UMass Dartmouth’s advances in national rankings don’t change the fact that for Massachusetts — and especially for Southeastern Massachusetts — this is a local school.
UMass President Marty Meehan’s designation of the 16-member search committee for the campus’s new chancellor reflects both of those characteristics.
UMD's rise to U.S. News and National Report's Tier 1 designation would not have happened without its local foundation. Its exemplary record of civic engagement, local support for overseas programs such as the nursing and marine science exchanges with Portugal, and entrepreneurship, arts, law, engineering and education programs offer broad opportunities to Massachusetts residents, and attract national and international students who have discovered a pathway to engagement with the people and world around them.
The search committee membership includes staunch advocates for the advancement of these assets, from the director of the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement, to the longtime economic development official and vice president of the builder of the nation’s first offshore wind farm, to an entrepreneur and major benefactor of the university’s Portuguese programs, to a former chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees whose local philanthropy has long benefited students and their pursuit of excellence.
These are folks — four are alumni, and one a student — who are well acquainted with fighting for the campus and the region it serves.
Beacon Hill has, in the past, needed to recognize that this region’s interest in excellence is more than its mastery of textile studies, and brought the arts and humanities in the 1960s. In the 1980s, students, alumni and passionate advocates convinced the Statehouse that budget cuts were unfair. In this century, administration efforts to shrink the campus, and resistance to the launch of the state’s only public law school — and its focus on public defense — have been beaten back by SouthCoast voices, officials and legislators.
Even today, the campus is trying to prove to the commonwealth’s secretary of education that there is a need for UMD’s Charlton College of Business to grant Ph.D.s
There is every reason to believe that the committee’s public outreach to stakeholders such as students, deans, and local community leaders will learn of “the desire to move forward, to climb higher with new growth,” as President Meehan heard in assembling this board.
This committee plainly suggests to us that their search will reflect that, as well as the rule the president set for their selection: “I want people who love UMass Dartmouth and have a passion for UMass Dartmouth.”
It should be obvious, but we are used to the fact that perceptions of this region are frequently distorted by distance: UMass Dartmouth has long brought opportunity to a deserving population. Support from Boston is needed. President Meehan has sent the right message to SouthCoast with his choices for this committee. A successful, winning choice for chancellor ought to ensure the message is heard elsewhere in the capital, too.