A college is, ideally, a place of opportunity. MassArt is that kind of place, where the doors of opportunity are opened for students from all kinds of backgrounds. It truly is a place where lives are changed. To be a college president at a place like MassArt is rewarding – amazingly so – for that fact alone. Because this work matters, and I have the privilege of serving students, along with incredibly talented and dedicated faculty and staff.
But there’s more. A college is a creativity factory. I’ve begun speaking of the ubiquity of creativity at MassArt. Creative souls are doing their work around every corner and behind every door on our campus. To see that, and to be able to help sustain and enhance that work, is remarkable.
The challenges of the presidency are substantial. There are funds to raise, a vision to articulate, and people to inspire and motivate. And, of course, there are problems to solve. Sometimes the work is exhausting, and sometimes it’s messy. Things don’t always go well, and they certainly don’t always go the way you’d like. But the work is so important, because serving students and preparing them for meaningful, productive lives makes addressing the challenges worthwhile. We’re shaping the lives of people who will make our world a better place, so on balance, the challenges and frustrations don’t trouble me so much
I believe passionately in the idea of the value of an educated citizenry and, therefore, I believe passionately in the notion of public education. My previous position was with the University of North Carolina, and at this point in my life I wanted to stay in public education. So MassArt, as the art and design college of the Commonwealth, and the first such school in the U.S., presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.
I also care deeply about the MassArt mission, to prepare students from diverse backgrounds to participate in the creative economy as artists, designers, and educators, and to prepare them to engage in the well-being of their society.
As an artist – I’m a musician – MassArt feels very much like “home” to me. I love the community here, and am thrilled to be in Boston. So, in all these ways, ways that matter deeply to me and to my wife Kimberly, I couldn’t be happier to be here. We both consider it an honor to be asked to be here.
What impact would you like the Colleges of the Fenway to have?
The Colleges of the Fenway organization is unique, because it offers opportunities for students at our colleges that we couldn’t otherwise provide. The relationship among the six COF schools invites our students to enter into such a broad array of academic courses, international study experiences, and social groups and activities that are much more diverse and rich than if any one of us simply did our work in isolation. My hope is that COF will continue to provide these curricular and extracurricular opportunities for students, that do so much to expand their horizons and impact the way they see the world. I believe the COF model can be an exemplar for colleges in other parts of the country who can benefit from sharing resources and enriching student learning in the ways COF does for students here in Boston.
Learn more about President Nelson here.