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Come On, Let's Save RESD, Let's Keep It a Department! - nhpeacenik
Come On, Let's Save RESD, Let's Keep It a Department!
I find myself wanting to write several different kinds of essays/cris-de-coeur about our beloved RESD, but I guess I'll start out with the formal one first. If this style isn't to your taste, stick around, and I'll try to express my feelings and beliefs in a couple of other ways later.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell has made a very unwise decision to disband the department that I have been a part of since 2005. known as Regional Economic and Social Development (RESD). Being a part of RESD has been a life-changing experience for me in ways I had no reason to expect when I began the master's-degree program. The department is a learning community like no other I have encountered at a public institution of higher learning, bringing together the insights of the economics, labor history, industrial history, sociology, anthropology business and planning disciplines, the talents of professors who are in the top echelons of their fields, and students from around the world who are motivated to further social change and sustainable development. In my experience, the interaction between faculty and students and among students of diverse backgrounds, which is fostered by the dynamics of being a department, is essential to the synergies and successes I have witnessed while in the department.

The high-quality work of the professors and graduate students in the department has made it a major source of grant income and spin-off projects for the University; the old proverb about killing the goose that lays the golden egg may be applicable here. Paradoxically, in its ambitious plans to expand interdisciplinary programs, the University needs to pay attention to the innovative management techniques and group-dynamics principles that form the core of the department's curriculum. It needs the RESD model more than ever at this point where economic recession is straining its capacities in all dimensions.

The students put together an open letter to the Acting Dean, the Provost and the Chancellor, in which they expressed apprehension about what would happen to the curriculum, the tigh-knit community of professors, the prestige and name of the degree, etc. The response from Dean Coppens has been optimistic and sunny, but utterly lacking in concrete answers to our concerns.

Disbanding the department while keeping the "degree program" as a sort of floating entity within the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (FAHSS) will take away the sustenance it needs to survive and deprive current and future students of the connections and deep understanding that could otherwise have insured their success. I want to do my part, along with the many current students and alumni of the program, to urge the university to reconsider the decision to disband the department.

I am in the awkward position of one who has finished all coursework for a degree but has not submitted the thesis, and who is working for the university in a grant-funded joint Computer Science/RESD project. Thus I am in some sense a graduate student and in some sense staff or faculty. I trust the collective intelligence of the current crop of RESD students to come up with effective strategies to challenge the plan to dismantle RESD and to maintain the essential elements of the department in whatever new framework RESD will exist in the future.

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