UMass Boston back on track

Budget balanced, enrollment up, dorm about to open

ONE OF MY ENDURING MEMORIES as interim chancellor of UMass Boston will be the sight of visionary educator Geoffrey Canada on stage at commencement, surveying UMass Boston’s sea of graduates with a smile on his face and his eyes glistening.

Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, later explained his reaction: “This is the American promise. It may not be happening in a lot of places, but it is happening right here at UMass Boston.”

For the past year, it has been my privilege to lead a campus that breathes life into the American promise every day. It takes the hopes and dreams of students from across the city, state, and world and converts them into reality.  And does so by the thousands.

The transformational role played by higher education – particularly public higher education – has always been important, but its importance has never been greater than at this moment, when we can rightfully wonder whether our nation still aspires to be a land of opportunity and fairness for all.

UMass Boston and institutions like it are where we must make a stand and fight to keep our nation’s ideals alive. We must be committed to quality and affordability, welcome the sons and daughters of other lands, and remain beacons of hope and enlightenment.

Barry Mills

This is why Geoff Canada, creator of a program that is seen as one of the most important social policy experiments of our time and has changed the lives of young people in Harlem for nearly 30 years, was so moved as he saw the graduates of our of majority-minority university joyful in their caps and gowns, many becoming the first in their families to earn college degrees.

It is why I view UMass Boston as one of the most important institutions in our state, and was honored to receive the support of President Marty Meehan, Chairman Rob Manning, and the entire UMass Board of Trustees — and the indomitable UMass Boston community.

As I prepare to leave a campus that in recent years has dealt with many challenges, I observe that:

  • UMass Boston’s budget is now balanced due to hard decisions and hard work, laying the foundation for long-term stability and growth.
  • UMass Boston classrooms abound with students and faculty who stand shoulder to shoulder with the best anywhere. Having served in higher education for nearly two decades, I say that with a basis for comparison and without hesitation. A little more than a half-century into UMass Boston’s history, the citizens of this city and state can be very proud of the public university that stands tall on Columbia Point.
  • Three major construction projects that complicated life at our campus are nearly complete. As the construction cranes and detours depart, we will open our first-ever dormitory as well as new roads and a campus garage. And we have developed a more cost-effective and comprehensive plan for fixing our substructure.

With first-time freshmen enrollment projected to increase by 30 percent this fall, with the size and scope of our research portfolio expanding, and when many other factors are taken into consideration, I believe that UMass Boston is entering a powerful new era.

Fully realizing the promise of UMass Boston still requires strong support from the city and state, the UMass system, the business community, and our graduates and friends.

Meet the Author

Barry Mills

Interim chancellor, UMass Boston
Looking ahead, our campus is blessed to have a strong and distinguished leader, Katherine Newman, taking the helm. Professor Newman understands all that makes UMass Boston important and special, and has the ability to build on its success and protect its commitment to the American promise.

My advice to our incoming chancellor is this: Take a deep breath and get ready to lead a campus that will get into your head, heart ,and soul. Of all the lessons I’ve learned over the past year, that’s the one that will stay with me always.

Barry Mills is interim chancellor of UMass Boston and served as president of Bowdoin College from 2001 to 2015.