Catalyst Magazine

Get to Know the New Deans

This academic year, there are new deans leading three of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) schools: Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD, NNP, FNAP, FAAN, the Bill and Joanne Conway Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON); Kenneth H. Wong, PhD, of the University of Maryland Graduate School who also is vice provost for graduate education; and Sarah L.J. Michel, PhD, of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP).

Ogbolu is a Baltimore native who earned her BSN, MS, and PhD degrees­ at UMB and returned to teach at UMSON 13 years ago. She became dean of UMSON on July 17 after serving as chair of the Department of Partnerships, Professional Education, and Practice; co-director of the Center for Health Equity and Outcomes Research; co-director of the Global Learning to Advance Health Equity Network; associate professor at UMSON; and assistant professor in the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Master of Public Health Program.

Wong, who assumed the deanship at the Graduate School on Aug. 14, previously was the senior associate dean of the Graduate School for the National Capital Region and director of the Northern Virginia Center at Virginia Tech. As a research professor, he has studied medical imaging, radiation therapy, image-guided interventions, and applications of machine learning in these fields.

Michel took the reins at UMSOP officially Oct. 15 after serving as interim dean since June 1. She previously was chair of UMSOP’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and associate dean for graduate programs. Michel, who has worked at UMSOP for 19 years, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of metals in medicine.

In addition, UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, and Provost and Executive Vice President Roger J. Ward, EdD, JD, MSL, MPA, announced Oct. 30 that Emily Hurst, MSLS, will be the next dean of the Health Sciences and Human Services Library and associate vice provost at UMB. She will start Feb. 1, 2024, and CATALYST magazine will feature her in a future issue.

Get to know the new academic deans, who answered these questions for CATALYST magazine.

Kenneth H. Wong, PhD, Graduate School

Photos by Matthew D’Agostino

What kind of emotions did you feel on your first day/week as dean?

A mix of being excited and overwhelmed, plus lots of gratitude that everyone was so welcoming and helpful. 

What are the greatest challenges you face as dean? Or the greatest challenges that your school and/or profession face in the next year? 

Being a graduate student can be financially challenging, so it’s vital that we continue to find ways to increase support while keeping costs reasonable. Some of our programs are strongly limited by the availability of preceptors and hands-on training sites, so we need to always be looking for ways to encourage additional experienced clinicians to step into this role. Finally, we must continue to enhance marketing, communications, and strategic partnerships that can make more people aware of our diverse portfolio of graduate education with its strong career outcomes. 

What are you most looking forward to this school year? 

Learning more about all the different educational, research, and service programs within the Graduate School and the University. It feels like around every corner there are new and amazing stories. 

What would people be surprised to find out about you? 

Most people are surprised that I spent most of my childhood in Mississippi. 

Do you have a mantra or motto?  

If it doesn’t break the laws of physics, then it can be done. 

What does an ideal day look like to you? 

I’m not sure I have a single ideal day. I can have a splendid day that is full of insightful meetings and experiential learning, or one that is empty so I can spend time tinkering or letting my mind run free for creative ideation. 

What is your most prized possession, and why? 

Probably our family Christmas ornaments, because each of them has a story about the time in our life when they were acquired. Or, for a similar reason, photo albums or print books that we’ve made, which tell about individual events and the larger story arc of our shared history. 

Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD, NNP, FNAP, FAAN, School of Nursing

Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD, NNP, FNAP, FAAN,

What kind of emotions did you feel on your first day/week as dean?

Gratitude for the opportunity to serve, excited and hopeful for the future.

What are the greatest challenges you face as dean? Or the greatest challenges that your school and/or profession face in the next year?

As a nursing profession, we are currently experiencing a workforce shortage with an anticipated loss of 800,000 nurses nationally by 2027 due in large part to an aging profession but also reflecting attrition among younger nurses that needs to be addressed. Nursing academia has an important role in developing the next generation of nurse leaders and providing them with the resources that they need to have a rewarding career that supports their well-being while preparing them for a rapidly changing health care system. UMSON admitted our largest group of entry-into-practice nurses this year, which is a great contribution to the nursing pipeline for Marylanders. Beyond education, we will also need to act to address the root causes of the nursing workforce shortage in collaboration with practice partners, interprofessional and state health leaders, and policymakers.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?

I am looking forward to connecting and listening to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other key stakeholders in the School of Nursing and across our interprofessional campus. Meeting and connecting with those that have a strong passion for nursing and professional education is rewarding and often thought-provoking. The lessons learned from these connections will help to advance the future of our profession. These meetings have already started, and indeed making personal connections are a highlight of my day!

What would people be surprised to find out about you?

I have ziplined across the Amazon, rappelled off a mountain, climbed to the top of Table Rock Mountain in Ashville, N.C., and traveled to Brazil, Ecuador, Sweden, Nigeria, Liberia, and Oman. These experiences allowed me to push beyond my expectations of myself. They transformed and shaped my perspective on life and enhanced my capacity to engage with people from diverse backgrounds.

