Chancellor's Report to the Board of Regents on April 19

Thank you, Chair Gooden. I’ll go as quickly as I can this morning, but I encourage you to read my full report, as I’ll certainly leave some items out that don’t deserve my omission.

Let me start with our host today, Bowie State University, and just a few of its remarkable students. Biology major Daliyah Brown won first place at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in DC for her work on medicinal plants. Daliyah is part of a multi-university research team that works under the guidance of Dr. Anne Osano, whom we just honored this morning as one of our 2024 Faculty Award winners. A great full-circle moment that proves the power of our teaching.

Meanwhile, a team of four Bowie State business students—fellows of the Center for Financial Advancement—won $40,000 in the Experian pitch competition for their app that helps students pay off their college loans within five years of graduation. That’s got to be a top download.

Dr. Breaux, I know you were delighted to be Rep. Hoyer’s guest at President Biden’s State of the Union address last month. When the congressman invited you, he invoked your dedication to combatting our nation’s mental health crisis. And so it’s fitting that Bowie State is now the third U.S. HBCU to offer a PhD in counselor education and supervision. Congratulations, President Breaux.

Let me broaden my scope to the University System writ large.

The U.S. News graduate rankings are out, and—as always—the USM shines.

The University of Maryland, College Park  has more than 40 top 25 rankings in programs and specialties. Its College of Education and School of Public Health climbed into the top 25 overall. UMB was well-represented among top 25 programs. The School of Nursing again ranked in the top 10 among publics, and moved up in every ranked category. UMBC was recognized for a diversity of programs—statistics, fine arts, physics, public affairs, engineering.

And, in fact, every eligible USM university got a nod: Education at Frostburg; Social Work at Salisbury; Computer Science at Bowie State and Towson; Rehabilitation Counseling at Coppin State and UMES. The Clinical Law program at the University of Baltimore is ranked #5 nationwide.

So let me talk about how we’re putting that excellence to work.

Last week, we formalized a historic partnership with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, establishing a framework that facilitates prison education programs at all USM universities and all Maryland correctional facilities. We’re the first higher education system in the nation to do this.

The point, of course, isn’t only to grow learning opportunities—degree opportunities—for incarcerated students, but ultimately, to strengthen the families and communities they return to. I thank UBalt and Bowie State for showing us the way. And I thank Regent Wood, Regent Hur, and Senior Vice Chancellor Wrynn for their leadership in getting this done.

Another way we’re putting our knowledge to work: The USM has joined the Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong Alliance to help recovery efforts following the devastating Key Bridge collapse.

I’ve told our state and city leaders personally that the System is eager to contribute our scholarly expertise in areas of critical need, and to providing education, reskilling, and career services to Port of Baltimore employees who may be out of work for a while. We’re grateful to contribute in times of challenge.

Another Systemwide effort: As we prepare for the upcoming election, we’re meeting the foundational obligation of the American academy—namely, to educate for democracy.

The USM is one of 14 applicants nationwide to win funding as part of the Help America Vote College Program. With money from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, our universities will pay students to be trained as election judges. And I thank College Park for taking lead in developing the training modules.

In this way, we’ll support transparency and confidence in the 2024 election. We’ll promote voting equity by placing poll workers in precincts without easy access to election judges. And we’ll start our students on a lifelong path of engaged citizenship. I thank Associate Vice Chancellor Nancy Shapiro for her leadership in this work.

And while I’m on civic engagement, it was gratifying to see UBalt’s NextGen Leaders program get so much attention for its work to develop and replenish our public-servant workforce. In less than two years, UBalt has placed more than 200 students in paid internships or fellowships with the state, the city, and municipalities across Maryland. Congratulations, Provost Mueller.

Coppin State has the same idea, partnering with the city of Baltimore to cultivate the next generation of public servants. The HBCU Fellowship Initiative provides the city with diverse talent, and provides students with career opportunities, on-the-job training, coaching, and mentoring. Thank you, President Jenkins.

From local to global: At UMB, a three-year education and clinical care agreement with the University of Rwanda School of Dentistry will focus on patients born with cleft lip and cleft palate—conditions that, untreated, can lead to malnutrition and starvation. The aim is to ensure that 5,000+ Rwandans awaiting treatment can receive life-saving care. The partnership involves global nonprofit Operation Smile, whose cofounder is UMB alumnus Dr. Billy Magee. Congratulations, President Jarrell.

UMCES is leading a multi-university research group awarded an NSF grant to address salt contamination of water supplies in tidal rivers—contamination that threatens drinking water for billions of people around the world. And I’ll note that the project’s PI, Dr. Ming Li, was just named a Fulbright Scholar. He’ll work with Portuguese scientists to develop early-warning systems for harmful algal blooms in coastal waters. Congratulations, President Dennison.

College Park has launched the Artificial Intelligence Interdisciplinary Institute—fitting for a university with an AI program ranked #15. The institute will support collaborative faculty research and experiential learning in AI, with a focus on developing responsible AI technology and ethical AI leaders.

And a $27 million gift from Michael and Eugenia Brin will fund math research and outreach. It’s the largest-ever gift to the math department and the fourth-largest gift from an individual to the university. Congratulations, President Pines.

