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Convocation 2008

Welcome to the beginning of a new academic year, and thank you for joining us at the annual fall convocation. This is always a special time at UB, a time when we are energized by new and returning students; a time when we re-connect with existing colleagues and welcome new ones; and a time when we have the opportunity and the privilege of returning fully to the life of the University: learning, teaching, scholarship and engagement.

At convocation we review the accomplishments of the past year and recognize members of our community for their outstanding contributions. This year we’ve added something new: you may have noticed that we have cards and poster boards in the lobby. We want to hear from you – what happened at UB this past year that you are most proud of? It could be something you accomplished, it might be the work of your division or office, or you may wish to acknowledge someone who often goes unnoticed.

University life being what it is, it’s possible to spend much of our time focused on our own pursuits, aware only of what’s happening immediately around us. Hopefully this is a way to share what we have achieved together, and I encourage you to participate. We’ll post what we receive today on the Web so that we all have a deeper appreciation of everything we’ve accomplished during the past 12 months.

Today we also look ahead to the opportunities we have and the challenges we will face. I know I say this every year, but as our report card shows, and as what I am about to share with you will make apparent, the University of Baltimore has made amazing progress both in the last year and in the previous five years. However, as impressive as that progress has been, I truly believe the best is yet to come.

I admit that’s the way I am: I always look to what’s ahead. But the work of the past years has created momentum and growth at UB, momentum that is increasingly being recognized and growth that is now being rewarded. We have the opportunity and responsibility to build on that momentum – in the words of our new strategic plan, to “Expand Our Shared Vision” – and write the next chapter of the UB story.

Finally, we use this time to outline our goals and vision for the future. At the 2003 convocation, I said the following: “I envision a University of Baltimore with 6,000 students.” Well, I am very pleased to announce that what might have sounded like wishful thinking five short years ago is now very much in reach: this year’s official headcount is 5,874; our FTE of 4085 is the highest in the University’s history.

What’s more, this growth is distributed across the University in the areas that we targeted, with approximately 11 percent undergraduate growth and 10 percent graduate growth, with law school enrollment constant.

Successful enrollment management requires the work of many people and areas across the campus, so please join me in acknowledging Miriam King and all of our staff and faculty colleagues who have contributed to another successful recruitment year.

In 2006, I stated that we must grow our faculty by 30 percent within five years to become the University of Baltimore that we collectively envision. This year, we welcome 17 new faculty members to UB, which represents an annual growth of more than 10 percent.

That is significant and impressive growth for any institution, and growth that I believe is unparalleled for UB. Making quality hires to grow our faculty – both to meet instructional needs and to bring new ideas, perspectives and intellectual energy to campus – is an extraordinarily effective way for us to enhance learning and teaching at the University.

While we have more work to do, we have clearly made significant strides this year. The 5-year faculty hiring goal outlined in 2006 now looks very achievable; I will be surprised and disappointed if we don’t surpass it.

Every year, we cite the need to upgrade our facilities. This year, we will open the Liberal Arts and Policy Building, adding 70,000 square feet of completely renovated academic space to our inventory. And I hope you’ve followed the recent progress that’s been made in selecting the design team for our new law building.

This project will provide the law school with the space they deserve and free the current facility to accommodate future growth. When the new John and Frances Angelos Law Center opens, it will also complete something that the student center started two years ago. Because of the prominence of the new building’s location and because of the international interest this project has attracted that all but guarantees a signature, iconic structure, it will soon be impossible to pass through midtown Baltimore without noticing the University of Baltimore.

As we move forward, the growth of our physical campus must coincide with the growth of our enrollment. It’s interesting to note that, in 2002, UB had four major buildings. When the new law building opens in 2012, we will have seven major buildings.

Groundbreaking for the Fitzgerald project will take place this fall, and we are all aware of the interim parking program that is now in place. I appreciate the community’s patience as we deal with a complex transition period.

We will continue to make adjustments in the parking program wherever possible to provide the best service to the greatest number of people. The Fitzgerald will increase our parking capacity by one-third, but we are already looking for the next opportunity to acquire additional spaces.

All of our physical expansion – whether new construction or renovation– must include a focus on environmental sustainability. This focus can be shown by small steps, such as our recent purchase of a hybrid vehicle, and by major initiatives: We are in final negotiations to secure an Energy Performance Contract that will result in a 30 percent reduction in energy campus consumption by 2010, exceeding the governor’s Empower Maryland goal of 15 percent reduction by 2015.

Savings from this contract will finance $7 million in green building technologies, including:
  • new heating, cooling and air-handling systems
  • upgraded lighting systems
  • solar panels
  • water conservation measures
  • a green roof.

Our contracted partner will work with UB’s Sustainability Task Force to advance the President’s Climate Commitment both on campus and in the surrounding community. The expected energy reduction from this initiative equals a decrease of 3,542 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Put in perspective, that is the equivalent of 533 fewer cars on our roadways or the annual energy needs of 313 homes. As a contained, urban campus, UB can play a prominent role in campus sustainability in the coming decade.

