Q&A Archives

President’s Q&A, June 2018

June 19, 2018

University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Jay A. Perman, MD, took questions from a crowd of about 80 faculty, staff, and students on June 19 at the School of Nursing in his second quarterly Q&A session of 2018. He introduced UMB’s new police and emergency management leaders, talked about the plans and vision for the expanded Community Engagement Center, handed the microphone to several University vice presidents to share news, and announced a major change to the scheduling of the Universitywide commencement beginning in 2019.

Here is a recap of the Q&A:

Dr. Perman: I want to introduce two new and critically important people at UMB. First, our new chief of police, Alice Cary, MS. She’s been here for a week, and we look forward to hearing from her in future sessions. And we’ve created a new position, an executive director of emergency management, and Jonathan Bratt was hired for that role. These are two very important jobs, and we’ve been highly successful in attracting these two professionals to campus, thanks to Dawn Rhodes, MBA, our chief business and finance officer and vice president, and the search committees. 

This is the end of the academic year, but we’re a 12-month-a-year institution, and this is a time when we close our books and look back at the year. And it’s been a very successful year by many measures. It might be our best year ever, with regard to external funding, grants, and contracts. It’s been our best year ever in terms of garnering gifts, thanks to some very impressive ones attracted by the School of Nursing, the School of Medicine, and others on campus. And it certainly has been a great effort all around in raising funds for our Catalyst Campaign

As for a new, enlarged Community Engagement Center on Poppleton Street, we will get funding of $4 million from the state of Maryland — Gov. Larry Hogan announced that money recently as part of an additional $15 million coming to the city of Baltimore. That’s a big deal, and it’s a big deal beyond the money, because it demonstrates recognition by state leaders and the General Assembly of the importance of our work in the community. It’s a big deal because it allows us to say to potential donors, “You see? This enlarged Community Engagement Center is not a pipe dream, and the state has put its money behind it.” I’m very pleased about that.

Q: What do you see as the greatest threat to UMB over the next five years?

Dr. Perman: Let’s stay on the theme of community engagement. Kenneth Holt, Maryland’s secretary of housing and community development, visited last week and gave us a compliment. He said, “We think that public service is in UMB’s DNA.” I don’t want anybody to forget for a minute about UMB’s core work — education, research, clinical care, public service — we do that very well. But given that I place so much emphasis on what Secretary Holt said about community service, it’s terribly important to me that we sustain that and that it stays embedded in our DNA, that we don’t let go of that mission. And to make sure it’s embedded, we need to endow the programs we’re doing in the community.

Q: UMB has been fortunate to have an early voting center in our Community Engagement Center (CEC) for the past few elections. Can you talk about why that’s important?

Dr. Perman: I had a special treat on June 18 — and I’m sure you’ll see how this comes back to voting. At Westminster Hall, a naturalization ceremony was held for 50 newly minted citizens who were refugees or asylum seekers. I was honored to give the keynote speech to the new citizens and their families. I talked about my parents who were refugees and my life story. And it was very moving for me. But in my speech — and in the remarks of the leaders from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — we talked about the obligations of being a citizen. Of course, we brought up voting as a major part of that obligation. With early voting, we need to show that it’s so easy for our employees who are Baltimore City voters to go to the Community Engagement Center to cast their ballots. There are a lot of people there to assist you. It’s very quick, it’s very convenient, and the hours are long, so you don’t have to go during your work hours. I don’t need to remind you, but it’s terribly important to vote.

Q: Can you talk about your strategy and long-term plan for the Community Engagement Center?

Dr. Perman: I want to make one point absolutely clear: While we focus on the CEC, there are hundreds of activities across the schools at UMB that involve community engagement, and they are every bit as important. I’m talking about things like the Promise Heights initiative and the B’more for Healthy Babies program. There is extraordinary work being done at the schools in this regard. 

We opened the Community Engagement Center in 2016 and sought input: What does the community want? The general input was that people would like help with getting a job and health care services. Nursing students have been in the vanguard of helping senior citizens into organized exercise sessions, which are good for their health. Law students and the attorneys who supervise them do the JustAdvice Project, helping people with legal issues. The pharmacy folks help with the chronically ill person who has to manage 15 different medications. The social work students are omnipresent, and I mean that with the greatest degree of respect. The CEC has had thousands of discreet visits in the past three years, and there are more ideas coming from the community and from all of us at UMB. 

We are finishing a deal with Carter Memorial Church to purchase the property at 16 S. Poppleton St., and we are starting to lead a process with community input into what programs to offer at the new building. One reason we chose the site is because it is adjacent to James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, where a lot of the UMB schools already have programming. James McHenry is one of the most challenged schools in the city, by a lot of different measures. And we want to do our part in making a difference to those kids. There’s a rec center there, and we’re talking to the city about how that center can best be utilized, and United Way is working with us on a partnership. We’re also talking with Under Armour, particularly about the recreation part of it.

We hope to use our work at the Community Engagement Center as a great platform for students to come out of UMB understanding the power of teamwork, understanding the importance of what one could accomplish as a professional if she or he reaches beyond the boundaries of their profession and says to the next person, “Give me a hand with this.” I’m talking about team-based care. We need to put our heads together. And doing that at the Community Engagement Center is an opportunity that the students want in terms of health care outreach and education on topics such as asthma and diabetes. Students learn by engaging with the community on their ground and getting to understand their life experiences. We hope to open the new CEC in 2020.

