Fearless Futures

UMD exceeded the record $1.5 billion goal of its Fearless Ideas campaign. Now those funds are changing the university—and the world—for the better.
By Terp Staff | Photos by John T. Consoli and Stephanie S. Cordle

THE END OF FEARLESS IDEAS: THE CAMPAIGN FOR MARYLAND IS JUST THE BEGINNING. The more than $1.5 billion raised—a milestone in the university’s history—isn’t just money for research, scholarships and buildings. It’s an investment to tackle the grand challenges that we all face, from climate change and racial injustice to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Achieving that might not look flashy at first: Gifts big and small support mentorship for first-generation students navigating an unfamiliar world; fresh veggies and a cooking class for an undergraduate struggling with food insecurity; a grant to help a Terp find housing after a family emergency. But these lifelines lead to lifetimes of possibility, putting students on the path today to become tomorrow’s tech disruptors, artistic entrepreneurs and doctors saving lives in the local ER.

Donations also help spark broad, ambitious success, funding competitions that equip students with the skills to eradicate homelessness or cybersecurity risks; endowed professorships that drive advances in quantum computing and violence prevention; and futuristic facilities that empower student and faculty researchers in computer science and engineering.

The transformational effects of this campaign are already evident across campus now and will reverberate around the world, touching generations to come.

The DO GOOD INSTITUTE, generously funded by anonymous benefactors, leads programs, courses and research on social impact, including the annual Do Good Challenge that awards student projects and ventures addressing pressing issues.

ROOTS Africa strives to improve the productivity of small-hold farmers in Africa. We do this by connecting them to agricultural extension agents, experts and trained students, and passing on education, training and knowledge to communities. So far, our five chapters have trained more than 2,000 farmers in Liberia and Uganda in areas such as recordkeeping, cultivation, soil health improvement, animal husbandry and more.

We wouldn’t have reached that number without the help of the Do Good grant. It was a huge step for us. It really is going to move our organization even further to reach remarkable levels.”


Since the pandemic began, the STUDENT CRISIS FUND has distributed more than $2 million in grants to nearly 3,000 students to pay for housing, utilities and other basic necessities.

“Everything happened this year: In January I had surgery. In April I became homeless, then I lost my job. I also didn’t have a car. I needed transportation, so I had to use all my savings. I was in a really bad place. My counselor suggested I try the Student Crisis Fund because I had so much going on. I don’t know how I would have been able to survive without it. It was helpful in a practical sense, but it was extremely encouraging, too.”


The BARRY AND MARY GOSSETT CENTER FOR ACADEMIC AND PERSONAL EXCELLENCE, named for longtime university supporters, prepares student-athletes for post-college life through paid internships, stipends, workshops and mentoring.

“I struggled initially with time management. In the fall, we practice almost every day, and then from January to June, we have a track meet almost every weekend, from Penn State to the University of Nebraska.

I’m thankful to the coaches and academic advisers who guided me every step of the way. In my junior year, I was chosen to be in the first phase of the Gossett Fellows program. I not only got a scholarship, but learned about networking and branding. With those skills, I co-created the Pre-Health Terps Club with two peers to mentor younger student-athletes interested in health careers, and presented the club as my fellowship capstone.

My Gossett Center advisers told me my student-athlete skills were transferrable and to apply for everything—and they were right. After my summer internship at the University of Arizona, my mentor offered me my full-time research position today.

I’m super appreciative for the opportunity to better develop myself as I apply to medical school and work to become a doctor. My parents, who are nurses, taught me to leave the community better than you found it. That’s what I always aim to do.”


The BRENDAN IRIBE CENTER FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, spurred by a leadership gift from a Terp co-founder of Oculus VR, is a hub for innovation in virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision.

“We are working toward the next generation of true 3D displays. They produce images that seem to float in space in front of you without the limitations of popular AR/VR headsets, which isolate you from your surroundings and create nausea, or ‘cybersickness,’ in some people. These interactive holographic displays could revolutionize electronic entertainment, but they’ll do much more as well, like help researchers better interact with data, or doctors quickly grasp medical imaging.

