Education Heavyweights Bring Insight for Future
Two of Maryland’s most prominent higher education figures visited the region Tuesday to meet with local government and business leaders and discuss how to improve higher education to lay the groundwork for economic growth in St. Mary’s County.
Dr. William “Britt” Kirwan, chancellor of the University of Maryland, and Dr. Patricia Florestano, former regent board chair for the UMD, former secretary of education and the current head of the Southern Maryland Higher Education Council, attended a policy roundtable hosted at St. Mary’s College of Maryland by The Patuxent Partnership.
“The purpose of the meeting is really to understand the opportunities in Southern Maryland for some significant advances for economic growth,” Dr. Kirwan said.
Dr. Florestano moderated the discussion throughout the day. “It went better than I thought,” she said, noting that she found herself reigning in the group’s spontaneous brainstorming in order to stay on schedule.
Florestano, who was asked by Congressman Steny Hoyer and Del. John Bohanan to head the local higher education council, said she plans to take the ideas expressed Tuesday to the council for discussion early next month. She said she is especially concerned with the lack of a local full, four-year higher education opportunity for bachelors of science.
Dr. Kirwan said he is also concerned about improving the quality of primary and secondary education in the county to ensure students are on a good path by the time they reach college. He credited Del. Bohanan, chairman of the House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee’s Education and Economic Development Subcommittee, with thinking strategically in this direction. “He is, of course, a very good thinker on these issues, very passionate about Southern Maryland,” he said.
Joe Anderson, who represented the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center board of governors at the meeting, said St. Mary’s County has a unique opportunity to integrate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) throughout its entire school curriculum and is “uniquely situated in the country to be a STEM community.”
Dr. Ed Barrett, who represented the board of the Pax Partnership, said such education is necessary to bring more high-tech manufacturing to the county to capture contracts from Naval Air Station Patuxent River “so that the flow of money doesn’t skip like a rock over the pond.” Dr. Barrett said that education is just one component of a successful economic shift for the region, noting that zoning changes and infrastructure investment will also be necessary.
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