University President Wallace Loh gave his annual State of the Campus address yesterday before the University Senate, promising that this university will join the ranks of the top public research universities in the country over the next six years.
“To be called a flagship is not just an empty phrase,” Loh said. “The future of Maryland’s economic vitality and quality of life depends upon the quality of the research university.”
“We will have programs that will enhance the premium education that [students] get here,” Loh said. “An education that is superior to any other education that they can get in this state or … compared with our peers.”
In 2007, the university published the Strategic Plan for the University of Maryland, which outlines the university’s goals and actions for the next 10 years. Loh referred to this plan several times throughout his about one-hour address.
This state produces some of the most qualified high school students, Loh said, which makes attracting these graduates to the university a greater priority for the administration.
“We have perhaps the most credentialed, the most talented group of freshmen in the history of this university,” he said. “We have brought in one-third of the best high school graduates of the state, compared to about 25 percent back in 2007.”
Senate Chairman Donald Webster agreed with Loh’s goal to become a top-10 public university and noticed the improvements the university has made during his 40 years at the university.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t or can’t,” Webster said. “We have made a lot of right moves; we have got a tremendous campus, wonderful faculty, great students.”
Since the plan was written, the country has undergone a recession that has resulted in budget cuts toward faculty research funding to universities across the country. Last year, research funding for this university totaled $480 million, which was a 3 percent increase from the preceding year, Loh said.
“When you remember that the pie is shrinking, for us to proportionally grow is a remarkable tribute to the dedication [and] engagement to our research faculty,” he said.
To combat this, Loh said the university must augment its efforts through partnerships, such as MPowering the State, which is a joint initiative between this campus and the University of Maryland-Baltimore that encourages collaboration on innovative research projects. MPower’s work resulted in funding for 30 percent of the faculty’s research proposals — $79 million, Loh said.
“This is at the faculty level. Faculty with shared interests are coming together, submitting proposals,” Loh said. “[These are] projects we probably could not have gotten, grants we could not have gotten if we operated by ourselves. Partner or perish.”
Loh also said that this university is becoming more of an innovation university that applies the results of fundamental research to solve the major social and economic issues that face our society. At this university, 90 successful high-tech companies have launched in the past four years, Loh said.
“We are on an upward trajectory,“ Loh said. “[The University Senate] passed a policy that allows promotion and tenure to consider innovation, creating startup companies that make a difference, to be a positive factor in promotion and tenure.”
Because the university is becoming more engaged with research and innovation, Loh stressed the importance of creating, improving and maintaining living and learning facilities that are conducive to the success of faculty, staff and students.
Over the past four years, the university’s budget for capital construction projects has totaled $850 million, which includes completed projects, such as Prince Frederick Hall and the Physical Sciences Complex, and future projects such as the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center and the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation.
“These facilities enable us to provide absolutely premium education and learning and teaching opportunities for students and our faculty,” he said.
Additionally, Loh assured the audience that the university’s recent move to the Big Ten secured the future of university athletics for the next 50 years.
At the start of his speech, Loh congratulated Larry Hogan on winning the race for governor last night and said he looks forward to working with Hogan’s administration to better the state.
“That does have a huge impact on the relationship on the state legislature and state government for the next four years,” said Ryan Belcher, an undergraduate senator and environmental science and government and politics major. “That was a really good way to start that relationship.”
Loh did not speak at length on the recent changes to the sexual misconduct policy and procedures or on increased security in the wake of February’s data breach.