History, Mission, Vision, Values & Beliefs

UMD President Pines portrait

“Education is the great equalizer. It is by far the best and most rewarding investment anyone can make in the future of a young person, our local communities, our state, our nation and our world. The Incentive Awards Program is a vital part of this mission, providing opportunities for some of the most talented and dedicated students in our community to excel. We all benefit from this investment.”

University of Maryland President Darryll Pines


Shortly after former President C. D. Mote Jr. began his tenure at the University of Maryland in 1998, he noticed an alarming trend: Few students from Baltimore City public high schools applied to and subsequently enrolled at the state’s flagship university. Of particular concern was the fact that the overwhelming majority of the students who did came from three city high schools: Baltimore City College, Baltimore Polytechnic and Western. There was little or no representation from the other high schools in the city.

The C.D. Mote, Jr. Incentive Awards Program was created to recognize and promote scholarship, leadership and community responsibility among students from select high schools, and to make it financially possible to enroll at the University of Maryland. The program identifies and selects students who have demonstrated uncommon persistence, ingenuity and maturity by maintaining good academic performance in the face of challenging circumstances.

Launched as a pilot program in Baltimore, the program was designated the Suzanne G. and Murray A. Valenstein Baltimore Incentive Awards Program in 2006, and was expanded to select schools in Prince George's County a short time later.  In 2020, the program further expanded to include Montgomery County Public Schools. Students from Charles County joined the freshman cohort in 2022.

The program is not defined by its scholarship component, however. The distinguishing characteristic is its focus on developing character, critical thinking skills and leadership in the context of an intimate community of peers. This "community within a community" is what sustains students and challenges them to develop the skills that will benefit them and their hometowns.

Scholars embrace a spirit of reciprocity by maintaining strong ties to their home and school communities, regularly returning to their high schools to serve as role models for younger students. Throughout the year, they engage their peers in discussions, sharing with them their own Maryland experiences and the importance of proper academic preparation for college. The intent is for their success—attained through hard work—to be an incentive for others to persist toward high school graduation, pursue higher education and achieve in the face of adversity.

As the alumni base continues to grow, the positive impact will be even more profound on the communities that these students call home. Throughout all future endeavors, they will hone those skills nurtured through the University of Maryland Incentive Awards Program and use them in every aspect of their lives.

students walking into Oxon Hills High School
Celebrating 20 years

I A P students first cohort

First cohort of the Incentive Awards Program in 2016

students walking into Oxon Hills High School

Oxon Hill alumni visit their alma mater


The Incentive Awards Program recognizes and promotes academic excellence among motivated students from underserved communities and aims to provide ongoing, comprehensive guidance as they pursue their educational, professional and personal goals.


To be a dynamic program that helps students reach their academic, social and professional potential thereby changing the communities within their sphere of influence. Through tailored activities that promote leadership, civic responsibility, persistence, and self-awareness, every student can achieve and change the course of their lives and those around them.

Values & Beliefs

  • Students have the fortitude to face and overcome obstacles in the path.
  • Students take personal responsibility for their actions and are in control of their respective futures. 
  • Students have a shared purpose in being at the University of Maryland, which fosters cohesiveness throughout the group. 
  • Developing a philanthropic spirit and community responsibility engenders care and compassion for those within students’ reach and beyond.
  • Strong character and a positive attitude--over academic prowess--determine students’ performance and their college experience.
  • Connectedness that crosses all cohorts and high schools is vital to the esprit de corps of the group.
  • A successful program requires dynamic assessment to ensure that students’ needs are met.