John Chuma, a senior in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and an outstanding pole-vaulter on the UMass Amherst Men’s Track and Field Team, has been selected as the university’s 2018 Male Spring Scholar-Athlete Award winner. Born in Worcester and a 2014 graduate of Westborough High School in Massachusetts, Chuma is the son of Todd Chuma and Pamela Willard. During a remarkably consistent career, Chuma has pole-vaulted between 15 feet and 16 feet at least 26 times and holds the UMass outdoor record in that event.
Chuma and other award winners, including senior rower Aiste Balciunaite of the Chemical Engineering Department, were honored at a luncheon sponsored by the UMASS Sports Luncheon Committee and held in the Berkshire Room at the Berkshire Dining Commons on Wednesday, May 2.
In addition to his athletic feats, Chuma is also a mechanical engineering student with a 3.34 GPA.
“Anybody who survives our program with that kind of GPA should be proud of himself,” as MIE Professor David Schmidt commented at the awards banquet. “We have demanding courses with a high attrition rate. How anyone can get through our curriculum while being a varsity athlete is beyond me.”
Chuma has pole-vaulted for the Minutemen for four years, competing in five Atlantic 10 Championships and collecting one silver and two bronze medals while scoring points at both the indoor and outdoor A-10 meets in 2015. Chuma competed in five New England Championships, posting three scoring performances, as well as placing at the IC4A Championships in 2016. He ranks third all-time on the UMass indoor list and holds the program’s outdoor record at 15 feet, 11.25 inches.
While flying high in the pole vault, Chuma has also exemplified the term “scholar-athlete” by excelling in the classroom.
“Jack took my junior-level heat transfer course and did so well that I invited him to work with me the following year as an undergraduate [teaching assistant],” said Professor Schmidt. “That means I trust Jack to know the content, show up to help me proctor exams, and help me grade.”
Later Schmidt added that “Best of all, however, is what Jack did when he wasn’t at UMass. Mark Twain said, ‘Don’t let school get in the way of your education,’ and Jack sure didn’t. While working as an intern at E-Ink last summer, he was co-inventor on two provisional patents (if all goes well, these turn into real patents after 18 months).”
As Schmidt concluded, “Two patents is more than many faculty have. And just to be clear, to earn co-inventor status you have to make a genuine intellectual contribution to the concept. You don’t get to be a co-inventor by just wiping down the counters and sharpening pencils.” (May 2018)