At UMBC, there’s something of a space race going on. In February, a 15-year R&D journey culminated with the launch of  HARP II as part of NASA’s PACE mission. The UMBC-designed instrument has been sending data back to Earth analyzing aerosol particles and clouds as a means of illuminating air quality, climate, and climate change.

And now UMBC tells us it’s going to the moon. Its Lunar Environment Monitoring Station will be deployed as part of NASA’s Artemis III lunar landing mission—humankind’s first return to the moon’s surface in 50+ years. Well done, President Sheares Ashby.

Not to be outdone, Salisbury also has its eyes on the final frontier, inking a landmark partnership with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The SU Space Act Agreement will offer hands-on experiences for students at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, expand the agency’s presence on campus, and help develop the state’s aerospace workforce. Congratulations, President Lepre.

At Towson University, many of us took part in the installation of Dr. Mark Ginsberg as TU’s 15th president. It was a lovely ceremony and, truly “a great day to be a Tiger.”

Days before the inauguration, President Ginsberg helped open the Sandra R. Berman Center for Humanity, Tolerance, and Holocaust Education. It’s the only Holocaust education center in Maryland and is designed for people of all ages and all backgrounds. The center will share the lessons of history and the Holocaust, and offer academic programs in civil and human rights. Thank you, President Ginsberg.

An important space on the Frostburg campus was dedicated last week. Gov. Moore and Lt. Gov. Miller were on hand for the official opening of Frostburg’s newest building, the $82 million Education and Health Sciences Center, a state-of-the-art facility for students filling critical workforce gaps in Maryland’s classrooms, clinics, and hospitals. Thank you, Vice President Delia.

As part of UMES’s bid to develop the next generation of aviation professionals, it’s sharing in $13.5 million in FAA grants to attract and train students for careers as pilots, engineers, maintenance technicians, and drone operators. Congratulations, President Anderson.

The NSA has validated UMGC as a National Center of Academic Excellence for its cybersecurity programming. The validation of UMGC’s MS in Cybersecurity Technology is the university’s second cybersecurity master’s program to win the coveted distinction. Congratulations, Senior Vice President Sergi.

At our regional centers, the USM at Hagerstown was named Small Business of the Year by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. This honor proves the center’s extraordinary value to the region—as an anchor, a partner, a convener, and a critical economic and workforce developer. Thank you, Dr. Ashby.

Programs are growing at the USM at Southern Maryland. This fall, Bowie State begins offering a master’s in Special Education at the center. With the Kennedy Krieger Institute co-located on the USMSM campus, BSU students will be able to work with the institute’s teachers, staff, and students to advance special education practice and serve Southern Maryland families. I know everyone hates the word, but this is what “synergy” looks like. Synergy for the public good. Thank you, Dr. Abel.

And the Universities at Shady Grove just got a campaign’s worth of exposure with a 30-minute feature on an Amazon TV show called “The College Tour.” Ten USG students tell their stories and talk about the intimacy of the USG community, its incredible diversity, and USG’s laser focus on career readiness and job placement. If you haven’t watched it yet, you absolutely should. Congratulations, Dr. Khademian.

Let me switch gears and acknowledge the just-ended legislative session. Every year, I say it was a busy one. And, every year, that’s true. But this year—with 3,480 bills filed; with 280 affecting the System directly; with our people testifying on nearly 50—we were in overdrive.

I thank everyone—all the university staff—who showed their skill, their stamina, and the strength of their collaboration with one another, and I thank Vice Chancellor Susan Lawrence and her team for guiding us through a hectic 90 days with grace and good humor relatively intact.

Facing a deficit, we know there are tough times ahead. But it’s in times of challenge, especially, that we value the goodwill and good faith of our leaders and the trust they’ve placed in us to do the work that fuels Maryland’s growth, prosperity, and strength.

I have one final item before I cede the podium: Chair Gooden mentioned in her opening comments that she’ll speak to the Title IX workgroups this Board is standing up. But I, too, want to address their impetus—revelations of Title IX misconduct at UMBC.

I want everyone here, and everyone listening in, to know how seriously the System and the Board take the findings of the Department of Justice, and how deeply sorry we are for the pain suffered by too many students for too long. I want you to know that we will be accountable for strengthening our policies and processes going forward. And we will work every day to prevent the misconduct that happened at UMBC from ever happening again—at any university within the System.

Without question, what happened at UMBC harmed students. It caused damage we can’t undo. What we can do is do better.

I’m grateful for the leadership of President Sheares Ashby, who recognized the gravity of this situation as soon as she arrived at UMBC. From Day 1, she’s coordinated closely with the System and the Board, and has been making needed changes in UMBC’s structure, policies, and personnel. I know she and her team will do everything in their power to renew and affirm UMBC’s culture of care and accountability, to regain the trust of the university’s students, and to live up to UMBC’s core values.

Every student has the right to learn in an environment free from abuse, harassment, and discrimination. Our work isn’t done until all students can say that we’ve met that standard.

Madame Chair, this concludes my report.

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Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719