UMBC at Light City 2017!

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Remember last spring, when UMBC set up camp at Baltimore’s debut Light City festival? Remember all the art, the music, the glow-in-the-dark beer glasses? Dear readers…we’re glad to inform you that this year, we’re back! From March 31 through April 8, Light City Baltimore will once again illuminate the Inner Harbor, and UMBC will be there to help light the lamps.

This year’s exhibition features large-scale artworks by faculty members Tim Nohe and Eric Dyer, and the UMBC Spark gallery space on Calvert Street will house works by UMBC faculty, alumni, and current students. During the day, catch President Freeman A. Hrabowski’s keynote address at Light City’s EduLab. Faculty members Gymama Slaughter, Lee Boot, and Kimberly Moffitt, along with alumni Greg Cangialosi ’96, English, Maritha Gay ’84, health science and policy, and Joseph T. Jones, Jr. ’06, social work, will also be present at the conferences.

26204540931_8e853358d7_oOn top of all that, we’re hosting a shindig of our own! Join us at the Harbor Club at the Pier V Hotel on Saturday, April 1 from 8 to 11 p.m., where you can take in a full panoramic view of the festival, enjoy food and drinks on us, and score some glow-in-the-dark UMBC swag. We can’t wait to see you there!

For more information on our presence at Light City, click here. You can also check out photos from last year’s festival here.

Top Honors: UMBC Alumnae Make The Daily Record’s Top 100

In honor of International Women’s Day, we wanted to give a special shout-out to the eight UMBC alumnae who made The Daily Record’s 2017 “Top 100 Women” list. These women are leaders in both their professional fields and their communities, and we couldn’t be prouder of their achievements.

  • Debra Reznick Attman ’74, American studies
    • Realtor, Long & Foster Real Estate
  • Dr. Mary Way Bolt ’88, nursing
    • President, Cecil College
  • Julie Gaver, M.A. ’11, instructional systems development
    • Owner, Julie Gaver Training and Development
  • Susan Hahn ’79, sociology
    • Founder and President, HobbleJog Foundation and Swan Consulting Group, Inc.
  • The Hon. Wanda Keyes Heard ’79, political science
    • Associate Judge, Circuit Court for Baltimore City
  • MaryBeth Hyland ’06, social work
    • Founder and Chief Visionary, SparkVision
  • Alicia Wilson ’04, political science
    • Vice President of Community Affairs and Legal Advisor, Sagamore Development Company
  • Michelle Wright ’86, mathematics
    • Senior Vice President of Human Resources, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

To purchase tickets to the awards ceremony on Monday, April 24, at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, click here.

ICYMI: Ejiofor Ezekwe ’09, biological sciences, on diversity and mentorship

Ejiofor Ezekwe ’09, M17, biological sciences, is now in his final year of the M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and recently gave an interview for Diverse Medicine’s “Black Men in White Coats” series, which aims to highlight the contributions of African-American men to the medical profession.

As a physician-scientist, Ezekwe speaks of the importance of mentorship for young people of color pursuing careers in medicine and the sciences. “The more folks of color you have on any faculty,” he says, “the more realistic the possibility seems. That’s why mentorship is key to me, and I want it to be a massive part of my career and my life.”

Catch the full video below:

Have news you’d like to share? Send us a class note!

And Now, a Very Important CYA Announcement…

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A wafting buffet of BBQ. Walls covered with canine art. And 53 young alumni, making new friends and learning about opportunities to support the Chapter of Young Alumni (CYA). That’s just a glimpse into the awesomeness of CYA’s BBQ & Brew & Info, Too! event at Blue Pit BBQ & Whiskey Bar on January 26.

CYA is well-known for its annual wine tasting and silent auction, and this year we’re engaging young alumni with volunteer opportunities to make our fundraiser even more awesome. Folks can help us reach out to sponsors, promote the event on social media, convince all their friends to buy tickets, and so much more. Did we mention that all proceeds from the event go towards the Alumni Association Scholarship? Who’d a thought attending a fabulous event with delicious food, great wine, engaging entertainment, and an unbelievable silent auction would directly support UMBC students?

