GOLD Standard

Thoughts and Stories of Graduates Of the Last Decade

June 6, 2013
by nanette.cormier

Welcome: JFK Award Recipient Sam Chandler!

Every year our GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) group gets a wonderful influx of new members.  We are pleased to officially welcome Sam Chandler as a representative for all the members of the Class of 2013.

It is only appropriate then, that we  read (and hear) his words delivered at Commencement.


Sam Chandler

Sam Chandler, UMass Boston’s Newest Member of GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade). Click on Chandler’s photo for a video of his speech.

Good morning everyone, thank you Chancellor for those flattering remarks…

It is such a great honor to be standing before you all as the 2013 John F. Kennedy award winner.

I cannot begin to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my studies here at UMass Boston, but it goes without saying that I am only here because of the effort and care of many wonderful people, many of whom are here today.

Thank you Mom, Dad, Monica, my friends, Professors, Gus St. Silva, all the staff in the Campus Center and College of Management, and many others for everything that you have done, I am so lucky to be surrounded by such a group of amazing and inspiring people.

I hope you all are enjoying this beautiful weather – what a great day it is to be here on the ocean and on this wonderful campus…

You know, it is such a beautiful day that I think I can see across the harbor, just about to where some of you have had to park…

I am proud to stand before you today as a Son, brother, friend, United States Marine, and a soon to be UMass Boston alumnus.

During my time here at UMass I may have gotten lost in McCormack Hall, wondered what the heck the first floor is doing above the UL, drove in circles trying to park, and stressed about the wifi, but today it sure seems like it all worked out.

Class of 2013, I can’t think of a better climate to learn than one where my peers have been so diverse. I don’t just mean from the south shore of Boston and the west coast, I mean that in every single one of the courses that I have taken, there were students in it from all over the world. I’ve brushed up on my Spanish with mi amigo Julito in the campus center, and been dazzled by classmates speaking Portuguese, Russian, German, French, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Arabic, you name it! It has been such a pleasure getting to know so many of you over the last four years. This has been a journey that we’ve all taken together, and, if you’re here today, then we’ve made it out the other side.

I know that many of us have families with us here today, celebrating this great accomplishment and showing their support for us once again. Whether you’ve had ten brothers and sisters helping you along the way or just a few friends and family, lets be sure to remember today just who taught us how to tie our shoes, helped us get our applications in, and went through this adventure by our side.

So when I was growing up, my Mom – who you’re all going to get to know a little bit right now—every time that we went out hiking or even just in the back yard, she’d stop to point out all of the different plants and animals and flowers. She would always notice the flowers that we didn’t see or the buds on the bushes that were getting ready to bloom. As an eight-year-old I often thought to myself, WOW, how does Mom always spot this stuff?

I realize now what she was really teaching me was more than just to watch out for Poison Ivy and which berries I could eat. It was the value of paying attention to your surroundings and appreciating the world that we live in. My Mom taught me that it takes time and practice to notice things around you, and not to take nature for granted. Nowadays it’s easy to walk down the sidewalk or through the halls just scrolling through your news feed, but I’m here to say that we should take a page from my Mom. Look up, notice your friends, say hi to people, engage with your world and don’t forget to smile. So thanks Mom, I love you.

When I was about 12 years old my older brother started working on a farm, so as the younger sibling naturally I had to as well.

Spending summers out in the fields and on the farm I learned a lot of things—beyond how to tell when the beans and corn were ready to be picked, I learned a thing or two about hard work. We worked with Bill, whose family had been farming that land for generations. One thing that we always admired about him was that he could fix just about anything with bailing twine and a pair of vice grips. He did everything with nothing, fixing things we may have long given up on.

From Bill I learned that not only is there no substitute for a hard days work, but also that with the right mindset there is no task too large, and no problem too tough, and that with a little bit of creativity and determination there is nothing that you cannot overcome. Bill would encounter a task, scratch his head a little bit, and then get right to it, not stopping until it was done. That type of will and grit is something that that I’ve carried with me throughout my life, often imagining what Bill would say when I was lamenting about writing an essay or doing some chores. Now I also learned from Bill nothing beats fresh vegetables that you’ve grown yourself, but there is no real parable behind that, its just fact.

