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Welcome to the UMD community | 2019-2020 Academic Year

Welcome to another year of opportunity, for each of us individually and as a community.

August 26, 2019

Dear University of Maryland community,

Welcome to another year of opportunity, for each of us individually and as a community. Our campus continues to make strides in the excellence of our learning and teaching; the ascendancy of our research enterprise; the translation of our work into societal benefit; the redevelopment of our physical and virtual campus; and the transformation of our surrounding region.

In this, my 10th and final year as your president, I will work to maintain and even accelerate our University's progress, before handing the helm to my successor -- just as I picked-up where my predecessors left off. The next president will have his or her own priorities, but needs a foundation on which to build. Here is a checklist of our campus' vital signs.

Academic profile of our students

Our outstanding and dedicated faculty and staff, our educational innovation, and our institutional assets, continue to draw record numbers of outstanding students. This year, we had over 33,000 undergraduate applicants, from which we enrolled 4,300 freshmen and 1,300 transfer students. They come from 41 states and 25 countries. This incoming class is among the most academically credentialed and diverse ever (4.3 average high school GPA; 1300-1460 SAT scores in middle 50%; 46% are students of color, with a substantial increase of African-American freshmen over last year). Our Graduate School, celebrating its centennial this year, welcomed 3,200 new graduate Terps, also with enviable academic credentials, who hail from 50 states and 110 countries. They are enrolled in certificate, master's, and doctoral programs.

As important as the inputs are the outputs. Our latest six-year graduation rate, the index used by the U.S. Department of Education, is 86%. This places UMD among the top 11 public institutions in the nation in graduation success. 

Whatever the validity of institutional rankings, they do shape public impressions and the college choices of students and their families. Forbes recently put us at number 11 among U.S. public institutions for both quality and value. Kiplinger's recently ranked us as the 10th best public college value for in-state students and 16th best for out-of-state students. The 2019 Academic Ranking of World Universities lists us at number 45 among 1,000 institutions in the world, and 13th among U.S. public universities included in this global ranking, based on our scientific research and reputation.

New faculty and leadership transitions

Welcome to about 170 new tenure-track faculty and professional-track faculty. They are outstanding new colleagues from across the academic spectrum. More than half are women and about one in six are from underrepresented populations.

Welcome to our new academic and administrative leaders:

  • Adriene Lim, new Dean of University Libraries. She comes to us from the same position at the University of Oregon. Her expertise is information technology in libraries. 
  • Ritu Agarwal, interim dean, Robert H. Smith School of Business. A Distinguished University Professor, her research is on information technology in health care.  To her predecessor, Alex Triantis, we thank him and wish him the best in his new deanship at Johns Hopkins University.  
  • Georgina Dodge, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. This is a new position that elevates and enhances the prior Chief Diversity Officer position. A Navy veteran and Ph.D. in English, she previously worked to advance these important values at Bucknell, The University of Iowa, and The Ohio State University.
  • Yvette Rooks, our first-ever, full-time Director of Sports Medicine, Lead Team Physician, and Assistant Director of the University Health Center, situated in the Division of Student Affairs. Most recently, she was Chief Medical Officer for Rutgers University athletics. Previously, she was a team physician at UMD and a faculty member at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Medicine (UMB). Now she will direct a new patient-centered care for student-athletes -- independent of the Athletics Department -- and oversee all athletic trainers and other sports-medicine staff, with the safety and health of student-athletes as the top priority. 
  • John Zacker, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs is now the Interim Vice President of this division.

Earlier this month, current and former students and staff of "Lindaland" gathered to honor, thank, and bid Godspeed to Linda Clement, after her 45 years of service as "The Soul of Maryland." Her last 18 years were as Vice President for Student Affairs. She cared deeply about the welfare and success of students, and all the senior staff she hired shared these values. NAPSA, the national association of student affairs professionals, recently recognized her with its top "Award for Excellence" for having created, and led, what is widely regarded as one of the best student affairs divisions in American higher education.    


Our research enterprise continues to thrive due to the productivity of our faculty and the leadership of our Vice President for Research, Laurie Locascio. The total research grants to UMD this past academic year are expected to be the highest ever, once the final figures are tallied. 

UMD and UMB recently agreed to the appointment of Laurie as the VP for Research for both institutions, an unprecedented step towards closer integration of our respective research activities. (In the past few years, joint interdisciplinary research projects by faculty of both institutions have generated about $80 M in external funding.) Because the UMD-UMB strategic partnership is codified in state law, and there is now a single Chief Research Officer, the National Science Foundation recently agreed to consolidate both institutions' research funding in its annual Higher Education Research Development (HERD) survey, starting next year. 

