UMass Amherst, the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts, was founded in 1863 as a land grant institution. Known at the time as Massachusetts Agricultural College (it became the University of Massachusetts in 1947), the school began with just 50 students. Enrollment rose steadily over the years, until the 1960s, when it saw a dramatic spike after the school’s president set a goal of 20,000 students by the end of the decade. During that period many buildings were erected on campus to accommodate this increase in students, including the Fine Arts Center and the Whitmore Administration Building.
The school is expanding and building again, to support a 2004 gubernatorial initiative calling for nearly double the current enrollment.
UMass’s campus extends for about a mile in all directions from its center, where classrooms and labs are located. Surrounding this central area are the dorms and dining halls, making it easy for students to travel to classes from their rooms. Farther out still are the parking lots, stables for animal science programs, and the admissions center.
Because many of the buildings on campus were designed in the 1960s, and had to be made quickly, there are a number of poured concrete structures at UMass Amherst. The school also has a number of more recent buildings, in a more modern style. Several structures are considered architectural landmarks - in particular, the Fine Arts Center was designed by Roche-Dinkeloo, who was also responsible for the UN Plaza in New York.
In many ways, students say, Amherst is the perfect college town, with free wi-fi and a number of great restaurants and bars in the area. Route 9, a major Massachusetts highway, is a short distance away and there is easy public transportation to nearby Springfield and the Six Flags amusement park located there. The town is also home to Amherst College and Hampshire College, so there are plenty of students to socialize with.
Each year, the whole senior class plants a tree. Walking around campus you can see the year that each was planted at the base. Known as “Class Tree Planting,” this tradition dates back to 1867.
During finals, students rub the Minuteman statue for good luck.
Marcus Camby (attended) is a pro basketball player for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Richard Gere (attended) is an actor who has starred in Pretty Woman and Chicago, among many other films.
William Monahan is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Departed.
Paul Theroux (1963) is a novelist and travel writer.
Jack Welch (1957) is the former chairman and CEO of General Electric.
The UMass Minutemen (and Minutewomen) have an intense following on campus. Students definitely love their sports teams and the games are always well-attended, whatever the team’s record may be.
Basketball and football remain the most popular sports at UMass. The men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four in 1996 and has produced such players as Marcus Camby and Lou Roe. Football won the national title in 1998 and last year had an admirable 13-2 record.
Rumor has it that each member of the Five College Consortium is a character from Scooby Doo. UMass is Scooby.
UMass Amherst has the oldest yearbook in New England (and third oldest in the country). It was started in 1869.
There are about forty dorms on campus, filled with students of all ages, so students rarely talk about differences between individual buildings, more about differences in areas, and each tends to reflect certain characteristics that together define UMass. The campus is divided into six living areas - Southwest, Central, Northeast, Sylvan, Orchard Hill, and North.
North features coed apartment-style living for upperclassmen. Sylvan is suite-style living where six students share three rooms and a common room. Southwest has the urban party atmosphere and houses the most students. Central and Northeast are what you'd expect to find at a New England college campus; kids sitting under trees, hanging out, brick buildings and lots of grassy areas. Orchard Hill sits on top of the campus, and while the hill is a bit of a hike - the area up there is the best for laying out on a sunny day or going sledding when the university gives students a snow day.
Sylvan is the farthest from the goings-on at UMass and because of this, kids are usually there because of an unlucky housing lottery. However, some students do decide to make it home because it’s further from the party scene and therefore easier to get work done.