Esteemed educator Freeman Hrabowski addresses a Tandon audience intent on nurturing an inclusive STEM community


Associate Professor Teresa Feroli, one of Tandon’s Chief Inclusivity Officers, hails from Maryland and had long heard tales of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) — a previously unheralded commuter school that ultimately became“the country’s strongest pipeline of Black graduates in science, technology, engineering and related fields,” as a New York Times reporter wrote in the summer of 2022.  

“The person largely responsible for that growth was Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, who joined UMBC in 1987, a time when there was an enormous gap in the GPAs and graduation rates of Black and white students,” Feroli explained.

When it came time for Tandon’s Day of Learning–an annual event planned by the Office of Inclusive Excellence to highlight issues of inclusion, diversity, belonging, and equity (IDBE) — she could think of no more exciting speaker than Hrabowski, who has attained something like rockstar status in higher education circles.

An in-demand speaker and the author of the highly regarded book The Empowered University, among other volumes, Hrabowski agreed to keynote the event. 

“We have come a long way since establishing the Office of Inclusive Excellence in 2019, including developing and carrying out an ambitious strategic plan that resulted in several successful IDBE initiatives,” said Assistant Dean for Opportunity Programs Nicole Johnson, another of Tandon’s Chief Inclusivity Officers. “Yet we acknowledge that there is still much work to be done, and we welcomed the chance to hear more about how Dr. Hrabowski accomplished all he did at UMBC.”

Hrabowski explained to Day of Learning attendees that his success was built on four pillars: maintaining high expectations, building a community of learners, encouraging students to work with high-level researchers from their earliest days on campus {“Researchers produce researchers,” he asserted), and clearheadedly evaluating your efforts in order to engage in a cycle of continuous improvement. 

“Thanks to Dr. Hrabowski thousands of UMBC undergraduates from underrepresented groups have gone on to challenging graduate programs and research positions,” Associate Dean of Student Life & Services and Chief Inclusivity Officer Rose Ampuero explained. “It might be a bit of a cliche to say someone is an inspiration, but in his case, that’s a very accurate description. It’s impossible to experience his enthusiasm and spirit and feel anything less than inspired. I think I speak for all of Tandon’s CIOs when I say we are intensely motivated and re-energized in our mission after listening to him speak.”

Hrabowski — a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering and the recipient of the American Council on Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award, among other such honors — offered more than mere encouragement. “His pillars provide a practical roadmap we can follow as we continue to promote IDBE at Tandon,”  Assistant Dean for First-year Students & Academic Initiatives and CIO Melinda Parham, who works with her fellow CIOs based on a shared governance model, said. “In reading The Empowered University, I was particularly struck by one quote that stated: ‘Work that matters — particularly work that involves changing the culture of an institution around issues such as race, gender, academic performance, teaching, and learning — is not accomplished overnight. It necessarily involves passion, but also a fundamental commitment to deliberate execution, vigilance in its use of evaluation for continuous improvement, and patience in its anticipation of a successful outcome.’ We’re definitely cultivating that commitment and vigilance in the Office of Inclusive Excellence. Patience is a lot harder, but we’re working on that as well.”