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: Tobin, Dzirasa receive top honors

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David Tobin. Photo by Bryce Richter.

Triple alumnus David Tobin ’91, physics, M.S. ’93, applied physics, and Ph.D. ’96, applied physics, has received the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research. Tobin, an atmospheric researcher at the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) at UW, was honored for his extensive work with satellite instruments, which has contributed a great deal to modern understanding of weather trends. Read more about Tobin and the award here.


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Delali Dzirasa, third from left, on stage at the Baltimore Innovation Awards. Photo by Stephen Babcock.

The Baltimore-based software company Fearless (formerly Fearless Solutions), founded by Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Maryland Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year for 2017. This isn’t the first honor for Fearless, or for Dzirasa himself: just last fall, the company was named the Design/Dev Firm of the Year at Baltimore Innovation Week, and Dzirasa took home an Alumni Rising Star Award back in 2011. The company, which got its start in the bwTech incubator and expanded to a new Inner Harbor office last year, counts 13 alumni and two current students among their ranks.

Got news for us? Send in a class note for the next issue of UMBC Magazine!

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.

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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Alums in the News: GOOOOAL! Edition

Let’s see who made the news this week…we may have a bit of a theme going with this entry.

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Geaton Caltabiano ’14, psychology, will play another season with the Baltimore Blast after seeing action in 14 games in his first year. While at UMBC, Caltabiano was named an America East Player of the Week, and also received a Coaches’ Award for his high academic achievement off the field.

Maceo Rojas ’99, modern languages and linguistics, has coached the St. Vincent Pallotti High School girls’ soccer team to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) Championships. While the Pallotti Panthers fell to the top-seeded Park School in Saturday’s championship game, they had a 12-3 regular season record, and made it to the second seed in their conference.

Met any big goals recently? Send us a class note!

Alumni Awards 2016: Ruby Lu ’94, Economics

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in detail here on the blog. This year’s distinguished alumna in the Social and Behavioral Sciences category is Ruby Lu ’94, economics, co-founder of the venture capital firm DCM China.

r-lu_headshotRuby Lu is one of the earliest investors in her home country’s technology sector. Part of that pioneering spirit comes from the education she received at UMBC, and she cites several professors as influences throughout her undergraduate career, including her nominator, Dr. David Mitch. “Professor Mitch took a personal interest in my development throughout my years in UMBC,” she says. “Seeing how much he enjoyed books really inspired my love for them.” She also says that Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, then in the earliest days of his presidency, “was and is way ahead of his time in terms of investing our university in innovation…It is common wisdom now that Silicon Valley is successful. However, our president was leading us in that endeavor back in the early ’90s when I was a student.” After graduating, Lu pursued a master’s degree in international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and in 2005, she co-founded the Beijing-based venture firm DCM China. Her investment in China’s e-commerce, software, and healthcare industries has helped to grow companies and create over 300,000 skilled jobs. She says her proudest achievements are “building a leading venture capital firm before venture capitalism became a thriving industry in China,” as well as being a part of that industry’s development. She is currently working to establish a cross-border tech fund to focus on artificial intelligence and applying data science to healthcare.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 6, at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.

Alumni Awards 2016: Dr. Tiffany Holmes, M.F.A. ’99, Imaging and Digital Arts

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in detail here on the blog. This year’s distinguished alumna in the Visual and Performing Arts category is Dr. Tiffany Holmes, M.F.A. ’99, imaging and digital arts, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

t-holmes_headshotIn the mid-1990s, Tiffany Holmes was teaching art at Canton Middle School as a Teach for America corps member, and when the school opened its first Internet-equipped computer lab, she took on the role of Media Specialist as well. After taking her students on a field trip to UMBC’s Imaging Research Center, Holmes decided to apply to the then-nascent Imaging and Digital Arts M.F.A. program, and was thrilled when UMBC admitted her. “I realized that I wanted to expand my creative practice into digital media,” she says, and in the early days of both the IMDA program and the World Wide Web, there were many paths to blaze on that front. Kathy O’Dell’s art history seminar, in particular, was “so contemporary and relevant to the concerns of a developing media artist.” In her doctoral work at Plymouth University in the U.K., Holmes studied the effects of art and design on electricity conservation efforts, and she earned her Ph.D. in 2010, shortly before the birth of her second child. Environmental themes are a constant in her body of work, which has been exhibited all over the world. Her latest exhibition, “Crooked Data: (Mis)Information in Contemporary Art,” is set to launch at the Harnett Museum of Art at the University of Richmond in February 2017. In addition to her creative work and her post as a dean at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dr. Holmes has raised two children with her husband of 12 years, Duane Carter.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 6, at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.