University of Massachusetts, Boston

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) is the Commonwealth’s only public research university system. The University of Massachusetts Boston, established in 1964 and located in a working class neighborhood of Boston, is the second largest of the five campuses in the system. It is the only public research university in Boston with a dynamic culture of teaching and learning, and a special commitment to urban and global engagement. UMass Boston serves the most diverse student population in New England, recruiting and enrolling students who traditionally have had limited access to higher education. In fall 2014, half of our 12,700 undergraduates were students of color, 42% of in-state undergraduate applicants for financial aid were Pell Grant recipients, and 53% were first-generation college students. Of all entering freshmen, 49% speak a language other than English with their family.

The College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) is the most diverse college at UMass Boston and employs a comprehensive approach that integrates effective pedagogy and immersive research experiences. Our faculty have developed major expertise in research areas encompassing life sciences and biomedical sciences, green chemistry, engineering and applied physics as well as environmental sciences, mathematics and computational sciences. We maintain strong partnerships with global corporate and institutional partners that support our commitment to STEM education. Undergraduate students in the College are provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in active research projects and enrichment programs in order to better prepare for future professional careers and graduate programs.  Our faculty effectively utilize problem and project based learning and instructional technologies to keep our students motivated and demonstrate how their learned skills and knowledge can be applied in real life settings.

CSM has experienced an enrollment boom since 2007, which has been connected to the impact of our student success initiatives. Our overall student success efforts have increased continuing enrollments for all due to stronger connection to the campus, and increased programmatic emphasis for on-track, full-time enrollments.  While growing in numbers, we continue to build a healthy ecosystem integrating various partners from different sectors.

Innovative Employer-Driven Pathways

Two of our most important collaborations are the multi-year partnerships with Sanofi Genzyme and Oracle Corporation. In 2015 CSM received $100,000 from Oracle Corporation and $200,000 from Sanofi Genzyme for scaling our innovative student success and retention program. We also have a strong internal partner - the UMass Boston Venture Development Center (VDC), a mixed-use innovation incubator designed to support both technology and life science entrepreneurs. The VDC was designed as an environment that fosters collaboration and experimentation among entrepreneurs, and offers paid internships to UMass Boston STEM students.

With the generous support of our partners we designed Sanofi Genzyme and Oracle Undergraduate Research Fellowships - a program that promotes faculty-mentored undergraduate research. Within this program, qualified undergraduate students are supported for a semester or an academic year to acquire hands-on research experience in CSM faculty-led research groups. Research groups hosting a Sanofi Genzyme or Oracle Undergraduate Research Fellow receive up to $1,500 per academic year to help defray some of their lab expenses. These funds are used towards laboratory supplies, small equipment, conference participation, and other relevant purposes. During the 2014-2015 academic year we awarded 25 Undergraduate Sanofi Genzyme and Oracle Research Fellowships. The Fellows represented a diverse group of students, reflecting our College’s diversity. 15 out of the 25 Fellows were students of color and 10 were female. Over half of these Fellows, 13 out of the 25, were first generation college students.

During summer 2015 we piloted three Undergraduate McNair/Sanofi Genzyme Research Fellowships. This program offers enhanced funding to McNair Fellows to have an intensive 10-week summer research experience.  We have continued 24 Sanofi Genzyme and Oracle Undergraduate Research Fellowships for the Fall 2015 semester. This brings our total to 52 Undergraduate Research Fellowships to date.

During the 2014-2015 academic year we also launched a graduate level fellowship program. Sanofi Genzyme and Oracle Doctoral Fellowships provide doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy funding support to enable an intensive and exclusive focus on their thesis research for up to two semesters. Sanofi Genzyme and Oracle Doctoral Fellows are supported through a 3-way partnership: CSM Faculty extramural grant support, UMass Boston’s Office of Graduate Studies tuition and fee waiver, and Sanofi Genzyme/Oracle funds. This allowed us to maximize Sanofi Genzyme and Oracle funding to offer full stipend and benefits to 8 Doctoral Research Fellows.

