I recently wrote an article titled “Where’s Our UMass Pride?” and received a lot of feedback from it. The article was about the general lack of pride at the University of Massachusetts and how this negatively affects all of us, whether or not we realize it. Many students got in touch with me and communicated that they indeed did feel a sense of UMass pride but were unsure of how to specifically express or act on that feeling. They wanted to do something but didn’t know what that something was. Accordingly, I felt it’d be helpful to make a list of specific things UMass students can do to show their pride, thereby making us all better off. These options are simple but impactful. So, here it is, 10 things you can do right now to make UMass a better place:
1.) Go to athletic events. It doesn’t matter what sporting event you attend or who the team is playing against. It doesn’t matter if UMass is the best or the worst team in the country. Showing support for any and all of our teams will make more top athletes want to come to play here. If athletes want to play here, the teams will logically be better. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate sports – go. If our athletic programs were more successful, alumni would be more likely to donate, making every aspect of our school better funded and more successful. Next time you go to a UMass tailgate, actually go into the stadium, too.
2.) Join the Alumni Association and the UMass Club in Boston. Do this right when you graduate. Both are great ways to connect with alumni. Alumni look after their own; they are eager to help recent graduates but often struggle to find them. You’ll never get anywhere if your job search consists of scouring job posting boards from your parents’ basement. The Alumni Association and the UMass Club are great ways to get your name out there in the UMass alumni community and to prove that you care. Joining the Alumni Association is free, but membership is worthless if you don’t take advantage of its opportunities. Go to events and get involved. The UMass Club is located on the 33rd floor of a high rise in Boston’s financial district. While membership is not free, recent graduates pay a discounted fee, and the cost is indeed insignificant in exchange for the connections and opportunities that the Club offers.
3.) Be the change you want to see. Understand the implications of your actions. It’s easy to think of yourself as one of many at UMass; that your personal actions will not have any impact on UMass as a whole. When you embody such a mindset, it’s likely that you’ll separate your actions from their consequences, which results in people throwing bottles at police on Hobart Lane. At some point, one individual straw will break a camel’s back. Doing something – despite understanding that if everyone did that same thing, we’d fall apart – is one of our major problems.
4.) Start a scholarship (with friends). This may seem difficult or expensive, but it really isn’t. If you plus nine friends each pledge $100 a year to a scholarship, one fortunate student will receive a much needed $1,000 check to help pay for his or her education. If you make $25,000 a year when you graduate, that $100 donation will amount to only 0.4 percent of your salary but will have a huge impact on the lives of its recipients and on UMass’ public image. Think of how happy you’d be if you received a $1,000 scholarship tomorrow. When alumni notice that students have recognized the need for more scholarships and are acting on that need with their own money, the alumni will be much more willing to donate.
5.) Lie, or plead the 5th. Of course I don’t mean this literally, but we should be more guarded about what happens here. This comes from pride. Students from many of our rival schools will never concede any negative information about their school. Much like how Bill Belichick will never say the Patriots’ defense was underprepared for a game (even if it’s true), students from many top schools will never admit their own school’s shortcomings. At UMass, if the local news comes to cover a party that erupted into violence, people will line up to spill their guts about what happened in exchange for a brief and petty TV appearance. We need to brag more about our strengths and we need to be more tightlipped about our shortcomings. Why would people willingly say bad things about their own school on the news and in public? Doing so negatively impacts each UMass student and boils down to a lack of pride.
6.) Volunteer in the area. Amherst, Holyoke and Springfield are always looking for volunteers. By volunteering, you’ll positively improve the local perception of UMass and its students. While the ultimate goal is positive national perception, we must start small. This will have exponential benefits. When you call to volunteer, tell the organization that you would like to help out on behalf of UMass Amherst. When you’re there, wear a UMass shirt or hat so they are reminded where you’re from. This isn’t shameless publicity but rather a way of expressing your UMass pride while doing good in the community. If you need a place to start, try contacting the Boys and Girls Club in Springfield or the Bangs Community Center in Amherst.
7.) Donate. There are plenty of underfunded areas of UMass. No gift or donation is too big or too small. Establishing a habit of donating when you’re young will no doubt translate into adulthood. Even if you donate your pocket change, it’s a start. If every student donated $5 right now, we’d instantly raise about $135,000. It doesn’t matter where you donate – you can give your money to whatever specific departments or programs you want, or just to the University as a whole. For a good starting place to donate, look into the UMass Student Philanthropy Committee.
8.) Be aware of what’s going on around campus. This one is important and easy… just go to Wikipedia. When an outsider asks you about something at UMass, you should at least be able to briefly comment on it. I’m not saying you should be an expert on all things UMass, but have a relative feel for what’s going on at your own school. This can be extended to knowledge of UMass’ history, too. Pride involves understanding how we got to where we are today. While you don’t necessarily need to know who our 3rd chancellor was, you should know some basic things, like why Amherst was chosen as the location for UMass and what year our school was founded. This obvious form of pride will give UMass students more credibility and respect.
9.) Respect UMass peers, faculty, property and police. This one is easy and obvious. I’m not saying you have to like or be friends with everyone, but you don’t need to be rude either. Common courtesy goes a long way. UMass is like one giant family living in a big house that is our campus. You’d never break a window at your own house. And sure, you might have a crazy uncle that is considered an outsider by the family, but you still treat him with respect. Having pride in UMass is all encompassing. Selective pride is part of our problem. Simply put, treat everything and everyone at UMass with respect.
10.) Just do something. For those who don’t see themselves doing any of my other ideas, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do something – anything that you think will help UMass and/or exemplify your UMass pride. This can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, but our pervasive inaction isn’t getting us anywhere. Merely claiming to be proud of UMass is not enough. Act on that feeling and do whatever you can to help.
I hope this is a helpful starting ground. While I like to think my specific steps will point you in the right direction, it ultimately boils down to you, the reader. If there is anything I can clarify or elaborate on or help you with, please don’t hesitate to contact me – I’ll be happy to help. At the end of the day, it’s easy to make excuses, but that will catch up to you sooner than you think. Start small, but start now. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Ryan Walsh is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]