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Convocation 2007

Welcome to the University of Baltimore’s 2007 convocation. This is a time to reflect on where we have been, discuss where we are going and focus on how we can best fulfill our mission—to provide students with the personal and professional growth that is the hallmark of a UB education.

During the past year, we have experienced considerable change and made significant progress. The success that we have achieved is a testament to the work of everyone in this room and of all our colleagues across campus. Of course, growth and change never come easy. This afternoon I’d like to share with you some thoughts on our accomplishments and our challenges as we begin what will be another exciting year at the University of Baltimore.

On a personal note, this summer marks the end of my fifth year at UB. There is a natural tendency to look back and assess this period—what have we accomplished? What remains to be done? What is possible in the next five years?

Here are a few facts about the University of Baltimore in 2002. The student population was just under 4,800. We were one of eight upper-division universities left in the country. Our marketing and advocacy efforts—such as they were—focused on explaining exactly what that meant. UB was the only institution in the University System of Maryland without a dedicated presence in Annapolis. We had severe challenges in technology and institutional advancement. There was no strategic plan. The building at the center of campus was unsuitable for any University purpose and was used mainly to store surplus and broken equipment.

It is clear that the University of Baltimore in 2007 is a different place than it was five years ago. A single sentence can illustrate a part of that difference: In 2007, a first-year student can log on to the UB network from the UB Student Center lounge, which is part of a 100 percent wireless campus. That is progress.

Another sign of progress: Total enrollment is up 9.4 percent from last fall’s census figures. This is the largest percentage increase in the history of the University, and is more than double our target. This year’s student population is 5,415—623 more students than in 2002.

Part of those additional students—151, to be exact—make up the first first-year class at the University of Baltimore since 1975. While it’s true that, every year, students look younger and make the rest of us feel older, this year that is especially true as we welcome these young women and men to the UB community.

The good news is that the First and Second Year Program represents only a portion of this year’s growth. In fact, this fall we would have reached our enrollment targets even without the first-year program. Both transfer and graduate numbers rose significantly:

  • Transfer student applications increased by 5 percent.
  • New transfer enrollment grew by 16 percent.
  • Graduate student applications increased by 19 percent.
  • New graduate enrollment grew by 11.7 percent.

Successful student recruitment depends on all of us. It’s the result of a plant employee stopping to give directions to a first-time visitor. It’s the smile that comes from behind a security desk. It’s an administrative assistant making that one extra phone call to straighten out a problem.

Recruitment also depends on the coordinated efforts of many people—in admissions; financial aid; university relations; program directors and other faculty; and many other staff members across the campus. Would all those present who work in these areas please stand so we can acknowledge your accomplishment?

I would now like to recognize another group on campus whose contributions are equally important to successful enrollment management. This year, as we have embarked on new programs in Shady Grove, as we have expanded our Chinese M.P.A. program and as our joint M.B.A. program enrolls its second entering class, the work of division chairs and program directors has been essential in meeting and surpassing our goals. Would all faculty program directors and division chairs please stand? Please join me in applauding their efforts.

As we have noted previously, public universities are becoming more enrollment-driven as state support declines. I am pleased to announce that—as a direct result of this fall’s enrollment—we are able to return the 2.5 percent budget holdback that was requested during the summer as part of contingency planning. This will enable our deans and vice presidents to implement growth initiatives for the coming year.

UB’s success has always depended on the achievements of those who work here, and every year at convocation we honor some number of our colleagues for their outstanding contributions to the community.

This year’s UB Staff Awards go to the following employees in the exempt and nonexempt categories:

For outstanding customer service:
Brian Chetelat, Langsdale Library technician

For exceptional contribution to the University’s mission:
Teresa Callison, assistant to the senior vice president, Division of Administration and Finance
James Shea, administrative assistant, International Services Office

For extraordinary public service to the University community:
Clement Lau, assistant director, technical services, Law Library

Each award winner will receive $1,000 in appreciation of their contributions. Would those recipients in attendance please stand? Please join me in expressing our congratulations.

The recipient of this year’s President’s Faculty Award, an annual $5,000 award presented in recognition of outstanding teaching, research and community service in support of the University’s mission, goes to Alan Lyles. Alan is the Henry A. Rosenberg Professor of Public, Private and Nonprofit Partnerships in the School of Public Affairs. He is a senior fellow at the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics and the Center on Drugs and Public Policy at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, and a senior research associate in the Schaefer Center for Public Policy. Please join me in congratulating Alan Lyles.

