New college will be far reaching

08/06/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online. By MICHAEL LAFLEUR and J.J. HUGGINS

LOWELL- UMass Lowell's new School of Health and Environment will help students to combine classroom learning with on-the-job training in community workplaces, according to the university administration.

UMass Lowell Chancellor William Hogan said the new school will reach beyond campus borders and into the city, where students will have the chance to research and study the ecosystems in the Merrimack Valley.

"We know that this work cannot be done in isolation ... You have to reach into the social fabric of the community," Hogan said.

Officials announced the new program Tuesday, with a brief ceremony attended by 150 school administrators, faculty, and invited guests, including Congressman Marty Meehan and state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos.

"The School of Health and Environment will train students to address public health challenges," said Meehan, a 1978 University of Lowell graduate. He said students and the local community will benefit.

Kyle Coffee, a freshman exercise physiology major and student government senator, is also excited.

He said the new school will connect students with employers in the community. "It will make it easier for us to get out there and find jobs," said Coffee, who represents the undergraduate students of the School of Health and Environment.

Dr. David Wegman helped create the new program and will serve as dean of the new college.

"I've always had a vision, personally, that although I'm trained as a medical doctor, my interest has for years been in public health," he said.

Wegman said the school will serve local needs for the environmental and health professions. "We're concerned, for example, about the nursing shortage and having our programs fill the nursing shortage," he said.

The school is an outgrowth of two programs: the college of Health Professions and the Department of Work Environment. All totaled, the new school will have 750 undergraduate students, 150 graduate students, and 54 full-time faculty.

No new funding was required to open the school.

The school has been open since September of 2003, but the curriculum is evolving and will need the approval of the administration, according to UMass Lowell Provost John Wooding.

No new classes have been introduced yet, but there will eventually be a major in Health and Environment.

According to Dr. Kay Doyle, a professor and program director for the university's Health and Clinical Sciences Department, students may be able to do lab research to determine if chemicals in commercial products are harmful to humans or to the environment.

Panagiotakos, who was appointed by Senate President Robert Travaglini to co-chair the state task force to reform public higher education, Panagiotakos discussed the university's achievements in science. He mentioned how UMass Lowell is one of few schools to explore nanotechnology, an innovative method of engineering objects by specifically placing molecules and atoms on a scale of nanometers.

"We're going to be able to look at nanotechnology and also deal with the work and environment process, that is what makes this region different, it is our niche," he said.