Americans are devoted, passionate, and quite loyal to our sports teams and the athletes that are associated with them. Our enthusiasm runs the spectrum of competition - from little league, high school, college, to professional. We celebrate joyously when they win and commiserate with total strangers when they lose. It is not hard to imagine that most fans of the New Orleans Saints, the Boston Celtics, NY Yankees, and a host of other teams are wearing paraphernalia that proudly states, "We're Number One!"
So I ask, why is it so hard for us to have this same enthusiasm and pride for our institutions and our scholars that excel in academics? Why is it that the State Champion high school football team receives trophies, plaques, banquets, and letter jackets, and the honor roll students receive bumper stickers? As a former athlete, I fully understand the dedication, effort, and skill set required to be the best. In fact, I learned early in my athletic career that "excellence demands sacrifice." However, these same attributes are required to excel in and out of the classroom.
We must start changing the culture that promotes our athletic prowess and yet minimizes academic achievement. The same motivation and encouragement that we give athletes, also will work in an academic environment. We should tell our scholars that "with practice, determination, commitment, and persistence, you can be what ever it is you want.
For quite some time, UMBC and the Meyerhoff Program have consistently ranked among the country's best in math and science graduation rates, graduate and professional school placement, and STEM graduate degree completion. Yet, even our alumni are quite modest about their university, their program, and the success of their peers as well as their own impressive accomplishments.
Finally, it is my hope that the faculty and staff of UMBC and Meyerhoff Alumni know how proud we are of their efforts, their accomplishments (in and out of the classroom), and the way that they have carried themselves throughout their impressive journeys. I also hope they know that because of their efforts, commitment to excellence, their willingness to sacrifice, their unyielding support of each other, and the support of the principals and mission of the Meyerhoff program, UMBC is able to say "We are Number One." And for that, so are you!
"Hold Fast to Dreams"
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