Wallace Loh, newly appointed president of University of Maryland, doesn't start the job until Nov. 1 but already has a hefty to-do list. Under past presidents Dan Mote and Brit Kirwan, Maryland has climbed from a safety school to one of the 20 best public universities in the nation. Loh said in an interview Tuesday that it was too soon to get into specifics about his plans for the university. But if College Park is ever going to fulfill its obsession with cracking the top 10, Loh will need to do the following.
Keep up the culture
If professors at Maryland credit Mote with one thing, it's establishing high standards. Mote called this a "culture of excellence," and the outgoing president was immensely proud of it. Loh needs to keep this culture going if he wants to see more progress.
Where's Wallace? Everywhere, he hopes. The one specific goal the Shanghai-born Loh had was to become a "university without borders," recruiting great international students, and sending other students on study abroad trips.
Get in line with the Purple Line
Mote drove smart transit advocates nuts with his consistent, unyielding opposition to sending the Purple Line down Campus Drive, the university's main road. ("I'm not going to kill the campus to get the Purple Line," he once said.) His administration has made at least three proposals for alternate routes, all of which the Maryland Transit Administration has dismissed as expensive or infeasible. Mote's administration pretty much stood alone in opposition to the route, and Loh needs to quickly figure out a position.
Find a new Debbie Yow (but make sure this one gets along with Gary)
The university might be missing a vice president for research, but the athletics director opening is far more crucial to legions of Terp fans and alumni. Long-time AD Debbie Yow left this summer, heading home to North Carolina State. Yow brought unprecedented success to the Terps (particularly women's teams), but she also regularly clashed with Gary Williams, the legendary men's basketball coach. Loh will need to find an AD who can make nice with Gary, while also figuring out what to with a football team that was 2-10 last year. Loh seems eager to punt on the decision, telling the Baltimore Business Journal he hopes Maryland picks an AD before his arrival.
Improve the libraries
Undergraduates love McKeldin Library because it's pretty and allows food. Graduate students and professors hate it because of cuts in journal subscriptions and a selection that pales in comparison to Maryland's peers. If a library doesn't have the books you need, what's the point?
Make nice with College Park (and make College Park nicer)
Town-gown relations in College Park are frequently frosty, with councilmembers often referring to the university as a "gorilla." Loh's background as a public servant — he was a top adviser to the governor of Washington — should help him navigate the gulf. The recently re-started East Campus development and a drop in crime could reinvigorate the city's image, but the council and the university administration will need to work together. Loh said he would live in College Park — Mote's failure to do so grated community members. (By the way, students would appreciate it if Loh could find $90,000 so Santa Fe could install some sprinklers and reopen.)
Bank on Annapolis
Loh's policy background could also help in persuading the General Assembly to throw more funding the university's way. Mote was successful in bringing the university's fund-raising operations out of the stone age, but the recommendations of a blue-ribbon report issued in 2008 advocating for $700 million in additional funds for the university over the next decade have yet to be adopted.
Quell the riots
After a four-year dry spell, students returned to their rioting ways after the Terps' victory over Duke this year. Loh will be under renewed pressure to stop the ravagings of Route 1. At least he'll have a new police chief to help him.