Newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose nomination spurred protests in Washington and nationwide, has ties to the University of Maryland.
In 2001, Michael Kaiser, then-president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, created the Kennedy Center Institute of Arts Management. DeVos and her husband, Richard, donated $22.5 million to the Kennedy Center in 2010 so Kaiser could further his work in supporting arts management initiatives. The institute was then renamed the DeVos Institute of Arts Management in their honor.
Kaiser and the institute moved to this university in 2014, linking with the arts and humanities college. University President Wallace Loh deemed the move part of the initiative to make this university a "STEAM" institution — supporting STEM and the arts.
"We are a very, very strong STEM institution, and one of my goals has always been to make it also a STEAM institution — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics," Loh said in 2013. "One step in this grand strategic vision is of course to bring in a superstar."
The institute provides training and support for arts managers and boards that employ artists, according to its website. This year, the institute has sponsored a series of debates surrounding the role of technology in the arts, and also announced this week a free, six-week online course for arts managers, students and "arts enthusiasts around the globe."
The DeVos Institute receives donations from funding partners worldwide, according to its website, including the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, the State Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies. DeVos currently serves on the board for the institute, according to the DeVos Family Foundation website.
The arts and humanities college at this university also receive support from organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, which have given about $2.5 million for research, performances and projects since 2010. President Trump's administration has debuted plans to defund the two endowments during his time in office.
While DeVos is known for her philanthropic donations to education, she has never attended nor been employed at a public school. DeVos' nomination by Trump to the office of education secretary led to widespread criticism, with opponents calling her inexperienced and unqualified. Democratic lawmakers have also criticized her support of charter schools and vouchers, which they say fail to address achievement gaps and segregate students by class and race.
Her confirmation required a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence.
University administrators were unable to provide comment before the time of publication.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story referred to the "arts and humanities department." There is no arts and humanities department, only a college. This article has been updated.