During the past two years, we’ve added another tradition to convocation: the release of the Strategic Plan Report Card, an annual review of our progress in certain key areas related to the University's strategic plan. The report card is a way for us to analyze the past year and openly communicate our collective performance to the campus.

This year is especially significant, as our current plan covers the period from 2004 through 2007. During the coming academic year, we will update the existing plan; the initial outline of that process is included with the report card.

It’s important to note that we are not creating a new strategic plan, but are instead extending the shared vision we created three years ago. The work of the past few years—including the Middle States Self-Study and the re-accreditation in a number of schools—will serve as a strong foundation for our discussions about opportunities, challenges and future directions.

Our previous strategic planning process was successful because of the substantial participation of faculty, staff and students. I look forward to the same level of interest and an equally robust exchange of ideas in the coming months.

The updating process will be guided by the following:

  • Participation will be open to all members of the community.
  • There will be multiple opportunities to provide new ideas and input, with support from the University Council.
  • On-campus expertise will be utilized exclusively; no outside consultants will be hired.
  • The updated plan will cover the five-year period of 2008-12.

Focus areas will include:

  • the quality of the UB educational experience; this must be the primary focus of the next five years—to align resources to support our faculty and enhance the academic mission
  • the further development of UB as an institution engaged with its urban community
  • the University’s financial and administrative stability and efficiency
  • targeted, strategic enrollment growth
  • campus expansion, renovation and environmental sustainability.

Additional principles and focus areas will be generated by campuswide discussions. More detailed information will be posted soon on the Office of Planning Web page, where you can also submit any comments or questions about this year’s report card.

I would now like to invite Provost Wim Wiewel to share a few remarks.

[Following the provost’s remarks, the speech continues.]

As I mentioned in opening, growth and change do not occur without challenges. We face some difficult decisions in the coming months. We can best deal with these challenges by fostering transparent communication and engaging in collegial dialogue.

One example is a concern at just about every campus in the country—parking. We are all aware of the University’s need to provide additional parking for students, faculty and staff. This is a particularly difficult challenge, given the space and cost constraints of our urban environment.

I agree with many of you that our communication about parking must improve. Let’s start that greater transparency right now.

During last year’s public presentations of the master plan, we indicated that parking rates would need to be raised to partially finance the construction and maintenance of a new garage; the last time faculty and staff rates were increased was in 2000. That concept became real when actual rate discussions began during initial union negotiations.

We must conclude those negotiations before more details can be shared, but it’s important to recognize that initial proposals are intended as a starting point for dialogue. I welcome the professional and measured outreach made by the University Council, the Administrative Council and other shared governance groups who have provided feedback on this issue. Administration and Finance Vice President Harry Schuckel will meet with all these groups—including student leadership—to hear your concerns, listen to your ideas and share information about our options.

Here are principles that will guide our decision-making:

  • Options will be developed in open consultation with the University community.
  • UB parking rates must be below market rates and be comparable to or below those of similar urban universities in Baltimore.
  • The solution should minimize the impact on lower-paid employees.
  • Students must know exactly what they pay for parking, and they should pay only for what they use.
  • A mass-transit subsidy will be developed to encourage environmentally friendly transportation alternatives as part of an overall strategic focus on creating a more "green" campus.
  • We will make the real costs of the University’s annual parking subsidy clear. At present, the University subsidizes parking at a cost of $1 million every year.

No one looks forward to increased parking costs. We can, however, look forward to making more open communication a distinguishing characteristic of our campus culture.

UB’s strengths include a passionate commitment to teaching and learning and a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit. These strengths are evident in the work of our faculty, the outreach of our centers and institutes and the continued achievements of our students.

I’d like to close by sharing some campuswide initiatives of the coming year that will build on the momentum we’ve created during the past five years and support the needs of our growing campus in the years ahead.

The renovation of 1300 N. Charles St. is on schedule, with a projected opening in fall 2008. What began as a $3.3 million surface remodeling project has grown into a full-scale rehabilitation to house the School of Public Affairs, the Schaefer Center for Public Policy and the School of Communications Design.

In addition, the expanded project scope enables the Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts’ administrative offices to relocate into the renovated building, freeing up additional space in the Academic Center. The revised project will provide UB with a first-class educational facility. The additional $12 million in cost was secured from the University System of Maryland during a time of limited and selective state funding of university capital projects.

