Faculty & Staff Submissions

#UmassDBelieves Faculty and Staff Contributions

Watch our video, “The Value of a Liberal Arts Degree,” and then take some time to be inspired by the thoughtful contributions from faculty and staff posted below.


“This I Believe” | Lara Stone, Advancement Officer, University Advancement & the UMass Dartmouth Foundation, 2017

I believe in community. I believe in being thick. And I was inspired by my good friend, David Brooks’ Op Ed in the New York Times, “How to Leave a Mark On People.” You will be delighted to learn that I am giving you complete permission to be thick! In fact, I encourage you to stay as far away from thin as possible.

When I was a child, I attended Incarnation Camp for 8 years as a camper, worked on staff for 2 years and eventually married my husband at camp on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend years later. Our three boys attended camp. The lessons I learned, the friendships that I made there and the fabric of community that weaves its way into every aspect of my life, I can usually tie back to camp. When young people of all socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds cook their own meals on an open fire, take biking, hiking or canoe trips, live side-by-side in a tent for 6 weeks and forgo all electricity and telephone service—something transformational happens.

Recently one of our camp family members died, Firefighter Joseph Toscano. He died fighting a two-alarm blaze in Watertown on St. Patrick’s Day 2017. He was the father of 5 and one of the most thoughtful, engaging, community-minded people I know. He was a counselor at Incarnation Camp. Several weeks after his death, New York Times columnist, author, political commentator, Yale Professor, and my former camp counselor David Brooks wrote an Op Ed about Joe. In times of tragedy, don’t we all turn to the fabric that holds us together—our family, our church, our camp family, and our classmates? David Brooks went on to talk about the nature of this fabric in his column.

“Some organizations are thick, and some are thin. Some leave a mark on you, and some you pass through with scarcely a memory. I haven’t worked at Incarnation for 30 years, but it remains one of the four or five thick institutions in my life, and in so many other lives… Which raises two questions: What makes an institution thick? If you were setting out consciously to create a thick institution, what features would it include?”

I think that UMass Dartmouth aspires to be a thick institution:“A thick institution is not one that people use instrumentally, to get a degree or to earn a salary. A thick institution becomes part of a person’s identity and engages the whole person: head, hands, heart and soul.” You meet in capstone teams or in study groups. You serve side-by-side in service, in clinicals and in the lab together. You work hard, stay up late, get no sleep. You are strivers, hard working, juggling to make ends meet. You lift each other up.

According to David Brooks, “Such organizations… celebrate the heroes who pulled them from the brink.” Your faculty, tutors and peers have been your mentors. You lift one another up. They go to bat for you. Your friends, classmates and teammates and your colleagues make up the fabric of your UMass Dartmouth experience.

My hope is that if you are graduating or just arriving, you feel connected to the fabric that is UMass Dartmouth. Know that you are family, that we are thick, that you will be a part of this fabric long after you leave. There are ways for you to strengthen our fabric at UMass Dartmouth. Every little action taken by one person takes us closer to being the thick organization we aspire to be. Being a part of the UMass Dartmouth family offers each of us an opportunity to give back to others, to build on our legacy, to be part of a thick organization.

In a thick organization selfishness and selflessness marry. It fulfills our purpose to help others along the way. When we live by our beliefs, we attract those that believe similarly. We weave this fabric into our very being. Our every action, proves what we believe. Go out and be thick. Steer clear of thin.

“This I Believe” | Anne Boisvert, Assistant Director of Alternative Admissions, College Now/START Program, 2017

When I was a young child my world was small. I lived in the North End of New Bedford, Massachusetts where there were small neighborhoods surrounding each of the many churches.  Each church represented and preserved the language and culture of an immigrant community:  French Canadian, Polish, Portuguese.  Each church ran a school attended by the children in its community. Each morning I walked to school, walked home for lunch then back to school for the afternoon session and returned home by foot at the end of each day.  My life was sheltered and protected from the evils of the world.

One day I was walking to school alone and a younger boy from my school came running toward me from the woods.  His nose was bleeding, his pants were undone and he was crying.  He asked me to stay with him to walk to school.  I brought him to the Nurse’s office. The boy never said what happened and I never heard another word about it.  That was the day that I knew that evil lived in my world.  It was also the day I learned not to ask questions and not to say anything about “private matters.”

