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Flashpoint for Change
Flashpoint for Change

As students and faculty cope with COVID-19 and ongoing racial injustice, the University of Maryland is harnessing technology to reconnect its campus community.

T oday, the University of Maryland at College Park still faces many of the urgent challenges that confronted Dr. Darryll J. Pines when he stepped into his role as president of the University on July 1, 2020. At the time, the campus community was adapting to virtual education, coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, and was ignited by the nationwide movement against racial injustice.

“I realized that my job as President is to use this moment to really, truly, positively affect change,” Pines remembers. Early on, he laid out his two main priorities for the University of Maryland: “First, excellence in everything that we do. Second, creating an inclusive, multicultural community where everyone can be successful.”

With COVID-19 precautions leaving many physically isolated, the University had to lean on digital technology to reconnect students with their campus community. TerpEngage—a digital platform powered by—proved critical for providing services like virtual advising and connecting students and faculty with campus resources.

“It’s a tool that allows for data analytics to be able to track the performance of students,” Pines explains, “ensuring that we could be proactive in providing them support services.”

To build a better university community, Pines needed to make it clear that he was listening and that he wanted students to have a seat at the table. His administration invited students and faculty to a series of ongoing meetings to share concerns and solutions, identifying 25 critical issues against which the school would measure progress.

Jehnae Linkins, a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering, was one of five student leaders involved in shaping the University’s key priorities when Pines first issued the call for partnership. As president of the Black Graduate Student Union, Linkins saw an opportunity to make her voice heard and build a better campus community for future generations.

“To see change, you have to be a part of the change,” Linkins says. “It takes time, but you have to have determined people who are willing to be along for that ride.”

This film is part of Our Own Hands, a partnership between and The Atlantic’s in-house creative studio, Atlantic Re:think, illuminating stories of Black individuals, organizations, and communities committed to solving systemic problems, one win at a time.