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Beloved Life Sciences Director Reid Compton Steps Down From Scholars

Life Sciences Director

Reid Compton, a longtime fixture of the Life Sciences Scholars program, has stepped down from his role as program director after nearly 10 years.

Compton was only the second person to head the Life Sciences program, which has existed since College Park Scholars’ founding about 25 years ago. Though a trained biomedical scientist, Compton made the decision to keep the program’s broad approach to the life sciences to include natural history, evolution and conservation, rather than restrict it to a premedical program. He wanted students to appreciate that there is more to the living world than humans and their diseases.

“Reid has guided Life Sciences with skill, steadiness and fierce dedication to our core values of applied learning, professional development and intentional community,” says Marilee Lindemann, executive director of College Park Scholars. “His efforts have built reservoirs of good will among the program’s many friends across campus. He has further inspired deep loyalty among students.”

Compton’s legacy is indeed rooted in the personal impact he has made on students.

“What makes Reid stand out is that he invests deeply in the individual student experience,” says Jess Wilke, Life Sciences assistant director, who worked alongside Compton for five years. “He will drop anything, at any time of day, to be there for a student.”

Robert Infantino, associate dean of undergraduate education in the College of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences, agrees. “Reid has had a transformational impact on the program, growing it from its pioneer roots and elevating its reputation as one of the premier living–learning programs on our campus,” Infantino wrote in an email announcing Compton’s news earlier this year. “He has directly touched the lives of a half-generation of university students in ways large and small. That’s a lot of letters of recommendation, but more importantly, a sizable cohort of great ambassadors for the university, equipped to embrace the next challenges in their lives, their education and their careers.”

Such has been Compton’s impact on students that at his April retirement party, more than 270 people attended—including Life Sciences alumni from 2011 through 2018. Countless other alumni sent heartfelt messages thanking Compton for his guidance and caring while they were students.

Due to his many contributions toward his students’ education and development, Compton was recently recognized with the Kirwan Undergraduate Education Award at the university’s 2018 Faculty & Staff Convocation.

Working closely with students

Compton is being replaced by Beth Parent, a lecturer with the University of Maryland’s Department of Biology. She most recently served as director of the biological sciences program at the Universities at Shady Grove.

“What interested me most in the Life Sciences director position was the idea of working closely with students,” Parent explains. “I’m excited to meet them as freshmen and help them in those early days of figuring out how college works, then continuing to hear what’s going on as they move on in their college careers.”

A former aerospace engineer who changed careers after realizing she wanted to get back into science, Parent also looks forward to guiding students with career considerations. She notes her previous position at the Universities at Shady Grove—during which she assisted students transitioning from community college to university and offered them career advice along the way—will aid her in this new position. She also comes into the role with some familiarity with the Life Sciences program, having known Compton for nearly 18 years and having even taught a Scholars colloquium course at one point.

As for Compton, he will continue at the university in his role as director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Biology. He will also remain closely involved with the Life Sciences program, teaching the sophomore colloquium this academic year.

“It’s time for someone new, with new ideas, to lead Life Sciences,” Compton says. But, he says, “I’m pleased to have had a role in promoting the academic and social success of our students. My students have been significant influences in my life, and I hope I’ve been a significant influence in theirs.”

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