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UMass Lowell Chancellor Celebrates Completion of First 90 Initiative

Final Round of 2020 Challenge Grants go to Projects Connecting Campus, Community

First90 Engagement Tours

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney's First 90 Initiative (#First90) has engaged the campus and community in programs and other efforts that will bring the university closer to reaching the goals laid out in its strategic plan, UMass Lowell 2020.


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LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney has devoted her first three months as chancellor to the First 90 initiative (#First90), designed to engage the campus and community in programs and other efforts that will bring the university closer to reaching the goals laid out in its strategic plan, “UMass Lowell 2020.”

The university is halfway through the 10-year plan, of which Moloney led the development during her eight years as executive vice chancellor. Based on UMass Lowell’s Pillars of Excellence, the plan has already resulted in the greatest period of growth in the university’s history, including a 50 percent increase in enrollment, the opening of 12 new buildings, one of the fastest moves up in the nation in rankings for quality and graduates’ return on investment, a 115 percent increase in diversity among incoming students and record fundraising of more than $144 million.

Over those first 90 days, Moloney and the campus community have covered a lot of ground, from meetings with students and faculty to get their feedback on strategic priorities to a “Welcome Back Night” that brought hundreds of students and others from the university to downtown Lowell businesses. There were also the opening celebrations for two new buildings – bringing the total to 12 since 2009 – Riverview Suites East and the McGauvran Center, and Moloney’s inauguration, which raised $1.5 million for student scholarships. In all, Moloney has participated in more than 100 events and engagement activities since the start of UMass Lowell’s academic year.

“My first three months as chancellor flew by and I am grateful to everyone who participated in the events, programs and other opportunities to engage about the future of our university and how we can realize truly transformational education,” said Moloney. “I have heard dozens of new ideas that we will implement as a result of these interactions.”

The #First90 initiative also included the awarding of 2020 Challenge Grants to proposals by faculty, staff, students and members of the community. The 20, $1,000 grants went to ideas for new programs to support the goals of UMass Lowell 2020, including strengthening connections in the community, providing opportunities for student learning and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.

Winners of the final round of challenge grants, announced today, are

  • Karla Cuarezma, civil and environmental engineering student, who will work with a team of students, alumni and faculty to design a permanent working model on stormwater filtration and its impact on the Merrimack River and environment. It will educate visitors to Decatur WAY (Water, Art and You), which was previously an underutilized alley adjacent to UMass Lowell’s University Crossing.
  • Lynn DiBenedetto, Clinical Lab and Nutritional Sciences Department faculty, who will establish a new pilot program Engineering and Science Explorations (EASE) with the goal of sparking interest in those fields among freshmen at local high schools by providing them with access to UMass Lowell faculty, students and facilities, including a full-day experience featuring hands-on exploration of health sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering and earth sciences.
  • Elissa Johnson-Green, Music Department faculty, who will establish the Musical Playground to provide Lowell schools, community centers and public parks with specially designed and constructed outdoor musical instruments with repurposed materials and with the help of a multidisciplinary team of faculty and students.
  • Stephen Mishol, Art and Design Department faculty, who will work with fellow professors to develop and execute art-making workshops at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Lowell High School and Stoklosa Middle School in Lowell to build a dialogue between pupils at those schools and students at UMass Lowell.
  • Ruairi O’Mahony, Administrative Services staff, who will establish “University Walk,” a one-mile stretch along Pawtucket Street in Lowell, using information boards and wayfinding signs designed to encourage members of the UMass Lowell community and the public to engage in physical activity to maintain or improve overall health. It will also promote sustainability through encouraging pedestrian travel.

Grants awarded in the earlier two rounds went to proposals to: use technology to help high-school musicians experience what it is like to play in the Boston Symphony Orchestra; increase voter participation in Lowell’s Cambodian and Vietnamese communities; establish a new alternative spring break program to provide UMass Lowell students with applied learning opportunities through volunteering with local nonprofits; host a regional event for high-schoolers from diverse backgrounds to encourage them to pursue a college education in science and technology-related majors; open a pop-up retail store in downtown Lowell for the holidays featuring the work of local artists and managed by UMass Lowell students; and establish a makerspace at a Lowell school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade where they can learn about science, technology, engineering and math with the help of UMass Lowell students. The 15 previous grant winners are listed at

“All of the projects demonstrate the creativity of our campus and the community and how each can come together to fuel innovation,” said Moloney.

The 2020 Challenge Grant recipients were selected by a committee comprised of representatives of each of the groups eligible for grants: UMass Lowell faculty, staff and students, and members of the community.

“We were impressed throughout the challenge grant process with the proposals submitted, each of which was an excellent representation of the pillars of our strategic plan, from transformational education to entrepreneurial stewardship in higher education. We know our campus and our community will benefit from these projects when they become a reality,” said Economics Prof. Carol McDonough, who co-chaired the committee with Jack Wilson, UMass president emeritus and UMass Lowell’s distinguished university professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation.

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.