Now that we’ve got you hooked, the 12th Annual Wine Tasting & Silent Auction is Friday, May 19 from 7–10pm at the B&O Railroad Museum. Tickets are now on sale for a discounted price of $35 until March 17. Visit this page to get yours today! Everyone who purchases an early bird ticket will be invited to a thank you event on March 16 from 6-8 p.m. at the Blue Pit BBQ & Whiskey Bar. Current CYA members will be there to appreciate YOU for purchasing a ticket to this year’s Wine Tasting & Silent Auction, and let you know about some exciting ways you can get more involved in this year’s event. And of course, we’ll have plenty of food to share and your first drink is on us! Stay tuned for a registration form that will be sent to you after you purchase your tickets! (There’s motivation for you.)

We are actively soliciting event sponsors and silent auction donations from local businesses and individuals. Proceeds from the silent auction benefit current UMBC students through the Alumni Association scholarship.

Questions? Interested in volunteering, sponsoring, or donating to the silent auction? Contact Jessica Wyatt, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, at jwy@umbc.edu.

ICYMI: Bob Sima ’93, psychology, brings the music back to UMBC

In our increasingly polarized society, it can be overwhelming to keep up with what’s going on, let alone get along with folks who don’t share our worldview. Luckily, Bob Sima ’93, psychology, who left a career in the corporate world to tour the country as a musician and wellness coach, returned to campus on February 13 to facilitate a workshop entitled “Appreciating Differences in a Changing World.” Sima took a crowd of UMBC faculty, staff, and students through an afternoon of original music, breath work, and discussion on how to empathize with others.

The workshop was offered through UMBC’s Department of Human Resources and arranged by Jill Weinknecht Wardell ’99, interdisciplinary studies, manager of workplace learning and wellness. Sima says the idea of “bringing the community together” really resonated with him. “There’s a really big divide in the world right now, intellectually, philosophically, politically, and so I thought it was a great opportunity to bring the music and the other things I offer to UMBC.”

We caught some Facebook Live video of the event last week, and you can click through some photos below!

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Retriever Love Week 2017: The Flying Discus of Love

This is it, folks…the end of Retriever Love Week 2017. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this year’s stories as much as we’ve enjoyed sharing them. That said, we’ve got some great stories to throw at you today, so go long!

Leslie Anderson Bechis ’08, financial economics, and Chris Bechis ’09, political science, “met by accident” at the Rites of Spring rugby tournament in May 2006, during their freshman year. Chris, a UMBC chess scholar and rugby novice, decided to ask Leslie, who was injured and unable to play, questions about the sport, and when she returned to her dorm that night and saw Chris standing outside with a group of people, she became convinced he was following her.

“It turned out [we] had been living in the same building, one floor apart — and hadn’t met once that year,” Leslie writes. The pair became “inseparable” after Leslie asked Chris to late night, and he introduced her to ultimate frisbee. While Chris and Leslie played on the Booya co-ed team together, they maintained their ongoing relationships with their first loves (chess and rugby, respectively).

After two years together, the couple broke up, but continued to keep in touch, even after Leslie graduated early. Towards the end of Chris’ last spring semester, Booya had a problem — they didn’t have enough women to play in a coed tournament at Goucher College. Fortunately, Chris knew just the girl for the job, and he reached out to Leslie. She drove straight down from a rugby tournament in Philadelphia to fill in, and Booya ended up winning the day.

“To celebrate, [we] decided [we] would never be apart again,” says Leslie.

The Bechises, surrounded by friends, family, and teammates, were married in October 2010. They are “forever grateful that they both chose UMBC and left with not only an education, but with [a] soulmate.”

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Chris “Peaches” Bechis ’09 and Leslie Anderson Bechis ’08.

