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Board of Regents Meeting
April 19, 2019
SMC Campus Center
Good morning. I thank Chair Gooden and the Regents for giving me a few minutes to welcome you to UMB. I want to use my time this morning to talk about something that’s increasingly vital at this University, and that’s our work around the world. UMB has been engaged globally for many decades—with research, clinical care, and service collaborations that have saved (without hyperbole) millions of lives.
AN EXAMPLE: CVD
I’ll give you just one example: Our Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health has logged more than four decades in groundbreaking vaccine R&D—preventing disease and saving lives among the world’s most vulnerable populations.
The center’s footprint spans 18 countries around the globe. It has $300 million in active grants, and nearly 100 patents for vaccines, diagnostics, and drug delivery systems. The center’s research—in malaria, enteric & respiratory diseases, emerging pathogens, and life-threatening infection—leads the world.
I could go on all day bragging about other global-facing centers like CVD. But that’s not the point I want to make. The point is that what centers like CVD have taught us is that we have deep capacity at UMB to influence health, well-being, and justice on the global stage, and that more of our students must be able to access international opportunities—not only to improve the human condition (which is our mission), but to develop their global engagement and global competency, their ability to work with diverse populations in diverse settings.
CGEI & INTERNATIONALIZATION LAB
We created the Center for Global Education Initiatives to serve as a central hub and support for our extensive international work. Through the center, we began a grant program to fund interprofessional teams of faculty and students taking part in research, training, and service learning projects.
And just last year—at the recommendation of a group of UMB students exploring global literacy—we joined the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Lab to do a deep dive into our strategic planning and ensure that global learning opportunities are woven into the fabric of our curricula, that we can expand internationally focused research and scholarship; and—this is important—that we can engage with our surrounding communities here in Baltimore and Maryland using a global/local lens.
Let me talk about that for a minute. Because for years, I’ve been asked, “Why engage in global scholarship when there’s so much need right here at home?” Perhaps it’s most especially apt in Baltimore: “Why go halfway around the world when you can see terrible devastation halfway around your block?”
And the answer is, for all the years I’ve been asked those questions, I’ve also been talking with hundreds of students and faculty who tell me how they’re taking a lesson they learned abroad and applying it to an intractable problem here at home.
I know for a fact that the U.S. hasn’t cornered the market on good ideas. I know for a fact that our vulnerable populations—in Baltimore, in Maryland, across the U.S.—have an awful lot in common with vulnerable populations around the world. And I know for a fact that the more we can learn with and from each other, the better off we’ll be.
And so every interprofessional grant we fund thru the Center for Global Education Initiatives now requires students to describe how they’ll link the work they do overseas to the work they’ll later do right here in Baltimore.
And this is a good segue to a student I’d like to introduce you to. Suhani Chitalia is a 3rd-year student at our Carey School of Law. Last summer, Suhani traveled to Malawi to work alongside students from the Chancellor College Faculty of Law— “Chanco,” for short—Malawi’s only law school. Her work is in environmental justice—climate change, pollution, access to safe drinking water & housing.
Before Suhani shares her story, I want to quickly trace the project’s history. It has its earliest origins in a malaria research project undertaken by the Center for Vaccine Development, which I mentioned earlier. That project precipitated another—one looking at the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi.
And that project, in turn, forged our strong connection to Malawi’s law school, a connection that led Maryland Carey Law to co-host an Environmental & Human Rights Summit at Chanco, a connection that’s flowered into a co-taught Environmental Justice Seminar, which will pair students from each country to work together on real-world environmental litigation cases in Malawi. It’s a great example of the relationships that multiply & deepen with our decades-long experience in global partnership. Suhani?
Our next student is Michael Sikorski, who’s enrolled in our joint MD/PhD program in Molecular Microbiology & Immunology. And since I started this talk with our Center for Vaccine Development, I’ll keep the connection going.
Michael works with the former head of the CVD—the legendary Dr. Mike Levine—on typhoid fever epidemiology and genomics. He made three visits to Santiago, Chile, to create and manage a data management system for a CVD study on typhoid chronic carriers. And I should mention here that his undergraduate degree—from the University of Maryland, College Park—is in engineering.
He’s since made two visits to Samoa in the South Pacific to establish a microbiology laboratory at the Ministry of Health; to conduct environmental sampling; and to establish a data management system. He’ll be completing his PhD on the work he’s doing in Samoa, and he has at least two more months-long visits planned for the upcoming year alone. Please welcome Michael Sikorski.
I’ll close by letting you know that we’re hosting a Global Health Summit here at UMB at the end of May to bring our myriad international projects together and practice what we preach: share with one another; learn from one another; figure out how to leverage each other in terms of expertise and collaboration and economies of scale; design collaborative, sustainable models for teaching students how to work across cultures on critical issues; and explore how to apply the lessons we learn abroad to local problems that have resisted fixing.
We’re inviting our global partners to join us. A group of UMB leaders just returned from a week in Kenya, where they met with partners from six African nations who support the vital work of our Institute of Human Virology. I know many of these partners are excited to attend, and I do hope some of you might join us.