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Class Act

The other day the New York Times lauded a Maryland university for churning out talented scientists, mathematicians, and engineers at an impressive rate. The school wasn’t Johns Hopkins. It was a lesser-known academic powerhouse, the University of Maryland in Baltimore County (which I’m pleased to report Fast Company readers learned about several years ago).

The other day the New York Times lauded a Maryland university for churning out talented scientists, mathematicians, and engineers at an impressive rate. The school wasn’t Johns Hopkins. It was a lesser-known academic powerhouse, the University of Maryland in Baltimore County (which I’m pleased to report Fast Company readers learned about several years ago).

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Every school that’s serious about making the American workforce more competitive and addressing the growing shortage of scientists and engineers should copy the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program at UMBC. Ninety percent of the participants major in math, science, or engineering — and 90 percent of those go on to graduate school.

The program works for a variety of reasons — its pre-college summer boot camp, summer internships at top labs, collaborative environment (students study in small groups, like scientists), the sense of community (they share a dorm all four years).

Then there’s the leadership of UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski. A lifelong math geek — “I still get goose bumps doing hard math problems,” he told me — he tries to be the kind of role model that inspired him as a boy: “When I was 13, the summer before 11th grade, I spent the summer at the Tuskegee Institute and met a black math professor with a Ph.D., who liked talking about books as much as I did. After that I told myself, I’m going to be like him. I envisioned having a Ph.D., teaching math, and being a dean one day. So every morning, I’d look in the mirror and say, Good morning, Dr. Hrabowski.”

That Ph.D.? He earned it at 24. The dean’s job? Had it at 26. Here’s a dynamic college president who’s leading by example. If only more colleges would follow him.

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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