Report from USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman to USM Board of Regents on Feb. 19

Baltimore, Md. (Feb. 19, 2021)Thank you, Madam Chair. And I add my thanks to Ms. Thompson.

As Chair Gooden acknowledged, this meeting marks one year since I first addressed you as chancellor. I’m grateful for the successes we’ve shared over the last year, and the work we’ve done to serve our students, advance our System, and support our state.

Since we last convened for our regular meeting in December, our universities have enjoyed some extraordinary achievements. I’ll share several this morning, and ask you to read my full report on the USM website.

I’ll start with growth in our campus facilities and academic programs.

Towson University’s new Science Complex just opened. It’s now the largest academic building on TU’s campus. Let me just cherry-pick a few features—a planetarium, an observatory, a rooftop greenhouse, an outdoor classroom leading to an arboretum—plus classrooms, labs, etc. The building will be transformational in supporting Towson’s extraordinary STEM programming. Congratulations.

At Bowie State University, LAIKA, one of Hollywood’s best known and most awarded animation studios—is building the nation’s first stop-motion animation studio at an HBCU. The company says this partnership with Bowie is central to diversifying what is currently a racially monolithic animation industry.

Bowie isn’t the only HBCU with tech news: UMES is adding Digital Media Studies to its majors. And Apple has enlisted the university as a Community Center for Coding and Creativity, meaning UMES will teach programming languages for Apple’s X-code platform.

Coppin will add Applied Molecular Biology and Polymer and Materials Science to its master’s programs this fall.

UMCES just launched its first-ever professional certificate program—a certificate in Environmental Management for Sustainability, hosted on the edX platform. I’m certain there will be much more in the way of certificate program offerings across the System going forward.

UMBC’s new BS in Translational Life Science Technology just won the inaugural BioBuzz award for enhancing the regional biotech workforce.

And two new degree programs will launch this fall at the Universities at Shady Grove, as we expand offerings at our regional higher ed centers: From Salisbury University, a BFA in Graphic Design. And from College Park, a BS in Biocomputational Engineering.

The University of Maryland Global Campus is innovating how it serves learners through innovative business partnerships: A new collaboration between UMGC and Amazon Web Services offers students a combination of paid immersive learning and on-the-job training with Amazon. And a partnership with ManTech, a leading defense contractor, provides employees no-cost access to UMGC’s master’s program in Data Analytics.

Turning to our success in attracting gifts and grants, I have to start with the School of Nursing at UMB, which has just received a nearly $14 million commitment from Bill and Joanne Conway. The gift funds an additional 345 Conway Scholarships, covering in-state tuition and fees. That brings the total number of Conway Scholarships to 830—an incredible gift enlarging and sustaining Maryland’s nursing workforce.

College Park’s School of Public Health received a $1.5 million gift from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to prepare a new generation of public health leaders, whom we now need more than ever.

UMES received $2.25 million in scholarship funding from the USDA, to help fill the national shortfall in graduates trained to work in agriculture, food, and renewable natural resources.

And, finally, the National Science Foundation has awarded $1 million to Towson so that the university can continue its work in expanding access to STEM education.

Of course, institutional excellence is really the aggregate of individual excellence. And we’re deeply proud of the people who’ve chosen to call the USM home.

Two UMCES scientists—Associate Professor Lora Harris and PhD candidate Christina Goethel—have been named Fulbright Scholars, and will use their awards to continue their work in Finland and Iceland, respectively.

College Park adds six Fulbright Scholars to the University System’s total. And, once again, the University System is a Top Producer of Fulbright students: College Park, with 16 awards; UMBC, with 11, and Salisbury University, with six. At a time when any travel—especially international travel—is difficult, I thank all of these scholars and students for their dedication to global research and learning.

At Frostburg State University, BFA student Will Baxter won a top international design competition and, with it, a coveted two-year deal with an Australia-based design company. Meanwhile, Frostburg’s Briá Johnson won a spot in the Department of Energy’s prestigious Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship program, where her research on a corrosion- and heat-resistant alloy was supervised by top DOE scientists.

Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at UMB’s School of Medicine, was named 2020’s co-Marylander of the Year by the Baltimore Sun for her leadership of the massive NIH effort to test COVID vaccines developed under the country’s Operation Warp Speed initiative.

And, finally, in a remarkable show of abiding excellence, the University System can boast its third consecutive alum to serve in the U.S. surgeon general’s post. President Biden has tapped Towson University alumna Susan Orsega as acting surgeon general, one of few nurses to have ever assumed the role. She succeeds UMBC’s Jerome Adams, who, in turn, succeeded acting Surgeon General Sylvia Trent-Adams, an alumna of both UMBC and UMB.

