Going the Distance: UMBC swimming and diving alumni pitch in for giving day

It’s been a good year for the UMBC Swimming and Diving team. After defending their America East championship title for the third year runningsending one athlete to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, having another qualify for the Olympic Trials and earn bronze at the NCAA Championships (again!), and seeing several of their own compete internationally, you might even say the season’s been going swimmingly.

So, too, are the team’s fundraising efforts: with the help of their famously close-knit alumni community, the team raised nearly $40,000 on their recent giving day.

In the United States, where football, baseball, and basketball are king, swimming and diving are sports that only come around to the public consciousness in Olympic years. This often means that Olympic sports at the collegiate level lack for funding compared to sports that bring in advertising dollars and endorsement deals, and can be more vulnerable to university budget cuts as a result.

That’s where the alumni network comes in, says UMBC director of aquatics Chad Cradock ’97, psychology, who coaches the swimming and diving team: “We don’t have what a Michigan or a Stanford or an Arizona would have, but we do pretty well for who we are because of [our alumni] involvement and their help.” He says alumni stay connected to campus in a variety of ways, from the annual Alumni Day to the team’s expansive Facebook group.

“We try to think of UMBC Swim and Dive as a family,” says senior Emily Escobedo ’17, psychology, one of the swimmers who helped to promote the giving day. “We’re a family right now, and [our alumni] are like long-lost cousins that you don’t see all the time, but that you get to meet and you get to know.”

The giving day was heavily advertised in advance via email and social media, and student athletes like senior team captain Katie Ross ’17, psychology, made calls to alumni throughout the 24-hour period. Ross says what surprised her the most was how receptive alumni were to the idea of a giving day.

“Nowadays, it’s hard to get anyone on the phone for anything,” says Ross, but she says she had several conversations with alumni who weren’t just excited to give to swimming and diving, but interested in her athletic career as well.

“I’d get on the phone and talk to someone, and we’d get sidetracked, and they’d start asking me about swimming or what I’m studying,” she says. “They cared. They actually cared about the athletic department, specifically swimming.”

Ross says fundraising is particularly important given the team’s size and relative diversity: with donations from alumni, the team is able to adopt a broad based recruiting philosophy, expanding the UMBC footprint both across the country and around the world. Student-athletes participate in a championship experience, traveling to away meets as a family. When the whole team is able to cheer each other on, it strengthens their bond.

“Recognizing that this sport really does bring people together, even if it doesn’t necessarily make money” is what’s important, she says.

Julia Celtnieks ’13


The UMBC Women’s Swimming and Diving team celebrates after defending their America East Championship title on February 12. Photo courtesy of America East Championship.

Have a cause close to your heart? Make a gift to UMBC today.

All in the Family: Milani Family Women’s Lacrosse Locker Room dedicated on campus


Jim Milani, right, with his wife Liz, center, and his sister Patrice, left.

Jim Milani ’73, political science, says that when he was first approached by Gary Rupert about naming a locker room for the women’s lacrosse team, he thought the late former athletic director and development officer was out of his mind. “Usually, it’s millionaires who get the opportunity to name a building,” says Milani, who’s worked for UMBC since his graduation over four decades ago and currently serves as Director of Administrative Affairs for the College of Engineering and Information Technology (CoEIT), “and I’m not a millionaire.”

But when Rupert reminded him of his family’s consistent presence on campus, and their devotion to the lacrosse program, Milani eventually came around. “We’ve had a long affiliation,” he says, and it was only right to commemorate the family’s commitment to UMBC Athletics in a lasting way.

On April 1, right before the women’s lacrosse team faced off with the UMass Lowell River Hawks, their locker room in the UMBC fieldhouse was dedicated in honor of the Milani Family Endowment. The fund was established in 2009 by Jim Milani, his wife Liz, and his sister Patrice, to support the team, which is currently enjoying a winning season.

Amy Slade, the head coach of the women’s lacrosse team, says the Milanis’ support of the program has been “incredible,” and attributes the relationship to their shared values. “We preach growing as a family, giving to a greater cause, playing for the name on the front and not the back,” she says. “[The Milanis] have set the bar high for others to follow.”

