USM COMMITTEE ON MEES: RE-ENVISIONING A SYSTEM LEVEL GRADUATE PROGRAM IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

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1 USM COMMITTEE ON MEES: RE-ENVISIONING A SYSTEM LEVEL GRADUATE PROGRAM IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE INTRODUCTION This report was prepared at the request of the University System of Maryland (USM) Academic Affairs Advisory Council (AAAC). A committee comprised of individuals representing the academic units participating in the intercampus graduate program in Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Science (MEES) was established to evaluate the MEES program and consider how it can be strengthened. USM MEES Committee Dr. Paulinus Chigbu University of Maryland Eastern Shore Dr. Reggie Harrell University of Maryland College Park Dr. Rodger Harvey University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Dr. Russell Hill University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute Dr. Ray Hoff University of Maryland Baltimore County Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes - University of Maryland Eastern Shore Dr. Arthur N. Popper - University of Maryland College Park Dr. Michael Roman (Chair) - University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Dr. Janet Rutledge - University of Maryland Baltimore County Dr. Kevin Sowers - University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute Dr. Karen Squibb University of Maryland at Baltimore The charge to our committee, included in Appendix A, is summarized below: Articulate a mission statement for the program based on a progressive vision. Recommend general curricular changes to accomplish this vision. Identify suitable administrative and funding structures for the program. Recommend goals (and paths to achieve) for how best to interface with existing environmental programs within the system. Identify appropriate target dates and methods for evaluation of the program performance and success. Our committee focused on the last three parts of the charge. The MEES Program Committee is currently evaluating the curriculum and focus areas of the MEES graduate program in light of the evolution of environmental science education in the last decade. Under consideration are the number and subject area of MEES tracks of study and recommending a common set of core course requirements for each study area (as recommended by the External Review Committee). The target date to complete this evaluation is by the end of the spring 09 semester. ACTIVITIES

2 The committee noted early in its deliberations that the MEES program had not conducted an External Program Review for over a decade, though an Internal Review of the MEES Director and program was conducted in 2002 by Dr. Norma Allewell, Dean of the College of Chemical and Life Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park (UMD). Since there had not been a formal review of the MEES program, this committee requested that Dr. Allewell convene an External Review of MEES (Appendix B). As part of the ensuing review process (which, at the direction of the Associate USM Chancellor, followed the review policies and procedures of UMD), the MEES program produced a Self-Study which summarized the structure and activities of the program (Appendix C). Following formal UMD program review policies and procedures, this self-study was provided to an external group of reviewers who visited UMD for several days to meet a diverse group of students and faculty who participate in the MEES program on various campuses, administrators from the MEES campuses, and to provide evaluation of the program. Our committee was instrumental in providing guidance in the selection of the external reviewers, in providing input to the charge of the reviewers, and in designing the structure of the review itself. The External Review Committee Report (Appendix D) concluded that MEES is an excellent graduate program and an important asset to the mission of the USM. Their recommendations with respect to administration of the MEES program included hiring a full-time MEES Director to provide the intellectual and visionary leadership to a systemwide environmental graduate program, and strengthening the interaction between the MEES Director and the Deans, Directors and Provosts of participating campuses. The External Review Committee also suggested that the USM and its campuses have an important opportunity to raise the profile and quality of their academic environmental programs by creating and developing synergies that arise by linking existing disciplinary strengths. The reviewers noted that USM is well positioned to become a national leader in environmental sciences. The External Review Committee recommended that USM develop a structure to coordinate their environmental programs which could serve as an intellectual and visionary umbrella for a federation of environmental science enterprises at the graduate level, of which one such enterprise is a strengthened MEES. We have attached a list of several of these USM graduate programs in environmental science (Appendix E) that could be included under such a structure. In response to the External Review Committee Report, there was an evaluation report by Dean Norma Allewell of the College of Chemical Life Sciences (Appendix F) followed by Dr. Nariman Farvardin, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost of UMD (Appendix G). Dean Allewell s Report is in agreement with the findings of the External Review Committee, including the recruitment of an outstanding leader for the MEES program, creating a high-level USM Council to provide and coordinate campus input on the MEES program, and working towards a system-wide structure to enhance coordination and development of graduate programs in environmental science. Dean Allewell also made a specific recommendation that policies and procedures be put in place within MEES to ensure that programmatic changes receive review as defined by UMD and/or USM and other campuses involved in the program.

