The Best Of Mark Rocha: It "STEMS" From Community

Originally Posted November 14, 2011

I hope you had an opportunity to see the report on 60 Minutes last night on Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Dr. Hrabowski is himself a scientist and has been president of UMBC since 1992. His mission—and that of UMBC—is to increase the number of minority students who enter and graduate in STEM majors. UMBC has had extraordinary success and has graduated more minority students in STEM fields than any other university.

The experience taught me that the more we expect of children, the more they can do.
— ­­Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The keys to UMBC’s success? Hard work and concerted action to recruit and retain minority students. Two singular characteristics: 1) An emphasis on project­based learning in which students participate in real research projects even at the intro level. 2)  Learning community cohorts. The community of seventy two entering freshmen even walk to class together during their summer bridge program. And they continue with their program of study in a clear, guaranteed progression.  Here is a video sample of Dr.Hrabowski’s “audacious ideas”:

At age 12, Freeman Hrabowski marched with Martin Luther King. Now he's president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where he works to create an environment that helps under-represented students -- specifically African-American, Latino and low-income learners -- get degrees in math and science. He shares the four pillars of UMBC's approach.

I’m so proud to say that PCC faculty and staff have also been hard at work at creating a STEM community that graduates more minority students. First, of course, our Educational Master Plan explicitly sets out the goal of increasing the number of STEM graduates and transfers. Project­based collaborative learning is happening in such programs as the Bridges to Stem Cell Research and the Design Technology Pathway. Very recently we were awarded a $5M HIS grant to increase the number of environmental science majors in a partnership with Cal Poly Pomona. Yes indeed, we are making great progress!

And there is much more to do. Let us draw inspiration from Dr. Hrabowski and from ourselves to graduate more students in these uncertain times. I am grateful to all of you for your commitment to this goal. Our best way to live our optimism about the future is to put more PCC graduates into it.

In hope and heart, Mark