We anticipate that the combined counting (in excess of $1 B) will catapult UMD-UMB to a higher national ranking in R&D expenditures. NSF's HERD ranking of U.S. research universities is consequential, because it is followed by federal, state, and industry funding sources and by researchers across the country. 

Construction and renovation of the physical campus

As is apparent, there is extensive construction on campus, and more in the pipeline, funded by state capital appropriations, or private gift funds, or both.

The School of Public Policy will break ground this fall for a new home, funded by state and private sources. Design of the long-awaited Chemistry and Biochemistry building is now underway, funded by state appropriations. The IDEA (Innovate, Design, & Engineer for America) Factory will be an addition to the Kim Engineering Building, funded by private gifts. The Interdisciplinary Engineering Building will bring together engineering, business, and science students to work on joint projects. It will be funded by private and state monies, though the state component is not yet fully allocated. Renovation to the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute's Western Regional Training Center is in the design phase, entirely funded by the state. 

As part of our Residential Facilities' six-year plan to renovate or replace older residence halls, using UMD funds, we are currently in the design phase for two new residence halls (900 beds) and a dining room, to be located on an athletic field north of Maryland Stadium. The goal is for occupancy in about three years. 

Since fall 2018, after the hottest, wettest, and most humid conditions the State has experienced in over a century, our Residential Facilities staff -- together with external experts -- completed this month a comprehensive moisture control and de-humidification plan in 19 residence halls that had mold last year, out of a total of 38 residence halls.
The foregoing facilities improvements to our campus total about $600 M, funded by a mix of state, private, and/or institutional funds. 

The administrative responsibilities of UMD extend beyond our College Park campus. We will have oversight of the development and management of a major new building for the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland, where our faculty offer courses and conduct research. We are also the designated managing institution for the Universities at Shady Grove, where our faculty deliver most of its courses. A new biomedical education and engineering building there is nearing completion. 

Renovation and replacement of the virtual campus

We are undertaking a major overhaul of an invisible, but critical, part of the campus -- the information backbone that undergirds all our work. Under the leadership of our Vice President for Information Technology, Jeff Hollingsworth, and in collaboration with other campus divisions, he has begun the process of obtaining bids to replace our old computer systems that manage human resources, student services, and finances. We will have to redesign our processes and lease cloud-based services, so that our new systems can be continuously updated. Once completed in the coming years, the campus will notice the improvement in services.

Administrative modernization 

After several years of planning, our Senior Vice President and Provost, Mary Ann Rankin, and our Vice President for Administration and Finance, Carlo Colella, led teams to (1) streamline the purchase of goods and services with a new e-procurement system that connects shoppers to thousands of catalog goods from preferred vendors who provide more favorable pricing, resulting in easy and paperless purchasing; (2) modernize our inventory of vehicles, leasing rather than owning 100+ vehicles, resulting in lower maintenance costs, more fuel savings, and right-sizing the fleet to meet campus users' needs; and (3) implement "TerpEngage," a platform for advising students and supporting their UMD journey and remaining in contact with them after they graduate. 

After only a few months, for example, the fleet modernization eliminated 32 vehicles as unneeded and saved almost $250,000 in fuel and maintenance expenses. TerpEngage improved the advising experience for 1,300 undergraduate dual majors and consolidated 15 different advising systems, resulting in more time to advise students.

Also after much planning, and working with the Deans and an external consultant, our Provost and Senior Vice President Mary Ann Rankin this year (1) unveiled a new budget model that tracks more accurately all expenses and investments in every unit on campus, resulting in greater transparency in the use of funds and improved fiscal forecasting; and (2) developed a new "cost of education model" -- an extensive database that analyzes the true costs of delivering education by course, major, and degree -- that will be used for data-driven academic planning and resource allocation by all academic units. It will facilitate the wisest use of limited resources. 

After only a few months, use of the new budget model freed up $3 M in additional, unrestricted state funds by utilizing a more equitable recovery of fringe benefits. 

"Fearless Ideas": the capital campaign

We are very grateful for the State of Maryland's support of its flagship university, at a time when many states are curtailing their funding of public higher education. To preserve the margin of excellence -- scholarships for students; endowed professorships; new facilities and academic programs -- private support is essential as a complement to the state support.

Since completing the $1 billion "Great Expectations" campaign in 2013, we began the quiet phase of the next campaign in 2016 and publicly launched the $1.5 billion "Fearless Ideas" campaign in 2018. Because of the work of so many people on campus -- our Vice President for University Relations, Jackie Lewis, and her staff in fundraising, alumni relations, and communications; our Deans in the various colleges and their development staff -- and because of the generosity of so many alumni and friends of the University, we have already raised over $1 billion. This past year we received $200 M in gifts and pledges, so we are on schedule to reach our goal.  