Jim Milani is one of nine siblings, and one of two to graduate from UMBC, the other being his brother Mark Milani ’80, political science. His daughter, Beth Milani Brundage ’02, history, his sister-in-law Jacqueline Abendschoen Milani ’88, psychology, and his niece Meghan Milani ’16, psychology, are all women’s lacrosse alumnae, as well. But while Jim Milani’s parents, Jim and Pat, never played lacrosse themselves, they encouraged all of their children to stay active in sports, leading to an athletic legacy that continues today.

Jim Milani, for his part, wants that legacy to continue: in his remarks shortly before the plaque was unveiled, he told his family to let any future children and grandchildren know they’d be going to UMBC.


The Milani Family smiles for the camera after the April 1 dedication ceremony.

It’s easy to give to your favorite cause on campus. Donate to UMBC today!

A Culture of Caring: Student philanthropy takes off with the Stay Black and Gold Fund

1Diverse. Innovative. Up-and-coming. Those are just three words often used to describe UMBC’s campus and culture. Another word, one that’s no less a part of who we are, is caring. We care about our students’ success, both academically and in their home lives. With initiatives like the Stay Black and Gold Fund, an emergency fund for students whose financial need stands between them and their studies, we’re creating that culture of caring from the ground up.

Unlike many scholarship and grant programs on campus, the Stay Black and Gold fund is a student-led initiative. A committee of representatives from the Student Government Association (SGA), the Student Alumni Association (SAA), and other groups on campus, with the help of a staff advisor, will review emergency aid applications from their peers and decide how awards are allocated. While the idea has been around for years, it’s finally coming to fruition thanks to the work of dedicated students like Lillianne Keplinger.

The current sophomore and SGA Senator was inspired to take action on the fund last spring, when she was serving as Assistant Director for Leadership Development for SGA. “I’m a student who takes out loans, and I realize that not everyone is…able to,” she says. “ So it’s unfortunate for people that have to leave the institution because they can’t afford school.” The fund will assist students who experience unexpected life crises that affect their ability to pay for current tuition, fees, books, and other school-related expenses.

Along with with fellow SGA Senator Chiamaka Ugboh and SAA Vice President Ariana Nogin, Keplinger has been working with departments across campus to finalize the committee’s membership and secure an advisor. The fund is already accepting contributions from students, alumni, parents, and friends online.

Leanna Powell ’08, English, UMBC’s Assistant Director of Annual Giving, has worked closely with the students throughout the process. “We hope this will…become a way to help students understand the real impact of philanthropy on campus, and help them become leaders in giving,” she says.

Whether you’re on or off campus, by making a gift today, you can help build and sustain UMBC’s culture of caring.

— Julia Celtnieks ’13


Power and Artistry: UMBC’s practice organ, donated by Dr. Charles Nicholas, makes its public debut

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If you’ve never heard organ music in person, the first thing that strikes you is the complexity of the sound that comes from within it. At a recent concert showcasing an instrument donated to UMBC by Charles Nicholas, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, the organ’s power and artistry was on full display for a standing room-only crowd on February 10.

“I was blown away, for one thing,” said Nicholas, following the recital and historical lecture by Paula Maust, an adjunct professor in the Music Department. Maust played an array of pieces to show the range and history of what’s known as “the king of instruments,” including a piece by Frank Ferko played solely with the feet.

The instrument itself, donated in honor of the professor’s parents, Charles and Barbara Nicholas, sits in a practice studio in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building. As Music Department chair Linda Dusman told the crowd, the nation is facing a shortage of trained organists, so having an instrument on which to practice gives students an immediate leg up for employment, post graduation. (They previously had to seek out local churches for practice.)

In addition to the Ferko piece, Maust’s recital covered both sacred and secular pieces, all designed to show the organ’s versatility of sound. The organ has two keyboards: a board-full of buttons (known as “stops”) to alter the sounds made by the keys, as well as a full range of floor pedals that are played with the feet.

Dusman thanked Nicholas and his wife, telling the audience, “Dr. Nicholas’s generosity is going to make this extraordinary music available for generations of students and the communities that they’re going to serve, so thank you so much.”

