Chancellor's Report to the Board of Regents on April 14

Chancellor Jay A. Perman
Coppin State University | April 14, 2023

Thank you, Chair Gooden. What a terrific morning it’s been already, celebrating the excellence of our faculty award winners. I join you in welcoming our new regents and thanking those whose service and leadership have meant so much to this board, to the System, and to our students. I also thank Dr. Regli and his team at ARLIS for their work to protect the security of our nation and its people.

Let’s get right into some important achievements across the System.

I begin with our host, Coppin State. As President Jenkins noted, these are exciting times at Coppin. I was honored to help cut the ribbon on the new Eagle Achievement Center supporting students’ academic, personal, and professional success. The center benefits from a $2 million grant from Truist—the largest corporate commitment in Coppin’s history—which establishes the Truist Hub for Black Economic Mobility. Just a few weeks after that, BGE announced $1 million in scholarships to support Coppin’s STEM students.

And, Dr. Jenkins, I know it must have been a great honor for the CSU baseball team to meet with Gov. Moore and members of the General Assembly last month to celebrate their 2022 MEAC Championship. A stunning performance. Congratulations to you and to the entire Coppin family.

Bowie State won a grant of $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education to support its marquee Black Male Educators Project, whose goal is to put more Black men in the classroom and support them to teaching success.

Earlier this month, Bowie was featured in the New York Times for creating its own tech intern pipeline, connecting students directly with companies, and bypassing an often draconian Silicon Valley vetting process. And with depression and anxiety spiking among our children, BSU has just won $5 million from USDE to train school-based mental health providers and prepare graduate students in culturally responsive practices.

And, finally, the white-hot spotlight on Bowie’s arts programs hasn’t dimmed: Music legend Dionne Warwick visited campus for the official naming of the Dionne Warwick Theater—the only performing arts space bearing her name. Congratulations, Dr. Breaux.

Researchers from UMCES have won a three-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to explore how microalgae can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. UMCES is also joining the University of Arizona in a $5 million USDA grant, examining best farming practices in a rapidly drying climate. UMCES will model growing conditions decades out to support a move to native and adaptive crops that cut water use, curb emissions, and weather climate uncertainty.

And UMCES is partnering with Frostburg State to offer a joint master’s in Environmental Management in Sustainability. The program brings together the environmental expertise of UMCES and the large, diverse student body of Frostburg to populate academia, government, and business with leaders who can address our most urgent sustainability challenges. Thank you, Dr. Goodwin.

At UMBC, I congratulate two newly minted Goldwater Scholars: Arjun Kanjarpane in biochemistry and molecular biology, and Anya Viswanathan in biological sciences. The scholarships are the nation’s most prestigious for undergrads in the STEM disciplines.

But they’re not the only Retrievers celebrating awards: Several UMBC faculty have won highly sought NSF CAREER awards. Dr. Mercedes Burns will study arachnid evolution, focusing on the spider we all grew up calling “daddy long legs.” Dr. Deepak Koirala will examine how RNA structures within the genetic material of certain viruses enable the viruses to replicate. Dr. Deepa Madan’s research unlocks the secrets of materials that turn heat into electricity. And Dr. Tyler Josephson is developing a new approach to writing code in computational chemistry. Congratulations, Vice President Dettloff.

Supported with funding from the HBCU settlement, UMES is introducing new academic programs, including interdisciplinary programs in art therapy and music production—both of them firsts for the System as a whole.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has announced $3 million going to UMES to expand broadband access and enhance cybersecurity on campus and in the Princess Anne community.

And in a couple of weeks, several of us will join President Anderson to officially open the Pharmacy and Health Sciences Complex. The 130,000-square-foot building consolidates the university’s nine health programs—the most at any U.S. HBCU—and represents UMES’s commitment to taking exceptional care of its Eastern Shore neighbors. President Anderson, I’m looking forward to it.

UMB just announced a huge sustainability milestone: With renewable energy purchase agreements and certificates, UMB has reached—for the first time ever—100 percent renewable electricity.

Also at UMB, the School of Nursing and the Enoch Pratt Free Library have partnered in a program placing nursing students in city libraries. The students get relevant clinical experience, and Baltimore residents get no-cost health services. It’s modeled on a popular UMB program that places social workers in libraries. These services fill growing gaps in community care, allowing UMB students and faculty to meet neighbors where they are, in a place they trust.

And Dr. Nadine Finigan-Carr in UMB’s School of Social Work was just named executive director of the UMB Center for Violence Prevention, marshalling multidisciplinary expertise and resources to curb violence in Baltimore City.

The University of Maryland, College Park is also addressing the existential threat of gun violence. It’s part of a consortium of DC metro universities that released evidence-based recommendations to end this national public health crisis. Dr. Jarrell, Dr. Pines, I thank you for taking up this fight; there’s none more important.

College Park’s Grand Challenges Grants represent its largest-ever investment in projects addressing humanity’s gravest problems. Across the university, $30 million is going to 50 projects—in global health, clean water, social justice, democratic strength, ethical technology, climate change, and more.

And speaking to the grand challenge of climate change, UMD will support Maryland’s ambitious new environmental law, Climate Solutions Now. Its Center for Global Sustainability will team with Maryland’s Department of the Environment to model cross-sector emissions cuts and catalyze policies that move us to net-zero.

I just mentioned UMBC’s Goldwater Scholars. Well, College Park boasts three more: Neel Panchwagh and Corinne Martin in bioengineering, and Deven Bowman in physics and math. College Park leads the nation with 49 Goldwater scholarships awarded over the past 15 years.

