Giving Compass’ Take:
• Freeman Hrabowski, former civil rights activist, and now President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, speaks on how he supports student achievement in higher education, STEM, and the state of inequality in America.
• How does racial inequality impact students in higher education and touch STEM education as well? How can funders direct their dollars toward funding more equitable education?
• Learn how to best support STEM education.
In 1963, 12-year-old Freeman Hrabowski marched against segregation, was spat on by Bull Connor, and was arrested in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Today, the now-famous Children’s Crusade is considered a turning point in the struggle for civil rights. But back then, Hrabowski was just one of many terrified children who spent five days in the Birmingham Detention Center.
Hrabowski is a guiding force for the Urban Institute, too: last week, he capped 14 years on Urban’s board of trustees, most recently as vice chair. At a special event, he spoke with Urban’s president Sarah Rosen Wartell about inequality in America, the field of higher education, and the power of high expectations.
Hrabowski is widely recognized for evolving UMBC into a world-class academic institution that exceeds expectations again and again. Many of his students have overcome overwhelming odds, whether they are from dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore or underresourced countries thousands of miles away. “We need a better understanding of the multiple ways that poverty has an impact on students, from stress, from the ability to learn, to motivation,” he said.
At dinner, however, she challenged him, questioning whether it was fair to place responsibility on individual students for overcoming the injustices and obstacles many of them face. Would they be better served by all of us working together to dismantle structural barriers embedded in our society?
Hrabowski responded by quoting a phrase coined by author Jim Collins: “The genius of the and, versus the tyranny of the or,” he said. “It’s not one or the other.” Hrabowski added that the student standing in front of him doesn’t have time for social change; they need to be supported and empowered today, while we are collectively advocating for broader action and long-term change.
Read the full article about supporting student achievement by Bridget Lowell at Urban Institute.
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