By ROB BOCK
WASHINGTON (March 1, 2012)—The University System of Maryland Board of Regents today approved the "University of Maryland: MPowering the State," a detailed agenda of collaboration between the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore campuses.
The overall plan, the report said, is to enrich student experiences between the two universities and to provide them with skills necessary to succeed in an innovation society.
"I think this is a very important moment for the University System of Maryland," said USM Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan, who added that the plans would have "a profound effect on the entire state."
The collaboration, formerly known as the "University of Maryland Strategic Alliance," was the result of a comprehensive six-month study following the Board of Regents' decision to keep the two universities from merging last December.
The original merger, which was advocated for by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in 2011, would have united the two universities under the same name and central leadership.
Combining the universities would have created a massive university among the top 10 research institutions in the nation, Miller said at the time, and one that would attract more research funding.
However, the Board of Regents decided that the advantages of such a merger would be outweighed by the disadvantages, which included the detrimental effect the merger might have on Baltimore City's economic development.
Initiatives detailed in the plan include a combination of research efforts at the USM's higher education center at Shady Grove, the creation of a Center for Biomedical Informatics and Imaging at the UMCP's Institute for Advanced Computer Services, and a joint technology transfer and commercialization initiative known as "UM Ventures." "This is all about collaboration with a big 'C,'" said UMB President Jay A. Perman.
UMCP President Wallace D. Loh said the relationship would "leverage the resources of these two great universities to serve students better; attract even more exceptional faculty and researchers; and boost research, technology transfer and commercialization." The endgame of the collaboration would not only see the advancement of educational opportunities of students at the two universities, but the strengthening of connections between the program's alumni and Maryland's economy. "Maryland is an innovation economy," said Maryland Gov. Martin O?Malley. "This is going to put our state in a much stronger competitive position."
The plan will cost approximately $45 million over a 10-year period, Kirwan said, and will be funded by reallocating federal funds, state appropriations, and private donations.
Now that the plan has been approved, the next step is to begin implementation, said Collin Wojciechowski, the Board of Regents' student member.
"Students, professors, and faculty at the two universities have already been talking about how they can work together," Wojciechowski said. "Now they can actually do that."
Implementation, as laid out in the "MPowering the State" plan, is divided into "first step" and "future" phases. First phases, to begin immediately, involve "laying the groundwork" for the reallocation of funds and efforts to support the new initiatives. Future phases, dealing with the activation of the initiatives, will continue as more funding becomes available. The list of initiatives includes:
-- The creation of new, joint research programs at the Universities at Shady Grove in Montgomery County.
-- The merging of the public health master's programs of both universities into a single Collaborative School of Public Health.
-- The launch of University of Maryland Ventures, a joint institute formed to promote tech innovations transfer and commercialization.
-- Further academic collaborations between UMB health science and UMCP bioengineering departments, including joint faculty appointments, degree programs, and research opportunities.
-- The creation of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Imaging within the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.
-- New educational offerings such as joint courses between UMB graduate schools and UMCP undergraduate students, opportunities for advancements between schools, and other various initiatives.
-- An expansion of the already-successful seed grant program to certain fields of study.
-- Guidelines for joint appointments, joint grants management, and shared library resources.
-- A multifaceted marketing and communications strategy to increase public awareness of the new University of Maryland initiatives.