The Interview USA
UMass Lowell
Provost and Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs

Joseph Hartman

Students juggle so many commitments beyond their academic studies; this undoubtedly presents a real challenge for universities on how best to prioritize participation in crucial training programs that unpack topics such as student safety and respectful relationships.

Joseph Hartman, Provost and Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) chatted with Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, to share how they are investing in a range of initiatives to address this challenge.

Joseph's Journey

Max: What’s the most exciting work you’ve been involved in since last joining us on the series?

We’re excited about a new initiative, The Mosaic Project. Universities have typically been great at tracking what’s happening inside the classroom, but we want to begin monitoring what’s happening outside the classroom – our students’ co-curricular experience. The project aims to make it easier for students to capture a comprehensive overview of their time at our university and better assess how they’re taking advantage of the opportunities available to them.

Max: How are you engaging students at UMass Lowell?

Students can be incredibly time-poor. One way we’re combating this is through the use of technology, in particular a visual tool for students to build and reflect on their evolving ‘mosaic’ as they engage with university life. It’s also designed to make tailored recommendations and entice disengaged students to get involved, enriching their college experience. 

Max: What’s your most significant focus when it comes to student safety? 

Our student surveys show they’re struggling with their mental health and financial safety, particularly post-pandemic, but they don’t know where to go for help. If you don’t effectively lead students to the support on offer, the support fails to meet its purpose. We’re focused on improving our communication around how to access help through our Office of Well-being and network of health counselors.

Max: What have you found most effective in raising student awareness around the support services available to them?

We pay students to be well-being ambassadors across all our colleges – they’re available during office hours and actively engage in day-to-day life on campus so that students know who they are and how they can connect. It’s essential that these ambassadors are accessible peers that our students can reach out to for support; they’re also equipped to direct students to additional support services should they need them.

Max: Are you currently focused on the issue of hazing at UMass Lowell?

I’m happy to say we don’t have an issue with hazing at UMass Lowell; that said, it’s still an issue we address at the start of each new semester. Once students commence their studies, they all complete mandatory training covering topics such as hazing and consent. Our Office of Prevention delivers this training in a live format to improve engagement and make a point of the importance of these topics from a student safety perspective.

Max: How are you working to reinforce these ideas beyond the student orientation phase? 

Emphasizing the gravity of issues like hazing and consent is paramount. We offer ongoing workshops as reminders, although they aren’t mandatory. It’s challenging to find a balance when determining what should or shouldn’t be required training for students; we need to be mindful of their broader commitments – this is an area we’re consistently working to refine and improve. 

Max: How are you looking to educate students about navigating personal differences?

This is a hot topic of debate, given the current political landscape. We need to communicate that disagreement is okay as long as it remains respectful; respectful conversations need to focus on the object of discord, not the individuals involved. We also need to consider the possibility of students feeling unsafe sharing their opinions. Our faculty staff are at the forefront of reinforcing these ideas; they build classroom environments where students can respectfully engage with their peers.  

Max: What areas are you providing support beyond student studies?

Our Office of Well-being is structured around eight dimensions of wellness, covering areas such as physical, mental, and financial well-being. We aim to educate students on the importance of these aspects to help them thrive holistically. We also offer opportunities for students to actively participate in their well-being journey across all eight dimensions.

Max: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received across the course of your career?

I’ve received a lot of great advice across my career. One that stands out – if someone asks you to do something, you're best to say yes. I’ve rarely regretted saying yes to new opportunities. Often, it’s a chance for you to shine or accept a new opportunity for professional growth.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at max.webber@goodcourse.co
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