Good afternoon, and welcome to the fall 2013 Convocation.
I would like to begin by recognizing the student government leaders who have joined us today. Please stand when I announce your name, and please hold your applause until all the names are read:
Would all new faculty and staff colleagues who are attending their first convocation please stand so we can welcome you to the UB community.
The strength of the University of Baltimore is our people, and we all benefit from the added perspective and energy that new colleagues bring to campus.
I’m pleased to report that we are on track to meet the commitment to add 40 new faculty: three years into that six-year goal, we have added 24 new lines. I am confident that we can not only meet our target, but exceed it.
Of course, students are the most important addition to UB, and this year we have enrolled more new students than at any time in the last three years, with increases in new student enrollment in all populations: freshman, transfer, and (non-law) graduate. We'll have final fall enrollment numbers in the coming weeks, but it appears that even with the planned downsizing at the School of Law, we will meet budget projections for the fiscal year.
Our new and returning students are experiencing a different campus this fall with the opening of the Angelos Law Center and the addition of the Learning Commons, part of our commitment to provide a campus environment that matches the quality of our aspirations.
That commitment is an ongoing one – and every time we add quality space we raise the bar higher. I'll share plans regarding upcoming capital projects shortly.
Of course, as great as new buildings can be, they exist to serve our educational mission and our people. That's why our convocation tradition includes recognizing some of the people who make UB special.
The recipients of the 2013 UB staff awards are:
Would those honorees in attendance please stand. Join me in congratulating our colleagues.
The recipient of this year’s President’s Faculty Award is Christine Spencer, associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Health and Human Services, where she serves as executive director. We honored Chris at a luncheon on Tuesday, where she gave a terrific talk about her career and how she came to be at UB. The award luncheon has been a great addition to our Convocation week, and I hope it is a tradition that continues in the coming years.
I now invite Provost Joe Wood to the podium for some remarks.
I’ll begin my closing remarks by sharing my focus areas for the coming year.
First, I believe it’s imperative that we enhance our collective efforts regarding student success. I appreciate the many activities underway to identify and meet our students’ needs. We share a moral duty to provide every student we admit the opportunity to realize their educational goals, and I look forward to supporting and expanding those efforts.
I am also committed to advancing work/life initiatives campuswide. For many years, I’ ve wanted to position UB as a preferred workplace, and I believe we now have the leadership in place to move those initiatives forward.
On a related note, I will work with our leadership team to maintain our commitment to quality hiring. As I stated earlier, I believe that the strength of any University is its people, and one of the hallmarks of a preferred workplace is the quality of one’s colleagues. In an environment with finite resources, who we decide to add to our community becomes one of the most important decisions we make – decisions that will shape the University for years to come.
I will also continue work on the Campus Master Plan. We are moving forward with plans to put in crosswalks at the intersection of Charles and Mt. Royal, both as part of our streetscaping initiative but also to improve pedestrian safety. This will require working with the City, and I’m confident that we will make progress.
We’ll continue campus renovation projects, which will include finishing work on the Learning Commons and continuing our commitment to provide a quality work and learning environment for all students, faculty and staff. That is challenging, given the age of many of our buildings.
I am also optimistic that this year we will have success in acquiring the Post Office facility at the corner of Maryland Ave. and Oliver St. We've been at this for a long time – it's like waiting for the mail, if you can remember back to when people used to do that – but the acquisition will complete the Master Plan footprint and provide the University with some exciting options for expansion.
The most significant capital project of the coming year will be the renovation of Langsdale Library, something that has been in the queue for more than thirty years. As with the law center, we are planning to hold a design competition to attract the highest quality partner we can, and the project is on target for a late spring launch. Apart from addressing the building's aesthetics, this is an opportunity for us to understand the changing role that libraries play in the 21st century.
I will continue to support innovation across campus – in the work of our schools and colleges and in the activities generated by UB21, the Fund for Excellence, and CELTT. I believe that our ability to reflect on what we do, to connect to what is emerging in our disciplines and in higher education, and to continuously improve our work is both our greatest strength and most important asset moving forward.
Finally, I look forward to completing our work on the strategic plan. It's fitting that the areas I just articulated – student success; work/life; campus environment; and innovation – are all explicitly mentioned in the draft plan. I look forward to our dialogue in the coming weeks to finalize the plan and begin implementation.
