Selected Speeches

UMBC Annual Retreat

Aug. 19, 2015
Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

Thank you, Dr. Hrabowski.

Good afternoon, everyone. I’m always delighted to join you at your annual retreat. And I thank Pres. Hrabowski and his team for moving the retreat significantly closer to me this year. It’s made the commute far easier.

I have a number of colleagues joining me today. It’s a credit to the deepening partnership of our two universities that many of you already know them so well: Dr. Bruce Jarrell, chief academic and research officer, senior vice president, and dean of UMB’s Graduate School; Dr. Al Reece, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; Dr. Natalie Eddington, dean of the School of Pharmacy; Dr. Jane Kirschling, dean of the School of Nursing; Dr. Mark Reynolds, dean of the School of Dentistry; and Ms. Jennifer Litchman, chief communications officer and vice president.

My role at these retreats has traditionally been to discuss the collaborations between UMB and UMBC. The fact that I couldn’t possibly do these collaborations justice within the few minutes I’ve been allotted is indicative of how closely our two universities are drawing together.

But if you talk with my colleagues (and your colleagues)—and I hope you will—you’ll hear about mentorship programs and pipeline programs that are paving a path for UMBC students straight into UMB’s graduate and professional schools.

You’ll hear how our joint seed grant program is catalyzing collaborative research—how it’s helping us redesign the way we think about our biggest scientific problems, and how we reimagine their solutions.

You’ll hear about collaborations that capitalize on the documented strengths of our two universities, like building a robust research base for interprofessional education; and recruiting more underrepresented students into academic STEM careers.

You’ll even hear how a campus like UMB’s—dominated by the sciences—has come to embrace the arts and culture ethos of UMBC as a way to meaningfully advance our most fundamental purpose: improving the human condition.

With our shared infrastructure and facilities, with our joint programs and grants, with our collaborative symposia and seminars, we’re forging partnerships that make a real and significant difference. And I want to thank the UMB and UMBC colleagues here with me today—and the many more who aren’t—for channeling their leadership and imagination into these partnerships.

In the past, I’ve characterized this coming together of our two universities as an intersection. And it’s at the intersection—of institutions, and individuals, and disciplines—where you find true creativity and true innovation. It’s at the intersection where you find incremental discoveries accumulating to breakthrough science.

There is an undeniable power—a fire—in our collaboration.

And so I think our location today—at a joint research center in downtown Baltimore—is deeply symbolic. Because we have something else in common, too. We have a community in common—this city, this state, this nation, this world. And it’s a community made better every day by our scholarship and service.

If we join together to achieve what we know is possible—in human health and social welfare, in technology and public policy, in the arts and humanities—it’s the people in these communities, around the block and around the world, who stand to gain the most.


As you probably know, just a few weeks after the riots broke out in Baltimore this spring, your leader, Dr. Hrabowski, wrote an article about the role of higher education in examining and dismantling the barriers that separate people from opportunity.

He ended his piece with this: The power of today is in our hands.

I think it’s an appropriate sentiment this afternoon, as well. Because there’s no more compelling motivation for the work you’re doing right now, and I’m grateful you’ve allowed my colleagues and me to take part in it.

So to all of you who’ve taken up the challenge to expand what we know, reframe what we expect, and revolutionize what we believe is possible, I thank you.

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