Thank you for joining us at today’s convocation. This annual tradition gives us an opportunity to begin the academic year together, to welcome new and returning members to our community and to assess where we have been and where we are going. Personally, I have always looked forward to this time of year, when the energy of our students and faculty reminds us of our core mission: teaching and learning.
Modern universities are complex organizations. They are centers of research, anchors of neighborhoods, key developers of communities and cities. Higher education today is politically charged, economically complicated and technologically sophisticated. But what happens in the classroom—especially in a University of Baltimore classroom—remains the single most important reason for our existence.
Our University is in the midst of ongoing change. We can visualize that change across the alley in the exciting final months of construction of our Student Center. We can anticipate the energy that freshmen and sophomores might bring to UB. We can look forward to a "UB Midtown" development that will enhance our campus environment. But regardless of whatever changes lie ahead, teaching and learning will remain at the heart of what we do. Our theme today reflects a commitment to maintaining that focus this year and every year.
This past spring, an article appeared in The New York Times entitled, "The Undergraduate Experience—Survival of the Fittest." It chronicled the student experience at large universities, where many young people begin their studies: Five million students attend universities with populations of at least 15,000. The writer described lecture halls of 500 students, little student-faculty interaction, disengaged researchers and an environment in which "learning seems to be optional."
While I know that these experiences are not uniform at all large institutions, the article did leave me with concern. It also gave me a renewed appreciation for the University of Baltimore. There is nothing optional about learning at UB. I know that that is why each of you is here—students, faculty and staff—and I applaud your ongoing commitment to UB’s educational mission.
Of course, as I mentioned, universities are complex places, and UB is no exception. Our history reflects the tripartite mission of teaching, scholarship and service. We will continue to build on UB’s unique tradition of research that matters, service that has impact and teaching that works.
At convocation, we acknowledge individual accomplishments of the past year. We will continue that tradition today, while recognizing that all of you make our community what it is—a place of possibility, of achievement and of discovery. A place where learning is central, not optional.
We are always saddened by the loss of any member of our community, which this year included two colleagues who were especially valued for their excellence in teaching: Tom Jacklin and Carol Peirce. In keeping with today’s theme, I would like to share the words of an appreciative student—in this case, a student of Dr. Peirce’s, who taught Shakespeare and chaired the English department for 24 years.
I can’t stand Shakespeare, and I generally don’t enjoy taking classes with older instructors. They, just like Shakespeare, are often set in their ways and feel as if the entire rest of the world should simply bow to their arcane methods of teaching. It doesn’t matter why, this is simply the way it’s always been done.
There is only one professor I have ever encountered during my extensive, 10-year college career with passion, creativity, joy, and enthusiasm enough to make me eat the above words, and that woman is Dr. Carol Peirce. She doesn’t teach Shakespeare, she exudes him. She is here because she cares. She cares about her work, she cares about Shakespeare and, most importantly, she cares about each and every one of her students. If only she taught math, too.
Those words are a fitting testament to Dr. Peirce’s career, to the impact we have as educators and to the University of Baltimore at its best.
I continue to ask myself what we can do to acknowledge and support the ongoing excellence of our faculty. This year I have targeted discretionary funds to further enhance our teaching mission. The provost and I have begun discussions on establishing a program for interested faculty to explore new ways of thinking about teaching. I have asked Wim to take the lead in developing such a program this year, and he will share more details shortly.
At this time, I would like to announce the second winner of the President’s Faculty Award. This annual $5,000 award is presented in recognition of outstanding teaching, research and community service in support of the University’s mission. This year’s winner is Dr. Alan Randolph, professor of management and international business in the Robert G. Merrick School of Business. Alan can’t be with us today because he is on sabbatical in Lima, Peru, where he is teaching a class in global business and conducting research. Alan wrote me that he looks forward to sharing his experiences in Latin America with his colleagues and students when he returns.
We also know that our success requires the support of many dedicated employees outside of the classroom. This year, we added SkillSoft, an e-learning professional development program in business, information technology and other areas. I know that many of our staff have taken advantage of these opportunities, and I encourage others to do so.
I will now announce the recipients of the 2005 UB Staff Awards. These awards of $1,000 are presented to select staff in each of three categories. I ask that the winners stand when I have finished so we can acknowledge you.
for outstanding customer service:
Jane Cupit—reference librarian, Law Library
Mary Pukulski—executive administrative assistant, School of Business
for exceptional contribution to the mission of the University:
Starrla Levine—special projects coordinator, Office of the
Linda Fair—administrative assistant, Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts
for extraordinary public service:
The Conference Services Team:
Shirley Mohammadi—media specialist, Office of Technology Services
Would you all please stand?
During the past year, those outside of our community have acknowledged UB as well. Here are some examples:
Dr. David Levy of the School of Business received a 2005 USM Regents’ Faculty Award for Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. The School of Law’s Baltimore Scholars Program—a law school preparation course for students in Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities—received the 2005 Maryland Association for Higher Education Distinguished Program Award in the instructional category. The Casey and Goldseker Foundations are working directly with UB following the success of the joint business and liberal arts program with Community Wealth Ventures.
