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

Baltimore, Md. (Dec. 10, 2021) Thank you, Chair Gooden. And I add my thanks to Ellen Herbst and Lindsay Ryan for their report on the USM’s economic impact. You know, we talk a lot about our core missions—education, research, service. But I don’t think we talk enough about how these missions translate into billions of dollars returned every year to the state and its people. We’re central to Maryland’s strength and prosperity, and that’s especially compelling right now.

As I get into my report, I’ll remind you that a fuller accounting of our achievements is in your materials and on our website.

I’ll begin with our gracious host this morning, Bowie State University. Dr. Breaux is right: These are exciting times at BSU. Since our last board meeting, Bowie has joined a consortium dedicated to strengthening the STEM pipeline for county high school and community college students. It was one of three HBCUs selected for the first cohort of Penn National’s new STEM Scholarship Program, ultimately providing more than $4 million to BSU and other Historically Black Institutions.

And, of course, I have to celebrate the history-making BSU Football Team, reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II Playoffs for the first time ever. It’s fitting that Coach Damon Wilson was just named D-II Region 2 coach of the year. Congratulations!

It was wonderful to be here last night for the BSU Bold campaign kickoff and, Dr. Breaux, I wish you quick progress toward your goal.

While it’s been only a matter of weeks since we last met, there’s been no shortage of good news across the System.

At our meeting last month, I led off with a few words about our universities’ prominence in the latest round of national rankings. Today, I want to highlight a few different rankings and awards—accolades that don’t focus only on academic achievement, but on how well our universities educate engaged citizens and cultivate inclusive campuses. Certainly, that’s a foundational mission for us.

At an awards ceremony last month, the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge honored individuals and institutions whose work drove historic voter turnout during the 2020 presidential election. And well over half of our USM universities were recognized at that event.
  • Gold Seals went to institutions with a voter participation rate between 70–80 percent. Let me name them: UBalt, Towson, UMB, College Park.
  • Silver Seals went to institutions with a voter participation rate between 60–70 percent: Frostburg, Salisbury, and UMBC.
  • Among universities across the nation, Towson was recognized with a Campus Award for the Best Democratic Engagement Action Plan.
  • And College Park’s Alexandra Marquez was honored as Standout Undergraduate Student.

Congratulations to you all.

Another national ranking recently shone a spotlight on our universities. Two USM institutions received 5 stars—the highest rating possible—from Campus Pride, whose work creates safer, more welcoming college campuses for LGBTQ students. Towson and College Park were among just 47 colleges nationwide to earn the recognition. Well done.

APLU honored UMBC with its 2021 Gold Award in Leadership and Pervasiveness for Internationalization. UMBC is the only North American university to receive the Gold Award, affirming its intentional work in creating a culture of global engagement. And, of course, in last month’s edition of Diverse magazine, President Freeman Hrabowski was celebrated as the 2021 recipient of the John Hope Franklin Award, joining luminaries like the late Maya Angelou and Rep. John Lewis.

Next week, the USM’s own Nancy Shapiro, associate vice chancellor for education and outreach, will receive the Civic Leadership Award from Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic, a much-deserved acknowledgement of Dr. Shapiro’s shaping of a national civic education and community engagement agenda. It’s gratifying that the USM is so active in the organization, as it demonstrates our commitment to these twin goals. Frostburg President Ron Nowaczyk is doing an extraordinary job as chair of Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic, as is UMES President Heidi Anderson as secretary.

The fact is, a commitment to community engagement—to community connection—is deeply felt throughout the USM. 

Last week, Coppin President Anthony Jenkins hosted the first meeting of the West North Avenue Development Authority. It’s a collaboration of residents, business owners, and the university—with Coppin playing a central role in actualizing long-overdue investment and development in the West North Avenue corridor. 

The Horn Point Laboratory at UMCES received a Community in Conservation grant from Waterfowl Chesapeake, a nonprofit dedicated to the celebration of life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The grant will advance UMCES’s three-pronged goal of promoting science, education, and restoration in the community.

Last month, UMES hosted the second annual Man The Shore Summit, focused on bringing diversity to preK–12 education. With Black and Brown men making up just 4 percent of all U.S. teachers, it’s critical we undertake efforts like this to diversify the corps of teachers educating and nurturing our children.

Just last week, the USM at Hagerstown held its annual Feaste at Yuletide, raising more than $53,000 in scholarship support for USMH students. Congratulations!

And, in a wonderful surprise, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day announced that Camden Street in Downtown Salisbury would be known as Chuck Wight Street. (I’m still waiting for Perman Blvd. in Baltimore.) It’s a recognition of SU’s commitment to connecting the campus to the community. And I know that that commitment will abide long after Dr. Wight leaves the presidency. It’s a worthy legacy.

