Assessing Student Learning in a Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Honors Program

Kylie King Goodell, QUEST Honors Program, UMCP

Jeffrey W. Herrmann, Mechanical Engineering and Institute for Systems Research, UMCP

1. The QUEST Honors Program

The QUEST Honors Program is a multidisciplinary honors program for undergraduate students at UMCP. Students are selected from three colleges: the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the A. James Clark School of Engineering, and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. Approximately 90 students enter the program every academic year. Students in the program learn to apply quality management tools, improve processes, and design systems. In addition to two electives, QUEST students take three required courses (BMGT/ENES 190H, 390H, and 490H) that incorporate a variety of learning activities, including team projects in which students generate, evaluate, and recommend solutions to real-world problems in industry and government.

Like other program directors, we are interested in knowing and demonstrating that our curriculum is effective. Essentially, are QUEST students able to apply quality management tools, improve processes, and design systems? The desire to answer this question led us to develop learning outcomes.

Table 1: Map of Learning Outcomes and Assessment Mechanisms in Required Courses

Table 1: Map of Learning Outcomes and Assessment Mechanisms in Required Courses

In 2010, we organized and hosted a workshop with other multidisciplinary engineering, technology, and management (METM) programs (the workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation). After we drafted some initial learning outcomes during that workshop, additional discussion and editing led to eight learning outcomes (listed in Table 1), and for each one we developed four elements. These outcomes and elements were also influenced by Bloom’s taxonomy [1] and Anderson and Krathwohl’s revised taxonomy [2]. For example, outcomes relating to “knowledge” were revised to represent higher orders of thinking or doing. We mapped each learning outcome (LO) to one or more of our required courses and developed assessments and rubrics for the elements. As illustrated in Table 1, five of these learning outcomes are assessed in more than one course, and all but one are assessed by more than one instance of assessment (by more than one exam, paper, or presentation).


2. Learning Outcomes

Each learning outcome has four specific elements that describe specific skills that the students should be able to perform. We use rubrics to define the level of proficiency on each element. Table 2 lists the rubrics for Learning Outcome 1 as an example. The following items describe the elements of each learning outcome:

  • Learning Outcome 1: the process for selecting a tool or approach for a problem, the appropriateness of the selected tool or approach, the ability to use the selected tool or approach, and the ability to evaluate a solution.
  • Learning Outcome 2: the ability to define a specific problem, construct a prototype, generate a novel solution (innovation), and define a clear market for the innovation.
  • Learning Outcome 3: the ability to use qualitative techniques to analyze a problem, use quantitative techniques to analyze solutions, synthesize both qualitative and quantitative techniques to develop more insight, and choose an appropriate methodology.
  • Learning Outcome 4: the ability to understand client needs, select the most appropriate methodology, analyze data, and make an appropriate recommendation.
  • Learning Outcome 5: the ability to define roles within a team and be accountable, document tasks and transfer information, identify and address conflict, and define a team’s mission.
  • Learning Outcome 6: the ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and correctly, convey enthusiasm, communicate concisely, directly, and logically, and describe technical concepts.
  • Learning Outcome 7: the ability to understand and decompose a complex task, define the scope of a project, allocate resources efficiently, and anticipate and mitigate project risks.
  • Learning Outcome 8: the ability to listen, understand, and reflect a message, communicate with respect, maintain appropriate personal appearance, recognize ethical issues, and act on ethical principles.


Table 2: Rubric for Learning Outcome 1:  Apply quality management tools, improve processes, and design systems.

Table 2: Rubric for Learning Outcome 1: Apply quality management tools, improve processes, and design systems.

3. Assessment Process

The assessment process evaluated the 32 elements of the learning outcomes in a variety of ways, including evaluations of presentations and papers and surveys of faculty advisors and representatives from our corporate partners. These evaluations were conducted by faculty and staff members, students who served as team mentors, and alumni who attended class sessions to give feedback on presentations. These assessments were not used for grading, though some materials (like presentations and reports) were used for both grading and assessment.

We are currently using the following process for learning outcomes assessment (LOA). Before each semester, the program leadership and course instructors meet to review the LOA plan for each course and determine the timing of assessments. Assessments are assigned to faculty and staff members, and students on the program’s Curriculum Review Committee (CRC). At the beginning of the semester, the CRC meets to review the LOA plan and assignments. During the semester, the CRC members complete the assessments as students complete activities, presentations, exams, and reports. Electronic forms based on the rubrics automate the data collection task. Each month, the program leadership and course instructors meet to discuss the assessments completed so far and to identify opportunities to address areas where student performance is weak by reviewing material or including additional practice before the end of the semester. At the end of the semester, the CRC meets to review the assessment data and course activities and to discuss opportunities to enhance the courses and improve the LOA plan for the next semester.


4. Results

During the Spring 2014 semester, the elements of the learning outcomes were evaluated using rubrics like those presented in Table 2. For each type of document or presentation, we created a histogram that shows, for each element, the number of evaluations at each level of performance: (4) Advanced, (3) Proficient, (2) Developing, and (1) Unacceptable. Because these evaluations use an ordinal scale, we summarized the data using counts instead of means. Figure 1 displays one such chart, the evaluation of the final presentations in BMGT/ENES 190H.

Assessment of the elements of Learning Outcome 1 from the BMGT/ENES 190H final presentation.

Figure 1. Assessment of the elements of Learning Outcome 1 from the BMGT/ENES 190H final presentation.

The relative performance on the 32 elements was determined by first aggregating all of the assessments on each learning outcome to determine, for each element, the number of evaluations in which performance was Advanced (which we denote as      na), the number of evaluations in which performance was Proficient (np), and the total number of evaluations (nt). Note that the total number of evaluations also include the evaluations in which performance was Developing and the evaluations in which performance was Unacceptable.

Then, for each element, the following two quantities were computed: e1and e2if e3. The first ratio indicates the fraction of all evaluations (on that element) that were Advanced or Proficient. The second ratio indicates the fraction of the Advanced and Proficient elements that were Advanced. If, for some element, all of the evaluations were Advanced, then both ratios would equal 1. If, for some element, all of the evaluations were Proficient, then the first ratio would equal 1, but the second would equal 0. If, for some element, one-fourth of the evaluations were Advanced, another one-fourth were Proficient, and the remainder were Developing or Unacceptable, then the first ratio would be 0.5, and the second ratio would be 0.5.

Figure 2 depicts the performance of all 32 elements using these two ratios. The abscissa (horizontal axis) measures the first ratio, and the ordinate (vertical axis) measures the second ratio. The symbols represent the different learning outcomes. The results show that the elements for Learning Outcomes 2 and 3 had the lowest values of e1, which means that fewer teams (as a proportion of those evaluated) had evaluations that were Advanced or Proficient.


The relative performance of the 32 elements of the learning outcomes (LO1 to LO8) based on the assessments collected during the Spring 2014 semester.

Figure 2.The relative performance of the 32 elements of the learning outcomes (LO1 to LO8) based on the assessments collected during the Spring 2014 semester.

When we examined the change in the performance of the elements from one academic year to the next, we saw that the performance of the elements in Learning Outcome 1 increased (both ratios increased), but the performance of the elements in Learning Outcome 2 decreased (both ratios decreased). We believe that these changes reflected changes to BMGT/ENES 190H that emphasized the use of quality management tools (Learning Outcome 1), which reduced the time available for product development (Learning Outcome 2).


5. Future Plans

Comprehensively assessing its learning outcomes is necessary for a program to identify shortcomings and improve curricula and other activities [3, 4]. Because students in the QUEST Honors Program learn about quality management and process improvement, it is particularly appropriate that we have a data-driven quality management system to guide curriculum improvement.

After conducting these assessments and considering their effectiveness, we have identified some opportunities to improve our assessment process. Some evaluators may have assessed students relative to their expected performance (that is, a reviewer may hold lower standards of proficiency for sophomores in BMGT/ENES 190H than for seniors in BMGT/ENES 490H). The evaluators need to understand the purpose of learning outcome assessment and how it differs from grading student work. The evaluators need to have a common understanding of what level of performance corresponds to the different levels on each element. The rubrics also need to be clearer so that consistent evaluations can be obtained from a number of different evaluators.

The assessment process used material from all three required courses and involved a variety of evaluators, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff. We have developed assessment techniques that can be enhanced and used again, and we have selected ways for analyzing and reporting the results. These results demonstrate that our students have the skills that they have practiced and provide insights into how we can improve our curriculum.


This article is based on material previously published in Goodell and Herrmann [5], which will also appear in Goodell and Herrmann [6].

The ideas, support, and assistance provided by our colleagues (especially Nicole Coomber and Joe Bailey) and the program students and alumni are greatly appreciated. The METM program workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation (grant DUE-0958700).



  1. Bloom, B.S., Krathwohl, D.R., and Masia, B.B., 1956, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, D. McKay, New York.
  2. Anderson, L.W, and Krathwohl, D.R., 2001, A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Longman, New York.
  3. Nitko, A.J., and Brookhart, S.M., 2007, Educational Assessment of Students, Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
  4. Royse, D., Thyer, B.A., and Padgett, D.K., 2006, Program Evaluation: An Introduction, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Belmont, California.
  5. Goodell, K.K., and Herrmann, J.W., 2014, Assessing the Learning Outcomes of a Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Honors Program, Proceedings of the 2014 Industrial and Systems Engineering Research Conference, Y. Guan and H. Liao, eds., Montreal, Canada, June 1-3, 2014.
  6. Goodell, K.K., and Herrmann, J.W., 2014, Learning Outcomes for a Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Honors Program: Development, Measurement, and Continuous Improvement, under review for Quality Approaches in Higher Education.

Dorothy Parker’s Buried in Baltimore?!

By Jon Shorr, UBaltimore

“Where’s Dorothy Parker’s grave?” my Cape-Cod-based travel writer sister asked me. “I’m writing a piece for the Globe about literary Baltimore.”


It didn’t take me too long to find out for her that Parker’s ashes were buried in a little garden at NAACP headquarters in northwest Baltimore. But to find them, I had to know that she was buried in Baltimore, just as I had to know that John Dos Passos and Ogden Nash had lived here and that Dashiell Hammett used to work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency at 1 N. Calvert Street, the building with the cement falcons mounted over the doorway, and that Zora Neale Hurston had an appendectomy at Maryland General Hospital during the years she lived in Baltimore. Lots of people know that Edgar Allan Poe and H.L. Mencken and Tom Clancy and Barry Levinson lived in Baltimore. But who’d know to look in Baltimore for Walter Lord (A Night to Remember, the definitive book about the Titanic) or Upton Sinclair, who exposed the horrors of the meatpacking industry in The Jungle, or Jerry Lieber—he of “you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” and “goin’ to the chapel of love” fame?

Baltimore is warm but pleasant. I love it more than I thought – it is so rich with memories – it is nice to look up the street and see the statue of my great uncle [Francis Scott Key] and to know Poe is buried here and that many ancestors of mine have walked in the old town by the bay. I belong here, where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite. And I wouldn’t mind a bit if in a few years Zelda and I could snuggle up together under a stone in some old graveyard here. That is really a happy thought and not melancholy at all. –F.Scott Fitzgerald

With the exception of Frank Shivers’s wonderful book, Maryland Wits and Baltimore Bards, it appeared that there was no easy way to get information about writers that had called Baltimore home. And here I was, a member of the University of Baltimore’s English department (now the Klein Family School of Communications Design); it seemed we were the obvious place to host such a clearinghouse.

So with the help of a small university grant to pay a few students during the Summer of 2007, we created a web site, the Baltimore Literary Heritage Project ( We had great plans for it: the short bios came first. Next was going to be the driving tours, where, for example, you could follow the GPS directions to F.Scott Fitzgerald’s house on Park Ave. and listen to an excerpt from Tender Is the Night, which he worked on while he lived there. And it was going to grow from there. Students designed, researched, and wrote most of the copy. We ran out of money before it was finished, so now we rely on the occasional intern and the kindness of strangers to continue building it out.

