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Convocation 2012

Good afternoon, and welcome to the fall 2012 Convocation.

I would like to begin by recognizing the student government leaders who have joined us today:

  • Amirah Muhammad, SGA Vice President; a Jurisprudence major, Class of 2013
  • Ann Margaret Zelenka, SGA College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Senator; a Jurisprudence major, Class of 2014
  • Adnan Hameed, SGA Merrick School of Business Undergraduate Senator; a Business major, Class of 2013
  • Cornell A. Lynch, SGA College of Public Affairs Graduate Senator; an MPA student, Class of 2013
  • Taylor Novak, SBA President; a 3L J.D. student
  • Max Carrion, SBA 3L Class Representative; a 3L J.D. student.


This semester we also welcome new academic leadership. Laura Bryan, dean of the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences, joins us from the University of West Florida, where she was director of the School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences. Laura is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar who has a wide range of experience in academic and administrative positions.

We are also pleased to welcome Ron Weich as dean of the School of Law. Ron comes to us from the U.S. Department of Justice, where he served as the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs. He has had a rich and varied career in both government and private practice.

I've had the pleasure of working with Laura and Ron during the summer, and they've already made positive contributions to their college and school and to the University. I look forward to working with them and with Steve, Darlene and Joe in the coming year.

This year we've also appointed 19 new faculty members. Consistent with our faculty growth plan, 7 of these positions represent new faculty lines. I'd like to ask all faculty and staff who are new to UB this year to stand so we can officially welcome you to our community.

Of course, in addition to deans, faculty and staff, universities need students. Here's a preliminary snapshot of our fall 2012 recruitment efforts:

  • Our latest headcount figure of 6,570 – an increase of 122 students over last year – represents the largest student enrollment in UB history and marks the second time in three years that we have achieved record enrollments.
  • This accomplishment is all the more impressive this year considering that applications to graduate business and law programs are decreasing nationally.
    Despite some decline in numbers, there is evidence of our strength here as well: although graduate business enrollment declined, UB may actually have gained market share in the region. And despite the fact that fewer students applied to the School of Law, the number of new law students increased this fall.
  • We are realizing gains in quality: 32 percent of our record 264 entering freshmen are honors-eligible.
  • 254 UB students live in the Varsity, exceeding our financial commitment by more than 100 students. The Varsity is presently at 92 percent occupancy.
  • Close to 1,000 students now live in the UB Midtown area, an increase of 28 percent from last year and a five-year increase of 134 percent. This year, approximately 1 in 6 students can walk to campus.
  • Driven by student demand and defined by student choice, we are gradually changing the historic definition of UB as a strictly commuter campus.
  • At the same time, we remain committed to the commuter, part-time and adult students who will continue to make up the majority of our population.

As impressive as all these numbers are, what's really important is what they mean. First and foremost, despite the most challenging economy in 80 years, more students than ever before recognize the value and importance of a UB education.

That is a direct reflection on all of you – the excellence that our faculty exhibit as teachers, scholars and practitioners; and the commitment our staff has to student success.

Given our growth of the past decade—since FY01, UB has the 2nd highest growth rate in the University System of Maryland, only 0.7 percent off the highest rate—we can't keep saying that UB is the best kept secret in Maryland. Let's take a moment and do something we don't often do—let's congratulate ourselves.

Our achievement is also a testament to something that is critical to our present and future success: enhanced collaboration across campus. It's easy to say that recruitment and retention is everyone's responsibility; the challenge is in making that statement real.

But with new academic and administrative leadership in key roles, we have increased dialogue among program directors, division chairs, faculty, admission staff, academic advisors, financial aid, our registrar, the Retention Coordination Team, advertising and marketing—the list goes on. Can we do better? Always. Have we made vast improvements? The numbers provide the answer.

I would now like to announce the recipients of this year's UB Staff Awards, each of whom will receive a $1,000 bonus. These awards recognize exceptional contributions made by staff during the past year and throughout their UB careers.

The recipients of the 2012 UB staff awards are:

For outstanding customer service to students and the campus community:

  • Terry Ross, program manager for e-Learning; Office of Technology Services
  • Adrian Korz, library technician; Langsdale Library

For exceptional contribution to the mission of the University:

  • Magui Cardona, director of sponsored research and faculty development; Office of Sponsored Research
  • Katie Rolfes, administrative assistant; Office of the Dean; School of Law

For extraordinary public service to UB and the greater community:

  • Catherine Leidemer, assistant director, Office of University Relations.

Would those honorees in attendance please stand. Join me in congratulating our colleagues.

The recipient of this year's President's Faculty Award is Kendra Kopelke, associate professor in the School of Communications Design and program director of the M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts. As those of you who attended yesterday's celebration know, we have added a luncheon at which the faculty award recipient can discuss ideas about teaching, talk about recent scholarship—or, in Kendra's case, share some of her wonderful poetry with us. A word of warning to next year's recipient: You have a hard act to follow; my advice: start practicing the ukulele now.

I am very excited about this new tradition and the added opportunity it gives us to get to know our faculty and their work better.

I now invite Provost Joe Wood to the podium for some remarks.

This past August marked the end of my tenth year at UB, an extremely gratifying period in my professional life. Yes, it's also been a challenging time, but that's what makes it fun and worthwhile. For better or worse, I tend to be someone who looks forward, not backward, but milestones often make you pause and reflect, if only for a moment.

UB in 2002 was a university where wonderful things happened—where talented faculty and staff made the dreams of thousands of students a reality. But at times it seemed that these accomplishments happened against all odds. For example: My email didn't work. I spent the first few weeks of the semester directing students to their classrooms, which was a problem given that I didn't know where anything was.

