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UMass formalizes Springfield partnership

In 2008, the University of Massachusetts and the city of Springfield formalized a partnership that will help to improve the quality of life in Springfield by stimulating a better economic environment.

Spearheading the partnership are incumbent Mayor Dominic Sarno, Chancellor Robert Holub and most recently, Dr. John Mullin. The trio manages the “partnership team,” which consists of senior administrative officials from UMass, senior officials from the Mayor’s office, a representative from the UMass System and a representative from the Commonwealth. 

The team has worked towards completing four goals for the UMass-Springfield partnership. The missions of the partnership are to create an urban design center for research and scholarship, to position the city as a center for Green industries, boost Springfield’s arts and creative economy and to create an academic  pipeline between Springfield students and UMass. 

In the spring, UMass and Springfield signed a memorandum of understanding which launched the partnership into the planning stages. Dr. John Mullin, who has a background as a regional economist, is the managing director of the partnership as well as the dean of the graduate school at UMass. 

 “There is no great region without a great center-city,” Mullin said. 

According to Mullin, the immediate goal of the partnership is to create a physical footprint of UMass in the center of Springfield. To do so, he said that he intends to have the design center running by the end of this year.  

Karen Barshefsky, UMass Extension Educator for the 4-H program, is also involved in the partnership. According to Barshefsky, in the last few years 4-H has become less about farming and more about youth development. 

“UMass is the land-grant university, and Springfield is just down the road,” Barshefsky said. “For years, there hasn’t been that much reciprocity among faculty and students doing much of anything in Springfield, and a lot of the young people in Springfield have never been to Amherst, never been to UMass and they don’t know that is an option for them in higher education.”

Barshefsky said she is working to increase the academic pipeline between UMass and Springfield. 

“There’s so much expertise here that the Mayor is finally utilizing the smarts of the college to build a stronger Springfield,” she said.

Barshefsky said her goal is to work with the students in Springfield to give them an opportunity. Barshefsky is working with middle school students in an after-school program at the South End and New North Community Centers to get them interested in science, engineering and technology. 

“They are all very eager learners,” she said. 

She added however, “They don’t have these opportunities or at least don’t see the opportunities and don’t have the exposure to college students.” 

Barshefsky believes that the presence of UMass students in Springfield is important for both the Springfield students as well as the UMass students. It is an opportunity, she said for college students to do something different as well as encouraging more local students to go to Springfield and UMass.  She also said that she hopes with the opportunities presented by the partnership, more students will choose to settle in either Amherst or Springfield following graduation. 

“The one thing that we have is our size and extensive amount of resources,” Mullin said. 

Mullin added that when Governor Patrick was looking for means to revitalize the economy in Springfield he had looked to the partnership  because of the available research and the willingness of the students to work in the community.  

Mullin said, “[Patrick] saw us as an opportunity, so he decided to ask us to do it.” 

Mullin said that he hopes to have UMass students experience what it is like to work in a city that is in transformation. He said that he hopes that students will be able to take away meaningful experiences by working in Springfield. 

“With helping [Springfield], we help ourselves,” he said. 

Hannah McGoldrick can be reached at hmcgoldr@student.umass.edu.

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