UMBC's Class of 2011


Alexandria Virginia Volkening

Plans: Ph.D., Applied Mathematics, Brown University
B.S., Mathematics
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Boonsboro, Maryland

Alexandria Volkening, this year’s valedictorian, put her impressive talents to work to both achieve her academic goals and serve her community. She arrived at UMBC intending to pursue a career in medicine, but her talent in mathematics took her in a different direction after a professor advised her that mathematicians are increasingly needed to solve complex problems in medicine and biology. Her grades kept her on the President’s List throughout her time at UMBC; she was named Outstanding Senior in Math, admitted to Phi Beta Kappa and awarded both a UMBC Premier Scholarship and an ITT Scholarship. She was a member of the Honors College and a Meyerhoff Scholars Affiliate, and she became active helping other students succeed, working as a teaching assistant in honors calculus. She volunteered extensively in the community as a member of the Shriver Living Learning Center, helping out in an inner city elementary school as a math volunteer one year and, more recently, teaching aerobics at a senior center. She has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to study applied mathematics at Brown University.

“UMBC's greatest strength is the community of people it brings together. The support network here is incredible—from the faculty, to the police, to the dining hall workers who smile when they serve you dinner. The UMBC community is behind its students. The student body is extremely diverse, and the diversity enriches the UMBC experience. I have been fortunate to be part of this community.”


Phillip Fitzgerald

Plans: M.D./Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
B.S., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Hometown: District Heights, Maryland

At UMBC, Phillip Fitzgerald was able to participate in research that has earned him worldwide recognition. He worked with Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg, professor of biological sciences, studying tumor immunology. He also investigated HIV at the Institute of Human Virology in Baltimore, and his results were published in the journal Virology. Phillip’s achievements as a researcher and scholar earned him a trip to Lindau, Germany, this summer to participate in the 61st Meeting of Nobel Laureates. In addition to excelling in the classroom and lab, Phillip found time to help other students while working as a teaching assistant in introductory biology and a tutor in the Chemistry Tutorial Center. Away from UMBC, he volunteered for the Prince George’s Tennis and Education Foundation, and he’s developing his musical talents, learning to play the piano and guitar while also taking singing lessons.

“UMBC has provided me with countless resources that have allowed me to develop greatly as both a scholar and scientist. My social and academic interests are much more diverse as a result of my experiences at UMBC.”


Salwa Barhumi

Plans: Applying to graduate programs incorporating technology and innovation in teaching
B.A., Psychology; Certificate in Elementary Education
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Salwa Barhumi pursued her dual interests in psychology and education at UMBC. She conducted research on pre-school children and aggression and researched premature children at the NICU clinic at University of Maryland Medical Center. She taught weekend schools, tutored students and volunteered at the Maryland Science Center. Salwa also co-founded the Baltimore chapter of Project Downtown, a program that helps the homeless find food, homes and jobs. Salwa is also a member of Psi Chi, the psychology honor society, a UMBC tour guide, a member of the Muslim Students Association and a member of the debate team.

“I have never seen a group of professors more welcoming, helpful, motivating and engaging than the ones at UMBC. I have learned to appreciate research through my experiences in both the lab and the classroom.”


Christina Gray Briscoe

Plans: Graduate work in the Portuguese language, University of Wisconsin-Madison and U.S. Student Fulbright Program, Full Research Grant, Brazil
B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies: Public Health in the Latino Community
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Yorktown, Virginia

UMBC’s interdisciplinary studies program enabled Christina Briscoe to create a major that combined her passions for research, service and Latino culture. She was a member of the Honors College and a UMBC Premier Scholar. She conducted an independent study project through the School for International Training and the Universidade Federal da Bahia where she analyzed the characteristics and experiences of adolescent mothers in Praia Grande, Ilha de Maré, which she will continue in 2012 through a Fulbright Fellowship. She studied and interned abroad in Brazil, Perú and Guatemala. Not only has Christina demonstrated her passion for research and academics, but she has dedicated much of her time to service. She earned the Best Emerging Leader of Service Award in 2008 and was a UMBC Nominee for the Maryland Higher Education Commission Service Award in 2009. Her service initiatives include co-leading a group of UMBC students to assist with activities for para- and quadriplegic campers at Camp Boggy Creek, participating in an internship with the Maryland Office for Refugees and Asylees and working with the Baltimore City Harm Reduction and Needle Exchange Program.

