Starting the Semester with Grit: AKA alumnae donate over 50 care packages for BSU event

Our alumni are all about giving back to the campus community, and the sorors of the Lambda Phi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. are no exception. As part of their 40th anniversary luncheon this past summer, alumnae donated over 50 care packages for the Black Student Union’s Black Student Orientation. AKA alumna Brenda D. White ’79, economics, was there to hand out bags full of snacks, toiletries, and other back-to-school essentials to students at Friday’s event.

“Alumnae members are committed to preserving our legacy and continuing our tradition of scholarship and service on UMBC’s campus,” writes Tamara L. Lewis ’92, psychology, a fellow AKA soror who spearheaded the care package effort. The group is dedicated to supporting students in more than one way: they’ve collectively raised over $10,000 for the Second Generation Scholarship through their annual Homecoming reunion event since its inception, and raised an additional $1,300 for the fund at their summer gathering.

Want to help set our students up for success? Give to a cause you care about today. 

Alumni Awards 2017: Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, Music

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, music, associate professor of piano pedagogy and chair of keyboard studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, and this year’s Outstanding Alumnus in Visual and Performing Arts.


As a musician, an academic, and a native of Argentina, Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, music, has dedicated much of his life and career to the research and performance of the music of Latin America. In addition to his post as an associate professor of piano pedagogy and chair of keyboard studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, Cremaschi has recorded five albums, both solo and with the string ensemble Trio Cordilleras, that showcase the works of such composers as Alberto Ginastera, Luis Jorge Gonzalez, and Luis Gianneo. Cremaschi enrolled at UMBC as an international student in 1991, and says that his time here had an immense impact on both his musicianship and scholarship. In addition to his study of piano with Dr. Nancy Roldan — “a revelation for me,” he writes — Cremaschi also sang in UMBC’s Camerata, and performed with the group at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. After graduating, Cremaschi earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Minnesota, and taught at Ohio State University for several years before joining the faculty at CU Boulder in 2004. Cremaschi is a past president of the Colorado Music Teachers Association, and has earned accolades for his diversity and community outreach work both on- and off-campus. He says that his greatest success is being able to do what he loves: play, teach, and introduce the music of his homeland to wider audiences. In his personal life, he is proudest of his wife, Marcela, and their two daughters, Carla and Erica.

Alejandro Cremaschi performs live at UMBC on Thursday, September 21. Click here for more information!
Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Alumni Awards 2017: Kate Laskowski ’06, Biological Sciences and Chemistry

In the weeks leading up to the Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in more detail here on our blog. Today, meet Kate Laskowski ’06, biological sciences and chemistry, scientist at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, and this year’s Outstanding Alumna in the Natural and Mathematical Sciences.


Kate Laskowski ’06, biological sciences and chemistry, had plans for veterinary school when she enrolled at UMBC, and figured that experience as an undergraduate researcher could only help with the application process. When she got to the lab, however, she realized what she “really wanted to keep doing — which was more research!” As an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Jeff Leips’ lab, Laskowski helped research genetic aging patterns in the Drosophila species of fruit fly, and kicked off the lab’s work with parasitoid wasps, picking up an Undergraduate Research Award and presenting at an international conference in Wales along the way. In her doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she studied the evolutionary origins of animal personality traits in the threespine stickleback. Now, as a scientist at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany, she’s continuing her research into behavior and social interactions among fish species. “It turns out competition and cooperation among group members is a key driver for animal personalities,” she writes, “which I think resonates quite nicely with our own human experience.” In her own human experience, Laskowski, who has been living in Germany for four years with the help of a grant from the German Science Foundation, credits adjusting to life in another country and learning a new language as some of her biggest personal accomplishments.

Join us for the 2017 Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5!

Career Update: Luke Roberts ’12 launches “My Phone Feeds Kids” initiative

“What makes you come alive?”

That’s a question Luke Roberts ’12, M20, mechanical engineering, found himself asking more and more a few years ago. He’d already been making music and producing video in addition to pursuing his engineering graduate program at the University of Maryland, and after completing his master’s degree last year, he decided to forgo a Ph.D. to develop the social enterprise wing of his business.

“It’s important to serve people and get involved,” says Roberts. “Building stuff is great, but it’s not really where my passion lies…[I wasn’t] making the difference I wanted to make in the world.” This, combined with Roberts’ passion for volunteering and interest in serving and empowering others, is how My Phone Feeds Kids was born.

My Phone Feeds Kids applies a tactic typically associated with network marketing companies to a social justice context: users download a smartphone app to purchase a T-shirt that says “My Phone Feeds Kids…Does Yours?,” while $7.50 of that T-shirt’s proceeds is donated to the Maryland Food Bank. When others ask about the shirt’s enigmatic slogan, they’re encouraged to download the app, buy their own T-shirt, and spread the message to others, who can download, donate, and further spread the cause. Users are also given a unique referral code to track the donations they’ve inspired in the app.

“People want to connect with like-minded people, [and] this is a natural way to build those connections,” says Roberts. More connections ideally lead to more donations, and users are given a unique code to track how many their interactions have yielded.

