“His goal was to establish minorities in the STEM areas as central figures on campus, like athletes at other universities,” said Howard University President Sidney Ribeau, who studied with Hrabowski years ago at the University of Illinois.
Central to the UMBC narrative is the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, launched in 1988 as a pipeline for promising black males to complete math or science degrees. The university selected students with high SAT scores and good grades, paid their way and pampered them with academic support. In return, students pledged to maintain a B average.
Professors soon realized that black males weren’t the only ones struggling. Nationally, fewer than half of all students who enter college planning to study science or math complete degrees in those fields. That prompted the expansion of the program to others and a course redesign, which has now spread beyond hard science to psychology and English composition.
UMBC, founded in 1966, is a relative upstart among major research universities. In contrast to much older public flagships in Charlottesville and College Park, the Catonsville school is not even a half-century old. For those who work there, it is a rare opportunity to shape the trajectory of a major university.