The University of Baltimore’s Obesity Initiative, involving researchers from all three schools, achieved national recognition with a state-by-state report card on efforts to deal with this social problem. The "truancy court" program brings area judges and UB law students together to deal with the city-wide crisis of truancy within the Baltimore public school system. UB’s third annual Community Service Day provided assistance to area schools, non-profits and neighborhood groups.
I would also like to acknowledge what our administrative team is doing to increase the levels of appreciation and support that UB deserves. A regent wrote me the following after a recent meeting: "The UB leadership team is doing everything it can not only to meet the needs of the state but also to create a first-rate, excellent university." We should recognize the positive changes our efforts have produced as we continue to assess how we can improve.
That activity—assessment—has been a central component of the past year at UB and will also feature prominently in the year ahead. We have gone through re-accreditation processes in our schools and in specific programs. This year, the University will begin its Middle States self-assessment, which Wim will briefly discuss. These are all opportunities to take a critical look at how we are doing, to identify areas of strength and to address areas to be improved.
You were given a Strategic Plan Report Card today. This is another way for our community to measure our progress, in this case in regard to the goals and objectives of our strategic plan.
You will notice that the report card identifies key indicators in each of five major areas and shows our performance in those categories. This is a new activity for UB, as was our strategic planning process two years ago and the revised budget process last year.
As with any first attempt, it is not perfect. Some of these indicators may be controversial and cause further discussion; I hope that occurs. That is all part of a planning culture that is dynamic and accountable. I am committed to presenting a "report card" every year at convocation to continually monitor our progress, and I look forward to community input to make our assessment as valuable as possible
Definitions of the terms and categories are provided on the Office of Planning’s Web site, as is an e-mail address for your input. I welcome your ideas on other indicators that can be identified and measured to support our objectives. I challenge us to replace this year’s "expected direction" with quantifiable numbers where appropriate next year. I also welcome indicators tied to comparable institutions. Let us know what you think. To truly achieve a shared vision, we need to develop shared measurements of progress.
I would now like to invite Provost Wim Wiewel to the podium. Wim.
In closing, I would like to outline the major initiatives of the coming year.
First, we must continue our efforts to increase state funding of UB. This is critical to our current and future ability to fulfill our mission. We have documented the inequities that exist in the funding guidelines, and have presented that documentation to the appropriate officials. The University of Baltimore has been under-funded for decades; the remedy will not occur easily or immediately. However, I am confident that we are closer to a solution now than we have been previously, and the administration will remain focused on the issue throughout the year.
We will also continue to focus on our ability to help ourselves. We have a new vice president of Institutional Advancement—Theresa Silanskis—and I look forward to exceeding last year’s record donation level of $7.35 million in new money. This money will enable more scholarships for students, greater support for faculty and staff and much-needed facilities renewal for everyone. We must recognize that we are increasingly tuition-driven and develop enrollment strategies that result in targeted growth. We will also build on the budget process developed with the community this past year, so that we manage our resources transparently and effectively.
In January, UB students will no longer be the only students in the state system without a student center. This new facility will not only enhance our student’s educational experience, but it will also allow us to become more engaged in the cultural and civic life of our city, and will support our outreach as an engaged urban institution.
We will also continue to position UB to best serve the needs of current and future students. Shortly, the Maryland Higher Education Commission will make a decision regarding the UB-Towson joint M.B.A. proposal. Regardless of the outcome, our efforts as an innovative, collaborative partner in the state system have been recognized.
These efforts are readily apparent in our Lower-Division Initiative. The University’s proposal to admit freshmen and sophomores has been endorsed by the Board of Regents, and will be reviewed by MHEC during the coming academic year. I believe that this initiative will succeed because it is the right thing for the students of Maryland, for the University System and for UB. However, as with all things that require external input and approvals, it is difficult to predict specific timelines.
Our decisions regarding the LDI will continue to be based on the following: current programs will not be negatively affected, and we will implement the program only after sufficient planning has occurred and the necessary resources are in place.
The fact that we are in our current position with the LDI is a tribute to the hard work of those who are developing the curriculum and shaping the administrative services. This work has energized our campus. Marilyn Obleck, co-chair of the Education Committee, told me of the renewed focus on teaching and learning that the work has afforded both committee members and the community at large. This is a University of Baltimore strength—the ability to develop programs that are innovative and responsive, and to do so in a timeframe of which few universities are capable.
In keeping with the ongoing development of our strategic plan, the onset of our capital campaign, the opening of our Student Center and the possibility of a four-year undergraduate program, we will launch a comprehensive campaign to fully communicate the vibrancy, quality and importance of the University of Baltimore to the public. We need to develop the messages and images that can best identify UB, reach out to our communities and set us apart as the unique institution that we are. Your involvement will again be essential in this very important and long-term task. We will no longer be the best kept secret in Baltimore, in Annapolis, in Maryland or in the region.
Finally, we will continue to develop "UB Midtown," a public/private partnership to enhance our campus community with retail and residential options and—most importantly—additional parking. This project can also afford us alternative revenues, supplementing state support with our own creativity and initiative.
All of these projects contribute to a transformational time in our University’s history. Each will require the involvement of our entire community. As varied as these endeavors are, the success of each will ultimately be reflected in the lives of our graduates. Your work here results in fundamental and positive change—in enriched careers, in more fully realized lives and in a more engaged society. Thank you for your dedication to that work and to the University of Baltimore.