Adelphi, Md. (April 23, 2015) -- As the culmination of a fundraising effort that secured $3 million to support its work in academic transformation, the University System of Maryland (USM) will name its Center for Academic Innovation to honor the legacy of retiring USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan.
Clifford Kendall, former chair of the USM Board of Regents, presented the name of the new William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation on Saturday, April 18 to an audience of 750 state and USM leaders and friends at a gala that paid tribute to Kirwan's 52 years of service in public higher education.
The privately funded evening program was held at the Xfinity Center at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Kendall, current Board of Regents Chair James L. Shea, and Regent Barry P. Gossett served as celebration committee co-chairs. Distinguished speakers included Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr., U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, and U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.
Net proceeds from the event will support an endowment for the Kirwan Center and its work in the evolving field of academic transformation-universities' efforts to create optimally effective and efficient learning environments that enhance student success.
Kirwan in May 2014 announced that he would step aside as chancellor, a position he has held since August 2002, upon the start of his successor. He has served as president of UMCP (1988-98) and The Ohio State University (1998-2002). Earlier, he served as vice president of academic affairs and chair of the Department of Mathematics at UMCP. He will remain as chancellor through June 30, when University of Massachusetts System President Robert L. Caret succeeds him.
Under Kirwan's leadership, the USM launched the Center for Academic Innovation in late 2012 to increase student success at all campuses.
"Thanks to advances in cognitive science, we now understand the triggers in the brain that promote learning," Kirwan said. "And, thanks to the power of adaptive learning, made possible by intelligent software, we are opening the possibility of reducing the costs and improving the quality of higher education delivery. The Center for Academic Innovation is at the forefront of these efforts and I am deeply honored to have my name associated with its important work."
The center is the first system-level center in the nation designed to meet the coming challenges of higher education head-on. Public colleges and universities increasingly face calls for more transparent accountability, return on investment, and creative solutions to challenges such as budget constraints and accommodating the increasingly diverse needs of students.
The center's charge is to capitalize on recent findings from the learning sciences and the capabilities of emerging technologies to increase access, affordability, and outcomes of higher education. Building on the spirit of collaboration and innovation for which Kirwan is well-known, the center brings together academic change leaders from across the system to identify ways to improve student success and sustain the most promising academic models.
Through these efforts, the center is helping to achieve Maryland's 55 percent college completion goal by identifying strategies to improve student success and implementing those strategies across USM institutions.
To date, the center's initiatives have included work in such important areas as course redesign, online learning, open educational resources, learner analytics, competency based education, and digital badging (digital "tokens" that recognizing the completion of projects within a traditional college program or online learning venue).
"Naming the center after Brit Kirwan is a fitting way to honor his achievements over the span of an incredible career and his deep dedication to making higher education more accessible and affordable for everyone," said MJ Bishop, Ed.D., whom Kirwan appointed in July 2013 as the center's director. "We're proud to have the center carry his name."