Awards Will Fund New Programs to Better Campus and Community

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Chancellor Moloney has announced the first winners of the 2020 Challenge Grants, designed to fund new initiatives that support the goals of the university's strategic plan, that are part of her First 90 initiative.


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LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney today announced the recipients of the first round of 2020 Challenge Grants that provide funding to launch new initiatives on campus and in the community to help the university achieve its goals.

The micro-grant program is awarding 20 grants of $1,000 each through Moloney’s First 90 (#First90) Initiative. Launched shortly after Moloney was named chancellor, she is focusing her first three months on working with UMass Lowell students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the community to develop new ideas to further the second phase of “UMass Lowell 2020,” the university’s strategic plan. 

The first phase of UMass Lowell’s 10-year plan, launched with Moloney’s leadership during her eight years as executive vice chancellor, has served to guide UMass Lowell through the greatest period of growth in the university’s history, including a 50 percent increase in enrollment, the opening of 11 new buildings, a rise in national rankings for quality and graduates’ return on investment, a 115 percent increase in diversity among incoming students and record fundraising totaling more than $144 million. The plan, which is based on UMass Lowell’s Pillars of Excellence, calls for the university to continue on its path toward a larger and even more diverse student body, improved academic and research facilities, increased investment in research by faculty and students, and even stronger ties to the community.

“Through the 2020 Challenge Grants, faculty, staff, students and community members are developing new and innovative ideas to make a difference on our campus and in our city," said Moloney. “The creativity and commitment of the campus and Lowell communities are apparent in the quality of the proposals submitted in this first round.”

Recipients of the first round of 2020 Challenge Grants are:

  • Eliza Bobek, Graduate School of Education faculty, who will use her grant to create a makerspace at the Bartlett Community Partnership School in Lowell that will give students in kindergarten through grade 8 an innovative new setting in which to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with the help of UMass Lowell students.
  • Kelly Bowes, Residence Life staff, who will lead the creation of a new alternative spring break program through which students will gain valuable experiential education while assisting in the community by volunteering with a Lowell-based nonprofit organization. 
  • Maria Brunette, Department of Work Environment faculty, who will create new opportunities for UMass Lowell students to take part in a global public health research project on issues affecting resource-poor communities in South America and to present the results of that research at an international conference on public health.
  • Annie Ciaraldi, Student Affairs staff, who will create a peer education program to train participants to teach fellow students about protecting their health and preventing violence in any setting, including bystander training, consent education and suicide prevention.
  • Gladys Kibunyi, biology student, who will work with fellow members of the UMass Lowell chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers to host a regional pre-college initiative event for high school students of diverse backgrounds with the goal of encouraging them to pursue higher education in engineering- and science-related fields. 
  • Allison Lamey, city of Lowell Economic Development Department, who will work with the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) to open “a COOL place,” a pop-up retail store that will operate during the holiday season in the city’s downtown, featuring merchandise made by local artists and managed with the help of UMass Lowell students. 
  • Paul Marion, Community Relations staff, who will work with a variety of local partners to expand the “First Thursdays” program in downtown Lowell – which showcases the arts and cultural venues, local restaurants and retailers, the Lowell National Historical Park and unique architecture – to include new features such as live music by UMass Lowell performers.
  • Phitsamay Uy, Graduate School of Education faculty, who will work with a UMass Lowell student fluent in Khmer and staff in the Lowell Public Schools to produce a video in Khmer to help parents who are not proficient in English better understand American schools. 
  • Nana Younge, plastics engineering student, will create “Get Girls Going,” a new program for at-risk teen girls aimed at helping them overcome barriers to reaching their goals through education and with support from female college students who will serve as mentors. 

The 2020 Challenge Grant recipients were determined by a committee chaired by Economics Prof. Carol McDonough and UMass president emeritus Jack Wilson, who serves as university distinguished professor of higher education, emerging technologies and innovation at UMass Lowell. The committee is comprised of representatives of each of the groups eligible for grants: UMass Lowell’s faculty, staff and student body, and members of the community. 

“We are thankful to the committee for the time they have committed to reviewing and awarding the grants,” said McDonough. “There is great diversity of disciplines and expertise on the committee and we have had positive discussions about how to help implement the ideas, even those that do not ultimately get funded through the 2020 Challenge Grant program.” 

“I was excited not only by the number of applications we received, but the strength of the applications overall,” said Wilson. “Many of the applicants presented an idea that would benefit multiple groups in the university community, including faculty, staff, students, and citizens of Lowell and the region.”

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 17,500 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.