The leadership structure and headquarters team, while small, work to ensure continuity and awareness of CUMU’s vision and mission. The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities is headquartered at Towson University in Towson, MD. Towson University was one of the original founders of CUMU and remains committed to the values of the organization. The CUMU team manages events, communications, finances, and operations in addition to serving as liaison to partner organizations.

Debbie Darr

Membership & Operations Coordinator

Paul Davidson

Interim Managing Editor, Metropolitan Universities journal

Barbara A. Holland, Ph.D.

CUMU Strategy Advisor

Valerie Holton, Ph.D.

Editor, Metropolitan Universities journal

Bobbie Laur

Executive Director

Debbie DarrMembership & Operations Coordinator

Debbie joined CUMU in 2015 and serves as the membership and operations coordinator. In this role, Debbie handles CUMU operations and the functions of its institutional membership, including management of the organization’s finances; recruitment and on-boarding of new members; annual renewals of membership; enhancement of membership value; administrative functions of the executive committee; support for the annual conference; grant applications and management; and more to support the success of the organization.

Debbie’s background includes ten years in the financial services industry at two Baltimore firms, Alex Brown and Wachovia Securities. Debbie holds an M.B.A. from Loyola University Maryland and a B.S. in business administration and marketing from Towson University.

Paul Davidson

Paul serves as interim managing editor of Metropolitan Universities journal.

Previously, Paul served as dean of residential life at Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth’s summer program and was an economic development fellow at the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

Paul holds a M.S. in urban studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and B.A. in economics and environmental studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Barbara A. Holland, Ph.D.CUMU Strategy Advisor

Barbara A. Holland, Ph.D. is recognized internationally for her scholarship and expertise on organizational change in higher education with a focus on institutionalization of community engagement. As an academic leader, she held senior administrative positions at Portland State University, Northern Kentucky University, University of Western Sydney and University of Sydney. In government-related roles, she was Director of the Learn and Serve America National Service-Learning Clearinghouse for seven years and Visiting Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of University Partnerships for two years during the Clinton and Bush administrations. As a researcher and consultant, she has advised more than 100 colleges and universities in the USA and other nations regarding community engagement institutionalization and leadership of change, and she has authored many publications of note, including the creation of the Holland Matrix for Institutionalization.

As a scholar and leader, Barbara was a founding board member and 2011-12 Chair of the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE), and also was a founding member of the National Review Board for the Scholarship of Education, the National Advisory Panel for the Carnegie Elective Classification for Community Engagement, and the Australian Universities Community Engagement Alliance (now called Engagement Australia) which in 2008 named her one of their first two Honorary Fellows. In 2006, she received the IARSLCE Award for Research Achievement. She previously served as Executive Editor of Metropolitan Universities journal and serves in editorial roles for five other refereed journals. Barbara had been a lead faculty member for the Engagement Academy for University Leaders, sponsored by four major higher education associations, since it began in 2008.

Her current research and practice interests include the design of national and international frameworks for professional development of academic leaders, analysis of the strategic importance of community engagement to teaching, learning and research quality, and the development of comprehensive data systems for monitoring and measuring engagement’s impacts and outcomes. Barbara’s Bachelor and Master’s degrees are in Journalism from the University of Missouri and her Ph.D. is in higher education policy from University of Maryland. She resides in Portland, Oregon.

Valerie Holton, Ph.D.Editor, Metropolitan Universities

Dr. Holton is the editor of CUMU’s Metropolitan Universities journal (MUJ), a quarterly, peer-reviewed outlet for scholarship on cutting-edge issues in higher education. Valerie was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Social Work at National Taiwan University in 2018. There she taught an interdisciplinary graduate course on community-engaged research (CEnR) and examined the social and economic responsibilities and impacts of higher education institutions in Taiwan. She is currently an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and Institute of Community Health Care at National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan.

As principal of Holton Consulting, LLC, Valerie has provided technical assistance to human service organizations and state agencies in the areas of strategic planning, board development, and program design and evaluation. She works with higher education institutions across the United States and globally in designing programs, policies and infrastructure needed to enhance, assess, and demonstrate their impact. She is especially interested in helping universities and community organizations to identify and create strategies for sustainable and mutually-beneficial partnerships.

Valerie has over twenty years of experience in the non-profit community as a service provider, administrator and board member. She has worked directly with people living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. Seeing the power of community-based organizations to address these critical issues sparked her interest in how universities define and embrace their social and economic responsibilities within their communities. She was the inaugural director of community-engaged research at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), one of the largest public, urban research institutions in the United States, where she helped VCU to enhance its CEnR activity and infrastructure, and taught graduate courses using collaborative learning strategies that prepared students to conduct rigorous community-engaged research.

Valerie lives in Taipei, Taiwan with her husband, and encourages everyone to extend and explore ideas and collaborations globally.

Bobbie LaurExecutive Director

Bobbie Laur brings over a decade of leadership in higher education and partnerships management to her role of executive director. In this role, Bobbie works with a board of 14 university presidents and chancellors to advocate for important policy issues— ranging from economic development to K-16 partnerships—affecting urban and metropolitan universities and the communities they serve.

Bobbie also serves as the Associate Vice President, Outreach within the Division of Strategic Partnerships & Applied Research at Towson University. During her 12 years at Towson University, she has led numerous initiatives to expand the university’s reach across the region. Bobbie oversees three externally-focused teams whose collective focus is to match the expertise and resources of the university with external partners—business, government, non-profit sectors and community organizations—throughout Greater Baltimore. She and her teams create pathways for individuals and organizations to engage in collaborative work with the university that impact our region in positive ways.

Bobbie holds a B.S. in finance from Towson University and completed graduate studies in higher education policy at San Diego State University.

Bobbie serves on Campus Compact’s National Program Content Advisory Board and represents CUMU on the national advisory board for The STEM PUSH Network, a project that seeks to broaden STEM participation that spans five urban centers.

Towson University Support Staff

  • Sharyn Grove, Director, Communications & Events
  • Arthur Smith, Senior Communications Manager
  • David Brasington, Events and Program Specialist
  • Cassidy Cregan, Graphic and Web Design Coordinator