As this is my last opportunity to address you at Convocation, I'd like to close with some brief reflections on the past eleven years. In our work together, we have experienced firsthand the opportunities, challenges and fundamental changes that mark higher education in the 21st-century.
We have experienced how public universities are increasingly scrutinized by those we serve, even as we are continually required to do more with less.
We are seeing a changing student demographic, although in many ways the University of the future will look very much like the UB of today, with student populations that are increasingly diverse and made up of more part-time and working students. The four-year undergraduate experience that many of us had – and that many of us still consider the “norm” – no longer holds true for the majority of today’s students.
We’ve seen more students entering college lacking some foundational skills, even as the importance of a college degree increases in a knowledge-based, global economy.
We’ve witnessed the beginning of what many are calling disruptive innovation, first in the rise of the for-profit sector, but increasingly in technology-based innovations, such as MOOCs. Disruptions in the professional world are impacting our professional schools: how we teach law and business must adapt accordingly.
We are aware that cost in higher education has become an issue in multiple ways: in the declining support for public education; in the increased debt that students assume; and in the widening income gap between the haves and the have-nots, which closely correlates with access to higher education. College degrees are now viewed in terms of return on investment, with less value seemingly placed on how education enriches one’s life beyond the size of your paycheck.
These are some of the changes and challenges we’ve faced at UB, and we will continue to face these and other challenges in the coming years. But because of the talent, dedication and creativity of this community, I can confidently state that I am more optimistic about UB’s future now than ever before: UB is poised to be the kind of University that will not only survive, but thrive, in the coming decade.
Universities must decide whether they fear change more than they fear obsolescence – and the UB community has already emphatically addressed that question. You only have to look around this auditorium to understand why I believe that UB will continue to succeed: UB will succeed because of you.
I’ve had many jobs during the course of my career – I guess that’s called a checkered career – but none have been more worthwhile and fulfilling than my time at UB.
We all want to believe that our work matters. We all want to wake up every day, look in the mirror, and know that we are about to engage in a meaningful activity – that our time, our talent and our energy will contribute to something larger than ourselves. We are all fortunate to be members of a community where what we do truly matters.
Let me share with you a specific example of how I know this is true. When I announced that this would be my last year as president, I received many emails, and I thank all those who responded for your kind and generous words. I'd like to share one particular message I received, because it speaks to something we can all recognize and be proud of:
Thank you for your insightful and encouraging words. I am a non-traditional junior at the University attending as a full-time student for the first time in 23 years. I decided to return to school in 2009 when the economic downturn put my electric company out of work for several weeks. I earned an Associate’s Degree at CCBC in the spring of 2012 and attended UB last semester as a part-time student. I view my enrollment at UB as an opportunity of a lifetime as I pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Your words this morning are an encouragement to me as I continue on my “dream journey”.
Thank you for your service as president of this great institution. I look forward to meeting you in person.
Yours in gratitude,
John P Skidmore III
As we know, there are literally thousands of UB students like John – men and women of all ages and backgrounds whose inspiring individual stories shape the University of Baltimore’s collective story.
And while all of these stories are unique, I will always value what they have in common. Like John, many of our students are “non-traditional,” a term that is very much in vogue in higher education today – almost to the point of being meaningless. But these students have been a point of pride and differentiation at UB for decades. Instead of talking about nontraditional students, perhaps it's time for other universities to say they increasingly serve “UB students.”
Like John, many of our students are responsible for their education: They are well aware of why they are here and why it matters.
But most importantly, I believe that, like John, UB students are on a “dream journey” – in pursuit of what they know they can become. Each of you plays a role in making those dreams a reality and in guiding those journeys to their rightful destination. That’s why the University of Baltimore is such a wonderful place to work and to study, and that is why this community will endure and thrive.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve, in John’s words, “this great institution.” Thank you for allowing me the luxury of waking up every morning, looking in the mirror, and – [even though I didn’t always like what I saw/was sometimes surprised by what I saw!] – knowing I had the chance to advance Knowledge That Works.
I will continue that commitment during coming year, and I will value every opportunity I have to serve the University of Baltimore in the future.