Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Not a bad time to be at UMass

By Ryan Walsh

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Did you know this is quite possibly the best time ever to be a University of Massachusetts student?

It might be hard to recognize because of how close we are to many institutional developments, but UMass is indeed breaking records left and right. Viewed with a little perspective, the future looks very bright here at UMass.

First, let’s talk about sports. The most-discussed move in recent memory is the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision for the football team. This is, without a doubt, a great step forward for UMass. Regardless of your interests or background, regardless of your passion for sports or the lack thereof, this move is obvious and necessary. If you love football, you love this move. But, even if you hate football, you must recognize that the additional revenue and attention for UMass will, in effect, raise the collective value of our entire university, as it has at schools like the University of Miami, Boston College and the University of Texas, just to name a few. Note that BC and Miami were hardly revered for their academics before their football programs took off. Furthermore, all UMass sports are doing well, especially the basketball team, which has been mentioned by some analysts as possibly having the ability to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.

Moving on, at admissions, where I work, things couldn’t be better. Last year, UMass received the highest number of applications in its history and the largest number of out-of-state applications in its history, as well. Furthermore, UMass had the lowest percentage of admitted applicants, the highest transfer GPAs and the most students ever enrolled in the MassTransfer program. The fact that out-of-state students are flocking to UMass is perhaps most telling, as it’s a testament to UMass’ improving national reputation. People are so determined to come to UMass that they’re willing to pay out-of-state tuition and travel great distances to be a part of what we have here. Additionally, and logically, the more people that apply to UMass, the harder it is to get in. This, in turn, improves the academic standards and quality of our University and will aid in perpetuating a cycle whereby successful graduates spur new applicants, just like at Ivy League schools.

To put it modestly, this year’s freshman class is record-breaking. Not only is it our largest first-year class ever, but it also had the highest SAT scores ever (up 20 points from last year), the highest high school GPAs and the highest high school ranks. UMass is no longer the safety school people once considered it to be. Indeed, some of the Commonwealth’s and the country’s brightest students are decisively choosing UMass as their dream school. The recent groundbreaking of the Commonwealth Honors College facility will only help draw more and brighter students.

Though still under construction, the new Commonwealth Honors College facility is wildly impressive. The $182 million residential and teaching facilities will be one of the best public university complexes of its kind, anywhere. In addition to nine Honors classrooms, the facility will feature over 1,500 beds and special learning areas designated specifically for honors students. This move will no doubt help draw some of the country’s brightest students and propel UMass to new and previously unreached academic heights.

Not only is this year’s class the most academically impressive, it is also the most diverse ever. UMass set a school record last year for the most ALANA (students of color and traditionally underrepresented backgrounds) on campus. The University also set records for the highest percentage of traditionally underrepresented students on campus, and the largest number and percentage of ALANA students in the first-year class. Furthermore, every employee category increased in diversity over the past five years. While these facts speak for themselves, it is worth pointing out the role diversity plays in enriching our experiences here. The world is a diverse place, and being a diverse school no doubt leaves us better prepared to take on the world after graduation.

The town of Amherst is breaking records of its own. Last year, Amherst was named the top college town in North America by MSN.com, and a Top 10 college town in a U.S. News and World Report article. Though it’s finally getting the national recognition it deserves, we already knew Amherst is a gem of a town and a great place to live. This really underscores my point of how great we have things here at UMass. Not only is our campus shattering records and flourishing in the face of tough economic times, but also our quality of life is equally as high as our accolades. UMass students are certainly happier and more content than students at many of our peer universities, and we have no one but ourselves to thank.

While our strengths are impressive and important, ultimately college is supposed to prepare us for the real world. In this sense, UMass still shines. Last year we saw the highest graduation rate ever. This is thoroughly impressive and telling of our improved academic standards. We also had the highest first-to-second year retention rate ever. Students are not only satisfied with UMass, but indeed love the school. I’m proud to report that UMass pride seems to be increasing, and it shows no signs of slowing in the future. Alumni are noticing, too. Last year, we received our first two eight-figure donations. UMass is shining, and that’s largely a function of our strong alumni.

UMass has strong, smart students and excellent professors and staff members, but that alone will not get us to where we want to be. We need the continued and increased support of our alumni. Truthfully, many of the best schools have the most active and involved alumni. We need this to be truer of UMass. While every alumnus likely has some degree of interests on campus, alums need to view the situation here with some perspective, too. Narrowly supporting and criticizing UMass hurts us far more than it helps us. If alumni were to be more inclusive in their support and donations, the value of UMass would rise, thereby elevating each and every aspect of campus. While specific opinions and criticisms of UMass are not worthless, voicing those opinions for the sake of being heard brings all of us down. Let’s change the tone of outside opinions to focus on our strengths, instead of faulting us for the shortcomings. We’ll all be better off if we do.

Our progress is certainly refreshing. That said we still have a ways to go. If we continue on our current trajectory, we seem destined for success. Let’s keep working at it.

Ryan Walsh is a Collegian Columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

5 Comments

5 Responses to “Not a bad time to be at UMass”

  1. Eli Gottlieb on February 26th, 2012 9:50 pm

    Bullshit. UMass is getting more prestigious and wealthy, yes. It’s doing so by sterilizing away everything that made UMass great for those of us who enjoyed it. That’s why we don’t donate to the Alumni Association: because we don’t support the administration in destroying the UMass we loved.

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  2. Snizzle on February 27th, 2012 6:05 am

    I have only read up to the football reason and that is a horrible argument. We are in the transition period where for 2 straight years we will be ineligible for the playoffs. Sure it is great that the Minutemen are moving to Division I, but it would be better to be here either before or after because the transition period is a horrible time to be here.

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  3. Antonio on February 27th, 2012 9:32 am

    Sterilizing? More like improving. Stop living in the past, change is inevitable. Your negativity only hurts things (not improves)

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  4. Alex Perry on February 27th, 2012 9:55 am

    Eli,

    You care to elaborate on that comment so someone can rip it to pieces? or are your just going to make a really broad statement with no evidence to support it and plant it on what is intended to be an upbeat and positive column?

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  5. Georges Fischer on March 5th, 2012 2:16 pm

    The real question is whether GPA, SAT scores, or size of Freshmen class are good indicators of intelligence. I question that sometimes.

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