UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski and his successor, Valerie Sheares Ashby, speak with junior Liza Strang on campus. Credit: John Lee

Getting a selfie with Freeman Hrabowski on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus is a thing.

Hrabowski was frequently stopped by students asking for selfies at a recent event celebrating UMBC being recognized as one of the top research institutions in the country.

“Let’s get us in this picture,” Hrabowski told Liza Strang, a junior. “I love it.”

After working the crowd, the 71-year-old Hrabowski stepped up to the podium and received a rock star greeting.

“Hello, I love you!” Hrabowski told a cheering crowd.

After three decades, Hrabowski will step down July 31 as president of UMBC. Hrabowski has become nationally known for transforming the school into a leading research institution with a diverse student body.

He calls UMBC a magical place, with a student population that looks like the Plaza of Nations at the UN. Minorities make up more than 50% of the student body.

Part of the credit for that is given to the Meyerhoff Scholars program. It is open to students of all backgrounds who want to get a Ph.D in science or engineering.

“And that’s part of the magic, that we have been able to do what now others are now wanting to do and that is to educate students from all races, across the disciplines,” Hrabowski said in an interview with WYPR.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.