UML Grads and Alum Take Over LAB

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  • November 19, 2014

Local communities embrace the existence of nonprofits for their continued, missionary-style development strategies.  We often overlook those who are responsible for maintaining the ecosystem and who drive the approach.  Building a reputation for the past 91 years in greater Lowell is none other than yours truly.  Organizations such as the Lowell Association for the Blind (LAB) involved in supportive roles stick out in the growing nonprofit sector of Massachusetts, and compared with the array of obliging organizations in the New England community, LAB’s team excels at preserving its mission and continues to serve a diverse, growing, and urban community.  The downtown location invites dynamic individuals seeking to stay involved and engage in a team responsibility.

Defining LAB is to say define the core values of UMass Lowell. LAB is compiled of a team originating from the Commonwealth and delivers the value of assurance.  Several of the staff members in the portfolio are alumni or active students of the University and agreed to questionnaires regarding the collaborations with the campus.  Here is a collection of some of their responses.

We asked each of them about their undergraduate/post-graduate backgrounds:

Elizabeth Cannon: Bachelor of Science, Administration of Law and Justice

Shelagh Doherty: Bachelor of Science, Business Administration

Ally Bull: Bachelor of Arts, Psychology

Sal Kapadia: Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, Concentration: Accounting (May 2015)

Ben Webb: Bachelor of Science, Business Administration (May 2017)

Other members in the office include: Dorothy Donovan (braille instructor) who has been with the organization for decades; Maria who is involved with the VOICE program; Christie and Tiana, who help Ally with the Youth Program, are also attendees of UMass Lowell.

Let us hear about the roles at LAB!

Elizabeth: I am the Executive Director of the Lowell Association for the Blind.  I oversee all of the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Ally: I am currently the new Youth Program Coordinator at LAB.  I work with three youth groups: the youth, senior youth, and VIP programs.  The age of the kids ranges from seven to twenty.  I plan and coordinate the four programs each month (two for youth, one for senior youth, and one for VIP).  We have a great time!

Sal: I started out as an intern through the University in the Co-Op Scholarship Program in May 2012.  Coming here was one of the best decisions of my life, and I loved being here in the summer so much that I stayed on part-time during the school year to help with the Adult and Youth programs.  As time progressed and we earned grants for technology, the office needed some assistance with picking out merchandise and setting up access, and I had previously worked with computer maintenance and thus slid into the role of IT coordinator.  Currently, I am the IT Coordinator. Primarily, I am responsible for maintaining the website, keeping in touch with the community through social media campaigns, coordinating with staff about upcoming events, and creating and promoting the LAB Newsletter.  If you haven’t already done so, please like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, look out for some new video projects on YouTube in the coming year, and subscribe to our newsletter mailing list on Constant Contact! 

Ben: I am a social media intern at LAB and I’ve been here for a semester now.  My job requires me to do a lot with the Twitter and Facebook pages and occasionally anything else around the office.  Occasionally I am required to work with my coworkers, which is never a problem because of classes at UML that encourage group work.  I would say I fit in well with LAB because everyone here has welcomed me in with open arms and helped me with anything I need. I am still learning new things every week, like proper blind etiquette and also software functionality with Constant Contact and Photoshop.

Shelagh has the pleasure of being the first person to greet the clients as she sits at the front of the office answering phone calls, keeping track of meetings, organizing Adult programs with Elizabeth, and maintaining the donor management system.

Everyone in the organization interacts daily with the clients.   Regardless of title, LAB clutches onto a promise of equality: crafting, serving, cleaning, you name it!  Everybody pitches in to keep the place running to the best of its capacity.

What were some of your favorite classes taken at UML?

Elizabeth: I enjoyed all the classes for the Criminal Justice major, but also enjoyed the Psychology classes that I took for a minor in Psychology.

Shelagh: My favorite courses were in Marketing. The creativity required in those classes really allowed me to express myself.

Ally: I definitely enjoyed my Psychology Practicum with Dr. Gloria Seeman.  This is the class that originally got me involved with Lowell Association for the Blind and really influenced my future.  Getting involved in the community was an incredible experience.  Another favorite of mine was the Social Theory (I and II) with Dr. Daniel Egan.  This class especially had a heavy influence on how I view society and the world around me…I was also involved with the radio station at WUML. This club was very influential on my leadership skills. As an intern, I was given the opportunity to become a licensed DJ on air. Once achieving this, I continued to get involved with the station and eventually became the Office Manager. This position required me to be responsible and consistent. It is great that UML offers this program to students because there is a lot to learn from this group!