In high school I learned from my Father that when you drop your ego, and do things without asking anything in return, you often get more than you could ever ask for. Whether it be lending a helping hand to someone in need, or putting forth that little bit of extra effort that makes someone’s day better, my Dad showed me how to find satisfaction in selfless acts. This became a core value of mine, and is something that ultimately led me to answer a call to serve my country.

So after high school I joined the United States Marine Corps. Although I’m not quite sure I realized what I was committing myself too, I knew, much like here at UMass Boston, that one way or another I would come out the other side as a better person.

In the Marine Corps, every time we learned a new skill, we called it “adding something to our toolbox.” Now, thinking about that, I realize more and more that much of life is about what you can add to your “tool box.” At UMass Boston, I’ve added a lot of different skills, and had experiences that have taught me what to do (and what NOT to do).

I’ve learned that, just like on the farm, there is no substitute for hard work, which at UMass meant: Attending class, paying attention, and engaging with the Professors.

I’ve learned that everything you do creates your very own brand, every email that you send represents you, and every conversation that you have leaves an impression. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to put my name on anything that doesn’t represent who I am and what I stand for.

As I prepare to leave UMass and embark on my next endeavor, I realize that beyond adding tools to my skill set, life is also about USING those tools. Just like a race car with no driver or an airplane without a pilot, the skills and abilities that we have are wasted unless we put them to use.

A great example of someone who puts his toolbox to use every day—literally and metaphorically—is my friend John. Working 50 to 60 hours a week and taking night classes at Bunker Hill, John is driven largely by pure love for his Brother, who we lost in 2002. With the intention of creating a memorial scholarship in his brothers’ memory, John realized that an education could be his greatest tool in this pursuit, and set off with a determination that I can only compare with what I’ve seen in the Marine Corps.

John shows me the importance of finding a dream that is important to you. He shows me that when you pursue a goal that is true to your heart, there is nothing that can stand in your way. Last November John and I, with the help of many friends and family, hosted the first annual Boston River Run to raise money for our charity. John and I would’ve never been able to embark on this endeavor if it weren’t for our educations. John’s story motivates me because he shows me that hard work and determination really do pay off, and that when you figure out your dreams then you should do everything in your power to achieve them, because nobody will do it for you.

John F. Kennedy once said:

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream, which, fulfilled, can be translated in benefit for everyone, and greater strength for our nation. One person can make a difference and everyone should try”

Pursuing your dreams is one of the purest endeavors that you can undertake, whether it means to be the first in your family with a college education, or the CEO of your own company, or both! Determination and resolve are traits that benefit not only you but also everyone around you.

So now is the time to ask yourselves, Class of 2013, what are your hopes and dreams?

How will you use this education that you have worked SO HARD for?

What do you have in your toolbox?

Will you use that to make the world a better place?

Like John, will you work towards your dreams as tirelessly as they deserve?

When you go to bed at night will you be proud of what you’ve accomplished?

When you look back on your life, will today be the day that you set out into the unknown and hit the ground running?!?!

My friends…I hope that you will. Thank you. Semper Fi.


January 11, 2013
by nanette.cormier

Happiest Four Years . . .

2011 GOLD graduate Kristen Queenan shares her reflections on how UMass Boston influenced her life.

When I arrived at UMass Boston as a freshman in the fall of 2007, I had no idea just how amazing the next four years of my life would be.  I had always assumed that I would head off to a residential college so that I could have that “real” college experience.  Roommates, dining halls, late night study sessions, parties, and so on.  However, my family’s financial situation coupled with personal medical woes dictated that it would be best for me to remain at home.

So instead, I was embarking on a path that was somewhat atypical in the North Shore suburb of Melrose, MA.  Unlike many of my peers who were heading off to college with duffel bags and Ramen Noodles, I was equipped with my monthly MBTA pass.  Commuter school here I came.

“At this world-class university there is a
tremendous sense of community and
of belonging regardless of background.”

