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Dr. Darryll J. Pines is Meeting the Moment as University of Maryland’s President

By February 2, 2022

This feature on University of Maryland is part of Our Own Hands, a partnership between and The Atlantic’s in-house creative studio, Atlantic Re:think, illuminating stories of Black individuals, organizations, and communities committed to solving systemic problems, one win at a time.

Leading a flagship university of 40,000 students and more than 14,000 faculty and staff is no easy task in any circumstance, let alone in the midst of both a COVID-19 pandemic and a racial injustice pandemic. When Dr. Darryll J. Pines stepped onto the University of Maryland’s (UMD) campus on July 1, 2020 as the institution’s second Black leader — following in the history-making footsteps of John B. Slaughter who served as UMD’s Chancellor from 1982-1988 — he was facing both.

Taking on both the regular work of a university president while also leading his campus community through unprecedented polarization was a challenge that he was uniquely qualified to handle. Dr. Pines was not only familiar with the institution, having served in a number of roles at UMD over 25 years, he had incredible success in his most recent role as dean of the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. As dean, he increased student retention, improved teaching in undergraduate-level courses, and brought a greater focus on sustainability engineering, among other notable achievements.

Man and woman standing in front of a campus building looking at the camera
UMD president, Dr. Darryll J. Pines, and graduate student Jehnae Linkins are working together to make the University of Maryland a more inclusive campus.

Having both a pulse on the UMD student body as a whole, and the first-hand understanding of what the school’s Black students were going through in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the social unrest that followed, Dr. Pines saw two clear priorities for his first orders of business. “First, excelling in everything that we do. Second, creating an inclusive, multicultural community where everyone can be successful,” he said.

Much of that work started with ensuring that UMD students and faculty felt both connected and cared for — especially during long periods of isolation and remote learning. TerpEngage, a digital platform powered by, served that purpose for the entire UMD community by keeping students connected to their professors and advisors, while also providing UMD leadership a reliable way to communicate important information directly with students and faculty.

With the campus community more connected, the second phase of Dr. Pines’ work focused on ensuring students had a seat at the table. With the help of UMD students — like Jehnae Linkins, a Doctoral Student at UMD and the president of the Black Graduate Student Union — 25 critical issues were pinpointed, against which the university could measure its progress towards racial equality.

“One of the biggest demands the students have is to increase the number of Black faculty here at the university,” Linkins explained. “Change is slow, it takes time. But you have to have determined people who are willing to be along for that ride,” she said. Undoubtedly, Linkins is one of those determined people at UMD, “I’m going to see this work through. This is for the next group of kids coming up.”

Dr. Pines understands that both his position and this flash point in time provides an opportunity for long-lasting impact, “My job as president is to use this moment to really, truly, positively affect change,” he said. “My goal is to inspire these young people to believe that they can affect change, and I’m in it for the long haul.”

Learn more about’s partnership with Atlantic Re:think and watch the full film about UMD and Dr. Darryll J. Pines.