Roberts worked with his father, a longtime programmer, to create the app and form a business plan. The project officially launches at a public event at Sip @ C Street Flats in Laurel on September 8, and if all goes well, Roberts plans to support other nonprofits and more causes in the future.

Started your own business? Working for a cause you care about? We want to know! Send in a class note for a future issue of UMBC Magazine today.

Still from promotional YouTube video courtesy of Luke Roberts.

Congratulations to our 2017 Alumni Award Winners!


Each year, the UMBC Alumni Association celebrates alumni and faculty who have made outstanding contributions to their fields, their communities, and the University. Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 5, at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall, as we honor the following individuals:

Outstanding Alumnus, Engineering and Information Technology
Dr. Kafui Dzirasa ’01, Chemical Engineering
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University

Outstanding Alumnus, Humanities
Dennis Williams II ’14, American Studies
Head of Content Marketing, Skillshare; Oculus Content Fellow; LinkedIn Top Voice 2016

Outstanding Alumna, Natural and Mathematical Sciences
Dr. Kate Laskowski ’06, Biological Sciences and Chemistry
Scientist, Department of Biology & Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology & Inland Fisheries

Outstanding Alumnus, Visual and Performing Arts
Dr. Alejandro Cremaschi ’93, Music
Associate Professor of Piano Pedagogy and Chair of Keyboard Studies, College of Music, University of Colorado at Boulder

Outstanding Alumna, Social and Behavioral Sciences
Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D. ’06, Public Policy
Deputy Surgeon General, Department of Health and Human Services

Distinguished Service
Dr. Steven Storck ’08, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics, M.S. ’09, Mechanical Engineering, and Ph.D. ’14, Mechanical Engineering
Additive Manufacturing Application Engineer, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Rising Star
Lauren Mazzoli ’15, Computer Science and Mathematics, and M.S. ’17, Computer Science
Systems Engineer, Future Technical Leaders Program, Northrop Grumman

Outstanding Faculty
Dr. Marc Zupan
Associate Professor and Program Director, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UMBC

Learn more about our past award winners:

2016 Award Winners

2015 Award Winners

2014 Award Winners

2013 Award Winners

2012 Award Winners

2011 Award Winners

2010 Award Winners

2009 Award Winners

2008 Award Winners

2007 Award Winners

2006 Award Winners

2005 Award Winners

Past UMBC Alumni Award Winners

UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame

“Enjoy the Process:” Charles Mason III ’14 on art, grad school, and his new “Two Lane Stories” exhibition

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. We recently caught up with Charles Mason III ’14, graphic design, an interdisciplinary artist and curator working in Baltimore. His latest exhibition, “Two Lane Stories,” features the work of six black male artists working across Maryland. It opened last Friday at Gallery CA in Greenmount West, and runs through August 31. 

cm3Name: Charles Mason III
Grad Year: 2014
Major: Graphic Design
Current Job Title: Visual Artist and Curator of “Two Lane Stories” at Baltimore’s Gallery CA

Tell me about how this project came about: what made you decide to curate the show? I’ve been working on this exhibition, “Two Lane Stories,” for about a year now. It started in the spring and summer of 2016 […] I was working at Morgan State University, and me and Professor E.L. Briscoe would have conversations about day-to-day life, artists, artists of color, black artists…He gave me this book called 30 Americans to read, and it was about a collection of works from…men, women, all types of people of color. And I was really inspired by that. I was like, “I’m gonna do something talking about the obstacles [facing] black male artists.” […] Originally I did want to do 10 artists. It didn’t work out that way, but I was able to work with and interview six black male artists local to the state of Maryland. […] I felt like it was important, and I felt like telling the side of their story, how they navigate through the systems of being a black artist, and being a black person, and being a black man…how they’re able to convey that in their work…and how it influences them and whether it’s an obstacle.


In choosing these artists, I was able to reach out to mentors, brothers, uncles, these people that have been influential to my work and my process. [At UMBC] I had a lot of mentors, and a lot of friendships there, but for me, being a black man, I didn’t have a lot of black male artist role models. So when I started to really go after this fine art life and really started to explore creating with painting, photography, design…I started to meet these different artists. When I worked at Morgan State University, I started to meet these really important black men artists who are here in this state, who are very influential.

I went to grad school for a little bit, right after I graduated from UMBC. I went to [the Parsons School of Design], and I was only there for three months, but there I was also introduced to a lot of different artists of color. Going to the Brooklyn Museum, going to the Queens Museum, going to all these different places, I was exposed to so much. And for me personally, it was very important that I did that. Even though I didn’t stay, I got to see fine art through a different lens. For so long, I thought fine art was this very linear thing, when it’s not. I knew abstraction [and expressionism] existed, I knew all these different things existed, but for so long I had not…gone after it. I thought a drawing just had to look like a drawing. Like if I drew a chair, it had to look like that chair. It couldn’t look like anything else, it just had to look like that chair. And that kind of followed me, for so long, but when I was able to go to grad school, it was like…wow. This is what I’ve been missing. This felt like home, like I always should have been doing this.

“Black Lives Matter?” by Charles Mason III. Image reused with artist’s permission.

