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Last month, when I delivered my fourth annual State of the University Address, I chose the theme “How We Lead.” I said that I believe the nation is experiencing a deficit of leadership and that UMB can model what we so urgently need right now: ethical, enlightened, courageous, compassionate leadership that confronts our most significant challenges and justifies our optimism that they will be solved.
People have put their faith in us. They’ve put their lives — and their livelihoods — in our hands. They’ve come to us to learn and to be served because we are Maryland’s public health, law, and human services university. And in that capacity, we have vital responsibilities to the state’s 6 million people, its 23 counties, and the city we call home.
A not insignificant number of those 6 million people are what we call “post-traditional learners.” The learner who’s of working age, who has a full-time job and maybe some college. The learner who’s juggling family and bills, long hours and little time, but who still wants to learn and will sacrifice to do it. Post-traditional learners need instruction that’s easy to access. They need stackable credentials, so they don’t have to start from scratch if they step out of a program.
As a professional and graduate university, we’ve been largely insulated from these learners. Our programs are highly regulated; many have to be. But, in some instances, we can accommodate this generation of learners who have experienced instructional flexibility and want more of it.
Our Graduate School is leading in much of this work, but other schools are coming on board. The Carey School of Law has just launched its online Master of Science in Law in cybersecurity and homeland security. Nursing, Pharmacy, and Social Work are engaging instructional designers to build highly accessible online courses. We need to give these designers the chance to collaborate and share resources. We need to create common standards, without intruding on individual disciplines. We need a more inclusive vision of who our students might be and a plan to invite them into this vibrant learning community.
Entrepreneurial education is another area where we’re perfectly positioned to lead, given the discovery-rich environment in which we work. Entrepreneurship has been a theme among students this year: The student-run Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network hosted its first campuswide Expo this year. The President’s Fellows wrote their white paper on how we might encourage and support the risk-takers among us, those who dare to try — and dare to fail — in pursuit of something better. We graduated our second cohort of Entrepreneurial Fellows, who dedicate a year to moving a faculty invention to market.
This fall, we’ll seek approval for a master’s program in social entrepreneurship, challenging students to apply business principles and design thinking to pernicious social problems, like city food deserts that contribute to health disparities.
These students will be working alongside an active community of entrepreneurs and artists in the Lion Bros. Building, the first adaptive reuse building to open in the BioPark and home to phase I of our Center for Maryland Advanced Ventures. This is where we’ll offer incubator space and services for startups across the University System and where our new Student Innovation Center will engage more of our students in entrepreneurship and tech transfer.
Another building that will stimulate exciting growth is Health Sciences Facility III. Opening in January, HSF III will accelerate the pace and enlarge the scope of our discovery. It adds 136,000 square feet of wet and dry labs and core facilities, and at full occupancy, it should generate more than $100 million in research revenues and stimulate $212 million in economic activity.
The School of Medicine has begun recruiting an impressive roster of internationally known and well-funded investigators who will make HSF III their professional home. They’ll take a transdisciplinary approach to answering many of our “big science” questions — questions in cancer biology, brain science, genome and microbiome sciences, infectious diseases, transplantation, heart and vascular science, and more.
We have another extraordinary opportunity before us to transform our research enterprise. We will join Johns Hopkins University in its application for a National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award. Over the years, the awards have been given to powerhouse research institutions across the U.S., and they’ve proved instrumental in accelerating the translational research process. It’s high time that Baltimore’s two most powerful research universities forge this critical alliance around science and revolutionize how we move discoveries from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside.
Many of you know how deeply I’ve been touched by the leadership we’ve shown in community engagement. But we know, of course, that our work in the community can be better, more responsive, more targeted. We’ve surveyed residents in Southwest Baltimore. We asked for their frank opinions about what we do well and how we can do better. We asked if they’ve been to the UMB Community Engagement Center and what programs and services would entice them to it.
This spring, we marked 10,000 visits to the center since it opened 18 months ago. And the fact that we need a bigger, better space for our neighbors so soon into our effort is a pretty good indicator that we’re doing something right.
Just last month we held a community town hall on our Partnership for West Baltimore with our colleagues at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The partnership is a series of programs to improve health, education, and economic development in our shared community. Our neighbors talked about their priorities: better schools for their children and better jobs for themselves. The conversation substantiated the critical need that exists in our community — the need to keep growing our workforce training programs, our local hiring initiatives, our programs in youth development and mentorship.
