Career Q&A: Benjamin Strong ’01, Emergency Health Services, ’04, M.S., Emergency Health Services

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with Benjamin Strong ’01, Emergency Health Services, ’04, M.S., Emergency Health Services, about his career with the United States Coast Guard.

Name: Benjamin Strong
Job Title: Director, Amver Maritime Relations
Employer: United States Coast Guard

Ben01 (1)Q: Tell us a little about how you wound up at UMBC. What’s your background?

A: I took the “long route” to UMBC. I enlisted in the Air Force after high school, completed my tour in 1991 and began working as a paramedic in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In the late 90’s I learned about the Emergency Health Services Management program at UMBC and came to take a tour. I ended up enrolling in 1998.

Q: Will you tell us about your career on the U.S. delegation to the Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working Group of the Arctic Council?

A: My work on the Arctic Council Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response Working group is an extra duty to my day job with the United States Coast Guard. My specialty is encouraging commercial ships to assist the Coast Guard in search and rescue cases around the world. In fact, it was one of our partnered ships that was first to begin searching for the missing Malaysian plane in the South Indian Ocean.

My job with the EPPR working group is to encourage commercial ships to assist in search and rescue in the Arctic. There are a finite number of rescue resources in the Arctic and we have to rely on our partners to help in times of trouble. I also work to encourage our Arctic national partners to request Amver information when they are managing a search and rescue case. It’s all about leveraging partnerships in the name of safety.

Q: Were there any lessons you learned, in particular, at UMBC that you have carried with you into your work?

A: I would have to say the main lesson I learned was leveraging partnerships. The Emergency Health Services department was unique in that we had several important partnerships both on and off campus. As a student I had to partner with the Political Science department to marry up my Certificate in Public Administration and Policy with my EHS bachelors. I had to partner with the EHS department alumni to secure a relevant internship. Partnerships remain critical to my international work today.
Continue reading Career Q&A: Benjamin Strong ’01, Emergency Health Services, ’04, M.S., Emergency Health Services

Career Q&A: Ting Zhang ’03, M.A., intercultural communications, professor

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with Dr. Ting Zhang ’03, M.A., intercultural communications, about her career as an assistant professor at the University of Baltimore and her research into entrepreneurship, aging and economic growth.

Ting ZhangName: Ting Zhang
Job Title:  Assistant Professor
Employer: University of Baltimore

Q:  Tell us a little about how you wound up at UMBC. What’s your background?

A: UMBC’s unique Intercultural Communication program attracted me. I was a student of English and International Business in China before I came to UMBC.

Q:  What is your focus in your career as an Assistant Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore?

A: I teach quantitative courses to graduate students of Public Administration and I conduct public policy research on the topics related to entrepreneurship, aging and economic growth. I am also a research assistant professor at the Jacob France Institute where I conduct a variety of labor and economic research projects.

Q: Were there any lessons you learned, in particular, at UMBC that you have carried with you into your work?

A: As a student of Intercultural Communication, naturally I was very much aware of culture diversity and fusion between various cultures. This builds my foundation in believing in the importance of diversity in our economy that contributes to my research interests on entrepreneurship, creativity and economic growth and dynamics.

Q: What has been the greatest success in your career?

A: The greatest success I believe is that I have been so lucky to have the great mentors at UMBC, at George Mason University and at my current work at the University of Baltimore. They have offered enormous and selfless guidance to me.

The greatest progress I have made in my career so far, I believe, is publishing my first book (Elderly Entrepreneurship in an Aging US.. Economy) and it was an early academic effort on such a topic. The empirical research was awarded with the fellowship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and a paper award in the international Charles Tiebout Prize for Regional Science. The book later on luckily received certain public, media and academic attention.

Q:  Is there a particular class or professor at UMBC who really inspired you?

A: Professor Edward Larkey guided me through my UMBC journey and has kept encouraging me on my progress. He is a great mentor. Professor Fred Pincus also inspired me on the fun from academic research through his teaching.

Q: What advice would you give to students considering UMBC?

