2018 Generosity Report

Christian Appia

Christian Appia
Pays it Forward

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When Christian Appia won a Dean’s Merit Award, he didn’t see the scholarship as something simply for him, he saw it as part of something bigger: “The value of what you give is worth a lot more than money in a bank account. It’s social mobility. It’s changing the course of lives, it’s enabling dreams, and it’s inspiring those who have received to pay it forward.” This is a lesson Appia learned from his mother. “She used to say something interesting to me when she taught me something she valued or thought was important,” he explains. “She would say, ‘I’m not doing this for you; I’m doing this for my grandchildren.”

“That scholarship, that investment, has changed the course of my life forever.

The award from the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences allowed Appia to finish his B.S. in sustainable community development and go on to work toward a master’s degree in regional planning. “That scholarship, that investment, has changed the course of my life forever.”

With a passion for social justice research, Appia is paying it forward by helping to smooth the college experience for students following in his footsteps. He is currently assisting Lynn Phillips in the communication department on a qualitative study of first generation, underrepresented students and their experience of the conditions, practices, and resources that affect their ability to thrive at UMass Amherst. “I am confident that as a result of this research,” Appia affirms, “we can create policy recommendations that can keep students from falling through the cracks.”

Alyx Burns Shapes
the Future of Robotics

College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) graduate student Alyx Burns is working to ensure that our future with robots is a little more human. Working with Joydeep Biswas in the Autonomous Mobile Robotics Laboratory (AMRL), Alyx is developing service robots to provide people with useful, dynamic assistance at locations such as museums and college visitor centers, functioning like information staff or tour guides.

Burns has been thrilled at the mentorship and support he’s received from the CICS faculty. “The outstanding faculty at UMass Amherst constantly encourage and push me to achieve, learn, and grow. Since starting last fall, I’ve already accomplished things I never thought possible.”

Burns has also received crucial financial support from the Robin Popplestone Fellowship, created for graduate students in computer science pursuing research in the area of robotics and artificial intelligence. Thanks to the fellowship, Burns has been able to devote extensive time to his current research, developing systems that allow multiple people to get information from a single robot simultaneously.

“I’ve been able to approach this project from a variety of angles, including conducting an Institutional Review Board approved human-subject study on the types of questions potential users would ask robots, building a conical touch screen to allow users to approach and interact with the robot from any angle, and testing algorithms to quickly decide the best ways to address different users’ concerns.”

Thanks to the mentorship and financial support he’s received, Burns is looking forward to a career in academia, where he can provide the same kind of support to the next generation of computer scientists and thinkers.



Isenberg School of Management professor Bing Liang is the first faculty member appointed to the Charles P. McQuaid Endowed Professorship. McQuaid, a 1974 graduate of the school, funded the professorship to ensure that Isenberg students benefit from world-class faculty.

Liang has earned a national reputation as a researcher in hedge and mutual funds, decisions by institutional investors, risk management, and anomalies in capital markets. McQuaid’s generosity has allowed Liang to be a key architect and driver of Isenberg’s forthcoming Master of Finance in Alternative Investments program.

Professor Jeanne Hardy

Jeanne Hardy Closes
in on a Treatment for
Alzheimer’s Disease

Have you ever seen a picture of an Alzheimer’s patient’s brain?” asks chemistry professor Jeanne Hardy. “Huge regions of the brain have holes that look like Swiss cheese.”

The culprit, according to Hardy, is a human protein known as caspase-6 (C6). Caspases are active in programmed cell death and inflammation and are “really powerful because they can cut up other proteins and change life or death outcomes,” Hardy explains. “If you analyze critical Alzheimer’s proteins of the brain, like tau, you’ll see that much of it has been cleaved by caspase-6.”

The team in Hardy’s lab has been investigating caspases for a decade, in their pioneering research on Alzheimer’s treatments. Their proposed solution is to inhibit C6. “The idea is that if we block the activity of C6, it will be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s and other neuro-degenerative disorders, such as Huntington’s disease.” Hardy’s most recent research into the structure of caspase-6 has shed light on its mechanisms and allowed her lab to develop new chemicals, targeting caspase-6 without affecting other caspases.

