Dr. William E. (Brit) Kirwan, Chancellor Emeritus of the University System of Maryland, has been appointed as Senior Advisor to TPSE Math, effective August 11, 2015.
Kirwan’s appointment is especially gratifying to the members of TPSE Math after his early and ongoing work to improve key aspects of post-secondary mathematics education, including the effectiveness of teaching, making use of new technologies and techniques, and efforts to base funding rates in public colleges and universities on quality and completion rates rather than entrance statistics.
He has already been an important partner in many TPSE Math discussions and activities, beginning as host of our early regional meeting at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on November 15, 2014. During his welcoming remarks, he embraced the efforts of TPSE Math and offered a positive view of the project’s objectives. “What’s so notable about this effort,” he said, “is that these distinguished mathematicians have had the audacity to ask some very important questions. As a mathematician myself, and a chancellor of a public university, I suggest that these are questions our mathematics community must address and answer.”
At that meeting, Kirwan was asked what were the most significant problems his own university system was trying to overcome. He answered that the objective of many of his reforms was to make lower-division education, primarily in STEM courses, more effective.
“Important parts of that work have already begun,” he said at the Maryland meeting. “Gone are many of our traditional lecture-recitation courses. In their place are active learning and technology-enhanced experiments.”
Highlights of the meeting included reports by several of the Maryland system’s leaders describing early successes. At Frostburg State, for example, an emporium model is credited with improving the pass rate from 60% to 80%. Towson University has reduced lecture time while improving its pass rate from 60% to 85%.
During recent months, Kirwan has been active in building a partnership between the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and TPSE Math. A central goal of this partnership is to develop alternative pathways in mathematics education as an instrument for improving both the quality and completion rates of degrees, primarily in lower division courses of public colleges and universities. TPSE Math plans to support this partnership as one of its top-priority projects as it begins the transformation from information gathering to strategic actions.
Kirwan received a B.A. degree from the University of Kentucky and an M.S. and PhD in mathematics from Rutgers University. He has been a member of the University of Maryland Department of Mathematics for 48 years.
He served as President of the University of Maryland (1988-98) and Ohio State University (1998-2002) and as Chancellor of the University System of Maryland (2002-2115). Among other honors, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000, and he received the Carnegie Corporation Leadership Award in 2009 and the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence in 2010.