The University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) is a large, public university in College Park, Maryland. The university was founded in 1856 as Maryland Agricultural College. The first class began in 1989 on a 420 acre campus.
The campus was used as an army camp, first for Union soldiers, then for Confederate soldiers, during the Civil War. (There were sympathies for both sides at the university.) After the war the school went into bankruptcy and was converted to a boys’ preparatory high school for a couple years, the regained its legs as a state school in 1867.
In 1916 the school was renamed Maryland State College and opened to women. In 1920 the first graduate program began. It wasn’t until 1988, however, that the school officially became the University of Maryland and designated the flagship campus of the state of Maryland’s university system. Today, more than 37,000 students attend UMCP.
UMCP is home to several impressive and unique features, both traditional and contemporary. On the one hand, many of the buildings are aged, modest, and traditional, with trademark red brick Georgian architecture. On the other hand, newer buildings are larger—the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is the single largest public building in the state—and cutting-edge, with a huge number of silver and gold LEED buildings.
One unique feature on the UMCP campus is “The Point of Failure”, the spot where the college’s original building burnt down in 1912. A sign on the campus warns student that stepping on the spot will prevent you from graduating in four years. Another is the well-known statue of a Diamondback terrapin known as “Testudo” is one of the feature landmarks of the campus. Many consider Testudo to be lucky, and students often rub his nose before exams or leave him offerings.
Today, the campus spans 1,250 acres. It is particularly well-known for its gardens and trees. There is a 400 acre urban forest with a system of trails, including portions of longer backpacking trails that extend past the campus in both directions. The university has several tours of its arboretums and greenery, such as a tree walking tour which visits 56 different species on campus.
UMCP offers 127 bachelor’s degrees and 112 graduate degrees. The university is organized into thirteen colleges: the A. James Clark School of Engineering; the College of Agricultural and Natural Resources; the College of Arts and Humanities; the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences; the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences; the College of Education; the College of Information Studies; the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism; the Robert H. Smith School of Business; the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; the School of Public Health; and the School of Public Policy. UMCP has a reputation for being particularly strong in the sciences, although several schools and departments throughout the university have records of excellence.
Research on Campus
UMCP has had a strong research orientation since a federally funded agricultural experiment station began on campus in 1887. The university is engaged in several cooperative projects with the National Institute of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
As a result, the university is rich in research facilities. The Physical Science Complex contains one of the world’s top quantum science laboratories. The newly constructed M Square Research Park is a 150 acre facility within the campus. UMCP hosts offices of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and several other agencies that do collaborative research projects with UMCP. Opportunities for students to get involved with significant research are numerous.
Academic Living Communities
The university has several living/learning programs, which students in a particular department or school to live together in the residence halls, work on common academic and research-based projects, and find other creative ways to network intellectually. Some of the more popular living/learning communities on campus are as follows:
University Honors Program meets the needs of high achieving, academic-focused students.
The Gemstone Project combines students from across the entire university into a research program that explores the interdependence of technology and science with society.
Honors Humanities is a second honors program for undergraduates in the humanities and the creative arts.
College Park Scholars programs for bring together students in the same program in the following areas: arts; business, society, and the economy; environment, technology, and economy; global public health; international studies; life sciences; media, self, and society; public leadership; science and global change; science, discover, and the universe; and science, technology, and society.
Hinman CEOs brings together students from several disciplines with an interest in entrepreneurship. The program provides students with resources to help them begin their own businesses.
CIVICUS is a living/learning program organized under the auspices of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. It is based on the five principles of civil society.
Global Communities is a living/learning program for international students.
Language House brings students of foreign languages together for immersion in language and culture.
Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Honors Fellow Program brings together students from mathematics, business, science, computer science, and engineering to work collaboratively on projects as they build a community.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Admissions to UMCP are highly competitive. Incoming first-year students in recent years have had average SAT scores in the 1280s and an average grade point average (GPA) of about 3.90.
In addition to the standard forms of federal and state aid available to its students, UMCP offers a number of unique scholarships to its students. Some of the most prized include the Regents Scholarship and the President’s Scholarship, which pay up to the entire cost of in-state tuition, fee, room, board, and books for all four years.
Student Financial Aid Details
The school newspaper is named The Diamondback. It is published weekdays during the school year. It has won several awards for journalistic excellence in recent years. The student radio station is WMUC, broadcasting at 88.1 FM.
There are about thirty residence halls, apartment buildings, and suite buildings. Many students choose to live in living/learning communities or a fraternity or sorority. 10% of female undergraduates belong to a sorority and 13% of the male undergraduates belong to a fraternity. There are three Greek councils that oversee their activities.
There are three large dining halls, twelve cafes, and a food court with several fast food options. There are also two restaurants on campus—Adele’s Restaurant in the student union and Mulligan’s Grill and Pub on the university’s golf course.
There is a recently developed bike sharing program and system of bike lanes throughout the campus, for those who prefer completely “green” transportation. The university runs a free shuttle service around the campus and to the DC metro stop, where students can transfer to trains into DC or to Baltimore. Two other bus services also have stops on the campus. For students who would prefer to drive, Zipcar services UMCP. There are three airports in the Washington D.C. airport, all of which are reasonably convenient to UMCP.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
The athletic department at UMCP is known as the Terrapins, as the Diamondback terrapin is the school mascot. The Terrapins compete in 27 intercollegiate varsity sports in the NCAA Division I. Their athletic facilities have been recognized as some of the best in the nation.
Basketball is one of the most popular sports at the university, and baseball has been a proud tradition at UMCP since at least 1888, when the school played the first competitive games against the United States Naval Academy and St. John’s College. The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams are both considered to be excellent, as are the men’s soccer team and the women’s field hockey team. The marching band, Mighty Sound of Maryland, performs at all home football and basketball games.
UMCP alumni include Nobel Prize laureates include Raymond Davis Jr., for physics, and Herbert Hauptman, for chemistry. Other award-winning alumni include Fields medalist Charles Fefferman and National Medal of Science winner George Dantzig.
Other well-known alumni of UMCP include Seinfeld producer Larry David, former House Majority Leader Steny Hover, news anchor Connie Chung, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, O magazine editor Gayle King, CNN CEO Jim Walton, and Jim Henson of Muppet fame.
There are several Nobel Prize laureates among the faculty at UMCP, including William Daniel Phillips, who worked on laser cooling; John Mather, who discovered blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation, and Thomas Schelling, a game theorist. Other award-winning faculty include Field Medalist Sergei Novikov, Wolf Prize winner Michael Fisher, Japan Prize winner James A. Yorke.
About Us. Residential Life. University of Maryland College Park. Web. 24 Apr. 2011.
Academics. University of Maryland College Park. Web. 24 Apr. 2011.
Fiske, Edward B. Fiske Guide to Colleges 2011. Chicago: Sourcebooks, 2010. Print.
Pope, Loren. Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That’s Right for You. New York: Penguin. 2007. Print.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.