By Jonathan Moniz, Staff Writer
This Tuesday, March 7, Robert Johnson, the current Chancellor of Becker College, was announced as the new chancellor for UMass Dartmouth in a unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees.
The Board of Trustees, a 16 member body consisting of two students, made the decision when presented with three finalists. It was organized and launched by President Martin Meehan, who was recently confirmed as president.
The search for a new chancellor was announced when the old chancellor, Divina Grossman, was laid off. President Meehan directed the Board of Trustees to form a search party to find a replacement for the Grossman.
The search process roamed across the nation, selecting an initial pool of forty candidates nationwide to present to the Board. The Board then chose twelve members to be interviewed for further follow-up in the process.
From those interviews emerged three final candidates, Robert Johnson, James Lentini, and Phillip Way, all holding high administrative positions with various universities. Lentini was a Vice-President for Oakland University, and Way was a Vice President for Slippery Rock University.
Johnson emerged as the highest recommended candidate, with high recommendations from President Meehan. As Chancellor for Becker College, the college saw increased enrollment, and its game design program was awarded fifth spot amongst the best undergraduate programs, according to the Princeton Review.
Johnson came from Detroit, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati in the field of educational administration. He went on to get his doctorate in higher educational administration, then served as Provost and Vice President for Oakland University and Sinclair Community College.
Meehan recommended Johnson with the expressed means of improving UMass Dartmouth’s overall financial status, increasing student enrollment as he had with Becker, and elevating the university’s status.
The new chancellor comes in at a difficult time for UMass Dartmouth, as enrollment has decreased in recent years and financial expenditure have overtaken the revenue generated by student income.
Some of the university’s assets have been sold, with the bookstore being the first, sold to Follett publishing company.
More recently was WUMD, the local radio station that ran on 89.3. It was sold to Rhode Island Public Radio for 1.5 million, despite some controversy over the matter. With a recent hike in tuition as well as a preventive measure to forestall debt for the university, many students are concerned where the university is heading.
With the expectations that Meehan highlighted for the future chancellor to focus on, students had many of the same areas that they hoped he would invest in, such as decreasing debt and making the campus still affordable despite recent price hikes.
Galina Sofronova, a senior graphic design and digital media major here at UMass Dartmouth, thought the potential of the chancellor would be “good for UMass Dartmouth as well with the background he has.” She also hoped he would take note that “expensive projects tend to affect the student body with student debt.”
In addition to the financial expenditures and decreasing enrollment are more renovations such as the UMass Dartmouth 2020 Transform plan, a series of renovations and projects like the construction ongoing within the middle of campus and the five million dollar library renovation.
With recent divisions due to the election and the political season, as well as several divisions on campus, business management junior Steve Troyo hoped “he would draw kids of all backgrounds and heal division, to unify the student body regardless of socio-economic backgrounds.”
Like Sofronova, Troyo also thought the titles and credits he had would be a good benefit for the community.
Johnson, in a press conference held Wednesday, March 8, laid out some goals for the future of UMass Dartmouth, in particular the goal of making it “a world class institution, so that people across nations know of UMass Dartmouth.”
He thanked President Meehan for the appointment in his opening remarks, and in future prospects for policies and changes he would like to make to UMass Dartmouth. Johnson said “he would like to take a look at data and work with the marketing research center and business before making a decision.”
The purpose of this plan is to help UMass Dartmouth attain the status of a national research institute, which allow for higher accreditation with the school and more research opportunities. He has made that one of his primary goals, to help UMass Dartmouth as a Tier 1 university.
With the community, Johnson spoke about it as a family and wished to see UMass Dartmouth work together as a community. In response to recent divisions over the Black Lives Matter sign in the campus hallway and the political election, he said “higher learning should be at the epicenter, and with civic discourse a major part of that. UMass Dartmouth should be tightly knit as a community.”
Chancellor Johnson will begin next semester as he finishes this semester at Becker College.