Conversation with Anne Maglia, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation

Anne Maglia was promoted to Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at UMass Lowell in July 2022. Maglia served as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Administration and Integrity since 2016 and played a central role in elevating the university’s research enterprise, including increasing total research and development expenditures by more than $26 million.

Prior to joining UMass Lowell, she served at the National Science Foundation as a science advisor and program director for large biological infrastructure such as the $460 million National Ecological Observatory Network.

We recently sat down with Vice Chancellor Maglia to discuss her new role and her plans to elevate UMass Lowell to a top national Research 1 (R1) university.

What are you most excited about starting in your new role?

I’m looking forward to expanding resources and opportunities for our researchers. We have anticipated our growth over the years so we have a solid foundation in place for implementing ideas and initiatives that will propel us to the next stage of research productivity. At the same time, I’m listening to our researchers to learn their needs to ensure we are all able to conduct our work effectively. My new role provides a greater ability to advocate for them.

I am also excited about forming new relationships and cultivating existing ones with academic, industry, government and community partners. We know we can make bigger impacts by aligning with organizations that share our values and goals, and we’re thinking creatively about ways we can collaborate to have real impacts like bringing inventions to market and effecting policy change.

You mentioned anticipating research growth, which has certainly come to fruition. Research activity and expenditures have grown substantially over the past decade. What would you attribute to this success?

We have outstanding faculty, students, and staff who are committed to doing great research. They are creative, smart, pragmatic and incredibly hard working. Our people aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves.

UMass Lowell has also built a culture of truly interdisciplinary approaches to research and innovation, including tackling societal challenges. Our Research and Engagement Centers are a great reflection of this. These centers combine experts from across fields to ensure we’re taking a holistic approach to discovery and viewing challenges from all angles.

We also have a strong (and growing) university commitment to providing resources for researchers such as better start-up packages for new faculty, new CRF equipment, and building and renovating for state-of-the-art buildings and facilities. We’re also growing our “soft” infrastructure of research support including enhancing our central research administration team, adding more college-specific research administrators and providing more proposal support and professional development activities.

How does UMass Lowell become a R1 University?

If we continue to grow (in both research expenditures and Ph.D. graduates) as we have over the last six years, we will likely reach R1 without changing many of our current processes and initiatives. I think the bigger question is how we are going to achieve this goal in a way that benefits the entire campus, is sustainable, and provides new positive opportunities for our faculty and students. We know that will require additional investments in research infrastructure while maintaining our campus culture and teaching excellence.

Are there any new initiatives you are planning to introduce to help UMass Lowell reach R1?

We are in the early stages of strategic planning for our continued research growth, including attaining R1 status. The working groups in our strategic planning committee have been tasked with figuring out how we continue to grow comfortably and sustainably. An early goal for me is to find ways to support Chancellor Chen’s visions of research growth, external partnerships, and student experiential learning. I anticipate that the strategic planning groups will provide many great ideas for how we accomplish these goals.

Student experiential learning is a large part of Chancellor Julie Chen’s visions for UMass Lowell, providing paid career experiences for all students. How do you see the role of research in this endeavor?

I think research can have a great impact here, and I can speak from experience. I’m a first-gen college student and struggled with finding a major that stuck. I eventually quit school and worked in the family restaurant. In my first semester back after deciding to return to college, I took a course that led me to complete a paid independent research experience. I loved it, and I finally found a direction and my passion for biology and research.

Much of my motivation for growing UMass Lowell’s externally sponsored research portfolio is so that we can provide funded research opportunities to any student who wants to participate, especially those for whom a research experience could help them enrich their learning, develop hands-on skills, build self-confidence, and find their career path.

What is the most important thing you have learned or honed that has helped prepare you for your new role?

I think the most important thing for me is to be compassionate and put people first. While it feels great to achieve goals, being kind and helping others succeed is really what makes work feel worthwhile to me. Focusing on people makes other things feel a little less important, and that makes it easier for me not to stress too much over the small stuff.

Finding Stories of Minority Groups in Video Games

Rebecca Richards, associate professor in the Department of English, wants women, queer folk and people of color to know that there is a space for them in the video game community.

While Richards acknowledges the misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and racism that exists in game culture, she is interested in studying the rhetoric of video games that are telling a different story. When Richards examines video games as a part of her research, she looks at the ways in which players receive and interact with the text, storylines, visuals and modes of play to create meaning.

Currently working on her new book entitled Not Playing Around: Feminist and Queer Rhetorics in Video Games, Richards studies how video games create rhetorical actions that may lead to empathy, learning, and socialization outside of the virtual space. More so, she sees a strong potential for video games to include writing and stories that involve the experiences of minority groups.

For example, in one of her recent articles that her new book will expand upon, Richards details the act of “stealth” in video games as a means to simulate how women must sneak past or around national gender norms and rules, as true in the physical world. When a character in a video game is stealthing, they are hiding from and eluding authorities and systems that are in opposition to the character.

