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Practice what she teaches


By Susan Tordella / Staff Writer

This new year, Joyce Taylor Gibson, will use her expertise in administrative work - which she has been teaching to graduate students at the university for the past decade - and start doing it at UMass Lowell.

Since 1992, Gibson has taught courses to Ph.D. candidates on administrative leadership in schools.

The Snow Drive resident attributes her appointment as the highest ranking African American person at the university to knowing how systems work, what leadership is, and how to be resourceful in solving employees' problems.

'You can't get things done unless you have relationships with people,' said Gibson, 57.

Gibson earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Florida in Gainesville, and worked as a dean at three other universities. Her promotion to associate vice chancellor of academic affairs was announced in November.

'It's a pretty senior position in that I have responsibility for the core administrative operations for students,' said Gibson. She will supervise eight department heads, deans and directors and report to Provost John Wooding.

In a nutshell, Gibson will oversee enrollment, financial aid, registration, student services to special and minority students, campus police, housing, counseling and just about anything that involves students at UMass Lowell.

One of Gibson's first goals will be to streamline academic services to students by using technology more effectively, as the Amherst campus has already done, Gibson said.

The biggest challenge in meeting her goals is to convince the Legislature and voters to adequately fund the university.

'We want people to understand that, as a public institution, our people and the people who we educate, are a great investment,' said Gibson.

Especially with a bleak economy and funding cutbacks, UMass Lowell students rely even more on the opportunity there.

'We're offering education to people who don't have money,' said Gibson. 'They don't have a choice like people in a lot of the private schools do. We need to keep our programs strong.'

UMass Lowell is committed to supporting Lowell.

'The university has developed all kinds of partnerships in the region,' said Gibson. For example, the university and the city collaborated to build Tsongas Arena and Lecher Park. The city and university share the facilities.

'We have an investment and the city has an investment in people being attracted to [it]' said Gibson.

Faculty retirements

Another challenge Gibson will face is the onslaught of retirements among faculty members.

'We've been working together - not looking at it as a great loss, which they are - but as opportunities,' said Gibson.

For example, the Graduate School of Education, just hired a young woman to replace a retiree, who brings skills none of the other four professors have.

Getting good people on her team is crucial to Gibson's success.

'I like creating opportunities for people,' said Gibson. 'The fun is developing the team to do the work,' in the face of staff and budget reductions. 'We still need to delivery quality products to students.'

Gibson's appointment came with three other women who were promoted to similar senior level positions.

Gibson is the first African American to serve at the vice-chancellor level at UMass Lowell. She considers her race to be important because it shows to students and the public, 'that we're actually developing people from all the different complexities within the commonwealth to do good work and be rewarded for it in the public system.'

She is married to Roland Gibson, a member of the Littleton School Committee, another educator who has been a teacher, administrator and consultant. Roland has been supportive of her new role, which she assumes this week.

'We give each other the freedom to be who we are, professionally. Sometimes, that's the best gift,' Joyce Gibson said. 'We're able to work very well together because we have similar goals. Our basic lifestyle is to serve others.'