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Welcome: Progress in Fraught Times

Dear University of Maryland community,

Welcome to our new students, faculty, and staff! And to those returning, welcome back!  

The new academic year begins in fraught times. We are shocked ​and saddened ​by the tragic ​killing​s​ of Lt. Richard Collins III on our campus in May and ​of a peaceful protester ​in Charlottesville earlier this month. ​​Our​ country ​is ​divided. The brazen resurgence of white supremacist, neo-fascist, ​and other extrem​e ideologies​​ are an affront to our democracy. 

​Every one of us ​is called t​o action -- to reaffirm our University's core values of diversity, inclusion, respect, and civil discourse​, and to do more to live these values ​each day. As a campus community, we must respond to the scourge of ​bias, hate, and violence based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Then, we can begin to heal.     

In a​n email​ message that I will send tomorrow, I will ​say more about the reflection, dialogue, and actions that ​our​ ​campus​ must now​ undertake​. For this opening day welcome, though, I want to take stock of our University's missions. In our education, research and innovation, we continue a remarkable ascent.


Education

UMD's fundamental mission is to educate the next generation of citizens and leaders. We received a record 34,000 applications for this year's freshman class. We are proud to welcome the ​4,100 ​​new ​first-year students and ​1,900 ​transfer students. This is ​our academically strongest entering class ever. ​M​any also have distinctive skills, such as ​a freshman who can solve a Rubic's cube in ten seconds, one-handed! ​

​Th​is is also our most diverse entering class ever​. About 46% are students of color, and students from historically underrepresented groups comprise about one-fifth of the class.​ They come from 39 states and 26 countries.​

Thank you to Barbara Gill, Associate VP for Enrollment Management and her staff in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions for the amazing work​ they do, year after year. 

We welcome 3,400 ​talented new graduate students​, ​two-thirds ​to pursue ​the MA, one-third the PhD. They come from around the country (60%) and ​abroad ​(40%)​, a microcosm of the world on our campus.

Welcome to ​the ​78 new tenure-track and tenured faculty​. Women ​comprise 45%​ and faculty of color 37%​ (including 17% who are from historically underrepresented groups​)​. ​We are also pleased to have with us many new professional track faculty​, research faculty, and post-doctoral fellows.​​ ​The inaugural cohort of six President's Post-Doctoral Fellows arrived this fall, an initiative started by Provost Mary Ann Rankin to expand the pipeline of future faculty who will contribute to the work of diversity and inclusion in different disciplines at UMD, and in higher education generally.

Welcome to three new members of UMD's academic leadership, all long-time faculty​ colleagues​: Jennifer Rice, Dean, College of Education; Gerald Wilkinson (Biology), Interim Dean, CMNS; and Juan Uriagereka (Linguistics), Dean, Graduate School.​ And thank you to Jeffrey Franke ​of the Graduate School for serving so ably as Interim Dean this past year.​ Welcome also to Professor Roger Worthington (Education) as UMD's new Chief Diversity Officer. ​

Starting this year, our students will have the opportunity to learn in the new Edward St. John Learning ​and Teaching ​Center. It was designed and equipped for active, collaborative, and blended education. Some 9,000 students per day will have classes ​in this state-of-the-art facility​.

The education that we offer continues to receive national recognition. Over the summer, Money Magazine listed us as the 1​1​th best public institution ​in the U.S. for educational quality, affordability, and alumni success.  


Research

​UMD's vibrant research enterprise ​will be led by our ​new Vice President for Research (VPR), Laurie Locascio (Bio-engineering), ​starting ​October 1. She comes after a distinguished career of research and leadership at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. ​Thank you to ​Professor Amitab Varshney (Computer Science) for ​his leadership as Interim VPR since last January. 

The work of the University relies on information ​technology. ​Welcome to our ​new ​Interim Chief Information Officer, Professor Jeffrey Hollingsworth (Computer Science)​,​ ​who ​will oversee our virtual campus​.​​

The spectacular new Clark Hall of the A. J. Clark School of Engineering is set to open later this fall. It ​includes facilities for ​the Fischell Department of Bio-engineering​ and a new vivarium.​

Earlier this month, we dedicated the new indoor practice facility in the iconic and transformed Cole Field House. The open space is so large that it can fit two 747 airliners. Concurrently, we broke ground for the expansion of Cole to include clinical and research space for sports medicine (orthopedics), health and human performance, and neuroscience and brain injury recovery.​ 

This interdisciplinary research facility was planned by faculty members from UMD and University of Maryland Baltimore​, ​under the aegis of the strategic partnership between both institutions ("M Power"), now codified in law. The research team is ​​co-led by Professors Elizabeth Quinlan (Neuroscience​, UMD​) and Alan Faden (Neurology​, UMB).​ Joint research projects are already underway, with state seed funding.​

The Cole initiative can lead to broader research, clinical, and educational collaborations between UMD and UMB when the new Prince George's Regional Medical Center at Largo is completed. This teaching hospital, affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System, is located only 25 minutes from UMD. We already have some 60 joint UMD-UMB faculty appointments and they have generated about $70M in joint research funding. Many UMD students do research at the UM Medical Center in Baltimore.  