“By providing opportunities for creativity, international experience and enthusiastic academic support, UMBC helped developed my passions for knowledge and service. It has truly been the work of a marvelous and multicultural group of people (staff, professors and peers from a host of different backgrounds) that has made my UMBC experience as empowering and meaningful as it has been.”


Frances DeAnna Carter

Plans: Education Research Associate with Westat, Inc.
Ph.D., Public Policy
Hometown: Sardis, Mississippi

Frances Carter came to UMBC’s public policy program with degrees in engineering and physics with the goal of studying the value of research and internship opportunities for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students. In 2010, she received a Southern Regional Education Board Dissertation Fellowship award for her work designing, conducting and interpreting research-based evaluations to analyze programs and policies that broaden participation in STEM. While at UMBC, she received funding from organizations including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and interned with Annie E. Casey Foundation through the American Evaluation Association Graduate Education and Diversity Internship program. Frances also co-authored an article in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis on UMBC’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program.

"UMBC's innovative and interdisciplinary community of scholars supported my successful transition from natural to social science, which provided the opportunity for me to combine my interests and contribute to both fields. I look forward to using the training I have received at UMBC for a fulfilling career in research, evaluation and policy, with an emphasis on STEM education."


Geoffrey Clapp

Plans: Ph.D., Applied Mathematics with Concentration in Mathematical Biology, University of Maryland College Park
B.S., Mathematics; B.S., Computer Science
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Elkridge, Maryland

Geoffrey Clapp has excelled at UMBC as both a researcher and scholar. He presented at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day three times and received first place in the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics 2010 Annual Meeting Undergraduate Poster Competition. He has studied the effects of sensory input from edge cells on lamprey swimming behavior, and his research was published in the UMBC Review. In 2010, he received a Goldwater Scholarship, an award presented each year to about 300 of the country’s top students in science, engineering and mathematics. He also received two Undergraduate Research Awards, and he is a member of the Honors College and a UMBC Premier Scholar. He was recognized as the CNMS Outstanding Senior in Mathematics. Off-campus, he completed an internship with Northrop Grumman and participated in the NSA Mathematics Summer Employment Program.

“My experiences at UMBC have helped to reaffirm and strengthen my passion for mathematics. My courses and research have introduced me to applications of mathematics that I did not know were possible. Thanks to the support and opportunities I have received through UMBC, I will begin graduate school in the fall with a definite sense of direction and purpose.”


Brian Mathew Courson

Plans: Advocate on behalf of individuals with disabilities; pursue a graduate degree in public health or law
B.A., Political Science
Hometown: McGehee, Arizona

Matt Courson has always been an athlete, but after an ATV accident in 2006, followed by an eight-hour spinal surgery, he learned that he would not be walking out of the hospital and back onto the baseball diamond: he was paralyzed from the waist down, with a one percent chance of walking again. He soon began aggressive physical therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury. “The therapists and patients there are the best athletes I’ve ever known,” he says, and in time he learned to stand, bear his own weight and walk again with assistance. Inspired by Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, Matt chose to study political science at UMBC. "My goal now is to help others," he says. "My injury just happens to be a spinal cord injury, but everyone goes through something like this in life." He plans to walk across the stage at graduation.

“Looking past graduation, I hope to have a career where I can advocate on behalf of those who are going through troubled times. My first reaction after my accident was to get back on my feet. My second reaction was to use this accident to make an impact on this world and help others.”


Mitchell Donovan

Plans: M.S., Geography and Environmental Systems, UMBC; Hydrologic technician at the United States Geological Survey
B.S., Environmental Science
Cum Laude
Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland

Mitchell Donovan helped the swimming and diving team to capture conference championships during each of his four years at UMBC, but his interest in the water extends beyond swimming. He has researched Maryland’s river water quality and its impacts on the Chesapeake Bay, and has also studied sediment transport mechanics of Maryland fluvial systems. He was one of 15 college students accepted to study leadership and team dynamics in New Zealand as a part of Australearn’s Leadership Development Program. He worked for the United States Geological Survey as a hydrologic technician for the past two years, which he plans to continue as he pursues a graduate degree.

“UMBC made my success possible through its geography and environmental systems department and connections with surrounding job opportunities. Athletics provided me with great resources and networks to expand myself physically and mentally.”


