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Creating Our Future

Dear University of Maryland community,

As we all make sacrifices to help close the State's large structural deficit, we must also work together to create our University's future. 

The recently mandated cuts are painful, but this too shall pass. The economy runs in cycles. Over the past 25 years, our University has faced major fiscal retrenchments. Yet each time, we have emerged stronger, growing from a "safety" school to a top 20 public research university. 

Now, our challenge is to respond creatively to long-term forces that impact higher education. We are in a "new normal" of constrained state and federal funding due to budget deficits and slow economic growth. Nationwide, state appropriations for public universities have fallen while the share from tuition and self-generated funds has risen. Taxpayers increasingly view public higher education more as a private benefit than as a public good. Technology, demographics, and globalization are reshaping society, and we are not immune. 

We gain a strategic advantage by seizing new opportunities for education, research, and innovation in this changing environment.

Today, I announce the Flagship 2020 Commission. My charge to this Commission is to chart a road map to competitive excellence--to become a top 10 flagship university, "equal to the best in the nation," as our State mandate reads. 

This means a University of Maryland that attracts the best students, faculty, and staff; offers an educational experience that is second to none; expands opportunity and mobility for high achieving students with financial need; performs world-class research, innovation, and creative work; drives economic growth, job creation, and quality of life in the State; and is a prudent steward of state resources. 

The 2020 Commission will make recommendations that the University could act upon on a rolling basis. It is composed of faculty, students, and staff. The chair is Dr. Rajshree Agarwal, the Rudolph Lamone Chair in the Robert H. Smith School of Business. 

To support the 2020 Commission, five work groups will generate proposed recommendations for its review. These groups will consist of other faculty, students, and staff.

1) UMD Strategic Plan Update, 2015-2020 
Chair: Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, Senior Vice President and Provost. 
Much of the current strategic plan -- drafted pre-Great Recession -- has been implemented. However, some initiatives are no longer apt; others were not envisioned at the time (e.g., partnering with UM-Baltimore; joining the academic consortium of Big Ten universities). The goal is not a new strategic plan but an update and revision of the existing one.

2) Strategic Budgeting and Finance 
Chair: Dr. Mary Ann Rankin
The charge is to better align financial resources with institutional priorities. We need to grow by substitution and consolidation as well as by expansion. We should benchmark our revenues and expenditures to those of peer flagships. 

3) Innovations and Efficiencies in Education and Research
Chair: Dr. Greg Ball, Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences
The charge is to recommend improved ways to learn and teach, conduct research, and translate ideas into social and/or economic ventures. It should consider collaborations, mergers, and shared services across units, within and between colleges. The twin goal is enhanced excellence and cost-savings. 

4) Innovations and Efficiencies in Administrative Services
Chair: Dr. Eric Denna, Vice President and Chief Information Officer
This group will propose how some of our administrative services might be improved and streamlined to better support our core academic missions, making use of technology, data analytics, and business process redesign. It should consider bridging administrative silos, outsourcing certain operations, and promoting a more entrepreneurial culture.

5) Revenue Development
Chair: Dr. Alex Triantis, Dean, Robert H. Smith School of Business
The charge is to propose ways to increase our revenue streams with new entrepreneurial activities; new partnerships with corporate, governmental, and non-profit sectors; and expanded fundraising. We will always advocate for increased state support, but we must also broaden our revenue base.

I have asked these five groups to work collaboratively. I am asking you -- the faculty, students, staff, and alumni of our University -- to share your ideas to help create our future.

The new website has an electronic suggestion box. It includes information on the 2020 Commission and the five work groups as well as other news. We will also hold public forums.

In the year President Lincoln signed the law creating the land-grant college, he wrote: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.... As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." Today, so must we. And when the lean times recede, as they eventually will, we will be positioned to surge ahead. 

Together, we can make the University of Maryland "equal to the best." We will succeed. We always have. Thank you for your engagement. 

Wallace D. Loh
University of Maryland