Chancellor search committee listens to the community

“If you were the chancellor at UMass for one day, what would be the first thing that you did?”

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McKenna Premus/ Daily Collegian

By Jack Underhill and Sophie Hauck

On the 10th floor of the University of Massachusetts campus center, in a room overlooking the 1400-acre flagship campus, a group of students met with the chancellor search committee to share their vision for the next leader of UMass Amherst.

The meeting was one of multiple listening sessions for community stakeholders to provide feedback in the search to replace Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, who will retire at the end of the 2022-23 academic year. Representatives from the 21-person search committee moderated the listening session, including committee chair and UMass alumni Victor Woolridge.

“The object is to hear the broader community,” Woolridge said. “The committee will be directed by that and informed by that, and then try to pursue candidates on that basis.”

On Sept. 15, the committee met with faculty and staff throughout the morning, before hosting a listening session for students in the afternoon. Seven students attended the meeting in person, and others joined on Zoom. Student Government Association President Shayan Raza assisted in moderating the listening session as one of two current UMass students on the committee.

“If you were the chancellor at UMass for one day, what would be the first thing that you did?” Raza asked the room.

“I think I would help clubs with spacing issues and storage issues because those seem like big issues on campus right now,” Tasneem Kelly said, who is pursuing a dual degree in operations information management and political science.

“I work at residential life,” junior legal studies major Jackie Fallon said. “I would probably go over to the Econo-Lodge and put some money towards that and those students.”

Additionally, Kelly commented on bringing additional services to campus.

“If they are going to continue to accept so many students, they should work on expanding the campus, not only in housing, but also additional parking and dining services,” Kelly said.

Students in attendance also asked that the next chancellor focus on expanding campus accessibility, improving the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority system, and leading in sustainability.

“It’s great to see some of those things come up, but also stuff that I haven’t considered myself,” Raza said following the session. “It is really valuable for me to hear some of those things.”

Lydia D’Ambrosio, a junior pursuing an individual concentration major in engineering and social justice, hopes the next chancellor is ready to pick up the baton from Subbaswamy.

“I felt that in the way he addressed the community, and in his actions, [he] really prioritized students. I want to see that continue,” D’Ambrosio said. D’Ambrosio was interested in learning more about the process and having her voice heard.

“It’s important to get feedback from all those different sectors in the campus,” John Hoey, executive director of the UMass President’s Office of Communications, said. “You know, people who are on the ground experiencing life on campus. Students are obviously a very important component of that.”

Woolridge explained that these listening sessions will inform how the committee moves forward, with the help of Isaacson Miller, an external professional search firm hired to assist with the recruitment process.

“When the listening sessions are done, and then we put together the position profile and that gets circulated, then essentially, the committee goes and does its work,” Woolridge said. “The majority of that work will be done in executive session because it’s about personnel hiring.”

Once the committee has assembled a group of candidates, they will host an open listening session. Woolridge hopes that by the end of the first quarter of 2023, the committee will have identified two or three candidates from which UMass President Marty Meehan will make his recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

The committee encourages community members to submit feedback via the UMass Amherst Chancellor Search website.

Jack Underhill can be reached at [email protected]. Sophie Hauck can be reached at [email protected]