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September 14, 2004 Convocation

Good afternoon and welcome to our 2004 Convocation. As you no doubt have already noted, our meeting today in the Langsdale Library auditorium is a departure from last year, when several overflow rooms were set up in the business school.

This year I felt that it was important to remedy that situation. We often speak of the “UB community.” If the idea of community holds value to us—and it does—then it’s important that we are together. I’d like to share my perspective on what we’ve accomplished in the past year Aand where we’re going in the year ahead.

We are in a new place in many ways. Our academic and administrative leadership has undergone significant changes. I will be introducing Provost Wim Wiewel shortly.

We have a new dean, Larry Thomas, in the College of Liberal Arts. Both the Langsdale and Law libraries have secured permanent leadership: Steve LaBash and Will Tress, respectively. A national search is underway for a vice president for Institutional Advancement.

We also completed our strategic planning process and officially released “Positioning for the Future: Creating a Shared Vision.” That document was the culmination of months of discussion and debate and was informed by input from all of UB’s constituencies. It has been distributed to legislators, current and prospective donors, to the Board of Regents and to the chancellor. I’m pleased to report that they have all impressed by the process and the product.

I hope that the involvement, discussion and debate that accompanied the planning process will continue this year as we react to new opportunities and ever-present challenges.

The stated goals will be reviewed annually to assess our past performance and to ensure that our objectives continue to reflect the best future course for the University of Baltimore.

A key element of our success will be our ability to tell the UB story to as wide an audience as possible. That story should include our past accomplishments, a picture of our vital present, and a focused vision of our future—of what the engaged, innovative urban university looks like in the years ahead. Most importantly, we must focus on what we are doing today to make our vision a reality.

Putting our future in context, it is helpful to remember that the very concept of the public urban university is a relatively new one in American higher education.

Today’s urban universities have transported the traditional land-grant mission from the rural 1800s to our modern city centers. Since 80 percent of us now live in urban areas, naturally the demand grew for universities to respond to the distinct needs of the city. The curriculum became relevant to the community, and the university’s vitality became linked to that of its urban surroundings.

Similar to the land grants, urban universities have opened their doors to serve their communities, making higher education available to those who were previously denied the opportunity. We should recognize ourselves in this evolution: this is the University of Baltimore story.

Constant throughout our development has been who we are: our students, faculty and staff. Because of our enduring commitment to this university and its mission, we continue to provide educational opportunities of the highest quality and our graduates continue to assume leadership roles regionally, nationally and beyond.

I would like to personally thank our faculty and staff for their talent, dedication and hard work during the past year.

I am pleased to take a moment to recognize a few of the many members of our community who make our university the special place that it is. The following employees have been recommended by the UB Staff Awards Committee to receive this year’s $1,000 award in recognition of their exceptional contributions during the past year.

For outstanding customer service: Erica Simpkins. Erica works as a counselor in the Office of Admissions, where her performance is marked by her positive attitude and caring manner.

For outstanding customer service: Donna Johnson, Records and Registration. Donna was instrumental in the PeopleSoft conversion process, where her work was described as “going above and beyond the call of duty.”

For exceptional contribution to the mission of the University: Janine Zito, office coordinator, Center for Student Involvement. Janine’s work is distinguished by her willingness to help others and by the pride that she exhibits in her many duties.

For extraordinary public service to the University and the greater community: Glenton Queen, housekeeping supervisor, Physical Plant. After working the night shift at UB, Glenton volunteers his time feeding the homeless, providing youth counseling and using his talents as a chef for a local elementary school.

On behalf of the University of Baltimore community, I extend my congratulations and thanks to all of these employees.

The University of Baltimore faculty continues to distinguish itself both in the classroom and beyond. Wim will announce a complete list of this year’s faculty awards; I would like to acknowledge a number of special distinctions UB faculty achieved this year.

School of Law Professor F. Michael Higginbotham received one of four Wilson H. Elkins Professorships administered by the University System of Maryland.

Professor Higginbotham has developed a national reputation for his work on the impact of race on the law and the law on race relations. He is one of the founding members of the School of Law’s Baltimore Scholars program.

This year the Board of Regents recognized 11 faculty members from across the USM for outstanding contributions in five categories. School of Law Professor Jane Murphy received the award for Excellence in Public Service.

I am also pleased to announce the recipient of the first annual President’s Award, which I established last year to recognize faculty excellence in teaching, research and service in support of the university’s mission. A committee was formed to accept faculty nominations. After reviewing the applications, the committee forwarded its unanimous recommendation to my office.

