Q&A Archives

President's Q&A, March 2012

March 28, 2012

The following questions and answers are excerpts from the University of Maryland: MPowering the State Q&A, which was held March 28 at the School of Nursing.

Dr. Perman and Wallace D. Loh, PhD, president of the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), were joined by the MPowering steering committee of Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, chief academic and research officer, senior vice president, and dean of the Graduate School at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB); Pete Gilbert, MSF, vice president for planning and accountability at UMB; Ann Wylie, PhD, senior vice president and provost at UMCP; and Michele Eastman, assistant president and chief of staff at UMCP. After introductory remarks and a summary of the MPowering alliance between UMB and UMCP (details are available at http://mpowermaryland.com), the floor was opened to questions.

Q: This is all very exciting. My question is during the merger study all the USM schools had expressed concern that they would be excluded in a collaboration between our two schools. Their question was always, ‘Well, what about us?’ What about collaboration at the entire system level? 

Dr. Perman: I think as it relates to our two institutions we have to create the foundation. And I think the other presidents and I hope the other faculties understand that. We have to create the foundation and then some of the activities that we are formally putting together and other collaborations are things that they can join, things that they will be able to utilize. We understand that this is a responsibility for us. That’s an expectation.

Dr. Loh: We already have institutionalized collaboration with our sister institutions and it’s called the University System of Maryland. And it’s a real collaboration. UMBC, for example, wants assistance with starting business incubators and business accelerators, and we provide that. Other institutions, some of the smaller ones, want help with facilities management or maybe help in designing a new building and we do that for them. So that kind of collaboration already exists. 

The collaboration we are talking about now is between two top-ranked major research universities. We are trying to compete on a global level. We have complementary programs, we each generate half a billion dollars of research funding … we are talking about a totally different type of collaboration, we are talking about research funding that will allow us to make a dramatic impact. 

Questioner: So will collaboration with the other schools be a part of this discussion or are we only talking about collaboration between the two schools?

Dr. Perman: I think it’s a step-by-step process. Wallace is absolutely right. We already offer services. But I think as we get UM Ventures running there may be faculty members at other schools, like a Towson, that doesn’t have the research engines that our two universities do, that may wish to avail themselves of what we may house in UM Ventures. 

Dr. Jarrell: Our thinking all along with UM Ventures has been that we start and then for others to get involved. 

Q: Has there been any consideration of piloting any collaborative programs on student initiatives? For instance, students doing three years of their undergraduate work at College Park and then their fourth year would be at the law school or the dental school?

Dr. Wylie: We have talked about that. We have a program with the nursing school now where students spend two years at College Park and then come here to complete their undergraduate degree in nursing care. And an interesting problem that that created for us was on our books we have treated them as if they had left school so it counted against our graduation rate. And so there has been some hesitancy to push a lot of students into that program out of College Park. But we no longer have to do that so we want to actually strengthen that program. I think there are opportunities that our students at College Park would be most interested in exactly what you describe. They wanted access to the law school early on and early admission consideration in medical education or social work. So I think those are areas we will explore. 

Q: I know some of these initiatives as they get started can be done very effectively with common resources. But certainly UM Ventures would need additional seed and startup money. I’m just curious has the system or the state committed any resources to this? 

Dr. Wylie: We have a budget. We understand it’s going to take resources. We also know we can’t internally re-allocate to make all these initiatives a reality. It’s just not reasonable to do that. We have been clear about that from the beginning. 

Dr. Perman: Yes, we have to be careful about re-allocation. But we may have to look at reserves on each campus to get some of these things started. We have to do that carefully. We haven’t asked the state. With regard to bioinformatics we’re thinking about the federal government as a source. And then Ann Wylie mentioned the fact that for some of these initiatives there is some preliminary interest in private foundations supporting it. So it’s the usual sources. But we’re going to have to go out and raise it. 

Q: One of the hurdles for collaboration is the geography, the physical distance between College Park and here. When we get graduate students here from College Park, they have to drive all the way up here and then we insult them by making them pay for parking. At the least I would hope there would be a bus system put in with high frequency. It would even be imaginative to talk about a train system.

Dr. Wylie: We have a very robust shuttle bus system at College Park.

Questioner: But it doesn’t come up here.

Dr. Wylie: Not yet. But we have priced it out. We know what it would cost and I think if we had the ridership we could easily expand. There is also the rail line that goes to Baltimore and Camden Yards but it’s slow.

Dr. Jarrell: The College Park bus system has an app for all the iPhones that tells you where the bus is and when it is going to arrive, which we don’t have at this campus and I would love to see. There has also been a discussion that it’s not just an issue of going back and forth but also an issue of having a place to sit and work en route.

Q: I’m a fundraiser and I see a lot of interesting opportunities here. I was wondering has any thought been given as to how we coordinate our fundraising efforts to support this or will it be a separate fundraising enterprise of its own? 

Dr. Perman: I think as it relates to MPowering the State, as it relates to our formal collaboration, we do need to give some thought to raising money together. I mentioned the fact that we do see foundation support as potential funding for some of these initiatives. And we’re going to need to go together to the federal government, for instance. I think it’s very important that those who might provide funding see us together.