How the stomachs of Baltimore survived is a pathological mystery. The repertoire for breakfast, beside all the known varieties of pancake and porridge, included such things as ham and eggs, broiled mackerel, fried smelts, beef hash, pork chops, country sausage, and even—God help us all!—what would now be called Welsh rabbit.   –H.L. Mencken

Soon after, someone invited me to talk about the site at the Baltimore Book Festival. It was then that I heard the small writing teacher voice in the back of my head saying, “Show, don’t tell!” So we put together a program of short excerpts of work by Dead Baltimore Authors, read by UB faculty and staff members, alumni, and local performers. In 2010 as part of the opening celebration of The Fitzgerald, a public-private partnership that houses restaurants, apartments, a UB parking garage, and a Barnes and Noble bookstore, we presented an Evening with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, focusing on material related to their time in Baltimore, and read by people with ties to the Fitzgerald: the headmistress of Bryn Mawr School which Scottie Fitzgerald attended, the CEO of Sheppard Pratt Hospital where Zelda was treated for mental illness, two Baltimore City Councilpeople in whose districts the Fitzgeralds had lived, etc. Last year, we presented revised Dead Authors and Fitzgerald readings at UB and at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, this time supplemented with projected images of the authors, their houses, schools, graves, etc. In addition to UB students, faculty and staff members, and friends and Pratt event regulars, there were high school teachers and their students, elderly women who’d lived doors away from some of the writers, and visitors to Baltimore who found their way to the midtown events after seeing the reading notices posted on the state Arts Calendar.

He has been in business in Baltimore, and before and before he was in business in Baltimore, he was not in business; he was not in business before he was in business in Baltimore. –Gertrude Stein

I still get email every couple months from random people who’ve stumbled into the Baltimore Literary Heritage Project web site. Sometimes they’re Ph.D. students or scholars from Brussels or Capetown or somewhere hoping that we know the source of some obscure piece of information about a writer around whom they’re building their careers. Sometimes they’re writing to correct a piece of information in one of the bios on our site: the daughter of Edith Hamilton’s adopted son, for example, wrote to us recently to tell us that she has “pictures of my dad and Edith on the steps of the Parthenon in Athens” taken years before the date we’d found for her first trip to Greece. Sometimes they’re people planning visits to town—either to a conference or on a vacation—wondering if we can tell them, for example, if Dashiell Hammet’s elementary school is still standing (it’s not). And sometimes they’re Baltimore area English teachers thanking us for the resource for their students.

Over the past couple years, UB has collaborated with the Maryland State Arts Council, the Maryland Humanities Council, City Lit, and Baltimore Heritage to develop a print map, web site, and mobile app for walking tours of literary Baltimore (

If you’re at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival, stop by the Ivy Bookstore tent Sunday at 3:00 and listen to Russell Baker’s description of his tall tale-telling Uncle Harold, or maybe a sonnet by Western High School English teacher Lizette Woodworth Reese, which poet Amy Lowell said was “as fine as any by Elizabeth Barrett Browning,” or maybe (depending on how the Orioles are doing) Frank Deford’s tribute to Cal Ripken.


*Dr. Jonathan Shorr, former director of the University of Baltimore’s School of Communications Design, teaches various writing, media, and literature courses and directs the university’s interdisciplinary studies major.

Attention Span Essay

Carl Sessions Stepp, UMCP/Journalism

I once devoted a year to reading Proust, and I recently fell in love with my grandchildren instantaneously, in a zillionth of a second, on first sight. I look at each of these quite different experiences as an efficient and effective use of my time.

Most of us recognize that some profound messages take hold quickly and others need time to incubate. But it also seems obvious that modern communication increasingly favors the quick message.

This development raises important issues about depth and breadth, seriousness and superficiality, and of course about teaching and learning.

This summer at a professional conference, I served on a panel discussing “the history of our attention span.” The point of departure was obvious. Things are speeding up. Professors, like almost everyone else, are expected to communicate to suit the Twitter generation. Goodbye, lectures; welcome, rubrics, clickers, listicles – and the near-universal admonitions to vary our teaching styles every few minutes.

Elsewhere, too, the trend manifests itself. In my field of journalism, according to a Washington Post report, news services like the Associated Press and Reuters are advising their writers to limit typical story lengths to 300 to 500 words. Otherwise, an AP executive explained to the Post, “We don’t do enough distilling and honing, and we end up making our readers do more work.”

It is tempting but unhelpful to frame the matter as a dichotomous rivalry: short spans versus long ones. In fact, though, too much concern with time obscures the point.

Modes of communication aren’t ends but means. It isn’t the quantity of time spent that matters most. It’s the quality of reward gained.

Few would dispute that the rise of audio, video and digital messages vastly enhanced the spread of information and knowledge. The emergence of visual culture, especially, revolutionized learning and retention (think of the images of 9/11 still in your head).

My students are better informed sitting in class, with their supposedly surreptitious smart phones beeping with news alerts, than I was at their age, waiting for the evening newscast or the next day’s newspaper.

We’re fortunate to have multiple ways to send and receive messages.

The real issue is tactical. How should we select from and balance the repertoire of available communication methods? And the real worry is epistemological. Will we lose something irreplaceable if the slower, more nuanced methods become marginalized?

As with many seemingly contemporary concerns, this one isn’t new either.

Proust himself complained about the “fresh triviality” of news squeezing out great literature. He suggested that we turn our reading upside down and have a great work of literature, instead of a newspaper, delivered to our homes each morning. Then occasionally we would dip into news and gossip.

In her poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” (itself an extraordinary example of economy in communication), Emily Dickinson warned against dumping too much information too soon on the unready. “The truth must dazzle gradually,” she concluded.

On the journalists’ side, legendary publisher William Randolph Hearst, a century or so ago, took the same position as today’s Associated Press. “Our readers are not paid to work; we are,” he said. “They want us to say whatever we have to say briefly and interestingly. Nobody likes a long article any more than they like a long speech.”

Personally, I have benefited from both the slow-developing and the quick. I was influenced not only by Proust (a long but life-changing year of reading) but also by Emerson, whose writing style was entirely different, almost blog-like. Emerson is gainfully read sentence by sentence. Dipping into an essay or journal entry for 15 minutes almost always pays off.

It is probably trite to say that we benefit from a blend of learning styles, but it is a key truth worth safeguarding.

As I watch my children and students, I find myself somewhat optimistic. I envy the speed with which they send and receive information, and I try to integrate those habits and opportunities into my teaching.

But it also seems clear that they often will devote time to projects that require more investment, whether reading Harry Potter or binge-watching on Netflix. I recently encountered a young person reading Donna Tartt’s 750-plus-page The Goldfinch page by page on a smart phone screen.

Our duty, then, is to keep challenging them with complex as well as rapid-fire messages, without belittling the power of either type.

When I looked up Proust on Amazon recently, it still ranked as number 65 on one of the site’s literary lists, and it carried the message, “only 15 left in stock…order soon.”

Something about that reassured me.


The Art of Patrick M. Craig


These paintings reflect my ongoing fascination with abstracted, invented forms, spaces and composition variations. They present organic or geometric combinations along with spatial and cinematic illusionistic effects designed to attract and invite speculation. The titles are not clues; rather they are departure points meant to stir subjective connections. Each work presents a unique invention with its own vigor and allegorical reference. The titles of the four works presented here are Atoll, Float, Pedestal, Strung, and Swell.













Patrick M. Craig received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati, and earned his BFA from Western Michigan University. He currently teaches painting and drawing at the University of Maryland. His gallery representations have included Gallery Plan B and Gallery K, Washington D.C., Gallery B.A.I. in New York City and in Barcelona, Spain, along with Gallery ARS LONGA in Milanowek, Poland. His artworks reside in many collections such as The Sidney and Francis Lewis Collection, the Washington Convention Center, George Mason University, and George Washington University, along with the corporate collections of IBM, KPMG, Sallie Mae, The Artery Corporation, and The Washington Post.

Craig has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions in galleries, museums and art centers throughout the U.S., including the American University Museum at the Katzen Art Center, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Chrysler Museum, St. Lawrence University, Marin MOCA and many others. He has also exhibited internationally in Poland, Brussels, West Germany, Ukraine, Italy, Japan, Spain, The Soviet Union, and the United Arab Emerites. The most notable of these exhibitions was at the Forum Artis Museum – Montese Contemporary Art, Modena, Italy, the Saitama Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan, and the Washington/Moscow Artists Exchange at the Tretyakov Museum in Moscow to which he traveled as a featured artist. He also traveled as an invited artist to the United Arab Emerites’ first group exhibition of American art at the Sharjah Museum.

His artworks has been favorably reviewed in many publications, including Art News, New Art Examiner, The Washington Post, Washingtonian magazine, and The Cincinnati Inquirer. He has been the recipient of several fellowships including the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in 1989, 1992, 1997 and 2000, and the Lilly Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.


*The artist may be contacted – and other works of art seen – at

Hidden Gems in Special Collections – The Baltimore Hebrew Institute Judaic Collection at Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library

By Elaine Mael and Nadia Nasr, Towson University Library

The Baltimore Hebrew Institute Judaic Collection at Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library has its roots in the early 20th century. The Jewish history of Baltimore began several hundred years ago and is replete with various attempts by its populace to accommodate its physical, spiritual, and cultural needs. Essential among these was the religious education of their children. As the population increased through births and immigration, this priority was addressed by the formation of communal schools, congregational Sunday schools, and afternoon (post-public school) programs. The pressing need for teachers trained in both the Jewish tradition and contemporary pedagogic methods resulted in the establishment of the Baltimore Hebrew College Teachers Training School in 1919.

This sculpture was created by Louis Rosenthal, a Lithuanian immigrant who studied sculpture at MICA. Rosenthal was a longtime friend of Louis Kaplan, who gave the eulogy at Rosenthal’s funeral. Known as “The Fairies” or “The Butterflies,” this is the largest of Rosenthal’s miniature sculptures contained in the Baltimore Hebrew Institute Judaic Collection. It looms in height in comparison to the other sculptures in the collection, standing at approximately 3 ¾ inches tall. Credit: Kanji Takeno

This sculpture was created by Louis Rosenthal, a Lithuanian immigrant who studied sculpture at MICA. Rosenthal was a longtime friend of Louis Kaplan, who gave the eulogy at Rosenthal’s funeral. Known as “The Fairies” or “The Butterflies,” this is the largest of Rosenthal’s miniature sculptures contained in the Baltimore Hebrew Institute Judaic Collection. It looms in height in comparison to the other sculptures in the collection, standing at approximately 3 ¾ inches tall. Credit: Kanji Takeno

The first classes were held in a local synagogue in downtown Baltimore; by 1922, the school had outgrown those facilities and moved to a larger location. This new building could accommodate a fledgling library of 2,000 volumes, and it opened the library to the public in 1923. Although joined at one time with the Board of Jewish Education, the two organizations later separated to accommodate the changing needs of the community. No longer a training school for teachers, the then-named Baltimore Hebrew College developed an undergraduate division, supported teacher continuing education, and eventually established relationships with local colleges offering Jewish studies courses. These included Goucher College, the then Towson State College, and Johns Hopkins University, to name a few.

The school moved to its Park Heights Avenue location in 1958, where it remained for 50 years. Its new site housed a library of 20,000 books, which had almost doubled twenty years later. The library was renovated and dedicated as the Joseph Meyerhoff Library in 1978 to honor its primary benefactor. To accommodate the growing collection of valuable or rare items, the new library also included a climate-controlled Rare Book Room. Since its opening, the library performed the dual purpose of supporting the curriculum of the college and encouraging the cultural and literary education of the community.

BHC eventually became one of a handful of independent schools of Jewish studies in the United States, offering dual graduate programs with several local colleges and universities. In 1987, the school changed its name again to Baltimore Hebrew University (BHU), reflecting the expansion of its curriculum and subsequent granting of advance degrees. In addition, BHU offered a variety of educational opportunities, including Elderhostel, ESL, and ulpan (learning Hebrew) classes. Ever-expanding to meet the needs of its constituents, the library grew to more than 70,000 items, which included books, periodicals, audio/visual materials, electronic resources, and artifacts. The contents of the collection covered a wide range of disciplines, among them the Bible, rabbinics, Jewish history, Jewish culture, political science, archeology, and Hebrew and Yiddish literature. Texts were in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, French, and Russian, among others languages.

Changes within the general higher education community, resulting in more multicultural diversity in academic programming, caused a major adjustment in the school’s vision. Jewish Studies programs within the context of larger universities became more common, and the need for such specialized independent institutions decreased. BHU sought to partner with an academic institution that would value and support its educational programs. Towson University (TU), which also began as a teachers’ training school, had developed into a state university, with programming that covered a vast range of disciplines, among them an undergraduate minor in Jewish Studies. A partnership between the two institutions seemed a natural fit.