Years later, as I taught Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, the “mind your own business” mentality secretly guided me.  In and out of class, I spoke to the students about school and math and tutoring but never left an opening for them tell me about themselves.  Gradually students slipped out information like “my grandma died” and I found myself no longer content to say “So sorry.  Here’s the work you missed.”  I began to look them in the eye, connect with them and feel their pain and joy, their hopes and fears.  Once I opened that gate, there was no stopping and I found excitement and fulfillment is engaging with students on a personal level.  This did not lessen my fervor for mathematics but it allowed me to engage them in a different way. 

My heart breaks with them when they talk of being stolen from a Sudanese village as a young child or hiding from gunfire in the woods of the Congo or Myanmar and of their arduous journey through refugee camps to UMass Dartmouth.  I admire them when they speak of caring for their families by driving a snow plow overnight or of taking an extra shift at work to help pay the family’s rent that month. I cried when a student said she couldn’t concentrate in class because her dad was in a coma and the family had to decide when to pull the plug. I cried with her again at his wake. I feel ecstatic when they show me a good grade in a class where they had struggled.  I rejoice with them when they walk across the stage with their diplomas.

I believe in the goodness that there is in the human race.  I believe as individuals and as a group we can overcome the evils out there.  I believe in my students and I thank them for the past 41 years and I believe I am the luckiest woman in the world if I am allowed to serve them a little longer.

“This I Believe | Jamie Jacquart, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF Campus Sustainability, 2017

I believe in the power of not knowing something just yet.

When I was growing up, adults liked to ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I understood that my identity was going to be defined by my job, and that I’d better have an answer. At around 8 I declared “I’m going to be a pilot” which was an answer, and ultimately the thing I left home to study in college. The problem was that once I got my pilot license I figured out this wasn’t what suited my skills, gifts and abilities.

I spent about 2 months bouncing off of walls, meeting with faculty and staff and did some major soul searching. What I learned was foundational in shaping how I would view both myself and my career opportunities from that point forward. It’s OK to not know, but you have to do something in order to figure it out.

First of all, it’s important to know that this is completely normal to either not know, change your mind, or start something and find out that it was not what you thought. I know someone who changed her mind about teaching after her last semester while doing her student teaching. Another friend just finished a master’s degree in counseling only to change over to become a financial counselor. Yet another completed in PhD in an obscure discipline, yet chose to take another path because he learned that what he would be doing with that degree was precisely the thing that he liked doing the least.

Having said this, there are people in life who just know. They know who they are and what they were cut out to do and to be in this world. It doesn’t make them better than the rest of us, just that they knew who they were earlier. By contrast, I know many people who are in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and are still waiting to find their calling.

It’s inconceivable to ask someone who is 18 years old to fully understand what they are good at, what they are passionate about, or how life will change and evolve and present new opportunities. You don’t know what you don’t know, but experience and education will give you clues and insights. You do need to listen to yourself, be honest about your skills, gifts and abilities, but also your limitations, triggers and areas of disinterest.

It’s OK to not know or change your mind. It’s OK to explore possibilities; as a matter of fact, it’s kind of the whole point of this. We’re educating you to provide you with tools that allow you to adapt to ever changing circumstances, to learn fields of study not yet created and understand problems not yet revealed. In the movie “Hidden Figures” the mathematicians needed to figure out how to get a rocket back into earth’s atmosphere, as that had never been done before. We are constantly learning, adapting, shifting and expanding.

I encourage you to be a student, a learner, a sponge, a connecter, a quizzical being trying to understand how things work and how we can make our world a better place for people, animals and our environment. I believe in the power of not knowing, but we also have to dedicate ourselves to doing things to figure it out. That is what is going to distinguish those who languish in unhappiness and those who flourish.

“I believe in Shared Governance” |  David Milstone, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, 2017

In many business organizations, decisions are made by the CEO, President, or a department head.  Higher Education is different in that there are several different types of constituencies here – each with a different expertise.  Administrators generally know the pertinent laws and how to manage people, finances, and crises.  Faculty members are experts in their fields of study and have great knowledge about curriculum design and the education of students.  Students, of course, are the center of this model, as all actions ideally lead to their success. 

In my travels, I have worked at Universities that used a top-down approach and others that use more of a shared-governance model – I believe in the shared-governance model.  

