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Chancellor’s Open Forum: It takes a villiage

Brigid Archibald
Connector Staff

For the last two years, UMass Lowell has doubled down on its commitment to helping students succeed through the efforts of the Student Success Committee. The sole goal of the group is to look at what factors that contribute to student success.  This year the school has increased their effort tenfold establishing six more communities based on data collected over the past two years. Each Committee will focus on one factor that affects students’ success; these committees are financial wellness, experiential learning, Mental health, Communicating resources to students, students of color and international students, and onboarding (orientation).   

The Student Government Association (SGA) hosted another open forum on student success with Chancellor Molony, the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Larry Siegel, and representatives from the SGA to explain what changes students can expect to see in the coming years as a result of these new Communities.

Andre DeFilippo, SGA President, spoke about the results from last year’s student success survey, which showed that more students than ever were asking for more mental health resources. DeFilippo said the board was quick to react and made mental health a number one priority. The School has since added two to three new councilors with the hopes of adding more in the future and made same day appointments a possibility. Additionally, the school’s new Mental Health committee has begun a campaign called Mindful.

DeFilippo says the campaign will target, “the effects of anxiety, stress, depression and overall weakening mental health on campus through preventive education, programming and creating a more open and inclusive culture on campus.”   

Students also used the survey to express a need for 24-hour study spaces on campus. DeFilippo announced that the school was looking into using UCrossing for this purpose, allowing students card access to the building all day and night from Sunday to Thursday. Larry Siegel followed up telling students that it’s not definite, but that it looks promising

He said, “The chancellor said to make it happen, so we’re going to find a way.”

Another big topic at the forum was finding ways to help international students. The survey showed many international students were not participating in campus activities and connecting to the community.

SGA Vice President Vilma Okey-Ewurum, an international student herself, explained that these students are only allowed to enter the country 30 days before classes start after most orientations have already ended.   

The new onboarding committee is looking into how to alleviate this problem by revamping orientation and finding new ways to get these students information earlier. Another new committee called the students of color, and international students intend to help by making them feel more included and less isolated once they get here.

Another issue raised was that international students struggle to find work on campus as they’re only allowed to work for the school, and for 20 hours a week. These jobs are far and few between and the applicate pools are large including domestic students in need of employment as well.

Okey-Ewurum explains that they are reaching out to the school’s vendors like Aramark and asking they consider hiring more international students. The committee of Students of Color and international students will work with the office of international students and scholar’s office to help students find resources and give them more information.

Another project announced by Okey-Ewurum, was the Tampon initiative. UMass Lowell. They were looking into putting period-hygiene product dispensers in bathrooms campus-wide. Vice Chancellor Siegel was able to confirm that the contracts had been signed and that by the end of the semester the dispensers would be installed.

“This is just a small example of all the little things it takes. It really does take a village,” said Siegel at the end of the panel.

“It’s not just the big things that make students successful.  Each student is going to have a unique challenge be it financial personal emotional, mental health or academic advising. Everything needs to be done because of our students,” he said.