Dear fellow Terrapins,
Earlier today, U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of the Best Graduate Schools. I am so proud that 56 programs, schools and colleges at the University of Maryland were ranked in the top 25. With the addition of our outstanding overall and undergraduate rankings in its Best Colleges edition released last fall, UMD now has a total of 74 top 25 rankings from U.S. News. This is up from 60 total undergraduate and graduate programs ranked in the top 25 in 2016. These rankings are just the latest in an impressive list of university accomplishments over the past two years.
On my first day in office, I announced 12 initiatives and recommendations to reaffirm our commitment to our core mission and values, and to one another. I am grateful that due to the work of our incredible staff, faculty and students, we have fulfilled these commitments. My two priorities remain strong - to promote excellence in everything we do, and to create an inclusive, multicultural campus environment where every person can reach their full potential. These initiatives foreshadowed our mission to pursue excellence and impact for the public good as outlined in Fearlessly Forward: The University of Maryland Strategic Plan.
Improving the Student Experience
During a time of extreme stress and uncertainty, I’m proud of the work we’ve done to support the mental and physical health of our entire campus community. We've provided funding to the Counseling Center to support the hiring of seven new clinicians. The new clinicians will join the Center's multicultural and diverse staff and help expand the treatment services offered to students. The Division of Student Affairs also hired a Program Coordinator for Immigrant and Undocumented Student Life in 2020. Through the UndocuTraining series, the coordinator continues to educate our community about the unique challenges our undocumented students face and the resources available to them on campus, as well as across the state.
As we concluded our $1.5 billion Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland fundraising campaign last year, we were able to raise more than $334 million toward student support, including scholarships, awards and programs and nearly $2 million in donations to the Student Crisis Fund providing critical aid to more than 3,000 students since the pandemic began. This generosity from our community is enhanced by the work of our Government Relations team and congressional delegation, which resulted in more than $29 million for emergency aid to our students with financial need during the pandemic.
Creating an Inclusive Environment
We launched the TerrapinSTRONG initiative with the goal of creating a shared vision and values for the entire campus community centered on improving the sense of community, connection and inclusion on our campus. The cornerstone of the initiative is an onboarding program for all new faculty, staff and students. I am proud of how our new and existing community members have embraced this shared goal - to date more than 15,000 new and existing students, faculty and staff have enrolled in the onboarding program.
It was my honor last fall to be part of the dedication of the new Pyon-Chen residence hall, which sits next to the near-completed Johnson-Whittle Hall, and to take part in the ground blessing ceremony for the Yahentamitsi dining hall named in honor of the Piscataway Tribe. We also recently broke ground on the plaza in honor of Lt. Richard Collins III on campus. Cementing these names on our campus is an important part of recognizing and honoring our past and the trailblazers who came before us. The University Senate recently passed a series of revisions to the General Education Diversity Requirement, which will give undergraduate students the opportunity to tackle important issues like historical and systemic racism, and focus on civic engagement, communication and resolving conflicts. I look forward to seeing these changes continue to move forward through the work of the implementation working group.
The Task Force on Community Policing, which was made up of faculty, staff and students, completed its comprehensive report and we are already in the process of implementing its recommendations for enhancing community safety on and around our campus. The 2020 election was an opportunity for civic engagement and participation for our campus community. The right to vote is fundamental, which is why we were proud to host a polling location at XFINITY Center with a secured ballot dropbox for early or absentee voter ballots, and request flexibility by supervisors to give employees the opportunity to vote. We made it a priority to give our community access and support for voter registration and voting by mail, and encourage participation in the 2020 Census.
Advancing the University
We achieve more when we listen. That’s why my tenure as president - and the provost’s first months in her new role - were spent inviting feedback. This happened in virtual and in-person meetings, candid conversations, and submitted feedback. The Voices of Maryland Listening Sessions helped sharpen the focus, and will continue to tap our Terrapin community for your expertise and input.
My two priorities for our university will never be possible without advancing student, faculty and staff diversity on our campus. We have made great strides in access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we made the important decision to make our university SAT/ACT test optional, and began accepting the Common App for freshman applications. In conjunction with our robust recruitment efforts, these initiatives resulted in more than 50,000 applications for freshman admission. This past fall, a majority of our freshman class were students of color for the first time in our history. Last year we launched the FAMILE initiative with the goal to add over 100 underrepresented faculty members to our tenure track ranks over 10 years. To date, we have hired 15 new faculty members across several schools and colleges. We are proud of these accomplishments and will continue our work to create a multicultural and inclusive campus.
The Division of Research launched the new Research Leaders Fellows Program in the fall of 2020. The first cohort of the program included 18 participants representing every school and college on campus. As a national preeminent research institution, our goal is to conduct cutting-edge research that positively impacts the grand challenges of our times. The university continues to grow, exceeding $650M in research awards and $530M in annual research expenditures in FY21.
Our very own David Driskell, Distinguished University Professor in the College of Arts and Humanities and recognized worldwide as an artist, scholar and historian of African American art, passed away at the age of 88 in March 2020 from complications of COVID-19. In one of my final conversations with him, I expressed my excitement about showcasing his work in the University House. While he, unfortunately, never got to see it come to fruition, I still wanted to honor my commitment to him. Today, his art is proudly displayed as a reminder of his talent and as a tribute to the many lives our community has lost to the coronavirus.
Every achievement was made through collaboration. Twenty months, 12 initiatives. We did this together. While there is much work that lies ahead, I am fiercely proud of our collective accomplishments. Now, we will use Fearlessly Forward: The University of Maryland Strategic Plan to guide us as we pursue inclusive excellence and impact for the public good.