Chancellor's Report to USM Board of Regents on Feb. 11

Baltimore, Md. (Feb. 11, 2022) Thank you, Chair Gooden. And I thank Mr. Wildavsky for his presentation.

It’s wonderful to be with you this morning, and wonderful to be with you during Black History Month. It was a shame—literally, a shame—that we had to begin this month not with celebration but with condemnation … condemnation of bomb threats made at two of our HBCUs, and many more across the country.

But I’ll say today what I said then: These threats will fail. If they were meant to restrict access to higher ed, they will fail. If they were meant to sow division, they will fail. If they were meant to terrorize students and communities of color, they will fail.

Because you cannot suppress Black excellence, and you cannot snuff out the light of our HBCUs. We stand with Bowie, and Coppin, and UMES. Now and always.

Of course, I thank our hosts this morning, UMB and Pres. Bruce Jarrell. It’s impossible to overstate how vital UMB has been to the System’s pandemic response—and to the state’s. The work of UMB, the work of its partner, the University of Maryland Medical System, has steered us through the eye of this storm. Their leadership of the Unified Command has guided our path and secured Maryland’s success in managing the crisis. It’s backbreaking work. It’s heartbreaking work. And they’ve been doing it for two years. I can’t thank them enough.

Returning to UMB is still a special homecoming for me, and it still brings me great pride. UMB made headlines around the world when surgeons from the School of Medicine performed the first-ever successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human patient. This is poised to revolutionize xenotransplantation, giving hope to thousands of patients who die each year awaiting an organ transplant.

The NSF has just ranked the combined research enterprise of UMB and College Park in the top 10 among U.S. public universities—and the top 20 among all universities. And the UMB/College Park alliance continues to impress, with the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research announcing a nearly $17 million investment from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Maryland Poison Center, operated by UMB’s School of Pharmacy, is turning 50 this year. The center has consulted on more than 1.5 million poison exposure cases, and saved thousands of lives.

The CURE Scholars program here at UMB is celebrating an amazing milestone. The mentoring program introduces West Baltimore students to STEM discovery starting in middle school. Well, the very first class of CURE Scholars are off to college this fall. And those scholars—20 high school seniors—have racked up 72 offers of admission to 44 colleges. I remember them as 6th-graders—as 11-year-olds—in their very first lab coats, and I’m overwhelmed.

I thank UMB for its excellence, but, of course, there’s no shortage of excellence across the System. I’ll give you just a sampling.

U.S. News & World Report released its Best Online Programs for 2022. Seven of our universities were recognized for a total of 11 programs.

Right here at UMB, the School of Nursing had two of its master’s programs—master’s in Nursing Administration and in Nursing Education—ranked in the top 5 nationwide. Frostburg made the list for its bachelor’s programs and MBA programs. Salisbury got the nod for its MBA and Master’s in Nursing. Towson, for its Master’s in Education and Master’s in IT. UBalt, for its MBA. UMBC, for its Master’s in IT. And College Park, for its Master’s in Engineering and MBA—both ranked at #12.

In a different ranking, UMGC is #1 on the U.S. News list of colleges that enroll the most transfer students. UMGC enrolled more than 9,500 new transfer students in fall 2020, significantly more than its nearest competitor. This is so important—to us and to our state leaders—that we strengthen our transfer student pipeline and support them to success.

And one more word on rankings: Towson ranked 27th among best public undergrad business schools by Poets & Quants magazine. TU came in at #17 in the career outcomes measure and #4 in diversity. Nearly half of last year’s incoming business majors identify as underrepresented minorities. With Pres. Schatzel’s business background, I imagine she’s very, very proud. Well done.

So let me talk about our students for a minute.

You can find the artwork of Bowie State senior Sharone Townsend on clothing and bags at Target stores nationwide. He’s one of three students to win the store’s HBCU Design Challenge marking Black History Month.

Two College Park seniors—Steven Jin and Naveen Raman—have won the prestigious Winston Churchill Scholarship, joining 16 students nationwide. The scholarship provides full tuition and stipend for a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

UMBC senior Joshua Slaughter won the Marshall Scholarship. He’ll pursue his PhD in informatics at the University of Edinburgh, with the goal of advancing equity in personalized medicine.

Six UMGC students have been named finalists for the Presidential Management Fellows Program, a prominent leadership development program specifically for graduate students.

Jay Copeland, a recent Salisbury alum who sang at the inauguration of Pres. Chuck Wight, will compete on the 20th season of American Idol.

And James Ruffin, the first graduate of UBalt’s incredible Second Chance College Program, will use his BA in Human Services Administration to help others who are transitioning to life after prison.

Let me switch to our university leaders now.

On Wednesday came news that UMBC Pres. Freeman Hrabowski was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. It’s exceedingly rare that someone who’s not an engineer is offered membership in the academy. Freeman’s nod came for his role in revolutionizing how we open access to engineering education and nurture student success. 

UMES Pres. Heidi Anderson and Coppin State Pres. Anthony Jenkins were named among the 10 Most Dominant HBCU leaders of 2022 by the HBCU Campaign Fund. Pres. Jenkins and Regent Michelle Gourdine joined The Baltimore Sun’s list of 25 Black Marylanders to Watch.

