People wearing matching gold shirts are standing at a table. All the people are wearing black masks over their mouth and nose. One person in the center of the photo is looking at the camera.

UMBC is a 2021 Great College to Work For…in every category

In the Great Colleges to Work For rankings announced today, UMBC is not just featured on the Honor Roll, it has been recognized in every single award category. The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes this list each fall. This is UMBC’s 12th consecutive year on the list, and 10th year on the Honor Roll.

The 70 U.S. colleges and universities selected for recognition this year are those most highly rated by employees through a survey by ModernThink. The ten categories of achievement include: 

  • job satisfaction and support
  • compensation and benefits
  • professional development
  • mission and pride
  • supervisor/department chair effectiveness
  • confidence in senior leadership
  • faculty and staff well-being
  • shared governance
  • faculty experience
  • diversity, inclusion and belonging

President Freeman Hrabowski, who recently announced his spring 2022 retirement, often speaks about UMBC’s strong sense of community and commitment to shared governance. “I have been so fortunate to be at a university that values people,” he recently shared with Inside Higher Ed

Dr. Hrabowski, and Dr. Brittini Brown, assistant vice president for student affairs, during move-in weekend.

Speaking to the importance of mutual respect, clear communications, and transparency, he said, “We need leaders who believe in their institutions and we need institutions who will believe in their leaders. That doesn’t mean that we always agree, but it means that we believe in authenticity and integrity and speaking the truth.”

“It is gratifying to witness UMBC’s continued recognition by Great College to Work For,” says Valerie Thomas, UMBC’s chief human resources officer. “It’s my belief that because we are intentional about our focus on respect for everyone, employees can do their best in their roles. One major strength is shared governance. Listening to every voice helps us retain talent. And, our continued recognition as a great employer helps us attract new talent.”

Reconnecting with each other

Over the past year and a half, UMBC has worked to maintain strong connections while many employees were working remotely. Now, as many faculty and staff have returned to campus, there is an emphasis on reestablishing partnerships, growing relationships, and better getting to know new team members hired during the remote work period.

A man in a grey t-shirt, and a woman in a striped top, are facing two people with their backs to the camera. The people facing the camera are smiling.
UMBC staff and faculty at an event in 2019.

“As we enter into an exciting transition year at UMBC, it’s no surprise that we continue to be featured as a ‘Great College to Work For,’” says Jessica Wyatt, president of UMBC’s Professional Staff Senate and assistant director of alumni relations. “There are opportunities to vision new futures based on the traditions and successes of our past.”

During the pandemic, many faculty and staff connected with each other accessed essential resources and information through the UMBC Together group. Employees also actively worked through shared governance groups to contribute their voices to planning around COVID and to discuss other important and challenging issues.

Songon An, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and undergraduate student.

“As Faculty Senate President during the pandemic and the repeated instances of political and racial violence that took place in 2020 and 2021, I had the privilege of witnessing firsthand how the leadership came together to ensure that our community felt safe and to model a zero-tolerance approach to social and racial injustice,” says Orianne Smith, president of UMBC’s Faculty Senate and associate professor of English. 

“I’ve always thought that UMBC is a great college to work for but this past year convinced me that UMBC goes above and beyond in prioritizing our people over and above all other considerations,” Smith says. “I feel lucky to work here.”

Sustaining the campus

Throughout the pandemic, a small but dedicated number of faculty and staff continued coming to campus. They helped sustain campus systems and services both for those students who did need to remain on campus during COVID and to be ready for the larger community’s return this fall.

These include employees from areas as diverse as dining services, residential life, UMBC Police, athletics, facilities management and UMBC Preschool. Also on campus were several researchers, carrying forward work related to COVID and beyond.

Rachel Faulkner, chef at True Grit’s, and John Burgoon, director of resident dining, together at True Grit’s.

“It is not surprising to me that UMBC continues to be included in the Great College to Work For list,” says Melody Wright, president of UMBC’s Nonexempt Staff Senate and academic business services specialist in biological sciences. “I have worked for UMBC for 10 of those 12 years on the list. It is times like the ones we are experiencing right now—seeing people pull together for the common good of our campus, our work environment, our community—that remind me why I chose to work for UMBC in the first place.” 

“It is not just a place to work, it is a community in which shared governance thrives,” says Wright, “and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Banner image: UMBC staff welcome students to campus during move-in weekend. All photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.