UMBC's Class of 2009

Priya Mathews

Plans: Pursuing an M.D. at The Johns Hopkins University
B.S., Biological Sciences
B.A., Psychology
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Beltsville, Maryland

Priya Mathews expanded her personal horizons at UMBC by working with a broad cross section of the campus community. In addition to her many academic honors, she co-authored a published research paper and did five summers of research at the National Institutes of Health. She tutored fellow students at the Chemistry Discovery Center, was a physics learning assistant and taught MCAT prep for the Princeton Review. She also served others, volunteering at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and UMBC’s University Health Center and by leading a fundraiser for an impoverished Indian village.

“During the past four years at UMBC, I have been able to meet people from almost every background, academic discipline, culture and religion imaginable. I believe that this unique exposure, combined with the knowledge and experience I have gained at UMBC will prepare me to succeed in any job or community environment in the future.”


Cally Brandt

Plans: Master’s/Ph.D. program in Art History, New York University Institute of Fine Arts
B.A., Visual Arts, with emphasis in Art History, and Ancient Studies
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Hagerstown, Maryland

The opportunity to study abroad has been a central part of Cally Brandt’s UMBC experience. As a sophomore, she participated in an ancient studies department tour of London and other parts of England. She studied in Rome as a junior, focusing on Roman art and architecture, baroque architecture and an introduction to Italian language and culture. In Phylos, Greece, she participated in archaeological digs for a month before senior year, learning how to excavate a Mycenean Bronze Age settlement and how to remove and record artifacts. A Humanities Scholar, Brandt supported the program by regularly assisting with the annual February Selection Day and advising young scholars at UMBC. Her research was  published in the UMBC Review, the University’s undergraduate research journal.  
“I initially applied to UMBC in part because of its strong program in ancient studies. But another thing caught my eye that I did not realize would shape my experience here to such a degree: the possibility to conduct undergraduate research. The opportunity to engage in research as an undergraduate at UMBC put me in a good position to pursue research on the graduate level.” 


Cornelia Carapcea

Plans: Working for Microsoft, Commerce Search team
B.S., Financial Economics and Information Systems
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Constanta, Romania

A scholar-athlete in every sense of the word, Cornelia Carapcea performed research with information systems professor Anita Komlodi for two years, developing the "Global Portal for Women in ICTs." In addition to her tennis scholarship, she received the University Scholar Award from UMBC and a scholarship award from T. Rowe Price. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 2008 and was one of 16 students in Romania to be considered for the Government of Romania Scholarship. She completed internships with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Microsoft. On the tennis court, she was an Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar-Athlete in 2006, the America East Conference Women’s Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2007, Most Valuable Player and an ESPN Academic All-American in 2008, and also served as the team’s co-captain.

“At UMBC I managed to accomplish many things, from playing on a very competitive tennis team to being involved in research. I found all the support I needed to succeed in academics and athletics; because of people such as Dr. Anita Komlodi and coach Keith Puryear, I can say that coming to UMBC was one of the best decisions I have ever taken.”


Sarah Akhtar

Plans: Intern, U.S. Department of State; Office of International Health Affairs, Bureau of Oceans, International Environment and Scientific Affairs
B.S., Biological Sciences
Minor: Modern Languages and Linguistics
Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland

A France & Merrick Scholar, Sarah Akhtar’s academic interest is international human rights law, specifically in the field of health. While at UMBC, Akhtar engaged in community health service by serving as coordinator for Project HEALTH. She also was president of the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society. In summer 2009, she will further pursue international health affairs with the U.S. Department of State.

“UMBC has provided me with the academic freedom to explore several courses of study and opportunities to make a direct impact in the neighboring community. I credit the support of loyal friends and the guidance of committed faculty mentors for the success I have had at UMBC.


Lauren Anthony

Plans: Systems Engineer Associate, Lockheed Martin
B.S., Information Systems
Certificate: Decision Making Support
Cum Laude
Hometown: Arnold, Maryland

Lauren Anthony excelled in academics, service and the work world while at UMBC. A Center for Women and Information Technology (CWIT) scholar, she was also a member of several honor societies, including Golden Key, Omicron Delta Kappa and Kappa Theta Epsilon. Along the way she completed internships for GE Consumer Finance and Lockheed Martin, served as a resident assistant and volunteered as a conversation partner for the English Language Center.

