University of Md. College Park, Baltimore Campuses Approve Partnership

By Megan Poinski,

The University of Maryland’s College Park and Baltimore campuses will be collaborating to “MPower the State” through a new strategic partnership, the Board of Regents voted unanimously on Thursday.

The university system has been exploring ways to work more closely after the General Assembly passed a bill last year directing both campuses to look into the possibility of a merger.

The study, led by College Park President Wallace Loh, Baltimore President Jay Perman and University System Chancellor William Kirwan, led the administrators to believe that a merger was not the answer, but a close partnership would do much to benefit the state.

“We’re unleashing a collaboration between two research and academic powerhouses, and we will change the nation,” Kirwan said to board members shortly before they approved the merger in a meeting held in the State House.

The partnership will blend the curriculum, faculty and strengths of both institutions, creating a closer partnership between the renowned liberal arts, science, business and technology programs at the College Park campus and the public health, medical and law programs at the Baltimore campus.

With the regents’ vote on Thursday, the partnership is immediately effective. Kirwan said that everything is in place to start working toward implementing it now. The total partnership costs will be about $45 million more in the next decade, Kirwan said. Both universities will be seeking to cover those costs through their federal and state grants, as well as through their donations.

Kirwan said that with the added flexibility and support on commercializing innovation, it’s also possible the institutions will get large returns on their investments. Kirwan said that the beginning partnership costs are built into both institutions’ FY 2013 budgets currently under consideration in Annapolis.

Loh said that universities like both the College Park and Baltimore campuses have long prided themselves on being superior research institutions. He said that it is still good to be known as a research university, but he thinks that the real powerhouse schools of the future will take advantage of innovating with new developments, and commercializing those developments. The partnership will allow both the College Park and Baltimore campuses to do just that.

“I call it ‘I-to-I:’ Idea to impact,” Loh said.

Specific new initiatives that will be deployed as part of the partnership include:

-- Combining research efforts at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research with new educational programs in health, law, human services, and science, technology, engineering and math.

-- Creating a collaborative School of Public Health, combining classes, programs and resources from the current programs on both campuses.

-- Establishing partnerships to promote technology transfer and commercialization, taking innovations from the classroom to the marketplace.

-- Developing new educational offerings and activities through a new scholars program that allows students to work in research at the other institution.

-- Working to facilitate joint appointments and grant submissions.

At a press conference after the meeting, Gov. Martin O’Malley praised the campuses for joining hands to help create new jobs and opportunities in today’s innovation economy.

“You have put us in a much better competitive position,” O’Malley said.

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