Big Ten academic committee reaches out to UM

While the University of Maryland won't be able to reap most of the rewards of joining the Big Ten athletic conference until the move becomes official in July 2014, it will start benefiting from its academic counterpart — the Committee on Institutional Cooperation — this year.

Officials from the university and the CIC met this week in College Park to start hammering out the details in preparation for this July, when Maryland and Rutgers University are set to join the 13-member cooperative, which includes the 12 Big Ten schools plus the University of Chicago.

"The CIC [leaders] have been here for the last couple of days just basically helping us understand how we get plugged into the opportunities that the CIC offers: collaboration and leveraging resources across all these peer institutions," Maryland Provost Mary Ann Rankin said Tuesday. "It's very complicated, it's very deep, it's very broad. [There are] lots of pieces to it."

Roughly 75 people, from students to Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, met individually with CIC representatives, and another 200 to 300 were introduced to the cooperative through dinners and receptions, said Barbara McFadden Allen, the CIC's executive director.

The idea in these early stages is to plant the seeds of future relationships.

"Everything that we do begins with these relationships we have with people on the campuses," Allen said. She said trust is vital "if you're going to actually rely on another CIC university for fundamental services you provide to your students, whether it's library service or" information technology.

The CIC, founded in 1958, gives participants a forum for sharing ideas and assets, including international and online courses, library holdings and contracts for services and goods such as mattresses.

Banding together gives the CIC members greater purchasing power to negotiate deals and access to expertise on other campuses, representatives said.

In addition to Chicago, the group includes Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Pennsylvania State universities and the Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

Nebraska was the last to join, in 2011. Before that, the CIC hadn't gained a member since 1990, when Penn State came on board.

"We don't grow very much at CIC," Allen said. She planned to head to Rutgers in two weeks with her team for similar introductions.

As a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland belonged to the International Academic Collaborative.

The main difference between the two organizations — aside from size — is that the ACCIAC is focused on undergraduate work while the CIC emphasizes graduate opportunities, according to David G. Brown, a former provost at Wake Forest University who helepd found the ACCIAC about a decade ago.

He said the CIC is a "more comprehensive academic collaboration," with five times the staff of the ACCIAC.

But he said that doesn't speak to quality.

"We just are of a different character," Brown said.

But Rankin, the Maryland provost, said they're "completely different" groups, with the CIC offering Maryland students more.

The only challenge she sees ahead, she said, is "finding the time to take advantage of everything as soon as we'd like to."

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