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September 10, 2003 Convocation

In preparing for today's remarks, I reviewed many aspects of my first year here. I reread my notes from last year's convocation and from the investiture in the spring. I revisited the issues I encountered throughout the region concerning the University and higher education in Maryland, exchanges with stakeholders in Annapolis and in the University System of Maryland: legislators, the state Board of Regents, Chancellor Kirwan and my fellow presidents. I recalled my meetings with our alumni, whose extensive numbers and quality reinforce how far-reaching our impact is on Baltimore, on Maryland and beyond.

I also gave myself the difficult challenge of looking at the goals I set, both for the institution and for myself, to determine what was accomplished and what remains undone. Finally, I asked myself: What stood out? What one aspect would I highlight to promote the University of Baltimore?

Let me start with that last question. Without hesitation, I would talk about our people. There is no better testament to the enduring strength and value of our institution than that shown by our students, faculty and staff.

The most profound lesson I've learned this past year has been that, despite budget constraints of unprecedented proportions, nothing can take away from the fundamental power of what happens here. The determination of our students, the talent of our faculty and the commitment of our staff make our University truly unique.

This afternoon I'd like to share with you some thoughts on the past year and on the year ahead. I also want to talk about the University of Baltimore community, how we can build on our strengths and meet our challenges-both internally and externally.

As we acknowledge and celebrate the rich and sometimes complex diversity of the University -- what I have termed our "creative tension" -- can we also identify common values that unite us as we create the University of Baltimore of tomorrow?

No discussion of the past year can ignore the central role of the two mid-year budget cuts absorbed by the University System. We were, and still are, part of a national crisis in state funding of higher education. We must acknowledge that all members of our community have shared in this burden.

Firstly, our students have been forced to absorb not only annual tuition increases, but a mid-year adjustment as well. Decisions being made in our state are shifting more of the cost of public education directly to students. We will continue to set aside 20 percent of all additional tuition revenue to cover student aid requests. Nonetheless, all Maryland taxpayers must be aware of where the trend in our state-indeed, in the country-is leading: We are in danger of pricing students out of public education.

We are also in danger of damaging the fabric of our University System.

I have delivered a clear message to both legislators and regents: It takes years to build a nationally competitive state system, but only one or two budget cuts to destroy it.

We have made personnel decisions as part of our cost containment measures, the most difficult regarding layoffs and non-renewals of contracts. While more than half of the 10 UB employees affected by this action last spring have received other employment or have retired, there is no denying the real human cost of our state's fiscal crisis.

We must acknowledge the sacrifices made by our faculty, whose opportunities for professional development have been limited by the cutbacks. Relevant scholarship depends on the exchange of ideas, on constant exposure to the new. We must have the financial resources to support that.

The last Cost of Living Adjustment for regular university employees was on Jan. 1, 2002. Our last General Merit Increase was given on July 1, 2001. That is indefensible; our state must address this in the FY'05 budget.

In order to reward and retain our valued employees and attract the highest caliber applicants to open positions, all universities in the Maryland system must be competitive in terms of salary. You deserve better.

Yet in spite of all this, we continue to achieve. Larry Katz has recognized some examples of the quality of our teaching. There are many similar stories of the impact University of Baltimore professors have on individual lives: No doubt hundreds of stories and literally thousands of lives.

The greatest strength of any university is the interaction between faculty and student. To underscore that importance-especially in these times-I have established and personally funded the President's Award at the University of Baltimore. While I am president, beginning with this academic year, I will donate $5,000 annually to the Educational Foundation to be awarded to an individual faculty member in recognition of excellence in teaching, research and service.

I am also pleased to announce the University of Baltimore Staff Awards, which I initiated last year.

Annual awards of $1,000 each have been initiated to publicly recognize the many outstanding employees in the university as recommended by the Staff Awards Committee. The 2003 Staff Award winners are:

Outstanding customer service:
BARBARA AUGHENBAUGH - associate vice president of Auxiliary Services. Because Auxiliary Services is an area that requires constant contact with its users, customer service is crucial to its success. Barb has demonstrated her ability to not only personally provide a high level of service but also to instill her staff with strong customer service ideals.

Exceptional contribution to the mission of the University:
LAURA GARCIA - office administrator of the UB Law Clinic. Laura has worked diligently to forward the mission of the Law Clinic through its many challenges this past year. She has made major contributions in managing the facility's renovation and establishing new systems for student recruitment, always keeping in mind the importance of communication.

