With Jacquie Moloney as she moves through her final year as chancellor

Chancellor Moloney with students Image by Lowell Sun/Julie Malakie


Q. What is the most important thing you want to accomplish before you step down as chancellor? 

A. That has changed since my original plan. Because now the most important thing has become rebuilding the campus culture that we had before the pandemic. Rekindling student life, faculty and staff life — this is paramount to me. I’m really focused on bringing back our traditions, and rekindling our community — and it’s been wonderful to see students on campus laughing together, and attending in-person events again. My No. 1 goal is to help bring a return to normalcy, or a new normal, anyway. And I think we’re getting there.    

Q. What was your original plan?

A. I want to help the campus think more deeply about our brand and who we are. In particular, I want to look at the student experience and how we define that around experiential learning — we excel at giving students career-connected work, and I want to expand that. I plan to formalize that this year by launching a transformational leadership institute and a social impact fellowship program, which will provide stipends to students to work in small businesses, nonprofits, community organizations and government agencies, and with faculty and departments on campus.    

Q. The pandemic has prompted many people to reassess their priorities. How has it shaped your views? 

A. For me, what’s come into focus is the growing divisiveness in the country, and how it’s impacting all of our communities and our relationships. And I think we are becoming alienated from each other. Personally, I’m examining my role in that—both as a leader for this year, and for the next phase of my career. My priority for both is to help people connect, to really focus on rebuilding the human connection. It’s so important and it’s something that seems to have eluded us, and the pandemic exacerbated it for many people.   

Q. As the system looks for UML’s next leader, what, in your opinion, are the most important things the search committee should take into consideration?  

A. Anyone coming here has to be able to appreciate this is a very aspirational community. We have recruited a whole new generation of administrators who have such great hope for this institution. And the new chancellor must know that this is not a group that is going to stand for the status quo. That’s not who we are.  So that’s No. 1. But I also think we need a leader who can continue to help fundraise. Private and corporate funding for the university is key, because that’s still the biggest gap in getting us from where we are to where we want to be. We have great aspirational goals, but need to keep going after the resources to achieve them.  

Q. This will be a very busy year for you — but how do you relax? 

A. I paint watercolors. I’m such a Type A person, and people like me don’t usually have an artistic side — and, actually, I don’t think I have one either! But I make myself do it because it takes me to another place that I find … well, not exactly gratifying, because I’m not very good at it, but it’s meditative. The first time I picked up a paint brush, my hand was shaking. But my friend Nina Coppens [former dean of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, who died of brain cancer in 2013] was a watercolorist, and toward the end of her battle with cancer, I asked her what I could do for her, and she said, “Paint.” And I thought, “No. Don’t ask that ... I’ll do anything but that.” But she knew me very well, and so I had to try. So I picked up some instructional books and just started. And now it’s a real love.