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EAB’s Sally Amoruso hosts a conversation with outgoing UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski that traces his beginnings as an academic prodigy and participant in the 1963 “Children’s March” organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to his transformational leadership at UMBC.
The two discuss UMBC’s well-earned reputation for producing more African-American undergraduates who go on to earn PhDs in science and engineering than almost any other institution. Finally, they discuss the mindset it takes to be an academically successful student of color, as well as Dr. Hrabowski’s future plans.
0:00:11.6 Speaker 1: Hello and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. Today, we are fortunate to have as our guest, outgoing UMBC President, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. Dr. Hrabowski was jailed at 12 years old by infamous Birmingham, Alabama Sheriff, Bull Connor, for participating in the 1963 Children's March organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From there, he went on to graduate high school at 15 and ultimately earned his BA and MA in Mathematics, as well as a PhD in Higher Education Administration before eventually taking the helm at UMBC. These accolades only begin to scratch the surface of his extraordinary life and legacy. Without further ado, let's hear from the man himself.
0:01:03.7 Sally Amoruso: Hello and welcome, this is Sally Amoruso. I'm Chief Partner Officer for EAB, and I am very excited today to be joined by University of Maryland, Baltimore County President, author and civil rights leader, Freeman Hrabowski. Dr Hrabowski, welcome.
0:01:20.0 Dr. Freeman Hrabowski: Hi. And Sally, please call me Freeman. Please.
0:01:23.7 SA: Will do. Will do. Well, Freeman, you have an impressive list of titles, but this really only begins to scratch the surface of an extraordinary life and an extraordinary man who was once named by Time Magazine as one of the nation's best college presidents and who was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the newly created President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans back in 2012. Freeman, is it okay if we start with your formative years before we jump into your work at UMBC?
0:01:52.4 DH: That's fine. Sure. Sure.
0:01:54.6 SA: Great. Well, I understand that education was of paramount importance to your parents as it was to mine.
0:02:02.0 DH: Yeah.
0:02:02.1 SA: What would you like people to know about how you were raised and about the impact that that had on you?
0:02:07.3 DH: I appreciate the question. I often say that we are all products of our childhood experiences, and we should go back to that. We should think about them and the impact that those experiences have had on our lives, and for me, growing up in a home with teachers who believed in the importance of reading and thinking and who always taught me to believe in myself, those were the messages. Whether I was in the segregated schools or in my church, in the neighborhood, and I keep those messages with me because as I think about my role as an educator, I'm always wanting to make sure that my students have a strong sense of self, that they believe in themselves. And as a math teacher all my life, I always say, if you give me a child who can read well, I can teach her to solve math word problems. At the core of what I believe in is that notion of strong thinking and reading and discussing ideas, and that's what I take from my childhood experiences, including the civil rights movement and having the chance to march with the children and to spend the week in jail and to hear the message from Dr, King, that we could make the world better, that the world could be better tomorrow than today but it will take us to do it. So the notion of empowerment of people, those are the messages.
0:03:36.5 SA: You mentioned in passing segregated schools. You grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and this was in the midst of the civil rights movement, so your experience was very shaped by that and you were only, was it 12, when you marched in the Children's March?
0:03:52.5 DH: That's exactly right. I had skipped a couple of grades, I had older parents. Children of older parents are older somehow, and so you grew up feeling like you're a little adult. And I did, I did. I was sitting in the back of church and Dr. King made the statement that if the children participate in this peaceful protest, all of America will know that even our young people know the difference between right and wrong. And Sally, I was simply tired of those hand-me-down books from the white schools. We did not have the resources, and it was so degrading to think, just the idea that we weren't good enough to get new books and my parents weren't allowed to bring... I couldn't bring new books in because it'd be different from other children, you see? So the teachers were so hardworking, but we didn't have the resources. That experience led me to want to go to march and to see what difference we could make. And quite frankly, we did make a difference.
0:04:48.5 SA: Well then, you actually spent some time in jail, didn't you?