Extraordinary public service to the University or the greater community:
JAMES WILLIAMSON - associate vice president of Administration and Finance. Jim is an active member of the Rotary Club of Baltimore and the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association. He is dedicated to community service and to "giving something back;" true to form, Jim is running a fundraiser for the Rotary Club this afternoon and can't be with us. Would the 2003 award winners please stand and be acknowledged?

There are other accomplishments to celebrate. The Center for Families, Children and the Courts opened this past fall after extensive and successful renovations. The University secured $5.3 million in state funds for the renovation and rehabilitation of the Crestar Building at 1300 N. Charles Street. Faculty offices, classrooms and laboratories for the College of Liberal Arts will be constructed in the facility.

Progress continues on the student center; the University is also completing an updated Master Facilities Plan. A central feature of the Master Plan is a much-needed Learning Center to replace Langsdale Library with state of the art library services, technology and support.

Let me return to my goals of last year: What did we accomplish? I cited a need to support improved student services. Our focus began on financial aid. This year, for the first time, the Financial Aid Office was able to award money prior to the start of the semester to those students with complete applications-beginning Aug. 15 for the law school and Aug. 25 for undergraduate and graduate students. Processing times have been reduced. We still need to improve, but progress has been made, realized by the hard work of new Director Barbara Miller and her entire staff. This year we have begun a similar review of The Career Center.

We identified crucial challenges in computer services and information technology. Our CIO search continues; that is a goal that was not realized, and is of the utmost importance. We also face the continued challenge of the PeopleSoft conversion. While these challenges will continue in the coming year, we should also acknowledge our position as the leading university in the Maryland system in this transition.

I'd like to ask everyone in the room who's been involved in the PeopleSoft project to stand and be recognized for their hard work and dedication to the University.

As you can readily see, this is not a case of "us versus them." This is our community working together to move the University forward.

I also spoke of a desire to reach out to our community and city in innovative ways. Two weeks ago, Mayor O'Malley was on campus to join me in welcoming the inaugural class of the University of Baltimore City Fellows Program, which offers graduate scholarships to city managers.

We identified a need for transparency in administrative decisions.

The provost, deans and VP for Finance are finalizing a presentation that will allow a uniform budget model to be posted on the Web site each fiscal year. This year, the University Council is establishing a Budget Subcommittee to facilitate communication and consultation on budget issues.

Adjusting the state funding guidelines remains an ongoing priority. We now have a commitment from the chancellor and his staff to assist us in revising the funding formula for the University. This Monday, I met with the USM's vice chancellor for Administration to begin detailed discussions. This has been a challenge for many years.

The prospect of adjusting the existing formula provides a real opportunity to improve the University's fiscal support from the state.

This year we began to engage the community in a University-wide planning process. That process continues this fall; the Planning Subcommittee survey remains open through Sept. 15. Draft versions of the final document will be circulated throughout the fall for continued input.

One of the challenges we've encountered is a basic one: Do we have enough in common to create a shared vision? All universities are diverse, ours perhaps more than most.

We are the most diverse university in the Maryland system, not only in the demographics of our student population, but in our program offerings as well. In the face of such uniqueness, are ideas of a University-wide mission and common values possible at UB?

Areas of creative tension:
Access versus excellence. Teaching versus research. Urban versus national and international. These tensions have no doubt preceded our discussions this year, and will continue long after any plan is produced. I believe that continued engagement over these issues-creative tension-is essential to our future. Creating a shared vision does not mean that we are all the same.

I wish to personally commend the faculty, staff and students who have participated in our process to date: some of our colleagues have volunteered countless hours, despite the skepticism that understandably accompanies these endeavors, to focus our planning efforts.

I have termed these contradictions "creative tension;" creative because I believe they signal strength, not weakness. Weak societies, be they dictatorships or dysfunctional families, cannot tolerate opposing views. The University of Baltimore has the opportunity to blend the perspectives of law, business, communications, arts and social sciences into a unique educational environment.

I welcome continued dialogue with all of you around the central issues of mission, vision and values. While I have set a January 2004 timeline for the first iteration of our planning document, we must emphasize that planning is a process, not a product. Creating and supporting a culture of continued assessment and self-renewal is central to successful strategic planning.

Ernest Boyer, whose Campus Life: In Search of Community was commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation in 1990, states, "if a balance can be struck between individual interests and shared concerns, a strong learning community will result. … Now, more than ever, colleges and universities should be guided by a larger vision." I look forward to furthering the community dialogue that will constantly shape that vision.

