The commencement season will forever be one of my favorite times of the academic year. The ceremony at each University System of Maryland (USM) institution is such a wonderful celebration of what
we accomplish as a community of students, faculty, and staff working together. When the final spring 2014 graduate walked across the stage not too many days ago, USM institutions had awarded more
than 36,400 degrees this academic year, a record number. This includes approximately 75 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, 66 percent of all degrees in the STEM fields, and 80 percent of all
professional degrees awarded in Maryland.
I had the privilege of offering remarks at the University of Maryland, College Park’s (UMCP’s) spring commencement. Since this is one of the last USM commencements I will attend as chancellor,
the occasion was somewhat bittersweet. After 50 years in public higher education—including 12 years as chancellor—I announced in May that I will step down from my position once the USM Board of
Regents appoints my successor. Each stage of my career—faculty member, administrator, university president—brought its own unique joy and sense of accomplishment. But it has been my time as
USM chancellor that has truly been the capstone of my career.
One of my proudest accomplishments has been the relationship that the USM has built with our extended family—business and community leaders, elected officials, advocates, and so many others
not directly affiliated with the USM, but who nevertheless support it. Together, we have taken the USM—which already stood as a national leader in higher education—and made it into a national
model. In key areas such as enhancing access, improving affordability, driving economic growth, increasing diversity and social equity, meeting workforce demands, and advancing excellence
and innovation, our collective impact is nothing short of remarkable. I deeply appreciate your commitment to the USM and trust that this productive relationship will only grow in the years to come.
END-OF-SESSION NEWS FROM ANNAPOLIS
The impact of our collective efforts was made clear throughout the 2014 legislative session in Annapolis. Working closely with Governor Martin O’Malley and legislative leaders, the USM was
able to weather a difficult session. Shortly after Governor O’Malley submitted a FY 2015 budget proposal for the USM that called for essentially “flat funding,” Maryland’s financial situation
took a turn for the worse, with a projected budget shortfall of $200 million-$300 million. Revised projections of this magnitude prompted cuts throughout state government.
By the end of the session in April, our budget resolution was as good as we could have hoped. While the USM did not benefit from any enhancement funding, we did receive a funding increase
for a 2 percent “tuition buy-down” to enable us to keep our undergraduate tuition increase to a modest 3 percent. And thanks to a significant transfer from the USM fund balance, we ended
with sufficient funding to meet mandatory cost increases.
In terms of the capital budget, the Maryland House and Senate approved every USM project submitted by Governor O’Malley, and then added a few other items, totaling more than $238 million.
Two pieces of legislation were passed in Annapolis that will benefit the state and the USM significantly. The first is the Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise Zone (RISE Zone)
Program. Through this program, our institutions will be able to partner with state, county, or municipal entities in designated “RISE Zones” to provide businesses with tax credits,
access to assistance, and other incentives. By supporting the potential for economic growth coming out of the state’s universities, we will see more businesses grow, innovate, and
prosper in partnership with our institutions.
The second piece of legislation creates the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Program and E-Nnovation Fund. Through this initiative, the state will match a university’s fundraising
efforts to support professorships, create an endowed chair, or support related private-public partnerships in specific areas, such as cybersecurity, quantum computing, nanotechnology,
neurosciences, and other cutting-edge STEM disciplines. This is precisely the kind of initiative that will enhance Maryland’s science and technology “ecosystem” by attracting more of
the best and the brightest educators and researchers to our campuses.
FAREWELL AND CONGRATULATIONS
As the fiscal year draws to a close, so does the one-year term of Student Regent Samim Manizade. On behalf of the entire USM community, I thank Samim for his service and wish him
much success as he continues to pursue a dual degree in physics and engineering in the joint Salisbury University-UMCP program.
Congratulations to Regent Pat Florestano, who was honored by The Baltimore Business Journal with an Outstanding Director Award for 2014.
Congratulations are also due Regent Tom Slater. At the 10th annual Western Maryland Democratic Summit, he received the 2014 Summit Founders Award in recognition of his vision and
service to Maryland.
SCHMOKE TO JOIN UB AS PRESIDENT IN JULY
The USM Board of Regents has named Kurt L. Schmoke as the new president of the University of Baltimore (UB), effective in July. Schmoke is the interim provost and general counsel at
Howard University. He served as mayor of Baltimore from 1987 to 1999.
Schmoke brings a combination of higher education, legal, public policy, and community service experience, as well as a deep understanding of the City of Baltimore and the surrounding
region to this leadership position. President Bob Bogomolny’s 12 years as UB’s president were a period of remarkable transformation for the university, which expanded both academically
and physically. I have the utmost confidence that Kurt Schmoke will build upon this legacy.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF NOTE
In the U.S. News & World Report's 2015 Best Graduate Schools ranking issued in March, UMCP once again earned high rankings, with 19 programs and specialties in the top 10. At the
University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), the Law and Health Care Program at the Francis King Carey School of Law was ranked first in the nation.
Also in March, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance released its list of the 100 best values in public higher education, a measure that takes into account both affordability and quality.
Honored with this distinction are UMCP; Salisbury University; University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); and Towson University.
The website HBCU Lifestyle earlier this year reported findings from the Online College Database that ranked historically black colleges by graduates’ average starting salary. All
three of the USM’s historically black institutions earned rankings in the top 25: Bowie State University, No. 2; University of Maryland Eastern Shore, No. 7; and Coppin State University, No. 23.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granted more than $200,000 to the USM’s Center for Academic Innovation (CAI). The grant will support CAI’s efforts to bring together faculty and
administrative leaders from across our institutions to assess trends, analyze results, research what works, and develop “best practices” in support of academic transformation in Maryland and beyond.
A FEW FINAL WORDS
Twenty-five years ago, when I was serving as president of UMCP, the five “University of Maryland” institutions and the six institutions of the Board of Trustees of State Universities
and Colleges were merged by state legislation to become the University of Maryland System (the name was changed to University System of Maryland more than a decade later). At the time,
it never crossed my mind that I might one day serve as chancellor. Yet here I am, humbled to think that as the USM is celebrating its 25th anniversary, I have had the honor of serving
as chancellor for almost one-half of that history.
It has been a remarkable 25 years. In 1988, the year the system was established, our institutions brought in $375 million in external contracts and grants. Today that number is up more
than 200 percent to $1.2 billion. In 1988, our institutions conferred some 18,200 degrees; that number has now doubled to more than 36,400. And in 1988, our institutions
enrolled 100,000 students. Today we enroll more than 153,000 stateside, and our student body is far more diverse and reflective of Maryland’s population
As Shakespeare once observed, the past is prologue. With this impressive past, the USM is poised to have an even more profound impact in the years to come.
LET ME HEAR FROM YOU
As always, I very much appreciate hearing from you. If you would like to offer feedback on this letter or any USM news, please write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.