Boston Globe profiles UMBC as a model of excellence in higher ed

Published: Jul 24, 2018

Two students walk near the library pond, one in a red shirt and one in a black shirt with UMBC athletics logo.
UMBC students on campus, September 2017. (Marlayna Demond '11/UMBC)

Last Sunday’s Boston Globe greeted readers with a front-page story about lessons to be learned from a top research university, but it wasn’t about local powerhouses Harvard or MIT. It was a profile of UMBC.

The bold headline read, “In Maryland, lessons for UMass Boston: Thriving UMBC has support of students, faculty, and, most importantly, the state.” Above that headline, just under the masthead for the Sunday Globe, was a quote from President Freeman Hrabowski. It gave a snapshot of UMBC, noting, “Nothing is more important here than brainpower and grit.”

The article starts in a math refresher course, where students are hard at work during the summer to prepare for the semester ahead. Even in the academic off-season, the campus is buzzing with activity, reporter Laura Krantz found. “At UMBC, black and yellow flags flutter above the central sidewalk and even in the summer,” she wrote, “the campus is alive with summer camps, graduate students doing research, and the Meyerhoff students, who are still in calculus class.”

Black and gold spirit flags at UMBC.

Krantz spent hours meeting with students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and shadowing President Hrabowski, to learn what makes UMBC tick. “It’s never about the one person” at UMBC, President Hrabowski explained. “It has to be a tone that when the person comes in it’s not us versus them, but how do we work together.”

Working together to constantly improve is one of the secrets behind UMBC’s success, the article suggests. “We’re not perfect,” said Dean Bill LaCourse of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. “But when we look in the mirror we don’t…blame the students, we don’t blame external aspects, we look at ourselves first and see what can we change.”

Dean Bill LaCourse (center) at the Hill-Lopes Scholars Program launch celebration.

The supportive community that this kind of growth-oriented collaboration creates is meaningful for faculty, staff, and students alike. “It’s a very safe environment to try new things, to innovate, so that’s huge,” said Katharine Cole, vice provost and dean of undergraduate academic affairs.

Katharine Cole stands in UMBC's academic row, in front of brick buildings and foliage.
Dean Katharine Cole

State investment in education is another key to the university’s growth and its ability to serve as an economic engine for the region, the article also emphasizes. “The state feels that it is important to support higher education,” said Delegate Adrienne Jones ’76, psychology, Maryland House Speaker Pro Tem. “We see that as a link to the economy of the state and a well-educated workforce.”

Ultimately, said President Hrabowski, “We want working- and middle-class people to believe that they have opportunities to go to first-rate institutions that they can afford.”

University president in suit poses for a selfie with two student leaders in black t-shirts with UMBC logo.
President Hrabowski poses for a selfie with Orientation Peer Advisors in front of UMBC’s library.

The Globe reports that data show UMBC is achieving its goal of providing a first-rate education to students of all backgrounds. The paper notes that the university’s graduation rate is strong across all racial and ethnic groups, and that 2018 alumni have gone on to promising careers and graduate programs at Columbia, Cornell, Duke, MIT, Harvard, and Yale.

UMBC is a place, the Globe notes, that has skyrocketed to “students’ first choice,” and continues to focus on growth.

Featured image: Orientation Peer Advisors at UMBC. All photos by Marlayna Demond.

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