UMBC has accumulated a rich history in its first 50 years, rising from a patch of Baltimore County farmland through the social and political turbulence of the mid-20th century to become a university nationally recognized for the quality of its education and its commitment to diversity. This year’s annual Hilltop Society dinner, in addition to being a “thank you” to our donors, carried on that story, as guests dined amid the “UMBC at 50: Sharing the Past, Building the Future” exhibit at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery.
The exhibit was curated by Tom Beck and Lindsey Loeper ’04, American studies, with the help of various partners across campus. It features more than 200 items from UMBC’s archives. Official documents, letters, photos, physical artifacts, and a continuous video loop all help to tell the story of UMBC, from long before the ground was broken until today. (It’s open to the public through December 15, but if you can’t make it to campus, it lives online as well.)
With such a storied past behind us, it’s only fitting that the two students who spoke at the event be excellent examples of UMBC’s present and future. Bentley Corbett-Wilson ’17, music, this year’s student body president, has been involved with the Student Government Association (SGA) since his very first semester here. He spoke at length about how his UMBC experience has shaped his understanding of the world, and how UMBC’s commitment to shared governance empowers students to speak out on what matters to them.
“It is not uncommon for students to passionately express concerns about an issue on campus, and find that it has been solved the next semester by simply reaching out to SGA, campus departments, or other administrators on campus,” he said. “The potential that SGA has to help move this campus towards an even higher level of greatness is immense, and I’ve been honored to help guide the organization to do exactly that.”
Corbett-Wilson is also a recipient of the Sprint to the End Scholarship, which was established to help upperclassmen in need complete their degrees here. “I want to thank you all […] for your generosity to this community and its students,” he said.
Jeffrey Carr ’19, interdisciplinary studies, told the audience that while he wasn’t sure what to expect when he first got to UMBC last fall, he took the advice of Dr. Jason Schiffman, a psychology professor who spoke to Carr’s orientation group, to heart: “It’s cool to be smart at UMBC, [and] this place will be what you make it.”
His intellectual curiosity led him to the Discovery Scholars Living-Learning Community, which provides opportunities and resources for undecided first-year students to forge their own academic path. Carr said that the support he received from both his fellow students and the faculty and staff members involved in the program gave him the confidence to branch out and try new things. In the past year and a half, he’s competed in the Pan-American Chess Championships with the UMBC B-Team, become a Peer Mentor for Discovery Scholars, and even joined the baseball team…as its statistician. (Carr hopes to work in baseball management after completing his degree.)
“Through the generous contributions of my donors […] and backed by the support network obtained through the living-learning community, I don’t think I could have had a better experience up to this point,” he said.
Throughout our past and into our present, UMBC has remained a place that students, no matter their background or interests, can make their own. With your generous support, we hope to continue that legacy far into our future.
— Julia Celtnieks ’13; all photos by Marlayna Demond ’11