LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell opens next week with more students than ever before – 17,500 – and a new chancellor who has big plans for the first 90 days of the new academic year.

Chancellor Jacquie Moloney’s First 90 initiative (#First90) will include a campus engagement tour featuring forums with faculty, staff and students, a variety of events involving the university and the introduction of a new micro-grant program to spur innovation and other advances designed to help UMass Lowell achieve its goals.

Beginning with Convocation on Monday, Aug. 31 and continuing through November, Moloney will participate in events across campus including forums with faculty, staff and students to talk about opportunities and challenges as she leads the university into the second phase of its 10-year strategic plan, “UMass Lowell 2020.”

“I am looking forward to the ideas that will emerge during the first 90 days of my first academic year as chancellor. We are in the midst of an exciting transformation and have set ambitious goals in our strategic plan. Our success continues to result from effective collaboration between our dedicated faculty, staff, students and alumni,” said Moloney, who played a critical role in developing and executing the strategic plan in the eight years she served as executive vice chancellor before being named chancellor on Aug. 3. Through “UMass Lowell 2020,” the university has seen unprecedented growth, including a 50 percent increase in enrollment, gains in student success and national rankings, and the addition of 10 new buildings on campus.

Moloney’s first 90 days will include awarding the Chancellor’s 2020 Challenge Grants – 20 micro-grants of up to $1,000 – to faculty, students, staff, alumni and members of the community who need funding for projects that advance the goals outlined in the strategic plan. A committee comprising representatives of each of those groups will identify recipients of the $1,000 grants on a rolling basis in response to applications that will be submitted online. Additional events and announcements related to the chancellor’s first 90 days will be announced in the coming weeks.

This week, UMass Lowell welcomes its largest-ever group of new students, more than 2,800 freshmen and transfers, who also boast the highest average SAT score (1172, up more than 100 points since fall 2008) and the highest average high-school GPA (3.54, up from 3.18 in fall 2008) in the university’s history.

Students begin arriving on Friday, Aug. 28 in preparation for the first day of classes on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and will be greeted by a variety of campus upgrades and events, including Convocation.

Convocation on Monday, Aug. 31 officially opens the academic year and kicks off the college experience for new students. The occasion marks the first major event Moloney will preside over as chancellor. Clancy Martin, an acclaimed writer and philosopher, will deliver a keynote speech encouraging students to embrace new ideas and develop a sound moral compass as they step into adulthood. Convocation will be held at 10 a.m. at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, 300 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Lowell.

UMass Lowell’s opening week programs are designed to introduce new students to each other and the campus, to welcome returning students back and to inspire all to pursue their passions through scholarship and civic and athletic engagement, both at the university and in the community. A festival exclusively for first-year students, an open-mic night, extreme dodgeball tournament, and hiking and surfing day trips are among the activities planned.

On Move-in Day on Friday, Aug. 28 at 10:30 a.m., Moloney will greet some of the more than 1,300 resident first-year students who will participate in the university’s living-learning communities, including freshmen enrolled in UMass Lowell’s Honors College. Living-learning communities are located throughout university housing, allowing students with similar interests and goals to live together and take part in programs that enhance their educational experiences. Communities have a variety of themes, including the Honors College, as well as business innovation, academic and career exploration, the arts, and health and wellness, among others. A record number of UMass Lowell students – 4,300 – will live in university housing this fall.

Friday, Aug. 28 also features season openers for two of UMass Lowell’s 18 Division I sports teams. Women’s field hockey will face off against the Quinnipiac Bobcats at 1 p.m., followed by a men’s soccer match between the River Hawks and Monmouth University at 7 p.m. Both games will be held at UMass Lowell’s Cushing Field Complex, North Campus, 275 Riverside St., Lowell.

Students and parents coming to UMass Lowell will see infrastructure improvements at every turn. The entrance of Fox Hall, the university’s largest residence hall and home to its biggest dining hall, has been remodeled. The North Campus quad, which dates back to the university’s origins more than 100 years ago, is being converted back to green space after many years as a parking lot. Renovations continue at the McGauvran Student Center, which will boast 52,000 square feet of dining space, classrooms and a learning commons, and is slated to open on South Campus early next year. Across the Merrimack River, construction continues on the 54,000-square-foot Pulichino Tong Business Building – the future home of the Manning School of Business – which will include a four-story atrium, simulated trading room, 10 classrooms and 150 offices and collaboration spaces. The building is scheduled to open in 2017.