3 The Provost s Summary Report and Recommendations (Appendix G) also generally concurred with the External Review Committee Report. At the same time, several of the issues identified in the Provost s report merit our response. While the approximate 175 faculty members affiliated with the MEES program appears a substantial group in relation to the number of students enrolled, these faculty have various levels of participation that can enhance the program. We endorse the concept proposed by Provost Farvardin to define MEES core faculty as those among the 175 who most fully participate in teaching, advising and programmatic oversight and then define affiliate faculty from the same group, and from the outside, who may have research interests pertinent to the graduate training of MEES students. These affiliate members may conduct research relevant to the MEES research areas and can thus enhance the graduate training of the MEES students. The MEES Program Committee and current Director should begin to develop the review criteria so that current MEES faculty can be placed in the appropriate categories. The enrollment of MEES doctoral students is driven primarily by the research programs of the MEES faculty. While the first 1-2 years of doctoral student support may come from fellowships and teaching assistantships, students are generally supported on the research grants/contracts by their advisors for the majority of their matriculation. Given this level of support, the diverse job pool available to MEES graduates in environmental science, and the excellent record of job placement of MEES graduates (as elaborated in the External Review Committee Report), there is no a priori reason at the present time to reduce the number of doctoral students in the MEES program. At the same time, recognizing that research funding fluctuates, it is our recommendation that the number of MEES students continue to be dictated by funding levels, with the program having the option of shrinking when funding is not sufficient to provide support for every student, and grow when the program has sufficient funds to support additional students. We concur that an appropriate business plan needs to be developed for the MEES program. If the MEES program is to develop the necessary administrative infrastructure and support for its graduate students, a thorough cost accounting and financial planning needs to be conducted. At present, the College of Chemical and Life Sciences of UMD shoulders the full burden of the administrative costs of the MEES program (approximately $300K/y; see Appendix 4, p 60). A portion (approximately $250K/y) of the MEES tuition funds which are generated from the teaching by UMCES and UMBI faculty are returned by UMD to these institutions where in addition to State operating funds, the tuition funds are used for MEES student fellowships, travel, research and course development. Other campus units participating in the MEES program also support MEES administration and students on their campuses but not the main MEES administrative office which manages the overall program, student records and the application processes.

4 RECOMMENDATIONS: If the USM is to realize its full potential and become one of the premier universities in environmental science and sustainability, it needs to bolster the administrative support and visibility of the inter-campus MEES graduate program AND develop an administrative structure which will facilitate and foster communication and collaboration among the various environmental education and research programs within the USM. As is clear in the attached inventory of example graduate environmental programs within the USM (Appendix E), the breadth of environmental expertise the USM possesses is extensive. Better coordination of this rich spectrum of environmental expertise will enhance our ability to prepare graduate students to deal with the complex environmental challenges of the future. Coordination of the USM environmental programs will also stimulate new research opportunities and discoveries. We support the recommendation of the External MEES Review Committee that there is a need for a full-time Director of the MEES program who possesses the scholarly background and vision to lead development of the program and take it to new levels of excellence. A full-time MEES Director is needed to administer the program; promote the program within the USM; raise funds for the MEES program activities; oversee the admissions, policies, curricula and course schedules; and, enhance coordination between the MEES program and other relevant USM environmental programs. An immediate task for this new full-time MEES Director is to articulate a mission statement for MEES in consultation with the MEES faculty. This mission statement exercise should lead to a comprehensive strategic plan for MEES with goals and measurable outcomes. At the present time the home of MEES should remain in the College of Chemical and Life Sciences at UMD and report to the dean of that college. We also recommend, however, that since MEES is an inter-institutional program a MEES Advisory Board comprised of Provosts, or their representatives, from the participating campuses and Chaired by the USM Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs should be established. Regular communication between the MEES Director and this MEES Advisory Board will enhance the viability of MEES on the various campuses, insure uniformity of policies and standards as well as promote better coordination of environmental graduate programs. The current MEES operating/administrative budget is relatively small and provided 100% by the UMD College of Chemical and Life Sciences. There is pressing need to increase the funds available for administration of the program, and this will be particularly true when a new director is hired. UMD cannot be expected to provide additional administrative funding for operation of the central office. Thus, we recommend that a system be developed for additional funds to be provided to the administration of MEES from each unit having MEES students. One option would be in the form of a tax based on the number of MEES