And in the same edition, the Sun named five Living Legends. UBalt Pres. Kurt Schmoke is deservedly on that list. Kurt, there’s not one person in this room who doesn’t consider you a legend. I also want to call attention to a profile of Pres. Schmoke that ran in the Sun. It talked about Kurt’s return to the classroom as co-teacher of a course on Baltimore City’s history. What a gift to those students, to be able to see behind the decisions that have shaped a city—that have shaped their city.

Several members of Frostburg’s leadership team—including Pres. Ron Nowaczyk—were honored with Impact Leader Awards from the National Society of Leadership and Success. The award recognizes their commitment to developing engaged and powerful student leaders.

Let me turn now to the institutions these leaders are guiding.

UMCES has issued a first-ever report card on Maryland’s coastal adaptation to climate change. Maryland is especially endangered by a changing climate, given that 72 percent of our population lives and works along thousands of miles of shoreline. The report card—a B- overall—highlights progress and threats, and establishes a framework for resiliency in the face of climate crisis.

UMCES has also launched a NOAA-funded study of microplastics moving through Maryland’s waterways—tracking where the plastics come from and where they end up. UMCES’s work will provide the science that lawmakers need to take meaningful action on marine debris.

This week, the Universities at Shady Grove launched its 10-year strategic plan, USG 2.0, laying out ambitions to pioneer change in access and affordability, in equity and opportunity. USG gives the University System a laboratory to be the innovators we promise to be—the innovators that our learners, our employers, and our communities deserve.

And USG isn’t alone in this. All three of our regional centers—USG, the USM at Hagerstown, the USM at Southern Maryland—give us a structure to revolutionize how we meet and serve our learners, and how we prepare them for fulfilling, enriching careers.

Coppin State is one of six HBCUs nationwide selected by Complete College America to take part in a Digital Learning Infrastructure project. The $2.5 million research and design initiative will build an integrated framework for digital learning at HBCUs. CSU was selected for its track record of innovation, its commitment to student success, and its novel use of technology to deliver exceptional learning experiences.

UMBC has won a Beckman Foundation Award to launch a Beckman Scholars Program for six students aspiring to the MD/PhD degree. Only 14 institutions across the country are new recipients of these three-year awards. UMBC already produces more Black graduates who earn the MD/PhD than any other U.S. university.

At College Park, Prof. Emeritus Michael Brin, his wife Eugenia, and the Sergey Brin Family Foundation are establishing the Brin Mathematics Research Center with a gift of $4.75 million. The center will expand math and statistics research and education programs, and support visiting scholars, workshops, and symposia. The goal is to foster interactions between mathematicians at College Park and those around the world.

And in yet another nod to College Park’s quantum leadership, Analytics Insight ranked UMD among the top 10 universities worldwide for quantum research, joining the likes of Harvard, Berkeley, the University of Tokyo, and China’s University of Science and Technology.

Bowie State has partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to support students studying data science and analytics—to help build a high-quality, diverse workforce in this growing field.

UBalt’s School of Law is joining with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service—the state’s largest provider of pro bono civil legal services—in a grant from the U.S. Justice Department to significantly expand their Human Trafficking Prevention Project. The project supports survivors of human trafficking and populations at high risk of exploitation.

And, finally, as you all know by now, UMBC has just reached the Carnegie Classification’s highest level of research performance, earning Research 1 status. This took the hard work of many, many people at UMBC. But I think we can all look at this R1 distinction as yet another fitting capstone to Freeman’s 30 years of extraordinary leadership. Congratulations to Freeman and his team.

I’ll conclude my remarks by commenting on the governor’s budget proposal for the USM.

No one knows better than all of you how enormously challenging the last two years have been in terms of budget cuts and revenue losses—how deeply they’ve affected the work we do. And so the governor’s FY23 proposal of $1.67 billion in state support to the System is incredibly gratifying. It’s an 11.5 percent increase over our FY22 appropriation. The proposal fully restores nearly $94 million that was cut from the USM’s base budget in July 2020, and includes new funding for several important initiatives.

I should note that Gov. Hogan’s state budget proposal provides an additional $198 million to cover cost-of-living and merit increases for USM employees. After two years of watching our faculty and staff work so very hard to make sure our students kept learning and our scholarship kept making change, two years of keeping our people safe and our campuses operational, I’m deeply grateful to see their efforts acknowledged in this way.

If the legislature approves all budget actions, the USM is looking at a nearly 25 percent increase over our FY22 appropriation.

I should also note that Chair Gooden and I will be leaving today’s meeting briefly to testify before lawmakers on the USM Office’s proposed operating budget. It’s an important opportunity to remind legislators just how much the System Office accomplishes on a very small budget—how well we manage our resources.

And to that last point, I’ll note that Regent Attman will share with you later in the meeting our performance at yesterday’s bond auction. I won’t steal his thunder. But I will say that we did better than expected—and we expected to do very well.

The money we made, the money we saved, will fund important projects Systemwide. Our auction performance was made possible by our incredibly strong bond ratings—Aa1 and AA+. And those ratings, in turn, are a testament to how well—how shrewdly—the System’s finances are managed. I thank you all for that.

Madam Chair, this concludes my report.

# # #

Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719