Q&A Archives

President's Q&A, September 2013

September 24, 2013

Dr. Perman’s quarterly group Q&A session was held on Sept. 24 at the School of Pharmacy. Peter N. Gilbert, MSF, chief operating officer and senior vice president, began the session with an update of the University’s 2011-2016 strategic plan. Excerpts follow.

Mr. Gilbert started out by providing the timeline of the strategic plan:

•  Planning committee appointed and begins work — November 2010

•  Work groups conduct research, town halls, and develop plan — June 2011

•  Dr. Perman approves — July 2011

•  Implementation begins — January 2012

•  Executive Implementation Committee (EIC) awards year one funds — December 2012

•  Year one completed — June 2013

•  EIC awards year two funds — September 2013

Mr. Gilbert then provided some statistics. For instance, of the 255 metrics (objective measures used to measure the University’s collective progress, and to hold ourselves accountable) that were attempted thus far in the strategic plan, 86 percent had positive results.

But rather than focus on a lot of numbers, which will soon be available on the strategic plan website, Mr. Gilbert said he preferred to focus on the accomplishments of the plan in its first 18 months of implementation. He did this with a PowerPoint presentation brimming with photos.  

Under the theme achieve pre-eminence as an innovator, Mr. Gilbert talked about creation of the Research HARBOR, which offers one-stop shopping for research support needs, and University of Maryland: MPowering the State, an innovative and structured collaboration between UMB and the University of Maryland, College Park.  

The Diversity Advisory Council was empowered under the theme promote diversity and a culture of inclusion. Regarding this theme Mr. Gilbert also included a very successful University Open House that attracted 700 people on Saturday, April 13. 

Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, holding the School of Social Work’s first State of the School Address fits under the theme to foster a culture of accountability and transparency,   Mr. Gilbert said.

The theme excel at interdisciplinary research brought about the 2013 UMB Pilot & Exploratory Interdisciplinary Research seed grants that were profiled on page 9 of Dr. Perman’s September newsletter.

President's Q&AEstablishing the Center for Interprofessional Education under Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, is part of the theme to excel at interprofessional education, clinical care, and public service, Mr. Gilbert said. Two other components he pointed out are Dr. Perman’s weekly interprofessional education clinic and the Promise Heights initiative headed up by Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, and the School of Social Work.

Another theme to develop local and global initiatives that address critical issues has seen the formation of the Student Center for Global Education, under the direction of Jody Olsen, PhD, MSW, of the School of Social Work, and the Center for Community Engagement, which is profiled on page 9.

Mr. Gilbert’s presentation included a wealth of information on the theme to drive economic development. He included the awarding of 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year honors to William Blattner, MD, and Robert Redfield Jr., MD, for their global HIV/AIDS initiatives on behalf of the School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology.

A drive economic development fact sheet showed invention disclosures jumped from 192 in Fiscal Year 2011-2012 to 260 in FY 2012-13, licenses executed went from 30 to 44, and revenue received from $2.0 million to $2.7 million. The average time to process a clinical trial decreased by 17 percent and the University formed a strategic partnership with MedImmune, the state’s largest biotech firm, that will bring an extra $1 million each year to UMB, Mr. Gilbert said.

The formation of MPowering’s UM Ventures, which provides unified licensing and patenting services and joint marketing to the business community to increase efficiency and productivity, and the hiring of Michael “Mickey” Dowdy, MBA, as chief development officer and vice president, also fall under the drive economic development theme. Also addressing a need identified in the strategic plan is Health Sciences Facility III, whose recent groundbreaking is the next step for a $305.4 million, 10-story building that will house biomedical research and education that will save lives. 

Mr. Gilbert also was excited by the theme of create a vibrant, dynamic University community, saying this is one of the things that came from the cross-section of faculty, staff, and students who made their feelings known at town halls and in questionnaires when the strategic plan was in its formative stages. Enhancing University police and security, including a presence around Lexington Market, placing branding on University signage and vehicles, reviving University walking paths, making University Plaza enhancements, holding wellness events and UMB night with the Orioles were just a few of the things Mr. Gilbert mentioned under this theme.

He said gains also have been made in effective information technology, government and external relations, and faculty and staff training. Enhanced two-way communication includes widespread, consistent use of the University’s logo, a new tagline (“foundations of excellence”), The Elm website, and launching the UMB mobile app, among other things.

The University’s core values (accountability, civility, collaboration, diversity, excellence, knowledge, and leadership) now appear in booklets, signs, vehicles, and even on the walls of the Saratoga Garage. “It reminds me why I am here every day when I arrive,” Mr. Gilbert said.

