Published on 1/12/17 in the UMB President’s Message Newsletter
With yesterday’s kickoff of the 2017 General Assembly session, I thought it fitting to update you on the extraordinary progress we’re making as part of MPowering the State: University of Maryland Strategic Partnership. As you’ll recall, a key piece of legislation passed during last year’s session was SB 1052, which sought to formalize and strengthen MPower, the years-old alliance between UMB and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). The bill was intended to grow the two institutions’ collaboration in education, research, and service and to amplify our economic impact in Maryland.
While the law took effect only three months ago, the work wouldn’t wait. After all, we have several programs, centers, and institutes already operating under the aegis of our partnership and many more projects to come. In fact, UMCP President Wallace D. Loh, PhD, JD, and I have invited the deans of both universities to a retreat later this month to discuss what’s next for MPower. We’ve asked them to talk with their colleagues in Baltimore and College Park about “big ideas” that would be difficult (or impossible) to achieve without the other university taking part. We’ve asked them to consider projects ripe for significant outside support and those built to be self-sufficient.
This isn’t the first time we’ve undertaken the exercise. The deans were last convened in fall 2014, and the ideas put forth have since grown into important projects joining the two universities’ expertise and assets. The idea to collaborate in sports medicine and injury recovery became the Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance, launched last July. One of its first orders of business, unveiled in December, is a cross-university seed grant program to support major grant submissions in the center’s initial areas of focus: central nervous system injury and neuroscience.
The idea to combat human trafficking — sadly prevalent in the Washington, D.C., suburbs — became the SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, one of few university-based programs in the U.S. to combine comprehensive services for victims of human trafficking with research and advocacy aimed at ending it. Since it opened last May, the SAFE Center has become a critical resource for local and national anti-trafficking organizations. It’s taken a leadership role in developing a Prince George’s County-wide protocol for responding to human trafficking emergencies, and a new state grant of nearly $400,000 will help the center provide direct legal and social services to trafficking survivors.
SB 1052 calls specifically for two new collaborative centers to be established, each with a focus on growing in-state science and technology innovation and with directors appointed jointly by President Loh and me. The University of Maryland Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Development will reside at UMCP and advance education and research in neuroscience, virtual and augmented reality, biomedical devices, data analytics, and cybersecurity. Meanwhile, the UMB-located Center for Maryland Advanced Ventures (CMAV) will be integrated with our joint tech-transfer operation, UM Ventures, to promote the commercialization of university discoveries.
As part of CMAV, we’re planning an innovation center to support startups spun out of University System of Maryland (USM) institutions. The center will coordinate and expand the services and resources available to USM’s faculty and student entrepreneurs — resources like a small business development center, a USMsponsored early-stage investment fund, the Carey School of Law’s intellectual property clinic, and a program to promote industrybacked research. To stimulate job creation and economic growth in Baltimore, the innovation center will provide grants and investments to USM-affiliated companies that locate in the city.
MPower strengthens UMB’s partnership with UMCP even outside the framework of the formal alliance. For instance, the two universities are jointly part of a nationwide public-private consortium formed last month to revolutionize U.S. biopharmaceutical manufacturing. With an expected investment of $250 million, the consortium will train workers in the full supply chain of biopharma manufacturing, grow U.S. production, and more quickly bring safe drugs to market. The Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, an MPower center formed with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is a regional leader in biomanufacturing research. The institute will serve as a key resource for the consortium’s cross-university investigative team led by Stephen Hoag, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the School of Pharmacy at UMB, and William Bentley, PhD, MEng, Robert E. Fischell Distinguished Chair of Engineering at UMCP.
MPower is designed to take advantage of complementary capabilities in research and administration, so SB 1052 stipulates that UMB and UMCP seek operational alignment where it can produce meaningful benefits. Task forces are examining such alignment in areas like procurement, HR, finance, IT, and travel, and in research infrastructure and reporting. At the deans’ retreat later this month, we’ll discuss guidelines for joint faculty appointments, opportunities for collaboration with the local governments of Baltimore, College Park, and Prince George’s County, and alignment of undergraduate and graduate academic programs.
The academic piece is critical, because MPower was always intended not only to strengthen UMB’s and UMCP’s collaborative impact on Maryland but to innovate how we train the students who will lead the state going forward. Now in its third year and enrolling 320 students, MLaw Programs are seeing significant year-overyear growth. Taught by UMB’s law faculty and UMCP’s social sciences faculty, MLaw prepares UMCP undergraduates for careers in law-related fields and for pursuing social change within a constitutional democracy. (In fact, MLaw now provides the SAFE Center a significant base of interns working to shape more effective human trafficking policy.) MLaw also strengthens the UMCP-toCarey School of Law pipeline: With 75 College Park graduates now among the law school’s first-year class, UMCP is Carey Law’s No. 1 feeder school.
The Master of Science in Law (MSL), meanwhile, doubled its enrollment in year 2. The part-time program — taught in College Park and online by our law school faculty — is for working professionals who need training in the legal and regulatory aspects of health care, the environment, intellectual property, cybersecurity, and crisis management. With 85 students, the program already has exceeded enrollment expectations, and a new relationship with the U.S. government, wherein federal employees and their spouses are offered MSL tuition support, positions the program for considerable growth.
Enrichment opportunities are growing as well. The UM Scholars Program began in 2012 as a way for a handful of STEM-focused UMCP undergrads to spend a summer engaged in research with top medical school faculty at UMB. But two important expansions happened last year: 1) UM Scholars was opened up to UMCP students looking for research placements with our nursing faculty, and 2) the program became bi-directional, with UMB students in medicine, law, and social work traveling to College Park for research opportunities in bioengineering and behavioral and social sciences. UM Scholars slots are highly competitive, and the students who fill them are exceptionally motivated. They’re also true believers in the whole point of MPower — that there are significant and systemic problems of health and justice that will be solved only by our earnest collaboration.
This spring, we’ll showcase these projects and many more during MPower Day in Annapolis. We’ll visit the capital with our UMCP colleagues to thank lawmakers for their support of our alliance and to show them its impact on the people and vibrancy of this state. Together, we’re moving ever-forward to place Maryland at the vanguard of innovation that advances human health and well-being and creates an economy that works for all. For more information on MPower’s signature achievements, visit MPowering the State.
Jay A. Perman, MD