“UMBC has allowed me countless opportunities to enrich the lives of others and fuel my passion for systems engineering. The faculty, staff and fellow students I have met along the way have made all the difference in my college experience. UMBC is truly unique in its ability to make such a resounding impact on the lives of students as well as the international, academic and business communities alike.”


Bridget Armstrong

Plans: Research Assistant, Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C.; applying to Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology
B.A., Psychology
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland

Bridget Armstrong completed her UMBC degree in three years. In her time on campus, she has been an active member of the community through her work as a residential life desk staff member and a Welcome Week leader. She received the Undergraduate Research Award for her work on distraction pain management and completed her honors thesis on virtual reality distraction, which she presented at the 2009 Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD) and is currently preparing for publication. She also presented a poster on child food allergy in 2008 at URCAD. Armstrong is a member of the Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society.

“I had so many opportunities to grow and learn as a researcher at UMBC. I owe much of this to the support and guidance of my mentor Lynn Dahlquist, as well as the graduate students in her lab who I so very much admire and have taught me more than I could have ever have dreamed.”


Fellipe Balieiro

Plans: Work with Exxon Mobil Corporation followed by Ph.D. studies in chemical engineering, Northwestern University
B.S., Chemical Engineering
Cum Laude
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Fellipe Balieiro is a renaissance man. He speaks four languages, plays two instruments and brews biodiesel. He has tutored his fellow students and worked to recruit younger students to UMBC. A Meyerhoff, Maryland State Delegate, American Chemical Society and PPG Scholar, his many other academic honors and awards include being named the Outstanding Senior in Chemical Engineering. Balieiro was also part of UMBC’s award-winning National Society of Black Engineers Academic Techbowl Team. He was accepted to several prestigious graduate programs but is deferring admission for a year to gain work experience through a federal government internship at Exxon Mobil.

“UMBC has provided me with an unforgettable experience. I have had the opportunity to share the last four years of my life with the wonderful staff and students of this great University. With their help I have been able to gain admissions for Ph.D. programs at top universities and have also been given a very prestigious employment opportunity.”


Sabrina Bates

Plans: Consultant, Booz Allen Hamilton
B.S., Computer Engineering
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Gonzales, Louisiana

Sabrina Bates transferred to UMBC from Tulane University in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She was a Center for Women and Information Technology Scholar and a member of Alpha Sigma Kappa, a social and academic sorority that promotes women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Bates is also a new inductee of Phi Beta Kappa.

“UMBC's career services center gets great praise from me. They assisted me with every aspect of finding the perfect job. As far as my academic experience goes, I feel that the smaller classes and personal attention from professors is what makes UMBC so special and it is why I was able to develop my own passion for engineering.”


Sarah Bourdon

Plans: Ph.D., Neurobiology, Baylor College of Medicine
B.S., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Minor: Modern Languages and Linguistics (French concentration)
Hometown: Leonardtown, Maryland

A Meyerhoff Scholar, Sarah Bourdon conducted research with professor Phyllis Robinson and presented at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD), Chemistry/Biochemistry Undergraduate Research Day and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Austin, Texas. She had internships at The National institutes of Health and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where her work was published. In the spring of 2008, she studied abroad in Rennes, France. On campus, she was a member of the Cleftomaniacs, a coed a capella group and was a tutor at the Chemistry Discovery Center.

“UMBC has given me a very strong foundation, both academically and personally. As a science major, being not only allowed but encouraged to begin conducting meaningful research as early as possible has been amazingly helpful, and is in fact one of the things that drew me to UMBC in the first place. This is a school where you are expected to succeed, and everyone around you will do all they can to ensure you do.”


Clifford Bridges

Plans: Ph.D., Mathematics, University of Colorado at Boulder
B.S., Mathematics
Minors: Spanish and Economics
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

A Meyerhoff Scholar and member of Phi Beta Kappa, Clifford Bridges presented a poster on Quaternions during Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD) his sophomore year. He also served as a teaching assistant for the math department and studied in Spain, Mexico and Chile. Outside of the classroom, he was captain of the men's track and field team, earning America East Conference All-Academic Team honors, and received the Male Scholar Athlete of the Year award in 2009.

“UMBC created an atmosphere for my success by being an agile enough campus to let my mind roam where I thought I could do well. No one ever held me back from traveling abroad even though I am a math major and no one told me not to captain the track team even though I have an academic scholarship. UMBC administrators, faculty and staff supported every move I made to further my growth inside and outside of the classroom.”


