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Volume 6 | Issue 8

April 2023

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Feature Article

Reflection and Retrospection: A Look Back at Professor David Cronrath's Contributions to Architecture and UMD

By Dylan Lewis

Photo of David Cronrath courtesy of the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation. Building photo by Betsy Nolen Petrusic.

David Cronrath, Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, is retiring this year after a long and fruitful career spanning more than 30 years. Since joining UMD in 2010, he also has served as Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and Associate Provost for Facilities and Special Projects. 

Throughout his career, Cronrath has seen the University of Maryland undergo substantial changes, such as the transition from a traditional sage-on-the-stage lecture format to an active learning approach in which students are encouraged to explore creative solutions to problems independently. He has been instrumental in this transition, having helped to convert a large introductory course from the traditional format to a "flipped classroom" approach, in which students are more actively involved in their learning experience. As Associate Provost, he worked with TLTC and the Provost’s Office to convert and upgrade classrooms across campus to support this kind of active learning.

One of Cronrath's most significant contributions to the university has been his leadership of the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program, which combines active learning and community service to tackle sustainability-related issues facing Maryland's diverse communities. The program is a campus-wide initiative that leverages the expertise and ingenuity of UMD students and faculty, and it will celebrate its 10th anniversary next academic year. Cronrath's leadership has helped develop and promote PALS, which has become a hallmark of the university's approach to sustainability and community engagement. 

Cronrath has also actively promoted the arts on campus, and he is proud that university leadership has endorsed the Arts for All program as a major campus initiative. Furthermore, he has worked with many people in Campus Planning and Capital Projects to transform campus with new buildings. His contributions to this transformation include serving in the architect selection process, helping to program the activities to be accommodated in the new designs, and ensuring that each new building contributes well-defined and enjoyable open spaces that help knit disparate parts of campus into one community.

As a Board Member of the Terrapin Development Company, a partnership between the University and its Foundation, Cronrath has been instrumental in strengthening the town-and-gown relationship and making College Park a great college town. To date, the Terrapin Development Company has initiated or been part of four major projects, including The Hotel on Baltimore Avenue, the new College Park City Hall, The Aster, and the Union at Knox. Two additional transformative projects are currently in the design phases: Discovery Point at Campus Drive and Baltimore Avenue, and a major mixed-use development adjacent to the College Park Airport called Aviation Landing. To date, the Terrapin Development Company has seen an investment of over $530 million in College Park's environs.

Over the course of his career, Cronrath has achieved many professional accomplishments on campus and outside of UMD. For example, he played a key role in the design and construction of UMD’s award-winning submission to the Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, called "Watershed," which expanded design beyond energy consumption to include water consumption and management to create a truly sustainable home. The project was a collaborative effort involving over a dozen disciplines across campus and hundreds of students. He also led the redesign of the national licensing exam for architects. This redesign, which reflects a move away from duplicating testing on information learned in school, shifted the focus to the knowledge and skills acquired by the practicing architect at the onset of their career. 

When asked about the advice he has for future administrators and faculty members in the positions he has held, Cronrath said: “There is no greater threat to the University than the erosion of academic freedom. Governmental intervention into what can be explored, how research can be conducted, and what can be taught is undermining the very foundation of scholarly pursuits. There are both political and social threats that will require future University leaders to be vigilant in supporting their faculty and defending academic freedom for its faculty and students.”

Dawn Jourdan, Professor and current Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, had this to say about Professor Cronrath’s retirement: “Not a day goes by in my Deanship where I do not encounter a sound policy or decision made by my predecessor, David Cronrath. During his time as Dean, David planted many seeds that are blossoming today, including a student internship program between our school and the Terrapin Development Company. Given his pending retirement, I afforded David the opportunity to offer some words of wisdom to our students at the December Commencement Celebration. David shared his personal journey as a first-generation college student who was encouraged by his family to dream. I appreciate that he has paid this advice forward in so many ways, from his nurturing teaching style to the ways that he encourages faculty and staff to chart a course for themselves is purposeful. My greatest hope is that David will remain an integral part of our community after his retirement.”

In summary, Professor David Cronrath has made significant contributions to the University of Maryland, and his impact will be felt for many years to come. His leadership in promoting active learning and community engagement, sustainability, the arts, and campus development has truly helped designate the university as a world-class institution.

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Volume 6 | Issue 8