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…


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.


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!

A Time of Grit and Gravy


All of us here at the UMBC Alumni Association would like to wish you and yours a warm, safe, and happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the post-dinner coma, and we’ll see you after the holiday break!


Got time over the holiday? Why not update your contact information?



Alums in the News: Nov. 16-22, 2016

Let’s see who made the news this week…

stubenbergMatthew Stubenberg ’09, political science, received the Award for Legal Excellence in the Advancement of the Rights of the Disadvantaged from the Maryland Bar Foundation last month. Stubenberg, who works with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service as a staff attorney and IT director, created, which expedites the process of removing eligible criminal charges from citizens’ records. Read more at The Daily Record.

Ana Isabel Leal Lobato, M.A. ’13, intercultural communication, was one of over 1,500 Fulbright scholarship recipients to sign an open letter, published on The Huffington Post, in response to the results of the U.S. presidential election. Leal Lobato is originally from Spain, and now works as a “conference interpreter, intercultural trainer, and teacher.” You can read the letter here.

Share your big news with us in a class note, or email!

Alums in the News: November 9-15, 2016

Let’s see who made the news this week…

taiwoAdeyinka Taiwo ’10, visual arts, spoke with Volunteer Maryland about her work with the Montgomery County Community Action Agency, which partners with various groups in the area with the goal of alleviating poverty. Read more about Yinka here.


Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, and his software company, Fearless Solutions, were awarded a contract by the U.S. Small Business Administration to upgrade the agency’s web presence and user interface. Read more here.

Tell us your news in a class note!

Meet the Staff: Jessica Wyatt, Assistant Director of 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 Jessica Wyatt, who started as our newest Assistant Director of Alumni Relations this summer.

jessica_wyatt-0128Name: Jessica Wyatt

Job Title: Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

How long have you been here? Since July

Where are you from originally? That’s a really hard question to answer. I was born in Massachusetts, and we stayed there until right before high school. [Then] my family moved out to Kansas. So I was in Kansas for high school, and then I went to college in Wisconsin, and I’ve moved around ever since. So if you ask me where I’m from, my answer will be Kansas, because that’s where my parents are now.

What do you like most about UMBC? Definitely the staff. […] It’s a creative, wacky group of people, and I’ve never felt more included so quickly. When I started here, it felt really comfortable, and it was kind of hard to have “think time” because there’s always someone who wants to engage with you, hang out with you, go to lunch with you, take a walk with you, stand in line at Starbucks for 45 minutes with you. There’s always someone who’s interested in what you’re doing, and there’s always somebody who will push you outside of your comfort zone for good reasons, and there’s always somebody who’ll challenge you in a way that’s unexpected.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? I love the variety of what we do in Alumni Relations. No day is ever the same, and that’s the world I came from. Coming from the nonprofit world, it was chaos all the time, and this feels like slightly more organized chaos. In a good way. And I think for my realm specifically, I love working with [the Student Alumni Association]. It’s the best, and the students I’ve been given to work with are just great. Love them. Love them.

Who do you admire and why? Can I give two? [As far as] people I actually know, I really admire my husband, who is a strategic thinker, a rational human being, and somebody who is willing to figure it out to make it right. In the world of people I am not engaged with, I really admire David Lynch, and his history and career of being a visual artist and kind of taking a chance on film, and continuing to take chances in more of a mainstream media realm, and then being like “Who cares?” and going into whatever the heck he wants to do. [My] first exposure to mindfulness and meditation practice was reading one of his books years and years and years ago, and having that seed planted and being able to come back to it has been really exciting. I really admire his work and all that he does.

Have you ever done anything crazy or out of the ordinary? Have you met me? That’s like my goal, is every day is a little bit crazy and out of the ordinary. So after college I went into the Peace Corps. I lived in Senegal for two years, and every day was a crazy, out-of-the-ordinary scenario, [like] killing scorpions with my Vogue magazine (which was a really devastating experience, because you had to make a decision: you could either get stung or ruin your Vogue). […] I feel like getting up every morning is crazy. It’s amazing how our bodies still function and we can get through each day.

Are you a cat person or a dog person? Now there’s a great question. So I grew up with dogs, and I love, love, love dogs and I thought that was gonna be my life, but with living in a small apartment, and with my husband being allergic to dogs [and cats]…we got our first cat, and his love overcame his allergies, and we now have two cats.

If you could be another staff member for a day, who would it be and why? Somebody on the grounds crew who gets to deal with the plants. I would love [that], for a variety of reasons: I love a good day of manual labor, where you get to see a tangible outcome. […] So much of what we do here, there’s so many intangibles that you can’t see, so knowing that you’re working towards something but not having a clear picture of what that “something” is is exciting and frightening. Being able to work on the grounds crew, I’d even say [for] a week, and being able to physically transform a space, I think, is really exciting. Physically transforming a space for the betterment of a community. People feel better when things look nice, and plants are cool. […]

Tell me more about your educational background. [I have] an M.F.A. in Community Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and [while I was there] I worked with the Refugee Youth Project, and that’s where I had my first [epiphany] about how murals can be transformative, not only from a service perspective but also how you community organize to create a mural and the different levels of change that are involved when that happens. I worked with a group of high school youth, and we did a week-long mural facilitation project, and so now the Baltimore Resettlement Center [has] a mural on the side there, and that’s…it’s not mine, it’s my kids’. […] [Community arts is about] space: how do you navigate it, and how do you leverage that to achieve an outcome? […] It’s creating connections, breaking down barriers, and leveraging people’s strengths to move a collective forward. People who don’t even know that they’re part of the same network [learn] that they’re part of a larger thing, and helping people understand how the little impact that you make helps create those waves, to help facilitate great change. If we all take one step forward, we’re all taking many thousands of steps.

Take one small step towards updating your contact information here, and meet some of our other staff members here!