Michael Carlin

Plans: Continuing in his position as the Assistant Vice President of Infrastructure with the UMBC Division of Information Technology
Ph.D., Information Systems
Hometown: Columbia, Maryland

Michael Carlin worked full-time in UMBC’s Division of Information Technology while pursuing his doctorate. His dissertation focused on cross-cultural e-commerce design guidelines, specifically on the differences between U.S. and Chinese cultures. He has published several papers on the subject with information systems professors Ant Ozok and Anita Komlodi and plans to continue publishing. His goal is for businesses to use his cross-cultural e-commerce guidelines to create shopping Web sites that take into account the cultural differences that exist between the U.S. and China. He also earned his undergraduate degree in biological sciences from UMBC in 1996.

“UMBC taught me how to be successful in any situation. I have had many tough but fair faculty over the years and each one has allowed me to hone my skills and become who I am today. I have had the benefit of working at UMBC for much of my academic career. The support of my colleagues and the lessons I have learned from them have been instrumental to my success at UMBC. No matter where I go or what I become, UMBC will forever be my home.”


Kathryn Cordes

Plans: M.A., History of Decorative Arts, Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. 
B.A., Visual Arts, emphasis in Art History and Theory
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Kathryn Cordes came to UMBC with an interest in museum arts that only grew stronger through her coursework. She worked in Special Collections at the Albin O. Kuhn Library and took several interior design courses at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). In fall 2008, she completed a semester-long internship at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore under the supervision of Museum Director Irene Hoffman. This summer, she will spend one month in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at the Mesda Summer Institute analyzing and investigating material culture and decorative arts.

“As an art history and theory major, I have received much more than education but direction. I am greatly appreciative for the support I received from professors, staff and from other students.”


Kristin Drabyn

John Doyle

Plans: Dual J.D./M.A., Environmental Science and Policy, Duke University
B.A., Political Science
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, New York

John Doyle has examined the intersection of economic growth and scarcity from a multitude of angles – political, economic, scientific and social. His coursework, activities and internships related to sustainable development. He interned at the U.S. Green Building Council, the Maryland Public Defender’s Office and Lawyers for Human Rights (in Durban, South Africa). Doyle had the honor of serving as a SustainUS youth delegate at the 2008 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland, one of only 20 students selected from the U.S. He served as the environmental affairs advisor for the Student Government Association (SGA) and was a member of Students for Environmental Awareness (SEA). Doyle served as the undergraduate representative on a number of campus task forces. An Honors College member, he was also a political science research assistant, resident advisor and a member of the baseball team.

“UMBC was instrumental in helping me find the direction I wanted to take my career in sustainable development and preparing me with the skills I need to feel confident that I can break in and contribute to this emerging field. I am so thankful for the breadth of courses I was able to choose from. Just as important, my professors had expert insight into their respective field along with a genuine interest in my personal and academic devlopment. UMBC's fantastic Shriver Center and proximity to Washington D.C. and Baltimore allowed me to get unparalleled internship experiences. Lastly, I will always admire UMBC's ‘academics-first’ mentality. It was a constant reminder of the true reason I was in college and instilled in me a respect for the opportunity I've been given:  to obtain a higher education from a top university.”


Alan Harris

Plans: Working for the Applied Sciences Lab of the Aberdeen Test Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds
B.S., Mechanical Engineering
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Huntingtown, Maryland

As a member of the Honors College and the Tau Beta Pi and Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Societies, Alan Harris was a serious scholar while at UMBC. But he also found time for fun, as a member of the Wind Ensemble, president of the Fencing Club and a member of the Kinetic Sculpture Club. He also served others — as treasurer of Catholic Campus Ministry, a tutor in physics and engineering and as part of the Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Collegiate Challenge.

“UMBC helped me succeed by introducing me to a diverse group of people who I respect and hold in high esteem. These people are the mirror in which I view myself and judge my actions and character. I hope that this has improved me as a person.”