​This summer, the Governor included in his capital budget plan the funding for planning and design ​of ​a new chemistry building. This is an encouraging first step in the long process for full funding approval. ​This much needed facility has been ​in the queue for some 30 years. ​

​These​ are uncertain times for federal research​ funding​.  UMD depends on such funding​, over $500 million annually. We continue to work closely with our congressional delegation ​and our peer research universities ​to advocate strongly for ​it.​

As the federal fiscal year comes to a close, Congress ​has pushed back on a bipartisan basis ​against the ​administration's proposed ​draconian cuts to research funding ​and ​to the national endowments for the arts and the humanities​.​ ​

​We are lobbying​ against the administration'​s plan​ to curtail reimbursement for research overhead and facilities, which it can do without Congressional approval. We are also monitoring ​possible cuts to the Affordable Care Act because​ ​they will have ripple effects on state budgets and, hence, on state funding ​for higher education.


Innovation and “Greater College Park”​ 

Important to UMD's future is growth of our innovation enterprise. Across the country and the world, leading research universities are ​remaking themselves into 21st century hubs for economic, social, and community development. ​It extends the impact of our ​education and ​research. 

This fall is a season of openings and ground-breakings in ​what ​we call​ the "Discovery District," on the east side of campus. It stretches from Baltimore​ Avenue​, at the main campus gate, to the area surrounding the College Park Metro station​.The 150 acres of th​e Discovery ​District is the epicenter of​ an ​innovation ecosystem​. This is the area​ where research, innovation, economic development, ​housing​, ​public schools, ​and retail amenities ​converge.​

​In the Discovery District, faculty, staff, and students will turn knowledge into jobs, thereby creating social and economic benefits for Maryland and beyond. ​​For example, located in this District is a firm, backed by venture capital, started by Distinguished University Professor Christopher Monroe (Physics) to create a commercial quantum computer. We will soon announce other start-ups and national firms that will move in to establish innovation labs, attracted by UMD talent. An association of writers and writing programs ​recently took up​ residence in this District. 

The ​District's anchor​ project is "​The Hotel ​at the University of Maryland," ​a 4-star facility with​ a large conference center​ that will open next month.​ ​It is a catalyst for the revitalization of the area. ​​Next to The Hotel, planning is underway for co-working facilities for start-ups, a food-and-entertainment venue, and an art gallery -- all places where the campus community and the surrounding community can come together. 

Next to the College Park Metro station, a developer is planning an upscale hotel and retail complex. Three blocks south of the campus, another developer is planning a southern gateway complex comprised of mixed-use housing and retail that will draw faculty, staff, and other working professionals. Meanwhile, UMD is planning the development of new residence halls on campus for our students, because the student demand far exceeds the available supply.  ​

Also opening in th​e Discovery ​District next month is the new building for the College Park Academy, the UMD-affiliated public charter school. Many UMD faculty, staff, and students are engaged with CPA. Since it was launched three years ago, it ​has become ​one of the highest performing schools in ​Prince George's County​, providing students from all backgrounds a first-rate blended education and a potential pathway to UMD. ​CPA will attract more faculty, staff, and ​other families​​ with school-age children​ to ​live​ in College Park.

The State is moving ahead on​ improving​ our stretch of Baltimore​ Avenue by​ ​making ​it a more pedestrian-friendly boulevard. Last week, the federal government approved funding for the Purple Line light rail. With several stops on campus, ​including at The Hotel, ​the Purple Line​ will connect ​UMD​ with the entire Greater Washington region. It will significantly reduce vehicular traffic to campus and spur transit-oriented economic development. Its impact on ​campus ​and the region will be transformational. 

​All the development ​t​hat is planned, underway, or completed​, in ​both ​the surrounding region and on campus​,​ total nearly $2 billion​. This is Greater College Park​, described by the media as "one of the hottest" development areas in the region. 


Funding our future

In an era of tightening higher education finances, UMD must develop new sources of revenue to remain accessible​, affordable, ​and academically excellent. 

One source is increased support from alumni, friends, and other donors. ​We welcome Jackie Lewis, our new Vice President of University Relations, who comes from The University of Iowa​, after holding senior positions at Ohio State and Arizona State universities.​ She and our outstanding ​University Relations staff will be preparing the launch of ​our​ next capital campaign. ​UMD​ completed ​its last campaign in ​2012 and raised $1 billion to support student scholarships, academic programs, professorships, and new facilities. 

​We welcome Joel Seligman​, ​our new Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing​. He ​comes from the University of New Hampshire​, after serving at Cornell and the University of Chicago.​ He and his staff​ in University Relations ​will help tell the story of UMD's progress​, building ​upon the strong ​UMD brand.​​    


Reflection

UMD's momentum continues to lift us on ​a​ rising trajectory. Yet, the national climate of divisiveness​, incivility, hate, and violence tests our democracy and our campus. 

​On Wednesday, August 30, 12:05 - 12:06 PM, we will reflect in silence, standing in solidarity and respect to honor Lt. Richard Collins III of Bowie State University.​ Then we begin anew the work of succeeding in the tests ahead.

​Together​, we can be the solution​ we seek.​ I invite ​all of us to​ make this work ​our​ own.

 

Sincerely,

Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland