Roundup: UMBC in the News

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.

Alums in the News: Clements, Chavarria, Massey, & Womack

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!

James P. ClementsClements ’85, computer science, and ’91 M.S. and ’93 Ph.D., operations analysis, has been appointed to the American Council on Education’s board of directors. In an article on Greenville Online, Clements discusses his hopes of ensuring the interests of Clemson University and the state of South Carolina in a national market.

Click here to read the full article.

ChavarriaErick Chavarria ‘05, acting,  stands out in Get Hard, a new comedy starring Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Chavarria is no stranger when it comes to Hollywood films, as he currently has supporting roles in other movies such as The Duff, the soon-to-be-released Our Brand is Crisis with Sandra Bullock, and Bone Tomahawk with Kurt Russell. Chavarria never considered himself to be a natural comedian, but, upon landing a few roles in Hollywood, he says started shifting from that mentality and is now living the dream.

To learn more about his career, click here.

Josh MasseyJosh Massey ’14, interdisciplinary studies, was recently awarded the 2015 Collegetown LeaderShape PNC Grant. The grant is open to current and past participants and helps students work toward their visions in partnership with communities, non-profit agencies and schools to improve the Baltimore region.


WomackRod Womack ’95, philosophy, celebrates the publication of his first book, Redwood, the true story of a once-thriving Baltimore restaurant known for its tasty cuisine, sensational musical entertainment, and celebrity events. The story takes many twists and turns, and the conflict intensifies when the young men at the heart of the story later discover the unthinkable–that all along a serial killer was in their midst.

To find out more on Womack’s new release, click here.

Have a story of your own to share? Tell us about it in a class note.

Alums in the News: Clements, Wohlheiter, Weston, and Hill

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!

james clements
photo via

Clemson University President James Clements ’85 computer science and ’91 M.S. and ’93 Ph.D., operations analysis, recently reported on the state of Clemson University at the Florence Rotary Club. In particular, Clements said he is enthusiastic about the future of the school, eager to improve the Pee Dee Research and Education Center, and will look to motivate students and sport teams. Clements expressed a positive outlook of the future, fully supporting its students and faculty.  Read the full article.



photo via

Karen Wohlheiter ’11 Ph.D., psychology, recently took part in a panel of 48 experts from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia which discussed the Healthy Weight Program on ABC News. This program helps children between the ages of 2 through 18 to help the families make healthy changes in their lifestyles. These changes include healthy cooking alternatives and recipes, individual and group physical activities, and learning new skills. The main focus is to prevent and and treat childhood obesity. Read more.



noah weston
photo via

Noah Weston ’05, computer science, is overseeing the development of the Modeling Simulation, Emulation and Tool for Analysis (MODESTA) at the U.S. Army RDECOM’s communications-electronics RD&E center. The goal of this is to reduce costs and improve collaboration efficiency. Learn more about Weston’s work.


photo via

Categorized as one of the Baltimore Sun’s 50 Women to Watch in 2014 is UMBC’s, Stephanie Hill ’86, computer science and economics. Hill is the VP and general manager of Lockheed Martin. In charge of more than 10,000 people across all 50 States and nine countries, Hill focuses on global solutions. Recently she has taken on a project working to enhance identifying suspects. Learn more about the 50 Women to Watch in 2014.

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

Top Mountaineer: James P. Clements ’85, M.S. ’91, Ph.D. ’93

UMBC alumnus James P. Clements, ’85 computer science and ’91 M.S. and ’93 Ph.D., operations analysis, ascends to the summit of West Virginia University.

By Richard Byrne ’86

According to Google Maps, it takes a little over three hours to get from Catonsville to Morgantown, West Virginia.

For James P. Clements, ’85 computer science and ’91 M.S. and ’93 Ph.D., operations analysis, the journey has taken a little bit longer than that – about 27 years, in fact.

But the destination has been worth the drive, which also took detours through The Johns Hopkins University (where he took an M.S. in computer science in 1988) and Towson University, where he has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs for the past two years. On June 30, Clements will arrive in Morgantown to become West Virginia University’s 23rd president.

“I’m really excited,” Clements told UMBC Magazine in a recent interview. “I’m on the phone with them every day. On the weekends, I’m having discussions. I already have a couple visits planned.”

Clements also has fond memories of his time in Catonsville: “I loved everything about my undergraduate and graduate education at UMBC.”

It’s not hard to see why West Virginia University tapped Clements for the school’s top position. His career as a scholar and researcher took wing quickly after he received his Ph.D. from UMBC in 1993. He was tenured at Towson University only two years after receiving his doctorate. Six years later, he was named to lead Towson’s Center for Applied Information Technology. And in 2002, he was named Robert W. Deutsch Distinguished Professor of Information Technology.

