Shaping UMD’s Future Through Community Sessions

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Attendees of the first Community Visions session talk to one another about what Maryland can do to improve. (Photos by: Jasmine Pelaez)

by NAOMI HARRIS

In the Stamp Atrium, full of students, faculty and staff, the first session in addressing a strategic plan to improve UMD as a campus came to life.

Last February, President Loh announced the formation of a Flagship 2020 Commission to answer challenges of higher education. On Wednesday, members of the campus community joined together and stepped in to help this process. The plans these members will create aim to provide more appealing and competitive university by the year 2020.

The first open session of four, which will happen throughout the month, opened the floor for recommendations on improving the university to adequately educate the next generation.

Laura Scott walks around the atrium to talk with the crowd.
Laura Scott walks around the atrium to talk with the crowd. (Photos by Jasmine Pelaez)

“Data gathering in a smart process is what we do,” said Laura Scott, the director of the Center for Leadership & Organizational Change. Scott and her peers directed the discussions to really get at what the Maryland community wants to see done.

Questions such as, “What will we see, hear or feel that shows us that we have achieved our vision as a magnet for educating the most promising next generation?” initiated conversations.

Throughout the process, Scott and other members collected information as people shared ideas ranging from creating partnerships in the Big Ten to improving classrooms.

“We need reliable technology that supports innovative teaching,” said Ann Smith, Assistant Dean in the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

Students in attendance also made their opinions known about improving the educational opportunities at Maryland.

“We should partner with local government and businesses around the area and D.C, especially because we are such a unique area,” said Kirk Morris, sophomore Letters & Sciences major.

The groups of attendees converse with one another about recommendations.
The groups of attendees converse with one another about recommendations. (Photos by Jasmine Pelaez)

The main sentiment of the room was that Maryland not only needs more outside resources for students but also a greater sense of community within the school.

“I would like to hear more about students whose professors know their name,” said Jenny Hodgson, an undergraduate program coordinator. Hodgson believes that some potential students may chose not to attend Maryland because it is such a big school.

“Students should feel like they are not just one of many,” Hodgson added.

Apart from the university, attendees incorporated neighboring community improvements to help create a more engaging school for potential applicants.

“A better looking community in College Park is hopefully a better development,” said Morris when asked about the college town. Indeed, other attendees echoed the idea of an upgraded College Park.

“The local area should look safe and attractive,” said Smith, “like a real college town.” Ideas of bringing in more businesses and decreasing crime rates were then added to the list of improvements.

Attendees of the session write down any other recommendations they wanted to share.
Attendees of the session write down any other recommendations they wanted to share. (Photos by Jasmine Pelaez)

The questions presented to the crowd stirred up conversation as ideas were hurriedly written down for later data collection.

“We know what makes a provocative question,” Scott explained.

“We have a whole lot of new voices and we have people listening to each other, which will create ideas that didn’t exist before people came here and so there will be some excitement around those. I’m hoping people’s visions will get closer to becoming reality through the process we’re creating.”