Joyce Linehan

American Studies BA 1996, MA 2006

Joyce Linehan says she has the best job in Boston. As the Chief of Policy in the Office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, she works on a wide and wonderful range of things, from income inequality to human trafficking, snow melting technology to online dog licensing, and everything in between.

Her path to and from UMass was long and full of twists and turns. She attended UMB for approximately 20 years, working all the while, and came out with a BA and an MA in American Studies. While in college she worked in the music industry. She also started her own PR company and volunteered on several political campaigns. 

Q: Why did you decide go to UMB? 

A: UMass took a chance on me. Right out of high school, I flunked out of another area college. I was not ready to be in college. I went off and worked for a few years, and then approached UMass Boston. They let me in on a trial basis, and said I could matriculate if I did well that semester. 

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or student activities? 

A: Not really, though I did help curate a great festival of epic proportions there that no one came to see. It was sometime in the 80’s. It was five shows over the course of a month and featured Charlie Feathers, the McIntosh County Shouters and Jessie Mae Hemphill in super-rare Boston appearances. I also helped bring Redd Kross to campus. This was back when there wasn’t a lot of campus activity! 

Q: What was a favorite class or activity that you did at UMB? 

A: I loved all of my classes in American Studies, History, Film and Political Science. 

Q: Do you remember any of your professors or fellow students? 

A: Sure. I still keep in touch with many of them. 

Q: What are the most important things you learned at UMB? 

A: I learned so much. I got a great, expansive education from really smart people – teachers and students alike. Back then, the average age of a student was 28. There were veterans, working people, elders, etc. in all my classes.

Q: Have you been to campus since you were a student? Any thoughts on how the campus has matured? 

A: As a Dorchester native and resident as well as a City official, I get to campus fairly often. It has changed a lot since I was there. I like what the construction represents, but hope it ends in my lifetime! 

Q: What’s one thing that you did at UMass that you couldn’t have done somewhere else? 

A: I got a university education I could afford. I would not have that without UMass. It was the only option for someone like me at the time. 

Q: Where did you spend most of your time on campus? 

A: Wheatley Hall! I also spent a lot of time outside, smoking. We did that back in the 80’s. Not anymore! 

Q: Do you have any wishes for UMB on its 50th birthday? 

A: I wish the best for UMB, and implore that it continues to serve non-traditional students like me.

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