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Innovation isn’t a buzzword.
It’s our culture.

UMBC was born amid the turbulent swirl of the 1960s, and we had to cut our own path in a field of older, established institutions.

From the beginning, we believed that a university could be innovative, interdisciplinary, inclusive – and great. We believed that ground-breaking research and a relentless focus on undergraduate success could go hand-in-hand.

We still do. To this day, our faculty, staff and students work and create outside traditional structures. We re-imagine and build. It’s no coincidence that UMBC had the first university research park in Maryland, dedicated to growing ideas into thriving businesses. And it’s no coincidence that we are consistently cited – most recently, by U.S. News & World Report – as one of the best universities for undergraduate teaching and a leading innovator in higher education.

As The Washington Post says, UMBC serves its students well.

But don’t take it from other people. Make your own call.

Photo credit: Imaging Research Center Director Dan Bailey

A big idea.

UMBC took its own path from the beginning — but it hit its stride almost 25 years ago with one big idea. The university dared to dream that it could find a radically better way to educate African-American men in science, technology, engineering and math.

With support from the philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff, the now-renowned Meyerhoff Scholars Program was born.

Today, more African-American bachelor’s degree recipients go on from UMBC to earn Ph.D.’s in the STEM fields than from any other predominantly white university in the country. The Meyerhoff Program has a lot of other impressive numbers to its name. But, more importantly, its changing the culture.

Take it from Isaac Matthews, a Meyerhoff alum now pursuing a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "There are more black doctors than there are basketball players, but you don't see the image. As the numbers increase, as you have more black engineers, professors, that image can be defeated by the numbers."

Over the years, the Meyerhoff program has grown to include women and students of all races who are dedicated to promoting the success of underrepresented groups in the sciences. The program has also grown into a leading model for diversifying America’s scientific and engineering workforce.

Or as The New York Times put it: “The upstart campus in the pasture is rocking the house when it comes to the increasingly critical mission of turning American college students into scientists.”

The ambition – and success – of the Meyerhoff program ensured UMBC would never settle for the norm when it comes to our students’ educations.

Learn more about Meyerhoff

High expectations.
Wholehearted support.

The Meyerhoff program taught us the value of tough love. But that doesn’t mean a sink or swim mentality. Across the university, UMBC faculty combine high expectations for all students with unflagging support that empowers them to reach their potential.

At the beginning of the year, faculty introduce students to their scholarly passions and the rigor of a research university through small-group, first-year academic seminars.

Student success depends not just on intelligence and perseverance, but also on engagement and affiliation with the campus community. UMBC offers first-year success courses and transfer student seminars that connect students with campus groups and services. And unlike many student success courses, UMBC’s are directly tied to students’ course of study.

UMBC is also committed to steadfast support for graduate students. PROMISE is an NSF-funded, UMBC-led alliance dedicated to increasing the number and diversity of Ph.D. graduates in STEM fields who go on to academic careers, modeled off the Meyerhoff Scholars Program.

The UMBC experience: We ask a lot, and we help students find their intellectual and social home.

Learn more about undergraduate education

Move over, lecture hall

When you bring together spectacular students, sometimes they learn as much from each other as they do in a lecture. Today, that’s the theory behind all of UMBC’s active learning spaces.

It started in 2005 with the Chemistry Discovery Center. Frustrated with low participation — and low grades — in lecture-based classes, two chemistry professors had an idea: what if students had a problem-based, high-tech learning lab focused on cooperative learning? The Chemistry Discovery Center was born.

Five years later grades were up dramatically, as was the number of students majoring in chemistry. Kuntal Patel ’11, chemistry and psychology, describes it best: “You’re not going to understand something until you actually apply it.”

Following this triumph, we had just one question: Why not try it in other courses? Enter CASTLE, the brand-new active learning space for the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. CASTLE is multidisciplinary — in a given semester students studying math, biology and physics will all use it.

And don’t think this model is limited to the sciences. Active learning has long been part of the arts and humanities, but we’re still finding ways to push it further. When our new Performing Arts & Humanities building opens next fall, it will feature writing centers that push students of all disciplines to engage with each other around the written word.

Learning by doing. It’s a cornerstone of the UMBC experience.

Learn more about active learning

We don’t complain.
We do.

Every day, our students reimagine what their community can become.

Undergraduates are empowered to shape UMBC’s future through Prove-IT, an annual competition that offers teams up to $10,000 to design and implement an innovative project that improves the UMBC community. In 2010 the winner was UMBC Biodiesel, a group that found a way to convert UMBC’s cooking oil waste into eco-friendly fuel for campus transit.