Kristen Queenan ’11

My first week of classes at UMass Boston consisted of the typical hustle and bustle one would expect with start of the new academic year: finding classrooms, fighting the lines at the campus bookstore (the first and last time I ever purchased there before pledging allegiance to and wondering if any of the myriad of faces that passed by would become future friends.

I said to myself from the beginning that if UMass Boston didn’t work out, I would transfer to a residential school as I had planned to do from the beginning.  Of course, as I soon learned, life has a way of surprising us in the most wonderful ways.

Shortly after starting classes, I found that it wasn’t so hard to meet people on campus.  Everyone was in the same boat, wondering if they would be able to fit in at a school where so many students were coming and going.  It wasn’t long before I made friends to have lunch with and hang out with on the weekends. Once I dove into my College of Management courses, in addition to some fantastic professors with whom I remain in contact today, I met some of my dearest friends, who remain as such to this day.

Then, things really started to take shape once freshman year came to a close.  I did something I had never done before: I got involved at school outside of classes.  I took an on-campus student position as a peer advisor with the University Advising Center. Over summer and winter break for the next two years, I worked with incoming students at their orientation sessions to help them understand degree requirements and to select classes for the upcoming semester.

It was a pleasure to work under such a devoted group of academic advisors who truly believed in the success of the students; and I was pleasantly surprised by how much joy working with students provided me.  Despite my management major, then and there, I decided that corporate life and the world of business (unless I was starting my own) just wasn’t going to be for me.

Not long after my time as a peer advisor drew to a close, another wonderful door opened for me.  The College of Management tapped me to work as a tutor.  Tutoring Business Communications 290, I had the privilege of working with primarily non-native speakers of English.  Many of these students struggled greatly with their writing.  To witness their struggles and to be able to play even a small role in their comprehension surpasses any other job I have ever held in my life.  To top this off, one of those very students is now one of my best friends.

In June 2011, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in Management and Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Studies. I also graduated debt-free thanks to so many generous alumni who make giving back to UMass Boston a priority each year.

While I may have graduated owing nothing to the big banks or the federal government, in my heart I carry an enormous debt.  My four years at UMass Boston were the happiest four years of my life.  At this world-class university there  is a tremendous sense of community and of belonging regardless of background.

UMass Boston was my home away from home, not because of ridiculous term paper deadlines or a scattered class schedule, but because of the people who made it feel like home. Too many recent college graduates are not thinking about giving back to their respective institutions, particularly amidst an economy that remains in shambles.

Others simply get in, plow through, get out, and never look back. People make their choices in life for a reason and that is why it is my privilege and joy to give as generously as I am able to the College of Management and to the UMass Boston Fund each year.

Kristen Queenan ’11 is senior program coordinator at Boston University Law School.



November 27, 2012
by nanette.cormier

UMass Boston Has Been There for Me

UMass Boston has been there for me when I needed them the most on four separate occasions. Let me tell you about two of them.

The first time was when I dropped out at BU and worked my way back through Bunker Hill and then to UMass to graduate. The staff in the admissions office helped me each step of the way and established criteria I would need to hit to get accepted.  Needless to say I hit the grades and was accepted.   Following graduation, I decided to move to the west coast.

It was an interesting experience all around, but what I learned is that I did not know how to properly put together a resume, a cover letter and had no idea how to navigate a job search. When I returned home from CA, my first move was to go to UMass Boston to speak with a career service counselor.

This was the second time UMass was there for me during a tough period of time.  The counselor I met with was Michael Gaskins (who by chance also helped me to get an internship my senior year).

Michael taught me how to shape my resume, how to properly target language for my cover letter, helped me to understand the best ways to conduct a job search and prepared me for a number of questions which could be asked on an interview. Within 6 weeks of being home from CA, I had a full time, salary base/benefits position and I know without Michael’s guidance I would not have had that opportunity.

I’ll leave the other two times for another post. But suffice it to say, I can only imagine how many other students have felt the supportive hand of the university on their backs and the impact its support has had for them too.

Robert Sherburne ’03
College of Liberal Arts

June 4, 2012
by nanette.cormier

“I never thought I could change the world” . . . JFK Recipient Albert Chen

One of the newest GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) shared his thoughts at UMass Boston’s recent Commencement.

