Opened in 1966, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is based on a 500-acre site close to the city of Baltimore and only 30 minutes’ drive from Washington, DC. It defines itself as an “honors university” committed both to cutting-edge research and to providing a excellent and demanding education for highly motived students.
Undergraduate courses are largely on the liberal arts model, though many graduates stay on to study science, engineering and IT. Particular areas of research strength include life sciences; environmental sciences; big data, cybersecurity and high-performance computing; and public policy. UMBC is growing strongly in all these areas and classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a university with high research activity.
Though it is a public university, one of 12 institutions within the Maryland university system, UMBC has always stressed innovation and interdisciplinarity. It has never been afraid to pioneer new models of teaching and research, and new ways of contributing to the regional economy. It was responsible, for example, for creating the state’s first university research park, generally known as bwtech@UMBC, to promote local entrepreneurship This can be found on a separate but adjacent 71-acre site and has proved highly effective in nurturing start-ups, offering support for existing businesses and providing networking opportunities.
Soon after it was set up in 1966, UMBC adopted a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the state dog, as its mascot. This sometimes appeared in costumed form as Fever the Retriever, though there have also been live mascots kept on campus. One was used as the model for a statue known as True Grit, whose nose is sometimes rubbed for good luck by freshers. The main dining hall is also known as True Grits.