The newly appointed president of the University of Maryland, College Park said he wants to increase retention and graduation, keep the school affordable, raise academic excellence, and change a culture that has been criticized for not being welcoming to minority students.
Darryll Pines has spent more than two decades as a professor and dean at Maryland’s flagship university, and already plans to confront some of the issues that have marred the last two years at the College Park campus, including declining minority enrollment.
In remarks that were also humorous and self-deprecating, the dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering said in a press conference Friday that he wanted to build on the successes of past presidents.
“I want to take our university to the very next level in every area: community engagement, academic excellence, high scholarly research and things that do public good for all humans,” said Pines, who takes over July 1.
One of the goals of his presidency, he said, will be to increase students access to college and make it affordable for as many students as possible. He also promised to increase diversity at the campus. The percentage of first-time black students enrolling at the college fell to a five-year low between 2013 and 2018.
Black students made up more than a third of the state’s high school graduates in 2018, but only 7.3% of the university’s freshman class that year. Minority students have complained that they don’t feel welcome at the school.
“We must embrace and celebrate our diversity and ensure that every person who comes to Maryland can share in that diversity equally," he said.
Pines will be the university’s second black president. As engineering dean, he increased diversity at the engineering school by partnering with high schools in Baltimore City, and other areas of the state to upgrade the science, technology, engineering and math curriculum at those schools. The college then sent undergraduates to those schools as ambassadors to help boost interest from women and under-represented groups. While the efforts took time, the diversity increased significantly in every area of the engineering school, he said.
Pines emphasized the role of a California land grant university, and a key scholarship, in helping him get the an education that changed the course of his life.
“It made it happen. That is what set me on this path that ultimately brought me here to you. I strongly believe in education," he said. "It is the only thing that equalizes everything and allows everyone to achieve their dreams and their careers and it happened to me.”
He noted that he signed his job offer on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Lincoln, he said, signed the federal law establishing land grant universities.
An engineer and rocket scientist, Pines has spent his entire career at College Park. He arrived in March 1995 as an assistant professor in the engineering department, never imagining he would some day become presiden of the school.
“I just wanted tenure,” he said, laughing.
Pines was chosen out of a field of 99 applicants. Four finalists were sent to the Board of Regents for consideration, but the search committee’s first choice was Pines. Pines made $383,000 as dean in 2019; his salary as president was not available Friday.
Pines will succeed Wallace Loh who has led the University of Maryland since 2010. The university has 40,000 students and 10,000 faculty.
The chancellor of the university system, Jay A. Perman, said Pines was chosen, in part, because of his broad support throughout the campus, not just from the engineering department.
Pines talked of his love for College Park and the debt he feels to it for his career and for educating his own children.
“The university is deeply part of me,” he said.