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!

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!

Alums in the News: Paper Flowers and Thoughtographs

Our alumni aren’t just Retrievers: they’re curators, makers, and doers. Let’s see who’s made the news…

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Erin Terwilliger ’09, music, now an instruction and research specialist at the Glenwood branch of the Howard County Library, talked with the Baltimore Sun about a class she recently hosted for teens and adults on how to upcycle books into paper poinsettias. “It’s fun to make something beautiful out of common, everyday objects,” says Terwilliger, who hosted the second in the “Art Escape” craft class series on December 12.

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Emily Hauver ’06, visual arts, curator of exhibitions here at UMBC, recently spoke with Hyperallergic about Dr. Jule Eisenbud, a psychiatrist who attempted to capture psychic projections on film in the 1960s. Eisenbud’s photographs were displayed at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery in 2011, and have now been digitized by Special Collections.

Made anything cool lately? Share it with us in a class note!

Meet the Staff: Bernadette Darby, Program Management Specialist for Alumni Relations

Here in the Office of Alumni Relations, we spend a lot of time telling stories about and talking with our wonderfully supportive alums. However, we’ve decided to turn the tables and take time to get to know the people behind the scenes – the  advancement and alumni relations staff members who are hard at work on behalf of our alumni. Today we’re talking with Bernadette Darby, who’s been a part of the Office of Alumni Relations for well over a decade.

100_2318NAME: Bernadette Darby
JOB TITLE: Program Management Specialist
FOCUS AREA: Administrative support and event management for the Office of Alumni Relations
YEARS AT UMBC: 12. I started in 2004.

Where are you from originally? I was born and raised in [Somerset County in] Western Pennsylvania.

What do you love most about UMBC? The people. Definitely the people. The students are amazing, [and as a staff] we’re a team, no matter which department you work in.

What is your favorite thing about your job? My coworkers. They’re awesome. I love my coworkers. The entire team…they’re amazing people to work with, they’re smart, they’re fun to be around, but I also love the alumni. […] I work with the board a lot. Our Alumni Board is made up of a lot of smart, talented people that bring the best of me out….I work with students, you know, I have my student workers. And watching them come in as freshmen, and watching their transition from freshman to sophomore […], and then they become this senior, and they’re a completely different person. If I had to choose one of the best things about my job, it would be watching the students come in as caterpillars and leave as butterflies…I love watching that.

Who do you admire and why? I would have to say my mother. She was an amazing person. Always wanted to do for everybody else, never put herself before anybody else. It was always about everybody else. And to strive to be like her, just a portion of her, would be an accomplishment.

If you could be any staff member for a day, who would you be and why? I think I would be [our Assistant Director of Special Events,] Erin Johnson, because I love to do events, I love running events, and she’s so involved in that. I think just being able to see it from her eyes for just a day would be amazing.

Check out our other staff profiles here, and look for more in the coming months!