As the 50th anniversary of Title IX approaches, UMass Lowell’s new chancellor embodies the enduring power of women’s participation in college athletics. Julie Chen was a team captain and Academic All American in both field hockey and softball while a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was later a graduate assistant coach for the Engineers field hockey team – a role that revealed to her a love for coaching and teaching.
Now, 36 years after receiving her bachelor’s, one of three degrees she earned from MIT, Chen is heralding Title IX’s golden anniversary and the success of generations of female athletes who were ensured an opportunity to compete under the law.
Those stories resonate for Chen, who credits her athletic and coaching experiences for launching her on a path that led to a Ph.D., research roles as a professor and provided some of her earliest leadership experiences. Continuing that trajectory, Chen’s tenure as UMass Lowell’s fourth chancellor, and second female leader, begins July 1.
“I was fortunate in college to have a range of experiences, including work experiences, which prepared me for my career,” says Chen. “Nothing is quite like the field of competition in focusing the efforts of a group and teaching each of its members individually how to work together towards a common goal.”
“Many leaders default to sports metaphors when they talk about what they do – whether it’s selecting teams or motivating people to achieve and exceed goals,” says Chen. “There’s a reason for that. Throughout my career, I’ve been very grateful not only for what I learned in the classroom but what I took from the field. ”
Chen, who joined the UMass Lowell faculty in 1997, is currently the vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development. She will succeed Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, who last year announced plans to step down as leader of the 18,000-student campus.
Title IX was part of a law referred to as the Education Amendments of 1972, which was signed by President Nixon on June 23, 1972. The legislation prohibits gender discrimination and is widely known for the standards for parity it creates in college athletics.
UMass Lowell student athletes – including seven women’s teams – compete in Division I.