0:04:51.7 DH: Yeah, I spent a horrific week in jail. We were treated like animals, like slaves. Too many people, some of the kids were younger and crying a lot and not enough bathrooms and you can imagine being packed from the floors for a week. It was awful, it really was. But in the middle of the week, Dr. King came with our parents and we're standing, we're inside and they're out there, and he said, "What your children do this day will have an impact on children who've not yet been born." And there was something profound about that. But the question I kept asking myself is, where will I be in the years to come? What's gonna happen to us? It was a time of reflection, of fear, but of hope, but of hope. And that's, of all the things I can say, there was great hope that we were making a difference. Yes.
0:05:43.2 SA: And so you went out from this segregated educational experience, getting the hand-me-down books, to a very remarkable academic career. So you graduated from Hampton University, highest honors in mathematics.
0:06:00.9 DH: Yes.
0:06:01.0 SA: You earned your master’s and PhD from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, really impressive. Did you know throughout that whole time that you wanted to work in academia?
0:06:13.9 DH: I did, I knew, but I always thought I'd be teaching kids and my mother was always afraid I'd become a high school principal. She said, "You know, you run your mouth so much and they're gonna see you smart and they're gonna wanna... " She wanted me to stay in the classroom and work with the children, there was nothing more noble. My dad had left teaching, and had been a principal of a rural school, to work in a steel factory, because you could make more money as a laborer than you could as a teacher. So he worked three jobs. And so I saw them... But even in the steel factory, he was teaching the men, the black men, preparing them to go and take the GED, and my mother taught in the daytime, math and reading, but she also taught in the GED program.
0:07:00.1 DH: So they had this pipeline of men in the steel factories who wanted to get their high school diplomas, and literally he would work with them. And so I always knew teaching and it was just so important. So I thought I'd be teaching kids. I think it was later on... Actually, I was in a summer program at Tuskegee sponsored by the National Science Foundation in math. And this professor comes in and he puts a problem on the board and, this was in high school, and nobody could solve it. And he said, "When you can solve it, come and see me." And all the kids got really upset because they said, if you are a real teacher, you would tell us how to solve it. And he just walked out. Now I was young, I was 13. I was going to the 11th grade.
0:07:42.8 DH: They were 16. They had the cynicism of a 16-year-old. I had the naivety of a 13-year-old, a little math nerd. And I said, no, he believes in us. He thinks we can do this. And so that was my first experience in pulling the big kids together to work on this problem for two days. But as he left, they gave his name and they said he was doctor, and they gave his name. And I said, no, he's not a physician. They said, no, he's a PhD. And I said, well, what's a PhD? And they said, oh, that's the highest degree you can get. And I said, looking in the mirror at my little fat face, I'm gonna get a PhD. And I'm gonna be like him, a professor of math at a university. And that was the experience that led to my wanting to go to grad school and wanting to be in a college setting. It was that. So that led me to say, yeah, I wanted to be in a college environment.
0:08:27.7 SA: And you did become a professor of mathematics, of statistics research. So lead us through your career, starting with your Assistant Dean shift for student services.
0:08:39.2 DH: I had gone to Illinois and remember that the Hampton experience was wonderful and it was an HBCU, many of my teacher were white, it was the first time I'd had white professors, other than when my parents sent me to Massachusetts to see what it'd be like to be in class with white kids, to Springfield, Massachusetts. And what I learned in that experience was first of all, that the education was amazing, very rigorous, but I also learned that even the teachers would not speak to me and I... That was literally in the '60s. I would raise my hand; they would look right through me. I came to understand what Ralph Ellison meant by the invisible man. And I always remembered that feeling of being not important and that helped to shake my thinking about what I wanted to do as an educator.
0:09:26.6 DH: But I went through the Hampton experience, Illinois, again, only black in my classes, obviously no black professors, and... But there were a couple who were very supportive. And what I will tell you is this, that those experiences led to my wanting to do a combination of things, I loved teaching. I had moved from pure math, abstract algebra, the masters, to going into administration, higher ed administration and statistics. I became the stat guru in the social sciences, I wanted to apply it because nobody would talk with me about group theory and algebra and none of the guys, there were only men, unfortunately white men in the grad program.
