Guest Post: Ashley Waters, Associate Director, UMBC


Ashley Waters

The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is quite unique – I think all students, faculty, and staff realize this after a short time on our three building campus; but have you ever wondered if other places like USG exist? And what exactly are campuses like USG?

As the Associate Director of UMBC’s operations here at Shady Grove, I have become very familiar with how USG functions and what it aspires to be. Yet, as a student in the Doctor of Public Administration program through the University of Baltimore with a focus on program administration and organizational theory, I became increasingly interested in the development of multi-institutional campuses, like USG, to serve the higher education needs of a community. Thus, when I embarked on my dissertation journey in 2015, I knew I wanted to look at this model for higher education and the colocation of colleges and universities on one campus.

Fast-forward one year; I am nearing the end of the dissertation process! But equally exciting is that I have gained greater insight on centers like USG that are all around the nation. Here is a brief overview of the higher education center model:

Atlanta University Center

Atlanta University Center

  • Nearly 50 centers are currently in operation in the US today. The model really took off in the 1990’s but one of the earliest university centers is the Atlanta University Center opened its doors in 1929!
  • There are over 15 naming conventions for these centers. The most common: higher education center or university center. Maryland refers to the centers in our state as Regional Higher Education Centers
  • Very few university centers are alike – some only host four-year public universities, like USG, where others bring in 4-year private institutions and some are even located on community college campuses with two-year school partners. If you are interested in locating other university centers most like USG, check out PASSHE Center City in Philadelphia and Capitol University Center in South Dakota!

    CUC South Dakota

    Capitol University Center

  • University centers can be made up of two academic partners or even upwards of 12! USG is on the higher end of that scale, making it one of the larger university centers by academic institution partnership.
  • The majority of colleges and universities participating in university centers do so within 50 miles of their home/main campus site.
  • Most university centers only maintain a small staff on-site to support the overall operations of a center. USG is certainly unique in that we have an abundance of academic partner staff and over 75 USG staff devoted to the center’s success!
  • Not only does USG have more site-devoted staff than most university centers, USG is also one of the few to offer an abundance of shared service centers; this includes offices such as Center for Academic Success (CAS), Career and Internship Services Center (CISC), and Office of Student Services (OSS). Many university centers do not offer these abundant services. This is just another example of how USG is excelling as a university center.

While my dissertation (which will be available for your reading pleasure this summer if you’d like!) will go into more detail regarding the level of partnership between the institutions at university centers and the hiccups along the way to being fully collaborative, I hope you now also have a greater sense of how unique your college experience is and can be. Attending classes at a campus with nine universities allows you to contribute to the evolution of partnerships and engage in tackling complex challenges. It offers you the opportunity to invest in your future, while at the same time investing in the future of your local economy and community. No matter how you see it, being part of a university center like USG is truly one of a kind!

Building III (9)

The Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Maryland

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