There was a lot of good news/bad news: We had purchased the property in the center of the campus, but were seemingly resigned to keeping it as an asbestos-laden storage facility.

And no one seemed to understand that the public was noticing: Enrollments went from a high of 5,983 in 1991 to a low of 4608 in 1997, a drop of 23 percent. If UB was mentioned in Annapolis at all, it was in the context of university mergers and consolidation.

Because of our collective vision, creativity, and commitment, the UB of 2012 is a different story. I shared with you our success in student recruitment, but we've also grown in other ways.

One of the tensions of a growing university is that student growth must precede faculty growth: given our economic model, that's just the way it is. But our commitment to faculty growth during the past decade shows that we're on the right path: From 2003 to 2011, FTE student enrollment increased by 31.8 percent. During the same period, the FTE of instructional faculty increased by 26.1 percent.

Clearly, we have to work collaboratively to address issues of instructional capacity in areas of increased demand. But it's equally clear that a strategic growth plan—one that grows our student body and our faculty—is consistent with our commitment to educational quality and access.

The UB of 2012 is also a vastly different physical environment. The decade has witnessed an impressive list of new and renovated campus space—facilities that we own and or in which we are partners.

That list would include:

  • The Student Center
  • The Fitzgerald—which includes a Barnes & Noble campus bookstore and a thirty percent increase in available parking.
  • The renovated Liberal Arts and Policy Building
  • The Varsity at UB
  • And, next year, the new John and Frances Angelos Law Center.

Add to that list the plantings, benches and paving of our streetscaping project, so that a UB campus tour today is significantly different than it was a decade ago.

And our public is noticing. This summer, I had the privilege of accepting UB's Alfred P. Sloan award for best practices in faculty retirement transitions, presented by the American Council on Education. Only fifteen colleges and universities received awards: UB was joined by institutions such as Princeton, USC, Wellesley College and Georgia Tech.

During the coming year, we will continue to have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to shape the future University of Baltimore. These opportunities are both immediate and long-term; they are both specific and overarching.

We have choices to make about the use of the current law building. We've articulated guiding principles and priorities for our space needs. We must now make the difficult choices that best serve our present demands and future aspirations. I can promise you two things. One: We will share our plans and engage in open dialogue about the best and highest use of the building. Two: In a growing University with creativity and vision, there will always be more legitimate needs than available resources.

We are coming to the end of our current strategic plan. As we enter a new planning cycle, let's follow the principles of UB21—let's plan in a manner and for an outcome that will serve the University of the Future. As with space planning, we will proceed openly, transparently and collaboratively.

We have a new governance structure in place—a means to better engage the best ideas and full participation of the community. To make that work, our engagement must be collegial and our responsibilities for communication shared. I look forward to constructive, informed dialogue with action that includes the new faculty, staff and student governance bodies. I encourage increased participation in shared governance from a broader cross-section of the campus community.

Faculty and staff colleagues will be implementing UB21 catalyst grants, and new catalyst grants will be submitted and funded. In addition, the UB Foundation has introduced the Fund for Excellence, another source of financial support for new ideas. I have no doubt that we will learn a great deal from this work, and I hope the practice of supporting pilot projects and knowledge discovery becomes a UB hallmark and differentiator.

We are certainly off to a great start: given the size of the institution and the financial challenges of these times, the fact that approximately $400,000 will be available this year to seed new projects at UB is something we can all be proud of.

In closing, I'd like to share a thought I had while watching the summer's best television programming: the London Olympic Games. If it weren't for the Orioles amazing run and the start of the football season, I would still be in serious Olympic withdrawal.

I was watching the closing ceremonies, and you have to hand it to any country that uses the world stage to sing—with genuine national pride—Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." But as memorable as that was, what I remember from that night was the playing of John Lennon's "Imagine."

This won't come as much of a surprise, but rock and roll was not the music I grew up with. I know that "Imagine" was ranked by Rolling Stone as the third greatest song of all time—but only because someone told me, not because I read the magazine. Regardless, the song's message—the simplicity and optimism of its lyrics—has stayed with me.

The idea of imagine—of imagination—is really what UB's last decade has been about. Imagine a student center instead of a decaying building. Imagine a distinctive four-year undergraduate program. Imagine the world's best law facility on a surface parking lot. Imagine a creative faculty and dedicated staff supported by $400,000 annually to discover new ideas. Imagine a thriving University of Baltimore in a thriving midtown Baltimore.

To imagine takes courage, because there will always be obstacles and there will always be naysayers. But imagination allows new, unexpected and truly original thinking to emerge, and that is exactly what the changing landscape of higher education requires in 2012.

John Dewey, one of our country's most influential thinkers about education, believed that the world changed too rapidly for us to possibly know what the coming decades would be like. That's why he thought we should teach students how to be life-long learners, not how to do a specific job. He came to that conclusion in 1897, so maybe the imperative to embrace change is not such a 21st-century concept after all.

As we meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming year, I wish for all of us the ability to imagine: to imagine our own work and careers; to imagine the limitless potential of our students; to imagine the future University of Baltimore. That imagination may not always be as easy as Lennon's lyrics suggest, but we've already proven what's possible when we work together towards a common purpose.

I extend to all of you my sincere best wishes for the coming academic year. And knowing how full and hectic life at UB can be, I also offer you this: always look on the bright side of life.

Thank you. Joe and I are happy to answer any questions, after which we hope to see you at the reception.