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A Letter to the UMass Amherst Community by President Jack M. Wilson

To the members of the UMass Amherst community:

For all of us who have worked so hard to make UMass Amherst a nationally respected institution of academic excellence, it is deeply painful to see the institution we love mischaracterized. It becomes far worse when a distorted picture lands on the front page of a newspaper.

I am writing to all of you today to remind you who we really are.

Under Chancellor Bob Holub's strong leadership and as a result of the effort and commitment of students, faculty and staff, this flagship campus has seen enormous successes, and we can say with pride that UMass Amherst competes head-to-head with the best public educational institutions in the country. Take a minute to consider what you have accomplished and, most important, who we are and have become:

  • This year's entering class is the best academically that this school has ever seen, with 4,500 first-year students chosen from a record 31,150 applicants. Applications and enrollment have climbed, as have the SAT scores and high school GPA records of our entering class.
  • The UMass Amherst quality and success story has not been lost nationally. In fact, enrollment for first-year out-of-state students has soared by 44 percent in a single year, rising from 798 students in Fall 2009 to 1,150 students this year. And this has been accomplished without displacing Massachusetts students, something we would never do. The size of our in-state freshman class has increased as well.
  • Our excellence is being recognized nationally and internationally - look no further than the eight students awarded Fulbright Scholarships last year, and the designation of our school as a "Top Producer of Fulbright Students" by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Since 1998, our students have won 23 Graduate Fulbright, 14 Undergraduate Fulbright, one Marshall, three Truman, one Udall, one Gates-Cambridge and 10 Goldwater scholarship awards.
  • No one looking at UMass Amherst and the issue of excellence can ignore Commonwealth Honors College, where the average SAT (1,334) and GPA (4.16) scores for incoming students this year are in line with those at some of the best colleges and universities in the country, public or private.
  • Many of our graduating students go on to prestigious graduate programs in medicine, business, legal education and the liberal arts, among others, or to successful careers in business, public affairs, communications, engineering and other fields. Alumni from the University of Massachusetts Amherst are shaping the state ... and the world we live in.
  • Our world-class faculty is receiving prestigious academic awards and generating research funding at unprecedented levels, which benefits students in the classroom as well as the economy of the state we call home.

And the list goes on: The UMass Amherst doctoral program in Computer Science ranks No. 10 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Our undergraduate writing program has been ranked among the best in the nation - above Brown, Cornell and NYU -- according to Poets & Writers magazine. And the Isenberg School of Management is seventh in the country according to the Princeton Review's "Greatest Opportunity for Women" category.

If there is one place we may not have succeeded, it is in letting the world know just how good our University has become. That job must begin at home: There is no excuse for students in Massachusetts to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that a public university in any neighboring state provides a better education than their home state university. Especially when by so many measures, we are much better than our neighbors.

Finally, I would be remiss in not addressing the issue of funding. That all of these milestones and improvements have come in the face of a shrinking state commitment to the University is a testament to all of you, particularly the faculty, who have not allowed shortsighted funding decisions to interfere with your determination to create and convey knowledge.

The best advertisement for UMass Amherst is you. Take what you have here - a thriving academic institution improving in dozens of areas against difficult odds - and tell that story with your head held high. We know who we are, what we have accomplished and where we are going. We just need to speak a little louder in letting everyone else know.

Welcome back to campus and... Go UMass.


Jack M. Wilson


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Robert P. Connolly
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Ann Scales
Director of Communications
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617.287.4084 (office)

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Jan Brogen
Senior Writer
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