Ahead of the start of the spring 2024 semester on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23, staff and faculty participated in UMES’ annual Professional Development Days. The sessions kicked off with President Heidi M. Anderson highlighting UMES’ focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, agriculture, aviation, the arts, and math) education and featured updates on major projects, an invigorating message from Dr. Steve Perry and Phase II of June’s customer excellence training.

“We don’t just get the valedictorian. We get other students too and we get them ready. We take them in any place in their academic credentials and we prepare them. That’s what our mission is and it takes all of you to make this happen,” said President Anderson on the impact and mission of this Historically Black University, an 1890 land-grant institution with a STEAM focus.

Dr. Anderson highlighted that focus by sharing a TEDTalk video featuring former Miss UMES Sarah Adewumi. Adewumi asks her audience to close their eyes and “imagine what a scientist looks like to you.” She then asks if they imagined “me.” A young Black woman with love of fashion and style, the poise of pageantry, and the aviation pilot and aerospace credentials necessary for her role with NASA, Adewumi shared a message of the importance of this representation in the science fields.

Dr. Anderson informed the campus community about some high priority items contained in the campus’ Legislative Priorities for this legislative session:

  • UMES’ School of Veterinary Medicine and Health Professions Phase II received approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and was included in Governor Moore’s FY 2025 budget at $150M.
  • The almost doubling of the University’s 1890 land-grant state match was included in the Governor’s budget ($4.8M) along with funding for the UMES’ Agricultural Research and Education Center ($4.5M).
  • Although not contained in the Governor’s budget, UMES will continue to seek funding for renovations to Carver Hall and urges support from everyone on campus and our alumni in seeking legislative support for $73M for the building.

About 60% of students have taken a science course in Carver Hall at UMES, which holds a R-2 Carnegie Research Designation and is the home to the STEM STARS program made possible by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute “Driving Change” grant. UMES is the first Historically Black University to receive the HHMI Driving Change award.

Not included in the Legislative budget request, President Anderson also highlighted a few other projects, including cleaning and renovating multiple residence halls, refurbishing the Tawes Gym, and dramatic improvements to the baseball and softball fields and surrounding areas.

Social Worker, Author, and Educator Dr. Steve Perry shared an inspiring message acknowledging the life-changing work in the lives of students at UMES. He discussed the importance of retention and the profound impact faculty and staff can have on young students.  He urged everyone in the audience to engage, connect, and make a difference in our students’ lives.

Dr. Steve Perry

“This is not just their safe place, but their launching pad. You perform miracles every day,” Perry said.

Providing a safe place for students and preparing them through academic rigor for society is at the forefront of UMES’ $60 Million capital campaign which the University hopes to meet its goal by the institution’s 140th anniversary in 2026. At present, the University has raised $44.5 Million.

Student retention continues to remain a priority. Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Rondall Allen and Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Experience Latoya Jenkins sharedtheir student success plan used to increase retention of first and second-year students at UMES. Their strategies included frequent and clear communication with departments servicing students (Student Accounts, Financial Aid, etc.), timely communication with students about academic practices and policies, and end of semester celebrations to recognize and engage with students about their experiences.

Jenkins also conducted a fireside chat with six faculty and staff members to share the most successful practices and recognizing the different needs of students. (Dr. Malkia Johnson, Director UMES Counseling Center; Dr. Linda Johnson, Professor – Natural Sciences; Dr. Yen Dang, Acting Chair of Dept. of Kinesiology; Brad Hudson, Professor and Acting Chair of Dept. of Fine Arts; Dr. Yuanwei Jin, Professor and Chair of Dept. of Engineering & Aviation Sciences; and Dr. Reginald Garcon, Assoc. Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Experience)

Seated (L-R) Dr. Malkia Johnson; Dr. Linda Johnson; Dr. Yen Dang; Mr. Brad Hudson; Dr. Yuanwei Jin; and Dr. Reginald Garcon

Dr. Heath Boice-Pardee, Head of Practice, Service Excellence at Academic Impressions led the Monday afternoon session on Customer Excellence training focusing on creating a culture of care throughout campus. The second day of training featured over 60 asynchronous professional development sessions available to be completed using internet access. Training options included customer service overview, HIPPA overview, FERPA overview, training for managing difficult behaviors among the variety of topics.

The spring 2024 semester at UMES begins Jan. 29.

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