Up on the Roof – Summer 2011

Published: May 19, 2011

(Freeman surrounded by students)

UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III takes your questions.

Q. UMBC has been in the news as a new hub for the cybersecurity market. Do you see it as a growth industry for the BWI corridor, and for Maryland in general? And what are “secret” (or not so secret) weapons in UMBC’s arsenal to compete in this field and attract the best talent?

— Joab Jackson ’90

A. I think we’re becoming a model for building the cybersecurity workforce. A model for the nation.

The opening of the Northrop Grumman Cync Program here on campus is a great example. This program is part of our Cyber Incubator, and it will be helping young companies to build their capacity to solve cybersecurity problems. Our country more and more understands that we have to protect our intelligence and our broad societal computing security. All of us have to be concerned about the privacy of information.

Another exciting thing about the Northrop Grumman project is that it is in our research park – bwtech@UMBC – and UMBC is heavily connected with the National Security Agency (NSA). Over 700 of our graduates work at the NSA. And so we are becoming a magnet for cybersecurity companies. We have actually recruited 16 such companies in under two years, and continue to grow in our research park with that effort.

A number of our faculty in computer science at UMBC have been talking about cybersecurity issues for years. We received a major grant – $7.5 million dollars – from the Department of Defense about five years ago. We received that with other universities around the country but we were the lead partner. So we have been working in this space for some time. We are tied to the national infrastructure in this area. This is not new for us. We have become a destination.

The word for it is synergy. When you have national agencies and universities and school systems coming together to build a workforce capacity in cybersecurity and research strength, it becomes a major initiative for the entire state.

Q. At commencement, you always make a point of revisiting UMBC founding president Albin O. Kuhn’s charge to the members of the first graduating class at UMBC: “If you bring to the future the same personal qualities and personal commitment you have brought to this campus as students, good and important things will happen to each of you, as well as to those around you … and the university community will be proud to have played a part in your life.” Why?

— Richard Byrne’86

A. It is fascinating to see how fortunate our graduates are. I laugh sometimes with our students when they want me to feel sorry for them. Last night I was with some seniors, and Keilan Freeman, one of our seniors, was frustrated because he had to decide about graduate school in mechanical engineering between Stanford University and the University of Michigan. And I said to him: You want me to feel sorry for you?

The great news is that I can easily call up UMBC alumni who are graduate students at both institutions – and alumni who have graduated with Ph.D.s from both institutions. So that he could also call them and compare what they had to say.

And I think that is what Albin O. Kuhn was saying: people who have worked hard at UMBC are well-prepared for the workforce. They are well prepared for the next level. And I think he said it so beautifully, that it helps students who are graduating feel more secure about their future. If you can make it at UMBC, you can make it anywhere. That’s his point, and that’s my point.

Have a question for Dr. Hrabowski? Please visit retrievernet.umbc.edu/askthepresident

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