This year also marks a new planning cycle. You’ve been given the updated strategic plan highlights, as well as this year’s Report Card. The report card includes two dashboards: one for the past year and one for the previous 5-year planning period.

As you will see, we have made significant progress since 2003, including almost 10 percent enrollment growth (growth from 2002 to 2008 was 22 percent, following a decade in which UB’s headcount dropped by more than one thousand); a 73 percent increase in need-based financial aid; 38 percent increase in faculty grants; and an almost 100 percent achievement in making UB a wireless campus.

Our year-to-year dashboard also includes some impressive accomplishments, including percentage enrollment growth that led the USM. I’d like to single out one other achievement: a fundraising total of more that $10 million, breaking the institutional record by almost 50 percent and more than tripling the previous year’s amount. I’ll discuss what that means to our campus in greater detail later.

It’s important to realize that the report card does not cover every important activity of the past year. Can anybody say PeopleSoft upgrade? It’s difficult to fully understand the amount of work that technology upgrades entail or to fully appreciate the benefits that a new system will bring.

More than 60 people from across the campus are part of the upgrade team, which reflects the project’s comprehensive scope – including the University’s student information, human resources and payroll systems. As impressive as that sounds, what does it really mean? What impact will it have on our day-to-day life?

Here’s an example: 9.0 will deliver enhanced features and navigation for student, faculty and advisor self-service. During testing, one MSB advisor called the new features “really cool,” noting that the upgraded system will be an asset in advising students. Who would have thought we’d hear “really cool” and “PeopleSoft” in the same sentence? Join me in acknowledging the work of our PeopleSoft upgrade team.

The report card also doesn’t include some important information about our initial first-year class. Second-year retention overall was 70 percent; our retention of African-American students overall (74 percent) and African-American males (76 percent) exceeds national and Maryland averages. We can and will do better, but we are off to a very credible start.

Our first-year students also performed impressively outside the classroom. Members of the Class of 2011 represent five of the 11 officers in the Undergraduate Senate, four of the 9 officers of the Student Events Board and include the new editor of the UB Post. The rapid and successful integration of these young people into campus life is a testament both to their energy and initiative and to the openness, adaptability and welcoming nature of the UB community. I know this trend will continue with the class of 2012.

I would now like to announce the recipients of this year’s UB staff awards, each of whom will receive a $1,000 salary bonus. This award recognizes these employees’ exceptional contribution to the mission of the University.

The 2008 Staff Award winners are:
Monifa Brooks , Human Resource Specialist, Office of Human Resources
Randy Burinsky , Client Technologies Support Analyst, Call Center and Desktop Support, Office of Technology Services
Jim Campbell , Senior Client Technologies Support Analyst, Call Center and Desktop Support, Office of Technology Services
Paula Whisted, Director of Research and Database Management, Office of Research and Database Management

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 Christine Nielsen. Christine is professor of international business and strategy in the Merrick School of Business, and currently holds the Yale Gordon Chair of Distinguished Teaching. Her research interests include International Competitiveness in High Technology Industries, Managing Technology Transfer to Developing Countries, and Cross-Cultural Management Studies. In 2007, Christine received the University System of Maryland Board of Regents' Faculty Award for Teaching. Please join me in congratulating Christine Nielsen.

I would now like to invite Interim Provost Susan Zacur to share a few remarks.

I would like to close with a brief discussion of the year ahead. Much of the year’s work is already outlined in the strategic plan. Planning is about priorities and focus, and our community has articulated a clear path for the coming 5 years:
1. Enhance the learning and teaching environment.
2. Grow enrollment in response to state and regional need.
3. Create a modern, welcoming and sustainable campus.

In fulfilling the first of these priorities – enhancing learning and teaching – we must keep pace with the evolving needs of a new generation of students, young people with different learning styles, who have grown up in a technological world that some of us are still trying to fathom.

We must also deal with new political pressures and expectations as we continue to define how the University of Baltimore will fulfill its mission in the decade ahead. As part of that ongoing process, I challenge us to develop new measurements, a new metric by which we judge our work, a new way to evaluate the effectiveness of what we do. These measurements should not be driven by bureaucratic requirements or government mandates. If we are to spend time and resources on assessment, we must make sure the activity is one that can make us better at what we do: educating students.

Let us judge success not by the numbers our students have when they come to us, but by what our students acquire when they are here; by the kind of citizens they are when they graduate; and on their ability to make valuable contributions to the workplace now and – as life-long learners – for decades to come.

We must also continue to value and strengthen the intellectual life of the campus. Working with Susan and then with the new provost, I am committed to making the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching a key resource for our faculty and academic support staff. The Center can be something unique in higher education by not only advancing the intellectual vitality and currency of our faculty, but by helping us to realize and maximize the impact that a great faculty can have on the student learning experience.

In addition, this year I will sponsor a series of round table discussions to focus on what’s new in our disciplines and on what’s happening in higher education generally. I know these discussions occur already at faculty lunches, staff meetings, and impromptu get-togethers.

Providing another avenue to enable these exchanges of ideas - one in which I can participate and hear directly from each of you about what excites you in your field, about what makes you want to go to work every day – can contribute to our level of intellectual discourse and curiosity

Initially, we will schedule one round table for each school and one for staff. I will work with the deans and provost to shape the agenda, which will be forward-looking and informal: coffee, tea and, most importantly, wine.