Sermoes que pregarao os doctos ingenios K. K. de Talmud Torah [Sermons which were delivered by the talented gentlemen of the Kahal Kadosh (holy congregation) Talmud Torah]. Printed by well-known engraver David de Castro Tartas, this book contains the addresses given by notable members of the community of the Amsterdam synagogue shortly after construction of the synagogue was completed. It includes beautifully colored illustrations of both exterior and interior scenes of the synagogue’s structure, layout, and furnishings. Known as the Portuguese synagogue, or simply as the Esnoga, it was built to support the growing population of Portuguese Jews which had begun to flourish in the late 17th century. A present day visit to the synagogue reveals the very little has changed, and scenes contained in Tartas’ book are therefore still very true to life. Credit: Nadia Nasr

Sermoes que pregarao os doctos ingenios K. K. de Talmud Torah [Sermons which were delivered by the talented gentlemen of the Kahal Kadosh (holy congregation) Talmud Torah]. Printed by well-known engraver David de Castro Tartas, this book contains the addresses given by notable members of the community of the Amsterdam synagogue shortly after construction of the synagogue was completed. It includes beautifully colored illustrations of both exterior and interior scenes of the synagogue’s structure, layout, and furnishings. Known as the Portuguese synagogue, or simply as the Esnoga, it was built to support the growing population of Portuguese Jews which had begun to flourish in the late 17th century. A present day visit to the synagogue reveals the very little has changed, and scenes contained in Tartas’ book are therefore still very true to life. Credit: Nadia Nasr

During the summer of 2009 TU’s Albert S. Cook Library took receipt of the Meyerhoff Library collection, which had been described as the second largest library of Judaica in the Mid-Atlantic, outside that owned by the Library of Congress. The move happened in the aftermath of an agreement, approved by the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, to integrate the Judaic Studies programs and faculty of the former BHU into the academic offerings at TU. BHU’s transformation into the Baltimore Hebrew Institute (BHI) at TU has bolstered the University’s offerings in Jewish Studies for both its students as well as lifelong learners matriculating through BHI’s adult education programs.

Now known as the Baltimore Hebrew Institute Judaic Collection, TU has preserved the former Joseph Meyerhoff Library of BHU by installing it in a renovated and dedicated space on the second floor of Cook Library. Rare and special materials from the collection are housed in Cook Library’s Special Collections & Archives (SCA) facilities, where these unique and often fragile materials are preserved in climate-controlled conditions. Both the circulating and special materials in the BHI Judaic Collection have unique contexts which make them particularly interesting for study. In recognition of this, SCA staff members have been working hard to raise awareness about and promote their use .


To tackle this challenge, as well as to increase potential funding to support the collection, SCA staff transformed a 2011 Holocaust Remembrance Day exhibit into a special program called the White Gloves Sessions[i]. This adaptable presentation format was inspired by the University of Georgia Libraries “white glove dinners,” whereby attendees, usually potential donors, don white archival gloves and get to handle some of the most prized treasures in their special collections. Cook Library’s 2011 exhibit focused on the cultural holocaust which took place during World War II and featured heirless books recovered from Nazis by Allied Forces. These materials were processed through the Offenbach Archival Depot[ii] (OAD) and transferred into the custody of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. (JCR). Between 1949 and 1951 these books later found homes at notable Jewish centers of learning in Israel, South America, and the United States, including the Library of Congress and Baltimore Hebrew College. During a White Gloves Session, a curator gives a presentation about the JCR books and their journey from the OAD to TU, and at the conclusion of the talk attendees are invited to put on white gloves and examine the book’s contents, bindings, and marks of ownership/custodianship and to ask any questions they have about the collections.


Menahem ben Isaac’s prayer book, Gelegenheitsgebete auf Pergament”. It is hand-written on parchment and, in keeping with traditions related to manuscript making, contains rubricated text (red lettering) and decorative embellishments in the margins and surrounding initial letters or phrases at the beginning of sections. It dates to approximately the early 15th century, just prior to Gutenberg’s employment of moveable type in printing processes which began in 1439. Credit: Kanji Takeno

Marks of ownership in books throughout both the circulating and special collections of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute Judaic Collection reflect the evolving nature of the collection. JCR books are most easily identified by their blue bookplate, and some of these include stamps from libraries of long forgotten synagogues, schools, and community centers of European Jews which have been mapped using social media and other tools[iii]. Other bookplates or signatures reflect donations to the collection from well-known Baltimore Jewish community members such as Dr. Louis Kaplan, the Dean of the BHC for over 50 years and Dr. Harry Friedenwald, who helped establish the now defunct Jewish Library Association of Baltimore.

Other highlights of the collection include the Holocaust Survivor Testimonies, personal experiences of survivors of the Nazi threat and the servicemen who helped liberate them; the Yizkor (Memorial) Books[iv], compiled by survivors to commemorate individual once-flourishing European towns and cities affected by the Nazis during WWII; and the Louis Rosenthal collection of miniature sculptures[v]. Regardless of an individual’s course of study or research interests, the BHI Judaic Collection at Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library offers a rich and diverse selection of resources.


[i] Since the first White Gloves Session was held in September 2012, the range of topics has been expanded to include correspondence from World War II veterans and alumni of what was then known as Towson State Teachers College, as well as ephemera and other archival records that can be connected to the Civil Rights movement. For more information about this innovative presentation format using primary source material, please point your browser to

[ii] Books processed through the Offenbach Archival Depot have a connection to the 2014 film The Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, which tells the story and experiences of just a few of the more than 300 Monuments, Fine Arts, & Archives (MFAA) program men and women. Colonel Seymour J. Pomrenze, long-time archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration, was a member of the MFAA and as such was assigned to be the director of the Offenbach Archival Depot. He was particularly suited for this leadership position because of his archival training, his education in Jewish and Hebrew lore, and his language proficiencies with German, Hebrew and Yiddish. For more information about Pomrenze’s work at the OAD see Bradsher, G. (2013, December 19). “Seymour J. Pomrenze: a National Archives Monuments Man” [Web log post]. Retrieved from

[iii] See, for example, Melanie J. Meyers and David P. Rosenberg’s use of the Flickr mapping tool to show how books looted by the Nazis traveled across Europe available online at More details about this project can be found in Meyers, M. J. and Rosenberg, D. P. (2014). “Mapping the Offenbach Archival Depot: a visual representation of looted libraries from World War II.” Archival Outlook, January/February 2014, 4-5, 27. Another project of note, which provided a useful model for Meyers and Rosenberg’s project is that of Mitch Fraas, who used the Library of Congress’s Viewshare mapping tool to show the movement of looted books in Germany. More information on this project can be found in Engle, E. (2013, December 13). Mapping the movement of books using Viewshare: an interview with Mitch Fraas [Web log post]. Retrieved from

[iv] Holocaust Survivor Testimonies and Yizkor books are cataloged and can be found by searching Cook Library’s online catalog, however, these materials may not be checked out and removed from the Library.

[v] Louis Rosenthal’s collection of miniature sculptures has been digitized and is available online as part of SCA’s digital collections. The digital collection is available at and includes a link to a collection guide with biographical information about Rosenthal and information about how the collection is organized.

Advancing Faculty Diversity

By Stephen B. Thomas, KerryAnn O’Meara, and Carol Espy-Wilson/UMCP*

Isolated. Presumed Incompetent. Invisible, yet under the microscope. These terms are commonly used to describe the experiences of far too many racial and ethnic minority faculty members employed at predominantly White research-intensive universities. Add to this situation the too-frequent burden of being the “only” person of color in a department or college (Antonio, 2002; Jayakumar, Howard, Allen & Han, 2009; Stanley, 2006). Although AAU institutions strive to create a culture for diversity and inclusive excellence in teaching, research, and service, most institutions fall short and create conditions where everyday interactions exclude, diminish, and isolate faculty members, especially by race and ethnicity (Acker, 2006; Turner, 2002; Umbach, 2006). Research university structures and cultures present additional layers of this dynamic by emphasizing competitive individualism, institutional and disciplinary rankism and a reward structure that gives the competitive advantage to research that is not interdisciplinary, engaged, or collaborative (O’Meara, 2011). Such contexts present everyday interactions that constrain the full participation of faculty members in general and faculty members of color in particular. Given the burdens of race, gender and history of discrimination in the United States, to accomplish this goal is far from easy.

Many readers will be familiar with the National Science Foundation’s Institutional Transformation ADVANCE grants, which provide U.S. institutions the opportunity to diagnose and design interventions to address issues of gender equity and work environment for women faculty members in the sciences and social sciences (NSF, 2006). Beginning in 2010, UMD ADVANCE began designing and implementing strategies to improve the retention and advancement of women in the faculty. In a previous Faculty Voice article, Co-Director O’Meara described several ADVANCE initiatives that have shown success in advancing the individual agency of women faculty members in career advancement, and the collective retention and advancement of women at UM. Among the most successful of these initiatives are peer networks. Recognizing the unequal retention and advancement of faculty members of color at UM, the ADVANCE program partnered with two distinguished faculty leaders (Thomas and Espy-Wilson), the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office of Faculty Affairs to establish the Advancing Faculty Diversity (AFD) program. The AFD program not only attempts to retain and advance individual faculty members of color, but also to make UM as a university, a more inclusive place. In other words, AFD attempts to advance full participation.

According to Sturm (2007), full participation includes equal opportunity to participate in the work of the university, realize one’s capabilities, and have voice in decision-making. This requires “architecture for inclusion”—organizational structures and conditions that support diverse faculty members and diverse forms of scholarship. Although serious work has been done for decades on recruitment of faculty members of color and trying to increase awareness of bias in faculty hiring, this program focuses on retention and advancement.

ADVANCING Faculty Diversity (AFD) is a year-long peer network for women and men assistant and associate faculty members of color. The program was created in response to institutional data showing differential retention, advancement and satisfaction between underrepresented minority and White faculty members. Program objectives were informed by literature on faculty members’ professional growth and agency, challenges experienced by faculty members of color in predominantly White research universities, and the development of prior successful ADVANCE peer networks for women and mentoring for faculty members of color. AFD objectives are to:

  1. Improve participant knowledge of what matters in the tenure process, and promotion process to Full Professor.
  2. Expand participants’ peer support networks at UMD.
  3. Decrease isolation and improve opportunities for collaboration.
  4. Enhance the agency participants’ feel about career advancement at UMD.
  5. Advise the campus on structural and cultural change needed to recruit, retain, and advance underrepresented minority faculty members.

Although lessening the stress and negative effects of micro-aggressions and implicit bias for faculty members of color was not stated early on as an explicit goal of the program, it quickly became a key role the program played.

The Inaugural AFD cohort, during the 2013-2014 academic year, included 23 participants who responded to a campus-wide call for participation to faculty of color. Demographics of the cohort were: 9 men and 14 women; 18 Black/African American, 2 Latino/a, and 3 Asian/Asian American; 17 tenure-track assistant professors, 5 tenured associate professors, and 1 non-tenure-track research faculty member.

2013-2014 AFD Faculty Fellows with Dr. Loh at opening reception. Credit: Thai Nguyen

2013-2014 AFD Faculty Fellows with Dr. Loh at opening reception. Credit: Thai Nguyen

The AFD program was facilitated by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Carol Espy-Wilson and Public Health Professor Stephen B. Thomas, both of whom self-identify as African American and are tenured full professors at UMD who were willing to be role modes for resonance, sharing their lived experience and strategies they employed to thrive under challenging circumstances of life in the academy. KerryAnn O’Meara, Co-Director of the University of Maryland’s ADVANCE program, who studies faculty members’ careers and academic reward systems, provided curricular and administrative support for the program, and led evaluation efforts. Kumea Shorter-Gooden, Chief Diversity Officer, and Juan Uriagereka, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs, were chief advisors and often speakers and facilitators in the program, and are themselves faculty members of color in addition to serving as senior administrators on campus. The AFD program includes an opening reception, monthly meetings, communication across a listserv, and access to an Elms site with resources.

The program was launched via a reception wherein the University of Maryland’s President, Dr. Wallace Loh, spoke to AFD participants and invited guests about the reality of bias and the commitment of the University of Maryland to inclusive excellence, full participation, and support of faculty of color. The monthly 2-hour meetings were held over a catered lunch, and there was a topic for each session, and sometimes outside speakers/facilitators. The sessions were always highly interactive and there was flexibility in the format in order to be responsive to the needs of the participants.

