UMass, Digital Ready Offer Early College STEM Living Learning Lab for Boston Students
NEWTON, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst and Digital Ready, a Boston-based non-profit, have launched a groundbreaking new living learning lab to give talented, young Black and Latinx students from Boston Public Schools a no-cost head start to a STEM degree from UMass.
Beginning in September 2021, Digital Ready’s Living Learning Lab on the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst will offer approximately 40 Boston Public School graduates the opportunity to live in an experiential learning environment, where students will be immersed in an innovative community and have the resources and support to identify their purpose and their passions in STEM. The unique model is intended to provide underrepresented young people – students of color, first-generation college students, and students from low-income backgrounds – with the knowledge, skills and networks to pursue careers in Greater Boston’s innovation economy.
The first cohort will live in a dedicated residential community on the 72-acre Newton campus and participate in a customized Digital Ready Pathway of UMass Amherst’s Exploratory Pathways Program. In addition to housing and a meal plan, students will receive personalized academic coaching, rigorous coursework tied to emerging technologies, and hands-on and work-based learning opportunities with industry partners. At the end of the year, students will have the opportunity to join a full-time undergraduate program at UMass Amherst, with 18 college credits, a year of college experience, and a supportive network of champions at no cost to them or their families.
“Living and learning together will allow students the opportunity to share ideas, collaborate on innovative projects, and have the resources they need to bring their ideas to life and figure out how they want to change the world,” said Dr. Sarah Cherry Rice, executive director of Digital Ready. “All of the support is what makes it work – coaching, no-cost tuition, housing, bus passes. These are the barriers that sometimes prevent Boston students from reaching their full potential. We are thrilled to have this level of investment from UMass and our industry and community partners. We want to create permanent change that breaks cycles of poverty and puts students and their families on a path to economic mobility in Boston.”
The University of Massachusetts Amherst established the Newton campus in 2018 to provide experiential learning and professional development opportunities for its students while building connections with the Greater Boston region, including with prospective students from underrepresented groups. The campus provides housing for undergraduate students conducting internships and co-ops in the Boston area, offers career and professional development programming, and facilitates hands-on and industry-connected projects for students. It also hosts companies interested in co-locating with the Commonwealth’s flagship public research university, which in turn offer internships, informational interviews and networking opportunities to students.
“This program aligns perfectly with our strategic plan for the Mount Ida Campus, our effort to expand exploratory pathways to a UMass degree, and our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “We believe this could become a new model for how to assist historically underrepresented students in transitioning to college and eventually into careers in the Commonwealth’s thriving economy.”
The Digital Ready Pathway of UMass Amherst’s Exploratory Pathways Program will provide students with cohort-specific introductory courses in computer science, engineering, architecture, building construction technology and math. The students will have access to all the learning resources offered by UMass with significant personalized support from Digital Ready.
“STEM programs such as computer science and engineering are among our most competitive at the undergraduate level,” said UMass Amherst Provost John McCarthy. “Designing pathways such as this one – which ensures access to appropriate introductory courses, provides a supportive learning environment, and takes student wellbeing into account – increases the likelihood of student success and in turn makes those programs more accessible and inclusive. That is consistent with our effort across all of our academic programs to attract and retain a diverse and representative student body.”
In addition to dedicated residential space, the students will have access to collaborative work space for projects, and participate in all aspects of campus life alongside the full-time UMass undergraduate students on the Newton campus.
“I really believe in my ability to build the future and I really wanted a good place to set that foundation. I know that being on a college campus surrounded by all of that technology and support will put me in an environment to change the world,” said Malik Carr, a current student at BDEA 2.0 who hopes to join the living learning lab this fall.
The 40-student cohort will be selected from a group of approximately 160 students participating in Digital Ready’s Summer Studios with industry partners: architecture and construction with the Boston Society for Architecture, engineering technology with Autodesk, computer science and autonomous vehicles with Microsoft, and design for virtual reality with XR Terra. The Living Learning Lab cohort will move onto the Mount Ida Campus in September and remain through the end of UMass’ academic year in May 2022.
About Digital Ready
Digital Ready is a Boston-based non-profit with a mission to activate the creative potential of high school students, especially underrepresented young people—students from low-income backgrounds and students of color—with the agency, social capital and skills to build their own pathways to economic mobility and success in Boston’s innovation economy. For more information, visit www.digitalready.org or follow @digitalreadyboston on Instagram and Twitter @digitalreadyMA.
About the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst
The Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst serves as a center for student experiential learning, industry engagement, academic and research collaboration, and fundraising in Greater Boston, which is home to a plurality of UMass Amherst students and alumni. Acquired from the former Mount Ida College in 2018, the campus exists to connect the state’s flagship public research university to the Greater Boston community and serves as a secondary instructional site for UMass Amherst, offering an undergraduate program in Veterinary Technology, graduate programs in Statistics and Business and Analytics, undergraduate courses in Building Construction Technology, and graduate courses in Geographic Information Science and Technology.