This is the excellence UMD is opening up to all students: It’s just joined 15 leading universities committed to serving students from small and rural communities, building accessible pathways into higher ed.

Frostburg State knows something about serving rural students. It’s won $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for the REACH project, partnering with five area school districts to grow the number of highly effective, culturally responsive special educators in rural Appalachia.

In addition, Frostburg and Allegany County Public Schools have inked a new dual-enrollment program—the Bobcat Academy—giving local high school students no-cost access to Frostburg courses. President Nowaczyk, as Frostburg celebrates its 125th anniversary, we’re all so proud of the way you serve your students and shape your community. Thank you.

Moving from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, let me commend the Seidel School of Education at Salisbury University. Of the 46 tri-county semifinalists for Maryland’s Teacher of the Year—representing Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset counties—three-quarters are Seidel School alumni. To me, that proves two things: 1) Seidel alums are deeply committed to serving schoolchildren on the Lower Shore; and 2) those alumni are some of the best teachers around.

Gov. Moore heaped praise on Salisbury’s undergrads this spring at the Posters on the Bay research expo in Annapolis. Students presented their projects in medicine and health, social justice and economic inclusion, and climate and the environment. It’s an important reminder to state lawmakers that undergraduate research matters.

And that research is showcased in the nation’s Fulbright program. At our last meeting, I praised Salisbury for its title as the nation’s No. 1 producer of Fulbright Students among master’s universities. Well, Salisbury’s Fulbright success is poised to continue, as this year, SU has 12 semifinalists. More than half of the university’s student applicants reached the semifinalist stage. Congratulations, Dr. Lepre.

Towson University is also well represented among Fulbright candidates, with six students selected as semifinalists—the most in TU’s history. Additionally, in the Poets & Quants list of Best Undergraduate Business Schools, TU’s College of Business & Economics was ranked 26th among publics—and named one of just 11 schools to watch in 2023. And watch we will.

A few weeks ago, Towson announced its membership in the American Talent Initiative, an alliance of more than 130 four-year colleges with a shared goal of enrolling, supporting, and graduating an additional 50,000 lower-income students by 2025. It’s undeniably essential work, and I thank you, Dr. Perreault.

Since we last met, UMGC has announced three new partnerships: An alliance with the supply-chain industry’s largest association will serve its members and their families by lowering cost and increasing speed to a bachelor’s degree. Teaming up with the multinational Armstrong World Industries, UMGC will open higher ed access to the company’s 2,800 employees. And UMGC and Purdue University Global have announced a multi-year partnership with GetSet’s new Sponsored Degree Platform to help employers fill key job openings in cybersecurity. Thank you, Dr. Pomietto.

At UBalt, Prof. Neha Lall, director of externships at the School of Law, has been named one of five Bellow Scholars for her research into Paid Externships as a Tool to Advance Student Equity and Autonomy. And UBalt’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy is leading a multifaceted effort to grow the number of students pursuing public service—including internships, a new public-service minor, and a non-degree certificate. The goal is to swell state government capacity with a dedicated, diverse corps of servant-leaders. Badly needed. Thank you, President Schmoke.

At our regional centers, the USM at Southern Maryland will host a free summer camp for high school students interested in STEM. The Camp for Future Problem Solvers focuses on mechanical design, electronics, and coding—but math and engineering skills are paired with teamwork and innovation, preparing students for creative, collaborative leadership.

And USG is launching a new digital and TV ad campaign, highlighting the strengths of USG’s close-knit campus community and its emphasis not only on academic excellence but on career success. Dr. Khademian, Dr. Abel, thank you.

Switching gears, as you know, we marked sine die earlier this week, so I’ll turn now to the just-ended legislative session.

Starting with our operating budget, we have good news. State support to the USM will total $2.1 billion in FY24, an 11 percent increase over this year’s adjusted budget. This support allows us to limit our tuition increase for in-state undergraduates. It funds Year 2 of enhanced investment in our HBCUs. It supports new facilities that expand our academic and research capacity. And it covers pay raises and climbing benefits costs for our employees, helping us attract and retain the very people who drive our excellence.

Turning to the capital budget, again we see strong support—a total of nearly $295 million. Projects funded or advanced include $30 million for the new Interdisciplinary Engineering Research Building at College Park; $20 million for the renovation of Smith Hall at Towson; $12 million for the Agricultural Research Education Center at UMES; and $25 million for facilities renewal Systemwide.

In terms of legislation, as always, there were a significant number of bills that impact the System and our people. Of course, I won’t speak to all of them. But there are two bills I want to highlight.

Senate Bill 426 authorizes this board to establish a quasi-endowment fund of up to $150 million, generating income to support financial aid for our students. Our universities can allocate money to the fund, which is designed to ensure that it grows in value each year. This quasi-endowment is just one way we’re serving our lower income students, doing our part to ensure not only that they can access a USM education, but that they can afford to stay in school until they have that diploma in hand.

A second bill passed this session—Senate Bill 142—is one I mentioned at our last meeting. It authorizes this board to award a grant, supported by private donor funds, to our student regent for the first year of the two-year term.

All of us get to see up close how much time and effort our student regents commit to this board. Acknowledging that sacrifice by providing some relief is an important incentive for students interested in this demanding role. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t again honor the leadership and generosity of our colleague, former Senior Vice Chancellor Jo Boughman, who inspired this effort.

I’m grateful to all of Maryland’s elected leaders for their commitment to the System and to the work we do. I’m grateful for their faith in our students and their boldest ambitions. And I thank our USM government relations team, their colleagues across the System, and everyone who undertook the hard work of steering us through such a productive session. For all who can manage it, I wish you some well-deserved rest.

Madame Chair, this concludes my report.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719