"Greater College Park" and the Discovery District 

The leadership of Ken Ulman, Chief Strategy Officer for Economic Development, and Vice President Colella, working in concert with the UMCP Foundation, are making College Park and its environs a more attractive place to live and work.  The development of our Discovery District is also driving this change. Over the past 18 months, more than a dozen companies located there to have access to our students and faculty, creating over 1,000 new jobs. Some are large companies, such as Adobe and Capital One that opened tech incubators. Some are new start-ups by students (who lease space in WeWork) and faculty (such as Distinguished University Professor Chris Monroe of the Physics Department who started IonQ to build a quantum computer).

Economic development analysis by independent sources projects up to 12,000 new jobs will be created over the next several years in the Discovery District, generating significant labor income and state and local tax revenues.

Companies and their employees choose where to locate based on public transportation, housing, public schools, and retail amenities. The Purple Line light rail will have a transformative impact on our community, relieving traffic congestion and binding us to the entire greater Washington, D.C. region. The State will redesign Baltimore Avenue (Route 1) along the campus with a landscaped median and bike lanes, making it a safer and more attractive main street. We partnered with the City to launch the College Park Academy, a new public charter school located in the Discovery District that now has the highest student achievement scores in the county.

Among the new College Park developments in the pipeline: "The Hall CP" -- a food, arts, and entertainment complex -- will open in December 2019, next to The Hotel. Ground-breaking for the "Southern Gateway" is planned for next year, a walkable, mixed-use development with extensive retail amenities and apartments at the south end of the City, along Baltimore Avenue. Together with the City, we will build a new City Hall with government and campus offices, a public square for outdoor events, and a childcare facility for city residents and UMD employees.

We recently leased 8,000 SF of office space in Crystal City, VA, to plant the Maryland flag near Amazon's planned second headquarters (HQ2). Over the next few years, Amazon will hire 25,000 employees. Since we are less than 30 minutes away via the Purple Line and Metro, there are opportunities for UMD-Amazon collaborations in education, research, and innovation. Amazon officials have visited our campus. Provost Rankin is working with the Deans to develop these opportunities.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Last spring, as you may recall, MSCHE placed us on "warning" status because of non-compliance with accreditation Standard VII, which requires that the accredited institution (UMD) have "appropriate autonomy" in the day-to-day management of its affairs, and that "neither the governing body nor its individual members interferes in the day-to-day operations of the institution," including on decisions regarding "staffing" and "allocating resources."

UMD was placed on warning since the accrediting agency only has jurisdiction and authority over the institution it accredits, not over other state agencies.

Next month, senior officials from MSCHE will visit the campus and will meet with various stakeholders from the University System of Maryland (USM), the Board of Regents (BOR), and the campus. The purpose is to offer support and guidance to help us prepare for another visit by the MSCHE team in April 2020 that will review the progress made in complying with Standard VII. 

MSCHE reaffirmed UMD's accreditation in June 2017, without raising a single concern. Therefore, I have reason to think that our accreditation will be reaffirmed again after the April 2020 visit. Since new BOR chair Linda Gooden assumed office in late 2018, there is more communication, collaboration, and trust. And, there is no over-reach or interference in the day-to-day operations of UMD, on personnel or on budget decisions. Moreover, the General Assembly in spring 2019 enacted legislation that reinforces the changes under Chair Gooden. 

Thus, I see emerging a collective understanding of the "roles, responsibilities, and accountability for decision-making by each constituency" [i.e., USM, BOR, and UMD], as is required under Standard VII. 

Do Good, Be Good

Last week, after I spoke at the orientation session for new graduate students, I received an email from a graduate student from Tokyo who attended the orientation. She wrote that she had doubts about coming to America to study, whether she would be accepted and whether she belonged in this country. After a few days on our campus, she felt more reassured.

I'm pleased that she found our campus to be welcoming. But it was heart-rending to hear her initial concerns. It was a palpable example of how certain federal policies and the current fraught climate have sowed division and instilled fear among many vulnerable groups, from abroad or at home. The current polarization is destructive of our civic culture. It puts at risk the heart and soul of our democracy. As a nation and as a campus, we need to build bridges, not walls.

As a land-grant university, our mission is not only to prepare students for the workforce. It is also to prepare them to "Do Good," as we have branded our campus -- to apply their knowledge and skills to the causes of justice and compassion and service in a nation greatly in need of these blessings. 

Our mission is also to prepare them to "Be Good" citizens, to live rightly in a free society. Provost Rankin and the Deans are working with faculty to develop a campus-wide educational initiative on civic engagement. For over 140 years, America has been trying to forge a more perfect union: e pluribus unum, from many, one. The saving grace for our country is that democracy is reborn in every generation. A university is the place to prepare the next generation of citizens to lead the rebirth.

The guiding ideal of our nation continues to inspire me. In my final year as president, I look forward to working with you in a spirit of renewal.


Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland