Love at First Byte: Lisa D. Price ’87 & Dwayne A. Price ’87

It’s freshman orientation 1983 and your parents have dropped you off way too early. So, what do you do to pass the time while the other students arrive?

Do you study? Tour the campus? Twiddle your thumbs quietly?

If you’re like Lisa and Dwayne Price, you very well might fall in love.

“Dwayne was almost literally the first guy I laid eyes on at UMBC,” said the former Lisa Dates, who, like her husband, arrived on campus very early.

“We got to know each other during the orientation, remained friends, and later started dating in the second semester of freshman year.”

Made for each other

After they met, it didn’t take Lisa and Dwayne long to figure out they had a lot in common. Both grew up in Prince George’s County, MD. Both were active students. And both planned to major in Information Systems at UMBC.

While at UMBC, the couple threw themselves into their studies while making plenty of time for fun student activities. Dwayne played an array of intramural sports – tennis, table tennis, basketball (for which Lisa acted as a cheerleader) and football. Lisa took on duties with the Office of Residential Life, organized events like UMBC’s first water gun fight, and volunteered as a “sweetheart” for the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. She also worked with the Federal Aviation Administration as a Cooperative Education student.

Still, being together was the best activity of all.

“In terms of romance, walking the campus loop was a favorite activity for us, when we weren’t studying,” said Lisa.

Achieving their goals

Two years after graduating from UMBC, Lisa and Dwayne married. Already deep into their blossoming careers in IT, they decided to return to school to earn their master’s degrees before having children.

“We both understand and appreciate the opportunities education brings,” said Dwayne. “We both started graduate school part-time within a few years after earning our undergraduate degrees. We achieved our goal of earning our advanced degrees before we started our family.”

Over time, Lisa earned her master’s in IT from Johns Hopkins and a project management certificate from George Washington University. Dwayne also earned a master’s in IT from Bowie State University.

The decision paid off for both. Today, Dwayne is director of information technology for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Lisa is director of IT project management for the Board of Education of Prince George’s County Public Schools. In addition, in 2003 Lisa was selected from a nationwide pool as a participant in the American Society of Association Executives’ Diversity Executive Leadership Program. She also served a term on the UMBC Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“I enjoy the continued ability to apply technology to the field of education,” said Lisa of her job. “It’s particularly gratifying to support my own community and county. However, the best part of my job is collaborating with my staff, an excellent, hardworking team that rises to any challenge.”

The secret to their success

So what’s the trick to staying happily in love for nearly 20 years? For the Prices, it’s family, commitment, honesty, humor and faith.

“Our shared Christian faith is essential to our marriage,” said Dwayne. “And we really do believe we were made for each other.”

The couple has two children (or “future UMBC alums,” as the Prices call them), son Devin, 13, and daughter Layne, 12. Devin shares the name of friend and fellow UMBC alumnus, Devin Walker, and Layne’s name – crafted during their college days – is a combination of her parents’ first names, a constant reminder of their special union.

“The friendship, love, and respect that we experienced in courtship continue to be the hallmarks of our marriage,” said Lisa. “As my husband and friend, Dwayne is the very best souvenir I could have received from UMBC…in addition to the excellent education, of course!”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted February 2007

Behind the Scenes: Josef Novotny ’04

Every year, swarms of talented singers, dancers and aspiring filmmakers move to Los Angeles looking for a chance at stardom.

A meager few actually do it, seeming to instantly top the charts and clog the tabloids. Many more fail, finding the road to celebrity too difficult.

Then there are the patient ones, like former UMBC tennis standout Josef Novotny ’04. Using his skills on the courts to network and secure odd jobs on the sets of movies like Eli Roth’s “Hostel: Part II,” he has begun the long climb to fulfilling his dream of becoming a filmmaker.

“When I moved to LA, I found out (again) that playing tennis was one of the best things to ever happen to me in regards of selling my resume in an extremely competitive field, looking for a job, paying rent, and networking,” said Novotny, a native of Sokolov in the Czech Republic, who believes the pressures of the sport prepared him well for the stress of working in the film industry.

“Competitive sports make you a thick-skinned fighter,” he said. “Viva student athletes!”

Everything In One Place

So how did Novotny make the big leap from the Czech Republic to UMBC? Just like in Hollywood, where buzz can make or break a film, word of mouth led Novotny to Catonsville.

