News: Featured Stories

Sonia Chang-Diaz is the first Latina elected to the Massachusetts State Senate.
May 4, 2016

College of Public and Community Service Honors Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz with First CPCS Award


  • Boston

UMass Boston’s College of Public and Community Service recognized the work of faculty, alumni, and State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz at an Open House reception on Monday.

The chair of the Joint Committee on Education, Chang-Díaz is the first Latina elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, representing several Boston neighborhoods. Associate Professor of Human Services Cuf Ferguson said the college decided to give its inaugural CPCS Award to Chang-Díaz because of her tenacity and grit.

“For lots of different reasons, we’re delighted to give her another first,” Ferguson said. “She’s been a strong advocate of education, criminal justice reform, access and opportunities for low-income and immigrant communities, and for those affected by foreclosures, hate crimes, and youth violence.”

Due to a family commitment, Chang-Díaz was unable to attend the event, so her communications manager, Christina Gregg, accepted the award on her behalf.

“The work that CPCS does to funnel that talent into the City of Boston, that needs good people so desperately? She can’t say enough about how vital that is to the work we do in the State House, whether students end up in the State House or working for a nonprofit, the education being done here is vital to that,” Gregg said.

Christina Gregg, with Cuf Ferguson and Chancellor J. Keith Motley, accepted the award on the senator's behalf.

During his remarks, Chancellor J. Keith Motley talked about how through Ferguson, CPCS students have completed Commonwealth Diversity Fellowships, which help students develop meaningful relationships and connections as they explore job opportunities in state government.

He also talked about how the CPCS faculty has worked to make both a local and global impact. For example, Associate Professor of Community Development and Planning C. Eduardo Siqueira has supervised five Brazilian post-doctoral and doctoral research scholars in residence, and students of Professor of Human Services and Youth Work Joan Arches have partnered with students at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney to share their community engagement experiences through an e-learning format.

“All of these achievements—our projects with community partners, students’ presentations at research conferences, and our increased learning opportunities through the new community development major—are made possible only through the support of strong friends like those around the room. But they are also made possible for those of you who have been here in the trenches,” Motley said. “You care about this place, love it, and continue to teach and learn and take our students to another level.”

Motley also recognized the very first CPCS alumnus, Paul Bright ’75. Bright, pictured below with his wife Rita Bright and the chancellor, earned his mental health management degree at a time when the college awarded competency-based degrees, taking into account life experience. He said he and three other students found themselves competing for the right to be the first graduate, with no one knowing who would be first since everyone was on their own paths to graduation. Twenty percent of Bright’s grade was a multimedia presentation.

The first CPCS alumnus with his wife and Chancellor Motley.

“We were all here – faculty and students  – working together to try to figure out how to build a competency-based curriculum. No one had ever done it before. It was really an exciting, interesting experience,” Bright said.

When Bright came to UMass Boston, he was working for a drug rehabilitation program. He retired 12 years ago after working nearly 20 years for the State of Maine in various capacities.