Jacqueline Moloney is the first woman to serve as Chancellor of University of Massachusetts Lowell. Dr. Moloney embraced technology early, confronting the boys’ network head-on. She became a pioneer in online education making UMass Lowell a world-class leader in the field.
The married mother of two – who is also a grandmother – was the first in her family to attend college, earning both undergraduate and doctorate degrees at UMass Lowell. I looked forward to the opportunity to gain wisdom from this groundbreaking woman that’s paved the way for so many to follow in her footsteps.
I was warmly greeted by Chancellor Moloney, wearing a classic black dress with tasteful jewelry. “Jacquie, please” the Chancellor said, in the reception area, which gave me an immediate sense of who she was and set the tone for our time together as she proceeded to share her keys to success and advice for aspiring women.
“I am from a big family of nine, so growing up we were always pushed to work hard, be resilient and helpful, and plan for the future. I have a strong work ethic and I believe in other people, so I think that carries into my work.”
“Confidence is something I certainly didn’t have growing up and has not come naturally. It’s something I have developed by earning it, testing my mettle over the years and seeing what I am capable of. Each time you take on a big challenge and are successful, it builds confidence. For me, it has been a life-time of work building it.”
Personal and Professional Style:
“I have been fortunate to be surrounded by great, talented people. Having faith in other people is at the core of how I work and lead. I believe in fostering peoples’ inner creativity and intelligence and helping them apply that to grow. The magic is when you reach out to include others’ thoughts and contributions.”
Being a Woman in a Man’s World:
“I don’t really think of it as a man’s world. I don’t feel men have any greater strengths just because they are men. They are not smarter. Men are people. Women are people. I consider myself an equal.
That said, I recognize that men still probably dominate in terms of power … I have always inserted myself into those male-dominated industries and have a very deep background in technology and online education.
Coming up through the ranks in academia, I could have gone the traditional support/psychology/tutoring route for a woman, but I went into technology and saw a lot of barriers. I embraced the challenges, l learned the work, figured things out, and came up through the ranks.”
Importance of Mentors:
“I have been fortunate to have had many great male mentors in my life help and encourage me – most notably – (UMass President) Marty Meehan, who first asked me to serve as his No. 2 person here, which was quite an honor. I do see this as a partnership between men and women in advancing women. If you want things to advance, make sure you have an equal number of women in the room.”
What motivates you?
“What motivates me is knowing we change lives. We instill a deep sense of commitment to help students build their future and make a difference and I am surrounded by brilliant, creative faculty who help solve real-world problems.”
“For example, we have a student group that has developed a model for prosthetic arm for children in developing nations … another young woman developed a water filter using a milk carton and a little charcoal and is distributing this in Haiti to purify water (their biggest challenge) – at, no cost… she’s brilliant.”
“A set of twins who, as foster children, grew up living in and out of cars. They will be graduating soon, they are employed here, have internships and are doing fantastic co-ops. They have built their confidence to go out and sit next to MIT students, and feel equipped to take on world challenges. So, it’s pretty easy to get motivated every day when you can come in and make a difference in a student’s life like this.”
“Growing up in a family of nine, we didn’t have a lot of money. Our wonderful mother had no sympathy for us, and would say, “you think that’s bad? Well, let me tell you about so and so who has it worse.” She made us think about how to overcome it; resilience was instilled in us.
As a public institution, we are not deep pocketed and get lots of curveballs. Finding the funding to make sure these kids have access and realize their dreams is a challenge. You remain resilient and keep turning every stone.”
Chancellor references the poem ingrained in her entire family growing-up, “Somebody said it couldn’t be done… but so said with a chuckle, so be it, until they tried.”
“When things seem not to be going right, you find the way around it or wait and be patient, until it’s the right time.”
“I have raised two daughters (one lawyer and an educator) and have four grand children (daughters: 36 and 33) When I hear women say, ‘I never feel like I get it right’ I agree. I think a lot of women really struggle with work/life balance. I think it is still one of the biggest challenges for those who want a career.
I am very fortunate to have a wonderful husband (another lawyer) of 38 years – who is and always has been very supportive of my career. We look at marriage as team work, just as I look at everything here as team work and I think, because I come from a very strong family oriented background, I believe in family helping each other. So that’s how I have raised my kids and I watch my two girls now supporting each other as they are raise very young children.”
“I don’t think anyone has the right answer. I think many women do a great job working it out and doing the best they can with that feeling that you’re never really giving everyone everything they should have.”
“I have been very fortunate, both of my previous chancellors have been very supportive of me and my commitment to my family,” referring to Bill Hogan, (previous chancellor to Marty Meehan) and Marty Meehan was great when I had grandchildren.”
Family sport for the Moloney’s is dropping the hockey puck. They go to all the games together.
“I have many dear women friends, two of whom are scientists, who have all shared challenges in our careers from our early days, who were similarly, the only women in the room, and also had young children and supportive husbands. It was important to have those friends and that network.
Now, I am excited we are tapping into a business network of women with a deep bench of networking and are launching a Woman in Leadership Conference this June.”
6 Pieces of Advice to Aspiring Women:
- Don’t shy away from non-traditional paths considered typically male just because you don’t see other women there…yet.
- Embrace challenges and leadership roles.
- Be respectful, raise your hand and speak up.
- Never give up, especially on your dreams. If there’s an obstacle, think about how to get around it.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
- Follow your passion, the rest follows.