“Our capacity to do experiments has dramatically increased with the acquisition of the mass spectrometer and other equipment,” says Hardy, delighted with the new tools. “The speed and reproducibility of our experiments is so much higher than before. We have facilities that are equal to or better than the country’s biggest and best research centers.”

Professor Alon Confino: First Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies at UMass Amherst

Alon Confino: First Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies at UMass Amherst

Alon Confino: First Pen Tishkach Chair of Holocaust Studies at UMass Amherst.

Most endowed chairs are created to honor individuals; one of the newest at UMass Amherst is instead a call to remember. Pen Tishkach is Hebrew for “lest you forget” and it is the guiding principle behind a new endowment for the Pen Tishkach Chair in Holocaust Studies and the director of UMass Amherst’s Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. Created anonymously, the endowment fosters research and programs on genocide, prejudice, and discrimination in response to the upsurge in hate crimes and anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. Growing in prominence in recent years, the institute houses a unique teaching exhibition, which is visited by thousands of school-age children each year, and serves as a custodian of Holocaust-related research materials.

Pen Tishkach is Hebrew for “lest you forget” and it is the guiding principle behind a new endowment for the Pen Tishkach Chair in Holocaust Studies and the director of UMass Amherst’s Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. Created anonymously, the endowment fosters research and programs on genocide, prejudice, and discrimination in response to the upsurge in hate crimes and anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. Growing in prominence in recent years, the institute houses a unique teaching exhibition, which is visited by thousands of school-age children each year, and serves as a custodian of Holocaust-related research materials.

In June of 2018, the university named Alon Confino, professor of history and Jewish studies, the first Pen Tishkach Chair. A native of Jerusalem, Confino is an expert on modern German and European history, Holocaust and genocide, Zionism, and the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

Confino has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including grants from the Fulbright, Humboldt, and Lady Davis Foundations, the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University, the Social Science Research Council, the Israel Academy of Sciences, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Professor Shannon Roberts

Professor Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is Making Car Travel Safer than Ever

Innovations are constantly transforming our campus, our research, and our teaching.

My long-term research goal is to shape the interaction between people and their car such that as we introduce more automation into the car, fewer people die in traffic crashes,” explains engineering professor Shannon Roberts. With a $36,000 award from the Armstrong Fund for Science, Roberts is much closer to that goal. “This support,” Roberts affirms, “makes an interdisciplinary, long-range study with real-world impact a reality.”

With the Armstrong funding, Roberts and computer science professor Philip Thomas are creating an interdisciplinary engineering and computer science team to study the human factors in automated driving systems. Specifically, their study will address the question of when an automated driving system should warn a human driver that it may soon have to relinquish control of the vehicle.

As Roberts explains, if the system only gives warnings after it’s 100 percent certain that it will relinquish control, it may be too late for the human driver to respond. If it gives a warning when it is less than 100 percent certain, there may be so many false alarms that they degrade the driver’s trust in the system. “We seek a balance in the automated system between these two scenarios.”

Established in 2006, the Armstrong Fund supports promising research directions that do not yet have enough data available for the principals to apply to standard funding channels. Once Roberts and Thomas have the results of the initial study, they will be in a position to submit grants to federal sources for further studies.

Spacelabs Donation Transforms the Nursing Lab

The UMass Center at equipment and fostering faculty Springfield’s nursing research partnerships, Spacelabs has laboratory—home to the created an opportunity to develop the 17-month Accelerated Bachelor of best possible healthcare management Science in Nursing Program—took a technological leap forward in April 2018 with a $720,000 investment from Spacelabs Healthcare. The Medical equipment manufacturer provided the lab with state-of-the-art equipment that will significantly enhance the experience of our nursing students. “It’s exciting that Spacelabs understands the benefits of investing in the College of Nursing,” Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said at the unveiling of the new lab. “Nurses are at the frontline of healthcare, using these tools extensively. By providing our students with access to this tools while contributing to our students’ educational experience and job training.”

The introduction of Spacelabs equipment gives students the opportunity to simulate managing multiple patients simultaneously and develop critical thinking and psychomotor skills in a safe environment, according to College of Nursing Dean Stephen Cavanagh. The tools provided by Spacelabs include two Sonicaid fetal/maternal monitors, ambulatory blood pressure monitors, multiple nursing monitors, and invasive cardiac outputs.