Shared-governance does not mean that all decisions are made by a combination of administration, faculty, staff, and students.  There are some decisions that belong in the purview of administration, some in the purview of faculty, and at least one in the purview of student-leadership (determining the best use of the Student Fee).  Of course, students also make decisions pertinent to their own situations (health insurance, paying for college, and where to live and what meal plan to take, as examples).

Conversely, shared-governance does mean that before decisions are made, there is opportunity made available to others for input.  As a result, decisions are often better thought-out, researched, and usually found to be most palatable since many people were allowed to have their voices heard in the matters.  In this model, various governance groups work together by committee or task force to brainstorm ideas and search for the best answers.  Even when the decision rests with one group, the final decision at which they arrive will likely be more welcomed when many voices are heard in the process of developing the final decisions.

Why is a shared-governance model so hard to develop?  Shared governance models are considered to be “best-practice” across higher education, but like any management structure where there are dominant groups, it takes a willingness of the group in power to be willing to ask for and consider input from other groups.  In my view, shared-leadership takes strong and mature leadership.  Mature leadership knows that being asked for input does not mean that all decisions will be theirs to make, just as mature leaders know that offering opportunities for input does not obligate them to accept that input.  There is an old adage “Don’t ask a question for which you do not want the answer.”  When a decision is clear to those who need to make it, it makes little sense to solicit input, as the solicited advice will likely be ignored.

Much of campus life involves decisions that benefit greatly from a shared-leadership way of thinking.  We have come a long way in the past decade at UMass Dartmouth with respect to valuing student voices as well as faculty voices – this shows tremendous opportunities for the future success of this wonderful institution.

When you have the opportunity to share your voice, I hope you will do so – I believe that shared-governance will be one of the foundations that will bring our campus, in the words of Jim Collins, “from good to great.”

“I Believe in the Value of the Liberal Arts” | Jeanette Riley, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, 2016

I am often asked the question, “what can you do with a degree in the liberal arts”? The simple answer is “anything!” But in a time when the liberal arts are under attack in the press and by politicians, the simple answer needs often isn’t enough. So, here’s a fuller answer. With a liberal arts education, you can pursue jobs across the spectrum of our economy – in businesses as sales, marketing, communications and human resources people; in non-profit organizations; in the publishing and media world; in public administrating; in technology firms; starting your own business; and, even more. Liberal arts graduates bring core skills to the work place – critical thinking; problem solving; teamwork; communication skills; creativity; flexibility. Graduates with a foundation in the liberal arts are self-motived and articulate individuals who bring a range of perspectives to the workplace, which fosters creativity and original thinking. At the same time, studying the liberal arts opens people’s minds and helps them think outside of their own experiences, which create tolerance for diversity and guides ethical decision making.

As a result of these skills that a liberal arts education develops, is it surprising that many top CEOs are liberal arts graduates? Here’s just a short list: Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks, BS Communications; Robert Iger, CEO Walt Disney, BA Communications; Richard Plepler, CEO HBO, BA Government; Carly Fiorino, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, BA Medieval History and Philosophy; Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO, BA History and Literature; Patrick Byrne, CEO Overstock.com, BA Philosophy and Asian Studies; Lloyd Blankfein, CEO Goldman Sachs, BA History; Denise Morrison, CEO Campbell Soup, BS Economics and Psychology. And there are many more examples.

From this list, one can see that a liberal arts degree leads to career success. As a product of the liberal arts myself, I have experienced that success as an English professor and as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, a position I never expected to hold. The skills I learned from my liberal arts background enable me to lead the largest college on campus as I am able to synthesize ideas, problem solve, manage a large budget, collaborate with a variety of people across many different areas, create new initiatives to enhance our students’ educational experience, and more. Despite the headlines suggesting liberal arts graduates end up as baristas in coffee shops, from my own experience and the successes I see in the business world, I continue to believe the liberal arts effectively prepares you for the future.

Not surprisingly, a Hart Research Associates 2013 survey shows that 74% ofCEOs recommend a 21st-century liberal education as they believe it will create a more dynamic worker (AAUP). 93% of employers say that an employee’s ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve problems is more important than their undergraduate major. 80% of employers say that every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences. 3 out of 4 employers recommend a liberal arts and sciences education as the best way for success in today’s global economy.