Nicholas and his wife, Janice, said they enjoyed the show very much.

“I’ve been a fan of organ music all my life and I have never heard any of these pieces before, and I’m very impressed,” he said. “I’m glad that people are getting use out of this, so I’m just delighted.”

— Jenny O’Grady

Throughout the Ages: Past, present, and future converge at annual Hilltop Society Dinner


Attendees of the 2016 Hilltop Society Dinner take in the “UMBC at 50: Sharing the Past, Building the Future” at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery on November 17.

UMBC has accumulated a rich history in its first 50 years, rising from a patch of Baltimore County farmland through the social and political turbulence of the mid-20th century to become a university nationally recognized for the quality of its education and its commitment to diversity. This year’s annual Hilltop Society dinner, in addition to being a “thank you” to our donors, carried on that story, as guests dined amid the “UMBC at 50: Sharing the Past, Building the Future” exhibit at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery.


UMBC Archivist Lindsey Loeper ’04, American studies, introduces the exhibit to guests.

The exhibit was curated by Tom Beck and Lindsey Loeper ’04, American studies, with the help of various partners across campus. It features more than 200 items from UMBC’s archives. Official documents, letters, photos, physical artifacts, and a continuous video loop all help to tell the story of UMBC, from long before the ground was broken until today. (It’s open to the public through December 15, but if you can’t make it to campus, it lives online as well.)


Bentley Corbett-Wilson ’17, music, one of the evening’s two student speakers, addresses the crowd.

With such a storied past behind us, it’s only fitting that the two students who spoke at the event be excellent examples of UMBC’s present and future. Bentley Corbett-Wilson ’17, music, this year’s student body president, has been involved with the Student Government Association (SGA) since his very first semester here. He spoke at length about how his UMBC experience has shaped his understanding of the world, and how UMBC’s commitment to shared governance empowers students to speak out on what matters to them.

“It is not uncommon for students to passionately express concerns about an issue on campus, and find that it has been solved the next semester by simply reaching out to SGA, campus departments, or other administrators on campus,” he said. “The potential that SGA has to help move this campus towards an even higher level of greatness is immense, and I’ve been honored to help guide the organization to do exactly that.”

Corbett-Wilson is also a recipient of the Sprint to the End Scholarship, which was established to help upperclassmen in need complete their degrees here. “I want to thank you all […] for your generosity to this community and its students,” he said.


Jeffrey Carr ’19, interdisciplinary studies, speaks at the 2016 Hilltop Society Dinner.

Jeffrey Carr ’19, interdisciplinary studies, told the audience that while he wasn’t sure what to expect when he first got to UMBC last fall, he took the advice of Dr. Jason Schiffman, a psychology professor who spoke to Carr’s orientation group, to heart: “It’s cool to be smart at UMBC, [and] this place will be what you make it.”

His intellectual curiosity led him to the Discovery Scholars Living-Learning Community, which provides opportunities and resources for undecided first-year students to forge their own academic path. Carr said that the support he received from both his fellow students and the faculty and staff members involved in the program gave him the confidence to branch out and try new things. In the past year and a half, he’s competed in the Pan-American Chess Championships with the UMBC B-Team, become a Peer Mentor for Discovery Scholars, and even joined the baseball team…as its statistician. (Carr hopes to work in baseball management after completing his degree.)

“Through the generous contributions of my donors […] and backed by the support network obtained through the living-learning community, I don’t think I could have had a better experience up to this point,” he said.

Throughout our past and into our present, UMBC has remained a place that students, no matter their background or interests, can make their own. With your generous support, we hope to continue that legacy far into our future.

Julia Celtnieks ’13; all photos by Marlayna Demond ’11

GiveCorps Spotlight: UMBC Mock Trial Raises More Than Double Their Semester Goal

mock-trialUMBC’s Mock Trial team spends a lot of time on the road. This academic year, they’ve already been to four invitational tournaments at schools across the Mid-Atlantic, with trips to UPenn and Georgetown coming up within the next several months. They’ve been able to travel the country, hone their rhetorical skills, and represent our school’s commitment to inclusive excellence thanks to donors like you, who helped the nationally-ranked Mock Trial team raise more than double their fundraising goal for this semester.

