walls and stair railings, windows are dirty. I could go on.”

Gora pointed out that in recent years the university has spent $21 million on structural repairs that “were mostly invisible.” She went on to state, “This year, I will invest $1 million to improve the physical appearance of our campus, focusing first on our public spacers. Next year, new funds will be allocated to improve the quality of office spaces. My commitment to improving the appearance of the campus will be ongoing and relentless!”

Among the improvements she listed were: improved signage and upgraded maps of the campus (“It is not clear enough where you are or where you need to go.”); plans to renovate the Pump House into a science and technology center, including a more “inviting pathway” towards the Kennedy Library; adding new outdoor sculptures from the Arts on the Points program, and a large scale redesign of the plaza in the future.

“We are actively pursuing the construction of residential housing for approximately 2,000 students. We are seeking local legislative and community support,” stated Gora, continuing her strong support for residential housing on campus.

Another area where “we need to take additional strides with all deliberate speed” is technology, said Gora. She noted there are currently as many as 300 faculty making use of Web technology in their classes, mentioning some of these faculty by name, subject and expertise, including, Jonathan Chu, Joanne Dalton, Rusty Simonds, Mike Milburn, Kenneth Rothwell, Stephanie Hartwell, and Dennis Byrne. She added that the full use of what technology offers in the classroom is possible only in classrooms that are fully wired and, “We have too few of these.”

She revealed that the university will be funding 10 new “smart” classrooms and providing the faculty with laptop computers to go with them. Also, that the Instructional Technology Center will establish a “help line” to respond immediately to instructional technology emergencies in the classrooms and presentation rooms and will offer an instructional technology certification program that will provide faculty with training.

“My objective is to give the tools to faculty to empower their students to become more active and more engaged in the learning process,” Gora said.

The chancellor stressed commitment as a strength at UMB. “This commitment is like something in the depths of the ocean that one can count on to be there, whatever the turbulence on the surface. It is seen in the faculty, in their dedication to teaching, and extends throughout all ranks of those who work or study here,” she said, going on to list a number of UMB staff. She named Clare Crawford, departmental secretary, Political Science; Brian LeBlance, Central Reprographics; Joyce Morgan, Student Affairs; Becky Hsu, Human Resources, and Tommy Joyce, chief Power Plant engineer.

She was also generous in her praise of the faculty. “The university has established a culture of good teaching and a culture of innovative teaching.”

In talking about community relations, Gora stated, “Our most powerful connection with the community comes from our center and institutes, and many of our doctoral programs…this is a role no other university in Boston plays as well as we do.” She strongly advocated building on the strengths of these institutes. Citing the university’s model in the environmental sciences, Gora envisions developing an additional center of excellence in public policy.

Concluding her address, Gora stated, “We need to highlight our role in the community, especially becoming better known as a source for sound policy advice. The surrounding neighborhoods, the city and the state must come to see us as their university – not only a place that fills many roles in enhancing their economic, political and cultural life…we can build on our strengths – our many kinds of strengths – and go on to become the best urban university this country has ever seen.”

( The Chancellor’s “State of the University” speech will be run in its entirety in the next issue.)