President Valerie Sheares Ashby is a people person. You can see her eyes light up while she talks with folks.
On her very first day as president of UMBC, Sheares Ashby made it clear that she wants to be available to students. Right off the bat, in true professor form, she set up weekly student office hours to do just that.
As you might expect, her office hours are already very popular, so we decided to reflect her friendly open-door philosophy in this regular president’s column. Sheares Ashby is also engaging in a listening tour to hear from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and partners across campus and beyond in the coming month. We look forward to sharing highlights from the tour in future issues.
UMBC Magazine: How would you describe your first few months at UMBC, and what has it been like getting to know this community?
President Sheares Ashby: These first few months have been energizing, inspiring, and joyful. The more people I meet, and the more I start to make connections, the more I love this place. You can love something from a distance because of its values. But when you meet the people, and they embody those values, your love grows even deeper. It has been especially rewarding to engage with students, see who they already are, and imagine what they will become as a result of their experiences at UMBC.
And then, what is most inspiring for me is that it’s becoming more clear every day what the possibilities are for what we can do together going forward.
UMBC Magazine: That’s a terrific segue! What would you like alumni to know about your thoughts on UMBC’s future and how you hope they will be involved?
President Sheares Ashby: Well, right now, as you know, I’m holding listening sessions with members of the community, and I want as many alumni as possible to participate. As we do this, I know that I will discover even more about our collective purpose and the possibilities for UMBC. I have said to alumni that I don’t know what I’m going to ask them to do yet, but when I feel like I’ve got something that’s worthy of their time and effort and the difference that they can make, I will bring it to them. And there will be something that I need our alums to do, for sure, because they are such an important part of UMBC’s future.
I had the opportunity recently to meet with the executive committee of the Alumni Board of Directors and then, of course, many, many more alumni during Homecoming. As they introduced themselves, they talked about what they are doing and what they loved most about their UMBC education. It was wonderful because I could hear how they are living out the values of the institution wherever their careers and lives have taken them.
I heard people talk about civic engagement and social justice and the things that we believe deep in our core. They’re out there in the world exemplifying what UMBC is, in business, professions, public service, and the arts, and that is just incredible. The more people see our alumni doing this, the more we will continue to attract excellent students, and UMBC will only grow stronger.