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How Hrabowski’s words of wisdom have shaped UMBC

I remember sitting at the freshman convocation ceremony over two years ago. I vividly recall my nervousness and uncertainty about what the next four years would entail.

Several great speakers went up to the podium and lauded us for choosing UMBC as our home for the next four years. They each offered their own unique tidbits of advice. Then President Freeman Hrabowski stood up and walked towards center stage.

A natural speaker, he talked a bit about his own life experiences before offering some sound guidance based on those tribulations. But one quote of his especially stuck with me.

“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they form your character. Watch your character because it shapes your destiny.”

The words were piercing. The beginning of college is a fluid time where you will begin to decide what type of person you want to be in life. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate. You can make yourself into anything you want, but once you embark on that journey it becomes harder to erase errors.

At least that is what I extracted from his words. But I also think there is a certain depth to the quote. It’s not a one-liner and for good reason. Building yourself into the person you want to be starts at the most basic level. And where you end up in life, likewise depends on the most minute details of your personality: your thoughts.

During convocation at the start of this semester, a friend of mine was speaking and I was once again reminded of the quote I had heard in the same building just a couple years prior. It was also noted during the ceremony that this was UMBC’s 50th anniversary. The juxtaposition of both the quote and that achievement led me to a resounding conclusion: the mentality behind those five sentences has built UMBC into what it has become.

I don’t just mean the university which has received numerous accolades by accredited publications and outlets. Those are just trophies which testify to what UMBC has become as a functioning, productive body. You have to experience our culture to understand why we received those honors.

Over my two years here, I have met some of the hardest working people I know. I have made friends who continuously impress me with their dedication to improve this university. I have befriended professors who have served as mentors outside of the time frame of the academic semester.

It is these most basic interactions that have made my time at UMBC so special. And it is these qualities that make this university unique. People here care about thoughts, words, actions and habits. We take pride in our character and we are invested in our future.

And so, it is no surprise that UMBC has made endless progress over the years. It is not shocking that 50 years after its inception, we are celebrating the success of both the university as a whole and the individuals who have contributed their talents to it.

When you build something the right way, from the ground up, and take the time to care about seemingly trivial qualities like thoughts and words, you end up with something worth taking pride in: UMBC.