Chancellor's Report to USM Board of Regents on Sept. 10

Delivered by Senior Vice Chancellor Joann Boughman

Baltimore, Md. (Sept. 10, 2021)Thank you, Chair Gooden. It’s an honor to fill in for Chancellor Perman. And it’s wonderful to be back in one room with all of you. It’s gratifying to know that—because of the hard work of the entire USM community—reunions like this one are taking place on our campuses across Maryland.

I thank Dr. Fowler for hosting us here at UMGC and for letting us hear from Ms. Warner. What a powerful and moving story. I congratulate all of the university’s Pillars of Strength scholarship recipients.

I thank Dr. Haynes for his presentation. It’s clear that the country’s HBCUs are having a “moment” right now. But it’s our job to ensure this isn’t just a moment. Rather, it must be a deliberate and sustained commitment to our historically Black institutions.

And, finally, I join Chair Gooden in congratulating President Hrabowski on 30 incredible years at UMBC. I know we’ll have plenty of opportunities to celebrate Dr. Hrabowski’s career over the next several months, so right now, I’ll simply say “thank you.”

It’s a particular honor to congratulate the System’s brand-new Elkins Professors:
  • Dr. Paz Galupo, professor of Psychology at Towson University;
  • Dr. Radi Masri with the School of Dentistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore;
  • Dr. Heather Congdon, co-director of UMB’s Center for Interprofessional Education;
  • Dr. Lora Harris with the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
  • And our returning Elkins Professor Dr. Don DeVoe, with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Later this month, we’ll provide a summary announcement of the important scholarship that each of the Elkins Professors is undertaking. We’re so thrilled to have them aboard.

Before I sing the praises of our universities and all they’ve accomplished over the last couple of months, I think it’s important to acknowledge that tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It was a day that changed our lives forever. For some, that change was irrevocable, heartbreaking.

We honor the sacrifices that so many made that day—and in the 20 years since. And we rededicate ourselves to our mission—of education, illumination, and connection. Higher education has a central role to play in forging understanding across countries and cultures. And it’s one we undertake with purpose and passion.

We typically consider summer “down time” in higher ed, but you’d never know it given the exciting news coming out of our universities. I’ll provide a high-level overview, and invite you to read the full report online or in your Board materials.

Our universities continue their impressive growth. A few weeks ago, the ribbon was cut on Bowie State University’s Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community, creating an environment where innovation and collaboration can thrive, where student startups can be supported, and where an entrepreneurial mindset can be nurtured across the campus.

At Towson University, ground was broken on the College of Health Professions building. The new building, slated to open in 2024, will consolidate under one roof the school’s health programs, including audiology, nursing, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and health sciences.

College Park broke ground on its new chemistry building, which will include 34 research labs, two core research facilities, and more than 30,000 square feet of workspace and collaborative space.

Next month, Chancellor Perman and I will join a host of VIPs for the grand opening of the SMART Building at the USM at Southern Maryland. USMSM Executive Director Eileen Abel says the new building is a state-of-the art research facility, yes—but also a way to fundamentally rethink education in Southern Maryland.

Our universities also celebrated new programs and initiatives. Earlier this week, UMES and NASA signed the Space Act Agreement to build a pipeline of diverse STEM talent working at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, and to carry out a range of R&D projects at Wallops, including those in suborbital and aeronautical science.

UMES and Frostburg unveiled a partnership that offers an accelerated track to a doctorate in pharmacy. Students participating in the cooperative program can reduce time to a pharmacy degree by up to two years.

Over the summer, Gov. Hogan announced the launch of the Maryland Institute for Innovative Computing at UMBC, addressing challenges related to computing and analytics, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and data science. UMBC also joined the University Innovation Alliance, a select consortium of public research universities that boost student success by sharing and scaling approaches that work. UMBC was one of only two universities asked to join the network since its initial founding in 2014.

A new five-year Department of Defense contract won by UMGC will provide education to our troops on military installations in the Middle East, North Africa, and downrange locations. And I congratulate Dr. Fowler and his team on UMGC’s #1 national ranking in IT master’s degrees awarded to students of color.

Last month, the NSF announced that it’s establishing five I-Corps Hubs to scale up the National Innovation Network and provide experiential entrepreneurship training to academic researchers across all fields of science and engineering. The Mid-Atlantic Hub will be led by College Park, funded at $15 million over five years. And just this week, College Park announced a $20 million partnership with quantum computing startup IonQ to create the National Quantum Lab at Maryland—or Q-Lab—to facilitate quantum research and innovation.

Coppin State University will receive $300,000 over three years from the PNC Foundation to support programs sponsored by CSU’s College of Business—programs that focus on nurturing small businesses and entrepreneurial activity in underserved communities—as well as programs that provide direct services to West Baltimore public school students.

In June, Salisbury University announced the William Church and John Washburn Endowment for Equity, Justice, and Inclusion. The planned endowment—expected to top $1 million—will support its namesakes’ dedication to the LGBTQ community by funding programs that address issues important to its members.

Last month, Gov. Hogan appointed three UB School of Law alumni to judgeships across the state. Incredibly, more than one-third of the state’s judges are graduates of UB Law.

The Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center—UMB’s close clinical partner—has once again received the highest designation from the National Cancer Institute, placing it in the top echelon of cancer centers nationwide.

The Universities at Shady Grove welcomed Montgomery County’s public school students to its Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Building for a STEM summer program. Thousands of elementary- and middle-schoolers took part in the program intended to jumpstart post-pandemic learning. USG also hosted this summer’s signing of a Life Sciences Education and Innovation Partnership among Montgomery County, Montgomery College, and the USM. The agreement facilitates research collaboration between the academic partners and industry leaders, and gives students across Maryland opportunities to gain work and R&D experience with the county’s science and technology companies.

The USM’s people continue to rack up impressive recognitions. President Biden has nominated Laurie Locascio, vice president for research at UMB and College Park, to lead the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Three UMCES students have been named finalists for the prestigious John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship sponsored by Sea Grant and NOAA. Ana Sosa, Amber Fandel, and Ben Frey will be placed in a government organization for one year, helping to steer national coastal and marine science policy.

At UMES, chemistry professor Victoria Volkis received $1 million from the U.S. Navy to work with students in addressing biofilm formation, which causes millions of dollars in damage to naval ships and platforms each year.

The Daily Record named Bowie President Aminta Breaux and Towson President Kim Schatzel to its list of Influential Marylanders.

And once again, the USM was well represented among this year’s class of Newman Civic Fellows, which recognizes community-committed students. This year’s honorees are Delanie Blubaugh from Frostburg, Daniel Khoshkepazi from UB, Tommy Fashola from UMES, and Faith Davis from UMBC.

In just a few days, Frostburg will launch its Forging Futures capital campaign, a $25 million fundraising effort. The campaign will focus on forging the future of Frostburg’s students, the future of the University itself, and the future of Western Maryland and beyond.

The USM at Hagerstown has announced the 22 students from its partner institutions who’ve been awarded scholarships this academic year. And USMH’s annual Spirit Run, which benefits the scholarship fund, returns as an in-person event this weekend. But you can still complete the race virtually—which, honestly, sounds a lot easier. I should note that Salisbury’s Sea Gull Century bike ride is returning as an in-person event, as well. Mark your calendars for Saturday, Oct. 9.

Bowie State and Coppin State have committed to using federal CARES Act funding to relieve students of millions of dollars in outstanding tuition and fee debt. Bowie will provide $3 million in relief, and Coppin has committed to clear $1 million in student balances.

And, finally, over the summer, the USM’s Maryland Momentum Fund made three investments in big innovations coming out of the University System: in Veralox Therapeutics, a biotech company launched by UMB alumnus Jeffrey Strovel that’s developing small-molecule therapeutics; in Liatris Inc., cofounded by College Park adjunct professor Arthur Yang that’s developing advanced thermal insulation materials; and in AquaLith, based on the work of College Park professor Chunsheng Wang, that’s developing a cheaper, safer, higher density lithium ion battery.

Our success with the Maryland Momentum Fund—our success in company creation and business partnerships—all are a credit to Tom Sadowski, former vice chancellor for economic development. Tom has newly become executive director of the Maryland Economic Development Corporation, and we’re excited to continue our relationship with him in this new role.

I can’t end my report without expressing how happy we are to have welcomed students back to campus—back to actual campuses—this fall.

Among university systems nationwide, we’re in an admirable—and enviable—position. We have a high vaccination compliance rate across the System, with most of our universities recording rates between 94–98 percent. The universities are all working toward 100 percent compliance, meaning every individual—student, faculty member, staff member—is either vaccinated or has an authorized exemption from the mandate. Many institutions have on-campus vaccination clinics, and all are hosting vaccination days, bringing in personnel and mobile units to provide easy access to the vaccine doses.

I’d like to give College Park as an example. The university’s compliance rate is 97.7 percent. What that means is that, among students, fewer than 300 are out of compliance. That’s fewer than 300 students out of nearly 40,000. And a good portion of those are international students who are being vaccinated once they arrive on campus. That’s incredible.

For unvaccinated populations—including those with authorized waivers—all campuses are conducting testing at least weekly, and many require daily symptom monitoring. Of course, all universities are testing anyone who’s symptomatic and anyone who’s captured in contact tracing.

We can see that vaccination is paying off. We have very low positivity rates across the System—under 1 percent, far lower than county and state averages. Essentially, we’re doing what the pandemic playbook tells us to do: Ensure you have a highly vaccinated population. Verify vaccination status. Require rapid and frequent testing for the unvaccinated. Improve indoor air quality. Use masking when needed. I should add that masking is, indeed, needed right now. All institutions are following CDC guidelines, which means universal masking indoors—in classrooms, labs, and study spaces, and at indoor events.

The truth is, we hoped we’d be in a better situation this fall. But the Delta variant puts all of us at risk—even on a highly vaccinated campus. So our COVID Workgroup of university experts will remain active all year long and continue to provide the System and university leadership with the best evidence-informed advice. We’ll continue meeting regularly with the university presidents and regional center directors and their teams to share challenges and approaches. And we’ll continue to follow public health guidelines.

We all know we have to work together to be together. And I can tell you that our students want to be exactly where they are—on campus and in classrooms.

Madame Chair, this concludes my report. Thank you.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719