This program was rigorously evaluated, including participant observations of 80% of the sessions, pre- and post-evaluations, and focus groups. All participants were involved in the informed consent process and agreed to the process being evaluated and observed. Program evaluations from the first cohort suggest those who participated felt the AFD program added to their knowledge of specific aspects of the advancement process, felt stronger peer networks on campus, and greater agency in career advancement at UM. Longer term, AFD aims to be part of campus-wide efforts that achieve equity in the retention and advancement of all faculty groups on campus, and this is being tracked.

Key to the early success of AFD has been (a) creating safe, brave spaces to acknowledge micro-aggressions, bias and the challenges of being a “minority” (b) sharing strategies to cope with the stress of such micro-aggressions and bias (c) fostering peer recognition, resonance, and affirmation and (d) providing concrete, career advancement information tailored to issues faculty of color uniquely face.

Early on, AFD program facilitators acknowledged that micro-aggressions are a part of daily life in the U.S.—and in higher education institutions. “Racial micro-aggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards people of color” (Sue, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, Equin, 2007, p.1). Those who inflict racial micro-aggressions are often unaware that they have done anything to harm another person. In addition to race and ethnicity, micro-aggressions can occur based on gender, race and gender, international status, sexual orientation, and a combination and intersectionality of different identities.

Sometimes micro-aggressions are explicit, at other times implicit. The AFD peer network offered an opportunity for participants to share experiences of micro-aggressions, as well as more general challenges of being faculty of color in a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), in a safe and confidential space. Some ground rules were set including confidentiality within the room. Some of these ground rules included taking turns speaking, sharing air time, listening carefully and with empathy, staying on topic, being responsive to the things that are coming up, and not being afraid of the tension that comes up when such experiences are shared.

In the opening reception, one of the senior faculty leaders on campus shared his own career journey and was frank and honest about micro-aggressions and prejudice he had experienced along the way, as a student of color, faculty member, and even administrator. This immediate level of disclosure and openness, coupled with the structure of having faculty members in the program from different units across campus, of African American, Latino/a, and Asian backgrounds, and guidelines for facilitation created an early, safe, open space for the sharing of personal and professional experiences. All AFD participants noted that the program created a safe place to talk about experiences and concerns as well as what Areo and Clemens (2013) refer to as “brave space” wherein someone could take risks to raise issues that were typically not discussed in academe or with mentors in their departments.

On August 27, 2014, we launched the second cohort of AFD. The opening reception included Provost Mary Ann Rankin, who affirmed her commitment to creating a more inclusive campus, as well as listened to experiences and suggestions made by the first and second AFD cohorts for constructing better work environments for faculty members of color.

In conclusion, many would argue higher education institutions are “under construction” today. They need to be rebuilt to create cultures and structures that do not exclude those of color, women, professional track, and LGBTQ through every-day interactions, and policies and organizing practices inside departments. As this occurs, the AFD program provides an important rest area, feedback and recognition system for faculty members of color that we hope will also impact retention and advancement. Social network scholars have observed that relationships between people matter to enacting change (Daly, 2010). AFD is fostering such relationships, and those connections can build a better, more inclusive university for us all.


*Stephen B. Thomas, Professor and Co-Facilitator, UMD AFD Program; KerryAnn O’Meara, Co-Director of UM ADVANCE, Associate Professor of Higher Education; Carol Espy-Wilson, Professor of Engineering and Co-Facilitator, UMD AFD Program

For more information on the UMD Advancing Faculty Diversity Program’s activities and research and evaluation efforts please visit:



Acker, J. (2006). Inequality regimes: Gender, class, and race in organizations. Gender and Society, 20(4), 441-464.

Antonio, A.L. (2002). Faculty of color reconsidered: Reassessing contributions to scholarship. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(5), 581-600.

Arao, B. & Clemens, K. (2013). From safe spaces to brave spaces: A new way to frame dialogue around diversity and social justice. In L. M. Landreman, The Art of Effective Facilitation (pp. 135-150). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Daly, A. J. (2010). Social network theory and educational change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Jayakumar, U. M., Howard, T. C., Allen, W. R., & Han, J. C. (2009). Racial privilege in the professoriate: An exploration of campus climate, retention, and satisfaction. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(5), 538-563.

National Science Foundation (2006). ADVANCE: Increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers. Retrieved from

O’Meara, K. (2011). Inside the Panopticon: Studying academic reward systems. In J.C. Smart, M.B. Paulsen (Eds.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (pp. 161-220). New York, New York: Springer.

Stanley, C. A. (2006). Coloring the academic landscape: Faculty of color breaking the silence in

predominantly white colleges and universities. American Educational Research Journal,

43(4), 701-736.

Sturm, S. (2006). The Architecture of Inclusion: Advancing Workplace Equity in Higher Education. Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 29(2),06-114.

Sue, D.W., Capodilupo, C., Torino, G, Bucceri, J., Holder, A., Nadal, K., & Equin, M. (2007). Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. The American Psychologist , 62 (4) 271-286.

Turner, C. S. V. (2002). Women of color in academe: Living with multiple marginality. The

Journal of Higher Education, 73(1), 74-93.

Umbach, P. D. (2006). The contribution of faculty of color to undergraduate education. Research in Higher Education, 47(3), 317-345.



The Poems of Robert Deluty, UMBC Psychology

We are honored to present some of Robert Deluty’s many insightful and joyful poems. His latest book of poetry, Human Recordings, is his forty-sixth, and somehow he gets the needed work done as a dean and faculty member. Perhaps his favorite form of poetry is the Senryū, of Japanese origin, with its three short lines. Deluty has used the form to focus on life’s funny, poignant, and/or absurd moments. “Abnormal Psychology”(below) is from Human Recordings.


Robert Deluty


Abnormal Psychology

The college sophomore
Who never asked a question nor
Participated in a discussion, and
Who received a grade of C or D
On each of her five examinations,
Class presentation, and term project,
Approaches her professor as grades
Are about to be turned in and
Pleads for a B, noting that she
Attended all but four lectures,
Came late only three times,
Was always courteous, and
Did most of the readings


In the midst
of a loud, petty,
bitterly contentious
faculty meeting,
the elderly professor
gets a cell phone call
from his three-year-old
granddaughter imploring
Sing, Pop-Pop, Sing!

Four Senryū

two Nobelists
discussing their favorite
Jerry Lewis films

handing in her test
while telling the professor
Please don’t judge me

on his CV
stating he’s a member of
Phi Betta Kapa

an old prof reading
the review, You’re not awful
like everyone says

Notes on People

Kurt Schmoke to UB

The University of Baltimore has named former mayor Kurt Schmoke its next president, marking the return of a pivotal figure in the city’s political history and someone boosters hope will strengthen the institution and its neighborhood, writes Carrie Wells. Schmoke hoped to “build on the momentum” of Robert Bogomolny, who announced last fall he would retire as president at the end of the academic year. The University of Baltimore is a state institution that has seen its growth become a stabilizing force in a portion of the city where he was once mayor, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.


Phoebe A. Haddon to Rutgers

Dean Haddon, head of the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law and a former law professor at Temple University, has been named the next chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden. Before she was appointed dean of the law school at the University of Maryland in 2009, Haddon taught courses for more than 25 years at Temple’s Beasley School of Law. She focused on constitutional law, torts and product liability. (Balt. Bus. Journal)


Gerrit Knaap & Frederick Maryland

The University of Maryland hopes to have a profound, long-lasting impact on the way the city of Frederick does business, said Gerrit Knaap, executive director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at UMCP. The university has selected the city as its partner to pilot the Action Learning Program, to start this fall. Entire courses will be created based on the city’s needs, Knaap said, and students will be asked to dig deep into big issues and projects the city thinks are worthwhile and come up with new ideas for how city staff can take them on. (News-Post)


Innovation Awardees

The Maryland Innovation Initiative gave a total of $6.4 million to research projects and startups with ties to universities in the state. The innovation initiative is designed to spur commercialization of university research. Here are some awards:

  • UM Baltimore: AquaAnimal Health (Better ways to raise fish)
  • UMCP: GripBoost (a better way to restore football gloves!)
  • UM Baltimore: Harpoon Medical (minimally invasive surgical tool)
  • UMCP: N5 Sensors (monitoring gasses in the air)


UMCP Distinguished University Professors

Many UMCP receive awards for their recent or lifetime contributions to knowledge or to the campus. Here are a few recent recipients:

  • Inderjit Chopra, Department of Aerospace Engineering
  • James F. Drake, Department of Physics and Institute for Physical Science and Technology
  • Sylvester James Gates, Department of Physics
  • Jeffrey C. Herf, Department of History
  • Christopher Jarzynski, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Institute for Physical Science and Technology
  • Dianne P. O’Leary, Department of Computer Science and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
  • Ingmar R. Prucha, Department of Economics

Notes on Campuses & The System

Maryland System

The MITRE-University System of Maryland (USM) team has been selected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to operate the first Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) solely dedicated to enhancing cybersecurity and protecting America’s information systems.

Located at Shady Grove in Montgomery County, the center will bring together stakeholders from industry, government and academia to develop cybersecurity standards and technologies, and to promote their broad adoption by industry to better protect our nations finances, innovations, and infrastructure from cyber threats.

“We are thrilled to partner with MITRE to support the nation’s first cybersecurity FFRDC,” said Chancellor Kirwan. “With the combined knowledge base, research and expertise in cybersecurity of the University of Maryland, College Park, UMBC and MITRE, we look forward to meeting challenges the world faces in cyber security and information assurance. This alliance will present phenomenal opportunities for our faculty, staff and students to engage and work with our partners at MITRE, the incredible personnel at NIST and our nation’s business community.”

Joseph JaJa, UMCP, and Anupam Joshi, UMBC, will serve as co-directors of research and technology.



The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Clark School of Engineering have initiated a combined Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy in Bioengineering degree program to meet the demand for both medical sciences and bioengineering expertise among health professionals early in their careers.

“With the intersection of biomedical research and engineering becoming increasingly important to discovery and innovation in solving the world’s critical health problems, this new program offers tremendous potential for future physician-scientists,” said E. Albert Reece, Vice President, Medical Affairs, University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.  “In addition to our established joint M.D./Ph.D. programs in Neurosciences, Microbiology and Immunology, Molecular Medicine, Epidemiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology, this multi-disciplinary program enables us to further strengthen the University of Maryland’s leadership in the growing field of medical technology and bioengineering.”


UB: Upper-Level Only?

A University of Baltimore spokesperson states that the campus will continue to admit underclassmen, rejecting a proposal to eliminate freshman and sophomore classes. New university president, Kurt L. Schmoke, had said the campus was considering discontinuing the freshman and sophomore classes.


UMB Plans Biopark High-Rise Apartments

The University of Maryland, Baltimore plans to pursue a private developer to build a high-rise market-rate apartment building at its BioPark. A conceptual design for the building was unveiled during President Jay Perman’s State of the University speech. James Hughes, the university’s vice president and chief enterprise and economic development officer, said the building would have about 300 units and would be at the corner of West Baltimore Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Daily Record)



Frostburg State University has enrolled the largest number of students in the institution’s 116-year history, including its largest-ever transfer class, and a freshman class of 961 that is 7.1% higher than the previous year. With 5,645 total students, FSU’s overall enrollment is up 3.1% from the previous year. Transfer enrollment has increased by 12.4% to 570, also the highest ever for the second year in a row. “Enrollment is trending upward at the same time that we are accepting better academically prepared students from a decreasing pool of students statewide,” said FSU President Jonathan Gibralter at his annual campus convocation.

Starting with the spring 2015 semester, students will be able to earn a Master of Science in Applied Computer Science degree through Frostburg State University from almost anywhere. FSU recently received approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission to offer the program as a fully online degree option alongside the existing face-to-face program. [No comments on online education here!]



Salisbury University and its supporting community broke ground on the Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons on the former site of the historical Caruthers Hall on Thursday. Caruthers Hall had stood on SU’s campus for 60 years, opening in 1955 under Principal E. Pauline Riall’s leadership. Named after one of SU’s founding faculty members, Thomas Jefferson Caruthers, it has served as an education department, interim home for the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business and housing for Delmarva Public Radio studios through the years. (Daily Times)

The Salisbury University Foundation, Inc. and Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, recently announced a $400,000 lead gift for the museum’s 2014-2016 “Soar to New Heights” capital campaign. The campaign’s goal is $1,500,000 to support the expansion of the Ward Museum and much-needed capital improvements to the galleries and facility.


