Alumni Awards 2017: Dennis Williams II ’14, American Studies

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Dennis Williams II ’14, American studies, head of content marketing at Skillshare and this year’s Outstanding Alumnus in the Humanities.

D.Williams 1

Near the end of his time at UMBC, Dennis Williams II ’14, American studies, had already begun to break into online media, writing professionally for Funny or Die and the Huffington Post. And in the few short years since he graduated, he’s made a name for himself in the tech industry, heading up a global content marketing team at the startup Augment, receiving an Oculus fellowship, and, most significantly, being named one of LinkedIn’s 2016 Top Voices in marketing. Williams, now head of content marketing at the online learning platform Skillshare, says the community and support he had at UMBC helped him to build his thriving career. “There were many months that I was sleeping out of my car during my time at UMBC, or pressing financially to secure all of the classes that I needed,” he writes. “It was more convenient for me to drop out, but the fortitude that I had then has essentially defined my career moving forward.” He credits fellow Alumni Award winner Dr. Kimberly Moffitt for being “a relentless support system, pushing me to persevere in class and in life,” and Dr. Ken Baron for setting him up for success as a transfer student: “He hadn’t known me beforehand, but treated me as if he had known me for the last 10 years.” In addition to his work in writing and marketing strategy, Williams is also a filmmaker: his short Note to Self, which he wrote and directed, has won three awards and was recently selected for the HollyShorts Film Festival.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!


Alumni Awards 2017: Lauren Mazzoli ’15, Mathematics and Computer Science, and M.S. ’17, Computer Science

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Lauren Mazzoli ’15, mathematics and computer science, and M.S. ’17, computer science, systems engineer at Northrop Grumman and this year’s recipient of the Rising Star award for outstanding graduates of the last decade.

Lauren Mazzoli

As a young woman studying in a traditionally male-dominated field, Lauren Mazzoli ’15, mathematics and computer science, and M.S. ’17, computer science, has faced her share of challenges. “There were numerous times where I could have felt overwhelmed or defeated” by the gender ratio in STEM, she writes, “but instead, I was driven to change it.” That drive has led her into a promising career as a cyber software engineer at Northrop Grumman, as well as an advocate and mentor to female engineers at both her workplace and her alma mater. A former Cyber Scholar, Mazzoli has remained involved with both that program and the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT), helping to organize career development and educational opportunities for students interested in cybersecurity. At Northrop Grumman, Mazzoli earned early accolades for her support of a time-sensitive, mission-critical project. She was recently accepted into the company’s 3-year Future Technical Leaders rotational program, and is also Vice Chair of the Women’s Employee Resource Group. Mazzoli was inspired to attend UMBC by its “friendly campus, diversity of thought, and students hungry to learn,” and she credits Dr. Marie desJardins, Dr. Penny Rheingans, and Dr. Anupam Joshi for their inspiration and support on her path through the cybersecurity field.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Starting the Semester with Grit: AKA alumnae donate over 50 care packages for BSU event

Our alumni are all about giving back to the campus community, and the sorors of the Lambda Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. are no exception. As part of their 40th anniversary luncheon this past summer, alumnae donated over 50 care packages for the Black Student Union’s Black Student Orientation. AKA alumna Brenda D. White ’79, economics, was there to hand out bags full of snacks, toiletries, and other back-to-school essentials to students at Friday’s event.

“Alumnae members are committed to preserving our legacy and continuing our tradition of scholarship and service on UMBC’s campus,” writes Tamara L. Lewis ’92, psychology, a fellow AKA soror who spearheaded the care package effort. The group is dedicated to supporting students in more than one way: they’ve collectively raised over $10,000 for the Second Generation Scholarship through their annual Homecoming reunion event since its inception, and raised an additional $1,300 for the fund at their summer gathering.

Want to help set our students up for success? Give to a cause you care about today. 

Alumni Awards 2017: Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, Music

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, music, associate professor of piano pedagogy and chair of keyboard studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, and this year’s Outstanding Alumnus in Visual and Performing Arts.


As a musician, an academic, and a native of Argentina, Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, music, has dedicated much of his life and career to the research and performance of the music of Latin America. In addition to his post as an associate professor of piano pedagogy and chair of keyboard studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, Cremaschi has recorded five albums, both solo and with the string ensemble Trio Cordilleras, that showcase the works of such composers as Alberto Ginastera, Luis Jorge Gonzalez, and Luis Gianneo. Cremaschi enrolled at UMBC as an international student in 1991, and says that his time here had an immense impact on both his musicianship and scholarship. In addition to his study of piano with Dr. Nancy Roldan — “a revelation for me,” he writes — Cremaschi also sang in UMBC’s Camerata, and performed with the group at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. After graduating, Cremaschi earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Minnesota, and taught at Ohio State University for several years before joining the faculty at CU Boulder in 2004. Cremaschi is a past president of the Colorado Music Teachers Association, and has earned accolades for his diversity and community outreach work both on- and off-campus. He says that his greatest success is being able to do what he loves: play, teach, and introduce the music of his homeland to wider audiences. In his personal life, he is proudest of his wife, Marcela, and their two daughters, Carla and Erica.

