A bigger role for Morgan

Time for Baltimore's historic black university to build on its rich traditions

September 05, 2010

Nearly 150 years ago, a group of ministers had a powerful idea that, through education and training, blacks in Maryland could, over time, shed themselves of the debilitating scars left by the institution of slavery. Two years after the end of the Civil War, the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church started the Centenary Biblical Institute.

What foresight! These individuals recognized that if Maryland was ever going to prosper and enjoy the full benefits of statehood, it had to seek ways of educating individuals who were cut off from mainstream life. What is now Morgan State University traces its beginnings to those days, and the ensuing decades have witnessed the university's continued growth.

As the 12th president of Morgan, I have done what any new president should do. I have fallen asleep many a night over the last few months reading a book or article about the university's history, its development, its struggles and its successes. I have come away quite impressed with its remarkable resiliency to not just survive, but to thrive under immense challenges of underfunding. I have been amazed by the high-quality academic programs at Morgan, the brilliance of our students, the accomplishments of our faculty and the achievements of our alumni.

It was certainly not known to me before I started seriously considering this presidential opportunity that Morgan was in so many top categories among higher education institutions in the United States. Morgan is No. 2 in the nation in awarding doctorates to African-Americans in engineering. In the state of Maryland, let there be no doubt who churns out the bulk of African-American engineers and scientists: Morgan. For example, we are Maryland's leading producer of African-Americans with degrees in such important fields as engineering, biology, chemistry, mathematics and architecture. Maryland desperately needs Morgan if the state is going to achieve its higher educational attainment goals, and Morgan desperately needs the state of Maryland's continued investment in order to grow the number of graduates in these critical fields.

As I engage the campus community in dialogue and conversation about Morgan's next era, I am envisioning an institution that will continue to grow Maryland and the nation's talent in those disciplines where African-Americans and other populations of opportunity — such as first-time college-going students, adult students and women — are woefully underrepresented. My goals are to grow the university's enrollment, targeting both traditional and nontraditional students; increase scholarship support for our students; strengthen the university's research capabilities; update the campus' physical plant; and create a culture of serving the needs of our students better than any other institutions in America.

The future includes people of various ethnicities and cultural perspectives, and as such, we will seek to make Morgan more diverse by increasing our efforts to recruit white, Indian, Latino and Asian students.

Starting this fall, I will begin travelling to all corners of this state to show our elected officials and Marylanders the great return on the investment being made in us, and calling for a greater investment going forward.

Morgan is ideally poised to become one of the most exciting urban research universities in the nation, where faculty tackle many of the intractable problems that are vexing to our communities, our physical and mental health, our schools, and our natural environment. It is a place that is on the cusp of instructional innovation, where our students will be fully engaged partners in the learning process, not merely receptacles of information.

Morgan stands ready to grow Maryland's and the nation's future in science, sustainability, engineering, information technology and social justice. As we approach our sesquicentennial, I invite the state to invest more robustly in this great jewel and stand proudly on this campus in 2017 in partnership with us as we show how that investment is enabling the state of Maryland, in so many critical areas, to lead the world.

David Wilson is president of Morgan State University. His e-mail is david.wilson@morgan.edu.

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