Education and Innovation
UML’s Satellite Campus in Haverhill
After earning an associate degree in liberal arts from Northern Essex Community College last year, Paige Fournier wanted to continue her education within a reasonable commute of her home in Georgetown.
When the 23-year-old learned that UMass Lowell planned to open its first satellite campus last fall in downtown Haverhill, she knew she had found the perfect fit.
“They’ve done it up quite nicely. I like how modern and up to date it is,” says Fournier, who is working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology with aspirations to be a psychologist or therapist. “I’d also like to commend the professors I’ve met on campus so far. Everyone has been an absolute delight, which makes the classes extremely engaging. [Coming to class] never feels like a chore. Homework, not so much, but the classes are exciting.”
Fournier is among the approximately 75 students who have enrolled at the Haverhill campus each semester since the opening. The goal is to grow that number to 200. Formerly the site of a long-vacant Woolworths, the mixed-use Harbor Place building is complemented by a waterfront boardwalk, pedestrian pathways and a promenade area that is already attracting new restaurants, shops and commercial and residential development.
Steven Tello, vice provost for innovation and workforce development at UMass Lowell, says the expansion into Haverhill is aimed at adult professionals who live and work in the Greater Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire.
Students currently can enroll in bachelor’s degree programs in business administration, criminal justice and psychology on-site, and there are plans to add an MBA program with a focus on entrepreneurship and management. Haverhill students enjoy the same privileges as their counterparts in Lowell, including access to extensive online course offerings.
“We have a fantastic array of programs, and we look at the new Haverhill campus as a way to engage even more students who could benefit from them,” says Tello, who also serves as a co-director of the university’s Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2).
“From the beginning, this is where we wanted to be,” Tello says of the downtown Haverhill location. “The access to highways and the commuter rail is ideal for commuters, and the area is a great match for the university’s mission of contributing to local economic development” in collaboration with the Greater Haverhill Foundation, Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, and Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.
In fact, Harbor Place is also home to the university’s Innovation Hub Haverhill (iHub), which opened on the third floor of 2 Merrimack St. last year. Modeled after the original UMass Lowell iHub business incubator, which has operated at 110 Canal St. in Lowell since 2015, it offers dedicated office and co-working spaces to startups, meeting and event areas, a prototyping and fabrication lab, research resources, support services, access to faculty, and collaboration with mentors and sponsors.
“The best problem to have — and one which we were experiencing — is to run out of space,” Tello says of the Lowell location’s 70 startups, including biotechnology, robotics and medical device companies. “It is deeply satisfying to implement a vision and see it become so successful.”
That trend is continuing in Haverhill with tenants such as 180 South Solar, which assists homeowners in designing the best solar system.
Chief Financial Officer Dave Durgin and his three co-founders had been working out of Battle Grounds Coffee Co. in downtown Haverhill for four months when Chief Operations Officer Alan Robertson, a UMass Lowell alumnus, saw a flyer advertising iHub Haverhill last November. Robertson visited the business incubator, and the team moved in the following month.
The first obvious benefit, Durgin says, was their collective savings on coffee, which is complimentary for tenants. Other conveniences included in the monthly rental fee are 24-hour office access, printers, secure Wi-Fi, well-appointed conference rooms — which Durgin says “make you look like a million-dollar company” — assistance in hiring UMass Lowell students as interns, and frequent networking events.
“It’s exhausting trying to run a business and network at the same time, which is why it’s so nice to have all these opportunities to sharpen your skills right here,” says Durgin, who in turn has become active in Haverhill.biz efforts to improve the business and arts culture downtown. “It’s way too expensive to be in Boston, and you’re not getting this kind of added value at a regular office anyway.”
Of equal value in Durgin’s eyes, however, is the supportive nature of working alongside like-minded startup “brothers in arms” who are navigating similar ups and downs. After lending a sympathetic ear to a business owner fretting over the hiring and firing aspect of his job, Durgin imagined how “depressing” it would be to struggle alone with such issues.
So while he believes that 180 South Solar will eventually outgrow iHub Haverhill, Durgin imagines that day will be bittersweet.
“It’s the thing you least expect, but you can really feel the community behind you,” he says. “It keeps you going.”