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UMass Lowell Challenge Grants Spur Research, Community Reach

Awards Fund New Projects that Reflect University’s Goals

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Projects funded through UMass Lowell's 2020 Challenge Grant program reflect the university's goals to enrich campus and community life.


Media contacts: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or and Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or

LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney today announced the latest recipients of 2020 Challenge Grants who will use the awards to launch new initiatives on campus and in the community.

The micro-grant program, now in its second round, is awarding 20 grants of $1,000 each as a facet of Moloney’s First 90 (#First90) Initiative. Spanning the first three months of her administration, the campaign is focused on collaborating with UMass Lowell students, faculty and staff, as well as community members to develop new ideas to help the university achieve the goals of the second phase of “UMass Lowell 2020: A Strategic Plan for the Next Decade.”

During her eight years as executive vice chancellor, Moloney led the development of the first phase of the 10-year plan, which has guided UMass Lowell through the greatest period of growth in the university’s history. Accomplishments include a 50 percent increase in enrollment, the opening of 11 new buildings, a rise in national rankings for quality and graduates’ return on investment, a 115 percent increase in diversity among incoming students and record fundraising totaling more than $144 million. A blueprint for UMass Lowell’s future, the plan is based on the university’s Pillars of Excellence and calls for the institution to grow enrollment, enhance academic and research facilities, increase investment in research by faculty and students, and cultivate even stronger ties to the community through the rest of the decade.

Nine individuals received grants in the first round of funding awarded last month. One more round of awards will be made by the end of the fall semester.

“It has been tremendously rewarding for me and everyone involved with the 2020 Challenge Grant program to see it take shape and flourish,” Moloney said. “These latest projects developed by UMass Lowell faculty, students and local organizations will enrich the campus and the community.”   

Recipients of the second round of 2020 Challenge Grants are:

  • Terry Fox-Koor, plastics engineering student, who will create new opportunities for UMass Lowell students to further develop entrepreneurship skills through open mic events that will allow students to share their ideas for new ventures, products and services. The project builds on UMass Lowell’s highly successful DifferenceMaker Program. 
  • Debra-Nicole Huber, Music Department faculty, who will create an opportunity for high-school musicians from throughout the Merrimack Valley to attend a Boston Symphony Orchestra rehearsal and use technology to simulate what it’s like to be a member of the ensemble. The project expands UMass Lowell’s existing partnership with the BSO and the Department of Music’s instruction and performance programs for young musicians. 
  • Rohit Krishnan, a computer science and electrical engineering major, who will lead a student team in developing assistive technology that uses drones to help detect risks and prevent impending injuries to people. The project was inspired by a character in the film “Big Hero 6.”
  • Ivy Ho, Psychology Department faculty, who will work with UMass Lowell’s Center for Asian American Studies and Center for Public Opinion on a research project aimed at increasing voter participation among the Cambodian and Vietnamese communities in Lowell.
  • Diana Archibald, English Department faculty, whose grant will support two service-learning projects for UMass Lowell students – one at the Tsongas Industrial History Center, the other at Lowell National Historical Park – for which the students will draw upon the Steampunk movement and their study of author Charles Dickens, who once visited Lowell, to create interactive, educational exhibits for the public.
  • Gabrielle Davis, from the community group Made in Lowell, who will travel through Lowell in a remodeled recreational vehicle to meet with and gather the stories of residents in each of the city’s neighborhoods. These histories will then be available to the public through programs and events presented by the community development organization. 

The 2020 Challenge Grant recipients were determined by a committee chaired by Economics Prof. Carol McDonough and UMass President Emeritus Jack Wilson, who serves as university distinguished professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation at UMass Lowell. The committee is comprised of representatives of each of the groups eligible for grants: UMass Lowell’s faculty, staff and student body, and members of the community.

“The creativity and diversity evidenced in all of the 2020 Challenge Grant program’s submitted proposals is truly inspiring,” McDonough said. “We are grateful to the committee members for their time and expertise during the selection process as we worked to choose the best of the best for the university’s support.”

“These winning proposals will not only expand educational experiences for UMass Lowell students but offer learning opportunities for members of the Greater Lowell community from every background. I look forward to building on this success through the next round of grant funding,” said Wilson.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,500 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.