Telling Your Story: The Importance of Building Relationships to Help Students

Why do you do what you do? Answering that question and telling our own stories to connect with students from preschool through grad school is key to improving our education system and helping more students complete college, find meaningful employment, and achieve their life goals, Freeman A. Hrabowski III told attendees this week at the Hobsons University users conference.

“There are two groups of students in America: those whose dreams are fulfilled and those whose dreams will be deferred,” Hrabowski said in a keynote speech before 900 Hobsons higher education clients. “The difference is education,” he said, and reaching the latter group of students and helping them to succeed is the work of everyone involved in education.

“Stop saying, ‘That’s not my job,’” said Hrabowski, President of The University of Maryland Baltimore County and chair of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. “We have to put students at the center and take ownership of those students” until they get what they need to succeed, he said.

Hrabowski shared his own stories of growing up in Birmingham, Ala., during the Civil Rights era, marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – and being jailed for his activism -- at the age of 12.

And he told of his work now at UMBC, looking for creative ways to inspire high academic achievement among students of all races and income levels, especially in science and engineering. His goal, he said, is to build community on campus – among his colleagues and among students to truly understand problems when they come up and to work through them rather than blaming others. He sets the example, he said, engaging with students while riding the elevator to his 10th floor office, often intercepting those who were heading to another office to quit school and taking a personal interest in getting them back on track.

“Every one of you is a teacher first,” he said. “You are so special and you can be even better. We need to understand the power of education to transform our thoughts into words, our words into actions, our actions into habits, our habits into character, and our character into destiny.”

Hrabowski’s keynote earned a standing ovation and rave reviews from Hobsons University attendees, many of whom continued the conversation as Hrabowski signed copies of his book Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement.


The day continued with the popular Product Forum, showcasing product innovations and providing a sneak peek at future enhancements to Hobsons’ higher education admissions, matching, and student success and analytics solutions.

Throughout the day the Innovation & Learning Lab was open with Hobsons product experts answering clients’ questions and collecting their ideas for future product innovations.

See photos and videos from the day on our Facebook Page.

Want to join the fun next year in Indianapolis? Subscribe to the Hobsons University e-mail list to learn about early-bird discounts, speakers, and session details.


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