University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Jay A. Perman has appointed Eileen Abel, PhD, as executive director of the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland (USMSM). The appointment comes after an extensive, nationwide search chaired by USM Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Joann Boughman, and a search committee which also included local business and community leaders.
Abel, the first full-time executive director named at USMSM since the USM took over operations at the center in March 2019, will begin her service on December 1. She replaces USMSM Chief Academic Officer Ben O. Latigo, who had been serving as interim executive director.
Abel has served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) since June 2015 and has more than 35 years of experience in higher education. The college remains a top choice for students in Southern Maryland seeking a certificate, associate’s degree, and opportunities to earn and transfer credits to four-year institutions.
Key among her CSM accomplishments have been overseeing the college-to-work pathways in engineering and cyber security with local military facilities; developing internship support for students engaged in research with the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), and working with St. Mary’s County Public Schools to create an early college academy at CSM’s Leonardtown campus for fall 2021. In providing leadership for faculty-led academic departments, the library, tutoring center, and other important divisions, she has managed an overall budget of $22.5 Million.
Before joining CSM, Abel was vice president of academic affairs at Raritan Valley Community College, a regional community college in Somerville, N.J. While there, she provided leadership for faculty-led academic departments, academic program review and assessment, academic support services, career advising, and transfer agreements.
Abel holds a doctorate in English from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she also earned an M.A. in English. She earned her B.A. (international studies) at the College of Wooster in Ohio.
“A few months ago, I had my first opportunity as chancellor to visit USMSM and see firsthand how valuable the center is for students in Southern Maryland—and how critical to the region’s innovation leadership. I’m delighted that Eileen Abel will be the center’s next director, expanding its influence and impact,” USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman said. “I’m also grateful to Ben Latigo for his service as USMSM’s interim director. I know his excellent stewardship will help Eileen more quickly operationalize an ambitious short- and long-term vision.”
“The USM's overarching goal is to build lives and families and educate citizens—a goal to which I have dedicated my entire professional life with community colleges,” Abel said. “The system’s regional higher education centers offer a unique model of access to bachelor completion and graduate programs, and USMSM will soon have the added advantage of a third building, currently under construction, that will offer high tech research opportunities. I look forward to partnering with a committed advisory board, CSM, university partners, and local community leaders in making USMSM a vibrant hub for education, research, and collaboration to sustain those lives and families.”
Formerly the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC), the oldest of Maryland’s regional higher education centers, USMSM became the USM’s third regional higher education center on March 1, 2019. USMSM offers more than 40 degree and certificate programs from five USM institutions (Bowie State University, Salisbury University, Towson University, the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland Global Campus). USMSM also offers more than 50 additional degree and certificate programs offered by four non-USM institutions. Additionally, four educational partners – the Florida Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Notre Dame of Maryland University and Webster University – sponsor degree and certificate programs at USMSM.
Programs are primarily offered at the graduate level. These include education, management, systems engineering, engineering, flight test engineering, social work, and more. Undergraduate programs offered include electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, criminal justice, social work, business, and more.
USMSM has broken ground on a new Academic and Innovation Center, an $87 million, 84,000-square foot academic and research facility that will nearly double the educational footprint of USMSM, create autonomous systems research space, and spur economic activity and job growth. The new building is scheduled to open in the fall 2021.
“The search committee was thoroughly impressed by Eileen Abel’s credentials, and her existing, strong roots in southern Maryland,” said Boughman, who coordinated the search process with University of Maryland, College Park President Mary Ann Rankin. “She is known as a highly skilled and amicable leader, ideal qualities for the initial, permanent director of USMSM in these years as USM’s newest regional center. I would like to express my appreciation to the search committee for its work of the past several months, and the stewardship over USMSM by interim director Dr. Ben Latigo since March 2019.”
USM regional centers are the result of a visionary partnership between USM and campus leaders, elected officials, and business professionals.
Established more than 20 years ago, the concept of the USM regional centers is unique nationally: These are not “satellite” campuses of a single university, but rather conveniently and strategically located sites where multiple universities deliver some of their most in-demand undergraduate, graduate, professional degree, and certificate programs. They are nimble, full-service extensions of the USM that respond to meet the educational needs of students and workforce needs of employers and that are—above all—an affordable alternative to traditional 4-year pathways.
The USM regional centers offer degree programs through partner universities that allow students the opportunity to live, work, and study close to home. Students at USM regional centers are taught by the same professors, take the same courses, and have the same curriculum as those enrolled in the same program at the participating universities and receive their degree from the university where they are enrolled.
The USMSM is an asset to the Southern Maryland community, providing residents, businesses, and local governments with both an educational resource and a hub of economic development.
With entrepreneurial support from numerous programs, including potential venture capital funding from the USM's Maryland Momentum Fund, the USM stands ready to serve as an engaged partner in support of the emerging research and development ecosystem in Southern Maryland.
The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.
Systemwide, student enrollment exceeds 172,000. The USM and its institutions compete successfully nearly $1.5 billion in external grants and contracts annually. USM institutions and programs are among the nation's best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit www.usmd.edu.
- Staff News