Could you tell me more about your own art? What motivates you to create? My own work, again, is a mix between different mediums. Depending on the message I’m trying to convey, my medium will change. Some people might look at that as a bad thing, or others might look at it as a good thing. I look at it as just me being interdisciplinary. I love fine art, but I know for a fact that depending on what I’m trying to talk about, a painting may do it more justice than a photograph, or a photograph may do it more justice than a painting, and so on. I think that’s so important to the way I create. I am so influenced by society today, and historical context. I’m influenced by what happened in the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, the early 2000s, whether it’s from music or whether it’s what’s happening politically…I have to express myself, to get something out, because this feeling is so overwhelming [that] if I don’t create, if I don’t do something, I kind of feel stuck. I kind of feel backed up. It keeps me sane, almost, to create. I’ve done watercolors, I’ve done paintings, I’ve done photographs. Everything has its own tone, but it all ties in back to being…socially, politically, historically aware. Context…is so important to me, and these artists that I’ve interviewed are so important to me, because my practice is this one way, but my mindset is completely different than it’s ever been right now because of the conversations that I’ve had and how they’ve pushed me to be aware of what I’m doing. Once you’re aware, you can never go back. At least I can’t go back to what I used to do, or what I’m used to thinking or perceiving. [My] practice is constantly being influenced, because the work will come, but it’s all about the mindset that sets you apart from different artists. You can have 10 different painters, but all of them paint differently because of their experiences, because of their knowledge, because of their history, because of their culture. All these things are so important to their practice, and same with me.

You are headed off to Pennsylvania for grad school in the fall. What will you be studying and what draws you to it? I will be getting my M.F.A. in fine art, which is an interdisciplinary program at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I applied to several programs throughout this nation and overseas…and was fortunate enough to get into five out of the six programs that I applied to. […] There were a lot of really good programs, and it was just about having the best scenario for myself. I mentioned that I went to grad school before, but I kind of went up there half-cocked, because once I graduated college, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. [New York] was one of the greatest experiences of my life, but I left, and now I feel like I’m in a better headspace, a better mindset.

Were there any particular professors or courses at UMBC that had an impact on you? Tell us a little more about those. There were quite a few professors who challenged me in ways I hadn’t been challenged, who saw something, who were very approachable. [IRC director] Lee Boot was my mentor, a friend of mine, a really good friend who’s introduced me to these really phenomenal artists. I didn’t meet him until I became a McNair Scholar, and Cynthia Hill [and] Dr. April Householder were very influential to me as well, just pushing me. [Kwame Ansah-Brew taught] an African-American music class, but he was just so fun to listen to and to hear talk. […]

I was at UMBC longer than I should have been, honestly, but I figured, since I was here, I would learn different things that I’d always wanted to learn. I always wanted to learn the piano, and I had to literally, like, ask. Because I’m not a music major! I wasn’t a music major, so I had to ask, I had to talk to somebody and express to them that I really wanted to learn. And I did. I learned it, I had fun. I wish piano classes were a little more affordable, or I’d still be learning now. It was very influential to me. All these different people have been important to my growth overall, from undergrad to now. [A] professor by the name of Vin Grabill in the visual arts department, he was very influential. He was my mentor when I became an Undergraduate Research Award recipient. I had a lot of fun at UMBC, mostly because…I found people, and I found things and subject matter that I could get into. That was really important to me.

“I Am (Abstract),” by Charles Mason III. Image reused with artist’s permission.

What’s your number one piece of advice for an incoming UMBC student? Have fun, and don’t rush the process. We get so caught up in wanting to graduate at a certain time, or just do something at a certain time…[You’re] going to learn so much from the classes that you really care about. You may be a biology major, but learn an important life lesson from an art teacher, you know? [We’re] so worried about graduating and finding that job that we forget to actually enjoy our undergraduate [experience]. I’m not even talking about partying and stuff like that…I’m talking about really having fun in the classes that you take. Even if you’re taking all math classes…you may not want to be an artist, but if you love art, take that class! If you love history, take that class. Because you’ll never get this time again, really, to be an undergraduate, to be that young person, just having that experience and being able to fail. And not everyone is looking at you to succeed all the time, because you’re still figuring it out. Even when you’re 30, you’re still trying to figure things out. […]

Creating a diamond takes a lot of pressure, and that pressure that you get from undergraduate or graduate school…is important to your development and you should have fun doing it. Take that time. Enjoy the process.

At UMBC, we create new pathways and transform lives every day. Learn more here.

Alums in the News: Christos FC, home to several UMBC alumni, faces off against D.C. United

Christos FC; photo by US Soccer.

Baltimore-area soccer club Christos FC, whose roster features several UMBC alumni, faces off against D.C. United tomorrow as the last amateur team in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Among Christos’ ranks are Pete Caringi III ’15, psychology (also an assistant coach here at UMBC), Phil Saunders ’15, health administration and policy, Geaton Caltabiano ’14, psychology, and Levi Houapeu ’15, financial economics. 

You can read more about the highly decorated “team that doesn’t practice” in this Baltimore Sun profile. Tickets for tomorrow’s game are available here.

Support tomorrow’s champions by making a gift to UMBC Athletics today.