Associate Vice Chancellor Larry Siegel speaks at the Chancellor’s forum on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Student Government Association)
Following a half-hour of mingling and dining shared among members of student leadership, the student body and UMass Lowell administration, Student Affairs administrators took the microphone for the Chancellor’s Open Forum that happens once a semester.
On Tuesday, the four-person panel, alongside UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, addressed the student body directly in Moloney Hall on all matters pertaining to various topics, from advising to textbook pricing and much more.
The Chancellor’s Open Forum was first introduced in September 2015 as a means of allowing the chancellor and her administration to establish a direct line to communicate the on-going process of improving the student experience at UMass Lowell.
It also allows time for students to openly bring about their concerns and question the administration on what is being done to address them, or whether administration knows about them at all.
“The purpose is to connect the students to the administration. A lot of times Student Government Association is seen as the middle man between the students and the administration. This forum gives the students the opening to ask direct questions to the administration. It improves transparency and communication,” said Student Government Association (SGA) President James Christopher of the forum.
Following a series of successful forums, with faculty and administration unveiling countless plans to improve the university experience, the topic at hand Tuesday was complicated and branched off into multiple parts of the student experience: student success.
“Student success may sound like a broad topic, and that’s because it truly is. There are many facets and metrics that go into measuring it,” said Christopher.
To kick off the forum Rob Callahan, junior senator of SGA and criminal justice major, addressed the room to the results of a survey conducted amongst the student body to analyze student feelings toward the current advising process.
The findings were varied, with the majority students found to be satisfied, but approximately one in five students were “very disappointed” in the process.
“It’s critically important that we continue to work with administration on improving advising, helping students graduate on time [and] making sure students are taking the classes they need to be taking,” said Callahan.
The concerns brought about by Callahan’s survey and the student body through SGA resulted in a massive re-evaluation of processes surrounding financial wellness, textbook costs and advising.
“I want you to know, as students, that we are fast at work right now… Your voice is heard, we are partnering with you to create a new system,” said Kerry Donohoe, dean of Student Success.
With the remainder of the 90-minute block, each panelist discussed a plan in their part of the comprehensive solution for improving student success.
One measure administration was taking to fix dissatisfaction with advising was to create a system under which each student would be assigned a professional advisor that would help them create an eight-semester degree-path plan.
This professional advisor would be supplemented with a faculty advisor who would act as a “mentor” aiding the students and finding internships in what interests them in their field.
Other major plans covered in the forum ranged from training professors in ways to find cheaper, high quality source material and even create textbooks using open source material, to linking advising in with financial advisory to keep students in good financial standing on the way to their degree path.
“I appreciated that they took the time. That they would re-evaluate policy and I could get contact information that allows me speak with someone about how my concerns could be addressed going forward,” said junior public health major Marina Novaes.
Students seemed pleased with the answers and information granted to them at the forum. Many came away confident that the programs being implemented in the coming years would improve student success dramatically, as was SGA confident in the Open Forum reaching its goal of establishing a dialogue between students and administration.
Provost Michael Vayda made one thing certain in his time at the mic: his office would be there in the coming semesters to work for the students. “Your success is our reason to be here at UMass Lowell. That’s why we’re here: to help you succeed.”