A Step Up: Alumni return for Career Month volunteer opportunities

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Just under 30 alumni returned to campus to help students hone their networking skills at Sweeten Up Your Network on April 11. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

Every April, the Office of Alumni Relations is proud to participate in UMBC’s Career Month programming. From our signature Sweeten Up Your Network event to alumni-led panels on subjects ranging from work-life balance to the graduate and professional school experience, we provide opportunities for alumni to reconnect to campus and share their experience and expertise with students looking to get a leg up in their post-graduate lives. This year, over 50 alumni volunteered, and we reached out to some of them to get their take on the experience.

Emily Brown ’14, computer science, returned to campus for Sweeten Up Your Network and our panels on Balancing Expectations and Affinity Groups. She says that UMBC’s 50th anniversary celebration last fall inspired her to get involved on campus in ways that she hadn’t been as a student.

“As a CWIT [Center for Women in Technology] scholars, I didn’t participate much in the Career Center’s programs [as an undergrad], and wanted to enhance the experience for non-scholar students by giving the same level of alumni volunteer attention to their activities,” says Brown.

Brown, who works as a cyber systems engineer for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, also says she gained valuable insights from the stories and experiences of her fellow panelists. “In both cases, learning the similarities and differences between where I work and where the other alums were working was [enlightening] to me, and hopefully to the students as well.”

Shelley Bailey ’09, mathematics, and M.A. ’10, economic policy analysis, agrees. Bailey, who works for the Social Security Administration, participated in a panel on “What I Wish I Knew in College.” She says that the panel’s diversity regarding age, background, and experience made for a thought-provoking discussion between the alumni and students.

“Common threads running through panelist recommendations [emphasized] students opening their minds to potential opportunities, taking initiative to gain new experiences, and building relationships,” says Bailey. It was an especially good opportunity for her, she says, because “I am passionate about helping those who are trying to find their way in the world through furthering their education and pursuing work experiences.”

Students also had the chance to hear from alumni who have gone into business for themselves, as an April 19 panel sponsored by the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship brought Alex Chizhik ’97, economics, COO and general counsel of VIMRO and Rob Deford ’93, geography, owner and president of Boordy Vineyards, back to campus.

The two alumni, along with fellow panelist Kara Redman, CEO of Backroom, offered candid insights into starting and growing one’s own enterprise. “Unless your business plan is to win the lottery, nothing comes easy,” cautioned Chizhik, but all the panelists agreed that the work of building a business was a reward in and of itself.

Deford, who operates Maryland’s oldest winery, emphasized careful planning, and urged students to take stock of their personal circumstances when deciding whether or not to start a business. He also said that a focus on product quality, sustainability, and community responsibility can take a business far: young entrepreneurs, he said, can “do well by doing good.”

— Julia Celtnieks ’13

Want to learn more about our alumni volunteer opportunities? We’d love to welcome you back! Click here for details on how to get involved.

Alums in the News: Foisor wins U.S. Chess Championship

foisor2UMBC double alumna Sabina Foisor ’12, modern languages and linguistics, and M.A. ’14, intercultural communication, has officially been ranked the top women’s chess player in the nation after taking first place at the U.S. Chess Championship in St. Louis in April.

Foisor was seeded sixth out of 12 finalists from across the country. She won her final match 8-3 against Michigan’s Apurva Virkud in round 11 of the championship. The reigning women’s champion, UMBC chess team alumna Nazi Paikidze, placed second in this year’s tournament.

Foisor, who was born in Romania and arrived in the U.S. in 2008 to play for UMBC, is a Woman Grandmaster in chess and a former European junior champion, as well as a four-time member of the U.S. Women’s Olympiad.

At UMBC, she was part of the team that won the national collegiate championship in 2009, as well as president of the Russian Club. She now lives in Texas, and analyzes chess games and techniques on her YouTube channel.

Getting Connected: SAA and Alumni Board team up for Community Conversations

20170417_193939On April 17, about 25 students and five members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors got together for the first ever Community Conversation, an event where students living on campus had the opportunity to connect with alumni, build their network, learn valuable skills, and ask for advice in regards to professional school, career options, and more.

Two members of the Student Alumni Association (SAA), Aamin Haroon and Karndeep Singh, wanted to create a relationship building opportunity with students living on campus, since many SAA networking events attract a higher number of commuter students.

Alumni were stationed at tables with signs indicating the topic they wanted to talk about, and students rotated between tables throughout the course of the event. The alumni started off talking about themselves and their topic, and provided the students the opportunity to ask any questions that they had. We had the students complete a survey before they left to receive feedback for the event. Many students enjoyed it, and the alumni definitely enjoyed spending time with a very engaged group of students.

— Jessica Wyatt, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, and Karndeep Singh ’18, Co-President of the UMBC Student Alumni Association

Alumni in Attendance:
Andrea Thomson ’11, Economics and Political
Science
Budget and Policy Analyst, Maryland Department of Budget and Management

Brian Frazee ’11, Political Science
Director of Government Relations, Maryland Hospital Association

Curtis Schickner ’12, Economics
Senior Investment Analyst, Constellation Energy

Arsham Mirshah ’08, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
Co-Founder, WebMechanix and Outbound Ops

Danielle Burnett ’00, Information Systems, and M.S. ’05, Information Systems
Founder and President, Applied Technology Services

Greg Kostrikin ’06, Financial Economics
Vice President, Poverni Sheikh Group
President, Premira Property Management

Alums in the News: UMBC’s Legal Eagles

Our alumni are making headlines! Today, we focus on Retrievers who are making waves in the legal profession.

Travis Bell ’14, political science and psychology, now in his final year at the UCLA School of Law, is one of 14 American law students receiving this year’s Gideon Fellowship. This prestigious award, part of the Gideon’s Promise Law School Partnership Program, is a three-year fellowship that places law school graduates in public defenders’ offices across the Deep South. Bell, who was the Class of 2014 valedictorian, will serve out his fellowship in Montgomery, Alabama.

Yvette Pappoe ’13, sociology, has been named a Law Student of the Year for 2017 by the National Jurist magazine. Pappoe is a third-year student at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she is articles editor of the University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender, and Class, a fellow in the Women, Leadership, and Equality Program, and a student attorney in the School to Prison Pipeline legal theory & practice course, to name a few.

Steven Fedder ’72, American studies, is one of The Daily Record’s 2017 Leadership in Law honorees. This award recognizes members of the Maryland legal community who have gone above and beyond in their profession. Fedder is a partner at Fedder & Janofsky LLC, a Baltimore-based firm specializing in trial litigation and employment law.

And finally, the UMBC Mock Trial Team may not have graduated yet (though their head coach Ben Garmoe ’13, political science, is an alum), but they’re taking over UMBC’s Instagram account this weekend to give us a firsthand look at the Opening Round Championship Series! Take a look here, and be sure to wish them luck!

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Have news of your own? Send us a class note for a future issue of UMBC Magazine!

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.

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.