Chancellor's Fall Update: UMassD has the momentum

A message from Chancellor Robert E. Johnson for the fall 2018 academic year.

Chancellor giving presentation

Dear UMass Dartmouth Community,

I want to thank all who were able to attend my town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon, whether in person or via the live stream. If you were unable to join us yesterday, you can view the whole presentation online.

My goal with these gatherings is to sustain a university-wide dialogue about our collective aspirations and the challenges we face in a fast-changing world. Your experience, expertise, and perspective needs to be part of this process, so please offer your feedback.

Let me offer some additional detail on a few topics:

Enrollment momentum

Reversing a four-year decline, our overall enrollment grew this year, driven by increases in new undergraduate students. According to preliminary data, a total of 8,518 students enrolled at UMass Dartmouth this fall compared to 8,412 at the same time last year, a 1.3 percent increase despite the university graduating its largest class ever – 1,995 undergraduate and graduate students in May.

The enrollment of new first-year students increased 7.7 percent, from 1,320 to 1,421. The number of transfer students, including those who transferred from Mount Ida College, increased from 610 to 733, a 20.2 percent increase.

At the same time, the academic quality of new first-year undergraduate students has improved, with average SAT scores increasing from 1076 to 1084 and grade point average increasing from 3.15 to 3.25.

At the graduate level, overall enrollment grew 1.9 percent, from 1,642 to 1,673. This was driven by the School of Law, which enrolled 94 new students this fall, a 17.5 percent increase over last year.

Online class enrollments have increased from 6,035 to 6,917 over the last two years, a 14.6 percent increase. This indicates the rising demand for courses where the barriers of time and distance are eliminated for students balancing the competing pressures of school, family, and work.


Change begins with leadership and we have been fortunate to attract several highly talented and experienced senior leaders over the past year:

  • Donna Lisker, Chief of Staff
  • Jennifer Chrisler, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement
  • Shannon Finning, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
  • Angela Callahan, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Talent and Diversity
  • Pauline Entin, Dean of Arts and Sciences
  • Jean VanderGheynst, Dean of Engineering
  • We are in the process of recruiting a new Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance.

Growth and action

We will soon break ground on a new $134 million housing and dining complex. Once opened in fall 2020, the experience of our students will be transformed. While the construction is ongoing, we will need to adjust parking plans as the construction site will occupy Lot 7. More details on parking will be communicated soon.

The federal Economic Development Administration recently awarded us a $600,000 grant to lead a regional economic development initiative built around the marine science and technology assets along the I-195 corridor. We were chosen for this award because we have the research expertise and civic engagement ethic to convene stakeholders and shape a compelling regional strategy.

We are moving forward with plans to build a co-curricular Future of Work program that builds on our faculty-designed University Studies curriculum to provide students with the uniquely human skills that cannot be replicated by robots and the mindset needed to succeed in a hyper-connected world.

We were also pleased to announce that our law school, the only public law school in Massachusetts, ranked third among the nine Massachusetts law schools in the latest bar exam pass rates. Only Harvard and BU were ahead of UMass Law, and this is less than two years after the law school earned full national accreditation.

Culture and change

We talked at the Town Hall about the cultural and organizational changes needed for our university to excel. Confronting troublesome student behavior, appreciating the efforts of all staff and faculty, securing the state funding for our collective bargaining contracts, dressing for your day, and Corsair Fridays were all discussed. We’re working to create a culture of appreciation at UMass Dartmouth and beyond.

We also discussed our budget processes and how we are taking real action, in collaboration with our Faculty Senate and collective bargaining units, to be more transparent in our budgeting and strategic in filling open positions. At the same time, we are analyzing every administrative unit to make sure we are using our finite dollars most effectively.

Moving forward

As I told the Town Hall attendees, I am just a little over one year into my chancellorship, but I have found great joy in working with the students, faculty, and staff of UMass Dartmouth. I am still learning, and we have both opportunities and challenges, but we are heading in the right direction. If we continue to work together, our university will only get stronger in every way.


Best regards,


Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D.


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