AMHERST – The University of Massachusetts on Thursday celebrated the groundbreaking construction of a $125 million facility for its computer science program. Officials say they position the university to be a leader in teaching and research on the digital frontier.

“This is an important day in the continuing evolution of the Federation,” said UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

The groundbreaking ceremony was made more symbolic than real, as objects were shoved inside the building due to the expected thunderstorms.

Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karin Polito and UMass President Martin Meehan joined Subhaswamy, campus leaders and local councilors in attendance at the ceremony.

Construction of the new facility, a 90,000-square-foot building, has been fueled by the growth of the computer and information science programs at UMass over the past few years.

The state contributed $75 million to construction costs.

The new building is located in a vacant lot on Governors Drive just east of the existing building and is expected to be completed by 2025.

New Umass computer building

A new $125 million information and computer science artist rendering built with UMass. The building will be attached to the existing Computer Science building off Governors Drive.

In addition to state donations, the project was supported by an $18 million donation from UMass Board Chairman Robert Manning and his wife Donna Manning.

The $18 million is part of a $50 million donation the Mannings made to the UMass system last year, making it the largest donation in UMass history.

The college was renamed the Manning College of Information and Computer Science.

Through the Mannings’ generosity, Subbaswamy said, “We will further position Manning College as an evolutionary force in the industry by increasing access to our programs and attracting top faculty.”

“Today we begin the next chapter of New England’s number one computer science program,” said Trish Serio, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at UMass Provost.

The university already has 1,700 undergraduate students, 400 master’s students and 280 PhD holders. Due to an increase in enrollment over the last five years, the university has recruited 40 new faculty members during that time, bringing him to 74 in total.

From the beginning, the university has been closely aligned with industry, according to Serio, and has been a leader in the areas of artificial intelligence, search engines, and networks. In 2021, the university received a $21 million research grant from government and industry.

But while UMass officials said the campus is poised to become part of the digital frontier, Baker and Manning each warned the university needs to teach more than just technology.

“Everything is going digital. Part of me finds it incredibly exciting and part of me finds it absolutely terrifying,” Baker said.

He said it was absolutely critical that universities be poised to “teach, study and understand both results.”

Baker cites the example of social media’s proliferation over the last decade, transforming it from a global media promise for sharing information to a vehicle for instantly sharing misinformation, insults, and lies.

He said that meant not just teaching technology, but teaching ethics.

He said the university’s motto is “computing for the common good”, part of which is to teach what is right and what is wrong. “We’ll do a great job here, but we need to prepare people to seriously consider what we mean when we say ‘common good,'” Baker said. said.

Manning did not attend the ceremony in person, but appeared remotely.

Manning, CEO of MFS Financial Services, said he knows from experience that computer advances will continue to leapfrog. And like Baker, he said it scared him.

He said he used the power of computers to succeed in business.

Manning said technology without an ethical foundation to govern it is a problem. “And I’m really worried about that.”

Quantum computing has the power to reshape society in ways people can’t even imagine, and it’s important that schools emphasize ethics, he said.

“Computer processing power will be phenomenal in the next decade,” he said.

“We are in big trouble,” he said, without training today’s students about the potential dangers.

Baker, who will not seek re-election and will step down in January, was hailed by Subbaswamy as a true friend of UMass for the past eight years. Baker has contributed in no small part to the campus’s success during that time, he said.

When it was Baker’s turn to speak, the governor returned the compliment.

“I’ll be right back,” he told Subbaswamy. “You are the gold standard by which all prime ministers are judged.”

Subbaswamy, who took office 10 years ago, announced his retirement in June.

Regarding the overall UMass system, Baker said: Throughout the UMass system, down to Meehan and Subbaswamy, “there’s a long line of people who are doers,” he said.

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