UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III takes your questions.
Q. Many UMBC students are finding that internships are an integral part of the university experience. What’s your view about the benefits of internships for students, employers and the university?
A. It’s a very important part of a UMBC education. Large numbers of students across disciplines are engaged in experiences that give them the chance to explore the relationship between what they’re studying and how what they’ve learned can be used in real situations.
UMBC students in the arts and humanities may go to CenterStage or to the Walters Art Gallery. Students in engineering may go to BG&E. And students in the social sciences may work at Medicare and Medicaid Services or the Social Security Administration.
As a university, we have worked to build strong relationships with potential partners in the larger community. And these employers say that getting a chance to know students before they graduate can help them decide who they may want to hire.
I hear all the time about the quality of our students as interns. That they’re not only good thinkers, but also good people. They work well with others. They are dependable. And I talk regularly with students who have internships with companies who have been offered full-time jobs where they are working.
When we talk about internships, we also have to broaden our definition. How are students gaining work experience? They’re also doing it through regular jobs, part-time work and research experience. I recently testified to the Maryland Legislature that over 2,000 students work on our campus each year. Think about it: 2,000 students. And all of it is hands-on experience.
Q. What is UMBC doing to educate all students, not just those in environmental majors, about sustainability?
A. We’re very proud of our faculty members who focus on these issues at UMBC, particularly our Geography and Environmental Systems department. Their teaching and cutting-edge research give us an excellent foundation for wider outreach to students and others in the campus community on the urgent need to become a more sustainable planet – starting right here at UMBC.
Our primary way to reach all UMBC students about sustainability issues is an annual Teach-In, which we held again in February of this year.
This two-day event draws upon the expertise of faculty members who deal regularly with these issues in their research. There were classes that focused on how global warming is affecting population patterns, what physics teaches us about climate change, and how we use mathematics to model its effects.
Our teach-in is a cross-disciplinary program that also draws in the social sciences and humanities. Our economists spoke about the roots of climate activism in the philosophy of John Stuart Mill. UMBC literary scholars examined how the media tackles the subject. Our public policy experts weighed in on what the proper role of government in addressing the problem should be. It was an event that offered everyone at UMBC something to think about regarding sustainability as they pursue their own studies.
We also educate through our approach to campus issues. As we grapple with the challenges posed to our campus traffic and parking patterns by a desire to create a more sustainable campus and construction on UMBC’s new Performing Arts and Humanities building, we’re bringing students into the discussion of how we design and implement plans to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles on campus.
The university’s Climate Change Task Force and its Transportation Work Group are ways that students collaborate on initiatives that improve access to public transportation, increase use of bicycles and ride-sharing programs, and upgrade campus walkways.
Reducing our carbon footprint is an important goal. But learning about the challenges as we reach that goal is also part of the UMBC experience.