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!

Retriever Love Week 2017: First, An Update!

Happy Valentine’s  Day, Retrievers! Last week, to continue our official-ish Retriever Love Week tradition, we put out a call on social media for stories from couples who met here at UMBC, and this year’s submissions didn’t disappoint. We’re starting off this season of love with a blast from the past, courtesy of Kiara Berg ’15, business technology administration. She and Justin Mahaney ’15, business technology administration, were featured last year, and they had an exciting update for us…

kiara-justin-2Since Valentine’s last year a lot has happened, of course! I moved from my job with NASA to a job with a cybersecurity company after graduating [from] UMBC, and Justin […] just got hired for a cybersecurity position with the government. I’ve been back [to UMBC] a couple of times…to [attend] presentations and to accept some more awards last spring. In May 2016 we moved to our new apartment in Crofton to still be close to UMBC [and] Baltimore as well as DC [and] work. We are still living here until we decide to move, [and] we would like to move out west and also buy our own house one day.

I bought my own car which we took on a lot of trips this summer (it’s a red convertible VW Beetle, perfect for me!). We did our yearly trips to the Ren fair, baseball, football, and hockey games, Ocean City for Justin’s birthday, and weekend getaways to Williamsburg Busch Gardens[.] We would like to visit my family in Sweden sometime soon. [We] also plan on traveling to Ireland, where Justin’s family is from, as well as Germany, and England to see Chelsea play live[.] Greece is on the list too, because he likes the history.

For Halloween we dressed up in a Star Wars theme (of course), and right before Christmas chaos he took me on a tour in the National Harbor and up the Capital Wheel to ask me if I want to spend the rest of my life with him. Of course I said yes!

We also have a lot of small and furry pets now too because I love little animals. Our long haired hamster Hamilton is reaching 28 months of age, and we have two new hermit crabs named Leonidas and Themistocles. We are also fostering homeless guinea pigs until they find their forever home (we currently have two who are three months old), and are in the process of  adopting our own long haired guinea pig female who’s around five months old right now so that we can give her a forever home while also helping others in transition.

[…] We don’t have a wedding date yet but we are planning on being on the beach, by the water, or maybe even on a cruise. And last night I actually found my wedding dress! Hopefully next year when we have a new update, there will be a nice wedding photo of us to show off. 🙂

Submission has been edited for length and clarity.

Click here to check out last year’s Retriever love stories. Of course, even if you missed the boat for submissions, your tale of romance is always welcome in our Class Notes section!

Career Q&A: Dennis Williams II ’14, American Studies

Every once in a while, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today, we’re talking with Dennis Williams II ’14, American studies, a writer, content marketer, and startup founder based in New York city. He’s also one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices of 2016, and with a story like his, it’s not hard to see why…

denniswilliamsName: Dennis Williams II
Grad Year: 2014
Major: American Studies
Job Title: Content Manager at Augment

You were named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices of 2016 for sharing your story of how you went from homelessness to, as you put it, working with Madison Square Garden in your backyard. What inspired you to tell your story, and what kind of reactions have you received since publishing it to LinkedIn? I definitely wanted to [tell] all the students who come from underprivileged circumstances, or those who don’t have the opportunity, that there’s information out there that they can go get and really build into their portfolio, into their resume, to make them better candidates and change their career path. It was a tough decision at first, but I realized that there were others who had been in similar situations…[who] could take some kind of direction from my story and implement it into their everyday lives, to hopefully get around the obstacles facing them and plaguing them. [The] reception I got was great. I believe it did [25,000 to 30,000] views on LinkedIn, but even outside of that, [I had so many conversations with people who told me] “You’re strong for sharing your story,” [and talked] about their own […] narratives. It definitely started a lot of conversations, both in Maryland and out here [in New York]. It’s introduced me […] to a lot of people I wouldn’t have met before. LinkedIn kind of pushed me to write that story. I [spoke] to them in private about my background and how I wanted to touch a certain audience, and they were like, “Yeah, you should really write that,” and I was like, “Yeah, okay, that’s an interesting idea, but I don’t really think I’m open to being that open,” you know? They explained all the positives that could come from it, and they said they’d help me craft it anyway. So yeah, [LinkedIn was] definitely a catalyst behind this story.

