Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009

Freeman Hrabowski

Freeman Hrabowski has a problem. The president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), has been so successful at cultivating his school's reputation for steering African-American students toward science and engineering — fields in which they have been traditionally under-represented — that he fears the university will be forever typed as a hard-discipline powerhouse at the expense of everything else. "I often say to people that yes, over half of our students are in science fields, but the other half are in arts," says Hrabowski. "We're working to build a university that has first-rate research across all disciplines." It's easy to understand why UMBC has been pigeonholed, though. Hrabowski — a charismatic leader who was jailed for almost a week as a 12-year-old in the fight for civil rights in early-'60s Alabama — has spent much of his 17 years at the school's helm striving to channel minorities toward grad school. It's worked. UMBC is one of the nation's leading sources of African-American Ph.D.s in science and engineering, and almost half of its seniors go immediately to grad school. All things considered, it's not a bad problem to have. —Gilbert Cruz