/UMD president’s priorities: Diversity, renewable energy and research (via Qpute.com)
UMD president’s priorities: Diversity, renewable energy and research

UMD president’s priorities: Diversity, renewable energy and research (via Qpute.com)

“It sort of raises the question, you know, is higher education going to be part of the problem or is it going to rise above these challenges and these uncertainties?” Pines asked in an interview Wednesday. “My message … is to signal a new direction and a sense of hope and optimism for our community, the University of Maryland, and what we stand for and what matters to us, which also what matters to society.”

One step in that direction, Pines said, is to use $40 million over the next five years to support 100 new faculty from underrepresented groups. The university will recruit more people of color and, in some departments with a dearth of female faculty, women, he said.

Men account for about 56 percent of faculty at College Park, according to fall 2020 data from the university. More than half of professors on campus are White.

The share of faculty of color has increased modestly. Four percent of faculty were Black in 2012. That number stood at six percent last fall.

Hispanic professors represented 5 percent of the faculty last fall, compared to 3 percent in 2012. And the share of Asian faculty inched from 11 to 12 percent during the same stretch of time.

Those figures do not include foreign faculty. Data show 11 percent of professors in 2020 were from other countries.

“I’m really trying to create a better family of faculty that are diverse,” Pines said, adding that the school has already started to make new hires. “We’re super excited about the ability to really raise our ability to make our faculty more diverse and be more reflective of the student body that we serve.”

Diversity among students has also been a persistent concern at the university. An analysis by the Hechinger Report and The Washington Post found flagship universities in 15 states had at least a 10-point gap between the percentage of Black public high school graduates in their states in 2019 and the Black share of freshmen they enrolled that fall.

U-Md. had one of the largest gaps: 24 points.

Students and advocates have called on the school to ramp up recruitment efforts and enroll more Black students.

Pines said diversity within the freshman class and throughout university is a priority, but he is also focused on student outcomes. U-Md. confers more degrees to Black students than any flagship in the country and has closed gaps in retention between Black students and their White peers, university data show.

“We’ll continue to increase our freshman enrollment. We will continue to increase our access journey from two-year institutions to College Park going forward,” Pines said. “We will continue to focus on this during my administration and folks will continue to come to College Park and get their degrees.”

Pines also shared plans to accelerate the university’s progress toward its sustainability goals, pledging U-Md. will be carbon-neutral by Earth Day 2025 — 25 years sooner than a goal announced in 2009.

The campus will invest in climate science research, upgrade facilities to be more efficient and increase its use of renewable energy, Pines said. It will also purchase carbon credits, a way that companies and organizations offset their carbon output by investing in projects that reduce emissions.

And by 2035, the school’s vehicle fleet — which includes shuttle buses and delivery trucks and run mostly on diesel or gasoline — will be electric, Pines added.

The measures will advance efforts made between 2005 and 2018, when the university cut carbon emissions in half by using wind and solar energy, reducing waste and taking on initiatives such as offsetting campus air travel with carbon credits.

Pines helmed U-Md. ‘s engineering school for more than a decade, where he oversaw an increase in tenured and tenure-track female professors, and nearly doubled the number of bachelor’s degrees. He was announced as U-Md. ‘s president in February 2020, and is became the second Black man to lead the university.

He succeeded Wallace D. Loh who, at his 2011 inauguration, said the university needed to retain more of Maryland’s high-performing students, recruit heavily from other countries and grow the number of students in science, technology, engineering and math — also called STEM.

The share of foreign students did grow, from 799 students in 2012 to more than 1,500 in the fall of 2018. This past fall, roughly 1,200 students — about 4 percent of the student body — came from other countries.

The university over six years also grew the number of undergrad and graduate degrees conferred in STEM fields by about 44 percent — from 3,113 in 2014 to 4,512 in 2020, campus data show.

Research was also a priority for Loh. Pines has made it one of his, too, pledging to make investments in research and innovation at the school’s entrepreneurship hub, the Discovery District.

The research park made news recently when quantum computing start-up IonQ, which was founded in 2015 and based on technology licensed from U-Md., announced it would become the first publicly traded pure-play quantum computing company. The company opened a quantum data center in the College Park Discovery District last year.

“That work came out of our laboratories here at the University of Maryland College Park,” Pines said about IonQ. “It is likely and possible that the University of Maryland and its Discovery District and College Park would potentially become the epicenter of quantum in the nation.”

The university will continue to make investments — about $200 million worth — in other research areas, including education, bioscience, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and quantum science.

Pines’ announcements also came with plans to name the Cole Field House football performance center after former students Billy Jones, the first Black student to play basketball in the ACC, and Darryl Hill, who broke the same barrier in football.

The school will also recommit to the arts, particularly art rooted in social justice, through classes, events and festivals, Pines said.

“Every faculty member, every staff member, every student member will be exposed to the arts and will be able to embrace the arts in multiple ways across campus throughout every year,” Pines said. “But it really is to embrace one of our core values of really using creative expression to help address some of the social ills that we’re facing in society.”

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