The outgoing president of the University of Massachusetts sees accelerated growth ahead for the $2.8 billion educational institution that now accounts for 90 percent of academic research outside of Route 128.
Jack Wilson will step down as president this spring after an eight-year tenure that has seen enrollment at the five UMass campuses rise 19 percent to 68,000 and degrees and certificates awarded rise 29 percent. UMass ranks in the top 15 nationally in intellectual property income, and is a global leader in online education with 48,500 enrollees and revenues of $59 million last year.
In 2010, endowment and research expenditures both topped $500 million for the first time.
Wilson reflected on the UMass system’s progress, current initiatives and challenges in an informal discussion with AIM’s Public Affairs Council on April 12. He leaves an institution that generates 81 percent of its own revenues and ranks among the state’s top 10 employers
Wilson places particular stress on the growing cooperation among the state’s research universities. The prime example is the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center under development in Holyoke, in which UMass partners with MIT, Harvard, Boston University, Northeastern University, Cisco and EMC – all AIM members – with Holyoke Gas & Electric (also a member) and the Commonwealth taking important roles.
Looking ahead, Wilson foresees UMass intensifying its role as a producer of talent and innovation. This will involve strategic investment in infrastructure – $2.5 billion over the next five years, largely self-financed; continued growth of enrollment, in state and out-of-state; enhanced commercialization and entrepreneurship activities (which will be his own focus); and more collaborations within the system, with other universities and with industry.
For the future, Wilson emphasized the desirability of stronger technology/manufacturing representation on the UMass board. He called for greater autonomy and regulatory relief in such areas as construction management, tuition retention, and collective bargaining, and for renewal of state matching grants to help secure major external funding. Federal programs like the America Competes Act and priorities set forth by President Obama present important opportunities for UMass, he said.
Wilson noted that while the background he brought to the UMass presidency was in research-intensive universities, his successor, Robert Caret, has a strong record of advancing student success and diversity as the leader of two less research-oriented institutions. AIM is pleased that Caret, like Wilson, also brings a long history of close involvement with the business community; he was a founding member of the Maryland Business Council and was named to the Baltimore County Chamber Business Hall of Fame.