Keilan Geoffrey Freeman

Plans: Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering (Propulsion Systems), Stanford University
B.S., Mechanical Engineering
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Keilan Freeman distinguished himself at UMBC as both an athlete and a student. In each of his four years, he was a member of the 800-yard freestyle relay team that finished first while breaking UMBC and America East Championship records at the America East Swimming and Diving Championships. He was a captain of the Men’s Swimming and Diving Team the past two seasons, and he has been named to the America East All-Conference Team and to the conference’s academic team, honor roll and commissioner’s honor roll. He is a member of multiple honor societies, including Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He is a recipient of a President’s Fellows Scholarship, and has been on the Dean’s and President’s Lists.

“My undergraduate experience at UMBC has been exceptional. Although I have many fond memories, I can best describe my time here in two words: finding balance. I am sad to be leaving, but I will always cherish the memories, friends, learning and life lessons I have gained.”


Gregory Scott Gautney, Jr.

Plans: U.S. Student Fulbright Program, Teaching Award, Basse-Normandie, France
B.A., Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communication: French
Honors College, Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Thurmont, Maryland

Scott Gautney’s dedication to the study of modern languages and linguistics, coupled with his enthusiasm for UMBC, earned him prestigious achievements and positions on campus. He was an undergraduate teaching assistant for in the modern languages, linguistics and intercultural communication department, and an Undergraduate Research Award recipient for “The Cultural Effects on the Gay Male Lexicon.” In addition to being a member of Phi Theta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Scott volunteered for the Ambassadors Program with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, where he shared his passion for UMBC with prospective students who visited the campus.

“As I approach the end of my career here, I realize how prepared I am to enter post-undergraduate life. Through my classes, research, internships and service learning activities, I have built a strong base of professional and academic contacts. I look forward to pursuing my future educational and professional goals with this continued support base.”


Haifeng Geng

Plans: Post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D., Marine Biotechnology
Hometown: Jiangsu, China

Haifeng Geng is the first graduate of UMBC’s marine biotechnology department, and his success foretells a bright future for the new program. Haifeng has published numerous articles in journals such as Current Opinions in Biotechnology and Applied Environmental Microbiology. He has also presented posters at prestigious research conferences, including the Gordon Research Conference and the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Haifeng hopes to eventually work as a scientist in an academic setting.

“UMBC helped me to learn everything I needed to know to achieve success in my courses.”


Yasmin Karimian

Plans: J.D., Georgetown University
B.A., Political Science
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Monkton, Maryland

When Yasmin Karimian began her first term as Student Government Association (SGA) president in 2009, she was the first woman to hold that position at UMBC in 32 years. Since that time, she has continued to actively serve her community and her peers by creating a culture of civic engagement on campus. She helped launch the Prove It contest to empower students to make positive changes on campus, and is engaged in the 2010 UMBC Campus Change Initiative. Yasmin is part of the American Democracy Project, speaking and presenting at conferences and serving as the only student on the national implementation committee. She was also invited to help initiate the "We the People" movement with civil rights leader Harry Boyte. After receiving the UMBC SGA Keeper of the Flame Award in 2009, Yasmin went on to receive the 2010 Student Affairs Leadership Award. She is part of a team researching the history of UMBC and a member of several honor societies.

"I leave UMBC knowing that I am a better world citizen than I was when I entered. From opening my eyes to diversity that exists in the world to helping me become a critical thinker and problem-solver, much of the person I have become is attributed to my time at UMBC and the wonderful people of this community.”


Sunaina Khandelwal

Plans: M.D./Ph.D., Immunology, Washington University in St. Louis
B.S., Biochemistry and Molecular biology
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Severna Park, Maryland

Sunaina Khandelwal was involved in both research and service while at UMBC, and she found ways to combine those passions. She was a learning assistant for the physics department and a student advisor for the 2010-2011 First Year Council, as well as a member of the Honors College and a Meyerhoff Affiliate scholar. She developed her skills as a researcher at the University of Maryland’s Mucosal Biology Research Center. Sunaina also spent a summer at the Center of Vaccine Development in Mali, Africa and organized a 200-woman cervical cancer screening camp in a small town in India to spread awareness and provide free screening. She was UMBC's nominee for the Maryland Daily Record Circle of Excellence Award, and she received the Friedman Family Award for Service and Citizenship.

“UMBC has given me a safe home for the past four years as I've tried to grow as an individual, a student and a researcher. Without the guidance and mentorship of the faculty and staff at UMBC and the collaborative spirit of the community, finding my career path would have been impossible.”