Richards explains that in République, a video game that takes place in a dystopian setting, the female protagonist, Hope, is trying to navigate out of a detention center, and the game player takes on the role of a hacker of the facility’s technology in order to support her escape.

“Stealthing in gameplay requires patience and interpreting different signs, and it’s feminized. It’s not aggro (engaging in violence). Stealthing means knowing that people don’t want you to exist and figuring out a way to exist in spite of that,” says Richards.

Considering the format of the game and role of the player in supporting the protagonist with unique approaches opposite to the overtly violent behaviors in a multitude of games, Richards argues that the player can develop empathy for women, immigrants and detainees in the context of the real world.

In addition to stealthing, Richards is also exploring “indie games,” independent games that are more often known for their ability to employ creative freedoms, and the reasons why queer and feminist rhetoric have found a home in the space. Overall, she is examining the power of whose stories are being told, how they are being told and the ways in which these stories are perceived by the audience.

As Richards continues to conduct research for her book, she is also looking forward to finally arriving on campus to begin teaching in-person classes at UMass Lowell. Richards started in her new position during the global pandemic in June 2020 after almost ten years as a professor at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. She is especially excited to teach her “Writing About Video Games” course in Spring 2022 where her students will have the opportunity to play and analyze video games.

“People often recoil when I ask them if they play video games, especially those in minority groups. I want to encourage all people to have fun and build community with video games as a part of their regular media diet. I would like to demystify how women, queer folk and people of color are playing games and where they are finding inspiration and joy, and helping others find that joy too,” says Richards.

Center for Program Evaluation Celebrates Five Years of Improving Institutions

Co-directors of the Center for Program Evaluation, Jason Rydberg (left) and Jill Hendrickson Lohmeier (right)

“Educational research and evaluation is applicable to all fields,” says Jill Hendrickson Lohmeier, associate professor of education and co-director of the Center for Program Evaluation (CPE) at UMass Lowell. Reflecting on the last half-decade of progress at CPE’s recent 5-year anniversary celebration, Lohmeier recounted the extensive interdisciplinary work the center has completed with at least 50 faculty members representing all six colleges on campus.

Since becoming an official research seed center in 2013, the Center for Program Evaluation has supported not only the university but also the regional community in improving programs and services. From its project work on 24 grants and contracts representing more than $900,000 in funding to completing 57 evaluation reports, the CPE has evaluated programs for an array of institutions including higher education, K-12 education, and government agencies.

Program evaluation is critical to education and any organization seeking to strengthen the quality of its programs. Evaluation offers a close examination, in a systematic and structured approach, of program effectiveness in practice. With an inquiry-based, data-driven method, structural, programmatic and policy changes are made to improve outcomes, a reality which the CPE has proudly seen and influenced among many of its partners.

Center for Program Evaluation staff, students, and supporters from left to right: Siffat Sharmin, Graduate Research Assistant; Bangsil Oh, Post-Doc Researcher; Shanna Rose Thompson, Center for Program Evaluation Manager; Sarah Elizabeth McDermott, Undergraduate Research Assistant; and Stacy Penna, NVivo Community Director, QSR International (Americas) Inc.

As program evaluation becomes more widely adopted and with increases in demand, the Center for Program Evaluation affords its students hands-on, experiential training with the opportunity to work on real projects. Over the years, the CPE has employed a total of 27 graduate, undergraduate and even high school students. Truly interdisciplinary in nature, these students come from a variety of majors including education, global studies, criminal justice, psychology, history, chemistry and engineering. With real-world experience in hand, 10 of these students have earned a PhD or EdD, many have contributed to the more than 50 conference presentations by CPE, and five students have won an award at the annual Student Research and Community Engagement Symposium.

In addition to training students, the Center for Program Evaluation offers monthly brown bags and interdisciplinary workshops to the public.

“There is a holistic approach to program evaluation at this center. Not only do they practice program evaluation, but they also train student and faculty researchers and they focus heavily on evaluation research. The uniqueness of this center is that all three of those work in coordination, which puts them in a position to take a national leadership role,” says Anne Maglia, associate vice chancellor for research at UMass Lowell.

While encouraged by the center’s accomplishments throughout the years, Jason Rydberg, the newly appointed co-director of the Center for Program Evaluation and assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Justice Studies, is enthusiastic about the next five years. With eyes set on becoming a full research center, creating an advisory board, enhancing future workshops, and continuing to contribute impactful research and theory to the field, the Center for Program Evaluation is rapidly growing and improving alongside the partners it supports.

Welcome to the UMass Lowell Research Blog

UMass Lowell researchers in a laboratory in 1894 vs. 2019

UMass Lowell is a nationally ranked public research university at the forefront of cutting-edge, applied research. With a multidisciplinary, visionary approach, our faculty and students translate discoveries into practical solutions that solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Join us as we share an insider look at the groundbreaking research conducted at the university. As we ring in the new year with a new blog, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the highlights from 2019, a year that marked the 125th anniversary of our storied history.

Looking back at a full year of accomplishments, we are energized and eager for a bright 2020.

Review the research highlights from 2019