0:10:03.2 SA: White men.
0:10:03.7 DH: Yeah, that was it. It was that. And only one woman out of a 100 faculty and she was not tenure or not tenure track, but she was wonderful to me. But the point is that... So I began doing the combination of teaching stat and working as an Assistant Dean and then Associate Dean at a place and then Dean at an HBCU, and then moving to UMBC as Vice Provost responsible for the undergraduate experience, the academic undergraduate experience. And that was back in the late '80s. And the biggest challenge we faced was that some of the students came to UMBC with an interest in STEM and black students were not... This was a predominantly white school. Interestingly, UMBC was founded at such a time in the '60s that students of all races could come here. Now, remember, Maryland is still the south. I say the upper south, but it is the south, right? And so every institution was founded either for blacks or for whites. That was it. That was the way people thought at that time. But we were founded for students of all races and began getting students of all backgrounds.
0:11:06.1 DH: And the challenge though was that the vast majority of minority students, black students, were not succeeding in science. But when I looked at the data, what I found was that the majority of students of all races were not succeeding in science. And that really was reaffirming, what I'd seen at Illinois when kids from Chicago would come down and compete against kids from the suburbs and did not do well. But the other part was it wasn't just about minority students, the vast majority of white students were not doing well. It's just that the base was larger, so you had a certain percentage making it. And that began to shape our thinking here about the notion that if we can figure out how to help one group, minority students, for example, we can learn things that can help all students and the need to be more specific in looking at the challenges that different groups were facing. And that was from the '80s and that began to shape the future of UMBC, as we thought about the notion, we want to make sure students of all backgrounds can succeed in STEM but also in the humanities and social sciences.
0:12:10.9 SA: Let's talk about UMBC because I grew up in Baltimore and it's been quite phenomenal to watch UMBC blossom and evolve.
0:12:21.0 DH: Thank you.
0:12:22.6 SA: When I have visited campus over these more recent years, what a beautiful campus, it is just gorgeous. But it has changed a lot across your 30-year tenure as school president.
0:12:40.1 DH: Oh yeah.
0:12:40.9 SA: UMBC was ranked the number one up and coming University in the US for six consecutive years, until US News and World Report finally retired that award and then began including you all in its annual most innovative National University's list. Tell us about some of the changes that you made when you took the helm 30 years ago.
0:13:01.2 DH: So I'm very proud that we're both in that top 10 for innovative universities, but also for best teaching at the undergrad level, in the top 10 for both. Now, here's the point, we are now a model for international and domestic diversity. It would surprise you to know, 60% of our students at the undergrad level, Sally, have at least one parent from another country. Number one. People don't think of Baltimore, but this is the corridor. This is the Baltimore Washington corridor.
0:13:29.2 DH: So many students have parents, one of whom is from the military, from another country, others have from the intelligence community, from the diplomatic community, but the key is this, so we like looking at people who have this international background, but also students who may come out of rural Maryland or from New York City or wherever. And how you bring these people together to teach them how to work effectively in diverse groups and we do that. And one of the points I make that sometimes upsets people is that we're not teaching students how to work with and live with people different from themselves. It's one thing to talk about making sure every group appreciates its own culture, we wanna do that, but I'd like to think about the Genius of the And versus the Tyranny of the Or. And that's from Jim Collins, I wish I had said it.
0:14:19.6 DH: But the idea is, yes, you can learn your own culture, but you really need to learn how to work with people from all backgrounds, different religions, different parts of the world, and that's what we work to do. And we are an MSI now, we are now a minority serving institution, but what people don't realize is we're in that category because of the large Asian population, and people don't like to make the point, but it is true that you have many more people from Asian backgrounds who are succeeding in science and technology, and there are reasons for that that we can talk about. But the key is that... So we are... The largest minority group is Asian and they are over 25% and the black population is about 18%. Latino, probably seven or eight, so we are over half, over half minority.
0:15:06.7 DH: And it's, what we say, we look like what America is gonna look like, just because you've got these people from all these backgrounds and you have people in each of those group succeeding, and something you'll appreciate from EAB, and we are very strong on talking about analytics and focus groups and understanding our students and not just lumping them into those different general categories, but to look at the backgrounds of each student and not assume we know them because they look one way or the other, very important message in our education.