His ascent in academic leader has been even more dizzying – a rapid itinerary that included stints as vice president of Towson’s Economic and Community Outreach division, as provost, and a key roles in devising and monitoring that university’s 2010 Strategic Plan.

Clements says that the first strides of his time on the fast track began at UMBC. Like many students of his era, he chose UMBC for factors of proximity and cost – and found an unexpectedly rich academic experience in Catonsville.

“My parents didn’t go to college,” he says. “My brother and two sisters, we were the first generation to go to college. We didn’t have a lot of money. There weren’t a lot of options. It was: ‘Where do you want to go in-state? And you’re going to be a commuter, because we don’t have the money, really, to let you live on the campus.’ So I really looked at UMBC and Towson, which are both great places. But for what I wanted at the time, which was computer science, UMBC was a great choice. The program was excellent. The professors were great.”

Clements says that he realized the quality of the education he got when he went out into the workforce. “When I came out, and went to work for industry – I worked for a company called General Physics, which is run by Robert W. Deutsch, who has been very generous to UMBC – I felt so prepared. I was working with people who’d been at some of the top institutions in the country, and I felt that I had an equal level of education to anyone in that building.”

The allure of the workforce and the chance to make money in the computer science field, which was burgeoning in the mid-1980s, did not sidetrack Clements from his dream of becoming a professor.

“My very first class at UMBC as a college freshman was a U.S. history class,” Clements recalls. “I walked into the class, I sat down, and the professor walked in. And it was like some great light went off. Then I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a professor. And I had never before that very minute even thought about it. Never really knew what professor was. What they did. But this person came in, and started talking to the class, and started teaching us things. And I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I knew wanted to go into higher education.”

Clements worked hard to make that dream a reality. “I started right away on graduate school,” he says. “I didn’t take a semester off.” But he did so at nights and on weekends as he joined the workforce – at one point even cutting a deal with his employer for reduced hours to obtain his Ph.D. at UMBC.

In a happy coincidence, Clements received his Ph.D. from UMBC on the same day – and in the same ceremony – that his brother Joseph H. Clements, Jr.’85 computer science and M.S and Ph.D., mathematics, received his doctorate. “We were side-by-side on the stage,” he recalls. “It was one of my mother and father’s happiest days.”

When Clements did finally end up in academia as a professor at Towson University, Clements says that he found it to be “probably the best job in the world. I love to teach. I love writing papers. I love doing research. I love working with the students.”

Yet he soon acquired the itch to try his hand at administration. It was exigency, rather than ambition, that lured Clements into academic leadership. In fact, he recalls, it came down to a lack of money for pencils and software and travel.

“When I was a junior faculty member, we didn’t have a lot of resources at the institution,” Clements says. “Once, I went to my administrative assistant and said, ‘Hey, can you order some pencils for me? I like the mechanical pencils.’ And the statement was: ‘Hey, we don’t have any money. You can only order the traditional-style pencils.’ Then I also said, ‘I need some software to do my research.’ And I was told, ‘We don’t have a lot of money to buy software for you to do your research.’ I remember going to a couple conferences to present papers, and the conference might cost $1000, and the university might give me $200. And I was, like, ‘Wow, this is costing me a lot out of pocket for me to do what is essentially my job.’

“All of a sudden,” Clements continues, “I took the view that I wanted to get into administration, so that I could bring resources to the campus. So I can help those faculty and students who follow me get the software that they need, or the computers that they need, or the research infrastructure they need, or the travel money they need.

Clements discovered that he had a knack for the coordination and fundraising that goes along with academic leadership – and also that he liked it. And those talents led him all the way to Morgantown.

The challenges of being president of any flagship state university are immense. They’ve been made even more difficult at West Virginia because of a scandal involving the improper awarding of a degree that rocked the university and forced the resignation of its president Michael S. Garrison last year.

Clements acknowledges those unique challenges in his new job. He also points to the success of West Virginia University’s interim president, C. Peter Magrath, in tackling the immediate fallout from the scandal as a springboard to his own efforts.

Clements says that Magrath’s status as “an icon in higher education” and a calming force” in Morgantown “has really given me an opportunity to come in and say, as I did when I interviewed on the campus: ‘WVU has been around since 1867. It has a great history. It’s going to have a great future. We just have to get past where we’ve been stuck right now and think about who we want to be in 10 and 20 years down the road.

“And then it becomes fun,” Clements continues. “Let’s start looking forward. And that certainly seemed to resonate well with the campus. They don’t want to be stuck in the headlines that they’ve read for the past two years. They want to move forward.”