Nate Kim

Plans: Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Columbia University
B.S., Chemistry; B.A., Political Science
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Bowie, Maryland

At UMBC, Nate Kim discovered that he didn’t have to choose between his passions in chemistry and political science; instead, he pursued both. A Meyerhoff Scholar, Nate received two Undergraduate Research Awards and became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 2010, he was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, a national honor that recognizes about 300 of the country’s top students in science, engineering and mathematics. Nate also looked beyond himself to give back to the campus community, serving as director of the SGA Office of Academic Affairs and also tutoring in the Chemistry Tutorial Center.

“My time at UMBC has been the most rewarding and dynamic four years I could have ever asked for. I was surrounded by a great support system where I could thrive as a student, as a scientist and as a campus-changer. The most important thing I've learned at UMBC is that you need to appreciate the people around you, your family, your friends and even the moment itself.”

Julianna Marie Kuhn

Plans: M.A., Geography, George Washington University
B.A., Geography; B.A., Political Science
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Huntingtown, Maryland

Julianna Kuhn has had exceptional research and academic experiences at UMBC. As an Undergraduate Research Award Recipient, she traveled to Austria to complete research comparing Austrian and American responses to disease outbreak, presenting “Measles in the Modern World” at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day this year. Julianna is a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar and received outstanding senior awards from both the geography and environmental systems and political science departments. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, Gamma Theta Upsilon and the International Geographic Honor Society, and has been admitted to Phi Beta Kappa. Julianna credits her achievements to her faculty mentors, as well as her internship experiences at the U.S. Census Bureau Health Studies Branch and JCET Earth Science Explorers Program at NASA Goddard.

"UMBC has fulfilled every promise that was made to me during my visit day four years ago. I have been supported in every aspect of my social, academic and professional growth. My compassion has deepened, my leadership has strengthened and my mind has been ignited by more ideas than I could hope to explore in this lifetime."


Jonathan David Lehtonen

Plans: Ph.D., English Literature, Pennsylvania State University
B.A., English
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Columbia, Maryland

Jonathan Lehtonen was a standout student in the English department, but also used his time on campus to pursue his extracurricular interests. He is a member of the Humanities Scholars Program, Honors College and English department scholars program. His passion and dedication to the study of English earned him the Robert G. Shedd Award for Excellence in English, and he is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In addition to his academic achievements, Jonathan took advantage of the opportunities offered to him on campus. He was co-leader of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, played bass trombone for four years with the UMBC Community Symphony Orchestra and studied abroad in Finland.

“It has been a powerful experience to build friendships with all kinds of people on our highly diverse campus, and especially to hear what life is like around the world from international students. I have also benefited greatly from professors who dedicate their time and energy to us students above and beyond what I would expect.”


Galina Krassimiroff Madjaroff

Plans: Ph.D., Language, Literacy and Culture, UMBC; Erickson School Undergraduate Program Director and Lecturer
M.A., Management of Aging Services
Cum Laude
Hometown: Sofia, Bulgaria

When Galina Madjaroff was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UMBC, the Erickson School was just an idea taking shape. Today, she is a graduate of the school’s management of aging services M.A. program, a lecturer and mentor to undergraduate students in the field, and preparing to take on the new role of undergraduate program director at Erickson. In addition to her passion for teaching, Galina is engaged in research to improve the lives of older adults. In the fall she will begin UMBC’s Ph.D. program in language, literacy and culture, through which she hopes to explore how language is used in eldercare environments, and how language can illuminate power relationships and other issues that impact aging residents’ quality of life.

"This university has not only helped me, it has transformed me. As a student who emigrated from another country, spoke a different language and had different culture, UMBC provided me with the tools and the safe, welcoming atmosphere that I needed to thrive.”


Megan Angela Mahon

Plans: To pursue a teaching artist position in the Baltimore area
B.F.A., Acting
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Perry Hall, Maryland

Megan Mahon’s passion for theatre brought her to UMBC as a Linehan Artist Scholar, where her talent was nurtured and grew. Megan performed at the Kennedy Center in UMBC’s production of “Las Meninas,” which was one of only four productions in the nation invited to the American College Theater Festival. She also studied abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy, and has performed in several other UMBC theatre productions.

“UMBC provided me with the ability to pursue a bachelor of fine arts and receive a conservatory style education within a liberal arts college, something that is not offered anywhere else in Maryland. I was able to not only pursue my passion for acting, but my interest in academics as well.”


