President’s Letter 2023

Kurt Schmoke
From time to time, I describe us as being not just The University of Baltimore, but the University for Baltimore. I do this to emphasize UBalt’s commitment to civic engagement, and remind us that career advancement cannot happen in a vacuum—it must be community-minded.

Community engagement and professional development intersect across the University, in almost every program. They clearly converge in the service learning happening through our NextGen Leaders for Public Service internship program at the Schaefer Center for Public Policy, as well as in the public interest work being undertaken by student attorneys through the School of Law’s Clinical Law Program, housed in The Chasen Family Law Clinic Suite.

The University’s forward-thinking faculty exemplify those two concepts as they build upon our academic foundations, developing curriculum that anticipates industry advancement and responds to community needs.

Those values come full circle through our Early College Initiatives, as UBalt alumni help Baltimore City Public School students earn college credit through career-focused coursework, and inspire them to go on to college careers of their own.

For almost a century, this University has forged relationships with leaders, builders and changemakers—many of whom are UBalt alums— to develop programs that serve both students and citizens. In doing so, we have helped improve local lives by educating those who share in our passions and engaging those who want to see a stronger, better, more equitable world for all.

We are now looking toward the next 100 years with the confidence that our reputation for engagement will resonate across the city, the region—even nationally and around the globe. Within the University System of Maryland, our know-how regarding issues that matter to everyday people will ensure that we are much more than simply “relevant.” We’ll live it—and we’ll teach it, too. As we head into UBalt’s second century, our work will position the University as the go-to place for those who want to learn how to create impact.

As you will read in this issue of The University of Baltimore Magazine, we are, in fact, already positioning ourselves in a way to attract resources to support that work, to foster new civic partnerships and public-service careers, as well as vital, broad-based thinking around these perspectives.

I invite you to learn more about the work we are doing, and hope that as a proud member of the University of Baltimore community, you will also continue to stay engaged.


Kurt L. Schmoke


composite with a polaroid of John Waters and a Pink Flamingo

On Wednesday, May 24, 2023, acclaimed film director, author and social critic John Waters received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from The University of Baltimore. In his acceptance speech, he reminisced about a few very important “firsts” that happened for him at UBalt, both as a student and again, years later, on his way to becoming one of Baltimore’s biggest cultural icons.

“I was thrown out of my high school—they wouldn’t let me graduate from Calvert Hall because of my long hair and truancy. I went to summer school at Boys Latin, somehow passed, and then went to the University of Baltimore with a big chip on my shoulder. But one teacher changed that—a woman named Miss Norris,” he said. “She encouraged me to write something…I did an inside job about my grandfather and how he was waiting for death. It got published—my first anywhere! And while my parents were horrified about the subject matter, they were proud I was in print. And here I am—58 years, eight books and 17 movies later.”

Three of those 17 films have an important tie to UBalt. “The University of Baltimore helped me even more, in 1972, 1974 and 1977, when they allowed me to hold the world premieres of three of my most notorious, trashy pics—Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living—at the Langsdale Auditorium,” he shared with the crowd. “Yep, no questions asked; flat rental fee. No censor board could hassle me. Every show I did, I sold out, and I could keep all the money. They never balked at the subject matter. They never objected to the insane crowds that showed up. Nope, each premiere, they saved me and hid me with a cloak of education. And God knows I thank them.”

Bringing Bee Power to Baltimore Schools

Dual enrollment program bolstered by alumni instructors


student at crossroads

Since 2016, Baltimore high school students have had the opportunity to earn college credits at University System of Maryland schools through the B-Power Initiative—one of two Early College Initiatives designed to give young people a head start into a post-secondary education.

B-Power was pioneered at The University of Baltimore, and under the leadership of John Brenner, B.A. ’01, MBA ’16, and Philippia Richardson, B.A. ’98, M.A. ’01, the dual enrollment program has expanded its footprint from four schools to 27 in just seven years. Out of 2,500 total participating students, 72 percent earned credits from UBalt and 65 percent went on to attend a two- or four-year college their first semester after graduating high school. But the staff will be the first to admit, it’s the adjunct faculty making this growth possible.


Data Driven Degrees

New STEM designation sets finance grad students up for more success


Graduate students looking to maximize their return on investment can find more opportunity in the Merrick School of Business with a newly STEM-designated program. The Master of Science in Business-Finance was redesigned to incorporate current methodologies including quantitative analysis, data-driven decision making and mathematical modeling. These features—traditionally found in disciplines like science, technology, engineering and math—are aimed at drawing new students to The University of Baltimore and revitalizing international student enrollment. 

