Academy of Lifelong Learning

Academy of Lifelong Learning provides platform for UMB faculty to share their expertise to the University community and beyond.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

The quote made famous by Albert Einstein reflects the beliefs behind the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) new Academy of Lifelong Learning (ALL).

ALL’s mission is to create and present health and human services academic content to inspire, engage, and educate learners from middle school through retirement. It is built to engage UMB alumni and the broader community in an online forum where more than two dozen subject matter experts answer questions submitted by the general public. The hot topic right now? The novel coronavirus, of course.

But long before the COVID-19 pandemic froze us in our tracks, UMB was considering a virtual tool where learning continued through a platform to ask experts questions on a variety of topics, according to Roger J. Ward, EdD, JD, MSL, MPA, interim provost, executive vice president, and dean of the Graduate School, and Nick Kouwenhoven, ALL’s executive director. University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay A. Perman, MD, was an early supporter of the project when he was president of UMB.

“It was consistent with people’s desire, out of curiosity, regarding what is going on at any given time in our society,” Ward said about the creation of ALL. “It’s consistent with the mission of the academy — that we should use our expertise to curate our content and make it available to people who have curiosity, who want to learn more about the subject matter, depending on what’s going on at any point in time. And, of course, COVID created that opportunity.

“A lot of people had a lot of questions and wanted to hear directly from experts,” Ward added. “We have been at the forefront of dealing with this issue. And so it created an opportunity for us to introduce the academy, but within the context of the time we are living in.”

Kouwenhoven spent nine months meeting with more than 125 experts across UMB’s six professional schools and interdisciplinary Graduate School to evaluate interest and resources for the lifelong learning initiative.

ALL launched in May with its COVID-19 Response Forum, inviting people to ask questions through an online form and receive answers from UMB experts on coronavirus-related topics including infectious disease, virology, wellness, nutrition, stress management, public health, and the care of children and seniors.

Experts have been answering questions submitted by the UMB community. Among them: Why do more men than women die from COVID-19? Is it safe to get vaccines for our children at this time? What does a COVID-19 antibody test tell us? How long will we realistically be dealing with COVID-19?

Eventually, the topic may change, but one thing will remain the same: the ability for learners of all ages to expand their knowledge, Ward said.

“I'm thinking differently about what it means for UMB to educate students,” he said. “In the traditional sense, institutions tend to think about their education mission mostly in terms of the students who are enrolled at any one point in time. Certainly that’s a significant part, and a compelling part of our mission is to make sure that those folks who are enrolled at the institution, regardless of which program they’re enrolled in, receive a quality, relevant, and up-to-date education.”

After graduation, an institution’s responsibility to those students typically ended.

“Over time as a society, and as we have evolved into becoming a more knowledge-based society, students, individuals, all of us who have graduated over time from institutions, have come to realize or will soon come to realize that learning is an ongoing process,” Ward said.

A formal college education is important, but to stay current in your profession and advance your career, ongoing learning is essential, Ward said.

Current thinking among educators is that learning spans a 60-year period.

“When you complete your four-year degree, your two-year degree, even if you’re eventually going to graduate studies or whatever professional program beyond that formal degree, there is a need to continue to learn because it is required to continue to grow and excel. It’s also necessary for your own self-actualization,” Ward said. “So the whole purpose of the Academy of Lifelong Learning is to begin to offer those ongoing learning opportunities in a variety of ways.”

Also, as an anchor institution and a public research university with deep expertise in certain areas, it is important that UMB make that expertise available to those who may not have graduated from UMB, or any other institution, but have a desire to learn.

“People are looking for reliable places that they could go to learn about important topics, and we created that opportunity for people,” Ward said.

Before the academy launched, Kouwenhoven conducted a survey of nearly 900 UMB alumni to make sure there was a need for a learning community such as ALL. Research has shown that the higher the degree, the more likely a person is to pursue additional opportunities for education, Kouwenhoven said.

“This is very exciting and I am optimistic that the Academy of Lifelong Learning COVID-19 Response Forum can be a valuable and engaging resource for all Marylanders and anyone else we reach,” he said.

Content recently added to the ALL website includes a video in which Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing, describes what the school and its graduates and researchers are doing to fight the pandemic. There also are videos by Ward; UMB Interim President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS; and E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, executive vice president for medical affairs, UMB, and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Ward said future forum topics may include UMB’s research and global outreach efforts, the University of Maryland School of Social Works expertise on child welfare issues, and community clinics hosted by the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

“These are the things that we will curate and present through the academy to people who may not, unless that’s their discipline, know that our schools have expertise in that area,” Ward said. “The goal is not to necessarily replicate what the schools are doing, but to introduce what the schools are doing to a broader audience.”

Here’s a list of the UMB faculty members participating in ALL:  



Students, faculty, and staff, let your voice be heard!
Submit Your Story.