Maryland, Rutgers join academic consortium before conference
CHAMPAIGN — The Big Ten's two newest members will become part of its academic consortium a full year before they formally join the athletic conference.
The Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the Big Ten's academic arm, has voted unanimously to accept the University of Maryland and Rutgers University as members, effective July 2013.
The two schools are scheduled to become part of the Big Ten Conference for the 2014-15 school year, though the exact date has to be worked out with the Atlantic Coast Conference, where Maryland is a member, and the Big East Conference, which includes Rutgers.
Both universities submitted letters last week formally requesting CIC membership, following the announcement of their intent to join the Big Ten. The letters outlined their credentials, including their status as land-grant universities with major research portfolios.
The vote took place Sunday in Indianapolis at a meeting of the provosts from the 13 current CIC members — the 12 Big Ten schools plus the University of Chicago.
"By every measure they stack up very, very well," said Barbara Allen, executive director of the Champaign-based CIC. "It just looks like a very natural fit. We're excited about a bigger footprint for CIC. We think that benefits all of the member institutions."
The CIC encourages universities to share their expertise in research, leverage campus resources and collaborate on student and faculty programs.
Allen said Maryland and Rutgers are both members of the Association of American Universities — representing the nation's top research universities — and have similar size, research scope and academic quality as other CIC schools.
Faculty at the two schools already have collaborations with several Big Ten campuses — including the Global Institute for BioExploration, created by Rutgers and the UI to promote natural, sustainable medicines in developing countries.
"I think their fit on the academic side is excellent," said UI Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who voted with other Big Ten academic leaders to accept Rutgers and Maryland last month.
Maryland is quite similar to the UI, a land-grant university with roughly the same number of faculty and "real strengths all around," including physics and engineering, Wise said.
In terms of rankings, both schools fall within Big Ten norms. Among public universities, Maryland ranks 19th and Rutgers 25th, placing both ahead of Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana and Nebraska.
AAU membership was "critically important for all of us," Wise added. (Nebraska was a member of the AAU when it joined the Big Ten in 2010, though members have since voted to drop it.)
With Pitt's planned departure for the ACC, Rutgers was the last remaining AAU member in the Big East, said Richard Edwards, executive vice president for academic affairs at Rutgers.
"We're really pleased that we will be able to engage in a very close collaboration through the CIC with other major research universities," Edwards said Tuesday. "We think we have much to gain from that, but we also think we have some things to bring to the partnership."
Rutgers is home to the nation's top-ranked chemistry department in terms of federal funding, a worldwide molecular database, cell and DNA repositories for the National Institutes of Health and a national transportation center, he said.
It currently has no medical campus but will soon absorb two medical schools, a cancer institute and affiliated health colleges when it takes over the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey on July 1.
Its philosophy and sociology departments and dance programs are also highly ranked, he said.
Edwards said most Rutgers faculty see the move to the Big Ten as a positive step and are "elated" about joining the CIC. The Big East does not have an academic consortium, he said.
"They see it as a tremendous benefit for Rutgers. We could not find a better home."
Maryland Provost Mary Ann Rankin called the CIC an "extraordinary partnership" that is unique from others across the country. The ACC has a consortium, but it tends to focus on student activities, "nowhere near as deep or rich in terms of partnerships and opportunities as the CIC," she said.
"Many of the faculty are more excited about that than they are about joining the athletic side of it," she said.
For its part, Maryland's location within 25 miles of the nation's capital offers access to internships and research partnerships with federal agencies and other institutions, she said. One example: a new Cybersecurity Center, a partnership with government and industry offering educational programs and developing technologies to defend against cyber attacks.
Not all Maryland fans are happy about leaving the ACC and its basketball rivalries, Rankin said. But even though the ACC has some academic powerhouses — including Virginia, North Carolina and Duke — "the Big Ten is more uniformly like us," with all but one school a public research university, she said.
Bigger can be better when schools join forces to pursue multimillion-dollar federal research grants. For example, the UI landed WaterCAMPWS (a science and technology center looking at water purification and funded by the National Science Foundation) by partnering with institutions such as Yale University and Rose-Hulman.
"Some of these big $50 million, $100 million proposals where you need multi-disciplinary, multi-institutions involved, now (Maryland and Rutgers) will not only have expertise from us and the other CIC institutions, we will have their expertise as well," said Matt Wheeler, UI animal sciences professor and faculty representative to the Big Ten.
"It will make us much more competitive when you look at these big type of proposals like Blue Waters or WaterCAMPWS," he said.
One of the multi-institutional projects under way focuses on traumatic brain injury, and it was the CIC that organized the group and connected them with some Ivy League schools too, Wheeler said.
For students, the addition of two more institutions means more access to materials and courses. A Rutgers student can now access materials from the UI's library. A UI student may take a course in Maryland online or in person, said UI Provost Ilesanmi Adesida.
A statistical comparison of members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and Maryland and Rutgers:
|Institution||FY2011 research expenses||2011 full-time faculty||2011 full-time students||2011 full-time graduate students||2011 full-time undergraduate students||2011 library volumes||2011 Ph.D.'s awarded|
|University of Chicago||$405,833,199||3,231||12,457||7,137||5,320||10,729,052||395|
|Michigan State University||$356,765,036||2,577||41,596||8,302||33,294||6,892,912||494|
|Grand Total (CIC + Maryland and Rutgers)||$9,370,087,663||44,356||506,669||114,943||391,726||107,441,806||8,659