College Park Scholars was created with the goal of transforming the student experience at the University of Maryland. The idea: a program that combined elements of both student affairs and academic affairs, where students not only lived together but also attended class together as part of a predetermined curriculum.
In fall 1994, the first class of Scholars students arrived in College Park to give life to that idea.
As Scholars turns 25 this year, the following timeline tracks key moments in the program’s history:
College Park Scholars, under the direction of Dr. Nancy Shapiro, launches with 450 students split across four programs: Arts; International Studies; Life Sciences; and Science, Technology and Society.
Scholars was the brainchild of William E. “Brit” Kirwan, then–president of the University of Maryland; Ira Berlin, then–dean of Undergraduate Studies; Patricia Mielke, then–director of resident life; and Linda Clement, then–director of undergraduate admissions. In an era when the student affairs and academic affairs functions remained predominantly siloed, Scholars represented an unusual joint partnership between the two.
According to interviews with, and writings by, the program founders, Scholars was created out of a need for a new kind of college experience. Universities were being criticized for not providing an experience worth the cost of tuition. For the University of Maryland specifically, enrollment was down in the early 1990s.
The founders of College Park Scholars set out to create a unique program—one that, according to Shapiro, centered on cross-disciplinary programming, allowing students to explore opportunities and topics regardless of their primary course of study. Additionally, the program sought to establish an admission option with more exclusivity, and therefore attract more competitive, high-quality applicants to the university, with a higher rate of freshmen retention. In recent years, Scholars’ one-year retention rate has been near 97 percent.
Scholars adds three new programs: Environmental Studies (now Environment, Technology and Economy), Public Leadership and Advocates for Children.
Sponsored by the College of Education, Advocates for Children was designed for students who wanted to explore an active role in the improvement of the lives of children and, by extension, greater society. The program’s goals: to examine advocacy as a means of taking a reasoned stand—activism as a means of not only caring about problems, but also addressing them with energy and intelligence. Scholars students studied the social, educational, legal, technological and political facets that affect the lives of children, combining ongoing efforts to make improvements in these areas with deep concern for social justice.
Pictured here, Advocates for Children Scholars gather in Annapolis to lobby during the 2008 Terp Pride Day (PHOTO: Samantha Fowler).
The College of Education concluded the program in 2010, after having awarded 866 academic citations.
Service Day—now an annual tradition—is introduced.
The first Service Day involved just 10 students, who painted curbs throughout the City of Takoma Park, Md. During Service Day 2019, some 950 first-year students—accompanied by dozens of faculty and peer mentors—performed a day of service at 28 sites in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, Baltimore City, and Washington, DC—an estimated 4,601 combined hours’ worth of volunteer work in a single day.
Also in 1996:
The Cambridge Dining Hall is approved for renovation into much-needed classroom and multi-purpose space to accommodate the growth of Scholars—which now boasts more than 700 first-year students.
Scholars receives the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education grant.
The Advocates for Children program begins the Lakeland STARS tutoring program for local elementary school students.
And, another Scholars program, American Cultures (later known as Culture of the Americas), launches.
American Cultures, sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities, challenged students to examine their own identity and to reevaluate their assumption about people who may be considered different from themselves. The curriculum centered on ways to discuss and address issues facing America’s diverse society, as well as the ways in which success in any number of professions is dependent upon an understanding of American cultures. ARHU closed down American Cultures in 2010, after having awarded 616 academic citations.
Scholars launches its annual Academic Showcase, as well as the first iteration of the Scholars website.
Science, Discovery and the Universe is added to the array of Scholars programs.
Scholars unveils its 10th program, Business, Society and Economy.
Dr. Katherine McAdams, associate professor in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, is appointed Scholars executive director, as Shapiro moves on to become associate vice-chancellor for academic affairs for the University System of Maryland.
During this time, Scholars is recognized as an exemplary living-learning community by the American Association for Higher Education’s Joint Task Force on Student Learning.
Advocates for Children Scholars student Kevin Baxter establishes the first annual “Step Up to Bat” charity softball tournament as his capstone project.
Rebranded in recent years as Scholars’ annual kickball tournament, the tradition now features a Scholars-wide charity fundraising competition, the Scholars Cup. In the past six years alone, Scholars Cup fundraising efforts have raised more than $66,749 for assorted charities.
Scholars adds two new programs: Earth, Life and Time (now Science and Global Change), and Media, Self and Society.
This same year, The Academy of Leadership collaborates with Scholars to establish a Scholarship for Leadership and Public Service, founded in memory of Meghan Price.
Meghan, a government and politics major, was a Public Leadership Scholars alum as well as the president of the UMD Student Government Association. She was tragically killed in a car accident during her senior year. The award honors her memory and her own leadership endeavors at the university.
The Cambridge Community Center opens.
Arts Scholars launches its annual Arts Fair, now known as ArtsFest.
The first year’s fair featured a Renaissance theme. ArtsFest is now a regular part of annual Maryland Day festivities... and most emphatically does not follow a Renaissance theme.
The Maryland Association for Higher Education honors Scholars as an innovative and effective program and “a natural lab for innovation and experimentation.”
U.S. News and World Report ranks College Park Scholars third in the nation in its first assessment of "Programs that Work."
Greig Stewart joins Scholars as the new executive director, stepping down from his associate dean position at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Lakeland STARS becomes a Scholars-wide program, open to all students interested in tutoring local elementary school kids.
A Maryland Governor’s Proclamation and a House of Delegates Citation recognize Scholars’ 10th Annual Service Day and the 30,000 hours of combined service performed across more than 100 sites.
Scholars launches its own annual awards ceremony, introducing six awards for Scholars students.
The awards included the Beth and John Pattinson Award for Creativity; the Berlin Writing Award; the Katherine McAdams Leadership Award; the Peres Award for Study Abroad; the Nancy and Ira Shapiro Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award; and the College Park Scholars Tri-Star Award. These awards, inspired by the founders of Scholars, are exclusive to Scholars students.
Scholars “Discovery” program collaborates with the Library of Congress and McKeldin Library to launch a three-credit research course.
Meanwhile, the Cambridge Community Center is gifted “Terrapin Scholar.”
A national study by The Boyer Center identifies Scholars as a program that contributes to “persistence in college,” as well as deeming Scholars students as “more aware of knowledge and learning for its own sake than for other motives.”
Lakeland STARS receives a Certificate of Appreciation from the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism.
Since its early days, Lakeland STARS have tutored more than 1,100 elementary school students.
Scholars adds Global Public Health to its array of programs.
Scholars launches the Justice and Legal Thought program.
Dr. Marilee Lindemann, associate professor of English and founding director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies, becomes Scholars’ fourth executive director.
Scholars launches its annual theme to engage students in a shared intellectual experience.
Scholars has leveraged these themes to partner with other campus units and host off-campus guests to discuss various multifaceted problems—such as trash, power and more—with students, faculty and staff in the UMD community.
Scholars student group Scholars Promoting and Revitalizing Care (SPARC) launches its “30 Days Too Late” campaign, resulting in UMD’s Counseling Center adding five new positions.
Another Scholars student group, Scholars in Action, is recognized by UMD’s Office of Community Engagement and awarded the Making a Difference Award.
This academic year, 2019, Scholars marks #ScholarsAt25, 25 years of successfully cultivating the undergraduate experience of its first- and second-year students.
More than 16,000 students have thus far lived and learned in the Cambridge Community as Scholars students.