Chancellor's Report to the USM Board of Regents on Dec. 16

Baltimore, MD (Dec. 16, 2022)Thank you, Chair Gooden. What an honor it is to have Chancellor Emeritus Kirwan with us today talking about his namesake commission and its landmark report. Brit, it’s fitting that this blueprint will forever be linked with your name.

As we close out the calendar year and prepare to celebrate the holidays, I do have to revisit some news that we’re not, in fact, celebrating—namely, that Kim Schatzel will step down as Towson’s leader to assume the presidency of the University of Louisville.

President Schatzel has been a game-changer for TU, growing and diversifying its student body, modernizing the campus, eliminating achievement and graduation gaps for underrepresented students, strengthening Towson’s long-standing commitment to social and economic impact with hundreds of community-engaged projects and partnerships.

I know Kim’s vision—her boldness—will mean great things for UofL, and I add my warm wishes to the hundreds pouring in. Kim, congratulations. I also thank Provost Melanie Perreault for stepping in to serve as Towson’s interim president as we launch a national search for Dr. Schatzel’s successor.

Finally, I thank our hosts this morning, UMBC and President Valerie Sheares Ashby. Dr. Ashby’s leadership comes at an exciting time for UMBC.

Shortly after last month’s mid-terms, the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge named UMBC one of America’s top colleges for student voting. It was one of four USM schools recognized, together with Towson, UBalt, and College Park.

UMBC Volleyball just captured its third-straight America East championship title. And off the court, UMBC’s chemical engineering students won the ChemE Jeopardy national championship, hosted by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Last month, UMBC joined the NASA-funded TIGERISS mission, which launches to the International Space Station in 2026. The point of the mission is to determine the source of heavy elements—like gold, platinum, lead—that find their way to Earth.

Back here on terra firma, UMBC was just named a Top 10 Workplace by the Baltimore Sun. It’s the eighth time UMBC has won the honor—a powerful endorsement of the university’s climate and culture.

Congratulations, Valerie. You’ve set a high bar in your first few months, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Though it’s been only a matter of weeks since we last met, there’s no shortage of good news to share, and this report is but a sample.

Sticking with UMBC for a moment, there’s one more item I want to mention. Last month, the Baltimore Sun ran a terrific profile of two UMBC programs: the Sherman Scholars program, which supports professionals to be culturally competent and compassionate STEM teachers in urban schools, and the Reach Together program, which provides what’s called “high dosage” math tutoring in city schools.

The Sun’s feature was a great example of efforts across the System to strengthen our P20 pipeline, so that all Maryland learners are ready for college-level work. You know this is one of my personal passions.

For instance, last month, Coppin State won $3.7 million for its Pathways to Professions program, which targets preparation and support to Black and Latinx teachers—whose classroom turnover is significant—and places these teachers in high-need urban and rural schools. Thank you, Anthony.

Frostburg’s College of Education was one of 55 schools granted national accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation—a prestigious endorsement of its teacher ed program. Congratulations, Ron.

College Park received $3 million for its Upward Bound program, supporting 120 Prince George’s County high schoolers for five years, giving them access to classes and tutoring in math, laboratory sciences, composition, literature, foreign languages.

Salisbury’s Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative won $2.4 million from the Office of Statewide Broadband to develop the maps and data points needed to expand internet capacity to every corner of the state—access that’s indispensable for success at every level of education.

The USM at Southern Maryland has gotten some well-deserved press for its extensive outreach efforts. For instance, the local chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers holds monthly STEM Exposure events at the campus. Schoolchildren from the tri-county area explore electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering—and marry their science to innovative art and design. Thank you, Eileen.

Just last week, UMES hosted the third annual Man the Shore Summit, examining strategies to recruit, retain, and support teachers of color.The event’s organizer, education professor Richard Warren, is co-chairing the governor-elect’s education transition team.

And, finally, I got a first-hand look at how strong our pipeline really is when I visited the Universities at Shady Grove last month. Students talked with me about the different paths that brought them to USG and what they ultimately want to do. Several had come through pathways like UMBC’s STEM Ready program and the ACES partnership with Montgomery College and Montgomery County schools. Anne, thank you for the visit; it was really terrific.

In the past few weeks, we’ve launched some exciting initiatives across the System.

The School of Nursing at UMB has established two complementary Centers of Excellence. The Placebo Beyond Opinions Center will advance unbiased knowledge of placebo effects by promoting interdisciplinary investigation into the phenomenon. And the SYNAPSE Center will use neuroscientific and psychological approaches to form a stronger understanding of how neurologic symptoms manifest, so we can better predict, prevent, and treat them.

UMES, one of five HBCUs taking part in a research collaboration with Princeton University, has announced two projects to be co-led by a team of researchers from both schools—one focused on coastal flooding; the other on food safety. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t publicly congratulate UMES President Heidi Anderson on her election as chair of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. It’s an enormous honor; congratulations, Heidi.

