University of Massachusetts Amherst

From Academic Kids

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UMass Amherst Seal

Size 1,450 acres (5.9 km²)
Established 1863
School type Public
Location Amherst, Mass., USA
Enrollment 1 17,644 undergraduate
5,493 graduate
Faculty 2 1,120 full-time
304 part-time
Campus Rural
Colors Maroon and White
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The center of the UMass Amherst campus. To the left is the Old Chapel, and to the right the W.E.B. DuBois Library.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst (otherwise known as UMass Amherst) is a university in Amherst, Massachusetts. It is the main campus of the University of Massachusetts system, the others being UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and the UMass Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is classified as a Doctoral/Research Universities—Extensive by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, reflecting the breadth of the University's programs, including offerings of over 90 undergraduate and 65 graduate areas of study. The University has distinguished itself in several areas, offering nationally recognized programs in, among other areas, linguistics (especially semantics), computer science, polymer science, creative writing, Latin paedagogy, social thought and political economy (STPEC), and labor studies. The University's library ( is the tallest library in the world, and is home of the memoirs and papers of the distinguished African-American activist W.E.B. DuBois as well as being the depository for other important collections, such as the papers of the late Congressman Silvio O. Conte.

The University is home to its own newspaper (The Daily Collegian (, radio station (WMUA 91.1 (, and television station (UVC-TV 19 (—all are almost totally student-run.



The University was founded in 1863 under the provisions of the Federal Morrill Land Grant University Act to provide instruction to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the "agricultural, mechanical, and military arts". Accordingly, the University was initially named the Massachusetts Agricultural College (or M.A.C.). It was known as this until 1931, due to an increase in enrollment and support from the Commonwealth, it was renamed the Massachusetts State College.

In 1947, the State College filed to become a University, and became the University Of Massachusetts. Like most schools at the time, it was relatively small, enrolling ~5,000 students annually. Some expansion occurred in the 1950's, but the bulk of its transition to the present size occurred in the 1960's. The new president set a goal of expansion to 20,000 by the end of the decade, and the University entered a program of intense building. Many prominent structures rose during this time, including the Southwest Complex, Student Union, Campus Center hotel, Fine Arts Center and famous 24-story library tower. Umass growth drastically altered the regional economy, prompting the commercial development of Route 9 in Hadley, the extension and redirection of several highways (including Routes 9 and 116 in Amherst and 5 in Northampton, aside from the Federal Government's building a 91 addition through to Canada) and the transformation of the town of Amherst from its old Republican order to its progressive activist reputation today. As an old saying goes, "the gown overwhelmed the town."

Five Colleges

UMass Amherst is a part of what is known as the Five Colleges, along with Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges. All Five Colleges are located within a 10 mile radius of Amherst center, and are accessible by public bus. Students attending any of the Five Colleges have access to the facilities of all five, for example they may borrow books from any of the libraries and can take courses at all five schools. Some undergraduate or graduate departments are shared among the five, including the astronomy department ([1] ( and students have the opportunity to work with professors from any of the schools.

Buildings and Layout

Home to over 25,000 students, faculty and staff, the campus extends about a mile from the Campus Center in all directions. Significant amounts of land are owned by the University in the nearby town of Sunderland. In 2004 this prompted Governor Mitt Romney to propose an ambitious expansion project in which the size and population of the University would almost double as it took over the role of the state's community college system which Romney has begun to consolidate and dismantle. While this proposal received the support of the student government, town residents are exceedingly resistant to any such plan as it would increase the already critical traffic congestion in the center of town. The university also owns land throughout the Pioneer Valley for agricultural and ecological research.

The campus may be thought of as a series of concentric rings. In the outermost ring are parking lots, the admissions center, playing fields and barns for the animal science program. In the middle ring there are the five residential areas and dining commons. The innermost ring had most of the classroom buildings and research labs.

The Isenberg School of Management has its buildings in the southernmost part of campus near the Visitors Center and the Newman Center, the Catholic student center. In addition to being the site of the main administration building, Whitmore, the southeast side of campus has buildings mainly dedicated to the humanities and fine arts. Buildings include Herter, Bartlett, Mahar and the Fine Arts Center (Abbreviated "FAC"). Between Whitmore, the FAC and Isenberg lies the Haigis Mall, a local stop on both the PVTA and Peter Pan bus lines. The buildings on the southwest side of campus house the college of social and behavioral science. These include Totman, Dickinson and Tobin.

The 26 story WEB Dubois library and the Old Chapel are the notable buildings in the center of campus. The buildings in the center of campus are mainly used by the Commonwealth Honors College, Goodell and Machmer. The Campus Center Hotel is the training ground for the University's Hospitality and Tourism Management students. The Student Union Building houses most of the student-run businesses and co-ops. Additionally, the Physical Plant and parking garage are in the center of campus. South College, the home of UMass' world renowned linguistics department, is the oldest building on campus. The library was intended to be an annex to South College.

The north side of campus is mostly dedicated to science and engineering, and many buildings there are newer than their counterparts in the humanities. The Physics Department primarily uses Hasbrouck Lab, located at 666 North Pleasant Street. The Lederle Graduate Research Tower is the largest building on the north side, housing the Math department on its sixteenth floor. As a joke, the sixteenth floor is prominently labeled 4^2. The Computer Science department recently moved into an airy new building built for them on the edge of campus, though classes are usually taught elsewhere. Between the imposing concrete LGRT, the second-story walkway from it to its sister structure the LGRC, the glass-and-aluminum Computer Science building, and other new buildings for the Engineering and Polymer Science departments, the north part of campus has a more "high tech" look than the rest.