UMB and UB Schools of Law

Maryland’s two law schools continue to see shrinking first-year class sizes, reflecting a national trend. While neither school will have official numbers until classes begin in August, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law expects this year’s total incoming class of day and night students to be about 3% smaller than in 2013, while the University of Baltimore School of Law expects about a 16% drop overall. That comes after each school experienced declines of more than 20% in first-year enrollment between 2012 and 2013. (Daily Record) No jobs for lawyers these days? Too much legal outsourcing? Too many lazy prospective students?

Notes on Money

Cost Control

Tuition at most public colleges has soared. But guess which state has the lowest increase from 2003 to 2013: Yes, Maryland. Our increase was 46.7%, a hefty leap. Yet it is less than the other 49 states. Last comes New Hampshire at 162.4%. (Agh!) Why the enormous jumps? Because state governments have radically reduced their support of universities. Just think: a bit over a half-century ago, going to a UC system school cost under $100! (The Faculty Voice editor had that benefit.)

In many European countries, higher education is still free or nearly so, but one catch is that a lower percentage of young people go to college, and another is that some campuses are poorly equipped. Prospective students in the USA who can’t afford to pay for college or don’t want to finish college here with a large debt should consider going abroad – maybe to Germany. Higher education is now free throughout that country, even for international students.



            The average salaries for full-time faculty members at doctoral institutions are: professor, $127k (Maryland $142k), associate professor, $87k ($92k), and assistant professor, $75k ($78k). Are any of these numbers above what the reader is making? If so, Maryland higher education is not the place where, as in Lake Wobegon, every faculty member is above average. Maybe the reader should get a job at, for instance, Columbia University or Stanford University where the average full professor is paid $215k!

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, 22 August 2014)

Of course we don’t want to explore the world of adjuncts. Dirty subject. You know, we refer to those men and women who on some campuses now teach a majority of the courses for perhaps $2,000 to $8,000 a course. But we should be understanding of administrators: six adjunct-taught courses might cost $30,000, but a full-time tenure-track faculty member might cost $75,000 or more. But adjuncts have minimum contact with students. Puh! They don’t help to run the program, placing more burden on the full-timers. Puh! Coleman McCarthy writes: “Until salaries at the top are trimmed, including excessive pay to big-time football and basketball coaches, and those at the bottom are raised, the demeaning of adjuncts is little more than structural economic violence.”

Senator Dick Durbin: “As their budgets have tightened, colleges and universities have become increasingly reliant upon part-time adjunct faculty who face low pay, few if any benefits, and minimal job security. The vast majority of these educators hold advanced degrees, and as a result, bear the heavy burden of student loan debt. It is only right that we expand their access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a benefit already available to many of their full-time colleagues.” Seems like a very good idea!


Money Shapes Personnel

Huffington Post (5 September 2014) reports: “A number of angry e-mails from university donors sent to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise apparently served as the impetus for the school to abruptly rescind a job offer to academic Steven Salaita. The Daily Illini, which obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request, reported … that Wise and other university officials began to receive messages from donors threatening to withdraw their support from the school unless they dropped Salaita.”

Awful, of course, but these days federal and state money typically pay for less than half of the budget of major public universities, so the money has to come from somewhere. Yes, faculty members are increasingly urged to get grants and otherwise raise money. (And some campus presidents are chosen for their money skills.) At some universities, tenure and promotion may depend upon hustle. So the Illinois fear of losing private support is understandable although reprehensible – if we honor unfettered free speech. But should the norm be unfettered free speech? What else is excess beyond yelling “fire” in a crowd? Salaita sharply criticized Israeli policy re Gaza with what is reported to be vulgar language. He wrote in a book review, “I don’t need to hear from the sanctimonious pricks in this book.”

Salaita’s comment: “Watching my own firing happen publicly on the Internet was surreal, but not just for me. Anyone who tuned in could see how the corporatization of academe functions in real time.”

What should be the limits of speech? What about the presumably popular “My dean is a whore”? Or “members of ISIS are murdering people due to their distorted evil thinking”? Or “Cuba is great because it has universal health care and high literacy rates. The USA is evil to maintain economic sanctions and label it as terror-sponsoring”?


Gender Pay

A new report indicates that the relative value of the degree really depends on whether you’re a man or a woman. According to Fusion Interactive, women of all degree levels tend to end up getting shorted with salary when compared to men with less education. The report notes that the median male college dropout still out-earns the median woman who graduates with a four-year degree — a trend that persists in virtually every combination of degree type and gender.


Student Debt

We all know that the total debt is high and soaring. It may be as much as $1,200,000,000, and the average indebtedness is about $30,000. Overall, the default rates for public colleges was 12.9%. The default rate for private, non-profit colleges was 7.2%. But the four colleges with the largest numbers of defaulters were for-profit schools: more than 75,000 defaulters in the past three years. The University of Phoenix, a for-profit company and the nation’s largest higher education system with 242,000 students, accounted for more than 45,000 of the defaulters in the most recent three-year group. That represented 19% of all of the Phoenix students whose bills started coming due in 2011.

This situation has a number of causes including reduced funding of higher education by the states, a poor job market, poor financial counseling, expenditures by campuses on educationally-marginal facilities, and more. According to, among Maryland’s publics, in 2012 only Morgan State graduates had an average debt above the national $30k figure: $36,086. The debt puts a drag on the economy, so we hope somehow the debt will decline, maybe by adjusting the interest rates and making ever-more-attractive two-year colleges.

Should likely earnings lead to choice of major? After all, the more money, the quicker the debt is paid off. The highest paying fields for new graduates are Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, General Engineering, Computer Science, and Civil Engineering. At the other end are Communications, General Education, Biology, Elementary Education, and Social Work. But thank goodness there are students who want to teach not just because they think that the field is easy for graduation. But it would be of benefit to the country if teachers’ pay were higher.


CREDO Petition

Petition to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: “The Department of Education should not be profiting from legally dubious, high pressure debt collection tactics. DOE must immediately take major reform steps, including ceasing to employ out-of-control private debt collectors, making public data about collector performance and pay, ensuring borrowers know their options and can easily communicate complaints, and ending the failed performance-based experiment in the Office of Federal Student Aid.”


Starbucks and College

The company is offering full tuition reimbursement for juniors and seniors working toward undergraduate degrees. The classes and degrees are offered by Arizona State University (ASU), a big online player. That’s great for the likely small number of workers who are likely to take advantage of the program. At other companies that have tuition support programs, fewer than 10% of the employees take advantage of it. So hurray for Starbucks, but it’s not likely to be a transforming change. Let’s see how many students in Maryland’s publics get a job at Starbucks and finish at ASU.


Free College

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that, starting in Fall 2015, provides two years of tuition at a community college or college of applied technology for all high school graduates who agree to work with a mentor, complete eight hours of community service, and maintain at least a C average. Perhaps this approach should spread into our state. Let’s ask a candidate for governor about that.


Paying Athletes

The University of Maryland has announced that it will provide guaranteed scholarships to student-athletes until they graduate, regardless of injury or on-field performance. The new scholarship guarantee begins this November. They will be provided to athletes in all spots, revenue and non-revenue. Will this lead to a cleaner situation?

Notes on Higher Education

Should Universities be Ranked? If So, How?

The Washington Monthly is now another university-ranking organization; but it focuses on how much good an institution does for the country – e.g., the social mobility that schools provide students, the research output of faculty members and students, and the degree to which students engage in public service. The top five by this ranking system are (1) University of California at San Diego, which was also first last year; (2) University of California at Riverside; (3) University of California at Berkeley; (4) Texas A&M University; and (5) University of California at Los Angeles. Placing a Maryland campus high on this list might be a worthwhile goal – and achievement. Right now, College Park’s “Flagship Campus” is ranked 58th – right behind Yale and above Virginia.

The US News rankings are also out, and it’s no surprise that top universities and colleges include Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that the cost of going to a so-called top ten institution for a year counting tuition and fees ranges from $41,820 to $51,008 – most over $45k. The highest-ranking Maryland System institution is UMCP at the not-too-high rank of 62 with in-state tuition and fees at $9,427 and out-of-state at $29,720. Alas, who knows what these rankings mean to the college-bound youngster.


The Dissertation Decade

There is an effort at some universities to cut the time needed to complete a dissertation – and maybe to convert some ABDs to Ph.D.s. NSF reports that the average time of completion is 7.7 years; the number is a bit lower in the physical sciences and engineering, and higher (about a decade) in education and the humanities. Perhaps more financial support would help; perhaps a set of articles or chapters could be an alternative requirement? Of course, we could consider whether a graduate student should pursue a doctorate given the job market.


Politics Shapes Personnel

Florida State University’s next president will be a political insider without professional higher education experience In a 11-2 vote, the Trustees rejected widespread faculty and student opposition to hire John Thrasher, a Republican state senator and former speaker of the House who is also chairman of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. Thrasher’s supporters hope he can be a rainmaker for the university, which wants to rise in national prominence. Thrasher’s critics fear his background and inexperience in higher education will hamper the rise. (Source: Inside Higher Education, 24 September 2014)


Trigger Warnings

Lawyer Allen Lichtenstein writes: “It is impossible to discuss and analyze the topic of racism in the history of movies and other mass media entertainment without addressing the word Nigger. Nor can one adequately discuss the tortured history of broadcast indecency standards without delving into the George Carlin dirty words monologue. It does not advance the educational purpose by discussing the Mapplethorpe controversy without showing the pictures. … ‘trigger warnings’ will fuel students’ sense of entitlement to be sheltered from the ‘uncomfortable’ — and it becomes a race to the bottom.” (From an email of 20 May 2014)


College Bookstores

Barnes & Noble, Reuters reports, is turning to colleges as its off-campus units lose business. “The U.S. bookseller, which opened in 1965 as a university bookstore in New York, wants a much bigger presence on college campuses, where each student last year spent an average of $1,200 on textbooks and supplies, according to the College Board. Barnes & Noble, now the second largest operator of college bookstores with 696 shops, plans to have about 1,000 locations within five years. … It intends to do that by getting more schools to outsource their bookstore operations with the lure of nicer, higher-grossing stores and by poaching accounts from larger rival Follett Corp. So the question arises: how can we reduce the $1,200? More online reading? Fewer reading assignments that seemingly are designed to show how erudite the faculty member is, but are not a key part of a course?


Student Distractions

Even the smartest college students suffer academically when they use the internet in class for non-academic purposes, new research finds. The study speaks to typical lecture-hall culture in which professors compete for students’ attention with laptops and smartphones. “Students of all intellectual abilities should be responsible for not letting themselves be distracted by use of the internet,” says Susan Ravizza. Associate professor of psychology Ravizza, at Michigan State University, and colleagues studied non-academic internet use in an introductory psychology class with 500 students. Their working theory was that heavy internet users with lower intellectual abilities—determined by ACT scores—would perform worse on exams. Past research suggests smarter people are better at multitasking and filtering out distractions.

What should the faculty member do when he thinks that some students are looking at their laptops for entertainment, not course involvement? At the least, perhaps the derelict students should be in the back row so that other students are not distracted.



“A University of Maryland study of undergraduates found that after a physics lecture by a well-regarded professor, almost no students could provide a specific answer to the question, “What was the lecture you just heard about?” A Kansas State University study found that after watching a video of a highly rated physics lecture, most students still incorrectly answered questions on the material. [A teacher] found that when he quizzed students about a fact he had presented 15 minutes earlier in a lecture, only 10% showed any sign of remembering it.” (Discover, December 2011) Alternatives to the lecture are clearly on the agenda. Or perhaps end of class quizzes.



Are you old enough to remember the beginning of the personal computer era? Yes or no, do check out (Thanks to Jim Baxter for discovering this site.)



