Baker helps launch UMass’ $125M computer science project

  • State and university officials break ground for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • State and university officials break ground for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Robert Manning, Chairman of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, speaks remotely during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Gov. Charlie Baker, whose administration made a 75 million capital commitment to the project, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Audience members applaud during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building Thursday afternoon at the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Gov. Charlie Baker, whose administration made a $75 million capital commitment to the project, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences building on Thursday afternoon in the UMass Amherst Computer Science Building. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • An architect’s concept showing an aerial view of the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences COURTESY UMASS

  • An architect’s concept showing a view from across Governors Drive of the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences COURTESY UMASS

  • An architect’s concept showing the south entrance of the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences COURTESY UMASS

  • An architect’s concept showing an aerial view of the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences COURTESY UMASS

  • An architect’s concept showing the north side of the new Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences COURTESY UMASS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/22/2022 8:59:13 PM

AMHERST — A $125 million building that will allow the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences to expand and diversify enrollment, while its students and researchers promote ethics around advanced automation and collaborate with others to confront climate change, will soon be constructed on the University of Massachusetts campus.

At Thursday afternoon’s ceremonial groundbreaking, Gov. Charlie Baker, whose administration made a $75 million capital commitment to the project, said the new building will mean an increase in research capacity and support for the well-being of the state.

“This new, state-of-the-art academic building will equip students with the resources and skills they need to achieve in the classroom and beyond,” Baker said. “This will be, I believe, a very special place going forward.”

Speaking inside the Computer Science Building, Baker said he expects those who use the new site to do amazing things, and he couldn’t think of a better organization than UMass for such an enterprise.

“This one, everything is going digital,” Baker said of the 90,000-square-foot building that will be built east of the existing building off Governors Drive. “That is incredibly exciting and absolutely terrifying.”

For outgoing UMass trustees Chairman Robert Manning and his wife, Donna Manning, who made an $18 million donation to the college that was announced in November 2021, the idea is to reduce that level of fright in technology.

Joining the event remotely from New Hampshire, Robert Manning explained that part of the initiative is about promoting ethics in computer science.

“If we don’t have people in society monitoring and aware of the dangers that can exist, we’ll be in big trouble,” Manning said.

As the college’s motto is “computing for the common good,” doctoral student Adam Lechowicz said he is excited about the new building because climate change is an issue for his generation, and future generations, and he is confident that computer science and information technology are among those best positioned to tackle the problem.

“Computer science will be a critical tool to address the effects of climate change,” Lechowicz said.

Expected to open in spring 2025, when complete it will be the first building to meet the university’s net zero objectives for the campus. It will also allow expansion from the current 280 doctoral students, 400 master’s students and 1,700 undergraduates, and 74 faculty.

“Today, we take a major step in advancing the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences’ mission as a world-class hub for education, research and innovation,” said UMass President Marty Meehan.

Meehan praised Baker and Lt. Gov Karyn Polito for the state’s support and the Mannings for gifts they have made throughout the UMass system, citing projects happening at the Boston and Lowell campuses.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said increasing enrollment and also expanding access will lead to a more racially, sociologically and ethnically diverse workforce.

“This new building is vital to make that plan come to fruition,” Subbaswamy said.

The chancellor also said those working and studying at UMass will make sure that artificial intelligence is safe and equitable, will champion ethics and promote a safe online environment for children.

“Moving forward, CICS will continue to provide a high return on investment, advancing the commonwealth’s key innovation areas, and driving scientific discovery in vital areas such as health care, sustainable computing, cybersecurity and human-centered technology,” Subbaswamy said.

Laura Haas, dean of the college for the past five years, said the project will create a truly inclusive academic community. “We are united in our desire to improve the well-being of society,” Haas said

Prashant Shenoy, a professor, explained that the new building will feature a maker space, undergraduate and graduate commons, research laboratories focused on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and robotics, a 24-seat auditorium and a cafe.

“We are looking forward to an exciting new building that is worthy of our national status,” Shenoy said.

Also speaking at the groundbreaking were Polito and trustees Steve Karam and Mary Burns.

Baker used the occasion, in which he was accompanied by his wife, Lauren, and making her first visit to the flagship campus, to praise Subbaswamy’s tenure as chancellor.

“You are the gold standard by which all chancellors at all public research universities should be measured,” Baker said.


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