On campus there are two major gyms, the Totman Center near Northeast and Sylvan and the Boyden Gym to the south. Major sporting events, such as UMass's hockey and basketball team games, are held in the Mullins Center, amidst the fields to the west.

The UMass campus is huge, and it takes approximately twenty minutes to walk from one end to the other. Even so, there isn't much space for cars. Some students choose to take the PVTA bus around campus.

Residential areas

Students living on the UMass campus live in one of the five residential areas: Southwest, Central, Orchard Hill, Northeast and Sylvan.


Southwest is the largest residential area, and it houses two of the four campus dining commons. While some would call it "sweet" others would call it "ghetto". It is composed of five identical 22-story towers (Kennedy, Coolidge, John Quincy Adams, John Adams and Washington) and many smaller buildings, holding thousands of students between them. Southwest houses over 50% of the students living on campus. Longtime residents of Southwest state that living in SW is like living in an entirely separate city -- this high-density, high-volume population is possibly the most diverse region of campus; socially, ethnically, anyone can find a niche (although cross-campus fist shakers might call them all chicken/meatheads). However, because there are so many students in so little space, Southwest is prone to having uncontrolled parties. Specifically, in past years, following the conclusion of professional sport playoff matches, thousands of impassioned Boston sports fans have spilled out into the concrete-lined courtyards of Southwest baring chests, burning couches, overturning cars and getting maced, clubbed and arrested.


As the name suggests, Northeast is located on the opposite side of campus from Southwest. The residential area consists of nine buildings assembled in a rectangle surrounding a grassy quad. With smaller buildings, Northeast tends to be one of the quieter areas.

Buildings of note in Northeast include Knowlton, an all female dorm, Hamlin, an all male dorm, and Lewis, a dorm which allows students to live there for 9 months out of the year.

Northeast's proximity to the engineering department have given it the reputation as being one of the more low-key residential areas on campus, but also one where students under the stress of difficult studies enjoy letting off steam. For many years, on one night each spring during finals week, an impromptu gathering of students takes place in the field between the halls - The Quad. Once the students have been outside for a short time, loosely organized streaking takes place.


Sylvan is in the woods a short way up the road from Northeast. Rooms in Sylvan are arranged into 6 to 8-person suites. It is considered one of the smallest areas on campus and relatively quiet and rather boring. However, many students choose to live in suites with their friends and have parties in the common room, breaking the myth that "Sylvanites" are anti-social and non-partiers. Residents in Sylvan enjoy a private bathroom in each suite containing two toilets, two sinks, and one shower.


Central is located up the hill on the east side of campus, and has nine residence halls. Student and local bands frequently play in Central.

Central is also known as "Hippie Central" because of the laid-back environment and the abundant access to good marijuana.

Orchard Hill

Orchard Hill is north of Central, and has four residence halls. Orchard Hill is known for its yearly spring event, Bowl Weekend. Many students from the honors program have been known to reside in Orchard Hill.


UMass Amherst is a member of Internet 2.

At UMass, SPIRE is a web-based system used to register for courses, as well as a variety of other tasks. In the winter of 2003, the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) rolled out the SPIRE system, which is based on PeopleSoft's student information system. Reactions were initially favorable, but over the next year people began criticizing it for its confusing user interface (UI), among other issues. An attempt at resolving some of the UI complaints over the summer caused more serious problems. SPIRE was unavailable for most of the first week of the Fall 2004 semester, although other components of the PeopleSoft system functioned normally. Some have claimed that the university purchased PeopleSoft as the result of an executive conflict of interest. PeopleSoft is currently being sued by Cleveland State University for fraud.

Some classes have OWL (Online Web-based Learning) assignments. Giving homework through the OWL system allows students to see whether and where they failed and gives them an opportunity to fix their work faster than traditional paper-based homework assignments. Some students believe that it has little educational value or that using OWL is a waste of time. Since OWL assignments are graded by a computer and usually don't require students to show intermediate steps, students try to complete their assignments with the least amount of effort. Another criticism of owl is its inflexibility: the professor needs to write in every possible answer OWL will accept, allowing for the possibility that a student would get the right answer, but leave it in the wrong format. Indeed this inputting of the correct answer in the wrong format occurs frequently and students have reported that they find it very frustrating.

Some classes use WebCT, a web-based portal system. A WebCT page for a class usually includes a web forum in which students can discuss assignments.

Some classes (, particularly online, use a Blackboard Prometheus ( based system, to organize and track classes, and provide a portal to information.

Some computer science classes use TWiki as their course web page.

For some lectures, students are required to purchase a PRS transmitter from the campus store or certain locations in Amherst. A PRS transmitter, similar to a TV remote control, allows students to answer multiple-choice questions during lectures, providing a level of feedback.

OIT supports Mac OS and Windows, but not Linux or other operating systems. However, most OIT employees are sympathetic to Linux users.

External links

Template:Five Colleges

Template:Massachusetts Higher Education


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