The financial support is vital to Mock Trial’s development as a group, says UMBC senior Dylan Elliott ’17, history, a pre-law student and Mock Trial’s current president. He says that more funding leads to more opportunities to attend tournaments, which means more time spent traveling together…”which can drive us crazy at times, but it’s also really good for us,” he says.

Mock Trial has proven popular both among students who plan to attend law school and those who do not, and attracts participants from a wide variety of majors. “I think people get different things out of it,” say Elliott, citing the public speaking experience, critical thinking skills, and competitive atmosphere as some benefits of the program.

For Elliott himself, Mock Trial was what confirmed his decision to continue on to law school: “I played sports from elementary school up through high school, and I realized after I did my first Mock Trial competition that I missed that kind of team competition, that camaraderie…which is something that Mock Trial gave me again.

“It helped me realize that I do enjoy the court advocacy [aspect], and helped me develop public speaking skills.”

Elliott also says that UMBC has one of the more diverse teams on the competitive mock trial circuit: “[We have] lots of different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds and religions, and I think that’s great because UMBC is like that.” With diversity in background also comes diversity in perspective, which comes in handy when coming up with ways to approach the cases they’re assigned each year.

“There’s a lot of different minds in the room,” Elliott says, “which makes us better.”

For more from our Mock Trial students, check out the video below…

You can help create student success stories like this through our crowdfunding site, GiveCorps.

Student Scholarship Corner: Carrie Cleveland ’16, Social Work

After a series of stops and starts in her pursuit of higher education — up to and including marriage and children — Carrie Cleveland graduated from UMBC this past May with a degree in social work. During her time here, Cleveland was the recipient of multiple scholarships made possible by the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, including the Susan Bernstein-Charlotte W. Newcombe Memorial Scholarship for returning students in the social work field. The Newcombe Foundation provides support to students over the age of 25, and has helped over 5,000 UMBC students achieve their goals since 1981.  In her own words…


“What I appreciated about these awards is that these scholarships were meant to help a student who had additional challenges. Trying to manage three young kids while in school is challenging. I have the expenses of a working person, like daycare, but not the income that is needed to help pay for those expenses. These scholarships helped me to be able to afford my tuition and the cost of care for my children while I took classes or was in my social work field placement. If it was not for these funds, I would have had to take out more loans to cover the cost of care for my children. I am so appreciated of scholarships that look at not just the student, but their unique circumstances as well…

“[After graduation,] I will be attending University of Maryland, Baltimore as an advanced standing student at the School of Social Work. My clinical field instruction will take place at a school for middle schoolers who are federally classified as emotionally disabled.”

Read more about Carrie Cleveland at UMBC News.

John W. Jeffries Dean’s List Award honors high achievers

UMBC is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and we didn’t get this far without the dedication of some incredible people. People like Dean Emeritus John Jeffries, who joined the UMBC History Department in 1973, and spent the next 40 years helping his students and the university excel.

When Dean Jeffries retired as Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (CAHSS) in 2013, an anonymous donor established the John W. Jeffries Dean’s List Award in his honor. The fund—which recognizes Dean Jeffries for his dedication to UMBC students and his commitment to seeing them excel—provides critical support for high-achieving students who aren’t already receiving a specialty scholarship. If they’ve demonstrated their drive by reaching the Dean’s list for three consecutive semesters, they’re eligible for the award.

This spring, Dean Jeffries had the chance to meet with some of the students who had received the award and learn a bit about their UMBC journeys.

Sunita Mengers ’16, biological sciences, had just returned from Spain when she met with Dean Jeffries. “Receiving this award helped me fully immerse myself in the local culture and allowed me to adapt to a new environment,” she explains. Hoping to continue her studies at med school, Sunita said UMBC’s close-knit and supportive environment played a big role in helping her reach her goals.

“The whole [UMBC] community helps you succeed,” she adds.

That sense of community and support is a feeling common across campus, especially among the award recipients. “I received personalized classroom instruction from quality professors who truly care about the well-being of their students,” says Ayushi Aggarwal ‘16, biochemistry and molecular biology.

