The 16th Annual Faculty Conference on Teaching Excellence was held January 10th at Temple University, and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski delivered an energetic and inspiring keynote address combining passion and personal memoir with larger lessons about higher education and inclusive excellence.
In his compelling presentation, he wove together three stories. First, he told his personal story of growing up as a Black man in the segregated South, including his experience with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Children’s Crusade. From those beginnings, Dr. Hrabowski has gone on to become a scholar, university president and higher education leader who advised President Obama on higher education policy and who was named by TIME in 2012 as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
But his presentation was about more than his inspiring personal story. He also described the culture of inclusive excellence at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), the institution he has led for over 20 years. UMBC was founded in 1966 and unlike most universities in Maryland which were founded during segregation to serve students of one race, UMBC has been integrated since its inception. Today, UMBC has a strong culture of mentorship and undergraduate research which has helped make UMBC one of the nation’s leading universities for graduating Black undergraduates who then earn doctoral degrees.
Also woven throughout his presentation was reference to the generations-long struggle to make higher education accessible to people from less privileged backgrounds. He recounted how after World War II, influential college presidents fought against the GI Bill fearing that veterans attending college would tarnish higher education. Instead, the middle of the 20th Century saw educational attainment soar, not just through the GI Bill, but through the spread of financial aid and community colleges.
However, he reminded us that “change is not distributed equally.” While the overall college attainment rate in the United States has increased significantly since the 1960s, there are still wide racial and class disparities in terms of who attends college, which institutions they attend and whether or not they graduate.
Inspired by Dr. Hrabowski’s call for inclusive excellence, participants headed to breakout sessions which explored how specific practices related to Hrabowski’s four pillars of college success such as active learning, undergraduate research, formative assessment and co-curricular activities, can be used to bring inclusive excellence to their classes.
Thank you to Dr. Hrabowski and UMBC for showing us that inclusive excellence is possible!