Laura Marshallsay

Plans: To pursue museum work in Baltimore
M.A., Historical Studies, Public History Track
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

In May 2007, a few weeks after Laura Marshallsay received her undergraduate degree in history from UMBC, doctors discovered a non-malignant brain tumor behind her left eye. They were able to remove most of it, and Laura never looked back. She took the GRE just one day before her radiation treatment began, and now she graduates with her M.A. in Historical Studies. A veteran herself, Laura conducted interviews with women veterans and wrote her thesis on the integration of women in to the Army during the early 1970s. She has also developed a detailed treatment for a documentary film on the topic. Laura was a teaching assistant for six semesters and has been a member of the Junior League of Baltimore for five years.

“Whenever I came to campus to see friends, history professor James Grubb always managed to ‘bump into’ us and join us for lunch. Inevitably, he would start talking about grad school. After a few months, he convinced me. Needless to say, if it hadn't been for him I wouldn't be graduating in few weeks time and going into a profession I am absolutely passionate about.”


Christine Osazuwa

Plans: Project Manager for Mission Media
B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies: Music Journalism and Entrepreneurship
MBA Preparatory Certificate
Hometown: Rosedale, Maryland

Christine Osazuwa’s enthusiasm for UMBC, and especially the interdisciplinary studies program, led her to become a UMBC Ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, where she helped recruit students to the university. She received an Undergraduate Research Award to study “Access, Entitlement and Expectations of Popular Music Bands in the Age of Social Media,” which she presented at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day this year. Her presentation, a 15-minute documentary, was part of a 90-minute film she created on the subject. Christine also founded a music promotion company and has worked for several record companies.

“I love this school and wish more people acknowledged it for everything it has to offer. I think our school is quirky and incredibly accepting. I especially love interdisciplinary studies. I feel that our major gives students the most flexibility.”


Shane Parks

Plans: M.F.A., Musical Theatre Writing, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts
B.A., Music Composition
Cum laude
Hometown: Bowie, Maryland

Shane Parks helped to lead UMBC’s Musical Theatre Club to new heights during his time at UMBC. He directed two successful shows and conducted for the organization, and while on the executive board he has doubled performances, branched out to new venues and expanded the scope of the productions. He is a Linehan Artist Scholar and an Undergraduate Research Award recipient, and was recently awarded the 2011 Music Achievement Award by the music department. While at UMBC Shane wrote music for a student film, taught music at a summer camp, collaborated with the Center for Art Design and Visual Culture in a project setting student journal entries to music, arranged songs for the a cappella group the Cleftomaniacs, wrote short plays for the UMBC Theatre Council of Majors and acted as music director for the UMBC Theatre Department’s radio production of “The Basset Table.”

“UMBC is small enough that I felt like I could make an impact in my four years, but large enough to have the resources to help me achieve my goals. UMBC has exposed me to art that will continue to influence me as a musician and writer as well as given me a broad background in all disciplines. The campus has grown so much in my past four years; I'm proud to graduate from a school that refuses to settle.”


Katrin Patterson

Plans: U.S. Student Fulbright program, Full Research Grant, Gaborone, Botswana
B.A., Anthropology; B.A., Gender and Women’s Studies
Cum Laude
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

Katrin “Kat” Patterson followed her passions in anthropology and gender and women’s studies to create a unique experience at UMBC and beyond. She was a recipient of the France and Merrick Scholarship and the Walter Sondheim Maryland Non-Profit Leadership Scholarship, and a member of the President’s Commission for Women. Kat also worked as an RA for three semesters and as a TA for four and is a member of the Women’s Center advisory board. She also studied abroad at the University of Botswana. After graduation, she will continue her research in Botswana on a Fulbright research award and plans to attend grad school.

“I can't imagine having attended any other university! The opportunities that I had at UMBC have opened the world for me, and I am always proud to say where I earned my undergraduate degrees.”


Emily Plitt

Plans: M.A. in Security Studies
B.A., Political Science
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Catonsville, Maryland

Emily Plitt took to heart the Office of Student Life motto: "Make UMBC Yours." She is president of the Equestrian Club as well as founder and captain of UMBC's Intercollegiate Equestrian Team, which competes at the national level. Emily laid the foundations for UMBC's relationship with local stables, which now provide both coaching for the equestrian team and riding lessons to students at a discounted rate. She also volunteers with the therapeutic riding program at the Patapsco Horse Center, developing a relationship that has led to volunteer opportunities for other UMBC students. While at UMBC, Emily has interned with the Baltimore Circuit Court, the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs and other groups.