For her ongoing teaching and scholarship, for her work in developing the School of Law’s Family Law Clinic and for her active participation to improve access to justice for low-income families, the President’s Award goes to Professor Jane Murphy.

I extend my congratulations to Mike and Jane and, on behalf of our students and staff, I thank all our faculty members for their continued achievement and commitment.

At this time, I would like to introduce Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Wim Wiewel. He comes to us from Chicago, where he most recently served as dean of the College of Business Administration of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Wim’s many past accomplishments include establishing the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at UIC and serving as its dean, establishing the Great Cities Institute and the UIC Neighborhood Initiative. He holds a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern and degrees in sociology and urban planning from the University of Amsterdam.

It would be difficult to write a resume more suited to the University of Baltimore, with experience in business, urban planning and the urban university, and we are fortunate to have him as part of our team. Please welcome Provost Wim Wiewel.

I would now like to briefly review the goals we set from last year: What did we promise and what have we accomplished? As we stress the value of accountability, it must begin and end with me.

We have completed our strategic plan and laid out a vision of what our future looks like and what we need to do to get there. Many wondered if the plan would take its place with the countless other documents that line our shelves.

I can assure you—that is not going to happen.

This year, every administrative unit is developing operational plans to turn our strategies into action. Each of the schools is creating new plans or reviewing existing ones. We will define our goals and measure our progress, so that at this time next year, I can report to the community in specific, quantifiable terms.

We stressed the importance of addressing our employees’ lack of pay increases. This past year the University funded merit pay increases, and all employees received cost of living allowances. While I would hardly term this a “victory,” it is a first step towards justly recognizing and rewarding our faculty and staff.

At last year’s convocation, I envisioned a future UB with 6,000 students. This fall’s enrollment of 5,036 represents our highest headcount in a decade. This did not happen by chance. A key first step in our strategic plan implementation has been a partnership with Noel-Levitz, national experts in enrollment management. We will continue to determine where we have capacity for growth, and resource those areas appropriately.

As a result of these and other efforts, we begin this year in a very different place than we have previously. Two years ago, I inherited a structural deficit of more than $2.5 million, compounded by two midyear budget cuts. Last year, through careful planning, we balanced the budget despite a significant reduction in state support. This year, I anticipate some new revenue that will enable us to support activities that are central to our mission, key to our continued growth and consistent with our strategic plan.

We have the ability to make choices; it is up to us to choose wisely. All areas of our university could put additional funds to good use. As we projected for this year, our budgeting included planned efficiencies, select new initiatives, strategic cuts and the phased hiring of numerous personnel. We will now revisit those decisions and provide additional support in key areas of need.

The majority of any available funds will be used to directly impact the academic areas and enhance our financial aid capabilities. While preference will be given to units where additional enrollment was generated, each school will be asked to advance plans for spending in support of their educational objectives.

We committed to developing a new budget process. I have commissioned a University-wide budget task force, co-chaired by the provost and Vice President Don Paddy, to examine the University’s current process and make recommendations by Jan. 31 on a new budget model. My charge is that the final proposal be effective, efficient, transparent and legitimate. The first meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

The task force will consult with a wide range of existing University bodies, including the University Council and faculty senates, to achieve broad community acceptance.

At the same time, a working group is finalizing a report to the chancellor concerning the current funding guidelines used by the University System. In ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders, there is the beginning of an understanding that these guidelines have unintentionally penalized the University. We are committed to turning that appreciation and understanding to action and to changes in the guidelines.

This summer, my fellow presidents elected me to serve as chair of the University System Council of Presidents, where I will continue to advocate for equitable distribution of resources throughout the state system.

I spoke last year of obtaining “the resources and facilities we deserve.” We are currently addressing two major capital projects: a new elevator in the Academic Center, and the renovation of 1300 N. Charles St., which will house programs of the College of Liberal Arts. Both projects are essential for our future growth, and I am optimistic that our need has been understood by the state. However, this is only a beginning. We must address the pressing needs for a new library facility and for the space needs of the law school.

We are addressing technology with new leadership, a new organization, and a new focus on serving the needs of our students, faculty and staff. CIO Judi Wood will release a master plan for technology by the end of this week, so that the community is aware of the steps we will take to create the supportive environment essential to our educational mission.

We promised to change past practices and begin budgeting for facilities renewal and enhancement. We have done that, and I hope you see the evidence around campus. Part of this is common sense—our infrastructure needs attention, and we will no longer rely solely on crisis management. But many in our community also recognize the need to change an attitude we have accepted for too long—that we should be content to just “get by.” Not only do we exist in a more competitive environment, but we also must provide for our students, faculty and staff a welcoming and up-to-date environment.