0:15:42.6 SA: Why do you think Asian-Americans do so well or Asians just generally...
0:15:47.1 DH: Yeah, you know what, I've got the answer, and this is the... Everything boils down to math. I'm so biased. I'm so biased. We can always... Whether it's about nature and patterns or looking at connections to music, but let me give you my answer, let's start... I often ask American audiences, do you think there are more very high achieving Chinese and Indian children or very high-achieving American children in Math and Science? And people have a great pride and say, oh, America. And my first comment is, of course, I love my country but the fact is it's Math. 1.3 billion Chinese, 1.2 billion Indians, you put those two together, you have 2.5 billion people.
0:16:32.6 DH: The top 10% of any group will be extraordinary. Now that's 250 million super high achievers. America only has a little over 300 million people. So you've got as many geniuses at that level as we have citizens. Now, you add to that the fact that people who come from any country and you look at their children, you'll find a level of intensity. So whether they come from Nigeria or from Barbados or from India, you see, that those kids are the beneficiaries of that intensity of that family.
0:17:09.5 DH: And we saw it in New York throughout the 20th century from European families, now we see it from other parts of the world, Asian, African, and so you got the intensity, the idea of the immigrants who come in and who really appreciate what America has to offer, and then you add on the math I gave you from before, and you see why. At UMBC, when you look at our graduate programs in computing, there are heavily people from other countries, for example. Our undergrads are typically the children of people from other countries, but our grad students come directed, particularly in the STEM areas, and that is the reason that you see such a heavy Asian influence.
0:17:50.9 DH: And I say it's wonderful because these children of immigrants and people who come directly can inspire us to be better. I say it is a message for us, we can be better, they show us what's possible in the world, in thinking about the human possibilities.
0:18:10.4 SA: I would concur on the intensity being the child of immigrants from Asia. Definitely, it definitely resonates with me. UMBC is one of the nation's leading sources of African-American PhDs in science and engineering. Almost half of your seniors go to grad school immediately.
0:18:29.7 DH: Of all races, that's what it's like.
0:18:30.8 SA: Of all races.
0:18:32.1 DH: 40% of all races. And we are... Let me just give you some specificity. We're the number one producer of blacks who... Black bachelor's recipients who go on to complete PhDs around the country in the Natural Sciences and Engineering, and we're the number one producer of Black baccalaureate recipients who go on to get MD-PhDs from the most prestigious places in the country. We produce our own PhDs, but those statistics are specifically focused on that strength. The good news about that, Sally, is we do that as number one, but we are large producers, producers of large numbers of whites and Asians and Latinos who go on exactly and do the same thing. And not only in the sciences, but also in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
0:19:16.4 SA: When I speak to higher-ed leaders who are really struggling with trying to address equity gaps... I'd love for you to just give us a sense of how you accomplished this and perhaps highlight the Meyerhoff Program, which is...
0:19:29.7 DH: I appreciate that. The first book in... My book my colleagues and I wrote, "The Empowered University" says, "It's not about me, it's about us." We in America, in a society in general, in human society, look to the leader of the country, and you see that in Ukraine right now, they have the leader, the one person. And then there are some ways that a top person sets a tone, it's true, but the real work is done by just a broad range of leaders, and what has made the difference at UMBC will be wonderful faculty and staff and administrators who have been moving in the same direction, saying "We can do a better job with these people from these different backgrounds." And I often tell people, "Look at our TED Talk," my TED Talk which is on "The four pillars of success in science," which can also be used for life or in the humanities, and it is high expectations, building community among the people, it takes scientists to produce scientists, but it takes people in the arts to produce people in the arts, you pull them into the work. And then let's look at rigorous evaluation.