Thank you Chancellor Motley for the honor of being this year’s JFK award winner.

2012 JFK Award Recipient Albert Chen

Welcome everyone to UMass Boston, the best university in Boston.  That’s right. I said it.  Why is this the best university in Boston?  Because we’ve got the best students in Boston.  And now, we have the best graduating class in Boston.

Class of 2012, we have arrived!

Here we are, at the end of the road, the culmination of our UMass Boston experience. Our journeys here have been full of obstacles, and detours, but we all have made it here, to this intersection, together. The different paths we’ve taken to get here have changed us along the way. We have been shaped by our environment, transformed by our circumstances, inspired by others, and sharpened by our failures. Let me invite you into my own journey of change.

Six years ago, I made the biggest decision of my life. I had just finished my first year of community college in East Los Angeles, and was looking forward to a summer of classes. However, a life-changing opportunity came knocking on my door. And I soon found myself boarding a plane to Boston for an internship at a startup company. I left the comfort of my home, my family, my community and everything I had known, all to live in a city somewhere on the other side of the country. As the son of Taiwanese immigrants, born and raised in Montebello, California, I had no idea where Boston was, much less Massachusetts. Moving to Boston felt like jumping off a cliff. I felt alone, and I was scared.

But as I fell into a new life, things began to change in me. As I adjusted to living alone; I became more independent. This new environment shaped me into a new person.  I was eager to take risks and hungry for new opportunities. All these changes within me were paving the way for my next journey.

Three years ago, I stepped foot on this beautiful campus for the first time. I had just applied to UMass Boston as a transfer student and didn’t know what to expect. After working in the private sector for three years, I just wanted to be a part of something more than profits and market share. I had grown a desire for social change, and it led me to this campus. But I came for more than a degree; I came for a life-changing experience. So I transferred here, determined to make the most of every opportunity I was given to serve this campus.

What I found were circumstances that transformed me every day. As a student of one of the most diverse universities in the world, I was exposed to new cultures and worldviews that opened up my mind. As a student of the only public university in Boston, I felt the growing burden of higher ed funding, affordability, and accessibility.  As a student of a university without dorms, I understood the challenge of finding community on our campus. But as I was being changed, so did I seek change for the students of this campus.

When I brought InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to this campus, I didn’t just want to establish another student club. I wanted to form a diverse community of student, students who welcomed those on the fringe, students who cared about this campus as much as their studies; students who wanted to see change in their own lives as much as in the world. I wanted students to feel comfortable calling UMass Boston, their home, a home where they wouldn’t be ashamed of their faith, their ancestry, their accents, or their school.

As students, our experiences wouldn’t be the same if not for the people we encounter on and off campus. Whether it’s that single mom working her way through college, or that mind-blowing professor who you never thought would be a hippie, these people inspire us.  But some of the most inspiring people I have met have come from the unlikeliest of places.

Two years ago, I found myself riding an overcrowded bus into the barrios of Chimalhuacán.  I had just flown into Mexico City for a six-week opportunity to serve with a local nonprofit through InterVarsity’s Global Urban Trek program. This team of internationals and locals were deeply committed to developing a sustainable and scalable model of community transformation. Wanting to learn about global urban poverty first-hand, I lived with a host family upon whom my livelihood depended.  Every day our team walked dirt roads filled with car-trapping mud or blinding dust storms. I soon missed the drinkable tap water and flushable toilets that we often take for granted in America.

Living in these slum-like conditions opened my eyes to the vast inequalities and put a face on the marginalized people that I had learned about in my classes. Above all, it was the local youths who left a lasting impression on me. These youths lived in a neighborhood run by drug cartels, crooked cops, and corrupt politicians; yet they set out to change their communities. Their name, ACJU, stands for “Youth as Agents of Change.” These youths brought hope to a community of hopelessness and started a movement that would affect the decisions that affect them. As much as I wanted to help the people in the barrios, I realized something important: The community didn’t need a foreigner like me; the community needed leaders like these youths.  These brave youths defied all odds to fight for what they deserve, and showed me that anyone could make a difference.

