Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) announced Monday the appointments of former college presidents, educators and nonprofit leaders to the state’s Higher Education Commission, nearly turning over the entire membership of the panel that oversees statewide higher education policies.
The governor appointed Catherine “Cassie” Motz, executive director of the CollegeBound Foundation in Baltimore, to serve as chair.
Six other new appointees to the board are: Charlene Mickens Dukes, former president of Prince George’s Community College; Chike Aguh, a senior fellow at Northeastern University’s Burnes Center for Social Change and former chief innovation officer at the U.S. Department of Labor; Sheila Thompson, former national research coordinator with the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study; Mickey L. Burnim, former president of Bowie State University; Janet Wormack, former vice president for administration and finance at Salisbury University; and Tanya Johnson, a student commissioner who attends Morgan State University.
An eighth person, Rebecca Taber Staeheline, was appointed by Moore and confirmed by the Senate earlier this year.
According to the governor’s office, Taber Staeheline will serve the remainder of a five-year term through June 30, 2026, after former State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon resigned. Dukes will serve the remaining term that began July 1, 2022, for former commissioner James Coleman.
A commission spokesperson said in an email Monday that former board member James Sellinger resigned on July 6. A governor’s spokesperson said the governor will appoint a person to fill Sellinger’s seat “as soon as possible.” The term for that seat runs through June 30, 2025.
All commissioners on the 12-member body serve a five-year term and the student member one year.
“The Maryland Higher Education Commission is poised to help make the necessary innovative changes to be a solid building block in my promise to build pathways to work, wages and wealth,” Moore said in a statement. “The extensive knowledge and unwavering commitment that our new commissioners possess will drive the transformation of higher education in Maryland.”
Meanwhile, the commission is under scrutiny after it approved a new business analytics doctoral program at Towson University, which the Morgan State University president said is duplicative of a program at his historically Black university.
The new program was approved at a June 14 special meeting of the commission.
Previous commission Chair Mary Pat Seurkamp, whose term expired July 1, wrote in a letter three days prior to Towson’s Interim President Melanie Perreault that the commissioners who voted in favor of Towson “found that while some elements of the programs were similar, ultimately the two programs have distinct differences in their curricula.”
Morgan State President David K. Wilson wrote a letter two days later, on June 30, asking state lawmakers intervene and assess the commission’s review process “until an agreed upon process to mitigate undue academic program duplication in Maryland is put in place.”
In addition, Wilson wrote that the Towson program goes against the spirit of a $577 million settlement signed into law two years ago, after HBCU supporters sued the state, arguing that it directed more resources to Maryland’s predominantly white institutions and allowed duplication of academic programs already established at the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities — Morgan State, Bowie State, Coppin State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard), who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, said earlier this month that meetings are scheduled with Wilson and the commission.
As of Monday afternoon, no meeting minutes that include the vote tally from the June 14 special session are posted on the commission’s website.
Due to the cancellation of a July 26 meeting, the commission’s spokesperson said the board’s next meeting is Aug. 9.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Karen Salmon’s name.