Despite this long list of accomplishments, Mr. Gilbert also was quick to point out the University faces some tough challenges in the years ahead. Such as funding from federal sources, including the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Perman later added to this section, saying “There’s no question the climate for federal funding for research is a very difficult one now, with no real short-term prospect of it getting better.”

Another challenge, Mr. Gilbert said, is recognizing the power of diversity (“I mean diversity of background, diversity of perspective, diversity of organizational role, and diversity of expertise”), employees feeling overworked (“it’s not what we do but how we do it that’s creating this feeling,”), and getting to the point where Seven Schools | One University is more than the strategic plan slogan or a territorial threat but is a true ideal.

“Seven Schools | One University can’t be about blaming the other guy,” Gilbert said. “It’s got to be about this place working together to enhance what we do and what is possible. I can’t promise you it will be easy. But I can tell you that a little insight goes an awfully long way.”

Mr. Gilbert began the ending of his presentation with a slide that said: “Why does all of this matter?” He answered the question by saying, “It’s about the patients we treat, it’s about the faculty and staff who work here, and the students who learn here. It’s about the people we serve. It’s about the Baltimore community and our larger Maryland community, and it’s about the people we’re honored to educate.”

To see the slides that were used in Mr. Gilbert’s presentation or for more information on the 2011-2016 strategic plan, visit the 2011-2016 Strategic Plan.

Q: I wanted to move to one of our strategic plan initiatives in terms of our relationship with the community. I know we have a number of healthy walk spaces. I recently changed from driving downtown to using the Light Rail. I’d like to use a bike. Around North Avenue there’s a nice bike trail. Here around Greene Street, for instance, it’s not so good. My question is who in the University or the administration can I work with to help establish a bike route between here and North Avenue? 

Dr. Perman: First of all, I totally support what you want to do. You know we’ve made an effort in regard to wellness, including reactivating our walking paths, three different distances on campus. We should be supportive as an institution of people who want to bike to work. I know there are issues related to interface with the city, but to your question of who to work with, let me reach out to my colleagues in the room. Kathy?

Kathy Byington (chief administrative and financial officer and vice president): It would be Robert Milner, director of Parking and Transportation Services. He’s not here today, but I will be happy to forward your question.

As promised, Robert Milner, MS, CAPP, looked into the issue. Here is his response:

Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) has made contact with Baltimore City’s bicycle and pedestrian planner and is gathering data/information regarding the city’s proposed bike plans. As more information becomes available, PTS will keep the campus well-informed. Interested individuals are encouraged to contact Tony Green, our transportation demand management manager, at tgreen@af.umaryland.edu.

Please remember the front of each UM shuttle is equipped with a bike rack, which accommodates two bicycles at a time. There are quite a few bike routes commonly used by cyclists that are on the UM shuttle routes.

For additional information, please visit the following links: 

Baltimore Bike Routes
Baltimore Bike Map and Commuter Guide

In addition, PTS offers fold-out Baltimore bike maps, which can be obtained in our office at 622 W. Fayette St. For all of UMB’s alternative transportation options, including our enclosed bike cage, visit PTS’ website.

President's Q&AQ: I know we have talked about upgrading security at Lexington Market. I can remember in the early part of the summer there was a survey that touched on many topics including cleanliness and the variety of foods. I didn’t hear anything about that in your strategic plan presentation. Can you give me an update on the market?

Dr. Perman: Thanks for bringing it up. Some of you may know that the mayor and I co-chair the Westside Task Force, which looks into matters at the market and the surrounding area. Thanks in part to Chief Williams and his UMB Police Force, security around the market has improved, though we have a long way to go.

What we did because of that survey information you mentioned and for some other reasons was put out an RFP, a request for proposals, for the city to bring in a consulting firm that had the kind of qualifications people look for when city leaders improved the markets in Philadelphia, in Boston, in Cleveland — markets like the Lexington Market once was and should be again. 

Dr. PermanThe consulting firm will come in and study the market with the kind of data in mind to give the city a road map as to how we need to make Lexington Market the kind of environment that everyone wants to go to shop, to buy food, etc. The firm is going to be selected within the next several weeks. The report should be in place by spring. It’s probably going to say that the city needs to invest $25 million to $30 million and I think there’s a reasonable expectation that this would be funded by the city. As to your question in particular, we’ll try to find out whether there is some way to feed the data back to the respondents. Thank you for filling out the survey. 

Q: So we have this strategic plan with leaders and goals and we’re going in the right direction as a University. How do we get buy-in from all segments of the University? 

Dr. Perman: The first thing I’m going to say is this plan was developed not by the implementation group. The implementation group, as you heard from Mr. Gilbert, is deans, vice presidents, senior faculty, key unit directors, because that group needs to operationalize things — that’s why you have them around the table. If the leadership in the schools, in my departments, don’t commit to this it won’t happen. 

