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UMass, community leaders break bread at annual event

  • UMass senior Public Health Sciences major Jasmine Inim speaks at the breakfast. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • John Page, Membership and Marketing Manager for the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, speaks at the annual University of Massachusetts Community Breakfast held at the Campus Center on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy speaks at the annual UMass Community Breakfast held at the Campus Center on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy listens to his introduction by Tony Maroulis during the breakfast Tuesday.

  • Amherst Fire Chief Walter "Tim" Nelson, lower left, and Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Olmstead smile as members of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen Marching Band enter the Campus Center auditorium to close the annual UMass Community Breakfast on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass senior Jack Mellish, left, leads members of the Minutemen Marching Band in the UMass fight song, “Fight Mass,” to close the annual UMass Community Breakfast on Tuesday in the Campus Center. STAFF PHOTOS/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sousaphone players senior Brian Carr, left, and junior Patrick Gallagher of the Minutemen Marching Band help lead an audience of about 200 in the UMass fight song, “Fight Mass,” to close the annual UMass Community Breakfast held Tuesday in the Campus Center auditorium. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Members of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen Marching Band lead an audience of about 200 in the UMass fight song, "Fight Mass", to close the annual UMass Community Breakfast held in the Campus Center auditorium on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Tony Maroulis, Executive Director of External Relations and University Events at the University of Massachusetts, opens the annual UMass Community Breakfast held at the Campus Center on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • During the University of Massachusetts Community Breakfast, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy first asked the audience of 200 for a show of hands by those who attended UMass. Then, here, he asked for another show of hands by those with family connections to the university. The annual event was held this year in the Campus Center auditorium on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/27/2019 5:57:27 PM

AMHERST — As the end of summer heralds the coming of thousands of students to the area, University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy stressed the long-standing partnership the college has with the town Tuesday morning. 

Over omelets and coffee provided by the school’s award-winning dining program, hundreds of people gathered early in the Campus Center Auditorium for the annual Community Breakfast. Among them were state Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson and Police Chief Scott Livingstone, along with other town officials from Amherst and Hadley. 

“As we welcome our students to the start of a new academic year, I thank our neighbors, merchants, first responders and community leaders for being such supportive partners,” Subbaswamy told the crowd. “These relationships are critical to our shared success.”

The first-year class of 2023 brings students from 45 different states and 61 countries, all with their own unique backgrounds and experiences, Subbaswamy said. 

He noted that many of these new students also bring with them an “urgency” and a desire to address some of the most important issues of our time, including racial and economic inequality, climate change and gun violence. An education in Amherst, he said, fosters a community of tolerance and coalition building, so that students can effectively develop the necessary skills to confront these problems. 

“For in this challenging local climate, as we welcome students from Boston to Botswana, engaging in person-to-person diplomacy on our campus and in the community has never been more important,” he said.

Student speaker Jasmine Inim, an incoming senior from Charlton studying public health sciences, said her interest in community organizing stems from her background growing up in an underrepresented community. 

She saw from a young age how gaps in education and a lack of health care resources create disparity, though she was not sure how to help combat those inequalities, she said. When Inim started at UMass, she said she soon realized how the collective power of a community could create positive change. 

During her sophomore year, Inim joined the Community Scholars Program, a two-year academic, civic engagement and leadership program that works together with local community organizations. Her participation in the program, she said, gave her the tools necessary to approach community issues from a framework of thinking that emphasized social justice. 

The program allowed her to become involved in working with the university’s Upward Bound program, which provides assistance to Springfield High School of Commerce students in an effort to increase college enrollment rates in first-generation or low-income families. In this program, Inim assisted in developing new SAT prep workshop curriculums.

“People have the power to make an impact, and it’s vital that we continue to work collectively with communities toward social change,” she said. 

John Page, a recent UMass graduate and current membership and marketing manager at the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, also spoke at the event, where he said his perspective of being a former student leader at the school regularly informs the work he does at the chamber.

He noted the economic benefit UMass gave to the state, saying that the chamber works to “amplify the university’s positive influence” through various partnerships, educational series and workshops. 

In fiscal year 2015, the university employed about 5,400 full-time faculty and staff and generated over $2 billion in economic impact for the state, according to a report by the UMass Donahue Institute.

“Together we build each other up, and together we’re better for it,” Page said. 

But UMass and the town have more work to do, he said, noting that local issues including housing, food security and employment still need to be discussed. In response, the chamber is hosting a number of events on these topics to foster more informed conversations. 

“To fully address the critical issues facing our community, we need every one of us at the table,” Page said. “That’s why we’re here today.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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