Skip to main content
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

A Message From the Director

Aug 30, 2020

Dear UWW alumni and friends,

For most of my years since joining the university in 2002, my involvement with UWW (as a faculty member and later chair in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics) had been fairly limited. One thing I did know about the program was that at all the graduation ceremonies I attended, as students were called on to stand up according to their academic unit and cheer, UWW students poured out a mighty roar that sounded several times louder than students from other academic units with far bigger numbers. Once I joined the program in January 2020, it only took a couple of casual conversations with alumni and current students to confirm my belief that UWW students stand out in more ways than one. We were not able to hold an in-person graduation ceremony this May, but we celebrated with our graduates through a video we produced, which I hope you will watch. This also gives me a chance to extend a warm congratulations again to the University Without Walls Class of 2020!

It has been an extraordinary year, and I hope you will accord me a few moments to make a couple of observations about UWW in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the movement toward racial equity that has been sweeping the nation.

The needed adaptations to COVID-19 have damaged the economy and put a lot of restrictions on our lives, but I believe that we will emerge from the pandemic stronger as a nation. The university is facing many challenges, but we will meet those challenges with creativity and hard work. One note of optimism I can report is that both within academia and outside it, the value of studying online is becoming much more accepted and better understood.

It is unreasonable that it took the recording of the killing of George Floyd to galvanize the nation around a simple concept: Black Lives Matter. But whatever path has brought us here, it is past due that we heed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail, recognize the “interrelatedness of all communities,” and act on the knowledge that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” UWW has a deep-rooted focus on social justice. Our largest contribution to promoting justice is to continue to provide access for people from all walks of life to complete a bachelor’s degree as a means to achieve their personal, professional, and intellectual goals. We affirm that not only do Black lives matter, but Black lives also add to the richness and diversity of human existence and expression, and contribute to arts, sciences, commerce, and all other aspects of life. They strengthen our communities and our nation; they are worth supporting and celebrating.

Respectfully submitted,
Farshid Hajir, Interim Director