The new president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Dr. Valerie Sheares Ashby, began her term this summer on August 1, 2022. Since her selection was announced, Sheares Ashby has publicly expressed delight about taking on this role at UMBC, as reported by The Retriever in an April 2022 print issue. With the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester, there is an air of excitement in the campus community surrounding Sheares Ashby’s presidency.
On her first day in office, Sheares Ashby held a Meet & Greet event on the Commons Main Street, inviting anyone on campus to join her. At the Meet & Greet, she made an effort to meet and converse with UMBC students, faculty and staff. She also gave her first address as UMBC President to the crowd.
“This day is pure joy to me, I feel I’m among my people,” Sheares Ashby said, expressing her gratitude that so many students and staff were present to hear her speak.
Her address was brief and sincere in tone. Sheares Ashby expressed her desire to speak with everyone in the crowd before the event was over, waiting long after her address to speak with each individual who waited to meet her. Hands were shook and selfies were taken, carrying on the tradition of former UMBC President, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski.
Another event that led to further interaction with students and staff was UMBC’s Convocation, just last Tuesday, August 30th.
When asked about his overall impressions and feelings during Sheares Ashby’s Convocation address and presence, senior Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, Simeon Nelson, stated that he was “overall enthused and excited to see Dr. Sheares Ashby continue the UMBC values of diversity and sense of community amongst all UMBC students.”
Nelson added that UMBC is a community where everyone should be working together as we move into a new era at our school.
Senior Biology and Arabic major and the current SGA President, Arya Hussain, also gave her impressions of Sheares Ashby at Convocation. Hussain stated she got the sense that people were more excited about Convocation this year than she had noticed in previous years.
“We had a pretty good sense of who Hrabrowski was as a person and what his interests and his background were, but I think with Dr. Ashby, everyone was excited to have insight to know who she was and who she is as a person,” Hussain said.
A memorable moment from this Convocation for both Nelson and Hussain was when Sheares Ashby, as someone who has had a highly visible career and life success, admitted to not knowing everything, and even further reassured the crowd that it is okay to feel that way.
“Practicing ‘I don’t know’ produced intellectual humility that says think for yourselves, but not by yourselves,” Nelson cited as a line that stood out to him from Sheares Ashby’s address.
“The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know,” Hussain added, reflecting on this moment of Sheares Ashby’s address.
Freshman Bioinformatics and Computational Biology major, Wesley Bracey, might not yet have as much knowledge about the UMBC campus life as these seniors, but he has already met President Ashby and appreciates her passion for STEM and for the wellbeing of all UMBC students.
He hopes that this school year “will be a fun and enjoyable experience,” especially with how inclusive UMBC can be to everyone it welcomes.
Sophomore Biology major, Nataley Der, adds that this is Sheares Ashby’s “year to transition into her position and get comfortable in her new seat.” Der thinks that the new president is promising and looks forward to what comes from her presidency.
It seems that UMBC students are eager to welcome and watch President Sheares Ashby in her first year as the administrative and symbolic leader of the university. Sheares Ashby has taken the time to talk personally with the many students and staff of UMBC, and has already connected with them in important ways through addresses to the public.