Using state administrative data for three cohorts of college enrollees from 1997 to 2008 and incorporating propensity score matching techniques, we examine the effects of attending a Minority-Serving Institution (MSI)—that is, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI)—on college-completion outcomes in Texas. Descriptively, we find the gender gap among Black students to be quite stark, with more Black males than females enrolling in HBCUs, although this gap has decreased over time. The income gap is greatest among Hispanic students, with economically disadvantaged students enrolling more frequently at HSIs and those more economically advantaged enrolling in traditional institutions, or non-HSIs. To address this selection bias, we conducted a propensity score analysis in our assessment of college completion. The results indicate that, after matching similar students who attend and do not attend an MSI and conditioning on institutional capacity factors, we no longer see a difference between the bachelor’s degree completion rates of Hispanic and Black students who do enroll in an MSI and those who do not for most of the cohorts examined. Where a significant negative effect on college completion does exist for Black students attending an HBCU, the rate is considerably lower in our matched sample. In sum, our results provide strong evidence that the effect of attending an MSI does not have a consistent negative or positive effect on college-graduation outcomes after matching similar students and controlling for institutional capacity, despite these schools serving a larger share of high-need and underprepared students.



Who Does the Housework?

Cornell researchers found that relationships “have changed significantly in more recent years. Couples who shared domestic labor had sex at least as often, and were at least as satisfied with the frequency and quality of their sex, as couples where the woman did the bulk of the housework. In fact, these egalitarian partners were ranked slightly higher in all these categories, reporting more frequent sex and greater satisfaction with the frequency and quality of that sex than conventional couples, although these differences did not reach the level of statistical significance. This suggests that it is good news for couples, not bad, that men have more than doubled the amount of housework they do since the 1960s.” A report was presented at the recent ASA meeting.



Minority Graduation Rates

University System of Maryland schools have had mixed success in improving the graduation rates of minority and low-income students, according to an annual progress report recently released. Some colleges, including the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, have been able to boost minority and low-income achievement. But at other schools, the gaps between those students and middle-class whites have increased in recent years. Should graduation rates be the key indicator? Perhaps having a student spend a year or two in higher education should be an indicator, especially for young people who come from educationally disadvantaged worlds.


Those Meetingssssssssssssss

The Huffington Post’s “The Third Metric” presents us with six ways to make meetings significantly less miserable. Here they are in brief: keep them short, only schedule a meeting when you absolutely have to, make it a dialogue not a monologue, leave your devices at your desk, don’t be afraid of conflict, and try standing up. Deans and chairs especially are urged to check the source article out.



Holding Students Responsible

Gary Pavela, who teachers in the UMCP Honors Program, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education (19 September 2014): “Administrators are under intense pressure to hold students accountable for sexual misconduct. If that pressure results in eviscerated due process and ideological fact-finding—­basically, deciding cases before hearing them—aggrieved plaintiffs will turn to state and federal courts for relief. Early indications from several decisions this year suggest judges may be receptive to some of their arguments. … A determined effort to punish sexual misconduct is necessary but must be balanced by an equally passionate commitment to disciplined, impartial fact-finding.”




“The men and women who run admissions and enrollment offices face growing scrutiny. Like football coaches, those in charge of bringing in students occupy hot seats watched by restless crowds. Presidents and trustees ask them tough questions: How do we get more applications? Where can we find more wealthy students? [How about overseas?] Why isn’t our campus more diverse? What could we do to improve our ranking?”

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 September 2014

Maybe it would help to advertise that the campus faculty members love to inflate grades? Or we dislike taking attendance? Or we believe in unsupervised co-ed dorm rooms? What a rat race! And we can change the admissions process to follow the lead of Goucher College which now only requires a two-minute video of the applicant answering the question “How do you see yourself at Goucher?” Forget the SAT or ACT or other forms of pre-college punishment. And only rehearse the video recording twenty times.


More Change

The Baltimore Sun reports (23 September 2014): “When school started at Loyola University Maryland last fall, the administration sent a welcome flier to the mailbox of every student living on campus. By the end of the year, a third of those fliers were still unread. No one ever checked the boxes. With the increasing reliance on email and social media slowing the flow of letters to a trickle — and many students ignoring what little comes through — officials at Loyola have scrapped the school’s entire student mail system, ripping out 4,000 mailboxes.” Gads, pretty soon they will reduce the per cent of courses taught by tenure or tenure-track faculty! Oh, they have???!!!


Southern Maryland

Chancellor Kirwan recently stated that a new unmanned aerial vehicle test site and plans for a research center in St. Mary’s herald a new era in the region for the state’s public colleges. “We plan to substantially grow our presence in the region,” he said during a keynote address at the annual Southern Maryland Navy Alliance dinner in St. Mary’s City. The university is “already making this vision a reality.”

The university has agreed gradually to assume leadership of the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, currently run by an independent board and located across from the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport. Kirwan anticipates that a third building housing academic studies, business incubation and research could be open on the existing campus as soon as the spring of 2018.

Source: SoMdNews, 28 September 2014.


Students in Class

You might notice a difference with some students. Why? Read on: As of October 1, the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is no longer a criminal offense. Maryland’s decriminalization law – passed by a bipartisan coalition of legislators and signed by Governor O’Malley in April – replaces criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, similar to a traffic ticket. Will the behavior of some faculty members also change? For the better?


The Market for Ph.D.s

A New Republic Headline: “Is an Exodus of Ph.D.s Causing a Brain Drain in the U.S.?” And from the article:According to a 2013 report by the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, the percentage of tenure track positions has decreased from 78% of all university teaching jobs in 1969 to about 33% today. While some observers cheer the rise of “passport professors” who take their credentials across international boundaries, others wonder if the U.S. is witnessing an academic brain drain. Okay, we don’t “need” them, but perhaps we should? For more critical thinking in the social sciences and the humanities? For more skills and knowledge from a STEM education? Does the out-migration lead to greater competition in the global economy?


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Laugh or Cry

A paragraph from a commentary on Brian Leiter (Chronicle of Higher Education, 10 October 2014): “Over the past year, for example, the Manhattan native has told one fellow philosopher that she is ‘a disgrace’ who works for ‘a shit department,’ has threatened to sue another he dismissed on Twitter as a ‘sanctimonious arse,’ and has suggested on one of his three blogs that still another professor should leave the profession ‘and perhaps find a field where nonsense is permitted.’” We wonder if the reader has at some time been tempted to make similar comments.

Notes on the University Today

By Bill Hanna, UMCP/Urban Planning


Among faculty members who have been on the job for, say, fifteen years or more, are there concerns about the possible shift from ideas to applications? Should a student pursue the Ph.D.? Should the university offer the Ph.D.? Should most people go to college? These are questions that have arisen in recent years, perhaps especially in the arts and humanities. They are in turn linked with a university’s decisions on how best to allocate funds to departments. If the STEM fields bring in the most grant and contract money, shouldn’t the approach be riches to the rich? Should that approach be applied to individual faculty members: raise money to get tenure and/or a raise? Such questions are addressed in many recent books, e.g., The Unruly PhD: Doubts, Detours, Departures, and Other Success Stories (2014) by Rebecca Peabody; University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education Paperback (2006) by Jennifer Washburn; Universities in Decline: From the Great Society to Today (2014) by Howard Wiarda; and the adrift books, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2010) and Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates (2014) by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa.

What is a university for? Of course, one answer is to get young people out of the comfort of home and into a larger world with more diverse experiences and peers. Maybe it’s to have his or her first beer and maybe the first … well, never mind. What about job prep? These days, more and more university units are seen as career aids – and the units scramble to prepare students for jobs with technical courses and maybe résumé writing. Richard Cohen, in the Washington Post (7 October 2014), reacts to the “barrage of news stories about the cost of college and whether it is worth it. Almost all these stories, most of them based on some report, answer with a money sign ($) but almost never in terms of education—knowledge, wisdom and, if I may be so bold, the pursuit of happiness. … I apply my own set of metrics to my college education. I met some wonderful people, particularly fellow students who were so much more sophisticated and worldly than I was. I had some great teachers, one of whom became a mentor and taught me how to suffer criticism. … Whole worlds opened up to me — philosophy, which I never would have read had I not been forced to; the clotted verses of Chaucer; and, of course, … anthropology.”

Is David Brooks’ comment relevant? “A core problem with pragmatists, Mumford argues, is that they attach themselves so closely to science and social science that they have forgotten the modes of insight offered by theology and literature. This leads to a shallow, amputated worldview.” (NY Times, 3 October 2014)

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, famed for their higher education critiques, write (in the Chronicle of Higher Education, 2 September 2014): “Colleges, which have often focused more on delivering improved social amenities to students rather than high-quality academic programs, must bear a good deal of responsibility for the low levels of student performance. Rather than challenge students who come in with limited academic interests and overly narrow ideas about the purpose of college, we too often ask little in terms of commitment and offer little in terms of direction. Institutions rarely impress upon students that college is not just about obtaining a credential for a job, but also about accepting adult responsibility and participating in democratic citizenship.” It’s not about getting a job (when there is a job to be had!)?

Casey Ark writing in the Washington Post: “My experience is far from unique. Despite rising tuition rates, graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to land jobs (53% of college grads under 25 are unemployed or underemployed). More and more graduates are finding that their conceptually-based college educations leave them ill-equipped to handle ‘real-world’ jobs – so much so that, according to some experts, most companies no longer care what their recruits majored in, since they know they’ll have to extensively train them regardless. … Businesses aren’t looking for college grads, they’re looking for employees who can actually do things – like build iPhone apps, manage ad campaigns and write convincing marketing copy.

And Anthony P. Carnevale at Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce states: “We need more skill in the workforce …. Higher education really is a work-force-development system.” If so, how do the arts and humanities fit in? Take the urban planning field: Should it make sure that students know the history of cities and the urban theories developed by historians, sociologists, and others? Or should it prepare students to plan where to build a light-rail line for efficiency or how to relocate residents displaced by gentrification at the lowest cost to the jurisdiction?

Is the bachelor’s degree part of the challenge universities face? Jeffrey Selingo writes: “The bachelor’s degree—the backbone of the American higher-education system for generations—was never designed to do all it is now expected to do: Provide a vehicle for teens to mature into adulthood, offer a solid general education, and prepare graduates to step immediately into high-skills employment. What’s desperately needed is a bachelor’s-degree makeover, one that isolates the liberal-arts education everyone needs in a fast-changing global economy and is flexible enough to accommodate the demand for skills training throughout one’s life.” (Chronicle of Higher Education, 20 June 2014)

Could it be that the older current members of a university faculty are finding themselves in the wrong line of work? After all, if they entered a faculty twenty, thirty, or more years ago, the university was quite different. The focus on applications and students’ careers was less, as was the quest for money. Also, the classroom may have had a projector but none of the current technical equipment available today. (“Do I have to learn that?”) As one commentator puts it, “The times they are a-changing.” Should the oldtimers be encouraged to seek early retirement so that people who know the occupational techniques can be brought into the faculty?


Student Course Evaluations — How Much Should We Value CourseEval?

By Ning Zeng, Atmospheric & Oceanic Science, UMCP

Course evaluations have been with us for almost 100 years, and for most of those years there has been an uneasy relationship between faculty members and administrators, and faculty members and their students. Are the ratings a valid scientific basis of determining the quality of teaching? Should they be relied upon for promotion, tenure, and salary decisions? Are the anticipation of ratings a cause of grade inflation? Prof. Zeng wades into this controversy. Other views are of course welcome.

Overemphasis on student course evaluation numbers may cause an evolution towards less competent graduates. Over the last few years, UMCP has fully implemented the student CourseEval system in which students rank the classroom teacher. This information provides useful input on faculty teaching. It is particularly attractive for administrative purpose because the numbers offer themselves as unbiased quantitative measures that can be easily used for many purposes such as ranking and decision-making. However, there are a number of potential pitfalls in using these evaluations. Here I offer a few observations.

Cartoon by Roger Lewis

Cartoon by Roger Lewis


The ‘quantitativeness’ may lead to over-confidence in its information content: Even though it comes as numbers, the evaluation starts from 5 subjective choices (0 for ‘strongly disagree,’ 4 for ‘strongly agree,’ etc.) that are digitized and averaged. The average student response rate is 60-70%,. The standard deviation is often high. For a typical average of 3 points (out of 4) and a standard deviation of 1, the individual evaluation can be as high as 4 (but not higher), or lower than 2. On the other hand, the campus has a policy to toss out the evaluations from courses with less than five students. This makes sense statistically, but it misses many graduate courses that do not have large enrollments, but nonetheless provide critically important advanced training – especially at  thePh. D. level.

The sense of ‘unbiased’ evaluation is not warranted: Because the evaluation is anonymous, and conducted before the final grades are given, it is considered less prone to bias compared to, e.g., solicitation during the course where unhappy students are afraid of speaking out for fear of a negative impact on their grades.