Key STEM Programs

Freshman Success Communities:  UMass Boston is continuing to support several innovative models aiming at improving STEM students’ retention and graduation rates. The College of Science and Mathematics has taken numerous steps to address these important matters, including the establishment of the CSM Student Success Center (SSC), which provides comprehensive support services for students in every phase of their academic career, including academic counseling, professional development opportunities, and referral to additional student resources at UMass Boston. Most significantly, in 2009, CSM launched its signature program, the Freshman Success Community (FSC). Each FSC is a small cohort of up to 24 students, grouped by major, and co-enrolled in the same set of introductory freshman science courses.  A key part of the approach is to place students into the right set of courses, with a suitable number of credits, while providing a richer environment for engagement in university life.

FSC students receive academic and out-of-class support from faculty, SSC professional staff advisors, and peer mentors as well as supplemental instruction and referrals to university resources thus enabling effective transition into university level study. The average FSC student takes 15-17 credits in each semester of the freshman year.  An important component of the program is co-enrollment; in large lecture sections, we set aside small associated laboratory sections for individual communities. The schedule is rigorous but necessary for students to be on-track for four-year graduation. Additionally, the FSC model provides a cost effective structure and scalability, using “off-the-shelf parts” such as the curricular elements to create an extremely popular and successful program.

Since its inception, more than 1,400 students have participated in the FSC program. We have been tracking their continued performance and on-track progression through their majors, focusing on retention, average credits completed, and average GPA. The average GPA for all actively enrolled FSC students is 3.02, and the average GPA for all FSC graduates is 3.23. It is also important to note that this exceptionally strong on-track performance continues throughout the entire undergraduate career, even though the FSC program is only formally structured within the freshman year. These key on-track performance indicators are major drivers for significant increases in the rates of degree completion. FSC students complete on average 96.1% of the credits expected, which translates to 4.22 years to degree completion.

UTeach: In December 2014, UMass Boston became one of five universities selected to receive a $1.45 million, five-year-grant to join the national UTeach network. A partnership between the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education and Human Development, the UTeach program will operate using our shared Center of Science and Math in Context (COSMIC) program as a focal point. UTeach goals are to (1) attract and retain exemplary students into secondary math, science and computer science career teaching paths, (2) establish and teach a curriculum that integrates research-based teaching and opportunities to experience the joy of discovery, problem solving and mastery of the subject matter, (3) graduate outstanding science and math teachers who are masters of their discipline, and (4) use technology to enhance learning and involving students in inquiry and problem solving.

The UTeach model allows us to build on the successes of our graduate programs in teaching and create an undergraduate pathway without requiring an additional year of study. It provides new opportunities for collaborations across disciplines and colleges as we investigate the impact of teaching opportunities on student achievement, interest and retention. Almost 50 students from CSM have already registered for the Step 1 exploratory course and we are expecting more student interest in the coming semesters.

Sandbox Laboratory: UMass Boston successfully opened a state-of-the-art Integrated Sciences Complex (ISC) in January 2015, and with it, a Sandbox Laboratory. The goal of the Sandbox is to showcase innovative thinking toward undergraduate laboratory experiences. Projects can range from a day to a semester in length and could include such varied activities as testing new laboratory experiments with the assistance of students who are interested in learning more about a particular technique or technology; transdisciplinary team-taught projects; research activities with groups of undergraduates (under the supervision of graduate students, postdocs, and/or faculty) or workshops to teach groups of students new laboratory skills.

To date, we have committed $40,000 of funding to a number of exciting proposals for use of the Sandbox through support from corporate sponsors at Sanofi Genzyme and at Oracle. These include “boot camp” style workshops intended for both new graduate students and undergraduate researchers in the School for the Environment as well as students working in similar research laboratories in other parts of the College; a pilot robotics course for non-engineers developed by the Biology Department; a semester-long Genomics laboratory course that will allow students to each do their own mini-research project; and a proposal for students in the newly formed ASBMB (American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) Student Chapter to work with students from middle schools on hands-on science activities.


Communications and Social Media for Institution


Social Media

UMass Boston

College of Science and Math

CSM Student Success Center


Colleen Locke

Digital Communications Editor



Anna Pinkert

Digital Communications Specialist


Ebru Korbek-Erdogmus

Assistant Dean for Communications & Projects


Felecia Edwards

Associate Director









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Boston, MA 02125
United States
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