Freeman A. Hrabowski III challenged university President Soraya M. Coley and the campus community to think about three ideals in relation to Cal Poly Pomona’s mission – curiosity, continuous learning and grit.
Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, lauded Coley for her work ethic and determination to succeed. He also called on the university’s faculty and staff to look for ways to keep students engaged and encouraged.
“I challenge you, Cal Poly Pomona, to see today as a day when you and President Coley have become inextricably linked and to understand that leadership is not about one person,” he said during the Investiture on Feb. 5. “It is about all us. Our faculty, staff, students, community, elected officials, public, we all have a role to play in the education of our citizens, young people and others. Today we should think of the essence of the university, and that essence is learning.”
Hrabowski, who President Barack Obama recently selected to chair a newly created President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, said education should help students challenge themselves.
Only 20 percent of students of color, and 30 percent of white students, who begin college with an interest in math and science will graduate in those fields, he said.
“We have this challenge in our society of thinking some people are smart and some people are not, some people are math/science types or engineering types and others are not. And we dismiss people all of the time,” he said.
“We should be able to think through ways of helping more of those students with high expectations of ourselves, of our students, of the significance of building community, of rethinking how we teach and learn, of thinking about the use of technology and the use of the human spirit to help people to rise above whatever it is…so they can believe that they can fly.”
Hrabowski shared that the mascot at his university is a Chesapeake Bay retriever named True Grit. He urged the crowd to embrace the notion of grit as it relates to the pursuit of dreams.
“It is the hard work. It is the perseverance. It is the reliance. It is the belief in self and never never never giving up,” he said. “I want to know that every student, each of us is working as hard as we can, that we are being as curious as possible and that we ever stopping learning.”