However, the situation may be significantly more complex. For example, in a ‘difficult’ class, some students may feel so challenged and unhappy so as to give a poor evaluation of the instructor, only to discover later that their grades are not bad at all because the grades are largely relative. Ironically, I know of a situation where students in the class were highly challenged by the course material from the very beginning, and several of them complained bitterly. Realizing that they would do poorly in the class, they dropped out before the deadline for class withdrawal. The remaining students liked the class and gave high evaluations.
It is well known that the response rate is influenced by a ‘motivation gap’ as disgruntled students are more motivated to do the evaluation. Another observation is that negative comments are typically much longer with many complaints, while the positive comments are typically short, like ‘I enjoyed the class.’

High impact of negative evaluations: Potential consequences of this ‘motivation gap’ can be seen in an example illustrated in Figure 1. In a hypothetical situation with 30,000 students, if only the lower 75% of the class actually do the evaluation, i.e., the 25% that would give higher marks do not participate, the average score would be 0.55 points lower (2.45 as opposed to 3.00). If only the lower 50% participate, the average would be 0.80 points lower (2.20).

When the sample size is small, this situation becomes more stochastic. A total of 60 Monte Carlo simulations were conducted for a class of 20, again drawn out of a normal distribution of mean=3, standard deviation=1, as above. The upper panels in Figure 2 show a realization similar to the large sample case above. A more interesting case is shown in the lower panels of Figure 2, where the spread is relatively large. Even though there are only three very low scores (0 and 1), their impact on the average is high because one 0 needs three 4s to balance out, and one 1 needs two 4s to balance out (there are no 5s or 6s). When considering the ‘motivation gap’ which causes the potential higher scores not to be included, this impact is even more drastic. At a response rate of 75% from the lower scores, the average is now 0.62 points lower than the already not-so-high value of 2.70. The average is 0.9 points lower for the 50% response rate.

This high impact of extremely negative values on the average has the effect of driving the instructor to try hard not to ‘alienate’ the poor-performing students. It also makes it less likely that the instructor will make great effort tailored at the better students. This is a particularly important dilemma for classes that are designed for motivated majors but also open to a broader student body.

Evolution towards a feel-good education model? Unfortunately, as the only “quantitative” measure, these numbers are being increasingly used as a key criterion in decision-making processes including merit increase and promotion. In contrast, traditional tools such as evaluation from peers, input from exiting students, and assessment by the unit are deemed not reliable because they may come from the instructor’s ‘friends’ or the happier students. They also require more effort to evaluate, and are thus being less and less used now.

Gradually, this will steer our teaching style towards getting the best student evaluation, not what is best for our students. Do the two goals coincide?

America is facing an increasingly competitive international environment. Our graduates are finding themselves not equipped with the strong technical skills demanded by a challenging information age, especially in the STEM areas. Overemphasis on CourseEval will steer our faculty members to tailor their teaching towards making the less-competitive students happy by, for example, focusing on easier and feel-good material, as opposed to challenging them and preparing them for the real world.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 12.39.34 PM

Figure 1   Distributions of a hypothetical course evaluation, assuming Gaussian distribution with mean 3.00 and standard deviation 1.00. The sample size (number of students) is 30,000.  Potential biases due to a ‘motivation gap’ leads to an apparent mean lower by 0.55 if only the lower 75% students respond, and by 0.80 if only the lower 50% students respond.

Zeng Figure 2 Part1

Zeng Figure 2 Part 2

Figure 2   Two hypothetical but realistic examples. Number of students in class is 20, and each response is 1 of 5 choices (0-4, corresponding to ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’). The random samples are drawn from the same Gaussian distribution as in Fig.1 (mean=3, standard deviation=1). Upper 3 panels: the spread is moderate and the biases due to ‘motivation gap’ are similar to the large sample case in Fig.1. Lower 3 panels: the spread is large and the biases are heavily influenced by the few low ratings.

Is There Productive Life After Retirement?

By Tom O’Haver, Prof. Emeritus/UMCP

Retirement means going into cold storage, perhaps with tubes? Social and professional networks and the brain shrivel. Well, not for everyone! Professor Emeritus O’Haver is living the new retirement experience, that is, continued activity but without many deadlines and required meetings, and more flexibility in what one does when. Those who have retired or plan to do so soon will surely be encouraged by Tom’s post-professorial life. It should be noted that O’Haver is writing from Naples, Florida, as Maryland awaits the next snowstorm or heatwave.   –ed

When I retired from the University in 1999, after 30 years of service as a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, I looked forward to spending more time with my family, traveling, and perhaps enjoying some craft or outdoor activity. I landscaped my back woods in Maryland and my wife and I taught some adult education courses. But I also wanted to do something more related to my own training and academic interests, something that I would enjoy, that might provide some mental stimulation, and that I could do myself without a laboratory, graduate students, or post docs.

One ancillary craft that I enjoyed doing in my academic work in analytical chemistry was computer programming. I became involved with the laboratory applications of microprocessors when they came out in the 1970’s, especially their applications to laboratory data acquisition, manipulation, and processing. Computer programming, it turns out, provides many opportunities for puzzle-solving challenges, at least as much as doing crossword puzzles, and as an added benefit, the results might even be useful to other people.

So, spending 3-4 hours per day in the quiet early mornings, I expanded and developed some earlier work into an online tutorial on computer-based signal processing in Web and printed formats, and a collection of downloadable programs, scripts, spreadsheets, and working examples. Of course there are commercial programs that do this sort of thing, but they tend to be expensive, complex, and difficult to learn. My programs are free, designed to be easy to use, and are well documented. No one likes to read manuals, so I provide my programs with lots of working examples and animated demonstrations, from the simple to more complex.

With a handy laptop computer, and with Internet connections available almost everywhere, I can do this sort of work almost anytime and anywhere, so my wife and I can keep on splitting our year (between Maryland in the summer and Naples, FL, in the winter) and traveling – to 23 countries on 5 continents. And the best part is that there is no fixed time schedule; I can work when and if I want.

Over the years, my work has been viewed and downloaded by researchers, instructors and students in over 100 countries. I have received thousands of emails with encouragement, questions, suggestions, and even experimental data that helped to correct, expand, clarify, and develop my material to be more useful for the needs of various fields of investigation. By now, I have a total of 70 Mbytes of downloadable written material and programs, my web pages are viewed 1000-1500 times per day, and my programs and related materials are downloaded 1000 times per month. Most satisfyingly, my programs have been cited in over 70 publications and journal articles since 2008.

One thing that surprised me was the very wide range of research fields that have found my programs useful: industrial, environmental, medical, engineering, earth science, space, military, financial, agriculture, and even music and linguistics, based on emails, citing journal articles, and the ISPs of major web visitors. This goes far beyond my training and experience. Most interesting to me were the researchers who sent samples of experimental data from their own laboratories. This gave me the opportunity to work with types of data that I could never have encountered in my own work, and it was immensely useful in expanding the range of my programs and techniques.



We Must Do More To Improve Student Learning

By Stephen Roth, UMCP/Kinesiology*

For the past few years, higher education has come under the microscope of public scrutiny. Concerns have been raised about the affordability and quality of higher education, the need for post-secondary education, and perhaps most importantly whether students are actually learning at the university. These are important questions and even in a state that is generally quite supportive of investments in higher education, we need to be responsive to these questions and articulate the value of higher education for our many stakeholders.

Fundamentally, we need to provide evidence of student learning and growth in order to demonstrate the importance and value of higher education. University instructors have very little control over education policy or public opinion, but they do have a direct impact on student learning in and out of their classrooms. Today more than ever, instructors have an amazing suite of educational tools available to enhance the educational experience of our students. From online learning management systems (e.g., ELMS at my campus) to in-classroom response systems to video lectures to sophisticated technology-based group work, instructors are doing amazing things in the classroom. But if these technologies and innovative pedagogy’s aren’t contributing to student learning, then they only add to the concerns about the value and impact of higher education.

How do we know that a student has learned material; that our teaching approaches are improving student learning? How do we know that our techniques in and out of the classroom are contributing to critical thinking, intellectual growth, the ability to innovate and solve problems, and, ultimately, engaged citizens and life-long learners? Instructors need to be able to assess both their teaching effectiveness and student learning, which go hand-in-hand. Assessment at its simplest comes from student exams or projects, from which the instructor gauges “learning,” while the effectiveness of the instructor’s teaching is informed by student evaluations. But this level of assessment, both of teaching and learning, is relatively weak and provides little information from which to inform teaching and to understand student learning.

Relatively few instructors in higher education, especially research-based faculty members, have much formal training in teaching. Much of what we do in the classroom we learned through experience, effectively repeating those techniques that either worked for us as students or that we saw as effective in our classroom. We can and must to do better. We have decades of research on student learning that can inform our practices as instructors. Universities need to put forward the resources for instructors to learn and incorporate the best techniques for promoting student learning, and nearly all campuses have centers for teaching and learning to support this task. Moreover, universities must provide incentives and time for professional development in teaching; investing in stronger instruction and better learning follows. While some instructors will seek such development independently, teaching and learning centers become critical resources for those instructors who have the desire but lack the time or expertise to improve their teaching. Centers for teaching and learning can do the heavy lifting of identifying best practices, then implementing the training approaches to support faculty development that best suit their campus cultures.

One example of a resource that provides valuable information for both individual instructors and teaching and learning centers is Assessing and Improving Your Teaching, by Phyllis Blumberg (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Blumberg leads the Teaching and Learning Center at the University of the Sciences and has written extensively about faculty development in teaching. Her book provides not only a step-by-step guide to self-assessment of teaching and teacher development, but also a broad overview of the essential aspects of effective teaching, the combination of which results in a book valuable for both instructor and faculty developer alike. For example, instructors of all levels will benefit from brief discussions of the use of learning objectives and outcomes, educational technologies, feedback to students, student reflections, and assessment to promote learning. Fundamentally, Blumberg promotes the concept of “evidence-based teaching,” which argues for the use of a scholarly approach to teaching with both classroom data and literature used to inform teaching practices and enhance student learning over time. She walks through the use of assessment rubrics provided in the book to facilitate this process, and provides a clear path for instructors to become life-long learners themselves and approach instructional improvement as a guiding principle throughout their career. Especially valuable is a series of specific case studies outlining teacher assessment and growth, which provide tangible evidence of the value of the approach Blumberg advocates.

I’m not so naïve to think that instructors will line up to purchase this book, or spend quality time with any of the other classic resources in this area (e.g., Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross; Student Engagement Techniques by Barkley). Instead, my intention is to make instructors aware that they can and should do more to improve student learning in the classroom, and their campus has the resources to help them. Whether to improve course evaluations as part of the promotion process or contribute to an engaged citizenry, instructors have varied motivations for improving student learning and all should be valued. Ultimately, by investing a small amount of time with a teaching and learning center, instructors will reap large returns in the form of improved student learning, more efficient and effective instruction, and a more satisfying experience as a teacher.

Of course, there is no intent to have all faculty members teach in the same way. People differ, subject matter differs, and student levels differ as well. There are many ways to be a good teacher, but most if not all of us can improve our teaching.

An improved classroom experience is an improved educational experience, which addresses, in part, public opinion about the concerns of the impact and importance of higher education in the 21st century. Our ability to respond effectively to these external pressures comes from the demonstration of student learning, which is strongly facilitated by our instructors. I encourage universities to support professional development of teaching, and instructors to seek out a consultation with their teaching and learning center. A small investment of time discussing course objectives, structure, and goals will result in meaningful improvements in student learning and instructor satisfaction.

*Interim Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning

Merit Pay

By James Manley & Finn Christensen. Towson/Economics

Merit pay in academia ought to be awarded based primarily on observable metrics like teaching evaluations and publications, but our recent study of this issue indicates just nominal adherence to these norms. Instead, merit awards appear to be influenced by salary compression and other factors unrelated to productivity.

Finn Christensen

Finn Christensen

The goal of merit pay is to reward quality employees and to direct employee effort to the priorities of the institution.  In academic settings the priorities tend to be research and teaching, and for tenured faculty members in particular incentives may be important.  Merit pay is a good idea: it can motivate above average performers (Marsden French and Kubo 2001) and can even be a more effective means of improving schools than upgrading equipment or facilities (Lavy 2002). However, merit systems may skew effort towards the appearance of yearly results versus risk-taking or long-term investment (Foldesi 1996). In addition, the larger the share of compensation taken up by merit pay, the more effort may be shifted from education to currying favor with one’s evaluators (Adnett 2003).  This issue may be especially acute in academia since in many cases peers evaluate each other.  For this reason it is especially important for merit awards to be tied to observable metrics rather than subjective evaluations whenever possible.

