By Jacqueline F. Moloney, Chancellor, UMass Lowell
Last fall I was invited to the opening of Kronos, a large workforce management software company that had recently relocated its headquarters to Lowell, Mass. They’ve long been close partners with UMass Lowell and it was an honor for me and several dozen faculty, staff and administrators to attend.
During his remarks, the CEO of this global, billion-dollar-plus company noted that more than 10 percent of its local employees are UMass Lowell graduates. Later, Massachusetts’ lieutenant governor told the crowd that the talent Kronos needs to continue growing and innovating will come from UMass Lowell.
Though the university had played no part in preparing remarks for the company’s celebration, the many contributions of UMass Lowell’s graduates and students spoke for themselves.
Stereotypes can be hard to shake. A common caricature of higher education—as plodding, isolated and arrogant—isn’t always as far-fetched as some of us would wish.
But when corporate CEOs and elected officials are proactively talking about a university being innovative and a key partner in developing the high-tech workforce of tomorrow – we can safely say we’ve left the stereotype in the dust.
Students first learn about UMass Lowell’s curricular focus on developing an entrepreneurial mindset during Convocation, as they sit in our arena named for the great Paul Tsongas. Through our DifferenceMaker program, first-year students hear pitches from teams of upper-class students who have used an entrepreneurial approach to solve social, business or technological problems.
Thousands of students — many repeatedly — participate in various DifferenceMaker activities throughout the year, culminating in the annual $50K Idea Challenge each spring.
The competition provides teams of students the experience of working with a business accelerator: they identify a problem they would like to solve, they work with mentors, they refine their business concepts and pitches and then present their product for funding at a Demo Day event.
Each year, students create remarkable inventions ranging from hydraulic walkers for stairs and personal security devices hidden in jewelry to low-cost, 3-D-printed prosthetics for children in developing nations. Multiple teams have launched successful companies based on their DifferenceMaker experiences.
This hands-on education gives students an invaluable combination of experience and confidence, putting them ahead of their peers as begin their careers. Kronos is one of more than 1,000 partners ranging from Fortune 500 companies to cutting-edge tech firms that UMass Lowell works with collaboratively on research initiatives and student co-ops and internships.
Goldwater Scholar Michael Doane, a biology and engineering student interested in cancer research, earned a co-op at Pfizer, testing new equipment and processes for biotech research. Mechanical engineering major Qiana Curcuru worked at iRobot for her co-op and landed a job with the company after graduation. Multiple students are working full-time at Tesla, after completing internships there.
Many students are connected to their co-ops by working with UMass Lowell’s two Innovation Hubs. And more than 100 entrepreneurs have worked with the university’s Massachusetts Medical Devices Development Center (M2D2), a Johnson & Johnson Lab run in conjunction with UMass Medical School.
Our track record of success has been a boon to the university and region, attracting more and more businesses to relocate to the area to partner with us. In the process, they’re providing more opportunities for our students.
While the word entrepreneurial is undoubtedly overused, its definition as a way to develop and apply critical thinking skills is central to UMass Lowell’s educational mission from the classroom to the laboratory, to sustainable business and administrative functions of the university.
Higher education is an important part of the solution to so many of the challenges we face today — and at UMass Lowell we’re excited that when it comes to elected officials and business and opinion leaders, we’re all sharing the same message.
This content was paid for and created by UMass Lowell.
The editorial staff of The Chronicle had no role in its preparation.