Amanda Huff arrived at orientation wearing her student newspaper staff shirt. The club tables were all arrayed in the Ballroom of the brand new Campus Center with literature, candies, and trinkets vying for her attention.
“I was the News Editor on my high school newspaper,” she says. “I happened to meet Donna [the Student Media Advisor] who noticed my shirt because it said newspaper staff on it. She gave me the contact information for the Editor in Chief and the Managing Editor, and so from about the midpoint of July, 2006, I had an idea that I was going to be doing some work with the newspaper staff.”
Returning in September she was surprised by the insecurity she heard from her classmates.
“When I was an undergrad I would get a lot of grief for saying that I went to UMass Boston, and not being from the area I seriously did not understand it, and even to this day I’m really not quite sure where it all stems from, but I think that people need to be more active in defending the reputation of the school.”
She chose UMass Boston to experience city life.
“I knew about UMass Amherst, and I knew that it was a trusted university system, but I didn’t want to live in Amherst because I really wanted the advantage of being in the city.”
At orientation every single person milling around in the common areas looked unique and interesting to Huff.
“Where I grew up in Michigan, it was far enough outside of the bigger cities that there wasn’t a whole lot of diversity, and that was really what I was seeking. When I got all my acceptance letters, it happened to be that UMass Boston gave me a decent financial aid package, but when I came to visit the school, and I got to see how unique the school community was, I realized that it would be a good fit.”
When classes started, she joined the Mass Media staff.
“It was a lot easier to make friends than I expected, and the friends that I made are all quality,” she says. “It’s nice to know there’s still an open line of communication even if you’re not in touch with each other all the time.”
“One thing that I think I’ll never forget is we got the police blotter for the news section, and they thought that there was a breaking and entering on the fourth floor of the Campus Center, and it turned out that a raccoon had gotten in there.”
“We were trying to figure out how that would have happened, considering that there were no trees up that high on campus, and there are no windows that open, on the fourth floor, so we’re imagining this raccoon just getting in the elevator, and getting off of the elevator and reeking havoc.”
After about two years of writing and editing for the student newspaper, Huff became the Editor of the Yearbook. She worked in the Student Media Office throughout her undergrad studies, up until the second half of her masters program.
“I had a brief opportunity to work with the writing center, and I did a little bit of tutoring, and took a class with one of the professors who helped coordinate the tutoring program, and she suggested that I look into getting a teaching license.”
While working on her BA, Huff started tutoring English as a second language. That’s when she decided to pursue a career in teaching, and she transitioned into the education program at UMB.
“They focused in on what I wanted, which was providing quality education to areas where people are a little bit more under-served, like working in urban school districts, working with students who come from a disadvantage. That was something that I always appreciated about UMass Boston’s message when it came to college, and I appreciated that their program focused on that thinking about the whole child or the whole individual, building that message from kindergarten all the way up through college.”
Now Huff works as an eighth grade English language arts teacher at a middle school in Revere.
“Aside from academics, I really learned how I could push myself. I learned how resilient I can be in the face of any struggle, be it an academic struggle or a social struggle, whatever. I realized that there are so many more things that I am capable of than I had ever realized.”
Huff’s favorite classes were the capstones she took at the end of her BA.
“My professors were incredibly supportive with the entire process,” she says. “It was refreshing to get to the end of a program, and to have a little bit more control over the work I did.”
She still keeps in touch with her practicum advisor, Al Winestein, and a few of her art professors as well. More than anything, the culture of UMB influenced Huff.
“At UMass Boston, where you’re able to talk to people who have so many different experiences, who have multiple different perspectives, people who are little bit older, and might be able to offer advice for something that you had never encountered before, but they have.”
She knows that she got a great education, no matter what people say, but she’s noticing that the buildings have changed the way people talk about her alma mater.
“I think that it’s time that UMass Boston kind of gives itself a facelift. Aside from the Campus Center the majority of the buildings are old or almost falling apart, and I think that people judge so much on looks.”
“It’s time that UMass Boston’s outside match everything that happens within its walls. There are so many quality things going on at this university, and people are so quick to judge because the buildings are old, or because of its location, or because of whatever stigma it may have had in the past. I think it’s time for UMass Boston to have its place in the spotlight, and new buildings are an easy way to do that.”