This year, we will develop a comprehensive facilities master plan to guide the renovation and allocation of space that has been vacated by the opening of the UB Student Center and 1300 N. Charles St. This plan will be informed by input from all campus constituencies. I am pleased that the University Council has formed a facilities subcommittee to help with this process, and I remain committed to a goal established at last year’s convocation: to provide faculty and staff with work space consistent with a modern, first-rate educational institution.

This year, we will also focus on the impact we have on our environment. This initiative will begin with energy performance contracting, a means to upgrade existing campus systems. By partnering with service companies, UB can implement more efficient technologies and realize lower energy costs with no up-front financial investment. It is our responsibility to do everything we can to create a more efficient, cleaner and greener campus, and we will make this responsibility a central part of both ongoing renovation and new construction.

Last week, the Board of Public Works approved the Fitzgerald at UB Midtown—the first phase of our UB Midtown project. This public/private partnership will bring $75 million of development to the Bolton Yard Lot, including an enclosed 1,100-space parking garage. The project will include mixed- use retail and residential development, provide the University with additional revenue and add economic vitality and vibrancy to our urban neighborhood.

The next steps of UB Midtown include the possible acquisition of the postal facility and targeted development on existing property. As our campus grows, we should also consider the possibility of residence halls. This step requires a principled and serious discussion about the nature of our University, its mission, the students we serve today and the students we will serve in the future.

When we presented the University of Baltimore's Campus Master Plan last year, we emphasized that the plan represented a vision of our future, but that this vision would change as our needs are prioritized.

The master plan includes two state capital projects—a new library and a new law school. In our initial presentation, a learning center was our No. 1 request. We have decided that, while both of these projects are essential to our future, we will realize more immediate benefit from the construction of a new law facility. Because the existing law school building can be renovated for other academic purposes, a new law building will have the most significant impact on the quality of academic space on campus. We have formally submitted that change to the USM chancellor and to the Board of Regents, and have been working throughout the past months to advocate for a new law building. That work will continue and increase during the upcoming legislative session.

We will also develop a phased streetscape project to provide a more welcoming environment for students and faculty and to elevate our presence in the city. Initial plans are being drafted to create more campus green space; delineate campus boundaries; and establish signage, lighting and seating areas. There are posters in the UB Student Center Multipurpose Room with some very preliminary ideas on how to achieve these goals. We will continue to share these ideas and to seek community input as the project develops.

But UB is a unique and vital place because of what happens inside our buildings—not because of the buildings themselves. Our plans exist for one reason—to enhance learning and teaching at the University of Baltimore. Campus growth must support the School of Law’s new Part-Time Limited Day Program and a renewed focus on bar passage. It must support curriculum review in the Merrick School of Business and continued innovation in the College of Liberal Arts. Our development must contribute to a greater awareness of our quality and academic reputation, as we continue to recruit first-rate faculty and enroll high-achieving undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

The University of Baltimore Foundation will continue its key role in supporting our academic goals. During the past year, the foundation’s assets increased from $50 million to $58 million. As we prepare to enter the public phase of our capital campaign next year, the new foundation leadership is well positioned to provide the student scholarships, endowed faculty chairs and added resources necessary for our sustained excellence and future growth.

In the coming months, we will launch the “Faculty Forum,” a series of Web videos that will highlight the excellence of our faculty as we continue to tell the UB story. You’ll hear, for example, Byron Warnken talk about the Gonzalez resignation, Ven Sriram discuss advertising’s impact on the environment and Jannie Botes discuss the situation in Iraq. Here’s an advance review: The director who shot the interviews wishes he could take classes with each of these professors.

A few weeks ago, I took an impromptu tour of the law school. It was early afternoon, and I was struck by a number of observations. I was amazed by the amount of free food that is available at the beginning of the semester. I was impressed by the students I saw in the library and in study groups.

And even though it was only the second week of classes, it was abundantly clear that these students were fully engaged. As I watched the intensity of their commitment, I admired their dedication (and wondered how I ever managed to get through law school).

I also had a chance encounter with the mother of one of our first-year students. She happens to run the laundry business where I take my dry cleaning. Earlier this year, she asked me about the First and Second Year Program; subsequently, she has kept me apprised of her son’s application and acceptance. Now she was able to report on his first week at college.

Her son had always been a good student, but for whatever reason had never really been engaged in academics during high school. Yet, after one week at UB, it seemed he was opening up. He reported that his classes were challenging and the interaction in and out of the classroom was stimulating--and he told his mother what every parent wants to hear: that he likes college and made the right choice.

My thanks go out to all of you for making that story—and literally thousands of others—possible every year, year after year. Best wishes for a fulfilling academic year.