Q: What are some of the initiatives at UMB to make students and staff feel safe?

Dr. Perman: The safety issue has always been vexing. We have instituted regular meetings with Baltimore police. Our campus touches on three city districts — Southern, Western, and Central. I’ve had city commanders, including the deputy police chief, in my office meeting with our UMB police officers so we can figure out how to create a more unified approach to safety.

Everybody at UMB deserves to feel safe. So we need to focus on what we need to do in the immediate future, and I don’t shrink from that. But I also would ask the campus to look at what we are doing in regard to community engagement as a longer-term strategy in this regard. We are one of two universities in the country that has a Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) program. Our police are working with about 30 kids in recreational activities. There is evidence that shows that the relationship between youth and police, which in so many ways is broken, can be helped by building these types of relationships. 

Dawn Rhodes: We care deeply that UMB community members feel safe and are safe on our campus. So we changed our strategy in terms of having police being stationary at a location for several hours at a time. The interim police chief changed that protocol, and we have police moving around campus, so they’re in more places and can patrol the campus in general in greater detail. Our conflict is that there is a difference in policing on campus versus when you get to the city streets off campus. And we are working very hard to hold the Baltimore Police Department accountable. It needs to partner with us to address these issues. Alice Cary is just getting on board, so she’s going to be introduced into that process, have regular strategy sessions, and move to the implementation of action plans. And we’ll keep the campus updated on what initiations come out of that.

Dr. Perman asked several University vice presidents to speak or share news:

Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, executive vice president, provost, and dean of the Graduate School: We continue to have a strong relationship with the University of Maryland, College Park, through the MPowering the State initiative, and we will soon be working with Laurie Locascio, PhD, who will become the vice president of research representing both institutions, particularly in regard to our research interactions with the federal government. We’re very pleased with this because it will open up additional opportunities for our investigators and our research programs, and it’s one more step in our relationship with College Park.

Roger J. Ward, EdD, JD, MPA, senior vice president for operations and institutional effectiveness and vice dean of the Graduate School: I’d like to introduce Brian O. Goodette, JD, our new university ombuds. He succeeds Laurelyn Irving, PhD, MSSW, who is now in the School of Nursing. UMB is one of only two institutions in the University System of Maryland with an ombudsperson. Our program is relatively new, but it’s an excellent program that was set up by Dr. Irving, and we’re continuing to evolve the program. We also have an exciting event coming Nov. 9 called TEDx UM Baltimore. Our website is live, and you can register to be one of the 100 attendees or suggest a speaker. The theme is “Improving the Human Condition,” and it is borrowed from our mission statement. This will be a big, bold, and exciting event.

Peter J. Murray, PhD, chief information officer and vice president: Cybersecurity is a hot topic, and we do our best to keep your information safe and the University’s confidential and sensitive information protected. Every UMB employee will have to use multi-factor authentication, or the DUO app, when accessing systems starting July 1. When you put in your credentials and your password, you are going to get a code, and that code will have to be entered before you get access to the system you are authorized to use. It’s an important security requirement.

Thomas J. Sullivan, CFRE, MS, chief philanthropy officer and vice president: Dr. Perman’s vision and the great, inspiring work and service that is done throughout this institution is resonating, and that’s manifested in private philanthropy continuing to grow at UMB. This year, we will raise close to $100 million on our campus, which is up about 30 percent over the last two years. That’s means people are buying into the good work that is being done here. The Catalyst Campaign is at about $404 million of its $750 million goal, so my message to you is, “Don’t be bashful. Talk up UMB and brag about it. Help us tell the story of this amazing place,” and more funding will come to campus.

Dawn Rhodes, MBA, chief business and finance officer and vice president: The Quantum Financials project is well underway. It’s a new, cloud-based financial system being implemented in partnership with the Center for Information Technology Services (CITS), and several people across the information technology and finance areas are working extremely hard on this system. Our go-live date is May 29, 2019, and we are going to hit that date. We are hoping to have a robust analytical reporting system, and we think it will be a great product.

Dr. Perman finished the Q&A with news about the 2019 commencement:

Dr. Perman: One of the challenges we’ve had with commencement is that our students understandably have a great deal of attachment to their school graduations. And that needs to be left alone. Having said that — and consistent with my theme that this is one University — we have to do better in terms of attendance at the Universitywide graduation. I’m starting my ninth year at UMB, and I’ve been talking the whole time about what we can do to attract more people to the Universitywide commencement, where we come together and the degrees are officially conferred. 

One piece of advice has consistently come forward, especially from the student affairs deans: Hold the Universitywide commencement first. Usually it’s held at the end on a Friday afternoon, when all the school graduations are done and people want to get out of town and celebrate. But I want people to attend the University graduation, too. So we’re going to make a simple reversal. The University graduation is first. I don’t think it will disrupt any plans, but the University graduation in 2019 will be the first thing on Thursday morning. Then everybody can continue to enjoy their school graduations. I just shared this news with the deans, and that’s the way we are going to go forward.

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