Aubrey Hillman

Plans: Ph.D. in Geology, University of Pittsburgh
B.A., Ancient Studies
B.S., Geography and Environmental Systems
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Damascus, Maryland

A Gates Cambridge Scholar finalist, Aubrey Hillman studies stream ecology and tree species diversity in relation to caddis flies. She is a Marshall Scholar nominee and studied abroad in Australia and New Zealand, both with The School for Field Studies (SFS). In 2009, Hillman was named Outstanding Senior in the Department of Geography and Environmental Systems and the Department of Ancient Studies. While at UMBC, she was an active member of Alpha Sigma Kappa: Women in Technical Studies and Gamma Theta Upsilon Geography Honors Society. Hillman also completed a year-long internship with Geography and Environmental Systems Professor Chris Swan that was focused on tree species diversity.

“UMBC gave me a number of opportunities to do research and get involved with the Baltimore community. My professors at UMBC have always encouraged my interests and helped me gain a greater understanding of what I want for my future.”


Belinda Jackson

Plans: Post-doctoral fellowship, The National Institutes of Health
Ph.D., Biological Sciences
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

While at UMBC, Belinda Jackson was awarded an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Research Award and a Meyerhoff Graduate Fellowship. She received an honorable mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She presented her research at the National and International C. elegans Conferences annually from 2005 through 2009, the National Wnt Signaling Conferences, also from 2005 through 2009, the Meyerhoff 20th Anniversary Research Symposium in 2008 and the UMBC/University of Maryland, Baltimore graduate symposia from 2005 through 2008.

“The successful completion of a PhD can be a daunting task, particularly in the STEM disciplines. The support system at UMBC, specifically within the biological sciences department and the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellowship program, has been invaluable. On this campus, you are never made to feel as if you are in it alone; the journey is a group endeavor, and your success is celebrated by all.”



Kevin James

Plans: Community and Education Programs intern, Center Stage (Baltimore, Maryland) and teacher, Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School
B.F.A., Acting
Cum Laude
Hometown: Towson, Maryland

Kevin James studied theatre at UMBC and paid great attention to the Alexander Technique, a practice that focuses on one’s self-perception of the body through physical and psychological coordination. A Linehan Scholar, James held roles both on and off stage. He was involved with several theatre productions at UMBC, conducted theatre workshops at Curtis Bay Elementary School, taught part-time at the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School and also led theatre workshops. James also served as a Shakespeare on Wheels Scholar. Through a department scholarship, he was able to travel to Charlottesville, Virginia, and further his study at the American Society for the Alexander Technique. James participated in an Honors Workshop in South Africa where he produced three theatre pieces. He would eventually like to become a certified instructor in the Alexander Technique.

“UMBC allowed me to network with and find other artists in the community.”


Susan Main

Plans: Work with Field, a non-profit organization she founded, and teach at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
M.F.A., Imaging and Digital Arts
Hometown: Norwich, Connecticut

Susan Main uses painting, drawing and projected video to explore individual and social contracts between space, time and attention, pairing the unmediated event with tools that attempt to measure, define, locate and orient. She received the RTKL Associates, Inc. Fellowship, which gave her the opportunity to work in collaboration with artists in Afghanistan. Main’s time at UMBC has prepared her to implement “Field,” a non-profit collaborative organization that investigates drawing as a process, tool and vital cultural phenomenon.

“The enthusiastic support of my faculty mentors encouraged me to pursue ideas and projects that had no clear path. Not knowing sounded exciting to them. This attitude gave me the confidence to search, research and experiment.”


Lesa Marks

Plans: M.A. in Gender and Women’s Studies at The Ohio State University
B.A., Political Science
B.A., Gender and Women’s Studies
Minors: Legal Policy, Africana Studies
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Mountpelier, Jamaica

While pursuing political science and gender and women’s studies degrees, Lesa Marks has held several roles at UMBC. A Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar, she served as chief justice of the Student Government Association (SGA) court and was the Maryland Senatorial Scholar. In 2007, she won the Governor’s Citation for Service to the State of Maryland. Marks served on UMBC’s President’s Commission for Women and was a member of Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL). An Honors College member, Marks has been on the Dean’s List since 2005 and belongs to Phi Beta Kappa (Eta Chapter).

UMBC has taught me the importance of community. There is such a great support system here that I have always been able to find the help that I needed. That support network helped me through difficult classes and the death of a great friend, Jamie Heard. Without the campus community, I would not have made it this far.”