The students also felt the impact of the reward well beyond their initial acceptance. Thanks in part to this scholarship, Olsi Leka ’16, computer engineering, is achieving his career goals.

“I have accepted a position [at Texas Instruments in Dallas] as a product engineer, a position that will allow me to continue my learning process beyond the doors of UMBC,” he says.

For Marianne Kirchgessner ’16, social work, the Dean John Jeffries Award is allowing her to continue her education. “[Receiving this scholarship] was a blessing because it lessened the burden for me and my parents and freed up some money to pay for grad school,” she says.

Given Dean Jeffries’ long history of helping students, it seems fitting that the fund established in his honor should do the same, as it prepares these talented Retrievers to take everything they’ve learned at UMBC into their bright futures.

“I’m both delighted and honored by the award, which helps high-achieving Dean’s List students who do not hold UMBC specialty scholarships complete their undergraduate education,” said Dean Jeffries. “I’m especially honored to have my name associated with these remarkable young men and women.”

Katharine Scrivener

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Phenomenal World: Juliana and Homer Schamp Memorial Scholarship seeks to inspire the next generation of teachers

Think back to the science classes you took as a child. What do you remember about them? Did you watch a caterpillar spin a cocoon and emerge a butterfly, or a tadpole grow into a frog? Did you turn baking soda and vinegar into a fuming volcano, or set off a homemade hot air balloon from the school parking lot? Did you feel a sense of wonder as you watched the world work its unique magic?

That’s the sense of wonder the late Homer W. Schamp, Jr., UMBC’s first dean of the faculty, professor emeritus of education, and trained physicist, pursued science with, and one he sought to instill in both his students and his own children. His wife Juliana Reese Schamp, who worked on important sociological research for the state of Maryland, treated life the same way, until her passing in 2009.

With the Juliana and Homer Schamp Memorial Scholarship, their sons, Brough and David Schamp, hope to keep their parents’ legacy of intellectual curiosity alive in the next generation of K-12 science educators.

Throughout his life, Dr. Schamp, a former College Park physics professor who joined UMBC in 1965, emphasized early education as a crucial part of a child’s intellectual development. His own introduction to science began during his childhood in rural Ohio, when, according to his son David, he became fascinated with the engineering of farm equipment. It’s a curiosity he emphasized to the education classes he taught here, and something he brought up his own children with as well.

“He exposed us to all kinds of different things as we were growing up,” says Brough. “Mushroom hunting, […] botany, the stars, everything. […] His main field was physics, which is really pretty abstract, but what he really was interested in was the phenomenal, real world that we live in.” After his retirement, Brough says, Dr. Schamp built several kinetic sculptures and interactive physics-based artworks, including a large kaleidoscope on display at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Brough shares his father’s belief that science “should be a hands-on subject,” and says that computers and technology can create a distance between students and the physical world around them.

“The kids should be inspired by something they saw, heard, felt, experienced,” he says. “[That] inspiration is something that is often lost if you’re just looking at something on a computer and answering questions.”

In keeping with his philosophy on education, Dr. Schamp made sure to hire only the highest-quality professors, and it’s doubtful that UMBC would be the hub for innovative teaching and experiential learning it is today without the Schamps’ early influence.

“UMBC was my father’s life’s work and both of my parents conceived of it as a first rank teaching institution,” David says. While his mother, Juliana, was never a faculty member, she was “instrumental in [UMBC’s first faculty] being hired, as recruitment usually began as an evening in our home where my parents could converse [with candidates] on almost any topic.”

Giving back to UMBC seems to run in the family: Homer and Juliana Schamp established the Joseph D. Reese Memorial Prize, a biennial award given to history students, in memory of her father. “It seemed only natural to want to contribute to a place so dear to [our parents],” says David.

He agrees with his brother that their parents raised them to be thinkers, to ask questions.

“I often later felt I had learned my most important lessons at home — specifically how to learn — [and] that curiosity and thoroughness were rewarding and that it had to come from within. Knowing how to learn is the most crucial skill a teacher can pass on and my parents really encapsulated that skill. I would hope any future teachers would want to engender that in their pupils,” he says.