This is why at UMass Dartmouth, we engage all our students in the University Studies curriculum, which provides a liberal arts foundation. This is not to say that you shouldn’t major in business, nursing, or engineering. We need all these professions, along with liberal arts graduates. If you are in one of our professional colleges, I encourage you to consider a minor in the liberal arts. I know nursing students who have benefited from minoring in Women’s & Gender Studies as they’ve learned more about issues women face in the workplace (yes, sexism still exists), as well as women’s health issues and politics impacting health policy from the perspectives of social scientists. I know business majors who have honed their writing skills by completing the minor in communications, and business leaders will tell you that writing is the core skill they seek in new hires. I know engineers who have fostered their creativity and ability to listen and empathize with people by engaging in a literature minor. As Steve Jobs, creator of Apple once said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

These are just a few examples, but it shows what I believe – the liberal arts are valuable to all of us for they bring us new perspectives, foster creativity, and add to how we view and interact with the world and each other.

“I Believe in Opportunity Costs” | Sarah Cosgrove, Associate Professor of Economics and College of Arts and Sciences Assessment Coordinator, 2016

I believe in opportunity costs.

Economists define opportunity cost as the cost of something in terms of the next best alternative. Another way of stating the definition is the opportunity cost is what you must give up to get something else. I believe that every choice we make has an opportunity cost and that people make better choices when they explicitly consider the opportunity costs of their decisions.

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I chose to pursue a graduate degree rather than getting a job like most of my friends. As a graduate student, I lived on a tiny stipend, took out a small loan for living expenses not covered by my stipend, and I spent my days and nights learning, studying, thinking, writing, and running a lot to process all that was going on in my brain. At the same time, my friends were working and earning money, going to happy hours with co-workers, meeting spouses, getting married, and having babies. It would seem to an outsider that I was giving up a lot to pursue my goal of a Ph.D. in economics, but I made a conscious choice to temporarily give those things up because their value was lower than the value of what I was getting. That choice paid off, as I now have the career that I desired and the family that I hoped for. But I did have to choose. I could not have successfully completed my Ph.D. while also working a full time job and enjoying all of the social events that my friends enjoyed. By thinking about my options and weighing the relative costs and benefits, I felt good about my choice rather than dwelling on the things I was forgoing.

From whether to sleep in or get up and go to class, to what percentage of your income to save for retirement, every choice has an opportunity cost. If you stop and think about what you are giving up to get something else, you just might make a different decision. While lying there snuggled under your blankets hearing the cold wind whip through the trees, sleeping in might seem like an obvious choice. But if you think about what you will miss out on learning and the fact that you will have to learn the material on your own later, the value of staying in bed might not seem so great.

You are entering a time in your lives during which you will make many choices, large and small. Some decisions will affect your friendships, your current financial situation, your future financial situation, and your career. I encourage you to consider what you must give up to get something else. If you take on three part-time jobs to pay for school, will you have enough time to study and succeed in school? Next time you make a choice to do something, stop and think for a moment about what will you be giving up. Is it worth it?

“I Believe in Campus Activism” | Cynthia Cummings, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, 2016

I saw my father cry for the first time when I was 17. It was May 4th 1970. I was just about to graduate from high school. I would enter college in September. What happened that day was unimaginable. Twenty-eight members of the Ohio National Guard fired 61 bullets into a crowd of Vietnam War protesters, killing four unarmed college students and injuring nine others on the campus of Kent State University. The nation was stunned. My father was devastated.

My family was well acquainted with protest and activism. We witnessed the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. We saw dogs and fire hoses turned on black people who marched for basic rights such as access to public facilities and voting rights. My father, a Lincoln Republican, worked for fair housing and educational equity in Indianapolis. He negotiated a truce between the city and its black citizens that prevented the kind of riots that had erupted in Watts, Philadelphia, and Newark. My mother, an accomplished fundraiser, organized events that supported charities that served the black community. My little sister marched against hunger and, with our parents’ blessing, refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school to protest our country’s involvement in the war. We lived with the frustration, anger, and sadness that come with being members of an oppressed group. But we believed that we could make great changes in our society if we worked hard enough and long enough. We believed in the American system and held on to hope that the dream of “liberty and justice for all” would come true someday.

But on May 4, 1970, my father lost some of that hope. While we watched the reports of the Kent State shootings on TV, he shouted through his tears, “These are kids!” “These are white kids!” They are kids exercising their right to free speech!” And then he said, “If our government will silence white kids on a college campus, who won’t it silence?” In my bewilderment, I couldn’t respond. But somehow I knew that I would never let anyone silence me.