UMBC is a very dynamic university with many inspiring professors who have strong academic rigor and who are also caring and approachable. One piece of advice would be to communicate well with the great professors and take advantage of the vast human capital and warm intellectual resources. UMBC is also a great intercultural community. Enjoying the diversity and participating in various multi-cultural activities would be another advice from me.

Career Q&A: Executive Director Brigitte Pribnow Moore ’05, theatre

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today, we’re talking with executive director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, Brigitte Pribnow Moore ’05, theatre, about what it’s like to combine multiple interests and skills into one awesome career. 

Brigitte MooreName: Brigitte Pribnow Moore
Job Title: Executive Director
Employer: Young Playwrights’ Theater
Scholarships Received at UMBC: UMBC University Fellow 2001-2005

Q:  Tell us a little about how you wound up at UMBC. What’s your background?

I came to UMBC from a small town in Connecticut. I knew I wanted to study theatre, and I heard that UMBC’s BFA in Acting program was a “hidden gem.” I came out for an audition and I fell in love. The year I started at UMBC, the theatre department was a small program with a brilliant faculty providing rigorous artistic training, and producing innovative, high-quality performances with fairly limited resources. It has been such a joy watching UMBC’s theatre program grow in resources and recognition over the past decade, and the new Performing Arts and Humanities Building is a beautiful addition to the campus. I am so excited to see what future theatre students create and share in that space.

Q:  You’ve been able to combine multiple loves/skills into a career. How did you figure out that you wanted to do all those things, and do you have any advice for other folks who find themselves with multiple, diverse career interests?

I left UMBC with an incredible artistic education, but I also had the opportunity to explore a wealth of liberal arts courses outside my department. I spent my time at UMBC completing my theatre degree, but I also took classes that ranged from political science, to film history, to statistics, to non-western civilizations. I participated in volunteer and part-time work outside UMBC that complemented my interests, serving on political campaigns and writing and editing a weekly newsletter for a statewide advocacy organization. When I graduated, I did not have a solid career plan, but I had a rich and varied academic foundation, a network of community contacts in Baltimore and DC, and a strong sense of the impact I wanted to have on the world. I didn’t leave UMBC with a career goal. I left with a mission. And that mission carried me through almost a decade of diverse jobs that included working on union organizing campaigns, serving as the legislative director for two Maryland state delegates, and, ultimately, running Young Playwrights’ Theater.

My advice for other folks with a variety of interests: don’t put yourself in a box. Dive deep and excel in your major, but dare to take classes outside your discipline, and to engage boldly with the rich and diverse off-campus community that surrounds UMBC. Also, wait on grad school until you have worked for a few years and know exactly what, if anything, you need to learn to succeed in your career. If you’re like me, you may not be where you expected, and your evolving interests and needs may surprise you.

Q:  Tell us about your career. Were there any lessons you learned, in particular, at UMBC that you carried with you into your work?

I currently serve as the Executive Director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, a DC-based nonprofit that uses the arts to inspire young people to realize the power of their own voices and stories. I feel incredibly lucky to have found myself in a career that allows me to make a living doing something I love, and my time at UMBC was instrumental in helping me to discover and pursue and my dreams. The study of theatre is, at its heart, the study of what it means to be human – to relate and connect with others and to ponder and pursue one’s place in the world. My classes taught me a great deal about the art of theatre, but they also taught me the art of empathy, critical and analytical thinking, and persuasive communication. I left UMBC with an intellectual and interpersonal toolkit that helped me in every professional task I took on – from writing an impactful speech for a political candidate, to inspiring a donor to support a cause, to effectively leveraging the talents of a professional team.

Q:  Is there a particular class or professor who really inspired you?

All of them? Seriously, the UMBC theatre department employs such brilliant, talented, and caring instructors. I felt privileged to know and learn from each of them. I did have a particularly inspiring experience in a directing class I took with Christopher Owens. I learned so much about the power of good stories, and I discovered that I was happiest and most comfortable in artistic and professional roles that allowed me to direct people and resources toward a big picture vision. That class was transformational for me.