I never thought I could change the world, but the youths of Mexico have changed me. Their pursuit for change in their communities has inspired me to change my own community, here on campus and in the city of Boston. These youths have shown me that if they can change the world, so can all of us.

My journey from Los Angeles to Boston, and then to Mexico, has been filled with both success and failure. Things didn’t always go my way. Eight years ago, I had barely finished high school. Academically, I struggled to get a passing grade. Socially, I was shy, insecure, afraid to take risks, and definitely afraid of public speaking. This right here would’ve been a nightmare!

I hadn’t applied to any college because I was afraid of the future and all its uncertainties. I felt like a failure and didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, I had friends and family who helped me take one small step at a time. And with their unwavering support, each failure made me sharper and more resilient. And every time I failed, they helped me back on my feet to take another step.  Soon, these small steps became big steps. And big steps became leaps of faith. And these leaps landed me in Boston, then to UMass Boston, and then to Mexico.

Had I not come to UMass Boston, I would have never gone to Mexico, but I did! So last summer, I found myself back on the streets of Mexico. I returned to the same community in Chimalhuacán to serve for another two months. This time I even brought some friends. I quickly discovered a deep sense of joy in what I did and an excitement about who I was becoming. I had found my calling to live and serve among the world’s urban poor.

Today, I stand before you a new and changed person, deeply transformed by my experiences here and abroad. This fall I will begin an AmeriCorps residency with New Sector Alliance, a group dedicated to accelerating social change by strengthening organizations today. I look forward to returning to Mexico for several years, equipped with new skills and experiences that will ultimately help me address urban poverty on a global scale.

Class of 2012, the road ahead, will be difficult.  And for most of us, the road here has been difficult. Unemployment rates are higher than when most of us started college, which is ironic since many of us worked our way through college. Many of us have overcome painful obstacles and defied statistics to graduate. We may not always be able to change our circumstances, but as many of us have learned, we can always change the attitude with which we approach these circumstances.

As we go on from here, I have three simple challenges for us today. The first challenge is to continually put ourselves in the path of change. I wasn’t always this certain about what I lived for and I hadn’t always cared about these issues. It wasn’t until I immersed myself in the issues of the world and put myself in the path of change that I began to care about poverty and social justice. It wasn’t until I came to this campus, and put myself in the path of change, that I began to find my confidence as a student and as a leader. And it wasn’t until I left all of my comforts in California for the uncertainties of Boston that I found my true self on the path of change.  We don’t all need to move across the country or travel abroad to experience change. Even if our paths lead to failure, we can still succeed in changing others and ourselves along the way.

The second challenge is seek change in the world around you. Not all of us are called to devote our lives to community service as teachers, nurses, or social workers. Some of us will work in finance, or engineering, or management. But all of us will have an influence on those we work with and the people work for.  Your very presence will shape the environment around you. Your experiences will enable you to transform your circumstances. Your lives and your stories will inspire others. And your past failures will help you succeed in the future.

The final challenge is for all of us to not just change the world, but to embody the values we wish to see in our world. It’s not just about what we do, but rather who we are, because the values we hold are the values we spread to others. Are we willing to build the character and integrity that others aspire for?

Six years ago, on this very stage, then-Senator Barack Obama told the 2006 graduating class that “empathy is a quality of character that can change the world – one that makes you understand that your obligations to others extend beyond people who look like you and act like you and live in your neighborhood.” This is the kind of character that we should seek for ourselves. Class of 2012, we can change the world through the way we live, the way we work, the way we spend our money, and the way we empathize with others.

The youths in Mexico have a motto. It reads “Sé el cambio,” which means “be the change.”  This applies to all of us.
Whether it’s bringing honesty to corporate finance, or showing compassion within public policy – be the change.
Whether it’s showing patience to a difficult customer, or generosity to a stranger – be the change.
Whether it’s practicing integrity in school, or humility on the basketball court – be the change.

My hope is that every one of us here would embody the values that inspire others, and strive to become people of character – character that can change the world. And as we move on, from UMass Boston to the world. I invite all of us to ask ourselves three things:

One, how have we been changed?

Two, how would you like to change the world?

And three, who will you be as a world-changer?

Class of 2012, let’s go change the world. Thank you.

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