Others come to UMBC with the drive to build connections off campus. They find a home in the Orser Center for the Study of Place, Community, and Culture, a new center for the research and preservation of Baltimore communities. “Baltimore is a city that’s in so much need of love and understanding,” says Ed Orser, professor emeritus of American studies and the center’s namesake.

A number of graduate students come to UMBC with an already well-developed passion for service and engagement, seeking new directions and opportunities. Why UMBC? Our Shriver Peaceworker Felllows Program offers a select graduate school experience for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers working to tackle the challenges facing our central cities.

Retrievers aren’t simply active in community life, they create community life — and they graduate with the confidence and skills to lead meaningful social change.

Read about Peaceworker Fellows’ work

Develop. Build. Grow.

When we say we offer space to create, we don’t just mean it metaphorically.

UMBC built Maryland’s first university research and technology park, bwtech@UMBC, on 71 acres on and near campus. It’s now home to more than 100 companies, and still others have thrived and moved off campus. Companies benefit from the park’s collegial environment, shared facilities and collaborations with faculty at UMBC.

The Maryland economy — and UMBC students — benefit too. After all, companies in the park frequently hire UMBC students as interns, and graduates as full-time employees. A few alums have even started their own companies there. And more than a few got the spark to build a business while at UMBC.

The Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship encourages that kind of thinking. The center opened six years ago, with the aim of becoming the Baltimore region’s leading university entrepreneurship program. It’s well on its way.

The center recently received a gift from the Kauffman Foundation to infuse entrepreneurship throughout UMBC’s curriculum. Three faculty fellows, one from each college, lead the way. They serve as idea keepers, champions and mentors to the campus community.

To get inspired, we need look no further than our professors.

Learn more about entrepreneurship

Teaching through research

We take student research as seriously as the Army takes basic training. Take chemistry professor Mike Summers. If students in his lab don’t ask enough questions, he makes them drop and give him 20.

That rigor is a big reason why undergraduates working with Summers, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, have been published in prestigious journals like Science. Rigorous research isn’t just for Summers’ students. It spans all disciplines, majors, schools and interests.

From dance to math to political science, our students share a passion for knowledge that leads them to research, scholarship and creative work throughout their undergraduate careers. Students strive to win Undergraduate Research Awards, which provide up to $1,500 for an original project.

But that’s just the beginning. Students transform their discoveries and creations into fully-developed and professional presentations, performances, exhibitions, demonstrations and film screenings. They present their research at the annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day, which featured 230 undergraduate students last year. Still others publish in the UMBC Review, the university’s journal of undergraduate research.

Such endeavors are more than one-time experiences. They’re springboards into graduate school and rewarding careers.

See undergraduate research for yourself

Creating (even more) opportunities

UMBC’s unofficial motto: “Success is never final.” We always keep working at it. As part of that work, we leverage our strengths to expand opportunities.

Our Department of Theatre, for example, is a perennial star in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Seven UMBC productions have been invited to the stage of the Kennedy Center, most recently in 2011 with a performance of Las Meninas by Lynn Nottage.

In 2006, the department decided to use its powerhouse position to develop new stage roles for women. The result: GRRL PARTS, an annual festival that asks playwrights to create dramas featuring women as the leads. Those roles provide female students the opportunity to act as complex characters in a field still often dominated by male roles.

Similarly, UMBC’s Center for Women In Technology provides substantial, four-year undergraduate scholarships to talented men and women who support women's full involvement in information technology. UMBC’s ACTiVATE program takes that work off campus, helping women develop companies in the technology field. More than 30 new companies have been created through the year-long program, and more than 100 women have been trained to date.

From theatre to IT, we don’t just exploit opportunities. We create them.

See theatre students at work

Thinking beyond UMBC

By now, you know that the Meyerhoff Scholars Program can claim more than a few success stories. And it’s led to some far-reaching changes on our campus. But we thought, why stop there?

President Obama has challenged the country to regain its position as the mostly highly-educated country in the world. The United States now ranks 16th among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for the percentage of young adults with college degrees. And the problem is particularly acute in science, technology, engineering and math.

Could UMBC build a recipe for success that others could adapt? The Meyerhoff program is successful, but costly — limiting the number of students that similar programs could reach. So, researchers at UMBC are working to identify the most crucial and cost-effective aspects of the program. The National Science Foundation has gotten behind the work, giving UMBC a grant to examine four different types of student supports. The study will run through 2012.

And we’re soon to launch other exciting national initiatives. So stay tuned ...

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