Do you have a mantra or motto?

“Hope is an action word.” Hope comes with the birth of a new baby and does not leave you until the last breath. Hope is not just a feeling or a desire that things can be great in the future. Hope requires action: pressing forward with tenacity and not giving up.

What does an ideal day look like to you?

Wake up with peace, optimism, and hope to make a difference in the lives of others, carry forth those ideals during the day, reflect at the end of the day, and hope to see that someone else’s day or life was improved in part because I inspired them, shared my support, and/or offered words of encouragement.

What is your most treasured possession, and why?

My family is the most treasured part of my life. As a wife to Dr. Michael Ogbolu and mother of three daughters (Tiffany, Jasmine, and Jordan) and one son (Michael), I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share this journey with them. I am a native of Baltimore with family roots over eight generations and 250 living extended family members in the city, as well as a host of relatives in Nigeria. I feel deeply blessed to receive my family’s full acceptance, love, and support.

Sarah L.J. Michel, PhD, School of Pharmacy

What kind of emotions did you feel on your first day as dean?

I felt excited and awed. I have been at the School of Pharmacy for my entire professional career, under the impactful leadership of previous Deans David Knapp and Natalie Eddington. I have big footsteps to follow in. I am excited to continue their legacies and lead the School of Pharmacy in excellence.

What are the greatest challenges you face as dean? Or the greatest challenges that your school and/or profession face in the next year?

After years of growth and expansion, UMSOP now trains students in a variety of health sciences disciplines in addition to training pharmacists via our hallmark PharmD program. We also lead in biomedical and outcomes research and rank in the top 10 for grants and contract funding for pharmacy schools across the country.

The pharmacy profession has changed dramatically over the past decade, making it a very exciting and innovative time for the profession. Our pharmacy practice faculty have far-reaching influence as the medication experts on health care teams at sites across the state, and our community outreach programs work to strengthen our West Baltimore neighborhood and beyond.

As dean, one of my goals is to enhance our national leadership in training the pharmacists of the future, so that our PharmD program continues to be recognized among the very best and moves into the top five in the national rankings. The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is the place to go to become a leader in the pharmacy profession. Our current PharmD curriculum reimagination process will ensure that we train the best and brightest future pharmacists.

Another goal is to develop and support cutting-edge health science degrees at the forefront of graduate education. Our faculty have expertise in a broad range of health sciences disciplines, and they have created phenomenal MS programs. As workforce needs change, my goal is for us to be nimble in developing new cutting-edge programs to respond to that demand, while we steward those that we already have in place.

A third goal is to grow our strong research enterprise via new strategic partnerships. I want us to be ranked in the top five for our grants and contracts. We can achieve this by fostering strategic partnerships and seeking programmatic research grants in addition to supporting our successful single principal investigator model. 

What are you most looking forward to this school year?

I served as interim dean over the summer and held listening sessions with many groups that were helpful as I developed my vision for the school. I look forward to listening to and learning even more as dean and will be meeting with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and stakeholders in different settings to learn what they love about UMSOP. As I work to implement my vision, the counsel of the School of Pharmacy community will be invaluable.

What would people be surprised to find out about you?

I am originally from England. I was born in London. My mother is British, and my father in French. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was 8 years old. I became a U.S. citizen while in college. I have lived all over the country, as well as in Belgium. Baltimore is the place I’ve lived the longest. I came here in 2000 to do a postdoctoral fellowship in biophysics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and 23 years later, I’m still here, living in and supporting Baltimore City.

Do you have a mantra or motto?

I like the aphorism “Perfect is the enemy of the good,” as I can sometimes be a perfectionist. It is helpful for me to remember this principle, which I think is attributed to Voltaire.

What does an ideal day look like to you?

My ideal work day includes the following: time to meet with folks one-on-one — students, faculty, staff, preceptors, alumni; time to think about the big picture — my vision for the school; time to meet with my research lab — I have a lab of talented trainees who work in the area of metals in medicine in human health; and time to connect with folks on campus and in the community. As dean, no day is the same, but I am committed to making sure I have time to focus on strategic goals for the school, while engaging with folks and solving pressing problems. I am a super-organized person, and I like to start early with some strong coffee and a plan for the day (which can, and often does, change). It’s a privilege to serve as dean of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, and I approach every day with the goal of growing and improving our already excellent school.

What is your most prized possession, and why?  

I don’t have a prized possession per say, but one thing I do value are friendships. As a child, I moved every few years, which in the pre-social media era made it difficult to stay connected with friends. College was my first experience living somewhere for more than a couple of years, and the friendships that I made in both college and post-college have endured. I value them very much.

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Jen Badie

Jen Badie is the assistant director of editorial services in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

CATALYST magazine

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