UMBC launches Wisdom Institute to expand role of faculty and staff emeritus in the university’s future

Dozens of retired faculty and staff gathered in the UMBC Event Center’s Retriever Room earlier this month to celebrate the launch of the Wisdom Institute, created to foster ongoing connections between the university and its most long-standing community members. Through the Wisdom Institute, emeritus faculty and staff will have the opportunity to continue to impact UMBC’s mission and future students by attending workshops, serving as guest lecturers, and offering mentorship.

“It is your shoulders on which we stand today,” said Philip Rous, UMBC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, during his opening remarks. “You have dedicated your lives, your careers, your heart, and your passion to building this great university.”

The Institute was established by Craig Saper, professor of language, literacy and culture, and Leslie Morgan, professor of sociology, through the support of a Hrabowski Innovation Fund grant. Diane Lee, former dean of undergraduate education, has worked to make it a reality over the past two years, with Provost Rous calling her “the heart and soul of the Institute.”

The first official members of the Wisdom Institute returned to campus for a program featuring former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski; Naomi Mburu ‘18, chemical engineering, the first UMBC student to receive the Rhodes Scholarship; Tim Hall, director of athletics at UMBC; and Ryan Odom, head coach of the history-making UMBC men’s basketball team.

Mburu shared her gratitude for the UMBC faculty and staff who have supported her in setting high goals and moving past obstacles. She reflected that the forward-thinking attitudes of UMBC mentors and their commitment to providing opportunities and support for all students have played a major role in her experience and achievements. “The Meyerhoff Scholars Program has been vital in molding me into the confident engineer that I am now,” Mburu said. “They nurtured the fire within me to instill that sense of confidence into students around me.”

Naomi Mburu ‘18, chemical engineering, and Dr. Willie Lamousé-Smith, professor emeritus and former chair of Africana studies, at the launch event for the Wisdom Institute.

Hall and Odom discussed the success of the men’s basketball team in last month’s NCAA championship tournament and highlighted the importance of stellar faculty and staff who support UMBC’s student athletes. Odom spoke about how essential it can be to hear from people who believe in you during challenging times, not just in moments of glory. “Everyone has doubts,” Odom said. “Everyone needs someone to pat them on the back and say ‘I believe in you.’”

Senator Mikulski’s 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate have had a lasting impact on people in Maryland and across the United States more broadly. When she retired from public office, Mikulski joined Johns Hopkins University as a professor of public policy, and brought her “no issue too small to take up” approach into the classroom. In this role, she is able to continue to impact the next generation of leaders, like Mburu, who want to change the world. Mikulski encourages her students, and people she meets, of all ages, to apply their knowledge and skills to causes that matter to them, no matter how big or small.

Dr. Hrabowski, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Diane Lee, and Dr. Rous at the launch of the Wisdom Institute.

The Wisdom Institute currently includes a few dozen members, but organizers hope to expand it over time to welcome all retired faculty and staff. As the Institute grows, Diane Lee looks forward to fostering connections between its members and broader university to propel UMBC forward. In closing the kick-off event, Lee shared, “I hope as we leave today we celebrate what we’ve been able to do, we celebrate who we are, and that we continue to think about who we might become.”

Additional photos from the event can be found on the UMBC Magazine website.

Banner image: Charles Woolston, vice provost emeritus, greets colleagues and friends at the Wisdom Institute event. All photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.