“I wanted to make movies, study, play tennis and travel,” he said. After talking to a friend who already attended UMBC, Novotny realized he could do it all in one place.

“I applied to UMBC and submitted a film portfolio to the film department and was admitted,” he said. “Meanwhile, I was offered a tennis scholarship without which I could not afford to attend UMBC, and that was it. I was in.”

While a student, Novotny more than earned his scholarship. He ranked number one among his teammates in men’s singles tennis, becoming a champion at the Cornell Invitational twice over and winning the Matt Skalsky Outstanding Scholar Athlete Award, having climbed to #4 overall in the Northeast regional rankings his senior year.

The Real World

Following graduation, Novotny made a leap yet again, this time moving to Los Angeles. Instead of landing his dream job right away, though, he took advantage of his expertise in tennis as a means of networking.

“I started looking for jobs within the film industry, of course, but that didn’t happen right away,” he said. “I got myself an afternoon job at one of the many country clubs as a tennis pro. [It was] a very good place to meet the right people.”

Soon after, Novotny landed a job in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency, a talent and literary agency. He then moved up the ladder a bit to the agency’s independent film department, where he was able to read submitted scripts and help out with the buying, selling and packaging of films.

Home Again

In February 2006, Novotny’s student visa expired. Thanks to friends he made on the tennis courts, however, Novotny secured a new job with International Production Company back home in Prague. With IPC, he worked on several commercials before getting the assignment to work on the horror sequel “Hostel: Part II,” for which he shot a behind the scenes feature to be included on the DVD.

“(Director) Eli Roth and his brother Gabe offered for me to do ‘behind the scenes.’ Of course, I took it,” he said. “It allowed me to be everywhere – on set, behind the scenes in the offices of the producers, location scouts (trips to determine shooting locations).”

Once he receives a new working visa, Novotny plans to return to the States early this year and continue working with the William Morris Agency. He’s also working on writing a few scripts, which he hopes to start submitting in the near future. Though he is flexible in terms of movie genre, Novotny’s storytelling goals are clear.

“I love mythology, its stories and archetypes. But I also love movies with a feel so raw and real that pulls you into the scene and wakes something up in you you forgot you had,” he said. “I would like to make films that tell stories of ordinary people who become the ‘heroes,’ not for what they were born as, but for what actions they take. I would like them to be not only a spectacle to watch, but a stinger that gets under your skin and stays.”

Although his young career has taken some twists and turns, Novotny considers himself to be on his way to attaining his dream job as a filmmaker.

“I learned so much,” he said. “Just being on the set every day is such a great experience. I recommend it to everyone who wants to do films. Save up some cash and do it even for free if there is no other way.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted January 2007

Better Than Fiction: Arnold T. Blumberg ’93

The next time someone teases you about your hidden passion for philately, Hummel figurines or sudoku, consider the successes of UMBC’s own Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg.

An avid comic book reader and collector since early childhood, Blumberg ’93, English, has managed to weave his love of super heroes, zombies, monsters and robots into a career as a published author, adjunct professor and – most recently – curator of the brand-new Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, a mecca of pop culture paraphernalia located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

“I like to joke with people and tell them all my hobbies have eventually turned into jobs,” said Blumberg, the author of five books ranging in subject from comic book pricing to the finer points of zombie movies.

“It’s pretty much true, though.”

A Passion for Stories

Blumberg, who grew up in Randallstown and has lived in Baltimore ever since, started reading comics like Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost as soon as he was able – around two years old if you believe his mother. Like many young readers, he also started writing short stories. When it came time to choose a college, he knew two things right away. He would be an English major, and he would do it at UMBC.

“I always felt comfortable at UMBC,” said Blumberg, who visited the campus as a 10th grader. “When I walked around on campus I felt a sense of the world opening up to me.”

While a student at UMBC, Blumberg joined the staffs of student literary magazines Bartleby and the now-defunct Apostrophe, which gave him his first taste of desktop publishing. He also worked with the late Dr. Philip Landon on an honors project examining how robots in science fiction film and literature reflect America’s changing relationship with technology.

The Next Steps

Following graduation from UMBC, Blumberg entered the publications design program at the University of Baltimore, earning first a master’s, then a doctorate. During this time, he found employment with Gemstone Publishing, a local publishing house devoted to comics and toy collecting literature owned by the Entertainment Museum’s namesake/owner Stephen A. Geppi.

