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 MDExpungement.com, 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 retrievernet@umbc.edu!

Career Q&A: Roberta Sabin ’90 Ph.D., computer science

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with Roberta Sabin ‘90 Ph.D., computer science, about her career as a professor and her recent teaching excursion to Malawi on a Fulbright Scholar grant.

Roberta Sabin headshotName: Roberta Sabin ’90 Ph.D., computer science
Job Title: Professor Emerita of Computer Science at Loyola; Fulbright Scholar

Q: You were the first woman to graduate from UMBC with a Ph.D. in computer science. What did that feel like?

A: It was great, and it’s something I’m really proud of. It was an effort of myself and my family.

I feel like it was a quality degree that I’ve really been able to build on – the beginning of my research career was in the same area my dissertation was in and I was able to attend conferences and meet people from around the world.

Q: What is your favorite memory of UMBC?

A: My dissertation defense was pretty vivid. I spent many many many hours here working on my proposal and the final defense, and I remember the faculty – especially Dr. Samuel Lomonaco – being very supportive and helpful. I also remember that before I presented, I was puttering around and someone asked me about the coffee, because I was the only woman. It was a public defense so not all the people knew me. It was a definite indication of the time.

Q: How did it feel to be awarded the Fulbright? Why Malawi?

A: My motto is “try and try again.” I had tried in 2004 for a Fulbright to Vietnam and got close. I’ve had a lifelong interest in Africa, so I thought applying again for a Fulbright to Africa would be a good way to use my time after retiring from Loyola.

Sabin and her students in Malawi
Sabin and her students in Malawi

Q: What was your time like in Malawi?

A: We were there for one semester, from September of 2013 through February of 2014. It is truly a different world. It’s rich in many ways, especially regarding the quality of the people – they’re friendly, hardworking, and peace-loving – but it lacks natural resources like oil, coal, etc. so it’s very poor. College is a privilege and the students take it very seriously.

I’ve kept in touch with a number of the students since I left – I’ve heard from about 15 or 20. It’s wonderful to be able to continue a relationship and I’d love to go back.

Q: As you reflect on your career, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and why UMBC was your school of choice?

A: I’m a native Baltimorean and a product of an all-women education (secondary school and college). I was always interested in math and politics, and at one time thought I might be president. I got a lot of encouragement [growing up] – there was an assumption that women could do anything, and that underlined my whole education.

I taught secondary level mathematics for about 15 years. During that time I took a course in programming that was offered by the school system and was bitten by the excitement of programming. I also realized there was a tremendous need for instructors in computer science (this was about 1980), so I enrolled at Hopkins for a Master’s in just that. At that time I was teaching at Coppin State with Dr. Hrabowski – he was my dean, he hired me, so I saw him regularly. I completed my Master’s at Hopkins and was then recruited, in a sense, by Loyola to teach computer science. The big deciding factor to come to UMBC was Loyola offering to support me while I got my Ph.D.

Sabin in the classroom
Sabin in the classroom

Non-traditional students like me were welcomed [at UMBC]; they made my time here as smooth as possible. It was a stressful time for me – by then I was married and had two children under the age of six.

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

A: Computer science and teaching make an unbeatable combination. There are continuous changes and intellectual challenges [in computer science], and it’s a lively and active professional group. Plus, technology is so needed. People who are interested in communicating about technology are needed and that’s what teaching is all about. Especially if you’re female – students need to see young women who are excited about that.

Have a story of your own to share? Tell us about it!

A Global Perspective: Kevin Mulroe ’98, M.A.

Kevin Mulroe is the type of teacher who would travel to the ends of the earth for his students. Literally.

A teacher of gifted and talented students in Howard County, Mulroe ’98, M.A., instructional systems development, was one of just 16 teachers from across the country to receive a Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship, enabling him to spend six weeks this summer exploring India in the name of education. Throughout his journey, Mulroe visited 23 different schools and learned a lot about what works – and what doesn’t – in math and science education.

“This falls into the category of ‘lifetime experiences.’ One of my goals in life is to have as many of those as possible,” said Mulroe, an adventurer by nature. “I know that these experiences make me a better teacher, person, a better everything.”

While a student at UMBC, Mulroe worked with disadvantaged students from Baltimore City and Prince George’s County through a graduate assistantship with the Shriver Center. This experience planted the seed for Mulroe’s interest in learning beyond the traditional boundaries.

After graduating, he began his career in education, teaching fifth grade in Howard County. Just three years later, he and his wife, Sorsha, took jobs teaching at an American school in Alexandria, Egypt. He later returned to Howard County schools, earning the title “Teacher of the Year” for the county in 2005. Over the years, he has used his travel experiences to develop classes in everything from speech and debate to Ancient Egypt.

Mulroe blogged the entire time he was in India, recording his thoughts and taking photos of the people of New Delhi, the holy city of Varanasi, and some overly friendly monkeys in Bhubaneswar. He plans to spend the next few months sharing his experiences with as many people as he can, including his students. One entry reads, in part:

Yesterday we visited an organization that seeks out talented students from disadvantaged situations and seeks to bring them into the best Indian schools for the purposes of becoming engineers and scientists. It was a great program and was special for me, because it served the role of a nationwide G-T talent search. This is partly how India is changing. They recognize that their clear advantage over the U.S. and Europe is simple….1.1 billion people. They have many more potential Einsteins, Gates, Hawkins, Edisons and Curies. They know this and are getting their act together in terms of developing talent on a grand scale. India is not going away. As I have said before India is hungry and its people are hungry and not in terms of how we used to think about India’s hunger. They are hungry for innovation, wealth, opportunities, ideas, investment, education, etc.

While his travels this summer focused specifically on ways the country identifies its gifted students, and how it promotes math and the sciences among them, as Mulroe learned, the six weeks taught him much more.

“Anytime you travel overseas to the Middle East or any developing region, I think you learn more about yourself than anything else. You really see what you are made of when you step out of your comfort zone,” he said.

“Knowing who you are is important, and I am a teacher,” he said. “If you think about what you want your child’s teacher to be, you would want a caring, well read, well traveled educator. That is what I strive to be to my students and my own children.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally published September 2007