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Business Officer Magazine

Getting to Know Your CBO

Many presidents don't appreciate the work that you do," admitted Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as he addressed attendees at the primary representatives' breakfast meeting on Monday morning

Hrabowski, who has led UMBC since 1992, should know. "By the mid-1990s," he explained, "all of a sudden we were growing significantly, receiving more research dollars, focusing on compliance, and stressing the academic quality of the institution. We were not focusing on infrastructure. The university auditors were telling me that the financial underpinnings and the infrastructure requirements were simply not there. So, we spent the next few years rebuilding the culture and addressing these problems."

Giving high marks to his CBO and business office team, Hrabowski noted the reasons that their efforts to support the university succeeded. "An effective CBO will help set priorities, develop strategic investments, and influence the direction of funds—letting us know what we can and cannot do. He or she also asks the questions no one else has asked before." With the UMBC leadership team working in this manner, the university has been named by U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 Up and Coming university in the country in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Hrabowski went on to discuss a topic about which he is passionate: access to higher education, with an emphasis on minority participation. "To reach our national goals," he said, "we need to ask two critical questions. How do we help people to reach their dreams? How do we attack the critical problems of the future?  Our country's future depends on educating our people. We have not brought the necessary rigor to K–12. And, children are bored in school and at the university. We need academic innovation, much of which we can gain through technology tools."

We bear personal responsibility, as well, Hrabowski said in his closing remarks. He led the audience in repeating his mantra: "Your thoughts become your words; your words become your actions; your actions become your habits; your habits become your character; and your character becomes your destiny." That path had worked for Hrabowski, he recalled, as he found himself in the Oval Office speaking with President Obama. "What had given me hope, when I was a chubby little kid marching with Martin Luther King in Birmingham, was that I knew I wanted an education. Where would I be if it weren't for that?"

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