Over the past 10 years, Morgan State University has been pushing itself to become one of Maryland’s top universities, and one of the top historically Black colleges and universities in America.
So far, its efforts have paid off. The school, located in Northeast Baltimore, achieved the R2 Carnegie Classification, which indicates high research activity, ahead of schedule in 2018 (the school had hoped to reach the classification by 2021). It raised its graduation rate 17% over 11 years, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, grants and gifts in recent years, including a historic $40 million donation from MacKenzie Scott.
Now, Morgan State is dreaming even bigger. With the release of the university’s new strategic plan, “Transformation Morgan 2030: Leading the Future,” the institution is aspiring to become an R1 institution, which indicates “very high” research output and is considered by many to be the “pinnacle of higher education,” according to the strategic plan.
That ranking is only held by two universities in Maryland — the University of Maryland, College Park, and Johns Hopkins University.
Becoming an R1 university is just one of six key goals outlined in the strategic plan, which enumerates the school’s top objectives through 2030.
The other goals are:
- Enhance student success and well-being by continuing to improve graduation and retention rates and increasing enrollment, especially among adult learners studying virtually.
- Implement faculty ascendency and staff development initiatives by launching professional and pedagogical development programs, establishing at least 10 endowed professorships and increasing faculty recruitment.
- Expand and improve a campus-wide infrastructure by constructing several new buildings, improving campus safety, improving information technology infrastructure and increasing fundraising efforts.
- Serve as the premier anchor institution for Baltimore city and beyond by implementing a comprehensive approach to community engagement for the university and completing research that explores the city’s challenges.
- Accelerate global education initiatives and expanding the university’s international footprint by increasing both the number of international students studying at Morgan State and the number of partnerships Morgan State has with international universities and institutions.
Several of these goals have been priorities of the university since its previous strategic plan launched in 2011. But they have renewed importance as Morgan State works towards the R1 Carnegie Classification.
Recruiting and retaining highly qualified professors, for example, will increase Morgan State’s research output. So, too, will improving working conditions for those professors, who, in that past, were required to teach more courses than faculty at other research universities typically are.
“We cannot load our faculty down with that kind of coursework when you have other institutions … where faculty might teach one course per semester or two” said President David Wilson, who has led the university since 2010.
Improving the campus facilities will also encourage research output, Wilson said, because faculty will have state-of-the-art spaces in which to complete their work.
New and renovated spaces on campus will serve to encourage student success, as well. Among the buildings set to be constructed at Morgan State over the next 10 years are a new dormitory, to accommodate the number of students who want to live on-campus, a Health and Human Services Building and a new Science Complex.
When the university opened its Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management building in 2015, Wilson said he could feel a palpable shift in the attitudes of the students using the facility.
“They walked differently, because the pride was evident. They almost exuded a higher level of confidence,” he recalled. “They were walking in a space (that sent the message) that they were extremely deserving. The previous space didn’t give them that message. You have to send messages to the students that, ‘you’re the best in the world.’”
Expanding Morgan State’s global presence is a newer goal, one that came about when Wilson noticed how strongly his students were affected by their study abroad journeys.
“They would come back as transformed students, after having gone to South America, Africa, China, Europe,” he said. “They were connecting with the world beyond reading about it in their textbooks, and we realized, this has to become a strategic part of growing the future.”
When Wilson first became president of Morgan State, only a handful of students studied abroad each year, he said, but that number rose to around 250 just prior to the pandemic.
Now, the university hopes to double the number of international students it welcomes onto its campus each year, from 400 to at least 800, and continue to expand its international partnerships, such as its program with Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund, which funds Nigerian doctoral and post-doctoral students studying at Morgan State.
The university will work to execute these strategic goals, which were approved unanimously by the university’s independent Board of Regents, over the coming years in an effort to continue to strengthen its research footprint, and create better and better outcomes for its students.
“We have no desire to be the largest institution,” Wilson said. “We just simply want to be the best.”