Q&A with C.D. (Dan) Mote
"Levey Live," appears each Tuesday from 12 to 1 p.m. Eastern time. It is a live, moderated discussion offering washingtonpost.com users the chance to ask questions directly of the people who make the news and the people who report it. Your host is Washington Post columnist Bob Levey.
Bob's guest today was C.D. (Dan) Mote, president of the University of Maryland.. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Mote has a long career as a classroom teacher, university administrator and researcher.
After earning his Ph.D in Engineering Mechanics from Berkeley in 1963, he returned to that campus in 1967 to teach. Promoted to professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department in 1973, Mote went on become chairman of the department, then Berkeley's vice chancellor for University Relations.
A registered professional engineer, Mote's research has involved a range of interests, including the study of gyroscopic systems, computer disks, the biomechanics of ski injuries and the development of more effective ski bindings. His work is represented in 300 scholarly publications and patents in the United States and Europe.
After serving at Berkeley for 30 years, Mote accepted the presidency at the University of Maryland and took office on September 1, 1998. He and his wife live in the President's Residence on the College Park campus.
Here is a transcript of today's session:
What will you do to strengthen UMCP's relationships with the states' community colleges?
C.D. Dan Mote: The UMCP is the major public research university in the state and also a strong supporter of undergraduate education. About 2500 transfer students from community colleges enroll each fall. That compares to about 3850 freshman enrollees. We strongly support the transfer students. We support strengthening the programs in the community colleges to help prepare the transfer student applicants to the campus.
Bob Levey: You came from The University of California, where racial preference in admissions has been a huge, emotional issue. Is it equally controversial at Maryland? Do you expect it to be?
C.D. Dan Mote: Racial preferences have been eliminated in the admission to University of California campuses and to other public university campuses in California too. This was the result of Regental policy initially and subsequently became state law. At Maryland, we do not at present have Regental policy or state law that prohibits consideration of race as one factor in the admission of students. I do not expect that policy to change soon. One day, I look forward to the time when race-blind admissions will be able to provide the diverse educational experience that will serve our society well.
Washington, D.C.: I am a 1990 graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. What is the university doing to help retain black students?
C.D. Dan Mote: Recruitment and retention of African-American students is very important for the University of Maryland and, in fact, for colleges and universities around the country. We have a strong record of recruiting minority students and have received a commendation from the White House for our successes. A major problem for us is financial aid - specifically, need-based financial aid. Our principal recruitment and especially retention problem relates to the availability of financial support that differentially affects African-American students. I am planning a major push to raise private funds to support need-based scholarship funds for our campus. A second issue is to develop support groups for advice and counsel of these students.
College Park: What is the status on renovating Cole Field House? or building a new basketball arena to replace it?
C.D. Dan Mote: The planning direction calls for the construction of a new field house. Analysis of a Cole Field renovation, though much desired by many stalwart Terps, was concluded to be too expensive and too disruptive to the athletic operations that are housed there.
Bob Levey: Shortly after you took over at College Park, you were quoted as saying: "If we succeed in building authentic relationships, fund-raising happens as naturally as water flowing downhill." Yet Maryland has always had trouble with fund-raising. How will you build "authentic relationships" to change that?
C.D. Dan Mote: Maryland has many alumni (about 142,000 in Maryland alone - almost 3% of the population of the state), but has not made an effort to gather the support of its alumni. Relationship building is a process of bringing your alumni and friends home to the campus and making them feel an important part of the history and future of the institution. The connections will be through athletics, of course, but they will also be built with the academic and other outreach units. Business. Library. Government and Politics. Incubators for new business development. ....
C.D. Dan Mote: Thanks for a great question. Indeed.
Half an hour remaining with today's guest, C. D. (Dan) Mote, president of The University of Maryland.
Bob Levey: You're on record as saying that you want undergraduate admissions at Maryland to be more selective. But why do this at a public university? You're Maryland, not Harvard.
C.D. Dan Mote: Bob, good question indeed. Yes, the campus is becoming more selective, but it is the applicant pool that drives the process. Our freshman class remains 3,850 students. But as the number and qualification of the applicant pool increase, the number and the quality of the denials of admission also increase. Hence, we become more selective. I expect that the number of applicants and their qualifications to continue to increase simply because the education is of such high quality and the cost is so reasonable by today's standards.
College Park, MD: What do you think is the best strategy for combining the qualities of a large research institution with the importance of providing a stimulating classroom experience and retaining undergraduate students?
C.D. Dan Mote: Excellent question. Maryland is a "research university." Research universities are institutions where the creation of knowledge (research and creativity) and the transmission of knowledge (teaching) are mixed together. Everybody does them - faculty, students, staff, visitors. Everybody wants to work "out on the edges" of their subjects whether we are talking about computer science or literature. Undergraduate students take part in this research-teaching life of the campus as do graduate students and faculty. 34% of our undergraduate students are in honors programs that reflect strongly this research university spirit. Take the Gemstone program that brings together students from different fields in groups of 10 to work on a societal problem over their four years on campus.
Rockville MD: What kind of obstacles do you anticipate having in your efforts to establish UMD as a premier public university?
C.D. Dan Mote: The goal to become a premier public research university is held by many institutions around the country but few have the opportunity we have at Maryland. I would say that we have all the advantages. The question is will we be able to take advantage of our advantages. To reach the upper echelon of universities it requires: (l) leadership, (2) funding and (3) public support, probably in that order but all key. Success can not be achieved unless all three are strong. Funding from the state and other sources should be possible if the public policy of the state concludes that we should become of the premier institutions. The leadership on campus has already demonstrated that it has the capacity to raise the university to the airy reaches we are describing. Witness the rapid growth in quality over the last decade or more. Public support within the legislature and among alumni and business leaders is strong but needs to be stronger. That is within our grasp to work on. Therefore, the question boils down to the public funding from the state. With funding equivalent to the average of the funding received by, say No. Carolina, Michigan, Illinois, Berkeley and UCLA we will be ranked among them within 10 years.
College Park: [H]ow will you address the housing crisis in the upcoming years? Any new residence halls being built? [edited for space]
C.D. Dan Mote: Sufficient and adequate housing for our students is a problem as it is at many other universities in the country. In 1993 we had 1100 empty beds in our dorms and in 1998 we turned away 900 students. Such is the problem with short-term swings in demand and long-term solutions through building dorms. We are working together with a developer who is planning a 1000 bed, private housing complex, adjacent to the campus. This complex could open in Fall 2000 and go a long way to solving the near-term housing problem. Clearly, there are many issues to be addressed. We currently house more than 8,000 undergraduate students, about 38% of our students. We have no current plan to build a new dorm on the campus.
Bob Levey: I swore I would never use the V-word again, but..... What's your vision for The University of Maryland? An engine for the state's economy or a bastion of learning for learning's sake?
C.D. Dan Mote: The V-word, the vision thing.
Annapolis, Maryland: What do you think are the important components of a good undergraduate education?
C.D. Dan Mote: Undergraduate education has to lift the spirit, vision, and opportunities for the students. The experience should expand the sense of excitement about the world and the unlimited challenges and opportunities before everyone. When the students look up they should not see the ceiling, they should see the sky and everything beyond. Go for it.
That's it for today. Many thanks to our guest, University of Maryland president C.D. (Dan) Mote. Be sure to join us next Tuesday, March 2, from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time, when our guest will be David S. Broder, the highly respected political reporter and columnist for The Washington Post. Don't forget our Friday show, "Levey Live: Speaking Freely," which appears from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time. As always, the agenda will be whatever you want it to be.