Q: I work with junior faculty and research. The vision that you are describing is very attractive both intellectually and morally. But the reality is right now we are facing the most difficult competitive environment in the research world. So my question/suggestion is in addition to efforts like the seed grant program, which has been very successful, is I hope there will be some kind of resources made available so it won’t be a question of just hoping these things occur. We’re probably going to need more than that because of the pressure on people to identify funding sources out there. To help identify partners at both institutions and to help them brainstorm with the grants and the foundation pieces themselves. I think you need more resources from a personal perspective.

Dr. Perman: We must do that and I hope this doesn’t upset anyone: We’re clearly moving away from the individual investigator model, aren’t we, to the team model? And that’s what this is all about. And now we need to find ways to get people connected to one another. 

Dr. Wylie: At College Park we recently combined our College of Computer Math and Natural Sciences with our College of Life Sciences. We did that because we were trying to develop competitive advantages in going after funding and we thought this collaboration between these two parts of our university were really where the future would be. And I think we see that here. I hope there will be more opportunities for our faculty because of this collaboration. It’s really what we are counting on. 

Mr. Gilbert: You mentioned junior faculty. We looked at what makes it so a junior faculty member can succeed in that environment and what makes it challenging for them to succeed. I think we’ve learned a lot about that in the past few months trying to figure out how fast to address it. Dr. Jarrell might have something to add.

Dr. Jarrell: Just the whole idea there was a lot of discussion about joint appointments and what those mean and I think we have to work through how do we get collaboration but don’t penalize or jeopardize the junior faculty who has a foot on each campus. We have to pay a lot of attention. There is the traditional seed grant program that is now a new seed grant program that is centered on both campuses but includes the research institute in Rockville that Ann mentioned. Once we get funding, the UM Ventures model as we said we clearly see significant dollars going into this. What was not mentioned is another state initiative that is related but not part of this called MII, Maryland Innovative Initiatives, which will have several million dollars a year to devote to innovative ideas. So there is interest in this but there isn’t enough money.

Q: You spoke about the scholars program. I have four students coming to BioMET this summer from College Park. My question is that given the fact our faculty are writing more grants, they have a lot of pressure on them. More administrative flexibility and less administrative burden are needed. Is there any thought to really looking at what our faculty have to go through at the moment just to get finances set up. The burden is quite heavy.

Dr. Jarrell: I would say I spend half of every day on that issue whether it is IRB, whether it is IACUC … Because remember five years ago we didn’t have Coeus here. Coeus happened because a faculty member walked into my office with a sheaf of papers this high. He was actually walking through the signatures in his program project and I said no. So you are right. I have to say at the same time though, the regulatory environment just throws things at us every day that are new and so I can’t make that go away. But I can pay attention. So I guess I would say I personally have committed a lot of my life to that and I will continue to do so. 

Q: I just wanted to mention something about the Maryland summer scholars program. We are in the process of identifying students for this year. We’ve had students come up from College Park for the last 20 years during the summer to do research. At the center of that program was always the idea that these students would be a catalyst to bringing the faculty members together on both campuses whether they’re going down to College Park or whether they’re coming up here. Whether it’s an undergraduate student, a medical student, a pharmacy student, or a graduate student.

Dr. Perman: Just to support what you say, I spent some time looking at Stanford and how well it does with regard to research commercialization and I asked how they did this. The answer was the students. 

Q: How soon can an instructor be set up so we can submit these grants jointly because at some point this would be a great measure of the success of collaboration, right?

Ms. Eastman: To the issue of joint grants and submissions, Denise Clark, who is the head of our research administration in College Park, and Dennis Paffrath [assistant vice president, sponsored programs administration, UMB] have been working together to figure out ways to do this through Coeus, which we both use. They are bringing that together so it will be easier and really seamless to do new joint grant submissions. What we are trying to do is both take down the burden on the faculty members but also be able to track things easier across institutions.

Questioner: So if we are submitting something right now?

Dr. Jarrell: I think it’s fine to talk to me. Michele and I can figure it out. If there are issues, we are the people to address them. 

Q: I wanted to get back to the point made in terms of videoconferencing and being able to see lectures and seminars from one campus to another. I know the School of Pharmacy here is set up to do that, but in the School of Medicine the technology just isn’t there to be able to transmit podcast lectures and seminars and the like across campuses.

Dr. Jarrell: We recognize it’s a problem. I don’t know if we have a solution for you. One of the things Dr. Perman and Dr. Loh have alluded to here is that we really do need a bowl of some money to make some of these things happen. That doesn’t mean we’re sitting still, but it means there are certain things we have to prioritize.

Dr. Perman: Having said that, we have successes with Shady Grove so we need to scale them up.

Dr. Loh: I would like to say something about money. My philosophy is very simple. No money, no mission. It can’t happen without money. And in these very hard times, this is my observation, having worked in state government for 3 ½ years in Washington state at a time when there were also severe economic contractions. What does not work is to say to the state elected officials ‘give us the money and then we will go forward.’ Instead you have to go forward first. And then the money will follow. If there is one rule I learned from state government it is that. Unless you put in some of your money, then there is very little credibility to ask for additional funding from the state simply because there are so many mouths to feed.

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