Over the past four weeks, we’ve advanced the missions that sustain us: education, discovery, economic impact.

Ting Zhang, associate professor of economics at UBalt’s Merrick School of Business, has been awarded a fellowship from the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management, where she’ll explore the relationship between public policy and entrepreneurship.

Salisbury is making it easier for Pell-eligible freshmen to attend the university. The new program—Sea Gull Pell Promise—will cover any tuition costs remaining once the student’s scholarships, grants, and benefits are applied. Salisbury’s nursing program is being expanded with a $1 million grant from MHEC, and an accelerated option will get nurses into the workforce more quickly.

That same commitment to shoring up the nursing workforce animates efforts at UMB. The School of Nursing once again graduated its students early—all 161 students—remediating a nursing shortage that’s the worst in 40-plus years.

Also at UMB, researchers at the Institute of Human Virology won $6.5 million from the NIH to streamline big data collection in Nigeria and South Africa, an effort central to addressing public health needs as the countries grapple with two pandemics: COVID and HIV/AIDS. And last week, UMB’s School of Medicine made a big splash in the scientific community when researchers revealed they found a new gene variant in Amish populations that’s linked to a lower risk of heart disease. This discovery could jumpstart the development of therapeutics mimicking the variant.  

College Park has announced significant funding—$32.5 million to extend a cooperative agreement with NASA, through which the university oversees the space agency’s data on asteroids, comets, meteorites, and other small objects in space. It’s an area of study in which the school has made major contributions.

And just last week, College Park and the Department of Defense opened the Applied Research Lab in Intelligence and Security to protect the U.S. against national security threats and shape the country’s intelligence workforce. At the lab’s ribbon-cutting, DOD Under Secretary Ronald Moultrie said: “The future of intelligence and security needs both advanced technology AND advanced human understanding.” I couldn’t agree more.

UMGC continues to expand its reach—continues to amplify its impact—establishing a partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia that will open up UMGC’s online programs to more than 22,000 students.

Shortly after several of us gathered at the USM at Southern Maryland to celebrate the opening of the SMART Building, WTOP in Washington, DC, filed an expansive story on the center’s people, its mission, and the facility’s promised impact in education, research, and economic growth.

The Universities at Shady Grove held its annual First Generation Celebration, recognizing the achievements of the center’s first-gen students. The celebration featured Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who praised USG’s ACES Program, which provides local students a seamless transition from high school, to community college, to USG.

And there’s one final news item I want to mention: The Mellon Foundation has given UMBC, College Park, and Morgan State $3 million to develop a higher ed leadership pipeline for scholars in the arts & humanities—with emphasis on female faculty and Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous faculty. You all know how proud I am of the USM’s leadership diversity. I’ve said it often. But I’m prouder still that two of our institutions are leading a grant to help American higher education enrich diversity at the very top levels—diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, AND discipline. Because, collectively, we have so much more work to do. Higher ed has to look at its own house.

In other business, I want to share that the USM’s 2022 Annual Report will be released soon. The report details our Systemwide success in areas like access and affordability, equity and inclusion, academic quality, civic engagement, sustainability, and workforce and economic development. The report will be posted online, and I’ll make sure you get a copy.

So I thought it might come to pass that this would be my first-ever Chancellor’s Report in which I don’t mention the COVID pandemic. Alas, that’s not to be.

I simply want to say that we’re closely monitoring the Omicron variant, which is causing concern here in the U.S. and abroad. And yet we know that vaccination remains our best defense against infection—and infection spread. And so, in consultation with the presidents, I’ve issued a statement urging all students, faculty, and staff to get their COVID booster shots as soon as they’re eligible.

The landscape of this disease is fast-changing. It always has been. So, together, we’re analyzing the data and how they’ll influence our COVID protocols for the winter and spring terms. If we have to adjust current protocols, we’ll share that information as soon as possible.

I know you’re all well aware that this is our last board meeting before the winter break. And yesterday, you should have received my holiday video message.

I want to repeat just part of that message here: I want to thank everyone in this room for creating, every day, the world I want to live in. A world where questions are welcomed and curiosity is rewarded; where an open mind and a compassionate spirit are prized above all else; where all people are included, and listened to, and treated fairly; where we celebrate human creativity, and solve the grand challenges of our age; where the greatest joy is learning and the greatest pursuit is truth; where the foundational mission is to be of service to others.

You make this world of ours sing.

My hope for the New Year is simply that we have the grace, the will, the clarity, and the strength to keep doing this vitally important work of creating the future. I thank you all.

Madame Chair, this concludes my report. Thank you.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719