A UMass Love Story 20 Years in the Making

Before the “romantic” days of swiping left or right to find that special someone on your phone, the “old school” way of meeting people through friends, colleagues or while attending college was really the only option.

Celebrating all things romance and love, we are taking you back 20 years – sharing a UMass love story about one of our very own.

Meet Som Seng, UMassOnline Director of Marketing, who shares how she met her now-husband and forever #MCM, Jay, 20 years ago while they were both undergraduate students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


UMassOnline: How did you and Jay meet at UMass Amherst?

Som and Jay: Jay and I met through mutual friends when we were living in the Cance Hall in Southwest – sophomores in college. In fact, my best friend who officiated our wedding was our match maker – our cupid (AM, you know you are!)

Jay and I would run into each other in the common room or at parties. He would leave little messages on the white board on my door saying how much he liked running into me and how we needed to make a real date, which is a perfect segue into the next question.

UMassOnline: Where was your first date?

Som and Jay: We had a casual first date at the Subway at the Holyoke Mall. I think Jay needed to get new clothes, so I suggested going to the mall and grabbing food at the food court.  It was perfect – fun, low key and no stress for two college students on a tight budget.

Our official first date was at Pasta E Basta (I hope it’s still there).  We sat by the windows people watching and I ate my meal and Jay’s too. I was impressed at just how sweet and kind this 19-year-old cutie was and still is 20 years later.  Actually, at first, I wasn’t sure if he was putting on a show to impress me.  After a few months, I realized that it was 100% genuine and that he truly is good to the core. 

UMassOnline: What was your favorite date night spot when attending UMass Amherst?

Som: We loved Mexican food at Buenos, pizza at Antonio’s (“hot cheese up front”), subs and salads at Primos, and sandwiches at Black Sheep.

We loved Panda East and House of Teriyaki (HOT on North Pleasant St.).  Pasta E Basta and Pinocchio’s for Italian were so delicious!  And, once in a while Monkey Bar and Judy’s…those popovers were amazing. And, when we lived off campus we loved going to North Hampton – East Side Grille. This question is definitely making me hungrywink.

UMassOnline:  When did you both graduate from UMass Amherst? With what degree(s)?

Som: I graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Marketing, with Honors.  And, Jay graduated a bit later with an Exercise Science degree.

UMassOnline:  How did Jay propose?

Som:  Jay proposed at a ski resort in Vermont.  His cousin and now wife were there with us to help celebrate. Jay went snowboarding that day while I stayed in and went to the spa. That night, we went out to dinner and came back to the hotel for a champagne toast and that was when he proposed. And, a total surprise! He did a great job. It was so sweet and special. 

UMassOnline: If you could relive one experience from your time at UMass Amherst, what would it be and why?

Som and Jay: There are so many… Seriously, some of the best years of our lives. We learned so much. Got a great education that we can be proud of.  And, we met the most wonderful people who are still our best friends and soulmates.  I think I would relive meeting Jay and my best friends (you know who are!) because the experiences wouldn’t be as special without them. 

UMassOnline: What was your favorite meal to eat at the UMass Dining Hall?

Som and Jay: Ha, back then the dining halls were not as amazing as they are now. Our go to meal was definitely chicken nuggets.

UMassOnline: Som, why did you decide to pursue your MBA at UMass Lowell after earning your bachelor’s degree in business administration in marketing from the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst?

Som: If you couldn’t already tell, I’m the biggest UMass fan! I wouldn’t be here today without my degrees from UMass and the support of my parents, family and friends to help me meet my educational goals.

I loved everything about Isenberg from the faculty (Brashear, Debevec, Iyer, Schewe), Dean Hanno, who made UMass feel like home, my advisor Melvin, and my fellow students who became lifelong friends.

I’m forever indebted to UMass and Isenberg for those critical four years of overall growth. For my MBA, I wanted to do it online as I was in the online space, and I wanted to try another UMass Campus.

What’s great about the UMass system is that there are five campuses so there’s something for everyone. I explored UMass Lowell’s Online MBA, and quickly realized it was the perfect fit for me because I needed a program that offered a 100% online MBA program so I could continue working. My MBA took my education and career to the next level.  I’m now looking into pursuing my Ph.D. 

UMassOnline: After graduating from UMass Amherst, why did you decide to work for the College? How long have you been working for the University of Massachusetts system?

Som: I have to give huge thanks to Former Isenberg School of Management Dean, Dennis M. Hanno, who is now the president of Wheaton College and Professor Thomas Brashear. During my senior year at UMass Amherst, I was having a hard time figuring out what I would do once I graduated because I didn’t want to go the corporate path like my peers.

Both mentors helped me realize that higher education was the industry I wanted to build my career in. I wanted to do something good and to contribute to society for the better.  And, what industry is better than helping people pursue their passions through education to better their lives?  And what better University to work for – my ala mater, my employer, really my second family.

UMass has been part of my life since I was 18 years old, half of my lifetime. If it weren’t for UMass and the people I met through my journey, life would have been very different.  And, I wouldn’t change one thing about it… my experiences at UMass helped make me who I am and continue to help me grow as a human being daily.  I’m one lucky girl!   

UMassOnline: What advice would you give to anyone looking to pursue their MBA online?

Som: You are asking the wrong person because I’m so biased. I’m UMass’ biggest fan so I would say choose UMass, there’s really no other choice smiley.

I would first look accreditation. Make sure the school is regionally accredited and the business school is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Next, look at experience. For example, the University of Massachusetts system has been offering high-quality education for over 150 years staring with its flagship campus – UMass AmherstUMassOnline has been at the forefront of adult education and online education since the 1970’s.

Lastly, but very important, look at student support and career services. These services will help you stay motivated and help you succeed in your academic career.  And, take advantage of career services as it can help you get that first job, or promotion that you’re looking for.

UMassOnline:  How do you juggle being a mom and working full-time? Any advice for working moms considering earning their online college degree?

Som: When I completed my online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree at UMass Lowell, I was working full-time and hadn’t had kids yet.  And, that was hard.  But it was the best decision I made to move my life and career forward.

Fast forward a few years and now I am a working mom, testing out my Ph.D. and juggling so many things to be the best parent possible.  My advice is YOU CAN DO IT. When it comes to any decision, it’s getting up the courage to say YES, I CAN DO THIS.  So mentally, you have to believe in yourself.

Then, it’s time-management and getting support from your family and friends.  Time-management sounds easy but when you have a lot going on, it can feel overwhelming.  For me it was just getting up a bit earlier in the day to get some work done while everyone else was asleep and take advantage of your free time during lunch and in the evenings to chip away at schoolwork. Also, don’t get behind.  Stay on top of the syllabus, readings, homework, group chats, etc. 

Even with being a working mom who is earning her online college degree, you still deserve (and need) some sanity and “quality of life”, otherwise you will feel exhausted and burnt-out. Make sure to set aside time for yourself and your family. Another tip is block everything in your calendar so you can visually see how you are setting time for work, school, family, friends, fun and relaxation.

Everyone needs help sometimes. Take advantage of the support system around you. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to rely on your friends, family, peers and faculty.  If you are having a hard time, reach out to the community!  They are there to help.  We all have our struggles, and when you are open about it, you’ll find for the most part, others are going through the same thing.  And, that you can help one another.

Last, but not least, be kind to yourself.  Don’t talk yourself out of it because you don’t think you’re giving it your all. REMEMBER you are giving it your best. You are a rock star, and you can do this. Keep telling yourself that this is hard but it will be one of the most rewarding thing you do for yourself and for your family.

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