By Ed Brennen
Office moves were being scheduled and final touches were being put on the university’s new Graduate and Professional Studies Center in March when the coronavirus pandemic abruptly shut down the campus.
After several months of delay, the doors have opened this fall at the leased building at 839 Merrimack St. — the new home of Residence Life
, Study Abroad
, the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO
), Navitas Global Student Success Program
, Graduate Admissions
, and Graduate, Online and Professional Studies (GPS
Located directly across Merrimack Street from University Crossing, the three-story former nursing home has been completely renovated by its owner. UMass Lowell is leasing the 39,600-square-foot property for 10 years.
“By bringing these offices together under one roof right here in the heart of our campus, the university can better serve our students for years to come, whether they’re learning in the classroom or online,” says Chancellor Jacquie Moloney
, who recently toured the building with members of UML’s executive cabinet.
In addition to administrative offices and conference rooms, the Graduate and Professional Studies Center features four new classrooms on the first floor, equipped with the latest instructional technology.
The shift to remote learning during the pandemic has led to growth in both undergraduate and graduate online programs offered by GPS, which is now located on the second and third floors of the new building.
“It’s really exciting to pull together all these different units like graduate admissions and graduate advising in one building,” says Vice Provost of Graduate, Online and Professional Education Steven Tello
. “Before, students had to run around campus trying to find those resources. Now, the team’s together in one place and it’s basically a one-stop shop.”
Nancy Ludwig, associate dean of administration, finance and enrollment management for GPS, says GPS will slowly reintroduce services like walk-in hours at the new location this semester, with hopes of building toward more normal operations by the spring.
Residence Life, which had outgrown its space at University Crossing, is now located on the first floor of the new building along with the Study Abroad office.
“Prior to COVID-19, we were looking forward to moving to our new office because it would allow us to have more physical space to accommodate our students and their families,” says Assoc. Dean of Student Affairs for Residence Life Joel McCarthy-Latimer
Little did they know that the new location would enable Residence Life to better support the nearly 800 students living on campus this fall during the pandemic.
“Having more private offices allows more of our staff to safely work on campus, so they can respond more quickly and effectively to students’ needs,” says McCarthy-Latimer, who adds that technology upgrades have helped provide more contactless services to students, including ID card coding and updating, check-in verification and meal deliveries.
The Solution Center
, meanwhile, is expanding into the former Residence Life suite at University Crossing, allowing its staff to better serve students with questions about course registration, paying their bill or financial aid. The Information Technology
office, in turn, will take over the space vacated by Solution Center staff in University Crossing’s Building B.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs
will expand into the former Study Abroad office on the third floor of University Crossing.
The ISSO, formerly located at Cumnock Hall, has moved to the second floor of the new building along with Navitas, which had been based at the Wannalancit Business Center.
, who became the ISSO’s new executive director in January, was just getting settled into his new role when the pandemic hit. He and his staff have since moved to the new office and are available, Monday through Friday, to assist international students living on campus or taking courses remotely.
“Beyond informing students about compliance issues that may affect them, we want them to know there is someone here who can talk with them and help them feel a part of this campus,” says Mazzone, who joined UML after 24 years at Northeastern University.
The ISSO is hosting virtual coffee hours on Friday afternoons, and Mazzone hopes it can soon start utilizing space at the Graduate and Professional Studies Center for socially distanced in-person events. Three of the four new classrooms are already being used by international students for classes.