But the question is where did it come from. The important point is that the strategic plan itself was not a top-down thing, quite the opposite. It was hundreds of you all sitting together in various groups and town halls, etc. saying this is the kind of University we want. Now I think we wrote a strategic plan that took that input into account. I think that’s the way I would expect that there would be buy-in because I can look anyone in the eye and say ‘This is what you wanted.’ Not just what I wanted but what you wanted. 

Mr. Gilbert: I think you said it very well. The one comment I would add is that once the plan was developed we disseminated it to the University so that people could comment on it. I think the logical extension of your question is how do we keep leaders and people engaged and meeting the objectives of the plan itself? And that is something we do through the Executive Implementation Committee, something we do through the work groups that are implementing these various areas. 

Q: I appreciated the presentation on the strategic plan. It seems like we have accomplished a lot. Where are we with the timeline of the plan?

Mr. Gilbert: The truth of the matter is that there was a lot of good groundwork going on at the University at least a year before this on some of these things and the strategic plan put more of the spotlight on some of these issues, added things, and provided institutional support in getting it done. To be fair it’s probably been about a year and a half and we have at least another four years on the formal plan.

Dr. Perman: But there’s really 10 years of work in the plan ahead of us. 

Mr. Gilbert: No doubt. This fall we’re going to do a new environmental scan to see what’s changed in the world both within the University and external to it and see if that should affect what we have laid out in the plan or if we should adjust. You will hear about the environmental scan results. 

Q: When people come up with ideas for one of the themes in the strategic plan, how do they get them funded? A lot of the good ideas that people might come up with might be in a department that doesn’t have the funding to act upon it. What if you go to your boss and he or she says, “Good idea, but we don’t have money in the budget for it”? 

Mr. Gilbert: We don’t have a formal process where people can ask for money within the plan that isn’t an already approved tactic. We’ve been pretty rigid about that. We do still have the suggestion box on the website where anyone can go in and give us a suggestion, what they think about the plan, or what we should be considering in relation to the plan. We do get them from time to time. It was very active during the planning process and has been less active since then. 

Dr. Perman: And when they make a suggestion and it’s a great one, how does it get funded? 

Mr. Gilbert: I think we would hand that off to the leaders of the group involved in that theme and they would have to take it in context of the other things they have. See if it is something they should adjust and add because it is such a great idea. Or maybe it’s already in the plan but isn’t coming up for funding for a couple years still.

Q: I’m a second-year assistant professor in the Department of Health Services Research here at the School of Pharmacy. I just wanted to echo something you said about the funding challenge. As a junior faculty member that is something I think about almost every day. It impacts my research, it impacts my ability to support students, it impacts my ability to contribute to the infrastructure. I think the pilot programs that came out last year were important in helping us forge relationships across schools on this campus as well as at other campuses. I think last year was the first year for some of these programs so there were some growing pains. I think as we move forward it is important to continue these programs if at all possible and ensure that people know about these programs by publicizing them as much as possible. 

Dr. Perman: There’s no question that the climate in regard to federal funding for research is a very difficult one now with no real short-term prospect of it getting better. I don’t think I’m taking a political position if I say our leaders in the federal government have become very dysfunctional and those they are meant to serve are going to suffer for it. That doesn’t mean you and I who are doing the work. It means the people we’re doing the work for.

Having said that, it behooves us to work even harder. You saw in Pete’s report the revamping of our development efforts, new leadership for our development efforts. We have to work even harder in order to find philanthropic funds to make those pots of seed money, we have to work harder with our state leaders, who are far more understanding and functional in providing us with so-called programmatic enhancements. And we have to forge more relationships like the one Pete mentioned with industry, our relationship with MedImmune, for instance. We can no longer depend on the federal dollar. Now with regard to the seed programs I’d like Dr. Jarrell to comment.

Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS (chief academic and research officer and senior vice president): The original seed grant program started six years ago. It has had close to $3 million invested in it and has resulted in more than $15 million in extramural funding. That was with College Park. There is a program we just initiated with UMBC. I don’t remember the exact dollar amount but around $400,000 in grants have been awarded. There was a seed grant program with the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research down in Rockville in which our faculty participated. There will now be a seed grant program with MedImmune that will be announced shortly. There certainly are pilot programs in many of the grants with M-CERSI (Maryland Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation), a number of the large programs in the School of Medicine, and elsewhere.

So there are a lot of seed grant programs. I think our challenge is to make sure we are investing those dollars well. That we are helping all faculty — not just junior faculty — to enhance their careers. And also to keep it coordinated because with that many different programs going on it is easy to see how someone could get confused. So I think we do have an awareness that the organization of those programs is important and to make sure that everyone knows about them. A lot of energy has gone into those programs.

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