0:20:33.4 DH: Too often in our education, we draw conclusions based on anecdotal information. We need to have the discipline to use analytics in understanding what's happening so that our decision making can be much more data-driven based on the facts, not on impressions. And so those are the pillars of success and that's what we've used. And if somebody wants to look at our Meyerhoff Program, that is started for African Americans and now has students of all races, but these students, it's heavily minority and what they have in common is an interest in addressing the issue of under-representation in STEM. And so what's key about that is you can look at the 60 Minutes piece on the Meyerhoff Program, it's only 15 minutes and it gives you a sense and you see the community. The part of that piece that got me into trouble, Sally, I got more hate mail because we take their phones away. We take... [chuckle] During the week we take their phones away and there were so many people said, "This is America, you cannot take a college student's... " It's in the Summer Bridge Program, it's like boot camp.
0:21:39.4 DH: And during the week, we take their phone, "Well, how do we make that decision? Listening to students." As one group finished one year, we said, "What else could we do to help you become more connected to each other?" They said, "Next year, take the phones away," because if high school students in the summer have their phones, they're talking to their friends and their mothers and everybody else, they don't get know, and it worked beautifully. But I got blamed for it and I went...
0:22:10.8 SA: That's quite fascinating. So you wrote the book entitled "Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males." And this was well before universities were applying data and analytics.
0:22:27.3 DH: Yeah.
0:22:27.5 SA: Tell me, how has your thinking changed since that book was published?
0:22:30.7 DH: We published that one and then the one on African American women. And first of all, some of the lessons are the same. We base our discussions on focus groups with those students and their families, and the question was, "What do you do to help your son or your daughter become good at math or like math or science?" And so we were listening, that part remains the same, listening to the voices of students and their families. I think it's very important, especially as we talk about first generation in college students, students of color. But secondly, we have more sophisticated techniques now in the use of analytics, so that while we were doing some things that might involve some statistical measurement now, data science is the name of the game, this intersection of computing and stats, statistics. And so we are far more sophisticated in understanding what somebody might say will relate to what we can see from their backgrounds, you see. The quality of the high school, the rigor of the course work, the attitude of the student, the independent major, the level of educational parents, we can take all that and use qualitative and quantitative data and determine which students we need to give more attention to even from the beginning.
0:23:52.0 DH: And the best news is this, while those two books were based on the high achieving Meyerhoff, we now have taken lessons learned to help students of all races who may not be the highest achieving, but who still can be supported in moving to the next level. That has been the beauty of taking lessons learned in that, just as right now, we're looking at lessons learned involving coding, same idea.
0:24:18.9 SA: We find the same thing, things that are good for one group are often good for everyone.
0:24:23.4 DH: That's exactly right. And at the center of it, Sally, do you really care about the students? What does it mean to really care? I use this statement that I tell new students when their parents were in college and they were fortunate to go, the dean would say, "Look at the student to your left and look at the student to your right. One of you will not graduate." And people still say that. I think that's an awful thing to say, because what it means is you're already telling that so many of the students, you're not gonna make it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if I meant that at all immature little kids, freshman, and they say, "Oh my God, he's talking about me, so I may as well have a good time 'cause I'm not gonna be here anyway." In contrast, we say, "Look to your left, look to your right, our goal is to make sure all three of you graduate and if we don't, if you don't, we fail and we don't plan to fail." It's that mindset, setting a tone that says, "We can do this, we're in this together."
0:25:14.5 SA: So true, I was pre-med when I started your university and I remember the weed-out courses.
0:25:19.5 DH: Oh yeah, yeah, you know what? I said that... I said this at a major national agency that so many students who start off in pre-med become great lawyers, and everybody laughed, and I said, "It's because these are the two professions people think about, medicine and law," so often, right? And the difference is that in the social sciences, if you can read and think well, you can least get a B, you may not be super talented, but you can do okay. But if I give you a math test and it has 5 problems or chemistry test with 5 problems, 3 you've seen before and 2 I change around, if you've not worked with other people to figure out how I might change them around and you only have an hour, you may know the work and you still get a D.
0:26:01.3 DH: And good students, when you go to universities, you've been an excellent student and all of a sudden you get a C or a D, and you go, "Oh my God, it's not for me. It's not for me." And we do that. And even when looking at... And the more prestigious the university, the greater the chances the students will leave science. And it's this well-kept secret because nobody wants to go out and say I didn't do well. We just moved...
