When longtime College of Maryland, Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski introduced he’ll step down from the position on the finish of the 2021-22 instructional 12 months, a query loomed: Who would prevail him?
Hrabowski changed into a outstanding determine in upper training after beginning within the UMBC presidency in 1992, advocating for shared governance and variety and inclusion. At UMBC, a slightly younger public establishment that handiest held its first categories in 1966, he additionally co-created the Meyerhoff Students Program, designed to assist stay and graduate extra STEM scholars from underrepresented backgrounds. This system served as a blueprint for different faculties, inspiring equivalent tasks around the nation.
This month, the college introduced his successor, Valerie Ashby, who will fill the position starting in August. Ashby is wrapping up her publish as dean of Duke College’s arts and sciences faculty. Up to now, she chaired the College of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s chemistry division.
She spoke with Upper Ed Dive about taking up a storied legacy, main via listening and what it takes to make a top-tier college welcoming to all.
This interview has been edited for brevity and readability.
HIGHER ED DIVE: What drew you to this place and to UMBC as a complete?
VALERIE ASHBY: Once I learn their imaginative and prescient, I assumed I may get up each day dedicated to that, running with a bunch of people who find themselves already excelling on this area. To mention “we can advance wisdom, financial prosperity and social justice by means of welcoming and provoking inquisitive minds from all backgrounds” — that is religious to me. This is on the core of now not simply what I do, however who I aspire to be. For a whole college to take that on, it does not get any higher for me.
How are you coming near the problem of following any such well known chief?
There is not any such factor as following Freeman. It’s not that i am looking to be him, and I do not really feel power from the establishment or him to take action.
A part of why I am not beaten is as a result of Freeman’s been any such nice mentor and instance for me. I, in conjunction with many leaders around the nation, I believe, would name him the presidents’ president. He has sought to assist me be my best possible self, somewhat than looking to reflect him. What I am really following is a legacy, one who is going again to the college’s imaginative and prescient for itself. It is daring and brave, and the folks stroll the controversy.
What does a a hit first 12 months as UMBC’s president appear to be to you?
I have no idea if I absolutely know the solution to that but. For the primary 12 months, I will be listening so much.
Probably the most issues I really like about this establishment is that it is enthusiastic about shared governance. I favored that within the interview procedure no one requested me what my five-year plan could be. If I spoke back that query then or now, it feels irrelevant at best possible and dismissive and noninclusive at worst. Freeman has been absolutely engaged with workers and scholars, and we can now not deviate from that.
There’s so a lot more to do in the case of being a countrywide chief of inclusive excellence and figuring out what that appears like at an R1 college. UMBC does not have a way of resting on its laurels.
How do you reply to the concept specializing in diversification in college and scholars attracts sources clear of instructional developments?
We need to get out of this mindset that variety and excellence are in some more or less festival or on reverse ends of a spectrum. That isn’t true. If we did not imagine in variety, we might now not be looking to ship a liberal arts and sciences training. It is in accordance with the concept scholars want to know one thing about arts and tradition and faith and ethics and computing, a bit of of the whole lot. The very nature of what we ship is various.
Essentially the most inventive answers to the arena’s maximum difficult issues come from various groups of other folks. The evidence is within the knowledge. That isn’t simply highbrow variety. We are speaking about racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, all kinds of variety. So what I say is, for those who assume your faculty is very good and you are now not various, you are inferior to you’ll be able to be.
How can educators pass about dismantling that mindset?
It is a tradition trade, which isn’t trivial. You might have to wreck some issues with a purpose to create one thing new.
In case you’ve at all times employed a undeniable means and gotten a undeniable demographic, you wish to have to rent in a different way. It does not imply you decrease the usual, however you do must open your eyes extra widely. I have noticed that at Duke. They’ve employed some unusual new students and we’ve not misplaced a step in excellence.
UMBC has turn out to be the easiest instance of excellence this is unachievable with out variety. They’ve produced Truman students and Rhodes students, for an establishment as younger as they’re. They are main as a result of they’ve invested on this idea of excellence via variety. It is paintings each and every unmarried day and it is value it. If you end up it to your self, you can by no means return.