UMBC president wraps up ECBC anniversary speaker series

UMBC President Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, engages ECBC employees during his talk on innovation, grit, and success during the final presentation of the ECBC 100th Anniversary Speaker Series Oct. 11, 2017. | Photo courtesy of ECBC

Hrabowski talks innovation, grit, success

The president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, Ph.D., spoke to employees of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, or ECBC, during the final event of the center’s 100th Anniversary Speaker Series, Oct. 11, 2017.

Named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012, Hrabowski is recognized worldwide for cultivating innovation in education at UMBC. Since he became UMBC President in 1992, Hrabowski has transformed the reputation of UMBC from a commuter and sister school to the University of Maryland, College Park, to a university nationally recognized for its academic innovation. UMBC was named in the 2018 U.S. News & World Report college guide as the seventh most innovative university in the nation and is tied with Duke University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame as a top university for undergraduate teaching.

During his talk titled, “Grassroots Innovation: The Power of Your Power,” Hrabowski said diversity, collaboration, and grit are keys to guiding innovation, enduring challenges, and encouraging ingenuity. Innovation is one of ECBC’s strategic goals as an organization. As the nation’s premier provider of innovative chemical and biological solutions, ECBC strives for the development of new products and solutions to protect U.S. forces and citizens. “Innovation is the key to staying ahead of future defense needs,” said ECBC Associate Director Michelle Goddard. “Dr. Hrabowski’s lessons can enhance ECBC employee’s ability to be creative and identify unique ways to solve complex defense problems.”

UMBC President Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, examines a M50 protective mask developed by ECBC researchers during a tour of the ECBC Visitors Center. | Photo courtesy of ECBC

Hrabowski engaged the audience with a series of what he described as uncomfortable questions, such as inquiries about minority education and participation experiences with Hispanic, African-American and Asian communities in America versus Caucasians of all socio-economic backgrounds. He went on to link the facts to the ways in which UMBC has pioneered the journey to recognize and recruit the underrepresented population of students to their school. UMBC has students from more than 100 different countries.

Hrabowski discussed the importance of being open to risk in the innovation process. Throughout his conversation with the audience he linked risk averseness to innovation.

“There is no way to talk about innovation if we do not talk about creating a climate that allows people to take risks,” he said.

Hrabowski explained that UMBC defines innovation as finding more ways to work in groups and to collaborate and partner with industry, colleges and governments in order to rethink the way in which business is done. Hrabowski suggested innovation also means changing the way the word “smart” is used. Rather than dubbing one group to be smarter than another, he encouraged the audience to focus on those with the drive and grit to succeed and achieve at any desired level. According to Hrabowski, true grit, which also happens to be the name of the UMBC Chesapeake Bay Retriever mascot, is having the personal characteristics of hard work and resiliency.

Through Hrabowski’s experiences with grit, innovation and education, he has created an educational environment at UMBC which encourages people to step outside of their comfort zones and ask questions. He challenged the ECBC audience, in the spirit of innovation, to ask questions because questioning, he said, is what creates an environment that inspires others to critically think and therefore supports the next era of visionaries.

Hrabowski’s talk at ECBC can be viewed at:

For more information about ECBC 100th anniversary events, go to:

By Edgewood Chemical Biological Center