Alejandro Cremaschi performs live at UMBC on Thursday, September 21. Click here for more information!
Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Alumni Awards 2017: Kate Laskowski ’06, Biological Sciences and Chemistry

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Kate Laskowski ’06, biological sciences and chemistry, scientist at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, and this year’s Outstanding Alumna in the Natural and Mathematical Sciences.


Kate Laskowski ’06, biological sciences and chemistry, had plans for veterinary school when she enrolled at UMBC, and figured that experience as an undergraduate researcher could only help with the application process. When she got to the lab, however, she realized what she “really wanted to keep doing — which was more research!” As an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Jeff Leips’ lab, Laskowski helped research genetic aging patterns in the Drosophila species of fruit fly, and kicked off the lab’s work with parasitoid wasps, picking up an Undergraduate Research Award and presenting at an international conference in Wales along the way. In her doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she studied the evolutionary origins of animal personality traits in the threespine stickleback. Now, as a scientist at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany, she’s continuing her research into behavior and social interactions among fish species. “It turns out competition and cooperation among group members is a key driver for animal personalities,” she writes, “which I think resonates quite nicely with our own human experience.” In her own human experience, Laskowski, who has been living in Germany for four years with the help of a grant from the German Science Foundation, credits adjusting to life in another country and learning a new language as some of her biggest personal accomplishments.

Join us for the 2017 Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Career Update: Luke Roberts ’12 launches “My Phone Feeds Kids” initiative

“What makes you come alive?”

That’s a question Luke Roberts ’12, M20, mechanical engineering, found himself asking more and more a few years ago. He’d already been making music and producing video in addition to pursuing his engineering graduate program at the University of Maryland, and after completing his master’s degree last year, he decided to forgo a Ph.D. to develop the social enterprise wing of his business.

“It’s important to serve people and get involved,” says Roberts. “Building stuff is great, but it’s not really where my passion lies…[I wasn’t] making the difference I wanted to make in the world.” This, combined with Roberts’ passion for volunteering and interest in serving and empowering others, is how My Phone Feeds Kids was born.

My Phone Feeds Kids applies a tactic typically associated with network marketing companies to a social justice context: users download a smartphone app to purchase a T-shirt that says “My Phone Feeds Kids…Does Yours?,” while $7.50 of that T-shirt’s proceeds is donated to the Maryland Food Bank. When others ask about the shirt’s enigmatic slogan, they’re encouraged to download the app, buy their own T-shirt, and spread the message to others, who can download, donate, and further spread the cause. Users are also given a unique referral code to track the donations they’ve inspired in the app.

“People want to connect with like-minded people, [and] this is a natural way to build those connections,” says Roberts. More connections ideally lead to more donations, and users are given a unique code to track how many their interactions have yielded.

Roberts worked with his father, a longtime programmer, to create the app and form a business plan. The project officially launches at a public event at Sip @ C Street Flats in Laurel on September 8, and if all goes well, Roberts plans to support other nonprofits and more causes in the future.

Started your own business? Working for a cause you care about? We want to know! Send in a class note for a future issue of UMBC Magazine today.

Still from promotional YouTube video courtesy of Luke Roberts.

Congratulations to our 2017 Alumni Award Winners!


Each year, the UMBC Alumni Association celebrates alumni and faculty who have made outstanding contributions to their fields, their communities, and the University. Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5, at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall, as we honor the following individuals:

Outstanding Alumnus, Engineering and Information Technology
Dr. Kafui Dzirasa ’01, Chemical Engineering
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University

Outstanding Alumnus, Humanities
Dennis Williams ’14, American Studies
Head of Content Marketing, Skillshare; Oculus Content Fellow; LinkedIn Top Voice 2016

Outstanding Alumna, Natural and Mathematical Sciences
Dr. Kate Laskowski ’06, Biological Sciences and Chemistry
Scientist, Department of Biology & Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology & Inland Fisheries

Outstanding Alumnus, Visual and Performing Arts
Dr. Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, Music
Associate Professor of Piano Pedagogy and Chair of Keyboard Studies, College of Music, University of Colorado at Boulder

Outstanding Alumna, Social and Behavioral Sciences
Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D. ’06, Public Policy
Deputy Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services

Distinguished Service
Dr. Steven Storck ’08, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics, M.S. ’09, Mechanical Engineering, and Ph.D. ’14, Mechanical Engineering
Additive Manufacturing Application Engineer, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Rising Star
Lauren Mazzoli ’15, Computer Science and Mathematics, and M.S. ’17, Computer Science
Systems Engineer, Future Technical Leaders Program, Northrop Grumman

Outstanding Faculty
Dr. Marc Zupan
Associate Professor and Program Director, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UMBC

Learn more about our past award winners:

2016 Award Winners

2015 Award Winners

2014 Award Winners

2013 Award Winners

2012 Award Winners

2011 Award Winners

2010 Award Winners

2009 Award Winners

2008 Award Winners

2007 Award Winners

2006 Award Winners

2005 Award Winners

Past UMBC Alumni Award Winners

UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame