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Business Protocol: Tough Love Turns to Great Success

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, right, talks with Herald columnist Judith Bowman about breaking the glass ceiling as a woman. Photo by John Wilcox, Boston Herald
UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, right, talks with Herald columnist Judith Bowman about breaking the glass ceiling as a woman.

Boston Herald
By Judith Bowman

Part of a continuing series on women who have shattered the glass ceiling.

Jacqueline Moloney, the new chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, embraced technology early — confronting the boys’ network head-on.

She became a pioneer in online education, making UMass Lowell a world-class leader in the field.

The married mother of two — who is also a grandmother — grew up in Tewksbury and was the first in her family to attend college, earning both undergraduate and doctorate degrees at UMass Lowell.

Taking the predictable route has never been her desire. She sat down with me recently at her office to share her keys to success:

Attitude: “I am from a big family of nine, so growing up we were always pushed to work hard, be resilient and helpful, and plan for the future. I have a strong work ethic and believe in other people, so I think that carries into my work.”

Being a woman in a man’s world: “I don’t really think of it as a man’s world. I don’t feel men have any greater strengths just because they are men. They are not smarter. Men are people. Women are people. I consider myself an equal. That said, I recognize that men still probably dominate in terms of power. ... I have always inserted myself into those male-dominated industries and have a very deep background in technology and online education. Coming up through the ranks in academia, I could have gone the traditional support/psychology/tutoring route for a woman, but I went into technology and saw a lot of barriers. I embraced the challenges, learned the work, figured things out, and came up through the ranks.”

Importance of mentors: “I have been fortunate to have had many great male mentors in my life help and encourage me — most notably (UMass President) Marty Meehan, who first asked me to serve as his No. 2 person here, which was quite an honor. … I do see this as a partnership between men and women in advancing women. If you want things to advance, make sure you have an equal number of women in the room.”

What motivates you? “What motivates me is knowing we change lives. We instill a deep sense of commitment to help students build their future and make a difference. I am surrounded by brilliant, creative faculty who help solve real-world problems.”

Adversity: “Growing up in a family of nine, we didn’t have a lot of money. Our wonderful mother had no sympathy for us, and would say, ‘You think that’s bad? Well, let me tell you about so and so who has it worse.’ … she made us think about how to overcome it; resilience was instilled in us. As a public institution, we are not deep-pocketed and get lots of curveballs. Finding the funding to make sure these kids have access and realize their dreams is a challenge. You remain resilient and keep turning every stone.”

Advice: “Follow your passion, the rest follows.”