The technology can be very power-hungry, and as part of a team of computer scientists and engineers, I’m concentrating on computational technology to reduce electricity consumption for the displays.

The Iribe Center’s ample collaboration and lab spaces help advance the team’s work, bringing together researchers from a wealth of backgrounds to focus on new frontiers in computing and creating world-changing progress.”


The $219.5 million Building Together investment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, the largest in UMD history, is having a transformational impact on campus and beyond. Strengthening the legacy of late philanthropic builder A. James Clark ’50, the investment has created scholarships, endowed professorships and funded new facilities and research opportunities.

The MARYLAND PROMISE PROGRAM, funded by the Clark Foundation, other generous donors and UMD, opens access to a life-changing education for students with financial need from Maryland and D.C.

“I never had the luxury of choosing school automatically. My family never had the funds. I always had to see if I could get enough financial support to continue my education, or if I should keep working.

The Maryland Promise Program (MPP) made it possible for me to enroll at the Smith School of Business—the only school I wanted to attend.

I’m a first-generation college student, so I’m just trying my best to get through. My parents try their best, but they aren’t able to fully support me academically or financially. That’s why the meetings and mentoring in MPP are so helpful. I feel like I have an on-campus family.

I used to be terrible at talking to people. But the business program focuses heavily on group work, and now, I’m able to speak out, share my ideas and better learn the material. The leadership skills I’m learning through MPP and Smith will really help me in the future, because I hope to be a business leader or entrepreneur.”


Endowed professorships, like the CLARK LEADERSHIP CHAIR IN NEUROSCIENCE, help recruit and retain exceptional faculty members.

“Everyone talks about how the Clark gift has transformed campus. For me, this means the literal transformation of research in my lab. We study how age constrains the brain’s ability to learn, in order to develop methods to rejuvenate the brain, and the Clark gift has allowed me to introduce cutting-edge tools into this research.

Neuroscience has long focused on how one neuron communicates with another neuron or on the dialogue between neurons in small groups. But new technology, such as high-field magnetic resonance, allows examination of the entire brain in operation from ear to ear and front to back.

The funding from the Clark Leadership Chair is making it possible to incorporate whole-brain MR imaging into this research. The opportunity to move in an entirely new direction is rare, especially for a senior scientist, and I wouldn’t have imagined trying this a year and a half ago.”


A major gift from mathematics Professor Emeritus Michael and Eugenia Brin and the Brin Family Foundation founded the MAYA BRIN INSTITUTE FOR NEW PERFORMANCE, where students and faculty explore how technology can reimagine the performing arts.

“The gift from the Brin family helps us expand upon the experience of innovating theater and dance during the pandemic. With remote performances and virtual performances, we have different ways of seeing art that don’t have to be in person. We can venture outside of traditional spaces.

All of my colleagues and I can jump into a new wave of theater and dance. The Brin family’s gift supports that research.”


The CAMPUS PANTRY, which provides free and nutritious emergency food, saw its usage nearly triple during the pandemic and moved in June to a larger home with a commercial refrigerator and teaching kitchen funded in part by donors.

“I live off campus, so it can be hard to get to the market. After a friend told me about the pantry, I’ve picked up protein like beans, fresh fruits and veggies from Terp Farm, and occasionally a treat like marshmallows. I grew up helping my mom with the garden at home, and I love cooking, so it’s important to me to have a variety of options. I’d be eating less nutritious food if it weren’t for the pantry.

The environment is so welcoming. They offer workshops on cultivating vegetables indoors or teaching you to make dishes like yellow squash stew.

Now, I’m a volunteer. I wanted to give back because a lot of my friends and classmates didn’t know about it, and people won’t try something unless there’s someone familiar there. I didn’t want them to be worried about the stigma.

The Campus Pantry is an investment in current students that will help us reach new heights. Once I graduate, I hope to build up communities back in Baltimore to make them safer, both socially and environmentally, creating a more sustainable future.”



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