Helping Meet the Future

November 08, 1990|By Garland L. Thompson

PRINCESS ANNE — Princess Anne. THE WORDS ''small college'' and ''bucolic, pastoral setting'' seem to go together. And William P. Hytche, striding along the greenery-lined walkways at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, must like it bucolic. He's been here more than 30 years.

But President Hytche knows something the rest of us are just now noticing. His campus, deep in the Delmarva farm country, has not ignored the changes shaking up the modern world. Rather, it has responded with new academic programs, an aggressive new building program and an impressive, can-do approach to problem-solving.

There is construction everywhere. What else can you do with double-digit growth? Eastern Shore's students increased by 17.6 percent in 1988, 17.9 percent in 1989 and 13.4 percent this year -- 63.8 percent over the last 10 years. The school has opened a 480-bed apartment complex, financed by student fees.

Steel girders behind the Carver Science Building are soon to became an addition that doubles the space for laboratories. Ditto for the Frederick Douglass Library. An old middle school is being renovated for new campus uses, and a new center for the hotel-restaurant management school wil open in 1993, with 24 hotel rooms, an executive suite and a 500-seat dining room. That catering school, the state's only degree program, does a quarter of a million dollars in annual sales, too.

Campus walkways are all dug up for new paving, road construction and installation of new utilities. Dr. Hytche, striding around a campus that before 1978 hadn't seen a new program in 33 years, must feel like he's riding a rocket.

Everywhere he goes, new things are going on. Take agriculture, a staple at any land-grant university. Eastern Shore, with the state's only degree program in poultry management, does small-farm research that attracts big notice in Africa. Through U.S. AID and its research partners at Florida A&M and Alabama A&M, Eastern Shore is revolutionizing the way small farms are managed in seven countries in western and Southern Africa.

Researchers are even looking at ways to ''de-toxify'' chicken manure. Commercial chickens eat pure foods, but the straw used on floors in their climate-controlled coops often is grown in polluted ground. So the manure, mixed in, can't be used as fertilizer or simply thrown out. The de-tox program and an innovative, no-smell device to compost dead chickens could save farmers millions, cutting costs for consumers as well as helping to clean up the environment.

The really exciting stuff, however, is going on in the greenhouses and laboratories of the marine science program. Last year Maryland Eastern Shore was the only U.S. institution to produce a black female Ph.D in marine science. It is vying to be the nation's first historically black institution to host a Fish and Wildlife Service research center, and a pilot program to raise tilapia, a tropical fish, may open new restaurant and consumer markets to Eastern Shore farmers. The researchers control the fish's habits so well, they even manipulate its sexuality.

In other labs, scientists are raising crawfish, to create a new supply for the Cajun restaurants springing up, or monitoring rock crabs, or dissecting the stuff dug up from ocean bottoms. And much of the apparatus was built on-site, some of it invented as needed, by the students and professors.

The Arts and Technology Building houses the state system's only degree program in construction management, and its airway science program, recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration, teaches students computer science, electronics technology and management. The physical therapy program, the only one in Maryland not part of a medical school, has produced six classes with a 100-percent pass rate for state licensure. The university also has partnerships with the National Park Service, and grants the state's only undergraduate environmental science degrees, as well as graduate degrees in environmental science.

And try this on for size: In recent years, Maryland Eastern Shore has claimed the highest rate of research contract dollars per full-time faculty member of all the Maryland public institutions. That's with a faculty of about 100 and a student body of 2,000.

All of this makes President Hytche proud. It probably also wears him out. That's what happens when you live and work in a rural rocket.

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