Robert C. Holub, chancellor of
the University of Massachusetts Amherst, delivered the following
address on Nov. 10, 2011, at the Massachusetts Bar Association's
House of Delegates meeting at UMass Amherst's Campus Center
Auditorium. During MBA President Richard P. Campbell's 2011-12
term, HOD meetings are being held at different UMass
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! It is my pleasure to welcome
you to the campus of UMass Amherst, the flagship campus of the
University of Massachusetts, and to welcome back particularly
Richard Campbell, your president and a proud UMass trustee.
We are part of a five-spoke tour for you, of each of the campuses
that make up the University of Massachusetts system. Each campus
has its particular character. As the flagship campus, UMass Amherst
has a very special responsibility: We are, in many ways, the state
in microcosm, or if you will, a "microcommonwealth."
The present challenges and potential future of a great land-grant
research university mirrors the life of Massachusetts as a whole.
We feel the pinch of economic tightness in ways that are
specialized to the world of higher education, but they are similar
in form to what everyone feels these days: In the past decade,
state-allocated funds for higher education have decreased by 27
percent. In real dollars, the amount of funding the campus is
receiving this year is $35 million less than it was when I began as
chancellor in 2008, and adjusted for inflation, we are now
receiving less from the state in appropriations than we have at any
time during the last quarter of a century.
At the same time, we are seeing an increased need for scholarships
and student access to higher education. The number of students who
qualify for Pell Grants has risen dramatically. Fortunately, our
institutional financial aid has increased at a rate greater than
the increase in Pell-Grant recipients.
But what is truly remarkable is that this increase in percentage of
lack dovetails with other increases that are astounding and
record-setting for the campus. The students whose educations we aid
and endow are the best ever in the history of our university. For
three years in a row, we have recruited a class that broke the
previous year's record for size and achievement. Four years ago, we
received just over 27,000 applications for a first-year class of
4,286, and this year we had close to 33,000 applications for a
first-year class of nearly 4,700.
Last year, we awarded over 5,000 baccalaureate degrees for the
first time in our history: one of every 10 undergraduate degrees in
the commonwealth comes from UMass Amherst. The average SAT score of
our incoming students has increased 47 points in five years, and
the high school GPA is over 3.6. And the student body is more
diverse than ever: five years ago, 18.4 percent of our
undergraduates were minority students; this year, students from
ethnic minorities are 22.4 percent of the incoming class.
These figures indicate a greater quality and depth of education
through a richer and more various texture of voices, but
pragmatically in the long term, they also make a UMass degree of
greater competitive value, and of enormous promise.
External sources recognize that we are definitely on the rise: this
year, we jumped five places on the U.S. News and World Report's
Best Colleges list, to 94th among all national universities, both
public and private. From 2010 to 2012 we rose 10 places, from 52nd
to 42nd, among all public national universities. Such significant
leaps are a rare feat indeed, and it means we will continue to
attract remarkable students, who are the future of our
Fortunately, we are able to give many of our accomplished students
access to an excellent education through scholarships funded
through philanthropy. Indeed, for the past two years, we set campus
records for fundraising, and we are on a trajectory to have a very
successful capital campaign.
As a research university with a sense of public service and
responsibility to our state, we are also a site for innovation and
distinctive research that interweaves with the commonwealth's
industry and manufacture: our Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing
this fall received a $20 million grant from the National Science
Foundation to apply the nanotechnologies emerging from the CHM's
laboratories to uses in the private sector.
Our research capacities are being enlisted more and more to the
public service: We have received a $3.2 million grant from the
National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and
Research Traineeship program, also known as IGERT, to begin an
interdisciplinary graduate program in offshore wind energy
engineering, environmental science and public policy.
Moving eastward, we are revitalizing our marine lab in Gloucester
to study ocean ecosystems, particularly, at present, the effect of
overfishing on populations of bluefin tuna in the Atlantic.
And we have won a $7.5 million grant to host the Northeast Climate
Center for the U.S. Department of the Interior to study the effects
of climate change.
We take great pride in our heritage, in our past as old "Mass
Aggie," when we were Massachusetts Agricultural College; and we
still possess great strengths in our Stockbridge School of
Agriculture and in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Insect
Sciences. Farming may seem humble and unglamorous in a high-speed
world of information exchange, and of nanotechnology. But the
problem of how to feed 7 billion humans on this earth in a
sustainable and locally based way, with minimal ecological impact
on our planetary future, is perhaps the most critical of all human
Anne Averill, associate professor of insect sciences, received a
five-year, $3.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to develop strategies for protecting wild bees in
farming areas throughout the Northeast. Our students are building
permaculture gardens all over campus, and learning how to plow with
rescued draft horses at Hadley Farm, and are studying ways of
farming that are smaller, locally based, more sustainable, and
ultimately, independent of the need for foreign oil.
Our future -- and by this I mean not only UMass Amherst's future,
but our shared future, our commonwealth's future -- is in our
history. That is where perhaps our most necessary innovation and
greatest creativity lie.
Just like the Massachusetts Bar Association, our success is deeply
interwoven with the health of our state. We must continue to make
the highest quality of education available to citizens of the
commonwealth, and make sure that our students continue the momentum
of their innate brilliance and talent, and convey that brilliance
into a bright future for Massachusetts, for our country and for our
I have the utmost faith in this university's ability to create and
innovate in grounded ways, linked to the region, linked to local
community, but that ultimately have a global effect. In this way,
UMass Amherst is a harbinger and exemplar. We are proud to belong
to such a strong university system and to a gifted and resilient
I welcome you to our campus. Go UMass!