Dashira Pomales-Rivera

UMass is Combating Health Disparities in Low-income, Underserved Communities

UMass supports wide-ranging programs that enrich our students’ education and provide service to the community and the world. The spring of 2018 saw the launch of the Center for Community Health Equity Research (CCHER) in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and its funding of the first two new master's-level research positions. CCHER brings together researchers with diverse disciplinary expertise to investigate the social production of health disparities in low-income African American, Latino, and Native communities. They take a culture-centered approach to minority stress, maternal and child health, and environmental health research to prevent health disparities and to identify and implement novel interventions to improve mental health, manage chronic illness, and build resilience. The center seeks to address the gap between academic research and practice by leveraging rigorous studies to drive public health policies.

Some of the current research of our affiliates includes work as close as Springfield and as far as Alaska. Louis Graham’s work with the Springfield Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) seeks to boost health outcomes and develop skills for coping with stress among African-American men. Susan Shaw’s work examines the effects of structural and cultural factors on medication adherence among diverse patient populations. Jin Kim-Mozeleski is undertaking a study that analyzes the socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in tobacco use and smoking cessation. Working with Jim Allen and Stacy Rasmus, Lisa Wexler is part of two studies that aim to reduce suicide among Alaskan Native people. Sofiya Alhassan’s research examines the efficacy of using physical activity in the prevention of pediatric obesity. Finally, the Hear Our Stories: Diasporic Youth for Sexual Rights and Justice program, led by Aline Gubrium and Betsy Krause, uses digital storytelling to examine sexual and reproductive health disparities among young parenting Latinas in Holyoke.

Theo Croker

Trumpeter, composer, and arranger Theo Croker was the Billy Taylor Jazz Resident in the Fall of 2017.

Billy Taylor Residencies Build a Passion for Jazz

Hanging out” with a rising musician, talking music, life, and how the two intersect; learning skills, asking questions, all face-to-face—that’s the scene each season for students and community members who partake in activities with the chosen artist of the Fine Arts Center’s Billy Taylor Endowment for Jazz Residencies.

The Billy Taylor Endowment provides support for emerging jazz artists to perform and share their personal experiences with jazz students. Dr. Taylor’s hope was that students and community members would be inspired by first-hand interactions with newly established, rising artists, in activities outside a traditional classroom environment.

Trumpeter, composer, and ar- ranger Theo Croker was the Billy Taylor Jazz Resident in the fall of 2017. In his early 20s, Croker has already distinguished himself as a vital force in the jazz community. He is an adventurous musician who is at home playing standards, swinging post-bop, or more groove-oriented electric jazz.

During his residency, Croker performed at the Fine Arts Center and socialized with fans after the gig, sat in with the Northampton Jazz Workshop, spoke to Valley Jazz Network members, and met with music students at UMass, Amherst College, and high schools across the Valley.

The Billy Taylor Endowment for Jazz Residencies makes sure that students and the community have access to these artists and events, building a love and passion for jazz and jazz studies.

Paperbark magazine

Enhancing Sustainability Efforts Throughout Campus

From an eco-humanities magazine to career workshops, the Library Sustainability Fund supports more than 300 courses and a wide range of programs with sustainability-related components. Under the guidance of sustainability studies librarian Madeleine Charney, the fund has made possible the purchase of print and digital materials, speakers, grants for faculty, and research awards for students.

It provided seed money to launch Paperbark Literary Magazine and helped bring to campus activist, scholar, and theorist Kali Akuno, co-editor of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy & Black Self Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. The Library Sustainability Fund also sponsored Talking Truth, a UMass Amherst coalition working to increase conversations, awareness, and action around the climate change crisis. Their events included a series of green building tours; With Thanks: Pre-Thanksgiving Connections in Food and Art; Climate Leadership: Starting with Your Story; and Finding Your Life Purpose: Career Workshop.


212 COMMONWEALTH HONORS COLLEGE STUDENTS received Honors Research Grants to support their own research. This impressive crop of students includes engineering student Hubert Lin ’19, who is developing a wearable device for continuous monitoring of stress.

THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION STUDENT EMERGENCY FUND helps students who are facing compelling and unforeseen circumstances that jeopardize their ability to stay in school. For example, one student received an emergency medical treatment not covered by insurance and another was able to travel home for the funeral of a loved one.

THANKS TO A GIFT FROM BOB ’62 AND MARIANNE ’77 FOOTE, every UMass Amherst student athlete will enjoy better academic support. The new Bob and Marianne Foote Academic Success Center in the Boyden building will support environments for academic advising, learning specialists, one-on-one and group tutoring, workshops and seminars, and private rooms for individual counseling.

BILL HUBBARD ’87 KNOWS THAT INTERNSHIPS ARE CRUCIAL for Isenberg School of Management students planning careers in sport management, but many can’t afford to take unpaid or low-paying positions. To address the problem, alumnus Hubbard, in conjunction with Tokio-Marine HCC, has established an endowed fund to provide financial support to students participating in internships within the sport and entertainment industry.

THE COLLEGE OF INFORMATION AND COMPUTER SCIENCES IS SUPPORTING OUR HACKERS! Chester Moses, the 2018 recipient of the Robert Moll Scholarship (for computer science students transferring from community colleges) was a finalist among the nearly 1,000 intercollegiate hackers competing at HackUMass VI in October 2018. Meanwhile, the college is sponsoring HackHer413, which is a Five Colleges hackathon for women and non-binary students.

9 FACULTY ENDOWMENTS have been created in the last two years, bringing the total of chairs and professorships with a permanent source of funding to 47.

FACULTY AWARDS Professors Vamsi Vakulabharanam, Millicent Thayer, and Amy Schalet of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences all received faculty awards supported by gifts. These scholars are using the funds to support their research and public service activities on relevant issues that are meaningful to students and to the world, as well as to introduce new components into their teaching.

AT THE AGE OF NINE, Marty Jacobson ’68 was selling pennants outside the Yale Bowl in New Haven. His passion for sports has only grown since then, and this year, he pledged $5.58 million to UMass Athletics to fund improvements to McGuirk Alumni Stadium, including a seasonal air-supported indoor training space. The structure will benefit all UMass student-athletes, vastly expanding their winter training options.

THE UMASS LIBRARIES are enhancing education with the newest technology and the oldest archival sources. The Digital Media Lab in the Du Bois Library serves as a bridge between people and technology, offering cutting-edge resources like a virtual reality environment where students can practice public speaking or a makerspace where students have created everything from a playable ukulele to a snap-together robotic hand prototype. In the Special Collections & University Archives Seminar Room archivists and faculty are able to teach students using primary sources and archival materials.

THE KINESIOLOGY DEPARTMENT has been the beneficiary of a gift from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute of much needed and updated biomechanic equipment. The gift includes motion analysis cameras, force plates, and an ergomedic bike, all of which are essential for research on improving public health.

KALPANA POUDEL-TANDUKAR, assistant professor of nursing, has received a one-year Mission Grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. With this funding, she is developing interventions to improve the mental health of Bhutanese refugees living in Hamden County, Massachusetts and eventually help refugee populations throughout the country.

UMASS WOMEN INTO LEADERSHIP (UWiL), based in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, prepares women to pursue public leadership through training, academic instruction, community support, networking opportunities, and mentorship. “UWiL was the first time I had ever been around a group of women who were like me: motivated for the same reasons, thinking in the same way, and caring about the same issues,” affirms a recent graduate. “It was life-changing to have such an empowering experience so early in my college years.”

THE UMASS ENGINEERS WITHOUT BORDERS chapter built a system in rural Nguluni, Kenya in 2017 that supplies clean water to 1000 students and 5000 community members. The team helped install a pump to a well drilled by the government and laid pipes to bring the water to two schools and the center of the village. Without having to search for water, the adults can devote more time to farming and the children more time to school.

EUREKA!, a partnership between the College of Natural Sciences and Girls Inc. of Holyoke, motivates girls to pursue educations and careers in STEM. In the first two years, the girls spend July on campus and then participate in activities throughout the year. In years three through five they take part in individual externships and community-building activities. They also visit colleges and receive support throughout their college application process. There are currently 132 Eureka! Scholars, and the first cohort will graduate from high school this year.