How did it feel to be recognized? It felt great! It was a lot of hard work. I started writing for Funny or Die in 2013, while I was interning [there], […] and I’ve been trying to break my way in for a little while. It feels good to be recognized for holding a different point of view. The thought leadership content that I’m putting out…really does depict me and my professional values, so it felt good to put good, organic, original content out there and get recognized for it. I definitely didn’t expect it by the end of the year, either.

You now work as a content marketing director for Augment. Could you tell us a bit more about what you do in that role, and what the company does? Augment…[helps] businesses use augmented reality to better sell their products. We have clients like Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Boeing, a lot of different [companies] that use augmented reality to help their customers see the products before they want to buy them. So I manage the content marketing department, [and] what this entails is creating content […] both on the branding side, and then to drive business as well. [It’s for] inbound leads to bring in those prospects that eventually turn into clients. Augment’s based in Paris, but we have an Orlando office and a New York office, and I work out of the New York office. So I do this both domestically and internationally. [I also run a startup called Bando, which is] a mobile platform for urban news. [It’s] growing at a rate of 20 percent month-to-month, and we support all news that pertains to the urban culture. It’s everything from video to written copy, articles, things like that, and we really want to grow an audience. [It’s] positive news-sharing for those that want to digest this on a day-to-day basis. [It reflects] the culture that I come from, and I wanted to build something that my background and those that I know can resonate with.

What is your favorite thing about the work you do? I think it’s seeing all the new technology before anyone else knows about it! There’s so much that I see on a daily basis that people may not find out [about] for one to two years, and I’ve seen it happen, whether it be artificial intelligence, robots, augmented reality, [or] virtual reality. [… ]I’m also a [content] fellow at Oculus in San Francisco…so seeing all of these emerging technologies before anyone really knows about them is definitely the coolest thing about my job.

Is there any particular aspect of your UMBC experience – a class, a professor, an internship – that’s affected your career path? I would have to say Kimberly Moffitt…she [really helped] me stay on course and manage all of the different aspects I had to deal with, both as a student and as an individual at UMBC. [All] of her direction throughout that last year and a half was a huge help to me. And even on the personal side, [she helped] me stay focused on school and on my larger professional goals, and keeping the endgame in sight. […] Just overall, the different administrations at UMBC [offer] a high level of education, encouraging you to think at a higher level [and] to push forward in that aspect[.] I think they were all an aid to helping any student be successful, so it was a huge help.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give an incoming UMBC student? That’s a good question. I would say “don’t ever limit yourself.” It may sound cliche, but in today’s age there’s an abundance of information, and you have access [to it], whether it’s through your computer or through your networks, your friends, sitting down with your professors. I was in a theater class for two years, and I would [talk to my professor] about screenwriting and developing on the theater stage. Never limit yourself, both mentally and in action. Going to get that information through those different portals is important, because there’s so many more opportunities out here that aren’t directly in front of you and aren’t explicit. I just want people to know that thinking outside of the bubble, and thinking outside of the box, can really open some doors for you.

Send us your story in a class note by Wednesday, March 1, to have it featured in the next issue of UMBC Magazine!

Alums in the News: Nov. 16-22, 2016

Let’s see who made the news this week…

stubenbergMatthew Stubenberg ’09, political science, received the Award for Legal Excellence in the Advancement of the Rights of the Disadvantaged from the Maryland Bar Foundation last month. Stubenberg, who works with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service as a staff attorney and IT director, created MDExpungement.com, which expedites the process of removing eligible criminal charges from citizens’ records. Read more at The Daily Record.

Ana Isabel Leal Lobato, M.A. ’13, intercultural communication, was one of over 1,500 Fulbright scholarship recipients to sign an open letter, published on The Huffington Post, in response to the results of the U.S. presidential election. Leal Lobato is originally from Spain, and now works as a “conference interpreter, intercultural trainer, and teacher.” You can read the letter here.

Share your big news with us in a class note, or email retrievernet@umbc.edu!

Alums in the News: November 9-15, 2016

Let’s see who made the news this week…

taiwoAdeyinka Taiwo ’10, visual arts, spoke with Volunteer Maryland about her work with the Montgomery County Community Action Agency, which partners with various groups in the area with the goal of alleviating poverty. Read more about Yinka here.

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Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, and his software company, Fearless Solutions, were awarded a contract by the U.S. Small Business Administration to upgrade the agency’s web presence and user interface. Read more here.

Tell us your news in a class note!