UMass Bayside deal is about a lot more than money
Bringing businesses to Columbia Pt could lift students, faculty
IT’S RARE FOR THOSE OF US in public life to have the opportunity to make a profound and lasting difference for the people we serve. That’s why we are so excited about the transformation just around the corner for UMass Boston as a consequence of the Bayside lease. Much has been made of the extraordinary return on investment it represents. We are, indeed, very proud of that business acumen. But even more important is the opportunity to create a vibrant innovation zone that will open Boston’s labor market to the hard-working, first-generation students we serve at UMass Boston.
Many UMass Boston “Beacons” have come to their education the hard way. Fifty percent are PELL eligible, which means they come from the nation’s lowest income families. No wonder then that the vast majority of them work, sometimes two jobs, in order to afford their education. They have come to Columbia Point from all over the world. Some 90 languages are spoken on campus. Over 600 are veterans, having served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, as well as deployments in Europe.
UMass Boston students are pragmatic and determined, but no less aspirational than students in the private universities around us. They perform in the campus orchestra, compete in NCAA athletics, put in countless hours to non-profits in communities around us. But because they come from the working class, they often lack the social ties and connections it takes to break into the high end of the professions. Nobody needs to tell a UMass Boston student what it means to put shoulder to wheel, but someone does need to kick down the doors that guard the most desirable job opportunities. That is precisely what the Bayside opportunity means for our students.
The Bayside infusion will be no less important to our distinguished faculty. From the immunologists working on personalized cancer treatments in collaboration with Dana Farber, to the biologists deciphering the possibilities of limb regeneration, to the environmental researchers who designed the city of Boston’s harbor resilience plan, our faculty are ready to partner with the companies that come into Bayside. There is no industry to speak of at Columbia Point right now. But there will be in just a few short years and the faculty will take full advantage of that change.
The CEOs of the region’s largest employers have formed a chorus over the need for a more diverse workforce. There is no better opportunity to achieve that critical goal than co-locating with the city’s only majority-minority university.These benefits to UMass Boston, the city, and the economy represent a win-win-win. We look forward to the opportunity to cement new partnerships that will help the Bayside project take flight in the years ahead.
Marty Meehan is the president of the University of Massachusetts and Katherine Newman is the interim chancellor of UMass Boston.