A new year with exciting changes

University President

University President

The start of a new school year is a transcendent moment, alive with possibility and dreams to fulfill. The 155th academic year at this university brings new talent, new educational programs, new facilities and a new era of Big Ten athletic competition and academic collaboration.

Where I grew up, we greeted newcomers by saying “mi casa, su casa.” To new arrivals here, I say “our university, your university.”

Welcome to the 4,100 freshmen and 2,000 new transfer students. They come with the highest academic credentials ever at this university, standing high with their peers at top flagship universities. They hail from 33 countries, and 40 percent are students of color. We also welcome the 3,200 outstanding masters and doctoral students. Our students are the promise of tomorrow.

Welcome to the 90 new professors and researchers. And congratulations to the 96 newly promoted faculty, including seven new Distinguished University Professors, the highest honor accorded by this university for trailblazing scholarship: Inderjit Chopra (aerospace engineering), James Drake (physics), Sylvester Gates (physics), Jeffrey Herf (history), Christopher Jarzynski (chemistry and biochemistry), Dianne O’Leary (computer science) and Ingmar Prucha (economics).

Great professors attract great students who, in turn, attract additional great faculty. Our talented and dedicated staff support this cycle of excellence.

Welcome to new administrators. The new dean of the behavioral and social sciences college is Gregory Ball, an eminent behavioral neuroscientist from Johns Hopkins University, where he was vice dean for science and research infrastructure. The new dean of the public policy school is Robert Orr, who served as the United Nations assistant secretary-general, overseeing policies on climate change, global health, food security and counterterrorism.

The new vice president and chief information officer, Eric Denna, was the University of Utah’s chief information officer. To fortify our computer networks against relentless cyber-intrusions, he is installing new technology, isolating and encrypting sensitive information and expanding our IT security staff.

Educational innovation flourishes. There are new living-learning communities in law, geology, philanthropy and writing. Freshmen get hands-on learning with FIRE  — the new First-Year Innovation and Research Experience.

The internationally renowned DeVos Institute of Arts Management has relocated to this university. Founder-director Michael Kaiser joined our faculty after illustrious tenures heading the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and London’s Royal Opera House.

Broad access to a top-quality flagship education remains a core university commitment. Last year, we raised a record $140 million from donors, with need-based scholarships a high priority. With new sports revenues, our athletic department will provide guaranteed lifetime scholarships to all student-athletes. We are committed to their success in the classroom, on the field and in life.

This university’s Big Ten debut is generating palpable excitement. Teams and fans are fired up. Ticket sales are up. Thousands of new visitors will descend upon the campus. Terps games will be available on the Big Ten Network to some 60 million homes here and abroad.

Recent antitrust lawsuits, unionization efforts and congressional hearings forebode seismic changes in the landscape of big-time college sports. At issue: Are student-athletes amateurs, playing for love of sport and pride in their alma mater? Or, are they professionals, playing for a paycheck? Or are they something in between?

Spurred by federal calls for reform, the issue of sexual assault is roiling campuses nationwide. This university has been proactive, creating a new Office of Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence directed by attorney Catherine Carroll. As the new Title IX officer, she is working with campus officials to hire investigative and survivor support staff, revamp investigation and adjudication procedures to ensure fairness and safeguard the rights of all parties and implement mandatory training and prevention programs.

Our construction boom continues, with nearly $900 million in projects recently completed or in the pipeline. The new Prince Frederick Hall just opened. The Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center is under construction. The bioengineering building is under design. The new four-star hotel and conference center will have a ceremonial groundbreaking this year. Along Route 1, this university is working with private developers on new housing and retail amenities to transform downtown College Park.

Pedestrians will encounter a safer Route 1 — a reduced speed limit, new traffic signage, a median barrier and 24/7 speed camera enforcement. University Police will be highly visible on weekend nights to calm traffic and remind students: Be safe. Be smart. Avoid jaywalking.

On our 155th anniversary of classes, may this be your best year ever in all your endeavors — education, research, arts, athletics and service. Your accomplishments keep this university on its rising arc of excellence and impact.

You can contact Wallace Loh at president@umd.edu or on Twitter @presidentloh.

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