Alumni with Grit and Greatness

UMBC alumni and faculty greeted each other with beaming smiles and excited chatter at this year’s Alumni Awards Ceremony, held on October 8, 2015. Among bright arrangements of orange roses and green orchids, caterers weaved through the crowd as everyone reconnected before finding their seats for an emotional program honoring the achievements of alumni and the faculty, staff, and other community members who shaped their time at UMBC.

As President Freeman Hrabowski kicked off the event, he offered advice to alumni back at UMBC for the first time in a few years, who might not recognize the campus after its tremendous growth. “Don’t feel old,” Hrabowski suggested, “just feel…vintage.”

UMBC’s 2015 Award Winners

It was an evening for storytelling—sharing memories of courage, creativity, commitment, and grit.

This year’s honorees included Distinguished Service Award winner Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman ’81, political science, a former state senator who worked across party lines to support marriage equality for same-sex couples.

As a child, Nicole DeBlase ’06, financial economics, had dreamed of dancing on Broadway. Through her studies at UMBC she found a new path to New York, where she is now a star on Wall Street as a Morgan Stanley executive.

Andre Gudger ’99, information systems, who currently serves in the Obama administration, received the Engineering and IT Award. Gruger was previously chairman and CEO of Solvern Innovations, which he grew to 1,300 employees in eight years.

Natural and Mathematical Sciences Award winner Yoon-Ho Kim ’01, Ph.D. physics, wrote his doctoral dissertation on quantum teleportation. Professor Todd Pittman, M.S. ’92, Ph.D. ’96, physics, who accepted the award in Kim’s absence, told the audience that his work is “almost as Star Trek as it sounds.”

Bryan Kelly ’92, economics, winner of the Social and Behavioral Sciences award, was honored as a business leader with a distinctive personal commitment to his community, as evidenced by his tangible support and mentorship of others.

The Visual and Performing Arts awardee, Lisa Urkevich ’86, music, received honors for her work as a global leader in ethnomusicology research and teaching whose work in the Arabian Peninsula transcends cultural difference.

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, Andy Gotsch ’12, and Tara Carpenter enjoy the Alumni Awards.

Andy Gotsch ’12, chemical engineering, told a particularly moving personal story in presenting this year’s Outstanding Faculty Award. He shared the tremendous, lasting impact Tara Carpenter, senior lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry, has had on his life. Gotsch failed Carpenter’s Chemistry 101 course twice and was looking at a third failure, despite his putting in hours of extra study time. Carpenter urged Gotsch to be evaluated for test anxiety and connected him with supportive resources that eventually enabled him to pass the class and go on to earn a chemical engineering degree.

As the crowd cheered, Carpenter accepted the award with tears in her eyes, telling Gotsch, “I’m so proud of you.”

Photos by Marlayna Demond ’11

See more photos from the event.

Congratulations to the Class of 2015!

commencement 2015

It’s that time of the year again! Just a week ago, the UMBC alumni community welcomed its newest members and celebrated with them as they (finally!) walked across that stage to open the next chapter of their lives. Congratulations to all of the graduates in the class of 2015!

Celebrating at May Grads Day!

Throughout the spring, the Alumni Association and the Chapter of Black and Latino Alumni has hosted events to celebrate our new grads’ achievements. May Grads Day, hosted by the Alumni Association, treated our newest grads to an afternoon of food and fun. It was a chance for students to put down their books and relax as they prepared for their upcoming graduation and celebrated with their fellow Retrievers.

Welcoming new alums at the CBLA Senior Reception.

The Chapter of Black and Latino Alumni also recently celebrated our newest alums at their Senior Reception. Our seniors dressed up and displayed their Retriever pride with a luncheon filled with speakers who shared their UMBC stories and guidance.

We’re so thrilled to have such a wonderful new group of Retrievers in the Alumni Association, and we hope to see you back on campus soon!

Learn about our alumni perks and services!

10th Annual Wine Tasting Event

Thank you to everyone who came out to the 10th Annual Wine Tasting and Silent Auction hosted by our Chapter of Young Alumni. By attending the event, you helped raise nearly $5,000 for student scholarships. We loved seeing you there and hope you had as much fun as we did! We’ve shared just a few photos from the event below, but we hope you’ll check out our full gallery on Flickr.

Highlights from the 2014 Alumni Awards

The long Homecoming Weekend was kicked off in a big way on Thursday, October 9, with the annual Alumni Awards Ceremony.

This year, the ceremony was held in the stunning Performing Arts and Humanities Building Concert Hall, with receptions preceding and following the event in the Dance Tech Studio.

Those in attendance were treated to speeches by the honorees, as well as lots of smiles and laughter.

And of all of the quotes about the night, Director of Alumni Relations Stanyell Odom said it best: “This year’s winners are an outstanding representation of UMBC. All of the members of our community should be proud of their accomplishments and contributions to the campus and their respective professions.”

Congratulations, Alumni Awards winners of 2014!

Please enjoy a slideshow of pictures taken at the event by photographer Marlayna Demond ’11.

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Meet the Alumni Leadership: Erin Griffiths ’05

Erin Bio PicName: Erin Griffiths ‘05, sociology
Employer: Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Alumni Leadership Role: Vice President of the Chapter of Black and Latino Alumni (CBLA)

Q: Where are you from originally?
Washington, DC

Q: What’s your favorite UMBC memory?
Spending time with my friend while she worked at the front desk of Hillside [apartments].