5 students at that unit averaged over the previous three years (to average out funding). As described in the External Review of the MEES program This prominent university system has excellence in all of the important areas of scholarship and education for most of the environmental challenges that face Maryland, the United States, and the world. However these pockets of excellence appear to be narrowly constrained because they are rarely brought together around large, interdisciplinary questions one of the side effects of the decentralized culture. We support the recommendation of the External Review Committee that USM create an umbrella structure (e.g. Maryland Institute of the Environment and Sustainability ) with the goal of coordinating existing USM graduate-level efforts in environment and sustainability, including MEES, to stimulate truly interdisciplinary graduate training. This proposed umbrella structure would raise the profile of environmental graduate education and research at USM within the State of Maryland, nationally and internationally. This enhanced visibility and coordination of environmental programs would increase the application of the best and brightest graduate students and help with recruiting top-notch faculty who seek interdisciplinary breadth for their research. The USM intercampus MEES graduate program is nationally recognized for the quality of the graduate students produced and their interdisciplinary training. The MEES program can be enhanced even further by hiring a full-time Director and increasing the coordination of MEES with other USM environmental graduate programs. The USM has a unique opportunity to give greater prominence to its leadership in environmental science and sustainability by creating an administrative structure to coordinate and enhance its diverse environmental programs.

6 APPENDIX A February 7, 2007 Committee on MEES: Re-envisioning a System Level Graduate Program in Environmental Science Background: The University System of Maryland is unique in being the home of a large and active inter-campus graduate program in environmental science. The Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Science (MEES) graduate program has been productive for over 20 years and is one of the largest graduate programs in the system (191 students currently). Students are attracted to the program because of the diversity and depth of faculty and the highly interdisciplinary nature of the program. MEES faculty and students reside at many places within the UM System: UMCP, UMBC, UMB, UMES, UMCES, COMB. The size and strength of its students and faculty demonstrate the potential value of a system-wide graduate program. MEES is currently administered within the College of Life Sciences at College Park and the present director is Dr. Ken Paynter (split UMCES/Life Sciences appointment). While the program has been extremely successful in attracting students, it has not undergone a major assessment of its curriculum and administration since its inception. A number of concerns about these the curriculum, the funding, and the administration of the program have arisen in the last several years. Given these concerns and the fact environmental science is emerging as one of the key research and education areas for the 21 st century, the time is ripe to re-evaluate the program and consider how it can be strengthened to: 1) embrace the exciting and fundamental shifts in environmental science research that have occurred in the last decade; 2) take advantage of the academic strengths spread across the University System s campuses; and 3) improve its governance and administration. Part of the fundamental shift in environmental science has been stimulated by environmental crises that are global in nature. However, the shifts have also been stimulated by the recognition that society and the environment are tightly linked and the true research frontiers are now in the arena of coupled human-natural systems. Social science and policy are now viewed as integral components of environmental science from the perspective of both applied and basic research. Garnering the System s collective strengths in environmental science is an obvious need given the number of diverse campuses and departments across which relevant faculty are spread. The need is also reflected in the recent emergence of new programs and centers on various campuses that focus on environmental science. Put simply: the System could easily be the home of the top ranked graduate program in environmental science in the country if we forge our collective strengths to build a truly innovative graduate program and it is well administered. Committee Charge:

7 By June 1, 2007 provide a report to the AAAC that articulates a new vision for a Systemlevel graduate program in environmental science that is built on cutting-edge scholarship and innovation and that includes strengths from relevant campuses. Specifically, Articulate a mission statement for the program based a progressive vision Recommend general curricular changes to accomplish this vision Identify suitable administrative and funding structures for the program (where it should be housed, who the Director reports to, how the program should be funded and at what level by participating institutions, who makes decisions on admissions policies, etc) Recommend goals (and paths to achieve) for how best to interface with existing environmental programs within the system Identify appropriate target dates and methods for evaluation of program performance and success

8 APPENDIX B Dean Norma Allewell College of Chemical and Life Sciences University of Maryland College Park, MD July 9, 2007 Dear Dean Allewell: In February 2007, Vice Chancellor Irv Goldstein established a committee to provide a report to the AAAC that articulates a new vision for a System-level graduate program in environmental science that is built on cutting edge scholarship and innovation and that includes strengths from relevant campuses. The Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Science (MEES) graduate program has been a productive inter-campus graduate program for over 20 years. Our committee is considering how MEES can take advantage of the new environmental programs that have developed in the University of Maryland System and how MEES can evolve with the new directions in environmental science research. It is our understanding that the MEES program has not had the customary detailed self-study and independent review that is characteristic of a campus-based doctoral program for a considerable time. We endorse such an outside review and hope that, since MEES is an inter-campus program, the review includes MEES activities at all relevant USM campuses. Our hope is that this outside review of MEES can be conducted in parallel to our committee work and that the results of the outside review can be available to us this fall. Thank you for considering this request. Sincerely yours, Michael Roman CC: I. Goldstein, K. Paynter

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