In November 2000, Blumberg self-published his first book, a comprehensive guide to collectibles associated with the British science fiction series, “Doctor Who,” entitled Howe’s Transcendental Toybox (co-authored with David J. Howe). To date, Blumberg has written or co-written ten books, including The Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide, The Big Big Little Book Book, Pop Culture With Character: A Look Inside Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, and Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For, which he penned with fellow UMBC alumnus Andy Hershberger ’99, American studies.

“One of my main passions is to continue to write books about the things I love,” said Blumberg.

In addition, Blumberg has taught a course in comic book literature at UMBC every year since 1999. Not surprisingly, the course fills up pretty darned fast.

“Being able to go back and teach was wonderful,” said Blumberg, who describes himself as an innately nostalgic person. “I love the idea that every year I come back and I’ve never really left UMBC.”

A New Home

Walking throughout Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Blumberg can spout fun facts about everything from the 1,400 glassed-in comic books to Steamboat Willie, from a Superman secret chamber ring to the display of Star Wars figurines, which includes more than one piece belonging to Blumberg himself.

But no amount of knowledge of comic book statistics or story could prepare him for the effects such a collection would have on viewers. Since beginning his tenure as curator of the museum in August 2005, Blumberg has come to truly enjoy watching the faces of museum-goers as they re-live integral pieces of their younger lives.

“There are very few places where you can go and be completely immersed in your own childhood,” he said. “I learn something new every day.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted December 2006

Adventures in Invention: Eric Conn ’85

Eric Conn doesn’t exactly have a traditional career. Then again, he was never a traditional student.

Between switching majors several times and taking a few years off from college to play in a rock band, it took Conn nearly seven years to finish school. However, he has never regretted his decision to take a non-traditional path.

In fact, it is Conn’s adventurous edge that has allowed the 1985 computer science major to prosper as an inventor and entrepreneur.

His latest project, Cellblock.com – a social networking site that allows users to e-mail photos from their cell phones to a real-time online slideshow – will be on display at UMBC’s 40th Anniversary, Homecoming and Family Celebration this month.

The Rock Star Life

After high school, Conn chose UMBC for its reputation in the sciences as well as its proximity to home.

“I lived only 4 miles away in Catonsville, and since I didn’t have a car, my primary means of transportation was my feet.”

He started off as a pre-med major, however, the chance to make a living as a rock guitarist lured him from his studies.

“Since music, especially rock music in the early 80s, was a young person’s game, I decided to pursue that career path while I had the chance. After I had lived the rock star life (albeit on a local level) for a few years, I wanted to get back to school and challenge myself intellectually. My junior and senior years at UMBC were my favorite because I had scratched my musical itch and could really concentrate on academic activities,” he explains.

The Perfect Major

By this point, Conn had also finally found his perfect major. After trying out biology, chemistry, physics and math, he decided to study computer science.

“I ultimately selected computer science because I found it intriguing and it allowed me to solve many of the scientific problems that I had encountered in related disciplines more efficiently,” he said, adding, “There were also many jobs available in the local area and since I paid my own way through college, finding a job was a top priority.”

He credits his experiences at UMBC with teaching him self-confidence, discipline, and problem-solving skills. These skills went a long way to help him establish his career.

After graduating from UMBC, Conn worked as an engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for almost 10 years. During this time, he received a master’s degree in computer science. In 1996, he launched a software development company with several friends, which they sold in 2003. In April 2005, Conn started his new company, Gloto Corp.

“Gloto.com is our original concept for a mobile phone interface that enables social networking and remote directory services like maps and directions,” says Conn.

A Twist on the Traditional Slideshow

Gloto Corp. recently launched a new concept as part of its mobile phone interface. The new component, Cellblock, allows users to e-mail photos from their computers or camera phones to a shared photo album at Cellblock.com.

“The idea is simple; however, the implications are great,” said Conn. “Many people can contribute to a shared photo album using regular camera phones and the pictures can be displayed on a large screen as they arrive. This is ideal for public events like UMBC’s 40th Anniversary where anyone in attendance or at home can contribute and view pictures of the activities without any special software or advanced notice. It takes the traditional photo album concept and turns it into a social event that promotes communication between groups of people.”

Cellblock.com’s technology will be used extensively at UMBC during the 40th Anniversary weekend. Attendees will be able to email photos from their phones to a UMBC album (umbc@cellblock.com). The photos will be updated in real-time and appear in a slideshow projected at various points on campus.