0:26:24.2 DH: So literally, the general counsel for this big national agency said, "You just told my story. I went to one of the most prestigious, I have a perfect SAT, I gotta C in Chemistry, I went home and told them I love something else." And it is, it's the story of America right now. It's the challenge that we face.
0:26:41.3 SA: I have to say that's my story as well. My first chemistry test, freshman year, I got a 39%. I had never gotten anything below an A before and that was a signal to me that that probably wasn't the path for me.
0:26:53.8 DH: Yeah, and I tell my colleagues in STEM... And the faculty in the humanities and social sciences are more caring, usually anyway. There's more of support there. We in math and science tend to be focused on the problem sometimes more than the students, and that's not always the case, but often it is. It's our personalities and the need to become more nurturing. And so at UMBC, the Chemistry Discovery Center is designed to do just that, to make sure we are more nurturing, they have people working in groups to give them more feedback and to tell them you can do this, and as a result, we've seen much larger numbers of students succeeding and going on to grad school in chemistry, biochemistry, computer science, but also in connecting the humanities and social sciences to other disciplines, digital humanities, imaging and digital arts, a lot of fascinating interdisciplinary programs.
0:27:47.3 SA: So you recently announced that you're gonna retire in June. I actually emailed your CBO, Lynne Schaefer, when that announcement came out and said, "This is the end of an era," which it is. What do you wanna focus your energies around in this next chapter of your life?
0:28:04.3 DH: Sure, sure. And Lynne Schaefer has retired too, but she is so brilliant, I know she's gonna be consulting and helping a lot of people. Let me just say, I made the mistake of saying I was retiring. I'm retiring from UMBC but I am not retiring from Harriet. I am so excited about this next chapter, and people say, "Well, don't you feel bad about leaving?" No, I am so proud of my colleagues and students at UMBC. And I'm leaving... We have become Research 1. I didn't think we'd do that before I left, and it had a lot to do with the fact that we were already high achieving in science and tech. We had not invested as much 10 or 15 years ago in the humanities and social sciences.
0:28:44.1 DH: Now we've built all those areas up to comprehensively, we're at that Research 1 level, which is great for the research, but at the same time, I wanna say we still put a lot of attention on those students and teaching undergrad and grad. With that said, I will be working with national agencies. I enjoy working with new presidents and provosts and boards in the Harvard program, but I'll be working with universities around the country using the book, The Empowered University, and the new book we're working on right now about this period, it's called The Period. And I'll be working with Howard U’s medical institutions and with the national agencies, on trying to move the needle, meaning to increase representation of people of color and women in selected STEM areas. That's my passion and that's what I'll be doing.
0:29:33.8 SA: I lead our work with presidents at EAB, and one of the conversations we've been having is just how much the presidency has changed.
0:29:42.1 DH: Yes, yes.
0:29:43.3 SA: I'd love to get your perspective across your 30-year experience as president. How have you observed or experienced that presidency changing?
0:29:52.1 DH: There's several things. The obvious way is that technology has changed us all in so many ways. When I first became President, people were still using typewriters. They had been gone to computers, but it was okay to use the typewriter, and nobody ever expected you to get back to them within the same day. In terms of responses now, if you don't get back to people with an email within 24 hours or less, people are thinking you're not being responsive. And so technology has made us... We're moving faster and as a result, there's a positive and a negative side to that. Sometimes we're not able to reflect and to be as thoughtful as we need to be because we just gotta get an answer out. People expect presidents to weigh in on all kinds of things, I think there is more light shining on our values than ever. People want to know, do you have the courage to say when you think something is wrong, for example. And then because society is so divided, we as presidents are asked to think about, what do we do to work towards consensus of some type, because our campuses are microcosms of society.