Jonathan May

Plans: Partner (representing aging services providers) at Whiteford, Taylor and Preston L.L.P. 
M.A., Management of Aging Services
Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland

Jonathan May has been a practicing lawyer more than 20 years and decided to pursue an M.A. in the Management of Aging Services after seeing an increase in clients from the aging services sector. May was recognized in The Best Lawyers in America for the Nonprofit/Charities category in 2008 and in Maryland Super Lawyers under the Nonprofit category in 2007, 2008 and 2009. 

“The Erickson School helped me understand issues that our clients have in a deeper way beyond just the basic legal issues. Getting a Master’s degree in the Management of Aging Services has helped me to provide a different level of counseling based on knowledge of the issues and challenges facing aging services fields. It has led me to want to develop ways to advance the school’s mission of improving life for older adults.”


Winnie Nham

Plans: Full scholarship, M.A. in International Affairs, The George Washington University
B.A., Political Science
Minors: International Affairs, Music, Modern Languages and Linguistics, Music
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Laurel, Maryland

A University Scholar, Winnie Nham’s senior thesis explores the ties between China’s “evolving grand strategy” and the Sino-North Korean relationship. She interned at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State in summer 2007, followed by a semester studying and working in Beijing, China. In 2008, she received the Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship which allowed her to return to China to pursue studies in Mandarin. While at UMBC, Nham served as vice president of operations for the Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority and as a violinist in the UMBC Quartet. In summer 2009, she will be a U.S. Department of State intern and work at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore.

“UMBC provided me with the personal and professional connections I will need to shape my future. I have found a network of people who believe in me even when I have doubts. You don't find that at every school.”


Justin Pickering

Plans: Information Management Leadership Program, G.E. Capital in Stamford, Connecticut
B.S., Information Systems
Minor: Economics
Hometown: Rockville, Maryland

A Center for Women and Information Technology (CWIT) Scholar, Justin Pickering also was a resident assistant in Erickson Hall and a member of the Student Judicial Programs Hearing Board. In addition, Justin was the vice president of recognition in the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) and took a lead role in planning and organizing many Resident Student Association (RSA) events. Justin had two internships as an undergraduate. The first was with GE Money, where he built and designed a streamlined workflow process to track testing requests and the second was with PNC Bank, where he assisted with the implementation and quality assurance of a data warehousing solution. He was the Spring 2008 John B. Schwartz Information Systems Scholarship recipient and the 2007-08 Erickson Hall Paraprofessional Staff Member of the Year.

“I could not have had a more fulfilling experience at any other school. UMBC provided me with opportunities to grow, lead and achieve at my peak potential. I had the chance to help others, experience and overcome challenges, and become well prepared for what my future holds.”


Alexander Pyles

Plans: M.A., Journalism, University of Maryland College Park
B.A., English, with an emphasis in Literature, and Media and Communication Studies
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Rising Sun, Maryland

Alex Pyles’ status as a sports reporter of rising prominence already was clear when the UMBC men’s basketball team reached the NCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in 2008. Pyles was the only student interviewed on a nationally syndicated Fox Sports Radio program that interviewed full-time newspaper reporters about the size and academic mission of schools making their inaugural appearance in “the Big Dance.” He was invited by a Fox Sports producer who followed Pyles’ columns in The Retriever Weekly online. The Retriever’s outgoing editor-in-chief, Pyles has held sports department internships at the Baltimore Sun and the Wilmington News-Journal. He also won the prestigious 2008-09 Freedom Forum NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for young journalists. A mentee of English professor Christopher Corbett, Pyles was one of the first students to enroll in UMBC’s Media and Communications Studies program. He made news on the playing field, too, as a member of the UMBC flag football team that reached the 2007 national championship game in Dallas.

“I’m very proud to have attended UMBC. It was gratifying to overhaul The Retriever Weekly Web site and make it clearly distinct from our print edition. I was particularly honored to be presented the ‘Outstanding Maintenance Assistant of the Year Award’ ” by the Office of Residential Life after working as a maintenance assistant for three years – a fulfilling part of my UMBC experience.”


Charles O’Brien

Plans: Principal of 76 West, Inc., with plans to pursue a combined MBA/JD degree starting in the fall of 2010
B.S., Financial Economics
Minor: Biological Sciences
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Leonardtown, Maryland

While at UMBC, Charles O’Brien was both a student and an entrepreneur. As a student, he was a member of UMBC’s Honors College, the recipient of the economics department’s Chairman's Award, a member of Golden Key International Honor Society and a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH). He also served as the Resident Student Association’s vice president for financial affairs for two years. As an entrepreneur, he founded 76 West, Inc, a provider of software and consulting services for small to mid-size government contractors and other professional services firms.

