The University System of Maryland is renaming its Center for Academic Innovation in honor of system Chancellor Brit Kirwan, who will step down from his position June 30 after 13 years.
“It was seen as one very fitting tribute to the chancellor as his retirement approaches,” university system spokesman Mike Lurie said.
System officials announced the new name, the William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, at a gala earlier this month, as well as the $3 million fundraising total secured to support the center.
“Dr. Kirwan’s primary interest and vision for the state of Maryland has been to increase access, affordability and quality of higher education,” said M.J. Bishop, the center’s director. “Given that that is also the mission of the Center for Academic Innovation, it seemed to make sense to honor Dr. Kirwan’s legacy and rename the center as a tribute to his hard work and inspiration.”
The money will go toward establishing an endowment for the center, Bishop said.
“We haven’t yet decided how exactly we’ll use the funds, but however we do decide to use them, they’ll go directly towards fulfilling that student success mission,” she said.
The center works with each of the system institutions on ways to improve education and create teaching techniques through initiatives such as course redesign, open educational resources and online learning.
“Our big, overarching goal is helping Maryland reach its 55 percent college completion goal,” Bishop said. “That’s the governor’s goal, the country’s goal, to increase the number of individuals with postsecondary degrees in order to be successful in jobs and in life.”
The center brings together one representative from each institution for monthly meetings of the Academic Transformation Advisory Council, where the group shares best practices.
“CAI tries to provide some sort of collective guidance and structure for all the campuses,” said Ben Bederson, who represents this university on the council. “We could try to do this on our own at College Park, but there’s a dozen campuses and we can all learn from each other.”
Bederson said having Kirwan’s name on the center will bring it national prominence.
“Brit Kirwan has been an incredibly respected name throughout the country, so the fact that the CAI will now have Kirwan’s name attached to it will give the center some extra credibility,” he said. “People may not know what CAI is, but they’ll know who Brit Kirwan is.”
Under Kirwan, the system opened the center in 2012.
“Thanks to the power of adaptive learning, made possible by intelligent software, we are opening the possibility of reducing the costs and improving the quality of higher education delivery,” Kirwan said in a statement. “The Center for Academic Innovation is at the forefront of these efforts and I am deeply honored to have my name associated with its important work.”