Looking back at UMBC from across more than two decades (and across town from his perch at Towson University), Clements says he feels a lot of pride and appreciation at the growth of his alma mater over that time.

“Let me put it this way, every time I see [UMBC’s president Freeman A. Hrabowski, III], I thank him for raising the value of my degree,” Clements says with a laugh. “It’s true. Freeman is so dynamic and so charismatic. And it’s not just him. The institution has great faculty members. Great administrators. It has just continued to climb up and up and up. And for me, even though I work at Towson, I love UMBC. It’s been great watching it skyrocket into one of the hottest universities in the country.

“Trust me, when West Virginia called me, and I sent them my materials,” continues Clements, “and it has ‘UMBC: An Honors University in Maryland’ on it, with a president that everyone in the world knows, that helps me… It’s helped the region. Everyone is proud of UMBC.”

Originally published in the Summer 2009 issue of UMBC Magazine

2009 UMBC Alumni of the Year & Distinguished Service Award Winners

Originally published Fall 2009


Dr. James P. Clements ’85, ’91 & ’93, Information Systems, was recently appointed President of West Virginia University in Morgantown, WVa. He is the first UMBC alumnus to lead a major university. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Clements was Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Towson University. A TU employee since 1989, he also served as a faculty member, Vice President for Economic and Community Outreach and Chairman of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. Dr. Clements has published and presented more than 70 papers on management, information systems and technology. The fourth edition of his project management book is used in more than 20 countries and published in four languages.


Jeffrey “Duff” Goldman ’97, History, is known for turning traditional confections into out-of-this-world creations on his Food Network show “Ace of Cakes.” After completing his UMBC degree, Goldman attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif. His company, Charm City Cakes, has baked cakes for events including the “Kung Fu Panda” premier and the Maryland Zoo’s annual Zoomerang gala. In 2000 he was a featured speaker at UMBC’s Alex Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. He also holds a Guinness Book record for baking the world’s largest cupcake, created in March 2008.


Dr. Crystal Watkins ’95, Biological Sciences, studied at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She received the David E. Rogers Award for the highest standards of professionalism, medical ethics and community leadership. Dr. Watkins’ graduate research was featured in the Wall Street Journal and led to a U.S. patent for a treatment of diabetic disorders. She has also traveled to Ghana and worked with the Princess of Ada and Ministry of Health to implement HIV/AIDS health education and prevention programs.


The Honorable Jon S. Cardin M.P.P. ’96, Policy Sciences, represents residents of northwest Baltimore County in the Maryland House of Delegates where he serves on the Ways and Means Committee. Much of his legislation focuses on election, tax and education reform. In February he was awarded the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Legislator Award for developing legislation that gives shelters access to drugs needed to properly sedate animals prior to euthanasia. Cardin also serves as a member of the Board of Directors/Advisors for the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, the Camp Shohola Scholarship Fund, Baltimore Hebrew University, UMBC Hillel, The American Council of Young Political Leaders, Institute for Progressive Leadership and the Maryland Public Interest Law Project.


Laura Pasquini ’98, Visual Arts, is the director of Youth and Family Programs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in the Washington, D.C. She oversees the operation of all classes, programs and camps for children and their families. In her time there she has redefined the overall vision and mission of the Corcoran’s after school program, Corcoran ArtReach. She installed and supported fundraising efforts for the annual ArtReach exhibit. At UMBC, Pasquini worked in the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture as an undergraduate intern where she worked to make art exhibits accessible and interesting to public school students through a series of creative projects based on gallery exhibits.


Gustavo Matheus, Esq. LLC ’90, Biological Sciences, is always thinking of new ways to connect with UMBC alumni and is particularly interested in engaging alumni in the Washington, D.C. area. He is intimately involved in growing and maintaining the Esperanza Endowment, which supports and inspires current and future UMBC students of Latino or Hispanic ancestry and/or students who are committed to the advancement of minorities. Matheus, who practices law in Rockville, Md., mentors student members of the scholarship committee and has been instrumental in connecting with alumni who choose to support the fund.


Alicia Wilson ’04, Political Science, is an associate at Gordon Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger and Hollander, LLC. Prior to her position the firm’s Litigation Practice Group, she served as a clerk for the Honorable David Young for the Circuit Court of Baltimore City. Wilson spent her third year of law school at Susan Leviton’s Juvenile Law, Children’s Issues and Legislative Advocacy Clinic. She also coached the Mock Trail team at the Baltimore Freedom Academy – a high school with curriculum and culture focused on social justice and activism.