A national search will be conducted this fall for Maryland’s university system for Hagerstown’s next executive director, Mark Halsey retiring this month after more than a decade on the job.
His last official day as executive director of the downtown Hagerstown Regional Center for Higher Education will be July 26, said Halsey, 67.
Halsey said it was time to retire and he wanted to go out “on a high note”.
“It’s been a remarkable journey. I’ve enjoyed working with community leaders, parents, and students — many of whom are mature students — throughout the 10 years,” Halsey said of her tenure.
After:USMH Graduation Celebration May 2022
“We greatly appreciate his efforts, especially in expanding the programs available here,” said Washington County Circuit Court Judge Brett Wilson, chairman of the USMH Advisory Board.
Halsey has done a “tremendous job of making educational opportunities available” to many more people and helping to make educational opportunities more affordable, Wilson said. This includes fundraising for scholarships, expanding program opportunities, and overseeing partner institutions offering regional rates for neighboring out-of-state counties.
USMH offers more than 20 programs, mostly degree programs but also certificates, Halsey said. Supporting universities offering the programs are Frostburg, Towson University, Salisbury University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), and University of Maryland Global Campus, an online university.
“Everything I believed in about the mission of the institution, to serve people here who cannot travel 90 minutes to a public university, that goal continues and will be successful,” Halsey said.
Halsey has worked in higher education for over 36 years. He took over as the second executive director of USMH in May 2012, succeeding C. David Warner III. Halsey was previously director of distance education finance and administration for Virginia Tech University.
Frostburg State University will oversee the nationwide search for his successor. Officials hope to appoint an interim executive director within weeks, according to an email from Frostburg State University spokeswoman Nicole McDonald.
Halsey said he and his wife, Kim, plan to continue living in the Hagerstown area. Kim works for Washington County Public School’s Judy Center, which helps income-eligible children, up to kindergarten age, prepare for school.
The ups and downs of USMH
The university, like many other educational institutions and businesses, is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, Halsey said the pandemic was the hardest part of her tenure.
Like many schools, USMH has used virtual learning for some time. The pandemic has hurt enrollment at USMH, as it has in the entire university system, and the local center has yet to recover, he said.
On a more positive note, the fiscal year that began July 1 marks the full restoration of state budget cuts from several years ago, Halsey said. The state cuts, which Halsey addressed in a 2015 letter to the university community, cut state funding by less than $1 million for USMH, while costing universities millions of dollars. of the system, he said.
There have been cuts to operations and staff and at least some individual universities have raised tuition to accommodate the cuts, Halsey said.
As for the future of USMH, Halsey said it was “very strong.”
The university system is committed to the concept of regional centers of higher education, he said.
Hagerstown’s was second only to Shady Grove in Montgomery County, Maryland. The University System of Maryland Southern Maryland in St. Mary’s County, formerly known as the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, became the third regional center in March 2019, according to university press releases.
Since USMH opened in 2005, 2,655 students have graduated, according to an email from spokeswoman Erin Harman.
Expansion of the University of Maryland system to Hagerstown
During Halsey’s tenure, USMH expanded its offsite educational opportunities and partnered with the private sector to provide housing opportunities for students.
USMH leases space for a Health Sciences Center, from Meritus Health at 24 N. Walnut St., which houses the Masters in Physician Assistant program, a program created to address a growing shortage of health care providers. health in the region, as well as The original workings of the Hub.
Fifty people have graduated from the physician assistant program that Frostburg launched by USMH in May 2019.
The Hub is an early learning program that works with children ages 4 and under and their families to help prepare children for preschool and kindergarten, said Jamey Tobery-Nystrom, associate professor at Frostburg who runs the program. The Hub, at its locations in Hagerstown and Wolfsville, Maryland, offers paid teaching assistant positions for teaching interns to sharpen their skills while completing their undergraduate studies in early childhood or early childhood education. primary education or higher education in education.
Halsey was the Hub’s “guardian angel” and instrumental in securing the program’s space, which includes two classrooms, training space and a lending library, Tobery-Nystrom said. .
The state-grant-funded program is free for families and was launched in response to Washington County ranking last out of the state’s 24 jurisdictions for kindergarten readiness, Tobery-Nystrom said. . Now County is in the middle of the pack, which is a “huge gain”.
Halsey said there is more space available in the health sciences building in case the physician assistant program expands or if USMH offers another health science graduate program. .
Also during Halsey’s tenure, USMH opened a Welcome Center across from its main campus, with the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, launching a bachelor’s degree program in hospitality and tourism management that has had her first degree in May, Halsey said.
In addition to adding educational programs during Halsey’s tenure, USMH worked with private partners to create student housing. The first such project was the Patterson Hotel near Hagerstown Town Hall, followed by The Antietam on West Antietam Street.
The apartment buildings, which are not owned by USMH, give students the opportunity to live near classes, Halsey said. They largely help USMH students who don’t live on-site, but the facilities aren’t limited to students, he said.
Shortly after Halsey took over as executive director, USMH also began using classrooms and offices in a city-owned building, a former CVS, adjacent to the main campus on West Washington Street. to meet the growing space needs of the university.
This space, with University Plaza between it and the main building of the former Baldwin House complex, helped create a “campus feeling,” Halsey said.
Halsey said he also helped set up a bachelor’s degree program in psychology at Frostburg early in his tenure and a bachelor’s degree program in public health at Salisbury University about three years ago.
There are other potential programs in the discussion stage, he said.