John Cunningham, PhD, Named Interim Chief Executive Officer of UMassOnline

John Cunningham, PhD, Named Interim Chief Executive Officer of UMassOnline

Six-Month Assignment Sets Stage for National Search for a Permanent CEO

Chief Objective is to Complete Strategic Blueprint for Continued Growth

SHREWSBURY, MA – July 24, 2012 – University of Massachusetts President Robert L. Caret, PhD, announced the appointment of Dr. John Cunningham as Interim CEO of UMassOnline. Dr. Cunningham, who has held a series of faculty and university leadership positions at UMass for more than 25 years, is also currently serving as Vice President for Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and International Relations for the UMass System. He replaces former UMassOnline CEO Dr. Ken Udas who recently joined the private higher education sector.

Dr. Cunningham, who in his role as Interim CEO will be reporting to President Caret, has been a member of the faculty at UMass Amherst since 1986. During the 90's he was the Principal Investigator on three USDA education grants: incorporating computer-mediated telecommunications in instruction, developing an internet "bulletin board" for nutrition education, and the "Interactive Distance Education and Access (IDEA) Leadership Project." He also served as deputy provost at UMass Amherst for over a decade, working with the academic deans and the Faculty Senate, and supervising the directors of campus-wide undergraduate academic support units to ensure the quality and availability of the general education program. In addition, he oversaw the Division of Continuing and Professional Education and the University Without Walls, units with substantial online portfolios delivered through UMassOnline.

“John is an ideal fit for this transitional role while we conduct a national search for a permanent CEO,” said President Caret. “He has both a broad and deep understanding of the UMass system. He brings a strong faculty perspective as well as a proven understanding of executive leadership responsibilities and demands at the University. He has had hands-on experience with our Continuing Education initiatives at our flagship campus. And, he was innovating successful online learning solutions long before many anticipated their broad use in higher education today.”

According to President Caret, Dr. Cunningham’s chief priority will be to complete a process of operational review of UMassOnline to fine tune the unit’s plan to continue advancing its competitive position and leveraging its strategic advantages in an increasingly competitive and changing marketplace.

Dr. Cunningham holds a PhD in nutritional sciences from the University of Maryland together with undergraduate and masters degrees in biology from Purdue University. He serves as the Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and is a Fellow of the College. In 2007 he was appointed by Governor Patrick to serve on the Massachusetts Public Health Council.

About UMassOnline
UMassOnline, the online learning consortium of the University of Massachusetts, provides marketing and technology support for UMass’ online offerings that enable students, professionals, and lifelong learners to take courses anywhere, anytime. With over 100 undergraduate and graduate degree, certificate and professional development programs and more than 1,500 courses available from UMass, UMassOnline’s marketing and technology services support one of the largest accredited online programs available. For more about UMassOnline, go to or visit our blog at

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Media Inquiries:

Somvathana Seng
Interim Director of Marketing