I absolutely believe that each of us has a critical responsibility to be champions for all the people who need the knowledge we create, the care and service we provide, but who don’t have a platform to persuade the powerful that this work is urgently important, that it matters.
Last month, UMB gathered together a group of deans and vice presidents from College Park, Johns Hopkins, UMBC, and Morgan State. For the first time ever, we went to Washington, DC, as a group to lobby our congressional delegation. Together, we stated the case for Maryland’s research universities, how they serve the state’s people and assure our prosperity. We advocated for investments in science that saves lives, safeguards our country, and energizes our economy. We advocated for humane policies that protect and uplift the poor and the vulnerable.
I thank everyone who contributed their voices to important issues this year and led the way in advocacy for those who could not.
I think all great leaders understand that leadership is only fleetingly achieved. There is always vastly more to be done and always new ways of doing it. And so it’s the elusiveness of leadership that pushes true leaders into new frontiers.
Early this year, the deans at UMB and at College Park came together to discuss the Big Ideas that need the perspectives and expertise of both universities to be brought fully to life. This year’s retreat was modeled on the one we convened in 2014, when our Strategic Partnership was a little newer. One of the ideas we hatched back then was a collaboration in sports science — a proposal that’s now taking shape as the Center for Sports Medicine, Health, and Human Performance in College Park’s Cole Field House. It was at the 2014 deans retreat that we talked about human trafficking, sadly prevalent in Prince George’s County. That conversation has since turned into the SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, which blends survivor services with research and advocacy aimed at ending this horrific crime.
And so, as we look at the new proposals coming in, we’re excited for what they might become: a center to prevent and treat opioid abuse, a cybersecurity institute for health informatics, a novel approach to neurodegenerative research, a program to explore and replicate effective policing practices, new approaches to infectious disease detection and prevention, a program applying computational analysis to problems of clinical significance.
But we cannot make good on these Big Ideas, we cannot set them in motion, without money. UMB is not likely to see a spike in state or federal dollars. The one elastic, accessible, cost-effective form of revenue-building is philanthropy. And, frankly, our endowment figure isn’t good enough. If you look at any of our peer institutions nationwide — the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina, the University of Pittsburgh — their endowments tower over ours.
If we don’t invest in philanthropy — if we don’t tell the compelling story of UMB and invite our friends and alumni to partner with us in our work — then nothing else matters. Because our prominence in education, research, clinical care, and public service will recede without the resources we need to lead.
Here are just two examples of what philanthropy has enabled at UMB.
William and Joanne Conway and their Bedford Falls Foundation have given two transformative gifts to the School of Nursing. The first gift of $5.2 million is the largest in the school’s history, providing full scholarship support over five years for nearly 160 students pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing. As Maryland faces a crippling shortage of nurses — and as many nurses find they can’t get a job without a BSN — this gift is absolutely vital.
Over the years, Peter Angelos has contributed nearly $10 million to the School of Medicine. He’s established endowed professorships in Surgery and in Entrepreneurial Sciences, the latter of which enables a biomedical engineer to be embedded in the Department of Surgery and rapidly commercialize innovative ideas for treatments and devices.
Let me show you what all of our effort and expertise — all of the generosity of our friends — has wrought.
In the just-released U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation’s graduate schools, our School of Pharmacy is #9. Our School of Social Work is #17. Our School of Medicine is #16 among public medical schools.
Our Carey School of Law has two specialties in the top 10: the #2 Health Law program and the #7 Clinical Training program. Environmental Law is #14, and the Carey School’s part-time JD program is #4. Our School of Nursing has two degrees in the top 10: the master’s and the DNP. Six of its specialties landed in the top 10, including the #1 Clinical Nurse Leader program and the #1 Informatics program. And while Dentistry doesn’t get ranked by U.S. News & World Report, our School of Dentistry is #7 among public dental schools in NIH funding.
Every day, I talk with the people of this city and state — from those in positions of great power to those in positions of great need — and they tell me that UMB is making change, that UMB is doing good, that UMB is leading in the ways that matter. Every day, I’m privileged to tell the story of this great University. I’m privileged to tell the story of your work and your leadership. And for that privilege, I thank you.