Faculty Give Holub Standing O
It started as a low hum as University of Massachusetts Chancellor Robert C. Holub's finished his first address to the faculty on September 12. "That was good," whispered members of the crowd following Holub's remarks—a candid speech that outlined the chancellor's top priorities and necessary campus improvements.
The whispers gave way to a long applause, which developed into a standing ovation peppered with hoots and hollers as Holub, the only one sitting in Bowker Auditorium packed with hundreds of faculty, smiled. Holub addressed the annual Faculty Convocation, if the reaction is any measure, it went well. "It was terrific," said Barry S. Braun, a kinesiology professor. "He laid out a couple of strategies for what the university can do to be a top research university. He was much more specific than I thought he would be."
In his speech, Holub, who was appointed chancellor over the summer, counted the university's strengths as its faculty, students, staff and the ongoing construction campaign. Areas where the flagship needs to improve to reach its goal of becoming a top-tier research university, he said, are graduate studies, the general undergraduate education curriculum, infrastructure, organization of the administration and a more focused attention to faculty hiring.
In his remarks, Holub strongly emphasized university research and the need to provide faculty and students with the best research opportunities and equipment. "I believe the University of Massachusetts Amherst should be more than a regional power," Holub said. "It should aspire to the upper echelon of national public research universities. "If we're going to assume our place as one of the premier public institutions in the country, research activity is one of the standard measures of accomplishment and excellence in a university." He will also seek to boost fundraising and provide more avenues for undergraduates to conduct scientific research.
Best management practices will be applied to central university administration organization, he said. Stipends for graduate teaching assistants may need to be increased. Some graduate programs—which Holub did not name—need to be expanded. "I believe graduate studies need attention. We're not always attracting the best graduate students, owing to the level of our stipends," he said. "Many graduate programs are smaller than they ought to be. There is no outstanding public university that doesn't have a fully developed and vibrant graduate school."
Holub also addressed the Amherst 250 Plan, a four-year-old hiring plan meant to swell faculty ranks. Holub said while he supports the plan, there needs to be a more strategic approach to faculty hiring.
Toward the end of his remarks, Holub called on faculty and the entire UMass Amherst community to release any lingering grievances or excuses as to why UMass Amherst lags behind other top research institutions. For example, Holub said the flagship campus can no longer complain about the decision to locate the system's medical school in Worcester or blame political leaders on Beacon Hill for ignoring Amherst. "We must leave the past behind," said Holub. "We must seek to use our place and our assets to our best advantage."
Many faculty said they stand behind Holub's vision for the university.
September 15, 2008
Adapted from an article by Kristin Palpini in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, September 13, 2008