Mike Metzger arrived for his first day of classes at UMass Boston in the fall of 2004. He was just getting his bearings in the brand new Campus Center, when a fire alarm went off. The building evacuated, and he stood outside in a crowd of students on a particularly blustery day, waiting for the all clear. That is how he met UMB’s chancellor, Jo Ann Gora.
“We were all standing outside during Welcome Day and she was working the line of people, saying thanks for coming,” Metzger says. “I thought that was so cool. Here’s the leader of a major university outside in the cold and to say hi to people.”
In four years as an undergraduate he met two other UMB chancellors, Michael Collins and Keith Motley, in student government through one transformative period in university history. After the Campus Center opened, offices from various buildings on campus came together, and vied for space.
“To be involved in those conversations,” Metzger said. “To see how the campus was shaping the concept of this building as a student space that also provides critical services, and also serves the broader community, transformed me.”
Metzger worked on campus, starting off in the Admissions Office as a tour guide.
“I went to orientation, and two weeks later I was giving tours of campus,” he says.“That was my first job. I was also an orientation leader. I did that for pretty much every summer, built some life-long friendships.”
After working in several administrative work study jobs on campus, Metzger became a co-program coordinator for the Student Arts and Events Council, which had just shifted advisors.
“I was a part of things from as small as the logo all the way up to developing the various program channels that they now offer, the Free Fun for Everyone and the Ball. Those are things that I hope are now viewed as more traditions here on campus.”
As an undergraduate Metzger facilitated a variety of events and initiatives. One of his proudest accomplishments was to put a beacon statue next to the Clark Athletic Center.
“It was SAEC’s 25th anniversary that year so we gave it to the school to promote entertainment, tradition and the more social aspect of campus,” Metzger says. “At that point the beacon was just an abstract concept. We had the mascot that went to games and things like that, but you couldn’t go anywhere and be like, ‘I’m a Beacon.’ I get chills every year when families stand out in front of it and they do their family photo thing.”
A couple of Metzger’s favorite classes were Renaissance and Reformation History, taught by Maryann Brink, and Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties by Elizabeth Bussier
“Those courses crafted my critical thinking and gave me an appreciation for our system of government and the way that our systems operate. In terms of my experience with different clubs and organizations, each is its own special thing tome.”
Classes taught Metzger critical thinking, analytical writing, and persuasive speaking, all of which he applied through his extra curricular activities.
“There’s also this sense of community and responsibility to that community that I think is the driving force of what I took away from here. The classroom learning definitely contributed to that, but also being around these people, these faculty, these staff, and having a sense of what it means to be a servant leader and provide that experience for the community that you’re a part of and to make sure that you’re giving back as much as you take.”
He ran for student government, was vice president for a year, and then became president.
“That was some of the best leadership training I have ever had,” he says. “A lot of the capital development for some of the amazing growth that we are experiencing now was in that period. I was at the table saying we need more student space, or we need more availability for faculty in terms of advising.”
“What an awesome responsibility to be able to speak about issues for people who are working so hard to get their degree. People care about their degree. Here you don’t see that student who just shows up to show up. They’re invested.”
In student government, the third floor of the Campus Center was Metzger’s hang out. His old office was in the back of Student Activities, on the third floor, where Donna Neal’s office is now.
“There used to be a couch where senators took lengthy naps. I spent a lot of time in the ballroom because of orientation. A lot of programming happened there. Then the Wits End, I actually have a t-shirt from the last week of operation. It was tough towards the end. It had been around for a lot of years and when campus traffic patterns changed, unfortunately people didn’t go to the fourth floor of Wheatley anymore.”
As president of the Undergraduate Student Government, Metzger
sat in on meetings where University leaders developed the master plan, and discussed ideas for redesigning the campus. That experience in student government propelled him into a career in higher education administration. He got his masters at the University of Connecticut, and worked at American University for two years. Now he is back at UMass Boston, Assistant Dean for the Honors College, and a student in the Higher Education Leadership PhD Program, which focuses on access and equity in education.
“I missed the connection to the urban mission that I experienced as a student here,” Metzger said. “I wanted to serve marginalized students, students who are non-traditional, who haven’t had the easiest or most straight path to college. When I was a student leader here I found that incredibly rewarding. As I got further and further away from that, I was really interested in coming back here to provide that type of launching pad for students to be whatever they desire.”
In 50 years, Metzger hopes he’s still around for the celebration.
“It would cool to see this place at 100, to think about how far we’ve come in 50 years, and where we’ll be in 50 more. I wish UMass Boston all the best, and all my love. I met my fiancé here in 2006, so this place has a very special place in my heart.”