Evidence and Ideas for Change Meet the person who challenges and inspires me
Sarah Rosen Wartell
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Every once in a while, you meet somebody who changes who you are, someone who raises the bar for what you can contribute. For me, that someone is Freeman Hrabowski. But I am not the only lucky one. Freeman’s confidence has lifted thousands and thousands of lives. If you do not know who Freeman Hrabowski is, settle in. This will be time well spent.

A child of the civil rights movement, Freeman is the long-standing president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), a leading national expert on educating African American youth and people of color in STEM fields, and, until recently, vice chair of the Urban Institute Board of Trustees, among other influential board roles.

Freeman has transformed UMBC from a commuter school into a national model for success. The university educates more African Americans who eventually earn an MD-PhD than any other institution in the nation. UMBC also has more African Americans go on to earn a PhD in the natural sciences and engineering than any institution that isn’t classified as a historically black college and university, according to Freeman’s newest book, The Empowered University, which tells the story of the transformation that’s taken place at UMBC. It’s a transformation grounded in shared leadership and creating a culture of high expectations.

Freeman is proof that if people know you believe that they can achieve great things, and if you provide them with support, the sky is the limit for what they will accomplish.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Personally, I find it easier to move the bar higher and simply offer “constructive critique.” But Freeman instead bathes you in his confidence. When I have struggled and made missteps, his support helped me fix my mistakes and move ahead.

And I try to follow his example because Freeman makes everyone who knows him want to be a better person, as some of Freeman’s other admirers describe in this short video. It shows nicely just how exceptional Freeman is in the way he moves through life.

As we enter the holiday season and soon close out another year, I am feeling especially grateful for people like Freeman. I hope you have someone in your life who challenges and inspires you like Freeman has me.