Sal: I would have to go with First Year Management Seminar as one of my favorite courses because of the content and because I met Dr. Finch, who then referred me to LAB.  Also, I finished Accounting Information Systems with Dr. Strickland this fall semester, which really helped me develop my role in Information Systems.  Being an accounting nerd, I have to say I’ve appreciated all of my accounting courses with Dr. Strickland, Dr. Suh, Dr. Tate, and Dr. Li. 

Ben: Some of my favorite classes at UML have occurred during this semester.  My nutrition class was pretty interesting to me and I’m definitely glad I took it as an elective.  My Professional Communications class with Professor Lazer was kept interesting, even though it was a 3-hour class.  I learned many useful life skills and presentation skills.

UMass Lowell focuses on teaching a lot of core values that represent the nonprofit world. How has the University helped you develop into your role?

Ally: UMass Lowell did a great job at targeting specific skills I would need for my major. As a psych student, I was taught how to communicate and work with others, as well as get involved with the community. Both the practicum (mentioned earlier) and my Intro to Disabilities class encouraged me to get involved with the field. I was also involved with the radio station at WUML. This club was very influential on my leadership skills. As an intern, I was given the opportunity to become a licensed DJ on air. Once achieving this, I continued to get involved with the station and eventually became the Office Manager. This position required me to be responsible and consistent. It is great that UML offers this program to students because there is a lot to learn from this group!

Sal: The Manning School of Business at UML has offered classes that help me make wiser personal decisions. Interacting day-to-day with the clients reminds me of the focus on presentation skills in my core business classes. We learned in Professional Communications about the importance of word choice and clarity; that is exactly what speaking to our clients is all about. What sets LAB apart from the other organizations is how we create relationships with our clients. The University offers great, accessible faculty that encourage us to meet with them outside of class and approach them for our college and professional career. UMass Lowell is undoubtedly the reason I am the person I am today.

Some of the staff members have lived in Lowell. Here are their opinions about the city.

Elizabeth: I was born and raised in Lowell and I still live on the street that I grew up on.  Lowell is like a small town.  Everyone knows everybody! 

Shelagh was also brought up around the corner of Elizabeth and loves the many conveniences of Lowell, especially being able to come in and help at LAB! Shelagh was formerly President of the Board of Directors and has been involved with LAB since her teenage years!

Since the University is right down the street, we thought it would be appropriate to gather some comments about noticeable changes to the city as an effect of UML.

Elizabeth is a Lowell native. UML has grown dramatically over the last 8-10 years. It is great to have both UML and Middlesex Community College in Lowell. In recent years, I have seen an effort to have UML students get some real world experience in addition to their academic studies with internships, co-ops and service learning. I think this provides the student with great experience to draw on when going out into the work world. It also provides, in our case, some much-needed assistance. Students bring an energy and enthusiasm to local businesses and nonprofits.

As far as Shelagh goes, her father was a professor for 40 years starting with Lowell Technological Institute, so she has seen the progression for a great portion of her life. Seeing that LTI was part of her childhood, UML as it stands today is a phenomenal advantage to the landscape of the city!

All we hear are positive things about these UMass Lowell candidates. What if the University were to send some more help your way?

According to Elizabeth, LAB also has members of the Board of Directors who are faculty and graduates of the University or in Graduate Programs at the University.  She would definitely hire a UML grad! The UML students that LAB has worked with are committed and dedicated.  They are willing to help with a variety of tasks whether they are here 1 hour a week or 10 hours a week.  They come in ready and willing to work. UML students and alumnae help in all areas of the organization. Elizabeth says she would not hesitate to hire UML graduates for future positions at LAB.

New hires, especially college graduates, often make employers nervous because classroom learning does not typically focus on real-world experience. However, we’ve gathered that nonprofits like to reach out to as many young community members as possible. How do you think having staff from UML helps make the team at LAB more dynamic?

Elizabeth: It is interesting that so many of the LAB staff is UML graduates without even trying!  Several staff come to LAB as interns or volunteers and have joined the staff.  They have found their passion for helping the blind/visually impaired.  Their willingness to come in and volunteer time gets them familiar with the programs and services of the organization and get the LAB staff familiar with them it only natural that when a position opens up that they would be a natural fit. 

At the end of the day, our neighbors all agree how Lowell Association for the Blind is a valuable asset to the Merrimack Valley. To volunteers, clients, and staff members, this place is a hub where they can create meaningful relationships and memories that will last a lifetime. UMass Lowell’s curriculum helps the association recruit motivated individuals who can keep the mission alive. Thank you, UMass Lowell.

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