This is the second in a series of articles on the four focus areas that are part of UMBC’s strategic planning process.
The primary goal of the Collective Impact in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Achievement focus area is to elevate UMBC as a nationally recognized and regionally relevant research university. The key drivers in achieving this goal are: creating an inclusive environment for faculty and students, developing excellence in new intellectual frontiers, and fostering multidisciplinary and inter-institutional approaches that build research, scholarship and creative achievement across the campus.
Strategy group co-chairs Aryya Gangopadhyay, professor and chair of information systems, and John Schumacher, associate professor and graduate program director of sociology and anthropology, primarily envision their group as a means to reach out to the entire campus community and make sure all the voices across campus are heard. “It’s important to look at research, scholarship and creative achievement across the colleges and ask ourselves how we want to develop as a university – as UMBC,” says Schumacher.
Group members are charged with engaging the campus community to examine current strengths in research, scholarship and creative achievement; to identify areas that will elevate UMBC’s national prominence in the next five years; to articulate connections with local communities and regional assets; to consider multi- and inter- institutional initiatives; and to develop priorities and metrics to track progress and success.
“We need to create the right environment for people to succeed and grow,” says Gangopadhyay. “People come here because they see a top class research university with great potential and people. The will and expertise are here to go to the next level. We want to examine what needs to get done, what roadblocks exist, what changes need to be made in the infrastructure and how we actualize the creative ideas people have. We’ll be successful if 10 years from now we see a measurable impact in our research, scholarship and creative achievements.”
Both Gangopadhyay and Schumacher believe that promoting research, scholarship and creative achievement across colleges and exploring how interdisciplinarity contributes to addressing important issues are critical to the strategic planning process. “We’re tackling problems of interest to the entire world. In today’s world, we can’t just look to one area for solutions; no one person alone can solve these problems. It’s our intra- and interdisciplinary research that brings solutions,” says Gangopadhyay.
Gangopadhyay and Schumacher add that their university roles and committee participation keep them engaged in campus-wide processes where they hear diverse perspectives from faculty, staff and students, and learn about projects and programs on and off campus. These experiences inform their work as co-chairs. “People on campus want to know what other people are doing,” says Schumacher. “Part of this process is to develop bridges of communication, and to build on these connections to ensure future success. In addition, we want to highlight UMBC’s location in the Baltimore-Washington corridor that provides a rich environment attracting faculty and students, as well as emerging partnerships with government agencies and universities. These connections, and new ones, will help us provide unparalleled experiences for our students to gain practical experience and find fulfilling jobs.”
Following Provost Philip Rous’ lead, Gangopadhyay and Schumacher reiterate the importance of an open and engaged process to articulate UMBC’s collective voice in strategic planning. They are pleased at the overwhelming response to the call for strategy group members, and will use focus groups, town meetings, surveys and other activities to engage with the entire campus over the next year. “This is a very important process,” Gangopadhyay says, “We have an exceptional group of people from across campus working on this focus area, and we will be reaching out to see what everyone thinks.”
Schumacher adds, “We need the whole UMBC community to be involved. We need everyone at the table, everyone’s voice represented, for this to be successful.”