Alums in the News: Mayhew, Giardino, Merki, and VanDyke

Here at UMBC, we take pride in what our alums accomplish after graduation. Take a moment to see which Retrievers have been on the move and making news!

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Alumnus Jaimes Mayhew ‘10, imaging and digital arts, Icelandic Fulbright Scholar and IMDA MFA, will participate in an imaging and digital arts event along with Neja Tomšič, taking place on Thursday, November 6, from noon to 1 p.m. In 2008, Tomšič founded the Museum of Transitory Art in Solvenia. She deals with creating open platform media, public art projects, along with publications and interviews with international artists. Her goal is to bring more engagement with this genre of art forms to the U.S. Read more.

Shelli Giardino
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With almost 20 years of human resources experience in the senior living and healthcare industry, Shelli Giardino ’94, political science, has recently been recognized as the new Director of Human Resources at Devonshire at PGA National. She began working for Erickson Living in September 2003 as a senior human resources manager at Charlestown in Catonsville, Md. Over the years she worked her way up to becoming Director of Human Resources. At Devonshire she will be focused on improving the community’s employee environment. Read the full article.

Aaron Merki
photo via The Baltimore Sun

Recently deciding to depart as executive director of Free State Legal, Aaron Merki ’05, political science, has taken on the role to work with the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. As a co-founder of Free State Legal, Merki has been involved with numerous accomplishments relating to legal services of low-income Baltimore residents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. At the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Merki will focus on improving living for the city’s aging population. Read more.

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In an interview with the U.K.’s Mirror, Matthew VanDyke ’02, political science, speaks about the tragic story of his friend, journalist James Foley. Foley went missing near Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012 where he was pursuing his passion as a conflicts journalist, and was tragically killed after being held captive. VanDyke pays tribute to his friend, while also discussing the danger and risks that come along with being a journalist in a country such as Syria or Iraq, even when taking all possible precautions. Read VanDyke’s full story.

Have a story of your own to share? Submit a class note.

Three PoliSci Alumni named “Twenty in Their 20s” by Daily Record

Eduardo Gonzalez ’06, Aaron Merki ’05, and Alicia Wilson ’04, all political science graduates, were named to The Daily Record’s 2011 list of “Twenty in Their 20s” award honorees. Merki was also the recipient of the 2010 UMBC Rising Star Award for young alumni service and is an associate at Venable, LLP. Wilson was the (inaugural) 2009 UMBC Rising Star Award winner and is an associate at Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC. Gonzalez writes for the Daily Record’s “Generation J.D.” blog.

Read more about Merki and Wilson on our UMBC Alumni Awards page:

2010 UMBC Alumni of the Year & Distinguished Service Award Winners


Michael George ’87, Information Systems, has spent the past 12 years with in Seattle, WA. Mike started his Amazon career as the Director of Systems and Networking Operations. Since then, he has held senior positions that span several functional areas; Director of WW Third Party Platforms, GM/Dir of WW Marketplace, VP of Human Resources, VP of WW Payments, VP of Spoken Word Audio, and now VP of a yet-to-be-announced new business. Mike joined Amazon through the acquisition of the Junglee Corp. in mid-1998; where he was VP of Business Development. Prior to Junglee, Mike spent 14 years in the newspaper industry; working for the Baltimore Sun, USA Today and the Washington Post Co. Mike is named on several patents and pending patents related to marketplace, payments and group buying business processes and technologies.

Vikki Valentine ’96, English, is an award-winning science journalist and senior editor for NPR’s science unit and lead editor of NPR’s environment, energy and climate coverage. Before that, she managed the desk’s daily digital output of science, environmental, health and technology stories, and initiated major features and series. Prior to NPR, Valentine worked at and Her writing has also been published by the Smithsonian Channel, The New York Times, National Geographic, Marketplace Radio, Science, and Washingtonian. Valentine graduated with honors from the University College London Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine master’s program in 2005; and magna cum laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1996, with a major in English and minors in anthropology and writing. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Michael I. Nishimura ’80 BA ’84 MS ’89, PhD Biological Sciences, has devoted his career to developing novel immunologic approaches for cancer therapy and is recognized for his talents as a scientific mentor. Building upon his strong genetics and immunology training acquired at UMBC, he pioneered the use of retroviral vectors encoding T cell receptor (TCR) genes to engineer an individual’s own lymphocytes to be able recognize and control the patients cancer cells or virus-infected cells. The first clinical trial using TCR gene modified T cells was conducted in Denmark using one of Dr. Nishimura’s TCR’s targeting the melanoma protein MART-1. Dr Nishimura serves as the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina and has assembled a strong clinical and scientific team committed to bringing this and other novel cellular therapies to the clinic.

Chad Cradock ’97, Psychology, was named to UMBC Athletics’ Hall of Fame in 2004 after a stellar career as a Retriever from 1993 until his graduation in 1997 and immediately became an assistant coach, but his greater contribution to the UMBC family would begin in 2001 when he became just the second head coach of the swimming and diving program. Since he took over, the Retriever men have won nine consecutive conference championships, including seven straight America East titles, while the women have won four conference crowns. In addition, the amount of alumni giving has gone up over 1,200% during his tenure. Cradock and his staff have been named Coach/Coaching Staff of the Year six times, including being named 2010 America East Coaching Staff of the Year.

Dean Alexander ’88, Visual Arts, is a photographer and the owner of Dean Alexander Productions, Inc., based in Baltimore Maryland. His work covers a broad range from advertising and editorial to fine art and has taken him to over 40 countries throughout the world. Clients range from corporations such as IBM and UnderArmour to non-profits such as the National Institute of Health and HealthCare for the Homeless. Subjects range from Oprah Winfrey and Lady Sutherland (Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen of England) to Baltimore’s homeless. He has been invited to speak at various institutions including, MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art), Boston University’s Center For Digital Imaging Arts and the U. S. House of Representatives Page School at the Library of Congress. He has won nearly 100 international awards in his career.

Gene Trainor ’86, Health Science & Policy and Economics, is the Chief Operating Officer of Foundation Capital, a Menlo Park CA – based venture capital firm. Prior to joining Foundation, Gene served for 10 years as the Administrative General Partner and the Chief Operating Officer for New Enterprise Associates. Prior to joining NEA, Gene was an Executive Vice President and the Chief Operating Officer of Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn, LLC, and before that the CFO/Controller of a Mid-Atlantic venture capital firm and a member of the audit group for Ernst & Young, LLP. A certified public accountant, he earned BA degrees from UMBC in Economics and Health Science and Policy with certificates in Accounting, Finance and Managerial Economics. Gene received his MBA from Loyola College of Maryland. Gene serves on the board of the non-profit Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Aaron Merki ’05, Political Science, graduated from UMBC as a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar and then attended University of Maryland School of Law as the Bekman Leadership Scholar. While there, Aaron founded the FreeState Legal Project, which provides legal services to low-income LGBT clients throughout the Greater Baltimore region. Aaron was named the National LGBT Bar Association’s 2008 student leader of the year. After graduating law school, Aaron accepted a judicial clerkship with the Hon. Susan K. Gauvey of the United States District Court for Maryland. Now an Associate at Venable LLP, Aaron’s clients range from Fortune 500 companies to low-income individuals. He continues to serve as Chairman of the FreeState Legal Project Board of Directors, which now includes judges, professors, elected officials, and some of Walter Sondheim’s closest friends.