UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, takes your questions.
Q. UMBC is about to embark on a major renovation of the entrance to campus that will transform the way that alumni and visitors – and the UMBC community – encounter and perceive the campus. How does this project reflect the university’s continuing journey as we approach UMBC’s 50th anniversary?
— Richard Byrne ’86, English
A. This campus was established at a time when people were not accustomed to creating new universities. It was simply a matter of practicality to create a new institution connecting to the University of Maryland, Baltimore downtown and its professional schools.
The pedestrian-friendly nature of the early design of UMBC’s campus also made it more insular. People who drove through the campus – from I-95, for example – could pass through and never really get the essence of UMBC. It was all “in the loop.”
The new entrance is moving us “out of the loop” in a sense. It is broadening the definition of the loop. It’s saying we are part of a larger community. And, as such, we want people to sense the importance of this institution as they approach, and reflect on its amazing impact on the larger region.
The new entrance is also a way of saying: “Welcome! You are important to us. We care about the environment. We care about the aesthetics of campus. We want people to be safe in how they approach the campus.”
People will realize that we have come to another level. UMBC is not just a practical place now. We’ve had a chance to think about who we are. What we stand for. Why we are so important to this nation.
Whether we are talking about the new entrance, or the opening of the second phase of the Performing Arts and Humanities Building this fall, or the new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building and the new Events Center in coming years, people will see momentum building at UMBC.
None of this happens without the confidence that our elected officials have in UMBC. It is very significant that our own alumna, Speaker Pro Tem of the Maryland House of Delegates Adrienne Jones ’76, psychology, has been at the center of efforts to help us get these projects approved. We also have had strong support for all these projects from Maryland Senator Edward J. Kasemeyer, who represents our district, and from Maryland Senator James E. DeGrange, Sr., whose daughter, Catharine Liberatore ’96, psychology, is an alumna of UMBC.
Q. You mention the Events Center that will open in 2018. What is the thinking behind that building?
A. First and foremost, the Events Center will be a place for students and the campus community to convene. We don’t have a space right now where a sizeable portion of the university can convene. We usually have to hold gatherings in the Ballroom in the University Center and it is always quickly overflowing.
There will also be pride in hosting parents and alumni for commencements at the Events Center. These commencements will be even more enjoyable than any we have ever had.
We are out of space now in the Retriever Activities Center. The RAC has done what it can do with the help of very supportive staff. But when you think about what students expect from a university, first-rate recreational and exercise facilities are very important.
When I go to visit some campuses, the first buildings that people want to show me are the athletics facilities. Now, we’re the kind of campus where we take great pride in taking people to the Albin O. Kuhn Library, and then walking them through The Commons to meet our students. But it will be great when – at the end of that tour – we also show them an Events Center where students can pursue a great student life.
The Events Center will help shine light on this campus. And we know that when the light is shining on us at UMBC, people will be impressed.
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