In September, I enrolled at Indiana University. The Bloomington campus had been a hotbed of protest and activism for several years. After Kent State, it became much quieter. While a student, I discovered feminism and worked for women’s and gay rights. I joined the Lesbian Liberation Organization. I spoke in classes and served on panels. I protested at events that objectified and demeaned women. As a Resident Assistant, I became immersed in the work of eliminating the “Isms”—racism, sexism, and heterosexism. In graduate school I studied College Student Personnel Administration specifically so that I could do “the work” with future generations of students.

After college for many years, I continued the work—reading, writing, speaking, marching, and representing in the name of equality for gay and lesbian folks. As a student affairs professional, I have advised many student activists and protesters. Students have organized Take Back the Night Marches, sit-ins to improve race relations, demonstrations against Apartheid, Days of Silence, Earth Day celebrations, and so much more. Recently, I have cheered as UMass Dartmouth students have insisted that “Black Lives Matter.”

I believe in campus activism. I believe that college campuses should serve as catalysts for social change. I believe that engaging in activism facilitates student learning, engagement, and development. If one of the roles of college is to develop civically-minded, socially responsible adults, then campus activism must be valued and supported. As educators, we have a responsibility to teach students to speak up and speak out. We must teach students the importance of engaging actively in the political process. We must teach them that when it comes to social change, as “kids on a college campus,” they must not be silenced.

This I believe.

“This I believe” | Lt. John Souza, UMassD police department, 2016

…the biggest problem we face in the police profession today is TRUST.

We can’t ignore the recent fallout and violence that has occurred all over the United States. It can no longer be business as usual and there should be a sense of urgency about this.

There is a very real perception in black communities that the police are making decisions based on bias, and as a result, these communities are angry with the police and don’t trust us.  Combine these perceptions with the terrible actions of some officers that we’ve seen on the news who have not only damaged the police image, but destroyed lives too.  There’s much work to be done, and the police should be willing to engage, listen, and understand, and not only after a controversial incident. Police should be transparent with community leaders and willing to share their organizational commitment to training specific to racial profiling, and with aspects of use of force issues.

A difficult fact of our profession is that when we make a mistake it could cost a life, including our own; it’s a very unique, stressful, and highly scrutinized profession, as well it should be. The responsibilities that are placed on police officers are great; I learned this fact 18 years ago while in the police academy. I can recall thinking that there’s so much to learn, so much to remember, yet so little time to make a final decision during a real life encounter. Most people will never experience these challenges. It made me think that the historical, age old discussion that the police have had with youngsters about the dangers of “talking to strangers” should probably change in ways to reflect the huge responsibilities of the job, the fears, the inherent dangers, and the amount of knowledge you need acquire about state and federal laws. I also learned early on, that despite good and honorable intentions, you will at times be responding to help people who dislike the very sight of you and what you stand for. Learning to have thick skin is one thing, but changing perceptions is quite different.

Like so many police officers, I’m frustrated with the perceptions out there and realize there is no quick and easy fix.  The problem is much too big to fix alone, but we can’t sit idle and distance ourselves; we have to be thinking about changing perceptions and this is going to take time, collaborative partnerships, and strategy.  Now, more than ever when it’s most difficult, we need to reach out to our communities and utilize the basic concept of the TRUST model for community policing in an effort to solve problems, and to rebuild TRUST one interaction at a time.  Here it is:

Transparency: In our strategic planning, communicating with our community, with citizen complaints…
Respect: For our community members, for ourselves, for the profession, and to earn it every day we wear the uniform…
Understanding: Differences, perceptions, perspectives, emotions, and to be willing to explain aspects of our job…
Solutions: Finding innovative ways to solve community problems, being open to community input. We need to listen more.
Together: Becoming part of the fabric of the community and collaborating with stakeholders to identify and solve problems to improve the quality of life. This is community policing…

Last comments:

With every opportunity that presents itself, we must demonstrate competence and earn trust. We should never lose sight that the same community that gives us the power that comes with the badge is the same community that we must strive to earn trust from each day we wear the uniform.  It’s critical that we are proactive in our philosophy of policing.

I believe in the integrity of our UMDPD officers, I believe in a meaningful partnership with our community, and I believe we can do great things together that will make a difference in the lives of our number one customer, our students”.

Stay safe everyone,

Lt. John Souza

UMass Dartmouth Police