Our topics will be broad and open-ended, and could include the following:
  • What will the future MBA look like?
  • What role should a liberal arts education play in an ever-changing, global marketplace?
  • What innovations can we bring to legal education?

More information about the round tables will be provided in the coming weeks.

Our next major focus – enrollment growth – is an area that has already been the source of much debate during the past year’s strategic planning process. I think that’s been great for our community: the more we have open and even heated discussions about the life and future of our institution, the greater our chances for collective success.

We’ve set an aggressive enrollment target of 8,000 students, although the growth of the past two years has made that goal somewhat less daunting than it may have been just a few years ago. Having a transformational vision for UB – some might say an audacious vision - is something new for us. But with the successes we have achieved together, it’s time to expand our idea of what is possible.

Following the President’s retreat in early October, we will form the UB 8,000 Task Force to examine, develop and implement the necessary plans, strategies and contingencies to realize the 8,000 goal.

This task force will represent all campus constituents. The scope of their charge will be comprehensive, to include:
· determining timelines
· calculating the necessary faculty and staff growth
· expanding co-curricular offerings
· evaluating the existing structure of the lower division
· developing financial aid strategies aimed at reducing student debt
· discussing the evolving role on online education at UB
· focusing recruitment and retention efforts for the working adult student
· adding campus residencies
· outlining what additional resources are required to support growth and maintain quality.

A key component of our growth must be continued and increased financial support, both from the state and from private sources. But that is nothing new; that’s the way it is in public higher education. Our growth since 2002 has been achieved during good budget times and bad. We have faced mid-year budget cuts; double-digit tuition increases; even threats of merger. Yet the University of Baltimore in 2008 is stronger than ever.

You have all read about the state’s budget challenges, and they are real. Declining revenues may require some correction during the fiscal year. The fall referendum on slots will impact education spending in FY 2010. These are management challenges that we can deal with; they are not impediments to our growth and continued success. The inevitable fluctuations of state budgets also serve to underscore our commitment to enrollment growth: Our ability to bring 17 new faculty members to campus this year is directly related to the revenue generated by our enrollment growth.

Aside from state support, we must continue our efforts in fundraising and in developing innovative partnerships. In the spring, UB and the University of Baltimore Foundation will enter the public phase of our $40 million capital campaign. I mentioned the unprecedented success of last year’s advancement efforts. We are also well on our way with the capital campaign, having already obtained $26 million towards our goal.

You will receive more information in the coming months about the specifics of the campaign, which will provide matching funds for the new law building, support for professorships and endowed chairs, money for faculty and student research and travel, and additional library holdings (approximately 1,000 volumes annually).

But the most important part of the campaign and the Foundation is the impact they have on our students’ ability to pursue their educational dreams through scholarships. Here are just a few examples of what the work of the UBF has meant to our students:
  • The 151 first-year students of the Class of 2011 who were offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a full scholarship to begin their undergraduate studies.
  • The 52-year-old single mother of a college student returning to UB to complete a degree in marketing.
  • The foreign-born widower with a young daughter who came to the United States to escape political tyranny and who has found at UB a community receptive to adult students.
  • UB alumna and faculty member Karen Colvin - who became disabled while she was a student here and who had a wonderful experience at UB - establishing a scholarship for female students with disabilities.
  • Pete Fedak, a UB law graduate. We’d lost touch with Pete, but when Theresa Silanskis and I reconnected with him recently, he gave money to support evening law students who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These examples, and many others like them, make up the UB story, one that is singular, strong and affecting. It is a story that we can all be proud to contribute to and be a part of.

Thank you for being part of that story and for everything you do at the University of Baltimore.

What are your UB successes of 2007-08? Highlights from community feedback:
  • We brought in some great new students with a lot of energy and UB pride!
  • The Jacob France is doing exciting research on workforce development and foreclosure studies.
  • New library director
  • UB has been very welcoming to Barnes & Noble. Everyone is very friendly and willing to work with the bookstore to meet the needs of students and faculty. - Amanda Martinez
  • The Office of Public Safety's R.A.D. program is a huge success and a wonderful benefit for UB's female community!
  • Mark and Vaughn's leadership program; UBAC grows and strengthens; Portal 9.0 looks and feels fantastic; parking communication!
  • President of the Student Events Board
  • The SDE program has graduates placed in 5 top area game development firms: Firaxis Games, Electronic Arts Mythic, Big Huge Games, Bethesda Soft Works and Breakaway Games. All of these job descriptions required 3-5 years' industry experience. Our students were all recent graduates!
  • I'm delighted that University Relations produced recruitment publications that have won awards for design and content.
  • We work to make fees transparent and clearly understood!
  • Jessica Elfenbein and Tom Hollowak and Baltimore '68: Riots and Rebirth conference
  • Over 200 UB staff members contributed to the holiday giving event, making it an overwhelming success.
  • 9 Oh!
  • Kelly Carr taught in three learning communities in both spring 08 and fall 08!