Let me conclude these campus highlights with a few mentions of the terrific media coverage our institutions have gotten recently. The Baltimore Sun consulted UB President Kurt Schmoke for his thoughts on the future of Baltimore, as we continue our reckoning with racial inequity and injustice. The Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed ran lengthy profiles of UMGC President Greg Fowler, and the role that UMGC will play in the future of online and global education.

The leaders of the USM’s three regional higher education centers—USG, the USM at Hagerstown, and the USM at Southern Maryland—published a piece in Maryland Matters on how regional centers will figure prominently in higher ed’s “new normal.” Forbes magazine ranked Coppin’s psychology program one of the best in the nation in terms of quality and affordability. And an NBC affiliate in DC profiled Bowie State in its story on surging enrollment at U.S. HBCUs—fitting given that, this year, Bowie is enjoying its second-highest enrollment ever.

Before turning to our FY22 budget outlook, let me mention a couple of Systemwide initiatives.

The USM’s Maryland Momentum Fund has added another investment to our portfolio—this time, $500,000 for ed-tech company Voxy EnGen, a language learning platform launched by College Park alums that helps immigrants and refugees acquire the language skills they need for workplace success and civic engagement. The Momentum Fund is now invested in 19 System-affiliated companies. And our nearly $7 million total investment is matched 6:1 with $43 million from co-investors.

Now, I’ve gotten through a good bit of my remarks without once mentioning COVID testing, monitoring, quarantine, or isolation. But we do not let our guard down—of course we don’t. Let me just say that the spring semester is largely going well so far. Our rigorous efforts in disease prevention and containment are working.

At the start of this week, all campuses were under 1 percent positivity—well below their county averages. But, of course, if the enhanced testing we’ve undertaken shows an increase in positivity, universities will take action to further reduce the risk of transmission. I thank everyone for their vigilance, their compliance, and their hard, hard work.

Turning now to the governor’s FY22 budget proposal, you know as well as I that the past 12 months have featured a steady stream of bad budget news. At the end of FY20—between revenue lost from event cancellations and housing and fee refunds, and costs associated with new safety protocols and online learning—the USM took a budget hit of $173 million. In FY21, our revenue losses deepened and our costs climbed, leaving us with a $542 million budget hole. That’s a two-year shortfall of $715 million.

Of course, we’ve taken aggressive steps to address this shortfall. We implemented a near-freeze on new hires, eliminated vacant positions, cut discretionary spending, enacted temporary salary reductions, deferred construction and facilities maintenance, and drew down our fund balance.

Frankly, we don’t have any more to cut. And so a significant reduction in the governor’s FY22 budget proposal would have moved us from a difficult position to a devastating one.

That’s why I’m relieved that the governor’s proposal of $1.4 billion in state support next year reflects a cut of only half-a-percent from our FY21 adjusted budget. And even with this reduction, we’ll be able to limit our tuition increase next year to 2 percent for in-state undergraduates.

The bottom line is that this budget proposal demonstrates—at a time of enormous fiscal pain—Maryland’s abiding commitment to higher education.

I’ll close my report with one final observation: Two weeks ago, on the floor of the Maryland Senate, the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership—the MPower initiative between UMB and College Park—was recognized for reaching a significant milestone.

The NSF has officially linked UMB and College Park as one research enterprise. And with $1.1 billion in R&D expenditures, that single enterprise—the University of Maryland—now ranks #8 among the nation’s public research universities and #14 among all universities.

This remarkable accomplishment was won by the talent and energy of our faculty, and the power of their ideas. It was won by the leadership of Presidents Bruce Jarrell and Darryll Pines, former President Wallace Loh, and Vice President for Research Laurie Locascio. It was won by the vision of the late Senate President Emeritus Mike Miller, his successor, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and their legislative colleagues. But it was won, too, by our commitment to Systemness—our genuine embrace of the value of collaboration; our dedication to intentionally seeking out opportunities to partner with one another.

There’s an African proverb—reputedly—that I’m fond of quoting: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We won’t tarry, but our USM presidents and I choose to go far. So we will continue to explore the opportunities we have before us to expand our power and prominence through collaboration.

The concept of Systemness was at play in a COVID vaccine campaign I undertook with our 12 USM presidents. Together, we pledged to get vaccinated when we’re eligible. The pledge is a sign of our trust in the vaccine science—and the vaccine scientists. It’s a sign of our commitment to protect those we love and those we don’t even know.

We put this pledge on video, and I’d like to end my report by showing it to you now.

Madam Chair, this concludes my report.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719