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UMass Lowell Opens 125th Year With Convocation

Artist and activist Pierce Freelon delivered an inspirational keynote address to more than 3,300 UMass Lowell first-year and new transfer students at Convocation on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. Photo credit: Tory Wesnofske for UMass Lowell.

LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell kicked off the start of its 125th anniversary year today with Convocation, the official welcome for the largest number of incoming students in the university’s history.
More than 3,300 first-year and new transfer students started their UMass Lowell career at the event, held at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. For the third year in a row, UMass Lowell’s total enrollment will top 18,000, an increase of more than 57 percent since 2007. The Chronicle of Higher Education has ranked UMass Lowell in the top 10 fastest-growing public doctoral institutions in the nation for the last four years.
The Class of 2023 has the highest average high-school GPA of any incoming group and more than 770 new students are joining UMass Lowell’s Honors College, which will bring its total enrollment to a new high of nearly 1,900.
“You have come to UMass Lowell at a very special time in our institution’s history,” Chancellor Jacquie Moloney told the students, noting the university’s transformation over the last decade to a top-tier public research institution. “And this year, UMass Lowell celebrates its 125th anniversary. A milestone like this is an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from, how we have grown and the values to which we remain true.”
Moloney asked the new students – who hail from 31 states and 27 nations – to think about the challenges their counterparts faced 125 years ago, but how their hard work and determination led them to achieve their academic goals and to go on to build better lives and a better world.
“These are the special qualities we continue to see in UMass Lowell students today. And we saw these qualities in each of you,” she said, urging them to be brave and be themselves. “And you can do that because you are now a part of an incredible community that will help you achieve your goals, that will provide support when you falter and that will embrace you, and all others, as you learn and grow and discover the talents you’ll share with the world.”
Emmy-winning producer and director Pierce Freelon – who merges art and activism in his work, which ranges from jazz and hip-hop music to public service to directing award-winning films and web series – delivered the keynote address.
Freelon engaged the students in a moment of mediation when they thought about what they want to achieve and then asked them to say it out loud as the first step in making it a reality.
“When you put words out into the universe, you are giving yourself permission to bring those things to life,” Freelon said. “Words create worlds. Your job is to go out there and take risks, set your intentions and follow your compass.”
Student Government Association President David Morton, a business major from Boxford, also addressed students.
“Each person in this room helps build a network, a network that is now 125 years strong. Start right now, build your community, find your passion,” Morton said.
The Convocation celebration featured music by the UMass Lowell Marching Band and “New Hampshire Idol” winner Nicole Hayek of Salem, N.H, a 2019 UMass Lowell graduate, who sang her original song “We’ll Explore.”
The program also included a pitch contest between three student teams from UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker Program, which teaches students entrepreneurial skills they can use in business and the community. The program has led to the launch of 33 companies and eight patents since its launch in 2012.
DifferenceMaker team representatives in the pitch contest were:
  • Benji Ball, sports equipment for youths with special needs – Gavin Donohoe of Pepperell, Benjamin McEvoy of Dunstable and Edward Morante of Melrose;
  • CAT (Community Ambulation Tool) Mat, which offers interlocking pieces to simulate walking on various terrains and surfaces for physical therapy patients – Michelle Mailloux of Lowell and Katherine Muise of Saugus;
  • USe Cart, a “smart” grocery cart that includes an electronic scanner that will price items as they are selected from store shelves – Logan Mann of Brockton, Moya Al-Hayek of Winthrop, Sonali Ganatra of Lowell, Shanice Kelly of Dennis and Maksym Ushakov of Lowell.
Other participants in Convocation included Lowell Mayor William Samaras, who welcomed students to the city of Lowell; Provost Joseph Hartman; Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President Abigail Drezek of Cumberland, R.I.; and UMass Lowell Air Force and Army ROTC units.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 18,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.
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