"UMBC's goals as an institution were aligned with my interests as an entrepreneurial student; watching UMBC grow and develop in a changing environment provided me the confidence that I, too, could be agile and build something amazing. Additionally, UMBC's small class sizes provided more direct exposure to professors - questions would never go unanswered, individual encouragement was provided and a dialogue could be opened to discuss how academics and the university could help me achieve my personal goals.”


Jena Rathell

Plans: Administrative Assistant at BayWoods of Annapolis while pursuing an M.A. in the Management of Aging Services at UMBC
B.A., Management of Aging Services
Cum Laude
Hometown: Edgewater, Maryland

Jena Rathell is the first recipient of the Erickson School Achievement Scholarship, which is a full tuition scholarship. She also studied abroad in Switzerland and Italy in 2008 as part of the International Field Research Health Scholarship. Rathell was awarded a Leadership Award, graduated Cum Laude and was an active participant in the Erickson School Leadership Experience Program and Council of Majors. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa (2005) and Sigma Alpha Lambda (2007) honor societies.

“The Erickson School has allowed me to take the skills and knowledge from the classroom and apply them to the workplace during my internship. It has also helped me grow both personally and professionally by helping me learn about myself and about the skills necessary for leadership.”


Austin Rochford

Plans: Ph.D., Mathematics, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
B.S., Mathematics
Minors: French and Computer Science
Hometown: Richboro, Pennsylvania

While at UMBC, Austin Rochford was a member of Pi Mu Epsilon, the Honors College and the French Club. His undergraduate thesis research under mathematics professor John Zweck examined the geometry of schizophrenia. Working in collaboration with The Johns Hopkins Center for Imaging Science and Washington University, Austin advanced ideas on how the shape of certain brain regions relates to mental illness. He was also part of the National Science Foundation’s Undergraduate Research Experience program. Rochford is currently finishing his first year of doctoral studies.

“The close involvement with my math professors at UMBC helped me succeed. To this day, there are three that I correspond with on a regular basis. They were instrumental in shaping my undergraduate experience and contributed greatly to my growth as a scholar.”


H. Saeed

Plans: Pursuing a master’s degree in human rights at a graduate school in Europe
B.A., Political Science
Magna Cum Laude

H. Saeed was a Sondheim Public Affairs scholar and conducted an honors thesis on transitional justice and truth commissions, focusing on South Africa, El Salvador and Afghanistan. Saeed received an Undergraduate Research Award to travel to Afghanistan in the summer of 2008 and conducted field research for her thesis. She interviewed 40 people, including national and international civil society and human rights activists, family members of victims and national and international official representatives. Saeed interned with Human Rights First in their Washington D.C. office, was awarded the Outstanding Senior Award by UMBC's political science department and was nominated for the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship.

“Socially, as an international student, I found UMBC's diverse population an enriching environment, which enabled me to get to know people from all walks of life. Academically, I was most impressed by my professors' humble and friendly approach towards students. They helped me navigate my academic passion and subsequently my career interests.”


Brian Souders

Plans: Associate Director, International Education Services, UMBC
Ph.D., Language, Literacy and Culture
Hometown: Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Brian Souders’ studies have focused on identity negotiation among UMBC Study Abroad participants. He has led UMBC's Study Abroad Office since 2000 after having studied at the University of Helsinki in Finland, Moscow State University in Russia and at the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn, Estonia. Souders currently serves on the Professional Staff Senate and leads UMBC's Fulbright Scholars Program. He has served on multiple committees at the national level in the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA). An active marathoner and triathlete, Souders coaches marathon teams for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training organization in the Baltimore area.

“I have worked with some truly exceptional scholars at UMBC who have made it possible for me to complete my research. Most importantly, UMBC has given me the chance to work with an amazing group of students - motivated, bright young adults who have come into my office thinking they might spend time overseas to learn a language or explore their majors from a different cultural perspective, and who come back as different people. It is the experience of seeing the global citizens our students become after they return from their time overseas that defines my success at UMBC.”