“I have benefited immensely from studying at an institution that values academic achievement as well as personal growth. My professors had a contagious enthusiasm for their own research, which propelled my own interest in research projects and internship opportunities. My involvement in UMBC's Equestrian Team provided the perfect balance between academics and athletics."


Jeddalyn Puzon

Plans: Business Analyst for PNC Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
B.S., Information Systems
Hometown: Columbia, Maryland

Jeddalyn Puzon’s engagement in UMBC reaches beyond academics. Jeddalyn has been a senior orientation peer advisor and ambassador, while also working as a resident assistant in UMBC’s residence halls. She welcomed many students to UMBC during her internship as an undergraduate fellow, often serving as a first contact for transfer students. Jeddalyn has worked for the Career Services Center for two years and is both a Troph Family Scholar and Vijay Jose Scholar. She interned with UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture and taught photography at Landsdowne High School in Baltimore County.

“UMBC has helped me grow intellectually and socially. Not only did I discover my passion in business, but I also found my home away from home.”

michael r

Michael Rahimi

Plans: Information Security Consultant for Accenture
B.S., Information Systems
Cum Laude
Hometown: Gaithersburg, Maryland

Michael Rahimi’s scholarship and leadership roles defined his time at UMBC. He received numerous academic accolades, earning recognition as a Center for Women in Information Technology Scholar, a T. Rowe Price Scholar and a Shriver Information Technology Scholar. Michael worked at UMBC’s Office of Information Technology as a helpdesk analyst and interned at National Institute of Standards and Technology and General Electric, where he was part of the Information Management Leadership Program. He also served as president of the Persian Student Association.

“I've had many great experiences and valuable opportunities to improve my leadership ability. I've pursued leadership roles on information systems projects, internships, student organizations and in life.”


Courtney Ring

Plans: Ph.D., History, University of Pennsylvania
B.A., Economics; B.A., History
Honors College, Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Hanover, Maryland

Courtney Ring has participated in UMBC life through academic, extracurricular and volunteer work. She was awarded both the Department of Economics Chairman's Award and the John Bell-Clifford MAAS Prize for Academic Excellence in History, as well as being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Courtney also studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia during her junior year and became a Russian language teaching assistant upon her return. Courtney has held several positions on the Retriever Weekly student newspaper and has volunteered with Meals on Wheels of Greater Maryland for the past eight years.

“The faculty mentors have far and away been the most important factor in the shaping of my academic career at UMBC. The mentoring I have received has sustained my love for learning and given me a solid foundation for continuing to learn in the future, whether in a university setting or outside of it.”


Maria Satyshur

Plans: Full time position at dlr|marketing, inc. in Towson, MD
B.A., Media and Communication Studies; Minors in Journalism and Music
Hometown: Crofton, Maryland

Maria Satyshur took advantage of the wide range of opportunities available to her at UMBC to create her own unique, diverse experience. She was a member of the varsity crew team, held multiple leadership positions in the Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority and hosted her own radio show on WMBC, the student radio station. She also reached out to other students through her work as an orientation peer advisor and a writing center tutor. Maria was a member of many academic clubs and honor societies, including the Media and Communication Studies council of majors, Sigma Tau Delta, Sigma Alpha Lambda and Omicron Delta Kappa. She studied abroad in Leicester, England and participated in four internships through the Shriver Center, the last of which led to her full-time post-graduation job.

“I was able to have a full college experience and develop relationships with professors who find every excuse to send opportunities my way. I have grown so much as a student and as a person during my time at UMBC because of the diverse opportunities I have been given.”


Caroline Esther Scheck

Plans: Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, UMBC; Mechanical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center
M.S., Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Scaggsville, Maryland

As a teaching and research assistant in the mechanical engineering department, Caroline Esther Scheck enjoys giving back to the university she calls home. She came to UMBC as a James W. Rouse Scholar and has excelled here as a Science Information Technology and Engineering Scholar, funded by the National Science Foundation. She is no stranger to competition, serving as project manager during the 2009-10 season for UMBC’s Baja racing team, which finished second overall in North America after three Baja SAE events, and receiving third prize in the 2010 American Society for Mechanical Engineers Old Guard Oral Competition International Finals. During her time at UMBC, she worked with Marc Zupan, associate professor of mechanical engineering, to publish two conference proceedings on her research.