Here are a number of reasons why I believe our vision is clearly one of success, optimism and achievement:

Administration is improving. We have identified areas in the services we provide that need additional attention and support, and we will continue to move available resources to address those needs. We are about to undertake a major enrollment management review with the clear objective of increasing enrollment through strategic recruitment and retention.

This fall, our total enrollment is 4,937, an increase of 3 percent from last year, and the highest total since fall 1995. We have both the need and capacity to grow significantly beyond our current levels. For the University of Baltimore to continue to be a destination of choice for targeted student populations, all of what we do is involved: what programs we offer, how we process inquiries and applications and, at every step of the process, how we provide customer service. We will budget for support in all these areas.

Another reason for optimism: Faculty commitment and productivity continues to grow. As good as it is, it can become even stronger with greater support and encouragement.

Grant activity last year was over $7.6 million, the highest total in the University's history, and an increase of more than $600,000 from the previous year despite a weakened economy marked by reduced foundation support. New, innovative programs have contributed to this gain, such as Nancy Kaplan's Center for Community Technology Services. The Morris J. Goldseker Foundation recently awarded the center a grant to support its mission of assisting area nonprofit organizations with technology planning and implementation.

We are strengthening partnerships in our community, our region and internationally.

The Merrick School of Business has developed a joint program with the Maryland Institute College of Art, "Business Tools for the Creative Professional." Steve Isberg will work with MICA faculty to provide business skills to the region's community of creative professionals. The new Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies and Civic Engagement, developed by Jessica Elfenbein, partners with American Humanics, a national organization dedicated to training the next generation of nonprofit managers and leaders. The new Master's in Law [LL.M.] in the Law of the United States, initiated by Morad Eghbal, provides foreign-trained lawyers concentrated instruction in U.S. legal theory and practice.

We have not only established a presence in Annapolis, we have gone from nowhere to top-tier. Associate Vice President for Government Relations Anita Thomas has contributed to a new appreciation and understanding statewide of the University of Baltimore's unique contribution to Maryland and the region. As we address the one issue that most directly affects our level of general fund support-the state's funding formula- our newly acquired legislative and political access will be indispensable.

Likewise, those in the University System -- particularly Chancellor Kirwan and the Board of Regents -- are recognizing the value of the University of Baltimore as never before. We have invited all of the regents to our campus; in some cases we were the first University to meet with the Governor Ehrlich's appointees. They all leave here with a real appreciation of the work we do. An example of this newfound understanding is the regents' decision to move bond funding for our student center project two years ahead of schedule-this for a University waiting for over 20 years for a new library.

We have the opportunity to reinvigorate our community with the additions of a new provost, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and chief information officer. We are also restructuring our University Relations Office to include the assistance, perspective and expertise of an outside public relations firm. While I know that changes in leadership and management can be unsettling, it is also a chance for growth and new ideas. Let me also say how fortunate we all are for the presence of "The Two Larrys:" Larry Katz and Larry Thomas. They both provide great skill and leadership in these times of transition.

Finally, I go back to my original point about our greatest strength: We should be optimistic because of who we are. Let me share with you just one example-I know there are countless others-of the value of what we do here. Not only does our forensics program combine theory and practice in the University of Baltimore way-our students have the distinct advantage of studying in the City of Baltimore Police Crime Lab -- we've gone one step further. Led by the initiative of Administrative Assistant Linda Fair, our Criminal Justice Department has formed an alliance with the Baltimore Rising Mentoring program.

Run by the Mayor's Office of Children, Youth and Families, this program provides at risk Baltimore youth aged 12-17 with individually matched mentors. Linda has also elicited the support of area businesses; Staples and JC Penney have donated backpacks and calculators. Currently, 15 members of our community-including students, staff and faculty-are actively involved in the program. Any criminal justice department can teach a curriculum; here's an example of a holistic approach to the problems confronting our city, and how we as a University can become active agents for positive change.

A few thoughts in closing: I envision a University of Baltimore with 6,000 students, with excellent facilities and the resources we deserve. We are recognized as a leader in the state system as we unite behind a common mission, shared vision and core values. We continue to develop innovative programs that address the business needs of the region, continue our excellence in legal education throughout the state, country and beyond, and build on our unique position in the applied liberal arts. Most of all, we are recognized as a wonderful community in which to work and study.

I want to thank all of you for the support I have received since coming here one short year ago. I have been treated with kindness, challenged intellectually and received great welcome from the University, Baltimore and Maryland communities. This welcome has given me energy and motivation to work with you for the continued growth of our University. It is a pleasure and honor to serve as president of the University of Baltimore.

Thank you.