Matthew Spadafora

Plans: Continue to play men’s basketball at UMBC while pursuing an M.A. in Economic Policy
B.S., Financial Economics
Certificate: MBA Preparatory Studies
Hometown: Richboro, Pennsylvania

Matthew Spadafora is captain of the UMBC Men’s Basketball team and a member of the 2008 America East Championship team that competed in the 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Spadafora was also Treasurer of UMBC’s Student Athlete Advisory Council. Spadafora made Dean's List, President's List and held academic honors, and interned for Constellation Energy's Global Commodities Group in 2008.

“UMBC allowed me to excel not only on the basketball court, but off the court as well. It combined the best of academics and athletics. I learned valuable lessons of time management and commitment that I will take with me as I graduate.”


Jordanna Spencer

Plans: Will either work with the U.S. Department of State as an English Language Fellow in South America beginning September 2009 or in Baltimore City Public Schools as a middle or high school English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher
M.A., Instructional Systems Design: English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
Hometown: Tappahannock, Virginia

As coordinator of service for the Office of Student Life, Jordanna Spencer was directly involved with student organizations through service learning and civic engagement opportunities. She served as the coordinator of UMBC’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB), which was recognized in Time Magazine in March 2009. She was the Shriver Peaceworker Fellow from 2007 to 2009 and received the Solutions Through Service Dynamic Partner Award in 2009. She also helped coordinate eight blood drives a year and worked on several large-scale service projects at UMBC including Volunteer Week, Relay for Life and Special Olympics.

“I am incredibly grateful for my mentors, Professors Raymond Starr, Jr., and Maureen Black. Their guidance, along with the support of psychology department faculty and students, allowed me to succeed at UMBC.”

“As a returned Peace Corps volunteer working in education, UMBC's Peaceworker amd ESOL Programs both strengthened my awareness of being an agent of change. Whether working in Baltimore City’s nonprofits or shelters with students or learning about the practical approaches to being an ESOL teacher in public schools, I always felt very supported in my transition from life overseas to life here in the States, and that is largely attributed to UMBC's dynamic and engaging community of supportive staff, faculty and students. I will be proud to be a UMBC alumna.”


Orlando “O.J.” Spikes

Plans: Teacher, Baltimore City Teaching Residency; Director of Music, Hunt’s Memorial United Methodist Church, and pursue a master’s degree in vocal performance
B.A., Music, Vocal Performance
Cum Laude
Hometown: Parkville, Maryland

A vocal performer, Orlando “O.J.” Spikes surrounded himself with music at UMBC. He especially focused on performance and pedagogy. Spikes led his peers as the bass section leader of the UMBC Camerata and, in his free time, served as the director of music at Hunt’s Memorial United Methodist Church.

“My time at UMBC has yielded a confidence in my abilities as a performer, educator and conductor as well as numerous valuable friendships and professional connections.”


Kaitlin Taylor

Plans: Editorial position with UMBC Magazine; Applying to master’s degree programs in fine arts or library science
B.A., English
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Yorktown, Indiana

A Humanities Scholar, Kaitlin Taylor received the Philip J. Landon Award from the English department, an honor that recognizes achievement in film and/or new media. During the final semester of her senior year, Taylor wrote news and feature pieces for the newly launched UMBC Magazine.

“I think there is a belief at UMBC that education isn't just about what you can get from books but an entire experience. Through the Humanities Scholars Program, I saw countless plays for free during the course of my four years. I was able to read a play in class and then go see it on a Friday night. That’s the sort of thing that really made me love my time here. I have a solid base of knowledge from my UMBC experience that will help me keep pursuing my intellectual interests.”


Steven Tuyishime

Plans: Ph.D., Vaccine Development, University of Pennsylvania
B.S., Biological Sciences
Minor: Spanish
Cum Laude
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Steven Tuyishime and his family came to America to escape the civil war ravaging their homeland. He has thrived since then, both academically and socially. He was a Meyerhoff Scholar, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) EXROP Scholar and a MARC U*STAR Trainee. He is the vice president of the Newman Club, part of the Catholic Campus Ministry. Tuyishime presented at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day for three years and was also awarded the HHMI Gilliam Fellowship.

UMBC has been the perfect place for me to grow academically and as a person. I am especially thankful for all the people that have impacted me and helped me get to where I am. Specifically, I am grateful to the Meyerhoff and MARC staff for all the help they have given me and to Father Rich for his guidance and help.”