In the future, Conn would love to see Gloto.com and Cellblock.com achieve the popularity of other social networking sites.

“We hope that consumers and businesses discover the uniqueness of Gloto.com and Cellblock.com and use it in imaginative ways for fun or for profit. We’d love to have millions of users visit the site each day and contribute content for everyone to enjoy.”

– Jennifer Matthews ’07
Originally posted October 2006

Born Leader: Jason Chamberlain ’97

Jason Chamberlain first learned the value of investment as a kindergartener.

Urged by his parents to deposit his allowance into a savings account, the youngster quickly learned that with a little patience, his pennies would grow to nickels, his quarters to dollars.

Today, as vice president of wealth management for Smith Barney and incoming president of the UMBC Alumni Association Board of Directors, Chamberlain takes a similar approach to life, his career and his role as an alumnus. With a little effort and time, anything is possible.

“UMBC is like most things in life,” said Chamberlain, who majored in economics and has volunteered for the university ever since his graduation in December 1997. “If you are motivated, you can start ‘doing’ right away. It is easy to carve out a place for yourself and get involved in a meaningful way.”

Building Traditions

Chamberlain took the Association reins from retiring president Anita Maddox Jackson ’80, health services, who served for two years. She will remain on the board as immediate past president.

In his role as president, Chamberlain oversees the 25-person Board of Directors and guides the group in attaining goals of improving alumni involvement through events and volunteer opportunities, as well as student retention and donor giving. He formerly served as vice president of finance for the group, and he also currently sits on the Chapter of Young Alumni steering committee, of which he is a charter member. He is also a member of the Alumni Campaign Committee and the 2016 Alumni Strategic Planning Committee.

“I am delighted that Jason Chamberlain agreed to lead the Alumni Association,” Jackson said. “I have complete confidence Jason will continue our strategic plans to maintain and increase alumni involvement.”

The Making of a Leader

A native of Millersville, Chamberlain attended UMBC as a commuter. From early on, his interest in economics propelled him through classes. He later honed his developing leadership skills as a member of the fraternity Zeta Beta Tau and in the Student Government Association as speaker of the senate.

As a senior, Chamberlain took on an internship with Legg Mason in downtown Baltimore. He loved the work so much, he never left. He was hired by the firm as a Financial Advisor after graduation and achieved his Certified Financial Planner designation in 2003. Legg Mason’s brokerage firm was bought by Smith Barney in 2005, where Chamberlain continues to enjoy the challenges of investment on others’ behalf.

To top it off, Chamberlain will marry his fiancée, Becky Grabenstein, a pediatric intensive care nurse at Sinai Hospital, this December.

“My involvement at UMBC helped me hone my business sense and my sense of responsibility,” he said. “Roll it all together, and the whole package was really significant to my personal development.”

Investing in UMBC’s Future

Chamberlain already has goals for his presidency. Topping the list is his wish to get more alumni invested with their alma mater – whether as volunteers, mentors, donors or simply participants in key alumni events like the annual Legislative Reception hosted by the Association.

“I view UMBC as a critical cog in our region, and I think it’s important to support it,” he said, citing the high numbers of UMBC graduates who stay to work in Maryland and the surrounding area.

“I want to invite everyone to reconnect with UMBC,” he said. “There’s a place and a home for every talent and perspective here. UMBC has always had an extremely diverse population of cultures, and we need all of those perspectives to continue to thrive.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted September 2006

Swimming Upstream: George Maroulis ’73

At four o’clock in the morning, most of the world is quietly sleeping.

However, George Maroulis ’73 is hard at work. As general manager of the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, N.Y., this UMBC alum spends the early hours of his mornings running one of the largest fish markets in the world.

Maroulis describes the Fulton, which does over a billion dollars of business each year, as “one of a kind.” Alumni Relations staff member Carol Myers ’72, who spent an early April morning touring the facility with Maroulis, agrees.

“It’s like walking into a giant refrigerator!” she describes, noting that the chilly air helps keep the fish, which comes from as far away as Japan and South Africa, as fresh as possible.

And it’s not just the fish that come from diverse backgrounds. Thousands of restaurateurs, chefs, tourists, and New Yorkers congregate daily to take part in the unique buying experience. Their purchases range from standbys like tuna and salmon to the more exotic, such as octopus.

