July 1, 2018

Undergraduate Research: A Right, Not a Privilege – from Freeman Hrabowski

Posted by Laura Guertin

Myself and plenary speaker Freeman Hrabowski

This morning, the 2018 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Biennial Conference kicked off with an opening plenary by Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). With a conference theme of Creating Collaborative Connections in & through Undergraduate Research, it is not surprising that CUR selected Dr. Hrabowski to bring this group together to really start thinking about undergraduate research, the role of faculty, how we communicate, and more.

Dr. Hrabowski’s name is well known to higher education faculty and administrators, from his chairing of the National Academies’ committee that produced the 2011 report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads, to his 2013 TED Talk. This was my first opportunity to see Dr. Hrabowski speak – and wow – what a dynamic presenter and storyteller! Below is his TED Talk, which covered very similar content to what he shared with the CUR audience.

(Click here for a link to the TED website which has a full transcript and comments)

His four pillars of college success in science that helped minority students that are now helping students in general include:

(1) high expectations (“did you ask a good question today?”)

(2) building community among the students

(3) it takes researchers to produce researchers

(4) it takes people who are as willing as faculty to get involved with those students, even in the classroom

Each of these are more fully explained in the video, and each of us could certainly expand upon this list (for example, I would add that it takes more than researchers to produce researchers, and more than community among the students – other faculty outside the discipline, staff, co-workers, family, etc… all of these groups are essential for the development of a student and student success).

Some of his other memorable statements made during his talk were captured on the Twitter account of the Geoscience Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (@CURgeosciences):

Thank you, Freeman Hrabowski, for reminding us that undergraduate research really is a right, and not a privilege. Your parting words, that you had everyone in the audience stand up and repeat after you, will stay with us for quite some time.



*Note that CUR and AGU, in furtherance of their shared goals to build and sustain the global science talent pool, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in 2016. The MOU outlines the organizations’ commitment to promoting undergraduate research opportunities, enhancing diversity in the geosciences, and supporting the geoscience talent pool.