As we approach Christmas, it seems timely to note that five researchers from UMCES have just returned from the North Pole. Dr. Lee Cooper and Dr. Jackie Grebmeier—both Arctic veterans—led the UMCES group on a two-month expedition as part of an international survey assessing the state of the Arctic Ocean as climate change reduces sea ice and warms our northernmost waters. Peter, I hope they got a warm welcome home.

More important initiatives: College Park has launched the Center for the Study and Practice of Violence Reduction, part of The 120 Initiative on gun violence. The Center will gather and synthesize the best research on community-based violence, and make it available to the public, and to federal, state, and local leaders. Knoxville, Tennessee, was just chosen as the first city to partner with the center. Thank you for this important work, Darryll.

College Park’s Quantum Technology Center is partnering with the U.S. State Department, helping the agency understand how quantum technology will reshape world economies, global militaries—and how we can protect U.S. national interests as that happens.  

Last week, Dietra Trent, executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, visited Bowie State to see what all the noise is about—to talk with students, and tour the Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community. And just a couple of days ago, NBA star Kevin Durant put some celebrity shine on BSU’s name, giving $500,000 to Bowie’s Athletics Department. Congratulations, Aminta.

UMGC has launched two new marketing certificate programs—one in digital marketing; one in multicultural marketing—to help students navigate a field wholly reshaped by data, technology, and analytics. And I have to share that UMGC hit an incredible milestone this month—100,000 alumni living in Maryland. Greg, this is what makes Maryland strong. UMGC is central to advancing social mobility and building wealth for those who will serve and strengthen the great state of Maryland. Thank you.

With the grand opening last month of the TU Cyber Center, Towson is advancing its national leadership in cybersecurity education and interdisciplinary research. TU is one of 21 U.S. universities designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, and this center builds on that prestige.

Another cyber powerhouse, UMBC, is growing its cyber training with a $1.2 million DoD grant. The grant expands CyMOT, which helps the manufacturing workforce protect the sector from threats, and develop cyber and machine learning skills.

The School of Medicine at UMB is partnering with UMBC to develop a device that could prevent overdose deaths in real time—a non-invasive CO2 monitor that more effectively detects and reverses opioid overdose. The project was just awarded a $500,000 NIH grant.

College Park was named a Top 10 university for entrepreneurship by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine. Its No. 7 rank puts it at the top of the entire Mid-Atlantic.

UBalt’s RLB tutoring program has won the highest level of certification by the College Reading and Learning Association, considered the gold standard for academic support programs. Certification is the culmination of a goal that was a dozen years in the making. Congratulations, Kurt.

Bowie State will partner in a $3.2 million USDA grant going to Prince George’s County. The grant funds a pilot program to support local farmers and producers of color, and implement climate-centric practices in organic farming.

A new study by U.S. News and World Report shines a light on gender diversity at UMB’s Carey School of Law. Historically, Carey Law is No. 1 among all U.S. law schools for women’s representation among faculty, No. 2 for representation among students, and No. 17 among deans. This is the legacy borne of valuing gender equality and investing in it. Bruce, congratulations, and please pass on my thanks to Dean Hutchins.  

Turning to our support of students, Salisbury University announced that it’s doubling down on its commitment to affordability with a 21 percent increase in merit scholarship funding next year. Already, 95 percent of SU’s students receive some sort of financial aid. Lyn, thank you.

And the USM at Hagerstown just hosted its annual Elizabethtowne Feaste and Frolic gala, raising $43,000 for student scholarships. At the event, Jo Boughman was “knighted” for her years of service to the regional center and its students. But Larry, I need you to know that Jo’s knighthood is only her latest title, as we already hold her up as a saint.

In my written report, I give some examples of how our universities have embraced the holiday spirit, centering generosity and compassion in their work, and being of service to their neighbors. I won’t recount them here, but I will say that empathy, grace, and humanity define our universities and our people—not just during the holidays, but all year long. I’m deeply grateful for their kindness.

Before I end, let me share a couple of things. First, I’m sure you’ve heard of the triple-demic gaining steam this winter—the collision of COVID, flu, and RSV. We continue to urge everyone on our campuses to remain up to date with their vaccinations. Of course, having been through COVID, we’re better prepared than ever to meet this challenge. 

And here it’s fitting that I acknowledge another departure that’s bittersweet for us. At the System level, there are two people largely responsible for guiding us through COVID. As you know, one of them, Dr. Jo Boughman, is retiring in March. The other person is Dr. Kate Tracy, who’s leaving the USM to become associate dean for research and professor of medicine at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. I can’t thank Kate enough for her confidence-building leadership—and her calming presence—during such a challenging time. We’ll miss her greatly.

And finally, as we close out the calendar year, I want to express my gratitude for your work and what it does. In my holiday message, I say that in each of our missions is the power to shape the future. And in that way, we don’t merely inherit this world of ours. We build it.

We forge it, together with the 40,000 faculty and staff we employ, with the 43,000 students we graduate each year, the 160,000+ learners we enroll, the 1 million+ USM alumni living and working around the globe.

We are the architects of our future. And so I thank you for the brilliant, beautiful world you make every day. Madame Chair, this concludes my report.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719