Been teaching here since 1995. Taught at Harvard and Stanford before. Ph.D. U of Chicago. Law Degree Yale.
From my perspective, excellent things at UMass Amherst include:
* Commonwealth Honors College UMass Amherst: Commonwealth College the Honors College at UMass Amherst
* Create Your Own Major Program News - Design My Major
* Special programs like the Entrepreneurship Initiative UMass EI - Home
* Faculty that is smart but accessible to students
* A general spirit of freedom
Discussion of colleges today is too saturated with status considerations. This is particularly true in Massachusetts, an old state with some very high status institutions (Harvard, etc.).
You don't come to UMass Amherst for the status thrill. You come for the education and opportunities. Hence, it's about what you can do with the vast resources offered at this large university. It's an excellent place if you want space to breathe in and to define yourself free of heavy traditions.
I think this is why we have some unhappy students: They are not making the most of it and can't count on the institution's name to make up for the time they have wasted. But most of the students I interact with are highly self-motivated and energized by their studies here.