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Young Alumni Calling Lowell Home

Graduates Staying in the City and Loving It

Photos by Adrien Bisson
Young alumni are strengthening the Lowell community after making connections while students. Pictured left to right: Adam Norton, Allegra Williams and Bobby Tugbiyele.

By Julia Gavin

Building on the connections made during their time at UMass Lowell, young alumni are choosing to stay in Lowell after graduation and strengthen the city’s community. The young professionals are active in every aspect of the city, from government to social services to the arts and everywhere in between.

Some alumni working in the area are native Lowellians, like 2010 graphic design graduate Adam Norton, who splits his time between the Revolving Museum, the UMass Lowell robotics lab and independent music and art projects. His participation in Artbotics -- a program uniting robotics and art -- at the University while in high school made UMass Lowell the right choice for his college education. Norton has gone from a pilot student in the program several years ago to a co-instructor of the course. Through his work, he has brought science and robotics to life for hundreds of students and educators throughout greater Lowell.

“Some people think robots and science are cold and emotionless, but Artbotics changes their perceptions,” says Norton. “They can gain different experience of programming other than staring at a screen, because they can program the robot to perform an action and then see it right away. Artbotics students see robotics as art and expression--we learn more about science while creating.”

Norton hopes to keep pushing the boundaries of art in robotics and education as well as increasing the robotics presence in Lowell. He says that the growing community of young UMass Lowell alumni staying in the city is helping his and other projects gain support both locally and on the national scale.

“I may not know a person when I meet them around town or for a project, but if I find out they’re from UMass Lowell, we automatically have a connection and that makes it easy to collaborate,” Norton says. “It’s great to be doing these rewarding things, but it’s even better when you have a connection with the people you’re working with.”

Student Diversity a Draw

A fellow alum Norton worked with at the Revolving Museum is Allegra Williams, a 2009 graduate of the community social psychology master’s program and current neighborhood planner for the City of Lowell. The Brookline native chose the program because of its required work in the community and found her place in the city as an organizer and neighborhood liaison. 

“The diversity of students at UMass Lowell allowed me to see and work with people with different values and perspectives,” says Williams, whose degree work included helping to create a documentary film, public art projects, collaborating with African immigrants and several city organizations as well as an awareness program for the city’s homeless. “Those experiences prepared me for working with diverse communities in the real world.”

As the planner, Williams develops short- and long-range strategies to enhance the quality of life in Lowell’s neighborhoods and helps to ensure the integration of those strategies with other development initiatives in the city. She acts as a liaison to neighborhood groups, listening to their concerns and incorporating their ideas into city plans. Williams has overseen focus groups, festivals, grants and public art projects to foster collaboration between the neighborhoods of Lowell. 

“My work connects well with my personal life, in which I work with friends to keep building communities,” says Williams, who works with several fellow alumni at her day job and afterhours projects. “It’s exciting to walk down the street and see people I know from school and work with them to make a more engaging community for everyone. UMass Lowell’s increased visibility downtown has really spurred economic growth and vibrancy for our residents and visitors.”

Lowell: 'Good Jobs, Businesses, Vitality'

An alum Williams has worked with on networking and community-building projects is Bobby Tugbiyele, a 2004 graduate of the political science and history departments. As a student, he brought fellow members of the Association of Students of African Origin into the Lowell community to volunteer. And though much of his family lives in New York and his native Nigeria, Tugbiyele wanted to stay in Massachusetts after graduating. Now, as a career adviser and job developer for Community Teamwork Inc., Tugbiyele is helping to solve the unemployment issue from by working with both job-seekers and employers in greater Lowell.

“This has been my first chance to be a part of a community like Lowell where I know the neighbors and what really makes a community,” says Brooklyn-raised Tugbiyele, who lives in the city with his wife, Aleksandra Ward Tugbiyele ’08. “I’ll feel like a New Yorker forever, but I’m a Lowellian at the end of the day and I want what’s best for her: good jobs, businesses and vitality.”

Tugbiyele is also the president of the Center City Committee, a 40-year-old organization promoting and advocating for downtown Lowell. The group’s business owners, residents, workers, academics and government officials work together to improve the city for all who enter.

As Tugbiyele work to strengthen the Lowell community, he expresses a feeling shared by many UMass Lowell alumni, whether they’re lifelong citizens or new to the area: “Lowell, my work and my connections here have made me a better person.”

Young Alums Profiles