Hrabowski offers goals for higher education

University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski spoke about the importance of research and collaboration to higher education.

Higher education would benefit from a greater focus on student collaboration, use of technology and “blended instruction,” University of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski said in his Tuesday lecture.

The event, held in Filene Auditorium, marked the latest presentation in the Leading Voices in Higher Education strategic planning lecture series.

Part of reaching these goals of improving higher education include emphasizing laboratory work among undergraduates, according to Hrabowski, who received his master’s degree in mathematics and a PhD in higher education and statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at the age of 24.

“We’re working with the American public to recognize the importance of science,” Hrabowski said. “It takes researchers to build researchers.”

Hrabowski also spoke to the significance non-science disciplines, saying that UMBC recently invested $170 million to build an arts and humanities building.

Colleges and universities play the role of teaching students the “right habits of mind” and should therefore constantly remind themselves of their responsibility to educate and ask difficult questions about potential for the future, Hrabowski said.

Interim College President Carol Folt introduced Hrabowski to a half-filled auditorium, noting that the UMBC leader was among the first names on the list of potential candidates for Leading Voices speakers. Folt said she and Hrabowski share similar goals for their institutions.

Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Paul Buckley said he appreciated Hrabowski’s lecture because it challenged universities to improve themselves.

The Leading Voices in Higher Education series starts a “hard conversation” with members of the College community and promotes the idea that higher education can and should be improved, attendee Shan Williams ’12 said.

“President Hrabowski was great today because his tone made it feel like more of a casual conversation,” Williams said.

During his 20 years at UMBC, Hrabowski has worked with and advocates for a number of programs that emphasize the role of higher education institutions in the community.

In one of these programs, university students spent time with 500 children between the ages of eight and 15 who are from underprivileged families.

He has also authored books on parenting and African-Americans in the sciences and was named by President Barack Obama as the chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African-Americans.

Hrabowski was jailed at the age of 12 in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., for participating in the Children’s Crusade, a march of hundreds of high school students in May 1963, he said.

Hrabowski, named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012, and he seeks to foster an environment where intelligence is celebrated.

“Being a geek definitely isn’t a problem there,” Gevorg Grigoryan, who graduated from UMBC in 1997 and subsequently earned a PhD in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said.

Hrabowski concluded his lecture with a quote from Aristotle that he said speaks to the intangible notions that have guided his own life and that he hopes becomes ingrained in the minds of all students at institutions of higher education in America.

“Excellence is never an accident,” he said. “Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

Hrabowski’s lecture was titled “Innovation, Inclusive Leadership and Excellence: The Future of Higher Education in America.”

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