The Fulton’s board of directors hired Maroulis as general manager two years ago, while the 400,000 sq. ft. building was being constructed. He is responsible for everything from interacting with the thirty-plus wholesalers who base their operations at the market, to making sure the building’s lights, which appear to go to infinity, stay lit.

It was this uniqueness that drew Maroulis, an established businessman in the food wholesaling field, to the position – a step he may not have imagined when he was a student at a brand-new UMBC in the early 1970’s.

Maroulis still remembers being excited about attending a new campus. He recalls the “energy in the air” and the sense that “things were changing.”

Because he was interested in business administration, Maroulis chose to study economics. “I always wanted to work in a field that involved business,” he said, and at the time, majoring in economics was the best way to achieve his goal.

After he graduated from UMBC in 1973, Maroulis explains, “an opportunity presented itself” to work as a bookkeeper for a company that provided food to restaurants and hotels.

“I learned about bookkeeping and everything else,” he says, adding that during his career in the food industry, he has also worked as a buyer, distributer, and of course, in management. However, not all of his knowledge came from experience in the real world. He credits his economics courses with giving him “an understanding of how theories of economics work,” and notes that his career has been about taking the “particular perspective” he formed in his courses and using it to evaluate issues in the business world.

But for Maroulis, it’s not all about business theories.

His favorite part of his job is interacting with people. “I have an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and from around the world,” he says, explaining that it’s a “rich experience” and an educational one as well.

“There’s nothing else like it,” he says.

– Jennifer Matthews ’07
Originally posted July 2006

A Nose for News: Jamie Smith Hopkins ’98

When it comes to spotting trends, Jamie Smith Hopkins ’98 is – appropriately – usually one step ahead of her competitors.

At 28 years old, Hopkins’ instinctive nose for news and willingness to complete months-long data studies have already propelled her to the top of her craft as a business reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Just last month, in addition to six other awards, the former UMBC valedictorian was named top journalist under the age of 30 by the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

And to think, much of Hopkins’ training came from her time as a staff reporter and editor for UMBC’s student newspaper, the Retriever.

“It was very good training,” said Hopkins, an English major with a minor in journalism, of her time on the editorial staff. “It was an interesting lesson into the First Amendment and the responsibilities that come with it.”

A Columbia native, Hopkins grew up with a slightly different path in mind – to become an animator for Disney. While taking classes during high school at Howard Community College, she started writing a comic strip called “Jamie’s World,” which chronicled the life of a college student.

Upon arriving at UMBC, however, Hopkins was drawn in by the Retriever and another lifelong love – writing. She met her future husband, Edward Hopkins ’96, interdisciplinary studies, while on the newspaper staff. During her tenure at UMBC, Hopkins also completed internships with Patuxent Publishing and the Baltimore Sun. She credits UMBC journalism instructor Christopher Corbett with helping her make the transition from student to professional writer.

“He was so very helpful all the way through,” she said. “He’d take frenzied calls at all hours saying ‘This happened! What are we going to do?’ He was always calm and talked us out of our tree.”

After graduating with highest honors, Hopkins spent a year in Iowa at the Ames Tribune. The following year, she began her career with the Baltimore Sun, starting off as an education reporter in the Howard County bureau. Over time, she moved into business writing, covering larger trend stories for the metro section. These days, her beat is the regional economy.

Hopkins’ experiences using computer-assisted reporting – which includes tracking data over long periods of time to determine trends – came in very handy following the release of the United States Census in 2000. Most recently she spent six months tracking home sales prices by zip code for a series of articles on trends in the regional housing market.

Ultimately, the research paid off. Not only did the series educate readers about the reasons for Baltimore’s housing boom, but they also won her national recognition in the form of awards from the NAREE (best overall individual entry, best serial in any medium and top journalist under the age of 30).

According to a story in the Sun, the national real estate group said Hopkins “provided riveting examples of flight from Washington to Baltimore in search of cheap housing.”

The news came as no surprise to Hopkins’ former teacher.

“The thing about Jamie was she was extremely mature and focused from the minute she came (to UMBC),” Corbett said. “She set a very high standard at the Retriever.”

Hopkins, of course, takes the recognition all in stride. As a young journalist, she knows she still has much ahead of her. However, even with her hectic daily schedule she makes time to come back to UMBC every so often.

“Whenever (Corbett) asks me to come back to speak to the students, I always do,” she said. “Because, I really do appreciate all he did for me.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally published June 2006