Friday, February 16, 2007

Board of Regents

Chancellor William E. Kirwan


Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Board of Regents. 

I begin by thanking our host this morning . . . . Bowie State University and its President Mickey Burnim.  As you may know, President Burnim presented Bowie State's legislative testimony earlier this month.  In his testimony, President Burnim underscored what a remarkable impact he has had in less than one-half year as President: BSU is refining and revising its strategic plan, focusing on the overall goal enumerated in its mission statement, "to enable students to think critically, value diversity, become effective leaders"; He has initiated improvements in both the internal and external communications for the campus; He is assembling an exemplary leadership team; And he has laid out a broad and multi-faceted vision for Bowie State University to serve both its students and the state better.  The USM and BSU are indeed fortunate to claim such a dedicated, focused individual as leader of this institution. 

This has also been a noteworthy time for former Bowie State University president, Dr. James Earl Lyons, Sr., nominated as Secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission by Governor Martin O'Malley.

Elsewhere across the USM . . . .

The Coppin State University (CSU) Presidential Search Committee has been established, chaired by our former colleague Leronia Josey, with A. Dwight Pettit serving as the committee's liaison to the board.  Also at CSU, in its list of "101 Best Practices", Campus Technology magazine placed Coppin's Laptop Ownership Program #30.  In another impressive recognition, CSU's School of Education celebrates the 33rd year of unbroken accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

At Frostburg State University (FSU), new President Jonathan Gibralter has announced that site work is underway at the Allegany Business Center at Frostburg State University.  As this business center enhances FSU's economic impact in the region, it will find an ally in Governor O'Malley's nominee to head the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development; FSU alumnus David Edgerley, who has long-standing ties to both FSU and Allegany County.  I am also very proud to note that FSU was featured in a new publication of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) identifying best practices in financial management, with a special focus on FSU's Effectiveness and Efficiency efforts. 

National recognition also came to Salisbury University (SU), as Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine named SU one of its 2007 100 Best Values in Public Colleges, noting its ability to "combine outstanding value with a first-class education."   In addition, SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach is featured in the most recent edition of American Executive magazine, a national publication for business leaders.  And, starting this fall, SU will extend its campus to Washington County, joining the roster of USM institutions offering classes at the University System of Maryland-Hagerstown.

At Towson University (TU), groundbreaking for the new 250,000-square foot College of Liberal Arts Complex is slated for later this spring.  And-as President Caret points out in his "blog"-the 600-pound, 8 ½ foot tall bronze tiger statue recently erected in front of Stephens Hall is a terrific symbol for Towson University at this stage of its growth and development . . . a strong, confident, powerhouse institution.

Another institution poised for growth, the University of Baltimore (UB), has signed its first articulation agreements with Harford Community College in four undergraduate subject areas considered vital to Maryland' changing workforce needs: criminal justice, business, real estate and forensic science.  UB was also among the nation's first institutions to receive The Carnegie Foundation's new "community engaged" classification, a newly-announced category for colleges and universities with a proven track record of extensive involvement in their communities in terms of service, partnerships and scholarly activity. 

Another example of commitment to community can be seen at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), where staff, faculty, and retirees raised nearly $470,000 for the 2006 Maryland Charity Campaign (MCC), making it the number one contributor in the state for the third consecutive year.  UMB received the Governor's Cup Award for Outstanding Performance by a state agency in the 2006 MCC.  On the national level, Karen Rothenberg, dean of the School of Law, was a key witness before Congress on efforts to ensure federal protection of genetic information.

Also making a national impact was University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) President Freeman Hrabowski, who delivered the Robert H. Atwell Lecture at the American Council on Education's 2007 Annual Meeting, widely considered to be one of the most important higher education addresses of the year.  On the lighter side, UMBC Political Scientist Tom Schaller acquitted himself quite well in his appearance "The Colbert Report" discussing his new book, "Whistling Past Dixie".

The University of Maryland, College Park also received national recognition in the Peace Corps' Annual Rankings of Top Universities.  UMCP ranks 12th among large U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Peace Corps Volunteers in 2006. UMCP provided 57 alumni volunteers.  I am also pleased to note that UMCP has raised more than $100 million for scholarships and other student support.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) President Thelma Thompson has been selected as the primary negotiator for regulations relating to accreditation of student financial aid programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1964.  The sessions for the Accreditation Team begin next week. Also at UMES, the National Science Foundation has awarded $450,000 to support the UMES ADVANCE Program, a three-year program of innovative and comprehensive institution-wide changes to advance women scholars.

Last week, Chairman Kendall and I participated in the formal installation of Susan Aldridge as the fifth president of the University of Maryland University College.  Her energy, intellect, expertise, and commitment to innovation are already paying dividends at UMUC.  Some of the best validation of that came from the west coast where UMUC has established a partnership with Pima Community College in Arizona.  As Dave Padgett, PCC's assistant vice chancellor for academic services. noted: UMUC is the university "best-known for distance education in the country"  

The University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) has forged a partnership with FSU and West Virginia University to pave the way for the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies, a unique research and education center in western Maryland to study and preserve the plant culture of Appalachia, a $20-billion-a-year market worldwide, but with limited scientific research.

