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Students Start Their Legacies on Day One

2,750 New Students Begin School with Inspiration

UMass Lowell Image Tory Germann
The University opened the 2013 academic year with young entrepreneur Johnny "Cupcakes" Earle, center, at the new students' convocation.

By Julia Gavin

The University community welcomed 2,750 new students with fun events and introductions to college life, but also with a challenge: make a difference.

Between moving in to new residence halls, meeting classmates and playing games of dodge ball, first-year and transfer students got a fast introduction to the University’s can-do attitude from people who have chased a dream and won.

The DifferenceMakers program sparked the entrepreneurial spirit by inviting Johnny Earle, better known as “Johnny Cupcakes,” to campus to speak about his apparel company. Earle started his company in 2001, selling T-shirts out of his car trunk. In 2008, he was named the top Entrepreneur under 25 by Bloomberg Business. Earle designed a custom shirt for students featuring Rowdy the River Hawk, his first partnership with a college. 

Founded last year, DifferenceMakers has already awarded $25,000 in seed money to student teams who use fresh ideas and hard work to answer contemporary business and social challenges. 

Inspiration continued at the new student convocation with the theme “Create your legacy. Make a difference.” Political and social activist Waneek Horn-Miller, from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal, encouraged students to take advantage of the many possibilities ahead. 

“You have the capacity to make a difference. Dream big and work hard,” says Horn-Miller, an Olympian who trained for years to lead the Canadian women’s water polo team. “Our futures are tied together in our connected world, so take control of these opportunities to make it a better one.” See Horn-Miller's message to students

Student Leader Echoes Theme

Student government President Andrew Ladd dared everyone to get involved on campus, even if it required stepping out of their comfort zone. “If you wake up and you’re not terrified and excited, you’re not taking advantage of all the University has to offer.”

New students were ready for the challenge and enjoying the excitement on campus. Almira Rosso, a first-year English major from Worcester, was interested in the ballroom dance club at the student activities fair and anxious to start classes.

“Everyone’s been really nice and open to meeting new people,” says Rosso. “I’m really looking forward to taking classes I’ve chosen instead of just taking what’s required, like in high school.”

Her friend Jessica Herrera, a first-year psychology student from Boston, also says the opening events were giving her a good sense of life on campus. Being in the Tsongas Center for convocation had her thinking ahead a few weeks.

“I really want to see a hockey game here and see what the buzz is about.”

With attendance and enthusiasm high at opening events, faculty and staff are looking forward to getting to know the new students. 

“I think we are seeing the most engaged class ever,” says Tasha Baclawski, associate director the Office of Student Activities and Leadership. “Student leaders were excited by the turnout at the club fair and how many new people showed interest in joining their organizations. Also, we’re hearing more questions from incoming students about involvement, opportunities and events. I think this is setting a tone of increasing engagement, enthusiasm and spirit on campus.”

New community members also had a funny look at the college life with rising comedian Amy Schumer's appearance at Lowell Memorial Auditorium organized by students in the Campus Activities Programming Association.

To see the buzz starting, visit our opening week photo galleries.  

Increases in Enrollment and Achievement Continue 

Nearly half – approximately 4,000 – of all undergraduates will live in University housing this fall, including two new buildings. Those students also bring increased academic qualifications, with a freshman class that boasts increases in an average SAT score (up 63 points since 2007 to 1137) and average high school GPA (3.36, up from 3.29 just a year ago), as well as 270 new members of the University’s Commonwealth Honors Program

The University is attracting more students as its national reputation for excellence and value is growing. The University has moved up 25 spots since 2011 in U.S. News & World Report's annual ranking of educational institutions. It was recently named one of Forbes’ top 25 Best Value Colleges 2013, one of only two New England institutions to make the list, and was called “the most underrated college in the nation” by As one of only 75 public and private institutions in the U.S. that provides students with a return on investment of more than $1 million, the University ranks in the top 1 percent of all public universities when it comes to the comparison of graduates’ earnings versus the cost of their education, according to and Affordable Colleges Online. The University is seeing more students earn degrees than ever, with six consecutive years of record numbers of graduates.