Q: Why are you involved in an alumni board or chapter?
I think it is important to “pay it forward,” since I am now more established. I met some great people while attending UMBC. I want to support attendance at UMBC, so other people are able to have a great college experience and great careers.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to support UMBC?
It is always important to reflect and remember where you came from. The education at UMBC is exceptional and the foundation that I received helped prepare me for graduate school.

Q: Do you have a favorite hobby or pastime?

Q: What is the most recent book you’ve read?
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Read more about the Chapter of Black and Latino Alumni!

9 Things the Class of 2018 Needs to Know

Students enjoy a movie on the Quad during the first week of classes.
Students enjoy a movie on the Quad during the first week of classes.

College is a new experience for everyone, but with the help of our alumni we can make it a little easier for our newest Retrievers! Take a look at these suggestions to make  the transition to life at UMBC even easier. 

  1. Your college experience is what you make it! Stretch your boundaries, get out there, get involved! ~Mitali Parmar ’13, health administration & policy and sociology

  2. Go to things you don’t think you’ll like. The best friends you’ll make are the ones who aren’t exactly like you! ~Arooj Rana ’06, psychology

  3. I always wish I studied abroad in undergrad. Make sure you do something to extend your academics: good internship, research, etc. ~Christine Osazuwa ’11, interdisciplinary studies

  4. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions – if you have a question, I am sure that others have the same question and are too afraid to ask it. ~Christina Huynh ’11, information systems management

  5. UMBC has a lot of awesome professors who really care about undergraduates, which is something that can’t be found everywhere. Take advantage of this by getting to know some of your favorite professors. Many professors at UMBC are delighted to have students stop by office hours, if only to chat about what was discussed in class that week. Professors can serve as professional mentors even after you graduate. ~Jennifer Mercer ’12, interdisciplinary studies

  6. Balance and moderation is my tip. Freshman year is a great year to begin to make friendships that should carry throughout your college experience. Don’t be afraid to join and try new groups, meet people you may not have ever interacted with in high school. However, don’t over extend yourself. It’s so important to maintain a good balance with your school work and classes. A few mistakes early on can and will affect your other years. ~Nate Dissmeyer ’07, information systems management

  7. It’s totally okay to change your major, change your career plan, and change your roommates. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths; you’re going to be okay. ~Jess El-Zeftawy ’08, political science, ’12 M.P.P., public policy

  8. Start looking for internships NOW! and eat on the first floor of the Administration building. You’ll avoid the Commons madness. ~Amanda Winters ’11, media and communication studies

  9. There will be people here that like you for you so don’t be afraid to express yourself. ~Patricia Reynolds ’09, English

Join the conversation on Twitter: #RetrieverWisdom

Alums in the News: Cantori, Berghaus, Tully, and Olufadeji

Congratulations to these UMBC alums whose accomplishments have reached the media. Take a moment to read what they’ve been up to!

photo via The Baltimore Sun
photo via The Baltimore Sun

Greg Cantori, ’84, geography, has recently turned heads on the road, in the office, and in his local police station.

After purchasing a velomobile (an enclosed bike that resembles a pedal-powered submarine), Cantori has forgotten about his car for his ride to work. Every morning, he makes the one-hour ride to work, with the occasional stop to speak with a curious police officer to explain why the velomobile is legal and how it works. “It’s so aerodynamic,” he says to The Baltimore Sun. “You can ride longer distances with the same amount of energy.” While the parking at work may not be ideal for such a newfangled mode of transportation, his office has been creative with the new addition, using its sound system and decorating it for Christmas. Find out more here, or watch a video.

berghausKim Berghaus, ’14, physics, earned her second career America East All-Academic Team award on May 23, 2014, after maintaining a 3.84 grade-point average in her major, physics, and her two minors, economics and mathematics.

During three of her seven semesters here at UMBC, Berghaus held a 4.0 GPA and received the athletic department’s Matt Skalsky Female Outstanding Scholar-Athlete award, which goes to the highest-performing scholar-athlete. You can read more about her accomplishments and plans for the future here.

photo via City Paper
photo via City Paper

Michael Tully,’97, cinematic arts, released his movie Ping Pong Summer on May 31 at the Carroll County Arts Center.

Starring Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, and John Hannah, the movie was staged in Ocean City and follows an annual family vacation, which is interrupted by a ping pong challenge with the local bullies. “We really tried to make it feel like a lost film from 1985,” says Tully in his interview with the Carroll County Times. The film is to be released in 20 theaters across the country starting Friday, June 6, including AMC Owings Mills, the AFI theater in Silver Spring, and the Charles Theater in Baltimore. To find out more about Tully’s new film, read the article here.

video courtesy of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
video courtesy of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Ayobami “Ayo” Olufadeji, ’11, biological science, was born and raised in Nigeria. Now, a student at the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, Olufadeji is looking back to his hometown.

In a heartfelt essay, Olufadeji writes of the political history of Nigeria and the current unrest, while speaking in terms of hope for his country. “Effective positive change in Nigeria has always been my goal,” he says in his essay for 32 Hours, a news network for Dartmouth. “Medicine happens to be my means.” Read his full essay here.