The great leap forward

Regardless of all the issues and controversies UMBC has faced this semester, there are many things for students to be objectively optimistic about. Studies and other pieces of evidence suggest that UMBC is doing well and is improving as a university.

The first piece of evidence is UMBC’s recently created Center for Democracy and Civic Life. The goal of the new center is to increase civic engagement and participation. The center is also trying to change people’s perspective on what civic engagement is. “Our work builds from the idea that civic life is everywhere: not just in elections or community service opportunities, but in our everyday interactions in nearly every space in which we live and work,” explains Assistant Director Romy Hübler. UMBC efforts have been recognized by other schools and UMBC is now viewed as a center of ideas and the exploration of those ideas.

UMBC is also working on helping students do better in their courses. They have created the ability — with a 70 to 98 percent accuracy — to determine whether a student will fail or pass a class four weeks into the semester; passing is considered to be a C or higher. The goal is early intervention. The data also exposed where there is a need for improvement and change. “We want to reach out to and support students earlier in a term when a change in their awareness and behavior could make a difference in outcomes,” Associate Vice President of Information Technology John Fritz Ph.D. explained.

Third, UMBC is recognized as a top university in both the country and the world. UMBC was included in the 2019 Best Global University Ranking. The study had 242 U.S. universities and 1,250 around the world. UMBC was also recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2018 list of “Great Colleges to Work for.” UMBC was also recognized as one of the top 10 schools in undergraduate teaching and innovation by U.S News and World Report. The report also placed UMBC in the top 10 schools with “commitment to undergraduate teaching.” Princeton Review also recognized UMBC on their list of Best 384 Colleges.

There are many research projects being done by UMBC and members of the UMBC community. Jane Arnold Lincove, associate professor of public policy, is doing research on school choice. UMBC hosted the 21st Undergraduate Research Symposium and it was the largest ever in the school’s history. UMBC has been able to offer their undergraduates international research opportunities. The Bahama Oriole Project was awarded the NSF grant. The goal is to give students more experience and learn from other cultures. 

The class of 2022 is UMBC’s largest and most diverse freshman group in UMBC history. “This year’s entering freshmen and transfer class represents our most diverse ever — ethnically, academically, as well as geographically,” says Dale Bittinger, assistant vice provost for admissions and orientation. UMBC had almost 3,000 new undergraduate students and 1,800 first-year freshmen. The evidence suggests that UMBC is heading in a positive direction. The amount of interest in UMBC has increased and it is merited by the data. UMBC is not just competing nationally but is competing globally as well.