UMass University of Computer Science receives $ 93 million in state grant, Mannings’ gift

AMHERST – UMass Amherst’s new Robert and Donna Manning College of Information Science and Computer Science will receive $ 93 million to improve program facilities and accessibility to students.

“Today is truly an important day for our campus,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said at a ceremony Wednesday in the college computer building to announce the funding.

$ 18 million of the total is part of Robert and Donna Manning’s $ 50 million donation to UMass announced in September, the largest of its kind in the history of the school system. This money allocation comes with a state grant of $ 75 million announced by Governor Charlie Baker, which will be distributed over several projects in the future.

The money will be used to improve hands-on learning facilities, hire new faculty, provide peer mentoring and conduct computational research ranging from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity, and from healthcare to information systems. quantum.

Laura Haas, dean of the college of computer science, said the money “will allow us to provide scholarships” to make the program more accessible to students from all walks of life.

Although Baker was unable to attend Wednesday’s ceremony, Haas, Subbaswamy, Robert Manning, UMass President Marty Meehan and Michael Heffernan, Secretary of State for Administration and Finance, all spoke of the gift and what it means for UMass Amherst.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Mannings and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for their support of our college,” said Haas.

According to UMass, the college “has experienced rapid growth of 320% in enrollment since 2010” and faces limited resources to continue this growth. The new donations will help expand the program and maintain the college’s status as a “net importer of talent into Massachusetts,” Haas said.

During her tenure as dean, she made diversity a focal point for the college, aiming to retain diverse membership and increase female enrollment to 40% by the end of the decade, from 27%. currently.

Subbaswamy shared this goal, stressing the importance of attracting women and minorities to computer research. This dedication, along with the $ 93 million, will help fuel the college’s vision of “Computing for the Common Good,” which Subbaswamy described as a commitment to improving the lives of people around the world.

He has touted the college’s success in recent times, sharing that it has “nearly doubled its faculty count” in recent years and ranks among the top 20 computer science programs in North America, while his specialty in artificial intelligence ranks 11th.

Subbaswamy has led the effort to turn CICS into a college instead of just a department, and he said he’s happy that the Manning family’s gift shows that they “understand the power of IT too.”

Robert Manning, longtime chairman of the board of UMass, said IT is “an area that we think is really important in society.”

“I focused on the ethical applications of new technologies, which both improve and complicate our lives,” he said.

Manning explained that in the future, “IT will cure diseases and solve some of the world’s biggest problems, but will also be incredibly disruptive, especially for the workforce.” By this he was referring to the destruction of jobs in the economy due to automation technology.

He said UMass Amherst is well positioned to educate students with a “strong ethical and moral compass” who will work for the common good.

UMass President Marty Meehan said Robert and Donna Manning are “amazing human beings” and expressed his admiration for their ability to “explain how this university can improve society”.

“The need for a strong talent pool in this space has never been more urgent,” said Meehan. With the new money, he said, IT at UMass is “poised to become the primary resource for the diverse IT talent of the Commonwealth.”

Meehan also acknowledged Baker’s commitment to serving western Massachusetts with the state’s $ 75 million grant. He said that “sometimes the state government becomes Boston-centric,” but Baker stands out.

Although Baker was unable to attend the ceremony, he shared his enthusiasm in a statement, writing that “the college’s research and education programs will help maintain the Commonwealth’s advantage in these important areas.”

Along with the gift from the Manning family, he said, the state’s investment will help “train and educate the next generation of computer and information science professionals.”

At the ceremony, Heffernan said IT is taking a bigger place in the US economy and that this grant will “be a game changer” in UMass Amherst’s ability to contribute to that growth.

The grant “will give us the opportunity to grow and shine,” Haas said.

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