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Class of 2016: Ready to Start Something

New Students Welcomed and Challenged

Photo by Meghan Moore
Students celebrated the new school year in the renovated University Dining Commons. Photo by Meghan Moore

By Julia Gavin

The 2012-13 school year started in high gear for the 1,500 freshmen and 1,130 transfer students new to campus. Renovated dining services, buildings and dorms opening and going up, new academic programs and a series of kick-off events had the campus teeming with activity.

Some changes were subtle, like a streamlined moving process facilitated by hundreds of students and staff. Others were more noticeable, like the newly renovated University Dining Commons in Fox Hall, which opened move-in weekend.

The newly spacious area, which features expanded menus and hours as well as a new look, impressed new and returning students alike. 

Making a Difference Before Getting the Degree

The differences didn’t stop with student dining. At the seventh annual Convocation, Robert Egger, the founder and president of DC Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C., and Prof. Steve Tello introduced students to the new Difference Makers program on campus. The program, an offering of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, will challenge and support undergraduate students in developing skills, products, services and new businesses to benefit their communities. Egger shared the story of his journey from aspiring nightclub owner to innovative social services superstar to show students how “every great idea was once someone’s crazy idea.”

Egger, seeing a connection between wasted food at events and people in need, founded the nonprofit meal-distribution program DC Central Kitchen in 1989. The organization has developed a variety of programs, including culinary arts training for unemployed men and women using food donated by hospitality businesses and farms. Its Campus Kitchens Project, meanwhile, empowers 5,000 student volunteers to replicate the model around the country. Egger said his idea was initially dismissed as too big and too radical. That’s the perfect mix, according to him.

“We need your big, bold, crazy ideas and your youth,” Egger told students. “Make this university your laboratory. If you have an idea, this University wants to help make it a reality. This is a rare experiment, a radical approach, and you’re all in the middle of it.”

Egger noted that the so-called Millennial Generation has challenges ahead, but he said they also have the drive and opportunity to make their ideas reality and have success without compromising ideals.

"You don't have to choose between integrity and a paycheck. People think you need to choose: do you want to be a .com or a .org — make money or make a difference. Your challenge is to say, 'No: I won't choose. I can do both,'" said Egger, adding that the model of programming, funding and support at UMass Lowell is a prime opportunity for students.

"This school is going to give you that opportunity. On day one, they say, 'Bring it.'"