Academic Transformation at the University System of Maryland:

A USM Strategic Priority

The University System of Maryland (USM) is a national leader in a critical new initiative in higher education, known broadly as "academic transformation." Transforming the academic model is one of five guiding themes of Powering Maryland Forward: USM's 2020 Plan for More Degrees, a Stronger Innovation Economy, and a Higher Quality of Life-the USM's Strategic Plan.

Simply put, academic transformation seeks to improve learning by creating the most effective learning environments to ensure that students perform well and graduate in a timely fashion.

The USM in 2012 created the Center for Academic Innovation to address some of the many pressures higher education institutions now face. The center in April 2015 was renamed the William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, in recognition of then-Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan and the culmination of a $3 million fundraising effort to support USM’s work in academic transformation. The Kirwan Center’s web site can be accessed at

The center is focused on being innovative in the method and practice of teaching. The main objective of these efforts is to improve college completion rates throughout the USM.

"It is no longer 'business as usual' on a university campus. By 2018, 66 percent of Maryland jobs are projected to require college-level skills and we do not yet have the work force to fill that need," says Center Director MJ Bishop, Ed.D. "A core function of the center is to study and measure the truly 'transformative' ideas for changing how we have looked at decades-long models in higher education.

To address this challenge, the Center seeks to help transform public higher education in Maryland by concentrating on three critical areas of the student experience: college affordability, a student's learning environment, and the cultural challenges students face adapting to college.

These innovations take numerous forms, including:

  • Efforts to reduce costs for students by having "open source" materials as a more affordable option to expensive textbooks;

  • Consideration of year-round academic calendars;

  • "Redesign" of courses in which students use computers--both in class and online--to better understand course material; and improvement in quality of college academic advising.


USM Academic Affairs Staff:

Center for Academic Innovation Announcement, Nov. 2012:

Center for Academic Innovation Director MJ Bishop:

USM, Ithaka S+R Parternship:

USM Course Redesign Initiative:

What is Course Redesign:

IN THE NEWS, commentary by MJ Bishop:


Baltimore Sun, profile of civil rights history "hybrid" class at University of Baltimore:,0,4333547.story