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!

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.

Retriever Love Week 2017: Your Own Personal Geek Squad

Happy Day-After-Valentine’s! We’re continuing Retriever Love Week 2017 with even more tales of romance that YOU, our fantastic alumni, sent in. Let’s share the love…

Jisoo Beanland ’02, visual arts, met her husband Brian Beanland ’01, information systems, at a friend’s party in the summer of 1999. They both had overlapping circles of friends and were friendly acquaintances for a while, but as Jisoo writes, “It wasn’t until he graduated, and my computer broke down a lot, that we really made a connection.” Their love blossomed over AOL Instant Messenger, “the most crucial communication tool for the early 2000s,” as she would message him when she had computer problems. “He was my personal geek squad!”

Brian finally asked Jisoo on a date in July 2001, the summer after he graduated, and they were married on December 27, 2003. Their daughters were born in 2006 and 2011. Jisoo says that over the past 16 years, what she appreciates most is the chance to grow up together “without losing…the spark we shared [back at UMBC].

“Marrying one another has made us better. Our careers took off, [and] we were able to achieve many things, to include copious traveling. I cannot thank UMBC enough for helping us find one another. We are still having fun after all these years!”

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Brian and Jisoo in 2002…
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…and in 2017. Jisoo: “The 15 years have been kind to us.”

Faith Dillon ’14, history, met her boyfriend Brian McAlpin ’14, business technology administration, through the Hispanic and Latino Student Union’s Latin Dance Club back in 2011. “I immediately liked him, and after the summer break [I] was going to ask him out, but he had started dating someone else in the club,” she writes. Nonetheless, they remained good friends, and after several years of crushing, they finally got together in March of 2016.

“Turns out all of our friends wanted us to date too!” she says.

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Brian and Paige.

Check out our 2017 stories here, and our 2016 stories here. You can also share your own love story in a class note!

Career Q&A: Jay Nwachu ’04, Psychology

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do, how they got there, and the advice they’d give to future UMBC graduates. Today, we’re talking with Jay Nwachu ’04, psychology, who transitioned after a years-long career in the corporate world to Baltimore Corps, a startup that connects talent with nonprofit and social services organizations around the city.

jay-nwachu-new-photoName: Jay Nwachu
Current Job Title: Director of Development and Communications, Baltimore Corps
Grad Year: 2004
Major: Psychology

You mention in a recent interview with SparkVision that you came from a corporate background. What prompted you to make the switch to the nonprofit startup realm?

Like many college students, [my] goal of securing higher education was to graduate and make as much money as possible to change one’s economic situation. I also come from a family that was constantly working to establish some sense of security and until today, we saw it as something that could easily disappear in a moment’s notice. Going from the private sector to nonprofit and now to a startup nonprofit is not necessarily what one considers chasing security. Quite the opposite. But after being in the talent acquisition and management field for now almost 14 years, I have learned that some of the places we consider the most secure aren’t always so.

Switching to a startup has all the perks once could think of: working in a fast-paced culture where one is part of building something, where creativity runs free and results are clearly identifiable. It is a place for those who really enjoy what they do and want to put their entire beings into it. There are perceived challenges with “security” since a significant number of startups fail quickly but this is where interviewing an organization as much as [you’re] being interviewed comes into play. There is no such [thing] as 100% secure, but best judgement can be exercised with due diligence.

It isn’t for everyone, but for those seeking those benefits mentioned above, it is worth a try.

What is your favorite thing about the work you do?

I just recently switched from being in a role where I am worried about putting talented people in roles on a day to day basis, to development and communications, which is exciting yet challenging. One thing that I have learned in nonprofit life is that employees are more likely to give their all into the work for the mission if they don’t have to worry about the financial health of the organization on a day to day basis. Back to that sense of security. Another is that they are able to effectively describe what they do daily, especially its impact. I am happy to be in a role where I can help ensure that our staff are equipped with the resources and tools necessary to live out our mission. It is truly a privilege.

Was there anything about your UMBC experience – e.g. a particular class, professor, or internship experience – that’s affected your career path?

Where do I start? I came in as a computer engineering major and changed to psychology the first semester of my fourth year. I ended up doing the entire psychology program in [a year and a half]. The switch in major really came about because I realized that by [my] fourth year, I had way more fun growing as a campus leader, finding ways to ensure that those around me were on the right path. Campus leadership really showed me how much I did not enjoy coding and putting together [logic models]. It was a risky move that paid off.

I took the risk of changing majors after the McNair Program provided me the opportunity to do independent research the summer before my fourth year. I did a study looking at the [intersection] of technology and human behavior, which solidified my love for human behavior more than technology. In my very last semester, the Shriver Center provided me with an opportunity to be a recruiting intern at an insurance company in the area, that is where I fell in love with recruiting.

I had individuals like Dr. Yvette Mozie-Ross, the late Mr. LaMont Toliver, Ms. Cynthia Hill, Ms. Betty Glascoe, Mr. Donald Knight, Mr David Hodnett and others who didn’t let me take the easy way out of anything. They challenged my every assumption along the way and helped me see the bigger picture in life.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give an incoming UMBC student?

There is a lot of life to live beyond UMBC. The life you envision now might be what you end up with and it might end up the complete opposite. There is never going to be a time in life where anyone can really securely guarantee what future [he or she] wants. Hard decisions are made constantly to adjust, push forward and take a step back when necessary to live a fruitful life. Someone said it best: “the only thing constant is change itself.”

Watch our newest alumni cross the stage into the next phase of their lives here! Congratulations, Winter 2016 graduates!