We committed to increasing our financial base through three means: educating the state funding agencies that serve as our primary source of revenue, seeking creative alternative funding streams and enhancing our fundraising efforts. During the past year, I met with more than 50 state and local elected officials, USM officials, regents and others involved in state funding. I will speak momentarily of some exciting possibilities for developing alternative revenues.

This summer we completed an audit of our Office of Institutional Advancement, and are acting on its recommendations. Even as we look to improve, we can celebrate the $1 million gift from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation in support of the School of Information Arts and Technologies; the $500,000 challenge gift from the France-Merrick Foundation in support of the Robert G. Merrick School of Business; and the $500,000 pledge from Stephen Snyder for the moot court room renovations.

Last year we remarked on the effect of rising tuitions on current and prospective students. We have failed to hold students harmless to the effects of rising costs and shrinking state support. We share this failure with our colleagues in the University System and with our elected officials. We are now examining our current financial aid practices to determine how we can best ensure that all students who wish to obtain a University of Baltimore education are able to do so.

Looking at the year ahead, I challenge us to cultivate our abilities in three areas: creativity, innovation and identity. Let me illustrate with some specific examples.

Creativity. We will shortly release an RFP for the surface lots at Bolton Yard and Charles Street, as well as two smaller parcels, for prospective public/private mixed use development.

The goals of this project are:

  • to increase available parking by 500-700 spaces
  • to provide housing options for our students
  • to enhance the University’s revenue stream
  • to invigorate our urban surroundings with much-needed retail opportunities
  • to contribute to the urban density that is central to city core redevelopment.

To meet our projected parking needs alone would cost between $15 and $20 million. By envisioning a creative public/private partnership, we have the opportunity to address a critical need—parking—at no new dollar cost to the university.

We can serve as a national model for urban university development by enhancing the future of both the University and of Baltimore’s midtown. Our value as an involved partner in the city and region will also be enhanced.

Innovation. We continue to look for new ways to better serve the region’s students. This past summer, we engaged in a dialogue with representatives from Towson University on a possible joint UB-Towson M.B.A. program. I am reviewing the proposed Memorandum of Understanding to determine if the educational quality and financial stability of our current program can be enhanced. The University of Baltimore can and should create national models for strategic educational alliances and targeted partnerships.

Identity.We must continue to communicate the value the University imparts to its students, to the community and to the state. We will enhance both internal and external communication through the web and traditional media. We will continue to host visits with our regents, legislators and community stakeholders. Last month the Appropriations Subcommittee of the House of Delegates visited the University for the first time in memory. As I do with the regents, I made sure they rode the elevator in the Academic Center.

We must continue our involvement and leadership in city, regional and state activities. Many of you increase the visibility of our University by your community service.

I see that effort as a significant part of my job as well. I have been asked by Mayor O’Malley to chair the city’s Ethics Board, and am also serving on the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s State Planning Committee for Post Secondary Education. The greater our outreach, the greater our contributions to the region will be understood.

The core of UB’s identity will always be what happens in our classrooms, and how that reverberates in the lives of our graduates, in the community and beyond. This year we will concentrate on supporting our teaching mission and on refining and communicating that message.

There are many messages to convey, including:

  • expanding our City Fellows Program to include employees of the Baltimore City School System
  • a $3 million federal research proposal to develop a UB Reserve Crime Lab for Baltimore City
  • partnering with Community Wealth Ventures to assist local nonprofits to develop financial independence
  • the continued growth of the Law School’s clinical programs, recently ranked 24th nationally by U.S. News & World Report.

These are just a few of the many stories we have to tell in the coming year.

We will continue to celebrate our presence in the heart of Baltimore’s cultural district. Ground has been broken on the student center site, and I invite all of you to a dedication ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 4:45 p.m. in Gordon Plaza. In less than two years, UB students will no longer be the only students in the state system without a student center.

I came here knowing that many challenges faced the University of Baltimore. Some of those challenges are still with us and always will be. And while I am confident that the addition of strong new leadership—Wim, Larry and others—will greatly impact the university, I know that no one person does it alone. The abundant energy, talent and creative spirit of our faculty and staff will always be the key to our success. I am convinced that our potential now is greater than ever before.

I thank all of you for your work in making our community all that it is. I look forward to highlighting your achievements, advocating for your needs and working with you to continue to shape the University of Baltimore’s bright future.