“There’s definitely a hunger for this kind of program,” said Danielle Giles, director of marketing and communications for UBalt’s business school. “Our students—especially international students—are looking for more comprehensive mathematics-based and data-focused programs that ultimately allow them to move up in their jobs. And that’s what we’re looking for—people looking to advance in their careers.”


Extended Stay

UBalt alums stay for second degrees and more


Whether it started with a campus tour, a fellow alum, or even just a feeling, many students at The University of Baltimore can point to a moment when they knew it was the right place for them. So right, in fact, that when they started considering a second degree, it was never a question that they would stay.

Ashlyn Woods,
B.A. ’21, J.D. ’23

Ashlyn Woods
Photo of Ashlyn Woods by Marissa Zuckerman.

Ashlyn Woods was introduced to UBalt and the idea of law school long before she would become a J.D. candidate there. As a student at Eastern Technical High School, Woods had a criminal justice alum, Luci Smith, M.S. ’13, teaching her law and related classes. After high school, though, Woods chose a different college. At least at first.


World-Class Opportunities

Global field studies open access for UBalt student travel


Mayan ruins in Belize
Students at the Mayan ruins in Belize.


It took a lot of time to get there—half a semester, plus an early-morning flight and a slow drive on unpaved roads—but when Rebekah Opher stood at the base of the Mayan ruins in Belize, she knew the wait was worth it.

“These are stone structures, they’re built by hand, and they’re so high that I could only walk up to the first landing,” Opher said. “And just to think, for more than a thousand years, this is where they lived. This was a society, a civilization. I was definitely in awe.”

This perspective-shifting moment was possible because Opher, a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies student, elected to take Dr. Sally Farley’s Nonverbal Communication class during the spring semester. The psychology course had an optional component inviting students to travel to the Central America country over spring break.


Public Service, Personal Growth

UBalt’s newest initiative defines the next generation of internships for students and employers.  


Dr. Debra Y. Brooks and Jeannette Brown Standing in City Hall
Photo of Dr. Debra Y. Brooks, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success, left, and NextGen Leader Jeanette Brown, B.A. ’22, in the Baltimore City Hall rotunda by Chris Myers Photography.

A year ago, Dr. Ann Cotten, B.S. ’85, M.S. ’86, CERT ’92, D.P.A. ’03, director of The University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy, and Dr. Roger Hartley, dean of the College of Public Affairs, co-authored an opinion piece for The Baltimore Sun addressing the “solvable problem” of unpaid internships and unveiled the University’s ambitious and sweeping solution.

Now entering its second year, the NextGen Leaders for Public Service program gives undergraduate and graduate students from all majors at UBalt the opportunity to explore a career in public service. The program comprises a variety of academic and co-curricular initiatives, but NextGen’s unique paid internship opportunities are the cornerstone.

In their op-ed, Cotten and Hartley acknowledged that “for predominantly minority schools like ours, the unpaid internship is a critical barrier to entry to employment, as well as a lost opportunity for employers to diversify their workplace,” and asked, “Is there a better way to do two important things at once—improve services and have those services delivered by qualified employees who started as students in need of an opportunity?”


In The Interest of Justice

UBalt’s clinical law program establishes a lasting community legacy through public interest work


Baltimore row homes
Photo by Howard Korn.

Under the Bill of Rights, the Sixth Amendment granted United States citizens the right “to have the Assistance of Counsel” in criminal prosecutions. No such protections were guaranteed for defendants in civil procedures. Millions of people end up representing themselves pro se in housing, family and immigration courts, as well as in other civil legal matters.

This problem is especially acute in eviction courts, where renters are largely left to their own devices and forced to rely on their own limited understanding of landlord/tenant law. The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel reports that disadvantaged tenants show up for eviction appearances alone and unprepared, while upwards of 90 percent of landlords arrive with legal representation. A 2020 study by the Eviction Research Network showed that Baltimore City, alone, had an eviction rate over two times higher than the national rate.

“Eviction is not a symptom of poverty, it is a cause of poverty,” says Neha Lall, Professor of the Practice and director of externships at The University of Baltimore School of Law, citing the work of Pulitzer Prize winning author and social scientist Matthew Desmond, founder of the Eviction Lab. “When a person is evicted from their home for as little as being five dollars short on rent, the dislocation that occurs is incredibly disruptive to their employment, to their children’s education, to family stability generally. And there really isn’t any social safety net around this.”