“UMBC's beautiful campus, focus on research and academics and ideal location struck me upon my first visit. Thanks to support I have received from faculty members, staff and my fellow students, I have been able to excel beyond the classroom in capacities I would not have thought possible before coming here.”


Onajite Shemi

Plans: Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
B.S., Chemical Engineering
Cum Laude
Hometown: Effurun, Nigeria

Onajite Shemi has excelled in her chemical engineering studies at UMBC: she is a Meyerhoff Scholar, a MARC U*STAR Scholar and a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. However, her interests and achievements were not confined to one department. Onajite is also a member of the Golden Key honor society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She has also held numerous jobs around campus, including positions in the library, English department and UMBC Theatre.

“I have grown beyond my own expectations. I have been challenged, I have been cared for and I have been given many useful skills that will hopefully lead to great success in the future. It is inspiring to hear about the accomplishments of my peers and to be able to say that I was part of the class of 2011.”


Marcus Alonzo Simmons

Plans: Graduate Studies in Opera Performance, Miami University in Ohio
B.A., Music: Voice Performance and Choral Education
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Marcus Simmons’ time at UMBC helped him to realize that, as an artist, his gifts enable him to make a significant contribution to the world. It is not a responsibility he takes lightly, and his seriousness of purpose is evidenced by his achievements at UMBC. A Linehan Artist Scholar, Marcus has been recognized on Dean's and President's Lists and with a 2011 Music Achievement Award. He also received an Undergraduate Research Award and is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He is a member of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, the vice president of the UMBC Gospel Choir and sergeant at arms of UMBC Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence and Success (M.A.L.E.S.).

"The richness of my experiences and exposures have engrossed me in research and pushed me to my highest possible level of performance both in the classroom and on stage.”


Anthony Simms

Plans: Ph.D., Computational and Applied Mathematics, Rice University
B.S., Mathematics
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Clinton, Maryland

Anthony Simms’ experience as a Meyerhoff Scholar was defined by both the mentoring he received and the mentoring he provided for others. For multiple summers he has participated in the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program at Rice University, where he was taught by an expert in graph theory. Simms began honing his skills as an educator by serving as Advanced Tutor for the Learning Resource Center/College Reading and Learning Association and becoming involved in the National Society of Black Engineers. He received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant in Mathematics Award—an uncommon honor for an undergraduate—and he is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Mu Epsilon and the Newman Club.

“UMBC is an amazing place and I am proud to say I've spent my undergraduate years here. The diversity on this campus has allowed me to enjoy [my university experience]. The faculty has been very supportive and has helped find my way into graduate school.”


Andrea Thomson

Plans: Master's in Public Administration, University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government
B.A., Political Science; B.A., Economics; Minor, Journalism
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Germantown, Maryland

Andrea Thomson is a force for positive change at UMBC and in Maryland. She designed UMBC’s first-ever Maryland Student Legislature course while serving as delegation chairperson of her Maryland Student Legislature chapter. She tackled challenging issues head-on through her active engagement with the UMBC community, serving as news editor of the Retriever Weekly and pursuing the senior thesis "Worthwhile or Wasteful? An Evaluation of Techniques for Measuring the Impact of Business Subsidies.” In this research project, for which she received an Undergraduate Research Award, Thomson worked closely with Roy Meyers, professor of public policy and former Congressional Budget Office analyst. Andrea also served as a Governor's Summer Intern at Maryland’s Department of Business and Economic Development and blogged for UMBC’s USDemocrazy site, a news blog that presents current events to student readers.

"My professors have encouraged me to look for ways in which disparate classes are connected, mesh what I'm learning from one class into another and then finally apply classroom concepts to real world (and vice versa). UMBC has made learning a very enjoyable process for me.”


Rolando Vargas Rodríguez

Plans: Return to Colombia as an independent artist as part of the Fulbright program
M.F.A., Digital and Imaging Arts
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

Rolando Vargas Rodríguez received a Fulbright award from his native Colombia to study digital and imaging arts at UMBC, where his work has explored the merging of art and video documentary. Uninterested with the narrative form of television, Rolando focuses on the form of video and the way it functions in time and space. He has worked with documentary films, video art, installations and sceneography, all in his pursuit to find a balance between work as a document and as a work of art. He has numerous international exhibitions and awards to his credit. His works include “Exiliados en exilio” (documentary film), “Automóvil” (video art), “Witness to the Ruins” (video installation) and “Pacificanto” (video sceneography).

