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UMass Amherst chancellor retiring in 2023

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, shown here in 2020.
File photo
/
State House News Service
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, shown here in 2020.

UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy plans to retire at the end of June 2023, the university announced Thursday morning.

When he leaves, Subbaswamy will have been on the job more than a decade.

In an interview, Subbaswamy said several factors played into his decision, including his age — he'll be 72 when he retires — and the difficult nature of the work, especially during the pandemic. He said the university's recovery from COVID-related issues was also a factor.

"I felt like as the transition was coming we were really in pretty good position next year," he said. "Our enrollment is back to normal, life seems to be back to normal on campus. Our revenues and our budget for next year looks pretty good."

Subbaswamy said he's proudest of the university's improved standing nationally, an increased graduation rate and the more diverse student body.

The chancellor identified several items that remain on his to-do list, including expanding flexible learning; advancing "carbon zero" renewable energy plans; addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues; and preparing a new fundraising campaign.

A search committee in conjunction with the university system's board and UMass president's office will work to find the next chancellor.

Eve Weinbaum, co-president of the faculty union on campus, said she wants to see an inclusive leader who will listen to and work with multiple stakeholders, including employees.

"I think we really need a leader who will keep the lines of communication open," she said, "and take seriously what they hear from the people who are carrying out the mission every day."

Weinbaum was generally positive about Subbaswamy's work, but did offer some criticism surrounding decision-making during the early days of the pandemic. She said more voices should have been considered before policies were made.

Subbaswamy said changing circumstances sometimes required quick decisions.

In the latest U.S. News & World Report Colleges Guide, UMass Amherst ranked 26th among the 209 public universities, up from from 52nd in 2010. UMass officials said much of the improvement occurred under Subbaswamy.

UMass Amherst also released metrics to underscore improvement during Subbaswamy's tenure, including: a 30% increase in first-year undergraduate applications over the past 10 years; a six-year graduation rate that has increased to 84%; and more diversity among the student body, with 37% of this past year's entering class being students of color, up from 21% a decade ago.

The campus enrolls more first-year students from Massachusetts than do the state's top eight private universities combined, UMass Amherst said, and awards more undergraduate STEM degrees than any other college or university in Massachusetts.

A physicist by training, Subbaswamy joined the University of Kentucky's faculty in 1978 and served as provost there before coming to Amherst ten years ago.

NEPM's Adam Frenier and Michael P. Norton from the State House News Service contributed to this report.

Updated: June 2, 2022 at 4:44 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include quotations from interviews with Kumble Subbaswamy and Eve Weinbaum.