Dianne Weeks

Plans: Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania
B.S., Mechanical Engineering
Cum Laude
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Dianne Weeks was a U.S. Department of Defense SMART Fellow and a Meyerhoff and MARC U*STAR Scholar. She was active in UMBC’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, was a member of several academic honor societies and tutored local ninth graders. She conducted research in the lab of mechanical engineering professor Liang Zhu and presented her work at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day. She interned at Northrop Grumman and the University of California, Berkeley. An avid runner, Weeks ran a marathon to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“UMBC has provided diversity to learn from, questions to seek answers for, challenges to rise to, confidence to build upon and the passion to pursue my goals.”


Kaye Wise Whitehead

Plans: Assistant Professor of Communications, Loyola College in Maryland
Ph.D., Language, Literacy and Culture
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Kaye Wise Whitehead came to UMBC as a teacher in the Center for History Education program. Whitehead’s dissertation on the transcription of a black woman’s diary from the Civil War era was recently featured by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. She is the recipient of the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation Fellowship in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia, a Maryland Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholar and received the Gilder Lehrman Preserve America Maryland History Teacher of the Year Award.

"When I decided to attend UMBC for my doctoral work in Language, Literacy and Culture and Black Women's Archival History, I do believe that a gear shifted somewhere in the academic universe. I was attending the right school at the right time in my life. President Hrabowski, my professors and my fellow students all challenged me to grow and learn in ways that I never would have imagined possible. UMBC is truly a type of holy ground for me...a place where I found my academic calling and made the commitment to embark on (and successfully complete) my doctoral studies.


Nicole Whitten

Plans: Ph.D., Chemical Physics, Princeton University
B.S., Chemistry
Minor: Physics
Cum Laude
Hometown: Sykesville, Maryland

Nicole Whitten earned numerous research accolades and honed her laboratory and presentation skills while at UMBC. She did undergraduate research in collaboration with the Army Research Laboratory and was honored by the American Chemical Society and Rohm and Haas. She presented her research for Maryland elected officials and at several scientific symposia.

"The faculty in the chemistry and physics departments at UMBC have encouraged me, challenged me and helped me to grow both as a student and as a researcher. I have had the opportunity to present my research in numerous formats to numerous audiences and have learned many vital skills in the process which will certainly be beneficial in graduate school and in my future research career."


Helen Zhang

Plans: Video Game Developer and Artist, Benxing Entertainment
B.A., Visual Arts, Animation
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland

A Linehan Scholar and Imaging Research Center (IRC) Fellow, Helen Zhang’s studies have led her to internships at cutting-edge gaming organizations including Big Huge Games and Breakaway Games, both in Maryland. Zhang published a design on and along with other IRC Fellows won first place in an animation contest sponsored by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. The Fellows work was screened during several of the Orchestra’s performances. She has won three Studica Skills competitions from 2006 to 2007 and was involved with several groups on campus including The Retreiver Weekly (production assistant, illustrator and cartoonist), Game Developers’ Club and Bartleby (arts editor).

“UMBC provided me with an invaluable arts education and helped me establish a framework of connections in the games industry. I could not have gotten my foot in the door without the aid of UMBC's dedicated visual arts faculty and the university's close bonds with Maryland's local video game studios. The recently established GAIM track, which gives students the option to focus on art or programming for video games, and  the Game Developer's Club, which gets students involved in extracurricular, collaborative game creation, are incredible resources for anyone interested in becoming a video game developer.


Tonya Zimmerman

Plans: Analyst, Maryland Department of Legislative Services, Office of Policy Analysis
Ph.D., Public Policy
Hometown: Millersburg, Ohio

Tonya Zimmerman was a MIPAR Policy Fellow and a graduate assistant. She presented at the Urban Affairs Association meetings in 2006 on a paper titled “Predatory Lending: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature” and in 2007 on a paper titled “Effects of Anti-Predatory Lending Laws: An Initial Assessment.” Her dissertation focused on the impact of state anti-predatory lending laws on the likelihood of receiving subprime loans.

“The advice and help of the professors as I worked through critical issues both in class and in the work on my dissertation was critical to my ability to complete my degree.  In addition, the Public Policy program at UMBC provides the opportunity to learn research skills and theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills useful in a position as a policy analyst. This base of knowledge helps me everyday in my position as a policy analyst.


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