“My experience at UMBC and as a Fulbright scholar has given me an expanded, more complex, less isolated view of the visual arts field in the present. This experience has also shown me the complex relationship between Latin America and the U.S. I believe that my work in the visual arts during this experience at UMBC has helped promote the mutual understanding between the two cultures.”


Donna Viola

Plans: Ph.D., Planetary Sciences, University of Arizona
B.S., Interdisciplinary Studies: Astrobiology
Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Massapequa Park, New York

Donna Viola’s talents and aspirations were not confined to Earth at UMBC. She completed three rotations at the Mars Desert Research Station as a scientist, biologist and commander. She also worked alongside NASA researchers during her internship with Ames Academy for Space Exploration and while attending the SETI Institute Research Experience for Undergrads program in astrobiology. Donna presented independent research twice at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day. She served as vice president of the Interdisciplinary Studies Council of Majors, vice president of the UMBC Astronomy Club and captain of UMBC’s women’s rugby team.

“As a part of the interdisciplinary studies program here at UMBC, I have been able to explore my unique interests and develop a course of study to fit them. Moreover, my extracurricular activities have enabled me to interact with students from across the university, and working as a chemistry tutor allowed me to make a difference and help other students to succeed.”


Carrington Rice Wendell

Plans: Post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Ph.D., Human Services Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Behavioral Medicine Tracks
Magna Cum Laude
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia

In pursuit of her Ph.D., Carrington Rice Wendell developed an impressive roster of clinical and research achievements. Among her many accomplishments, she was a recipient of the Young Scholars Award from the American Psychosomatic Society; was invited to participate in the Student Research Symposium of the International Neuropsychological Society, where she was recognized as having one of the top five trainee abstract submissions of 2011; and is currently completing a predoctoral clinical psychology internship at Duke University Medical Center, with specialization in neuropsychology. There, she works with patients facing cognitive changes from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and brain cancer. On campus, Carrington was a specialist at University Health Services where she implemented tobacco cessation, weight management and stress management services.

“I am enormously grateful to UMBC, and especially to my primary mentor, Dr. Shari Waldstein, for preparing me to enter my post-graduate career with confidence and aspirations of continued success.”

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Michael Young

Plans: M.Phil, Cambridge University as a Gates Cambridge scholar
B.A., Philosophy
Honors College, Summa Cum Laude
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Michael Young’s dual love of philosophy and science has led him on a unique path, and he hopes to one day earn a medical degree and work in medicine and bioethics. But first, Michael is headed to Cambridge University, where he will study philosophy as the recipient of a Gates Cambridge scholarship, one of the world’s most selective awards. In 2009, he was awarded an Honors College Summer scholarship to intern at Yale University’s Center for Bioethics, one of several internships and research projects he completed while at UMBC. He has presented at numerous conferences, including the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference at Duke University in March. In addition to his academic pursuits, Michael is the founding director of Healing Harmonies, a student-run volunteer organization that organizes performances by student musicians for the elderly and sick, the president of STAND (Students Taking Action Now, Darfur), on the editorial board for Bartleby and a member of the UMBC fencing team. He volunteered as a patient and family advocate at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Emergency Department.

“UMBC offers a vast array of resources that affords each student the capacity to reach his or her potential. Here, I have been able to develop a strong foothold in the humanities while remaining steeped in the insights of science. Ultimately, this dialogue between disciplines can greatly enrich one's perspectives, guide one to ask the right questions and prepare one to solve problems in creative ways.”


Marc Zerfas

Plans: Operations Analyst at Morgan Stanley
B.A., Statistics and Financial Economics
Cum Laude
Hometown: LaGrangeville, New York

Marc Zerfas, a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar and member of the Honors College, has spent more hours than he can count blogging for USDemocrazy, a a news blog that presents current events to student readers. Although one might assume from that association that he studies political science or public policy, Marc’s passion is actually statistics. He has interned with Morgan Stanley and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, and has been active in the Economics Honor Society and served as editor’s assistant for the economics department. Beyond academics, Zerfas is an Eagle Scout and treasurer of the UMBC Quiz Bowl team.

“UMBC has provided me the chance to expand and explore my interests, and given the incredible chance to work with world renowned cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher on US Democrazy. It is this variety of experiences that has made UMBC so wonderful.”

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