James Manley

To learn more about how merit pay is allocated in academia, we gathered data from a large public university with over 500 faculty members. Our first set of data is an anonymous university-wide panel containing only a few variables for each observation: year, college, department, tenure status, and merit status (no merit, merit, or merit plus). We limit our sample to departments with five or more faculty members since smaller departments seem to operate under different dynamics. (See the full paper for more information.) The unit of observation in these tables is the department-year, the set of merit decisions made by a departmental committee in one year, so the average “percent tenured” is the share of tenured faculty members in the mean department-year. The last four columns (see Page 2) similarly reflect means of statistics calculated by department-year.  In each year, the highest level of merit is awarded to two-thirds of the sample and is more prevalent among tenured faculty members; three-quarters of tenured professors receive merit plus while only half of untenured professors receive the same.

Table 1: Sample Statistics for the Trimmed Full University Sample (N=100)

Award Year

# faculty in sample

# depts

Avg % tenured

Avg %

merit plus

Avg % tenured MP

Avg % untenured MP






















MP = Merit Plus. *Last column from untrimmed sample (N=117).­

If merit decisions are based on productivity, this discrepancy in merit plus awards could be due to superior performance among tenured faculty.  To evaluate this possibility, we obtained a second dataset containing anonymous information from one college from 2005 – 2009. It includes individual faculty members’ teaching evaluations, publications, and merit status.

Teaching evaluations are filled out by students on one of the last days of the semester. Students are asked to rate their “Overall perception of the instructor” on a 5 point Likert scale with 1 being “Poor” and 5 being “Excellent.”  The mean of student responses is taken, yielding a number between 1 and 5. Publications are limited to peer-reviewed journal publications, a criterion mentioned in this college’s policy document.

Summary statistics by tenure status are shown in Table 2.  T-tests, both raw and clustered at the department level, show that only the last difference is statistically significant at the 10% level.

Table 2: Micro-data on faculty-years in College A


Mean teaching evaluation score

Peer-reviewed journals

Merit award

Untenured Professors





Tenured Professors





As a first formal test of the data, we regress merit status on teaching evaluation scores and peer-reviewed journal publications. As reported in column 1 of Table 3, we find that journal publications are significant at the 5% level, while evaluation scores are significant at the 1% level. Both have the expected positive signs, showing that publications and teaching evaluations do matter. When we include a dummy variable for tenure in column 2, we find that the first two variables retain their signs and levels of significance, and that the tenure variable is positive and significant at the 10% level. If variation in merit awards is due only to variation in productivity, we would not expect to see the tenure variable significant. However, its significance is marginal, so we still cannot draw a strong conclusion.

More striking to us are the results from the last row of Table 3. While both publications and teaching evaluations are positively and significantly associated with MP status, together they explain a relatively low share of variation in MP status attribution. 164 observations are still not as many as we would like, but the fact that our set of explanatory variables is only sufficient to explain 10% of the variation in MP designation is troubling.

Table 3: Micro-data Probit Regression Results2



Peer-reviewed journal articles (PRJ) 0.11***  (0.04) 0.12*** (0.04)
Evaluation score 0.33*** (0.10) 0.34*** (0.10)
Tenured 0.18* (0.10)
Pseudo-R2 0.10 0.11






* Significant at 10% level; ** at 5%; *** at 1% level. N = 164 faculty years for all regressions.

If productivity differences are of limited use in explaining MP decisions, are there other variables systematically related to MP decisions?   We examine whether salary compression could be such a variable.

When junior faculty members’ salaries are close to or higher than that of more senior faculty members, this condition is called salary compression, and unsurprisingly it is frustrating to senior faculty. Tenured faculty members may have the incentive to address compression through merit pay. If the merit committee acts on this incentive, we expect to see a low share of untenured professors getting merit designations particularly where compression is apparent.

Using publicly available salary data, we generated an index of compression for each department-year in the university data, a ratio ranging from 1.10 to 2.09. We then divided the share of tenured faculty receiving MP by the share of untenured faculty receiving MP, and regressed this outcome upon an indicator for the most compression. The indicator was significant at the 10% level when it was alone, and when we included college and year effects, the size of the coefficient nearly doubles and the statistical significance improved to the 2% level. It seems that a larger degree of compression is associated with increased awarding of MP to tenured versus untenured faculty members.

Table 4: Regression Results including Compression Ratios2 

Dependent variable:

% of tenured getting MP

% of tenured getting MP

Share of tenured MP/  Share untenured MP

Share of tenured MP/  Share untenured MP

Most compressed quintile

-0.08 (0.06)

0.16** (0.07)

1.35* (0.76)

2.64** (1.09)

Year indicators



College indicators













** = significant at 5% level; * = significant at 10% level.


So how can a merit policy be designed more efficiently?  This is a question for future research but we provide some initial thoughts here.  This paper identifies a few crucial considerations. First, merit policy designers should strive to make the policy as transparent as possible on paper. Second, the policy should be designed so that those who implement the policy (merit committees) have little incentive to deviate from its prescriptions. Third, for merit pay to serve its intended purpose, we must address the separate issue of salary compression.

For more of our results, see “The Allocation of Merit Pay in Academia: A Case Study,” Finn Christensen, James Manley, and Louise Laurence. Economics Bulletin 31(2): 1548-1562. 2011.

This shows the results of four separate probit regressions with merit status as the dependent variable. In each box are the marginal effects coefficients with the standard errors in parentheses. All regressions include department size, which is always negatively signed but statistically insignificant (generally significant at the 15% level). Results change very little when OLS regression is used instead, or when department size is left out. Results are also robust to the inclusion of department dummy variables, which are insignificant.

2 The mean (SD) of the first dependent variable is 0.77 (0.25), while that of the second dependent variable is 3.0 (3.0), so effects are relatively large in magnitude as well.


Works Cited:

Adnett, Nick. 2003. “Reforming teachers’ pay: incentive payments, collegiate ethics, and UK policy.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 27: 145-157.

Foldesi, Robert. 1996. “Higher Education Compensation Systems of the Future.” CUPA Journal  Summer 47(2): 29-32.

Lavy, Victor. 2002. “Evaluating the Effect of Teachers’ Group Performance Incentives on Pupil Achievement.” Journal of Political Economy December 110(6): 1286-1317.

Marsden, David, Stephen French, and Katsuyuki Kubo. 2001. “Does Performance Pay De-Motivate, and Does It Matter?” Center for Economic Performance/ LSE Working paper, August, 43pp.



What About Today’s University Libraries?

By Lucy Holman, U. Baltimore/Langsdale Library*

There is much debate in academe and society in general as to how the library of the future will look. Will it be bookless, filled only with technology and coffee bars? Will it even be a physical space at all? Will librarians work with researchers remotely or will they rove from location to location within the university? Unfortunately, I was neither an early investor in Google nor did I predict the rise of social media when beginning my library career in the 1990s; I cannot begin to imagine what the academic library will look like in 25 years. The last 25 have been too tumultuous to suggest that such a prediction is possible. However, looking at the near future of the next 3-5 years, I can provide a glimpse into the world of academic libraries from a director’s perspective.

Academic librarians across the country are embracing new technologies and new roles that continue to change the nature of their work and their libraries. Collection librarians spend a greater percentage of budgets on e-books, online journal subscriptions and full-text article databases. Here, the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions (USMAI), which is made up of the 14 libraries of the 11 USM institutions as well as St Mary’s College of Maryland and Morgan State University, has launched a pilot e-book where usage initiates each purchase. We are withdrawing or moving less-frequently-used materials offsite and are dedicating more library space to student and faculty use, whether it be for individual and group study, computing or labs for innovative technologies such as interactive multimedia or 3-D printing.

The term “library as place” has been a recurring image in libraries for the last decade. While very few librarians still see the library as a repository for sources (although there is a national need to preserve some print copies of important works), many would strongly advocate for physical library spaces to continue to be central to the university community. I recently read an article that highlighted three themes in the future of library buildings: collaboration (facilitating group learning), creation (facilitating student-produced works), and contemplation (providing spaces that inspire students to think and create). (Carlin & Macke, 2014). In essence, we are moving from locations that house materials to spaces of activity and learning.

Information literacy continues to play a large role in the work of many librarians in our libraries. At some institutions, including my own University of Baltimore, there is an undergraduate credit-bearing course that focuses student learning on the foundation skills of articulating an information need, finding and evaluating information sources to satisfy that need, and using information effectively and ethically in developing new knowledge. At other institutions, information literacy and critical thinking skills are woven throughout the undergraduate curriculum.

Libraries today are much more involved in the assessment of student learning and the library’s role in student retention and student success. National instruments such as the National Student Survey of Engagement (NSSE) show that library use has a positive impact on student retention. Several of our campuses (Towson, UB, UMUC, and St. Mary’s) are participating in a national assessment organized by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) to identify the impact of information literacy instruction on student success.

Academic libraries are also in the forefront of campus efforts to digitize local archival materials and university records. Almost all the libraries in USM have impressive digital collections of unique material that can draw researchers from within the state or across the country. Several also have institutional repositories that curate and provide access to faculty and/or student scholarship.

A few of our campuses are also focusing their efforts on digital curation. For example, the Digital Systems and Stewardship (DSS) Department at the University of Maryland Libraries has launched a Research Data Management Service, which helps faculty members and students in developing and operating data management plans for their research datasets. According to Babak Hamidzadeh, Associate Dean, the service addresses issues of data longevity and access for datasets in various disciplines. “The service was preceded by an extensive business case analysis to identify services, the demand for each service, their costs, and sustainability models. A similar business case analysis and planning is currently underway in DSS for ePublishing. As part of this process, DSS is undertaking pilot projects in open journal publishing and hosting and in managing student publications.”

We are very fortunate to have very collaborative libraries in the system, and the USMAI consortium, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last summer, has been a long-standing vehicle for the Maryland libraries to share resources and expertise. USMAI offers the campus libraries the opportunity to leverage size for savings in library systems and subscriptions and enables increased resource sharing (both materials through intercampus borrowing and interlibrary loan and staff and faculty expertise). Acquisitions and database development performed by consortial staff allow library faculty members at each institution to focus on campus-specific priorities, whether it be mobile development, data curation or work with faculty members on curriculum development or digital scholarship.

So where will our academic libraries be in the next five years? We will continue to see a shift in focus to services and the user experience; a shift from print to digital, a shift to greater emphasis on locally-produced content, and a shift in providing spaces for knowledge creation and community. And we know there will be new disruptive technologies appearing that will change the landscape in ways we cannot today imagine!

For more information about the USMAI library consortium and its 16 member libraries, see here.

*Dr. Holman directs the Langsdale Library and is an Associate Professor in the Division of Science, Information Arts & Technologies

Carlin, J. & Macke, B. (2014, April 2). Books? Or No Books? Envisioning the Academic Library of the Future. Huffington Post.

Graduate Them!

♦ The University System of Maryland (USM) reports that it “will expand its national leadership role in transforming the post-secondary academic model with the receipt of a $200,616.00 State Systems Transformation Co-creation grant from the Gates Foundation to the USM Foundation. The USM is one of several state systems of higher education that the Gates Foundation has selected to build on existing practices to substantially improve student access and success and effect change in higher education. The grant will help the USM enhance the efforts of individual USM campuses to make college completion more attainable and affordable.”

♦ The National Conference of State Legislators is looking into the “performance” of universities. “Historically, many colleges have received state funding based on how many full-time equivalent students are enrolled at the beginning of the semester. This model provides incentives for colleges to enroll students and thus provide access to postsecondary education, but this model does not necessarily provide incentives for institutions to help students successfully complete degree programs.” Currently in 25 states there are performance requirements for a university or college to receive a portion of its state funding. The primary performance statistic is the per cent of students who complete their degree. So what should admissions officer do? Raise the entry requirements! And what should the undergraduate dean do? Make sure that students graduate somewhat independent of the quality of the work they do! Maybe there will be bribes to encourage students not to drop out. (Of course, professors cannot be bribed to give passing grades! Well, with a bit of merit money?) And of course the local data analyst can do some fancy manipulations. Maryland is not yet imposing such a requirement, but neighbors Pennsylvania and Virginia are.