Q:  What advice would you give to students considering UMBC?

Pull your application materials together and send them along. UMBC is special place with a wealth of opportunities to learn and explore with gifted, caring professors and a diverse, talented community of students. You won’t regret your decision.

Career Q&A: Mark DeNome ’07, ’10, Program Auditor

DenomeWorkPic2Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with program auditor Mark DeNome ’07, emergency health services, ’10, master’s of public policy, about the path he took to UMBC and — ultimately — a career he truly loves.

Name: Mark DeNome
Job Title: Program Auditor
Employer:  BNL Incorporated
Scholarships Received at UMBC: President’s Fellow Scholarship; Bill Hathaway Award

Q:  Tell us a little about how you wound up at UMBC. What’s your background?

A:  I was born and raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, by a single mother on a teacher’s salary. I was already well-acquainted with the primary in-state university most of my classmates selected; however, I knew for a true personal advancement, I would need to find an out-of-state school where I might get significant financial aid. I had a great experience on my campus tour, where I heard the inspiring Freeman Hrabowski speak and came across an exciting major in EHS that was new to me. The prospect of joining UMBC’s fine lacrosse team appealed to me, but what most influenced my decision was the nature of UMBC and the surrounding community to be both immersed yet intimate, a logical step between my rural upbringing and the hustle of the city. UMBC was an university, up-and-coming like I wanted to be.

Q:  How important was it to you to receive scholarships?

A:  Maybe I still would have come to UMBC, but I would have been in too much debt after undergrad to attend graduate school, at least right away. Or, maybe I would have stayed in my hometown and not have been exposed to such diverse demographics and ideas, nor have been able to re-invent myself with a new population which I think is very important for post-high school graduates. Also, I would have been working during semesters. Something so many people just do not understand is that focusing on coursework without having to work is a luxury, so I was fortunate UMBC tries to uphold that one does not have to be rich to be smart.

Q:  What drove your decision to study EHS as an undergraduate, and then Public Policy as a graduate student?

A:  I decided at age fourteen that I wanted to be a doctor, and recognized EHS as a program that would best prepare me and also set me apart from other applicants, which it succeeded in doing. However, once I was exposed to health care as a medical professional and started to understand some of the inefficiencies in the industry, I wanted to get involved in that right away. The Public Policy Department accepted me, and I maintained close ties with the EHS Department as I pursued my concentration in Health Politics.

Q:  Tell us about your career. Were there any lessons you learned, in particular, at UMBC that you carried with you into your work?

A: After more than fifty applications and several jobs below my abilities (not requiring any degree), I was encouraged by a fellow classmate to take an entry level job as a government consultant in emergency management, where I collected the nickname Cupcake from my nature to do the less desirable tasks willingly. As I executed assignments with excellence for my colleagues, I was given more and more responsibility; what had carried over from UMBC was the sense of we “take care of each other.” Today, I lead a team of government auditors. I am glad to be in a position where I can hire and empower driven individuals of all demographics who demonstrate their character in overcoming challenges, and I take pride in the look of pleasant surprise I get from colleagues when they learn I attended UMBC, and they see me for the first time as not what they expected of a white male manager in Northern Virginia.

Q:  Is there a particular class or professor who really inspired you?

A:  No question, my undergraduate adviser and Paramedic Instructor, Dwight Polk, instilled professionalism and showed compassion to all EHS students and alumnis, as did all the EHS staff, from whom I still receive job announcements via email. I have to acknowledge Mark Perks, who would take attendance in organic chemistry by stating the name of every student so so he knew each one, and those were 200 tough names to remember. At the graduate level, my government budgeting course, taught by Roy Meyers, advanced my analytical abilities and introduced me to several tools I consider very useful to the government contractors in the region.

Q:  What advice would you give to students considering UMBC?

A:  Realize that the world wants you to succeed, and that each moment is an opportunity to demonstrate your character to someone who wants to help a person who shares passion for the same things. And there is a lot we share.