Senior Vice President and Provost Jennifer King Rice sent the following email to faculty and academic staff:
I hope you were able to find some time for rest and renewal over the summer, and are looking forward to reconnecting with our community. I remain honored to step into my new role on campus, and I am especially delighted to welcome you to the 2021-22 academic year.
This year holds enormous potential for benefiting from the many lessons we have learned over the past few semesters. Given the extraordinary challenges we have experienced—a worldwide pandemic, an awakening to structural inequality and racism, and existential threats to our democracy—this is a unique moment in history to rethink, reimagine and reinvent ourselves as a public research university for the common good. So much of the work that we do at this university directly addresses these and other pressing challenges—institutions like ours are more critical than ever and are key to moving society forward in a positive direction.
I recognize that some of us return to campus with lingering concerns, and I offer you every reassurance that we are guided by public health best practices every step of the way. We are facing new opportunities to foster an engaging culture of innovation and imagination. I look forward to working with our entire campus community to cultivate an environment of inclusive excellence that supports the education, scholarship and work of all students, faculty and staff.
Health and Safety
Our first priority is to welcome the campus community back to a safe and vibrant environment to engage in teaching, learning, research and work. Throughout the summer, campus leadership has been meeting regularly to examine data and review public health guidance from national, state, local and system sources. We have developed campus policies and protocols to prioritize the safety and health of our community. I am incredibly proud of our community's response to our vaccine mandate. We will continue to monitor data trends and public health guidance, and we will adapt our policies as needed in this evolving context.
We are implementing a classroom-based procedure to support early contact identification (ECI). Please encourage students to scan the barcodes in your classrooms. The 4 Maryland website remains the best way to access the most updated information about safety measures and policy changes that guide the in-person campus experience.
Teaching and Learning
We have learned a great deal over the past year about teaching and learning in the context of a pandemic. If not for the constraints imposed by the pandemic, it could have taken us years to achieve the level of digital competency that we now have. Many of us integrated new technological and pedagogical practices to promote student engagement and active learning. I encourage you to continue drawing on those experiences and developing innovative instructional practices. Your work to uphold rigor, while also acknowledging unique challenges and circumstances, has supported the success and well-being of our students.
As we transition back to in-person instruction this semester, we hope to preserve the best of what we have learned while we continue to innovate and adapt. Answers to frequently asked questions, guidance on how to handle student absences, and other resources for instructors can be found at the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost website. In addition, members of the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center team are available to provide support in instructional design, instructional technologies, learning analytics, assessment design, learning outcomes and curricular innovation.
As we welcome our students, we also should be mindful that many of them have never experienced a "normal" academic year on campus. Students, along with faculty and staff, will undoubtedly face challenges as we settle back into life as a campus community. Together we can continue to establish our culture of learning at UMD: one that is inclusive, innovative, student-centered, compassionate and forward-thinking.
UMD Strategic Planning
Throughout the summer, over 100 faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members have been engaged in an institutional strategic planning process designed to generate bold ideas that will advance our university mission and reflect our shared values and commitments. This work has been organized around six pillars: academic excellence; discovery, creativity, and innovation; student experience; access and student success; operations and resource stewardship; and strategic partnerships.
We are excited to engage with the campus community around the ideas and initiatives that are being generated. We value the diversity of thought on our campus and recognize the importance of an inclusive process. In addition to the ongoing collaborative efforts, we are planning to host a series of open forums to share our progress and expand the opportunity for broader participation of our diverse community. Please watch for announcements of these events and for the launch of our strategic planning website, and I hope you will join me in crafting our path forward.
In conclusion, I would like to once again applaud your resilience and determination to innovate under the most challenging of circumstances. Collectively, our campus community has spent 80 years(!) on Zoom since the start of the pandemic, and our Zoom days are not yet over. We will continue to incorporate technology when it serves us well, but also enjoy the time we get to engage again, in person, with our students and colleagues. I look forward to working with you to create an inclusive, engaging and welcoming community for all.
Thank you for your commitment to provide excellent teaching, research and service to our Terrapin community.
Jennifer King Rice
Senior Vice President and Provost
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