We don’t know exactly what science education will look like when the first Schamp scholar teaches their first class, but we do know that they’ll have the intellect, leadership, and natural curiosity to inspire a new generation of learners.

Julia Celtnieks ’13

Make a gift to UMBC today, and help inspire a new generation.


Hacking the Real World: Donor support gives students hands-on experience in their fields


This spring, more than 350 students joined in this year’s annual HackUMBC, a 24-hour “tech innovation marathon” where participants were challenged to come up with creative solutions to specific challenges. The slogan: “Dream big. Make it happen.”

Students worked individually and on teams to build projects, or “hacks,” which were judged on technical complexity, elegance, and creativity during an expo at the conclusion of the event.

Contrary to popular belief, not all hacks require computer coding. “We call it an idea marathon,” explains Michael Bishoff ’16, computer science, a founder of HackUMBC. “It doesn’t have to be an app or a computer program.” In the past, participants have built tangible things like pop-up showers and coffee makers. Next year, HackUMBC would even like to incorporate a social good component, challenging students to come up with solutions to societal challenges.

“I’m trying to see where tech could come into play for disadvantaged groups,” says current HackUMBC co-president Celestine Wong, a rising senior studying computer science and social work. “I find a lot of joy in doing good for someone else.”

Wong’s dual major in social work and computer science has fueled her interest in finding real-world intersections between the fields, and she’s not alone. Many hackathons focus on how hacks can make the world a better place. As both Bishoff and Wong point out, these events can be great resume builders, but they’re even better when they create an opportunity to help the community.

The event has drawn interest and sponsorship support from a variety of leading tech companies and government agencies. Dan Hood ’01, computer science, is the chief technology officer for one of those companies, ClearEdge IT Solutions, which provides provides software engineering and data solutions and services. Hood says that for ClearEdge, getting involved with UMBC and the hackathon makes sense — it gives their company a chance to see some of the brightest upcoming students, and they get to help those students by providing learning opportunities and exposure to the career options that await them.

“I think it’s important to support the next generation of the workforce,” says Hood.

The National Security Agency (NSA), a top employer for UMBC alumni, provided “technical talks, mentors, and recruitment opportunities” for students during the event, says Kathy Hutson, NSA’s associate director for human resources.

“NSA and UMBC work closely together to help build the leaders of today and tomorrow to ensure that the Agency can protect and defend the country,” Hutson explained. “UMBC graduates have contributed greatly to our mission and we are proud of all we have accomplished together.”

Tenable Network Security, a firm that provides comprehensive security technology solutions, supports the Hackathon because it values UMBC’s educational initiatives, its students, and its cyber-focused extracurricular activities.

“The platform UMBC provided, which allowed companies to help students with hacking-related questions, was very useful in creating an innovative and collaborative atmosphere,” said Tenable Network Security’s spokesperson.

That innovative atmosphere goes a long way to helping students gain the valuable real-world experience they’ll need to land a job. In fact, those extracurriculars can help students stand out amongst a crowd of applicants.

“While classroom experience is fantastic, we encourage students to engage in personal projects that help them apply the skills learned within the curriculum,” says Tenable Network Security’s spokesperson. “These are qualities of very successful employees at Tenable and something we feel is important for students to realize early on.”

Hands-on experience is one of the chief benefits of HackUMBC, says Bishoff. “It’s like a 24-hour recruiting event,” he explains. “The students who come to these events are passionate about programming. They’re the kinds of people who want to work on weekends.”

Hood adds that the Hackathon gives students the chance to work in a team environment, navigate the stress of a time crunch, and be innovative. “To see [participants] go from nothing to concept to prototype in a day is pretty remarkable,” he says.

See more news coverage: http://technical.ly/baltimore/2016/03/07/5-innovative-projects-hackumbc/ AND http://news.umbc.edu/students-turn-ideas-into-inventions-at-hackumbc-tech-innovation-marathon/

Learn about Hack UMBC: https://hackumbc.org/

HackUMBC was sponsored by Tenable Network Security, ClearEdge IT Solutions, the NSA, McCormick, TowerSEC, Northrop Grumman, PayPal, T. Rowe Price, VentureStorm, Namecheap, Soylent, Google, and Square.

— Meredith Purvis