Alums in the News: Ralby, Ordóñez, and Cradock

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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Ian Ralby ’02, modern languages and linguistics, M.A., intercultural communications, writes about Ebola’s effect on organized crime in West Africa. The impact of Ebola has dramatically slowed down, and even stopped, criminal activity throughout the region. Although there is an ironically positive affect of Ebola, there are various negatives as well. For example, illegal fishing because of the “infected” waters. Read more on Ebola’s effect on organized crime.


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Computer science was not always considered a man’s profession. In fact, many of the pioneering computer scientists were women. But during the 1980s, that changed. In this piece by NPR,  Patricia Ordóñez ’10 M.S. and ’12 Ph.D., computer science, discusses her experience as a woman studying computer science. She explains that when desktops were introduced for use in the home, it caused a shift because these “toys” were more often purchased for boys than girls. Read the full story.



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UMBC’s Chad Cradock ’97, psychology, recently celebrated his 200th Career Win at CCSA North Invite, a home swimming meet. This has also made Cradock the leading coach in history for wins in the program, surpassing Sid Burkot. “It is a pleasure for a milestone like this to occur at home,” said Cradock. “I am proud to work with talented athletes both in the past and the present for their spirit of hard work and upholding UMBC tradition.” Read the full article.



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Round Up: UMBC in the News, 10/24

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

Read more at UMBC Insights!

Estonian Excellence

There isn’t an NCAA in Estonia. No college recruiters or flashy promoters. So back in 2011, rising UMBC senior Lauri Käi had to get onto the radar of UMBC men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Chad Cradock ’97, psychology, the old fashioned way: grit, determination, and some timely word of mouth from other Estonians – including Herol Marjak ’13, history, and Johan Rohtla ’14, biochemistry – who have swum competitively at UMBC.

Flash forward three years. Käi is one of the top performers on UMBC’s successful swimming and diving teams, chalking up individual achievements and s14-atplay-kaeiflyhelping the university’s 200- and 400-yard medley relay teams finish at the top of the America East Conference.

And like many UMBC student-athletes, Käi has been just as successful in the classroom, double majoring in political science and philosophy with minors in international affairs and legal policy.

UMBC was a very different experience from higher education in Estonia. “It seemed really big!” Käi observes. “Universities back home are just buildings that are spread out around the city, but there’s no actual campus.”

Käi hopes to attend law school in the United States after graduation and plans to enjoy his last year of competitive swimming for UMBC.

Cradock observes that “it has been great to watch [Käi] grow as a person. He’s someone that supports his teammates, cares a lot for the sport, and is invested in the betterment of himself. I know when he gets into the real world, whatever he does, he’s going to be extremely successful.”

— Katharine Scrivener

Read more from the UMBC Magazine!

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.