In Ways Large and Small, People at UMass Lowell Find Ways to Make a Difference

Students share stuffed animals with children
Student Alumni Ambassadors ran their annual Rowdy Cares with Bears drive to collect stuffed animals that will be distributed to local children during the holidays.

By University Relations Staff

It’s the season of giving, and River Hawks are leaning in, stepping up and giving back to the community. Through service-learning projects, research that benefits the public, volunteering and donation drives, students, faculty and staff are finding ways to make a difference.
Their efforts range from multimillion-dollar research projects that will improve public health and the environment to small acts like picking up litter in Lowell neighborhoods. Whatever the scale, the endeavors are meant to make life better for others. 
Dozens of students around table with donations on it.
For instance, this month the Navigators Club and members of the Honors College collected donations of personal care items such as shampoo, body wash, tampons and socks, for teens currently in foster care in Massachusetts. The students packed up 45 drawstring bags for distribution to teens who often move from home to home carrying their belongings in trash bags. 
Jake Hogan, Navigators Club president, says finding ways to help people in need is simply the right thing to do.
“If you are in a position of privilege, you should help,” says Hogan, a senior majoring in English. 
First-year business student Jayson DeLong, who works part-time as a youth ministries coordinator for the Salvation Army, organized a Manning School of Business food drive to benefit the organization’s Lowell chapter.
Jayson DeLong opens truck door for two women carrying boxes
“It’s nice to see that people care so much,” DeLong said as he collected four boxes of food donations. “And taking time to give back and help others can really bring your mood up.”
For some students, giving back to the community is not an extracurricular activity. Nursing students and faculty have been visiting surrounding towns in the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences’ Mobile Health Unit to do health screenings and provide wellness information to older residents.
And Asst. Prof. Elissa Magnant is giving students in her Business Ethics classes the option of doing two hours of community service in lieu of taking the final exam.
“It is a way to make the class more authentically experiential, and to give the students an opportunity to experience and reflect on the feelings humans get from giving back and being involved in our communities,” says Magnant, who is co-director of the Donahue Center for Business Ethics & Social Responsibility
“It is also a way to illustrate how businesses can collaborate with community stakeholders such as nonprofits and NGOs to impact social issues in a positive manner.”
Students and advisor with box of collected bears
The benefits of pitching in and helping have a boomerang effect, says Justin Baez, a member of the Student Alumni Ambassadors, which recently ran their annual Rowdy Cares with Bears drive to collect stuffed animals that will be distributed to local children during the holidays.
“Giving back to the local community through Rowdy Cares with Bears is crucial for fostering compassion and solidarity within our community. By participating in such initiatives, we not only uplift the spirits of those in need but also cultivate a culture of empathy and generosity,” he says.
View of Merrimack River from UMass Lowell's South Campus

For many UMass Lowell researchers, their projects extend to the community: 

PROF. Pradeep Kurup, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is leading a project to test and monitor the quality and safety of drinking water for thousands of Merrimack Valley residents. Supported by a research grant totaling nearly $2.5 million from the National Science Foundation, the four-year project will engage area residents to become “citizen scientists” to help sample and test water. It is initially focusing on the communities of Lowell, Lawrence, Dracut and Andover.
ENVIRONMENTAL, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Asst. Prof. Joy Winbourne is conducting research on trees in Lowell that could help the city select the best species to help mitigate the effects of climate change. She invited Lowell High School students to participate in the project to give them hands-on experience, which has helped bring science alive for them.