UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen

Lowell Sun

LOWELL — In her first message on her first day as chancellor, Julie Chen credited the teamwork of the UMass Lowell community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters — for creating a culture that turns aspirations into achievements.

In a video sent to students, employees and alumni Friday morning, Chen previewed the launch of a new strategic planning process this fall to replace the prior, 10-year plan that transformed UMass Lowell into a nationally ranked, public research university.

“When we launch our new strategic planning process this fall, our result won’t look the same as it did in 2010,” said Chen, the university’s first Asian-American and LGBTQ+ chief executive. “The world around us has changed significantly, and we are not the same university we were back then.

“We need to establish different goals to meet different student priorities and to address different societal challenges,” she said, attributing UMass Lowell’s strong foundation to predecessors Marty Meehan and Jacquie Moloney.

Among her goals, Chen pointed to efforts around academic excellence and an inclusive campus culture. UMass Lowell will seek to become a national leader “around an inclusive campus culture for students and employees and around top-tier classroom and experiential learning to expand our graduates’ professional opportunities,” she said.

She also pointed to UMass Lowell’s anticipated elevation to “Research 1” in the coming years, joining the Carnegie Classification of the nation’s leading research universities.

“We have hard work ahead of us. But thanks to your dedication to our students and to each other, I know we can take UMass Lowell to the next level,” she said.

Chen joined UMass Lowell in 1997 after six years as an assistant professor in Boston. In her video message she said she chose UMass Lowell because of the opportunities for collaboration with faculty and students as well as with other universities, companies, nonprofits and local, state and federal government.

Those partnerships have been a hallmark of Chen’s career as a faculty member in the UMass Lowell Department of Mechanical Engineering and later as the university’s chief research and economic development officer.

During her tenure, Chen developed multiple partnership models combining industry, government and university teams, expertise and resources. The result is a research enterprise of nearly $95 million in annual expenditures with multiple research and hands-on learning opportunities for faculty and students.

Chen received her doctoral, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was a student athlete and academic All-American.

In 2019, she was awarded an honorary degree from Queens University Belfast and is a recipient of the U.S. Army Public Service Commendation Medal — its fourth-highest civilian honor — in recognition of her leadership in developing the innovation ecosystem between UMass Lowell and the Army.

Chen and her spouse, Susu Wong, live in Wilmington.