Natalie Steenrod ’16, biochemistry and molecular biology, and Michael Lopresti ’15, biochemistry and molecular biology, met during Meyerhoff Summer Bridge in 2012, right before Natalie’s freshman year. They remained friendly for the next three years, but didn’t really get to know each other until they shared an upper-level biology course (“only about 25 people — very close quarters,” Natalie writes). Their first “date” (though neither of them were calling it that at the time) was to see Bo Burnham perform at Homecoming, and from there, the sparks flew.

Of course, right as they started getting to know each other better, Michael graduated. “There was concern over what steps would follow,” Natalie says, but soon enough, Michael got a full-time job in Dr. Michael Summers’ lab as a technician…right downstairs from Dr. Katherine Seley-Radtke’s lab, where Natalie was working at the time. A “summer of research and shared lunches” ensued.

When the time came for them to apply to graduate school (as Meyerhoffs do), they both landed spots at the University of Minnesota — Natalie in neuroscience, and Michael in biochemistry. They packed up and moved across the country in June 2016, and Natalie writes that their first semester of graduate school was “fantastic, made much easier by each other’s company.”

While they were on a visit home for the holidays, Michael suggested that the couple stop by UMBC “to walk around and reminisce.” They were walking by the Library Pond, when suddenly…he stopped.

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Luckily, mutual friend and fellow Meyerhoff Tolu Omokehinde ’16, biochemistry and molecular biology, was there to capture the moment.

A June 2018 wedding is planned, and Iffy Akinnola ’15, biochemistry and molecular biology, will officiate.

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Missed this year’s go-round? Send us your love story in a class note by Wednesday, March 1, to be featured in the next UMBC Magazine!

Retriever Love Week 2017: From Then to Now

Happy February 16! For our second-to-last installment of Retriever Love Week 2017, we’re leaping across UMBC’s 50-year timeline to bring you classic tales of Retriever romance…

Today’s first story takes us all the way back to 1967, UMBC’s earliest days, when Laurie Collins ’71, English, first convinced Don Collins, her now-husband, to come with her to audition for a play. “In all of her cuteness, she convinced my dad,” writes their daughter Katie Collins-Showalter ’04, English. Their first official date was the UMBC freshman mixer on September 16, 1967. Married in 1972, they’ve been together ever since, and two of their three children went on to graduate from UMBC as well.

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Don and Laurie Collins on their wedding day in 1972…
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…and two months ago.

Colin Haser ’10, chemical engineering, met his now-wife Cortney Haser ’12, chemistry education, as walk-ons on the UMBC cross-country and track teams. After marrying in 2013, the Hasers moved to Baton Rouge for Colin’s job. Their mutual love of running is what brought them together and what keeps them going: most recently, both Hasers participated in the 2015 and 2016 Louisiana Marathons. Now back in Maryland, they are expecting their first child in July 2017.

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“Here is a picture of us from Halloween 2015, dressed as a triathlon.”

Aubrey Hillman ’09, environmental studies, met her husband Justin Rohrbaugh Hillman ’08, information systems, in Susquehanna Hall on her very first day at UMBC. The then-freshman found that she “instantly” clicked with the junior living down the hall, and they bonded over “endless hours of Mario Party” in a mutual friend’s dorm room.

“One Friday night, Justin said, ‘I think I’d like to start officially dating you,’ and I agreed,” writes Aubrey. “The funny thing is, the next morning I went out and met my parents for lunch and was excitedly telling them about this new boyfriend I had. Meanwhile, Justin was still back in the dorm room, agonizing over whether we were actually a couple.”

Eventually, the two got on the same page, and were married in 2011. They’ve moved all across the country for Aubrey’s graduate work, starting with her master’s and Ph.D. in Pittsburgh and her postdoc in Columbus, Ohio. They now live in Lafayette, Louisiana, where Aubrey is a tenure-track assistant professor.

“I never fail to stop and consider how my life would be different if we hadn’t both been coincidentally living on the same floor in Sus,” she says.

All of our Retriever Love Week 2017 stories coincidentally live in this same tag! Check them out.