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“I have witnessed the impact of poverty, discrimination, addiction, and mental health challenges in the lives of thousands and thousands of people. What I have come to learn is that few people—even the overwhelming majority of people we sentence in Superior Court—are bad human beings.”

David Lowy ’83

Lowy was speaking during his July confirmation hearing before the Governor’s Council. He was confirmed as the first UMass alumnus to serve on the state’s highest court, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Book cover of ’What is a Dog?’
What is a Dog?
Raymond and Lorna Coppinger
University of Chicago Press, 2016

Everyone assumes that humans domesticated dogs, perhaps at multiple points in prehistory. But what if this humancentric view is keeping us from seeing that dogs actually domesticated us?

In What Is a Dog? biologists Raymond Coppinger ’64G, ’68PhD and Lorna Coppinger ’67G propose a dogcentric origin story based in behavioral ecology. They direct their gaze at the three-quarters of the world’s dogs who are not pets, but rather are their own masters—the free-roaming, free-breeding dogs who inhabit the dumps and villages of the world.

When you travel, you may notice that feral dogs from Africa to Mexico have the same build of around 30 pounds. The Coppingers make a convincing case that dogs—their behavior and body type—were created by the niche they inhabit alongside human civilization.

Dogs are highly evolved scavengers with a specialized nutrition-acquisition style. Unlike wolves, dogs basically sit and wait for food to arrive. Whether their providers are dump truck drivers or affectionate guardians, dogs have learned to exploit humans for food. “We created the niche for dogs to inhabit,” Ray Coppinger puts it simply. “Dogs would go extinct if we didn’t exist.”

The Coppingers have a long history of dogs: they used to raise and race sled dogs all over New England, including near their home in Montague. Their book exudes respect for the animals’ inherent resourcefulness while raising thought-provoking questions about our relationship with dogs.

Book cover of 'Away Running'
Away Running
David Wright and Luc Bouchard
Orca Book Publishers

David Wright ’96MFA, now a writer and teacher of writing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and journalist Luc Bouchard met as teammates playing semi-pro American football in a poor suburb of Paris. It took them nearly 20 years and several false starts to figure out that young adult fiction was the most meaningful genre in which to write about the racial tensions and class divisions they saw there. Their book, Away Running, draws on their experiences to tell an authentic and compelling tale of football and identity that culminates in a confrontation between the police and Muslim boys of color.

As Wright says, “Given recent events in Paris, the issues raised in Away Running are unfortunately all too topical. And at this moment when confrontations between the police and black kids are front and center in the news here in the U.S., a book that addresses this difficult issue strikes my coauthor and me as especially important.”

Critics agree. Kirkus Reviews calls Away Running “timely, nuanced, and highly respectful of readers’ intelligence.” It was named a Junior Library Guild selection.

Fulbrights Shine

Steven Tagle

Steven Tagle ’16MFA won a prestigious Fulbright award from the U.S. State Department to study in Greece as part of a project to interpret Greek myths in light of the country’s financial and refugee crises. With 16 graduate and undergraduate students teaching or studying abroad on Fulbrights this academic year, UMass Amherst was recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a “Top Producing Institution” for the Fulbright scholarship program for the second consecutive year.

Varsity Vocals

UMass Amherst a cappella group Hexachords

A cappella singing has long been strong at UMass Amherst, with many styles of ensembles rehearsing in stairwells. Since the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect, more fans have come to share the love of collegiate a cappella. This summer two UMass groups, the all-female S#harp Attitude and the self-described “bunch of music dorks” Hexachords, starred in Sing It On, a reality show produced by John Legend for Pop TV. The Hexachords placed third in the tough Northeast division of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella while S#harp Attitude was honored for outstanding choreography. Hexachords photo by Michael Maloney.