The school that would become the University of Maryland began as the Maryland Agricultural College in 1856. The decidedly Southern institution went bankrupt during the Civil War, though, and had to be rescued by the state legislature afterwards, a move that turned it into a public school. It remained sympathetic to the Confederate cause; Robert E. Lee’s son was appointed president, though he did not serve, and Maryland did not integrate until 1951. In 1916 the state took over the school completely, changing its name to Maryland State College and allowing women to attend, and in 1920 MSC merged with professional schools in Baltimore to form the University of Maryland. In 1933, Maryland got its mascot, the Diamondback terrapin named Testudo.
Academic standards and the school’s reputation have both risen steadily since an Academic Probation Plan was implemented in 1957. Now it is consistently listed as one of the country’s top twenty public institutions, with certain programs in the top ten.
Various tragedies have struck the campus, including a fire that gutted the administration building, the academic buildings, and the dorms around Thanksgiving, 1912, and more recently a tornado that destroyed cars and property and killed two students.
Maryland’s campus is green and spacious, with broad, well-maintained lawns and matching austere red-brick white-columned colonial buildings. It is also huge, which befits a school with a total student population of over 70,000. Students need bikes or cars to get around. The towering dorms built to accommodate several hundred underclassmen each are modern and less aesthetically pleasing; they’re also relatively far from the central areas, including McKeldin Mall, where students congregate on sunny days, the ODK Fountain, and the Stamp Student Union, as well as Shipley Field and Byrd Stadium.
Even students who appreciate the beauty of UMD’s campus and who enjoy taking advantage of its myriad resources can’t think of many positive things to say about College Park. The area is a run-down suburb located off the highway that connects Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. Students with cars tend to prefer going in either direction to sampling the few student-centered options in the strip malls along Route 1, and students without cars can always take the Metro.
Since most students do live off-campus, however, there is a lively house-party scene. Certain neighborhoods develop a real community feel. And the importance of having two major urban centers accessible cannot be overstated: students often pursue high-level internships or summer jobs there, as well as recreational opportunities.
Art Attack is an annual springtime craft fair where vendors set up outdoor booths. Music and food keep the browsing crowds happy.
Midnight Madness originated with basketball Coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell when, in 1970, he made his team run laps at midnight on their first official day of practice. The tradition now includes events to raise the adrenaline of the whole campus, including fireworks and a laser show.
Cultural Explosion is an annual springtime diversity festival, allowing ethnic groups on campus to showcase traditional art, food, clothing, music, and dance.
Couples who met at Maryland like to get married in the Memorial Chapel—more than half of all ceremonies performed there involve alumni.
Karen Allen (attended) is best known for her role as Marion in the “Indiana Jones” movies.
Carl Bernstein (attended) is the co-author of “All the President’s Men.”
Sergey Brin (1993) is the co-founder of Google.
Connie Chung (1969) is a television journalist.
Larry David (1969) is a comedian and the creator of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Jim Henson (1960) was a puppeteer and the creator of the Muppets.
Aaron McGruder (1998) is a cartoonist and the creator of “The Boondocks.”
Shawne Merriman (attended) is a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers.
Dianne Wiest (attended) is an Oscar-winning actress.
The athletic culture at Maryland is raucous and all-consuming, especially in regards to football—tailgating is a way of life, as is rioting when things don’t go well. The school ranks third, behind Clemson and Florida State, for its number of Conference Championships. Basketball is also incredibly popular: in 2006, the Terps beat Duke to win the Women’s National Championship for the first time. From February through March, the campus is “Garyland,” a reference to alum and Coach Gary Williams, who has led his team to eleven straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.
The school is Division I in the Atlantic Coast Conference and boasts championship-winning teams in field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer, too. This is a serious sports school. Students need to be talented to play even on intramurals teams, and many do.
The University hosted the first Dental School in the United States.
The famous bronze statue of Testudo had to be rescued after Johns Hopkins University students captured it and buried it in the woods; the ensuing confrontation was broken up by 200 riot police.
Testudo was originally female.
Maryland has been suffering from a housing crunch since 1994, so freshmen often live in makeshift triples or quads. They are the only ones who are guaranteed housing; almost everyone else lives off-campus. Sophomores can usually find a place in the dorms, too, but they do not have priority, and sometimes even first-years end up on the daunting 1,500 person waitlist.
Cumberland, Centreville, Denton, Easton, Ellicott, Elkton, Hagerstown, and LaPlata are all high rise, traditional, co-ed dorms that date back to the ‘60s. They house 500-650 students each in a range of singles, doubles, triples, and suites.
Cecil Hall is the only single-sex dorm.
Old and New Leonardtown are large, co-ed apartment-style residence halls that house 670 students.
Dorchester is a traditional, co-ed, medium size dorm, home to the Jimenez-Porter Writers House and Global Communities.