New students welcomed to UMass Lowell last week were encouraged to “find their community” and explore all the campus and the region have to offer.
As they do, they will benefit from a new university program that will provide paid work experiences to help them prepare for life after college.
“These aren’t simply internships—they are internships with a paycheck,” said Chancellor Julie Chen, calling the guarantee UMass Lowell’s newest tradition. “Starting with today’s first-year students, UMass Lowell will guarantee every undergraduate the chance for at least one paid career-related opportunity by the time they receive their diploma. No student will be left out because they can’t afford to work for free.”
Convocation—one of the university’s oldest traditions—introduced approximately 2,700 first-year and transfer students to campus and the Mill City. The event was held at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
One UMass Lowell alumna welcoming the newcomers was Matilda Matovu, the event’s keynote speaker. A class of 2016 graduate and Woburn native, Matovu is the director of programs at Girls Get Going, a Boston-based nonprofit that empowers Black teens to become entrepreneurs. She also serves as program administrator for Harvard Law School’s Office of Community Engagement, Equity and Belonging. Matovu holds a UMass Lowell bachelor’s degree as a double major in biology and political science.
A first-generation college student, Matovu encouraged incoming students to dream bigger, to not be afraid to fail and to surround themselves with not just allies, but champions.
“I grew up within a culture of people that has always celebrated the collective. My father was the eldest of nine and my mother was one of eight, so to say we always had family around would be an understatement,” she said.
The career-connected program announced by Chen at her inauguration in April is one of more than 250 UMass Lowell initiatives and clubs tailored to meet students’ needs and foster a sense of belonging. This fall, roughly 400 students who are the first in their families to attend college, will join the River Hawk Scholars Academy, a nationally acclaimed academic and support services program that enhances first-generation students’ educational, campus and community experiences. In addition, an estimated 720 freshmen will join the university’s Honors College, bringing its total membership among the current student body to approximately 2,000.
Continuing the theme of entrepreneurial spirit, members of the university’s DifferenceMaker program also spoke. Established in 2012, the program has given rise to 40 student-led companies that have raised $70 million in seed funding and filed or received 14 patents for their innovations.
Members of UMass Lowell’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 345 presented the colors, while the UMass Lowell Marching Band performed songs by The Who, including “Overture,” from the rock opera “Tommy;” “Baba O’Riley;” and “Love, Reign o’er Me,” under the direction of Dan Lutz, director of university bands.