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  • Writer's picturePatrick Killion

The Path Forward for FIRE

Being a part of The First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) family does not come with a requirement that we share political, social, or personal beliefs - only a professional commitment to support each other and our students in our shared values at the University of Maryland (UMD).

That said, today is an important day for all of us, independent of our personal pillars and alliances. Today we share in what I believe is a renewed and unified hope in what is possible.

The challenges we face as a people are immense in scope and many in number. Many deserving of care, shelter, justice, equality, and opportunity call for our help. History teaches us that the solutions we devise will not be easy, immediate, or complete. The paths to be explored and tested are more uncertain than clear.

We can affect change and improve our shared world if we can lean into the clear and certain call for commitment, community, and perseverance. The FIRE family is so very fortunate that an opportunity to do so presents itself in the daily work we do with our students.

Embracing the energy and opportunities presented by today, FIRE announces an expansion of its mission at UMD.

FIRE was launched in 2014 to inclusively provide a large number of UMD undergraduates with authentic research experience and mentorship. As we grew to impact over 600 new first-year UMD students annually, we came to understand and communicate the value of the personal and professional development research instills - critical thinking, communications, collaboration, professionalism, and leadership.

Today we take the next step together by asking: what are the broader societal outcomes our students can help accomplish if we are willing to more deeply probe the impacts of developing these personal and professional capacities in our students?

Through self-study and conversation, we bring an expansion to FIRE's mission to provide first-year UMD students an inclusive faculty-mentored research experience that drives accelerated career readiness supporting young professionals ready to embrace uncertainty and affect equality of opportunity for all.

Uncertainty - we have been collectively navigating a culture defined by the reflexive embrace of social, scientific, and political certainties. Through our expanded mission, FIRE seeks to use research experience, unforeseen outcomes, and even disappointment as vectors by which we can empower our young citizens and professionals to explore and embrace the power of uncertainty. Helping our students better understand that they don't know what they don't know potentially leads to a shared society better able to listen, empathize and probe solutions unbiased by predisposition.

Equality of Opportunity - FIRE has long sought to deliver scaffolded mentorship for all participating students through the inclusion of students new to research and those with experience, those societally advantaged to excel, and those coming to us from modes of challenge. With this growth in our mission, we will be devising ways to explicitly charge our students to actively support growth and success for all. Our students will understand the duty they have to their research brothers and sisters in addition to the ways they are seeking to grow themselves.

As always, our reach may exceed our grasp. These are broad and challenging goals that will be difficult to implement and assess. I hope that you will be part of our efforts and look forward to working with you in the weeks, months, and years to come.

I wish you the best and ask that you stay safe, stay healthy and take care of those around you.



Dr. Patrick Killion

Director of Discovery-Based Learning

Director of The First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE)

Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost

University of Maryland


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