Hrabowski: An educator focused on math and science

Under Freeman Hrabowski's leadership, the University of Maryland Baltimore County has become a powerhouse in math, science, and engineering

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Hrabowski: There's this balance between being nurturing and supportive here at UMBC, but also about setting very high standards. We are preparing students to compete against and work with people from all over the world.

[Hrabowski: They're working, they're working hard, they're working very hard. This is interesting.]

Hrabowski: We have to teach Americans of all races, from all backgrounds, what it takes to be the best. And at the heart of it is the same thing we saw when we were kids. Hard work. Nothing-- I don't care how smart you are. Nothing takes the place of hard work.

Much of the hard work at UMBC is in science, engineering and math which accounted for 41 percent of the bachelor's degrees earned there last year - well above the national average of 25 percent. Nationwide, most college students who start off in the sciences either change to a different major or don't graduate. UMBC keeps undergrads engaged by including them in research typically left to graduate students. These students are investigating the secrets of HIV.

Hrabowski: We need hands on experiences. We need to be encouraging that curiosity. And people cannot-- should not be allowed simply to sit back and be bored.

Students can also get jobs and internships at one of 76 companies located on campus. Most are technology startups. They get help growing their businesses and tax credits, along with access to students and faculty. One thing you won't find at UMBC...

Pitts: You had a chance to get a football team at UMBC, right? And you said no?

Hrabowski: People talk about that. Right. I mean, well-- well, first of all, it takes a lot of money for a football team to win.

Hrabowski prefers to win on different playing fields. Incoming freshman Francois Rice noticed right away.

Francois Rice: It seems like everything's flipped. Where, you might go to another university and the football team might be top dog. Here, it's the chess team that's top dog. And it's--

Pitts: The chess team?

Rice: Yeah, it's cool to be smart.

Rice is part of the 23rd incoming class of Meyerhoff Scholars - a program that recruits high achievers in math, science and engineering who are aiming for graduate degrees and careers in research.

Pitts: The Meyerhoff Scholars. What's that concept?

Hrabowski: It is that we can create a program that focuses on both excellence and inclusiveness, starting with African Americans and then Hispanics and now whites and Asians, students of all races, who are excellent in science and engineering. We need people from all backgrounds. And Meyerhoff says, 'It can be done.'

The program started in 1988 when Hrabowski teamed up with billionaire philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff. Both men worried that African American males were shut out from careers in the sciences from lack of opportunity, not talent. Over the years, the program expanded to all students and helped put UMBC - and Hrabowski - on the map of higher education.

Rahel Zeman: I love sciences, math are definitely my passions. There's, like, so many--