Glass trophy shaped like a flame rests on a concrete surface in front of trees and buildings

UMBC wins prestigious APLU award for global engagement strategy

The Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU) has honored UMBC with its 2021 Gold Award in Leadership and Pervasiveness for Internationalization. UMBC is the only North American university to receive this prestigious Gold Award. This honor affirms the collective, intentional work behind UMBC’s global engagement strategy. 

Nine people in professional clothing pose outdoors with a glass trophy shaped like a flame.
Staff from UMBC’s Center for Global Engagement, with David Di Maria holding the 2021 Gold Award.

Working toward a vision

APLU’s driving purpose is to strengthen and advance the work of public universities, from improving college access to promoting public impact research. “In our increasingly globally linked world, internationalization of campuses is critically important for the excellence of education, research, and community engagement work,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. 

APLU asserts that to be successful, today’s universities can’t simply note the importance of global engagement and inclusivity. They also need to have campus leadership committed to creating a campus culture that reflects this value. And UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski agrees.

“It’s important for institutions to have a clear understanding of their values, and also to find ways to assess whether they are living up to those values,” Hrabowski says. “At UMBC, we take this seriously, and that includes our focus on growing international inclusivity.” 

A diverse group of 19 adults in professional attire pose with a trophy.
President Hrabowski (front, center) with UMBC’s senior leaders and Center for Global Engagement staff.

The Leadership and Pervasiveness Award for Internationalization reflects two years of work engaging over 400 members of the UMBC community, who together envisioned the future of UMBC’s global interconnections. In addition to faculty, staff, and other stakeholders in the UMBC community, contributors also include UMBC students. 

“I am inspired by the engaged energy within the UMBC community to position the university as a significant contributor to education, research, and community engagement in a global environment,” says Antonio Moreira, vice provost for Academic Affairs. 

Global access

UMBC’s internationalization work has been multifaceted, with a focus on making global engagement more accessible for all community members. And it’s produced results. 

In 2019, UMBC launched Dawg Days Abroad to help new Retrievers build their community through an abroad experience before their first UMBC semester. UMBC is also a Fulbright Top-Producing Institution and has one of the nation’s highest proportions of U.S. Student Program applicants earning Fulbright awards—reflecting both the quality of applicants and the support students receive throughout the application process. 

A dozen young adults wave small flags from different countries.
Brian Souders, M.A. ‘19, TESOL, and Ph.D. ’09, language, literacy and culture, UMBC’s Fulbright program advisor, second from the left, celebrates with UMBC’s 2019 – 2020 Fulbright U.S. Student recipients.

At the same time, this fall UMBC welcomed a record number of international students to the university. This trend is particularly meaningful given the current challenges that international students face in studying at U.S. universities.

The UMBC community recently came together to celebrate International Education Week, which included events on topics from international community-building through art and finding community away from home, to common challenges in learning a new language and how to apply for a passport.

Success through partnership

David Di Maria, associate vice provost for international education, shares that UMBC’s internationalization process has also heavily focused on partnership—strengthening relationships with other institutions that prioritize global engagement.

Among UMBC’s many robust international partnerships are collaborations with universities in Japan and the U.K. to launch the International Cybersecurity Center of Excellence and a partnership with the University of Limpopo in South Africa that supports both joint research and academic mobility. The Bahama Oriole Project, funded by the National Science Foundation, offers students unique international research opportunities. Additionally, UMBC faculty have leveraged technology to offer Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) and virtual exchange programs with partners around the globe.

“Internationalization at UMBC does not occur in a vacuum,” says Di Maria. “This award is an honor shared by all.”

Person holds glass trophy in the shape of a flame
David Di Maria holds UMBC’s 2021 APLU Gold Award in Leadership and Pervasiveness for Internationalization.

Photo: 2021 Gold Award. All photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.