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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Gora: Retention “Critical to Future”

Chancellor Jo Ann Gora welcomed faculty and staff, new and old, to a new academic year while looking back on a year of “uncertainty” and laying out plans for the campus as the university’s fall semester gets underway.

Employing a quote from psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, Gora said, “Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”

“Well, this was a year of unparalleled uncertainty,” she said. “The presidency of the university was questioned, the mission of the campus challenged, our funding undermined.”

After praising faculty and staff, research and earmarks, and new programs, Gora got to one of the main focuses of the breakfast speech: student retention, calling it “critical to the university’s future.”

“In the last five years, our enrollment has gone from 13,481 to 12,719,” said Gora, entering her third year at UMass Boston. “During that same period, approximately 20% of continuing students did not enroll the following fall and have not graduated or returned later to graduate. We must aggressively stem these losses and their devastating impact on graduation rates and our bottom line. It is one thing to suffer financial losses because of cutbacks in state support. It’s quite another to lose literally millions of dollars every year because of a loss of already enrolled students.”

At a recent Faculty Council, a faculty member asked Gora if student erosion was worse than five years ago, to which Gora responded that it was “not getting any better,” and the university looks bad when compared to other large urban institutions. That impacts national ratings and financial viability, she said.

At the faculty/staff breakfast, Gora outlined steps being taken to stop the bleeding, such as improving communication on campus through a monthly Campus Community Calendar, events, computer kiosks which allow students to register for classes on the spot, and televisions sets in the buildings, providing a steady stream of information.

The hiring of Dr. J. Keith Motley as the new vice chancellor is acknowledged as another part of the plan to build student retention. Dr. Motley was acclaimed at Northeastern University for increasing freshman retention rates.

Gora also pointed to the newly implemented mandatory Graduating Senior Satisfaction Survey, comparing the May 2003 survey to last summers. The number of students who said they would attend UMass Boston if they had to do it all over again went from 76% to 83%. Eighty-seven percent said they would recommend UMB to a friend or family, up from 83%. According to Gora,, “students reserved their highest ratings for ‘quality of teaching,’ ‘faculty availability to discuss work,’ and ‘overall satisfaction with the major.'”

Strides still need to be taken in some areas, like “campus events and activities,” “recreational opportunities on campus,” and appearance of the campus,” but progress is being made, said Gora.

“The most visible accomplishments of the past year have been those that have enhanced the quality and beauty of our campus’ physical environment,” she said. “It is because of you – faculty and students and staff – have told me how important the condition of the physical plant is to morale that monies were reallocated to fix roofs, to replace filtering systems for water fountains, to improve HVAC systems, to increase signage, to repaint and refloor classrooms, to wash windows and stairwells, to wax floors, to reupholster seating in Lipke and Small Science Auditoria, and to provide glorious and colorful flower beds and flower arrangements throughout campus.” In early September, the university had gotten a slap on the wrist from the State Auditor’s office for taking $200,000, money that is supposed to be for maintaining the garage, from the Parking Trust Fund, and using it to pay for flowers and some salaries.

Gora also re-affirmed her support for funding the higher education contracts, which then-Acting Governor Jane Swift cut out of the budget, and the State Legislature hasn’t funded due to the current budget crisis. “I pledge to you that I will work with Interim President [Jack] Wilson, my fellow chancellors, and our Board of Trustees to seek the support of the Legislature and the governor for this funding so that, at long last, we can deliver to you the financial recognition all of you deserve,” she told the crowd of staff and faculty, some of whom were wearing pink and yellow stickers with “Value U$” written across them.

Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Paul Fonteyn ran down the list of new faculty, throwing in some humour along the way. When mentioning new Performing Arts professor Robert Lubin, Fonteyn highlighted the professor’s experience in fight choreography and said it was something that would be “coming in handy around here,” a possible veiled reference to the clashes between his office and the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS), most recently over the resignation of the college’s dean of eight years, Ismael Ramirez-Soto. Notably absent on the provost’s list of new professors for each college was CPCS, since no new positions had been approved, due to declining enrollment and the fact that CPCS currently has a 9:1 student-teacher ratio.

Turning to new staff in administration, or as Fonteyn jokingly called it, “the dark side,” Fonteyn introduced the new chief information officer, Martyne Hallgren, and new Vice Chancellor Motley, who will double as the “new power forward for [Athletic Director] Charlie Titus,” he said, provoking laughter from the breakfast tables in the Ryan Lounge, where the event was held.

Gora, with a shining Dorchester Bay behind her, ended the breakfast speech on a high note. “I urge you to face the coming year confident that the future is ours to shape and that we have even more powers to unfold as we pursue our work on behalf of this campus and the Commonwealth,” she said. “Ours is a wonderful, compelling story. We must tell it loud and clear to all those who benefit from the work of this university and with whose support we will achieve even greater successes.”New Faculty 2003

College of Liberal Arts

Patrick Clarkin (Anthropology) 2003 graduate of SUNY-Binghamton, worked previously as a Research Assistant for Rhode Island Cancer Council

David Areford (Art) 2001 Northwestern U. grad, University of North Carolina assistant professor

John Fulton (English) recent grad of University of Michigan, novel More Than Enough published by Random House.

Louise Penner (English) doctorate, Rice University

Ruth Miller (History) 2003 Princeton U. grad

Maurice Cunningham (Political Science) former chair of Pol Sci Dept 1999 to 2002, recent grad of Boston College

Zsuzanna Kaldy (Psychology) fellow at Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, Dartmouth College Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience

Mohammad Tamdgidi (Sociology) 2002 SUNY-Binghamton grad

Robert Lublin (Performing Arts) Ohio State U.

College of Science and Mathematics

Wayne Pitcher (Chemistry) 2002 Stanford U. grad, post-doctoral research associate at National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Stuart Licht (Chemistry) Technion U. in Israel

David Merwin (Earth and Geographic Sciences) University of Connecticut

Yong Tian (Earth and Geographic Sciences) University of Waikato in New Zealand grad, associate professor at New Mexico State U.

Mihaela Iftime (Mathematics) 2002 AIC U. in Iasi, Romania grad, research mathematician at Queen Mary College at University of London

Steven Jackson (Mathematics) 2003 Yale U. grad

College of Management

Julia Brennan (Accounting and Finance) 2003 University of Kentucky grad

Wei Zhang (Management Science and Information Systems) 2003 Boston University grad

Theodora Welch (Management and Marketing) Concordia University

Michael Johnson-Cramer (Management and Marketing) 2003 Boston University grad

College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Carol Allen (Nursing) 1997 MSN from UMass Boston, works at Franciscan Children’s Hospital

Kathleen Eller Benedetti (Nursing) 2000 Simmons College grad, works as nurse practitioner at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates

Graduate College of Education

Cheryl Dressler (Curriculum and Instruction) 2002 Harvard Graduate School of Education grad, senior research associate with Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington D.C.

Allison Skerrett (Curriculum and Instruction) Boston College grad, English teacher at Dorchester High School

Cynthia Waltman (Counseling and School Psychology) University of Connecticut grad, licensed psychologist, certified school psychologist

Brian Wright (Curriculum and Instruction) Tufts U. doctoral student, expert in child development, consultant to Children’s Television Programming and Outreach Department

Source: Office of the Provost