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A New Academic Year Beckons

Welcome to our new students, faculty and staff.

Dear University of Maryland community,

Welcome to our new students, faculty and staff. And to our stalwarts who make this a great university, welcome back!

We welcome new deans this year: at the iSchool, Keith Marzullo (computer scientist, UC-San Diego and NSF division director); as interim dean, Graduate School, Jeffrey Franke (former associate dean, Georgetown University business school); and next month, Sonia Hirt (urban planner, Virginia Tech) will join the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

This year’s freshman class is again among the most academically talented in our history. It is also diverse: 44% are students of color, nearly 25% are from historically underrepresented groups. Transfer students’ credentials continue to reach new highs; incoming graduate students are among the nation’s finest. We welcome the enthusiasm and promise of all our new students.

Our quality, affordability, graduation rates, and the success of our alumni are the reasons why Money Magazine this summer ranked UMD a top-ten U.S. public university. At the same time, Forbes put us at #14 based on criteria of quality and value. Whatever the validity of these rankings, they matter to the public. And this might be why we are now seeing a record number of applicants and soaring acceptances by admitted students.

Equal to the Best: UMD 2016 Strategic Plan Update” – endorsed by the University Senate – builds on the 2008 plan and charts the course for continued excellence in 2017-22 in education, research, innovation, arts and humanities, diversity, athletics, administrative modernization (improved services and efficiencies) and Greater College Park. 

Faculty research continues to set new levels of excellence and competitiveness. In July, research grants again reached a record $550M. Scholarship that extends the frontiers of knowledge and the innovations that result from it define us as a premier research university.

New state research funding will come to us under the Strategic Partnership Act that takes effect October 1. The two distinct campuses of the University of Maryland – in College Park (UMD) and in Baltimore (UMB) – are collaborating in education, research, and technology commercialization to the benefit of our students and the people of Maryland. 

We are most grateful to alumni and friends who donated $170M last year, our second largest total ever, to support student scholarships, faculty and academic programs, and new facilities.

The construction boom continues on campus. The high-tech St. John Learning and Teaching Center, with several Chemistry teaching labs, opens in January. Clark Hall’s state-of-the-art bioengineering and animal care facilities open in June. Work has begun on the Brendan Iribe Computer Science and Innovation Center, a home for virtual reality and robotics research.

Underway is the rebuilding of the Cole fieldhouse that brings together athletics and academics. The indoor football practice facility will be completed next spring, available also for general student use. Planning is in progress for new research and clinical facilities for sports medicine, neuroscience, health and human performance, and innovation and entrepreneurship. The new Cole complex will engage researchers and students from UMD and UMB.   

Off campus, there is even more construction. The Hotel and Conference Center commands Baltimore Avenue and will open next summer. Adjacent to it will be a food hall with music performance space, student innovation incubators, co-working and co-living facilities, and potentially a new art gallery.

Real estate development (new housing, retail amenities), community development (arts and culture, public transit, public safety, public charter school), and economic development (new start-up companies and businesses) are taking hold near the campus along Baltimore Avenue and along the route of the planned Purple Line, from The Hotel to the College Park Metro station. Almost all of this development is powered by private investment.

Driving this “place-making” is today’s land-grant vision of UMD as the anchor of a regional hub of innovation and entrepreneurship: Greater College Park. The aim is to incubate and recruit scores of new start-up companies, create thousands of new jobs, and transform the surrounding area into a more vibrant, urbanized, and walkable residential community. This will help attract and retain top students, faculty, staff, and new residents.

Students this fall will find “anytime dining” intended, in part, to encourage more socializing and eating together. “Terps After Dark” will increase alcohol-free, late night programs to support responsible behaviors. Campus-wide training and prevention efforts in sexual assault will be expanded. At the start of a new year, a simple reminder: Terps help Terps get home safely. 

These are fraught times. Our country is divided. There is campus unrest across the land, unseen in a generation. What steadies and bind us are shared values. The bedrock value of a university is freedom of expression. Without it there can be no learning or scholarly inquiry. 

We are also dedicated to building bridges, not walls. Our diversity and inclusiveness have raised this University’s excellence and impact. But when members of our University community are made to feel that they do not belong or are unwelcome here, we must address the underlying conditions that fuel the protests and the calls to suppress speech and create sanctuaries.

“Maryland Dialogues” continue this year. They are opportunities for conversations, sometimes more frank than comfortable. We must listen and talk to each other, with respect and civility, and walk the talk. As Frederick Douglass wrote, “Education means emancipation.” Education has redemptive power to engage the fears and hopes, the pain and healing, of today’s generation in post-civil rights America.

Our nation and our University have come a long way on social, racial, and economic justice. However, we still have far to go to realize the ideal engraved on our nation’s Great Seal: E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one.”

All these possibilities and challenges we must meet so that the State’s flagship university provides education, research and service that is – as charged by the General Assembly – “equal to the best” of U.S. public institutions. Together, we are rising to the occasion.

Sincerely,

Wallace D. Loh
President