As the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) continues its work on critical local issues such as restoring oysters to the Chesapeake Bay as well as international issues such as climate change, it has launched a new Speakers Bureau at the Horn Point Laboratory designed to increase understanding and involvement of these initiatives.

One final aspect of our institutions I want to highlight is the ongoing commitment to the victims of Katrina.  It is unfortunate that as the Gulf Coast continues in its recovery efforts, the national attention has diminished.  But that is not the case within the USM.  For example, just last month more than 50 UMB School of Law students traveled to New Orleans to assist in the rebuilding process, both to rehabilitate storm-damaged homes AND work with the public defender's office as the legal system also recovers from the catastrophe.  At UMES later this month, visiting scholars will present "New Orleans: Past, Present, and Future," with donations benefiting the UMES New Orleans Education Project. At UMCP, the entire 250-member "Mighty Sound of Maryland" Marching Band traveled to New Orleans during their semester break to help Habitat for Humanity build new homes for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.  We should all take great pride from the level of dedication and service USM students' display. 

I am also pleased to note some "System Office" news:  Irv Goldstein, senior vice chancellor of academic affairs, and I have been selected to join 76 other administrators from public colleges and universities across the nation to develop recommendations for a voluntary system of accountability. The system is an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC).  As we all know, over the past several years there has been a growing demand from policymakers and the public to make higher education more accountable.  A transparent, voluntary system of accountability is a step in the right direction. I will keep the board up-to-date as to the progress of this effort.

Turning now to my report . . . .

I begin with our FY 08 budget.  Chairman Kendall and I testified before both the House and the Senate in support of the Governor's proposed operating budget for the USM.  As you know, Governor O'Malley has proposed an increase of 6.8 percent-$63.6 million-in general funds.  This funding will enable the USM to address our shared priorities of quality (such as our system-wide STEM Initiative), access (such as the expansion of the Universities at Shady Grove with additions such as the UMB Pharmacy program), and affordability (such as the institutional financial aid increase of $10 million).

Unlike last year, however, we have run into some concerns from the Department of Legislative Services, with DLS analysts recommending cuts to program enhancements and enrollment funding initiatives, as well as altering our fund balance.  We have, both in our testimony and a follow-up letter, expressed our strong opposition to these cuts, explaining the negative impact they would have on our efforts to restore stability, enhance access, and strengthen quality.  We remain hopeful that these cuts will not go forward.

Elsewhere in the legislative session . . .

Last month, Regent Orlan Johnson and I testified on HB 81 and SB 29, which address the issue of Academic Program Duplication.  While we indicated our support for the intent of this legislation-avoiding unnecessary duplication of academic programs-we also expressed our concern over the unintended consequences that may result from the legislation as proposed.  Our first concern was that this legislation could create major delays in implementing needed academic program that address key workforce demands.  A second concern was that the retroactive nature of the bill could disrupt students that have paid tuition and made progress toward their degrees in the 150 new degree programs that have been approved by MHEC since July 1, 2005.  Our position was that the need for credible, comprehensive, independent third party review could be met through a process of mediation and arbitration-alone or in combination.  Such an approach would subject a decision to rigorous reconsideration, while avoiding long delays, and without the damaging divisiveness of litigation.   

I have also sent a letter to Senator Joan Carter Conway, Chairman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, on behalf of the USM and the Board voicing our support for the intent of Senate Bill108, the Tuition Affordability Act of 2007.  By providing a level of support that allows the USM to meet our mandatory cost obligations, expand enrollment capacity, and make quality enhancements, Governor O'Malley's budget proposal also enabled us to implement tuition stabilization. 

Internally, we are also working toward a resolution on the issue of offering retirement benefits to longtime contract full-time non-tenure-track faculty members.  Obviously, this is a complex and important issue.  We are working with an expansive group in order to develop a comprehensive, equitable, and affordable approach to meet our obligation to these individuals.  I will be up-dating the Board as we make progress.

One final but extremely important point: The Board of Regents has played a decisive role in elevating the consciousness of the Governor, the legislature, and the public at large to the importance of higher education, and the USM in particular.  I can't say enough about the importance of your efforts.  All of us in the System, the presidents, faculty, students and staff are deeply, deeply grateful.

The importance of these efforts is highlighted by a recent study funded by the Pew Center on the States, which developed a "Chance for Success Index" that evaluates how well young people in each state are faring at key points in their development and education.  The report noted that smart states, like smart companies, make the most of their investments by ensuring that young people's education is connected from one stage to the next - reducing the chances that students will be lost along the way or will require costly remedial programs to acquire skills or knowledge they could have learned right from the start.  It should come as no surprise that Maryland ranked in the top-5 in this index.   The "Chance for Success" . . . that really is what our work is all about.

Mr. Chairman . . . . this completes my report.