by David Hoffman and Craig Berger
Building together has always been at the core of UMBC’s identity. When the very first students arrived at UMBC in fall 1966, they encountered a campus short on conveniences and traditions: muddy paths connecting buildings without names. The students in that founding class worked and sometimes struggled together to create the template for campus life as we know it today. Many also responded to the profound questions and challenges facing America in the late 1960s, participating actively in efforts to promote peace, justice, and inclusion. As the first students at the first Maryland university established after the end of legal segregation, their very presence together signified the hope that diversity could be a source of great strength. In the program for the first UMBC commencement exercises in 1970, graduating senior Diane Juknelis captured the student body’s grit and social engagement: “The present class of graduates is the first in a long line of innovators who are not to be considered products of UMBC, but rather constant producers of all that gives it character and quality.”
The tradition of UMBC students taking ownership of their experiences, working collaboratively across differences, and being “constant producers” is alive and well. The campus is full of living monuments to students’ role as co-creators of this place. We also have a culture in which students, faculty and staff with different backgrounds and strengths can collaborate on shared projects. Together we’re taking action in the world, not just studying it from a distance. The “grit” we celebrate at UMBC is in part the determination to apply our talents and passions to making people’s lives better, and to persist together even when we disagree, and even in hard times.
If you’re a new student inspired to start making your own contributions, where do you start? Try joining one of these MyUMBC groups and participating in events, programs, and initiatives you’ll learn about through them:
- BreakingGround (campus-wide civic engagement initiative)
- Co-Create UMBC (our blog for the UMBC community)
- Community Engagement Network (opportunities for campus and civic engagement)
- Mosaic Center and Interfaith Center (resources for inclusion and social justice)
- Race, Equity, Inclusion & Justice (UMBC programs and people addressing social injustice, inequality, and race relations)
- Shriver Center (service and learning beyond the classroom)
- Women’s Center (resources and programs supporting gender equity from an intersectional feminist perspective)
Also, be sure to visit Involvement Fest on Wednesday, September 6th (noon - 3:00 p.m., Erickson Field) to find student organizations interested in helping you explore.
Finally: Be curious, kind, open-minded, and real. Learn from and about the people all around you. And begin truly to own and believe in the idea that you are a co-creator of this place. You matter a great deal, and we have work to do together.