0:31:02.4 DH: And so the first thing I say when students say, "Oh, it's never been this bad. We're so divided." I say "No, if you go back to the 60s, either the 1960s or the 1860s, you will see these divisions." And I say, "And you'll see our forefathers beating up on each other." Think about Burr and Hamilton, people were shooting each other, so let's not think it was the good old days, and for some of us it really wasn't the good old days. And so I think a part of the role of a president and of leaders in higher education is to elevate the conversations, to use the humanities and ethics, the philosophy and history to put our situation in context, to help people understand how we in this country are connected to other countries. And for me, and what I'll be doing with the next rest of my life is helping those of us in higher education understand we have a responsibility to people who have not benefited from higher education, to make sure first, we're not being condescending, secondly, to try to put ourselves in their shoes and third, to create, to develop language we can use to pull families in to this work.
0:32:17.8 DH: When I was in jail, I didn't know that only about 10% of Americans had graduated from college, and only about 3% or 4% of blacks, you see. Today we were up to over 30%, but two-thirds of Americans still don't know their higher education experience through a four-year institution. And people don't realize that so many, almost half, 47% of all students begin at community colleges, so the importance of two and four-year institutions, we've gotta help people understand that, number one. And to counter the narrative that higher education may not matter as much.
0:32:55.5 DH: On my forehead is the name Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. She is our graduate who is the first black woman to ever create a vaccine. She and Dr. Barney Graham, at NIH, created that vaccine associated with Moderna and Pfizer, the MRNA technology. That is one of our students, coming out of rural North Carolina, coming to UMBC, going back to Chapel Hill, getting her PhD, post-doc in NIH, and then science is there and leading the team with Dr. Barney Graham to create this vaccine. If there's any point that we can make about how higher education matters, imagine where we would be as the human society if we had not developed the vaccine. That's just one example in public health of what higher education does. And imagine if we don't take advantage of all the talent that we have, a little girl of color who comes through gets the opportunity and then helps to create the vaccine. That should make the point. So I tell CEOs, when you take that vaccine, remember the face of a young Black woman who created it. [laughter]
0:34:00.7 SA: I like that.
0:34:02.5 DH: And that's... And we've gotta have those narratives to help people understand why higher education matters and that we've gotta do a better and helping many more people who start college to graduate from either two or four-year institutions.
0:34:18.4 SA: We are very aligned on that point. Just a final question for you. As you speak to our audience, many of them are looking to seek a leadership position or are already in leadership positions across higher ed, perhaps as future presidents, what advice do you have for those folks?
0:34:38.0 DH: Sure. I look at our team of leaders, from chief technology officer, all the way over to the people who are involved in enrollment management, and what I would say is this, we need in our institutions to be giving students and faculty and staff and administrators opportunities to solve problems, and I think... And to listen to the voices of staff and of students and the faculty and of alumni and of the general public as we work to solve problems. And the people who will move up in the leadership ranks will be those who, first of all, are selfless, who are more concerned about helping others, students or colleagues with their work than about themselves, number one, people who can show people they can be trusted. When I'm working with new leaders, presidents, focus teams, I'm saying, nothing is more important than your integrity, than your character. And the idea has to be this, if you are an excellent thinker and you are with those values that will say, authenticity matters, people will notice you. And curiosity, so important, asking good questions. I always quote I. I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate who grew up in the '40s in New York, said that when he was growing up, all of his friends' mothers would ask them at the end of a school day, "What did you learn in school today?" He said, "Not my Jewish mother."
0:36:10.2 DH: He said, my mother would say, "Izzy, did you ask a good question today?" I am always fascinated with people who can ask the question nobody has thought about. So think about just creating that environment that encourages asking good questions. Whether in the use of technology or in having focus groups or in dealing with challenges, very important to do that. And that's what we've learned during the post-COVID period, is the importance of asking good questions.
0:36:40.5 SA: Thank you so much for your time, your wisdom and your amazing contribution to higher education. Thank you.
0:36:47.6 DH: Thank you. It's been a pleasure. Thank you.
0:36:57.5 Speaker 1: Thank you for listening. Please join us next week for the 100th episode of Office Hours with EAB. Joining us on the podcast is highly influential Inside Higher Ed Editor, Scott Jaschik, who shares what he considers to be the top trends and new stories impacting higher education today. You won't wanna miss it. Until then, thank you for your time.
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