Freeman Hrabowski – president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) – has taken what was once just a little commuter school in Catonsville, Maryland and transformed it into one of the most renowned schools in the country. Freeman has been in his current position beginning in 1992 and since his first day on the job, that little commuter school has taken a climb up the ranks of higher education.
It was this climb along with UMBC’s dedication to innovative education that was the focus when Freeman was featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes on November 13, 2011.
“There’s this balance between being nurturing and supportive here at UMBC, but also about setting very high standards,” Freeman humbly offers. “We are preparing students to compete against and work with people from all over the world.”
With that philosophy, UMBC has for the third year in a row topped the U.S. News ranking of national universities. This designation recognizes that UMBC is consistently discovering new ways to improve every student’s experiences.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of UMBC and Freeman’s educational accolades is their track record for graduating outstanding scientists and engineers, many of whom are minorities.
“We have to teach Americans of all races, from all backgrounds, what it takes to be the best,” Freeman said.
One way UMBC accomplishes this is through its Meyerhoff Scholarship. The program began in 1988 when Freeman partnered up with billionaire philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff. The two men were concerned that African American males were being shunned from careers in the sciences not because of talent, but rather lack of opportunity.
Over the years, the Meyerhoff program has expanded to include all ethnicities, and has helped Freeman establish UMBC status. It is that we can create a program that focuses on both excellence and inclusiveness, starting with African Americans and then Hispanics and now whites and Asians, students of all races, who are excellent in science and engineering,” Freeman said. “We need people from all backgrounds. And Meyerhoff says, ‘It can be done.’”
So far, 813 students have graduated out of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, with nearly 90 percent going on to graduate school. It’s important to note that UMBC excels at every aspect of education – not just providing opportunities to minorities.
“We say at the beginning of the year, ‘Look at the student to your left, look at the student to your right,’” Freeman said. “Our goal is to make sure all three of you graduate and if you don’t, we fail. And we don’t plan to fail because we accepted you and we know you can do this work.’”
It is this determination and dedication that has catapulted UMBC to the forefront of education and research.
Another innovative aspect of UMBC and Freeman’s commitment to intellectual growth is the bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park – a 71-acre community engaged in research, entrepreneurship and economic development. This award-winning Incubator and Accelerator provides office and laboratory space along with business support services to various research-oriented companies.
One of these companies is Observation Baltimore, Baltimore’s premiere focus group facility. Our location at bwtech@UMBC, coupled with the opportunity it provides us to collaborate with the talented students (Observation Baltimore currently has 6 UMBC interns) has helped us grow as a company. “We feel very fortunate to be at the Research Park and are proud of our affiliation with UMBC,” says Barbara Gassaway, President.
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