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Let A stand for Asleep! Guest Post: Adam Binkley, Center for Academic Success

Adam headshot.jpg

Adam Binkley

For those of us at the Universities at Shady Grove, A doesn’t stand for Apple or Aardvark but instead Academic, Assessment, and Achievement. For students in particular, A takes on a more symbolic meaning—the letter grade that has represented our best work on report cards from first grade to Introduction to Financial Accounting.

My name is Adam Binkley, and I am the Senior Coordinator at the Center for Academic Success. This time of the year, many students come to our offices wondering how they can do better on their final exams and are seeking strategies for how to chase down that elusive A.

Letter A

Luckily, I have something to share with you that just might improve your performance in your coursework. This is a method that students often overlook, but has always helped humans reach their peak, leading to countless inventions and innovations. And the good news is that you (yes you, reading this right now) don’t have to learn anything—you have already been doing this your entire life!

I’m talking about sleep. Get that A from catching ZZZZZZs. Stop pulling all-nighters cramming and cram yourself into a nice warm bed or pile of pillows. When we feel the pressure of deadlines and upcoming papers and tests, sleep is often one of the first things we sacrifice. But sleep allows our brain to recover from all the academic work we’re putting it through. ZZZZs can actually be a critical boost during exam week.

This is according to new research out of Baylor University that challenged students to get an average of 8 hours of sleep per night. Offering students extra credit as an incentive, the researchers wanted to see how students fared when they reached the recommended time spent in dreamland compared to their more sleep deprived peers. And their findings indicated that students who met the challenge performed better on their final exams than those who didn’t.

Don’t just take my word for it—check out the research yourself (just don’t stay up late reading it!).

Thinking back to my own experience as an undergraduate and professional procrastinator, these claims definitely ring true. I had far too many all-nighters and late night study sessions that directly contributed to me feeling bad on exam day. Operating with too little sleep and too much caffeine, my brain felt like a self-driving car without a functioning navigation system. So the next time you are setting out to plan your study time, try to spread it out over the week in order to save time for shut eye.

Let A stand for Asleep, so that you are Awake and Alert come exam time!




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#GivingTuesday: One Day for One More

Here’s to the folks whose favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  Who doesn’t love a day dedicated to appreciating the gifts of family, friendships, and community? And here’s to the special people who always make a point to invite someone to celebrate Thanksgiving, who, without the invitation, would be left out.  You know the type — the people who always make sure that there is room at the table for one more.

You can be one of those special people this coming Tuesday, November 27th, by joining in the Universities at Shady Grove’s #GivingTuesday “One Day for One More” campaign. It’s an easy way to share your kindness and we think you’ll feel great for doing it.

#GivingTuesday is a social media-based event dedicated to philanthropy and community voluntarism. It began some years ago as a way to counter the extremes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This #Giving Tuesday, USG is asking our community to help set the table of education for one more student by contributing to its General Scholarship Fund. The General Scholarship Fund allows USG to help students with the greatest need. It’s just one day and we hope to raise enough to invite one more to the table. Go online and use the drop-down menu to give to USG’s General Scholarship Fund. Your kindness can help make room for one more scholarship recipient at USG.

Of course, #GivingTuesday gifts can be made to any USG fund on #GivingTuesday, and contributions at every level are appreciated. No gift is too small. The important part is to celebrate by sharing. There are 365 days in a year. Let’s use #GivingTuesday as One Day for One More.


By: Tom Clifford, USG Director of Major Gifts
Please contact me if you would like more information about additional giving opportunities.

Tom Clifford


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Read and Re-Gift! Guest Post: Juanita Benavides-Alcala, Towson University student


Juanita Benavides-Alcala

I told everyone that it was going to be impossible to forget about me! My name is Juanita Benavides-Alcala and I am a former student blogger for Around the Grove, but now I am back to tell everyone about our exciting Book Drive! As the Chair of Events and Initiative of the Student Council, we teamed up with the American Association of University Women (AAUW): Gaithersburg chapter to have a school-wide book drive here at our beloved USG. I just wanted to tell everyone a bit about this awesome organization and convince you guys to bring in some books.

The AAUW is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women in higher ed and beyond. Their work has been an ongoing effort since 1881. Today, they provide scholarships to women in many colleges and universities, including USG. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from them to attend a conference at UMCP this May, where I got to learn so much about leadership and how to make everyone feel welcome in our school. These wonderful ladies have not only financially supported students, but they have become like a mentor to others. They are always willing to share their experiences and listen to others. Another scholarship recipient, Jathselle Pierre-Louis, and myself have decided that we needed to step up to the plate in order to give back as much as they have given us.

The AAUW: Gaithersburg hosts an annual book sale at Asbury (a retirement facility located near Lakeforest Mall) in order to gain funds for scholarships to give to female students here at USG and at Montgomery College. So what we have done, with the help of the Student Council, is set out a couple boxes so that everyone and anyone can donate books for us to take. They are in need of children’s books, however, we will take what we can get (in good condition, of course.) So if you guys happen to have any spare books laying around, please bring them and put them in the colorful boxes labeled “Student Council + AAUW: Gaithersburg Book Drive.” I worked really hard on making them as colorful as possible 🙂 So do your girl a favor and bring some by!

Thanks for reading and re-gifting!

Book Drive

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Calling All Education Professionals: Come Spend “An Evening with USG”

Jen headshot 1

Jennifer Riehl

Hi! I’m Jen, the Senior Recruitment Coordinator with USG’s Center for Recruitment & Transfer Access. My job for the past almost-6 years has been to tell everyone I can about how USG works and the benefits of attending a program here. Early on, I believed “everyone” to mean all prospective students – from middle school through college. And while students are indeed still a bulk of my focus and the audience for most of the events we hold, I’ve also come to learn there’s an equally important group of people with whom I need to share the USG message: the education professions who work with these prospective students.

While I am unlikely to reach every single student at Montgomery College (MC), it IS likely that every MC student will at some point meet with an advisor or have a conversation with a faculty member there. Likewise for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), Frederick Community College, and so on. So why had we not been holding large-scale recruitment events for THIS audience? It must be incredibly hard for education professionals in these roles to learn everything there is to know about admissions requirements, application deadlines, student life offerings, and more about not just ONE school, but the hundreds of colleges and universities their students are considering attending. Add to that USG’s super unique concept, and I thought, my goodness – let’s find a way to both thank these professionals for helping us do our jobs and also give them the tools they need to be able to best share USG with their students. And thus, An Evening with USG was born.

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An Evening with USG is a brand new event designed specifically for education professionals – ranging from middle school principals to community college counselors, from after-school high school program coaches to our partner university recruiters. It is a chance for these unsung heroes to network with one another and with USG staff and partner university program representatives. The event, being held on Thursday, November 8th, from 6:30-8pm, will include a formal welcome and USG overview, along with a brief presentation by USG’s COO/CFO on the many STEM programs coming to our campus once our new building is complete (projected Fall 2019!). The last hour of the event will provide a chance for attendees to visit information tables for each of the undergraduate majors and the many student services offered at USG, as well as mingle with current students, take a campus tour, and network with one another. As a bonus, some of the graduate degrees offered on the USG campus via our partner universities will also be present in case our guests are not just shopping on behalf of their students but also for themselves! And did I mention the free food?

It feels weird for me to promote an event with the message that it is NOT intended for prospective students, but I am truly excited to instead welcome to campus those helping to guide these same students towards college completion and ideally towards USG. I hope to be able to thank you personally on November 8th!

Learn more and register for An Evening with USG!

Jen's Ambassador

The USG Student Ambassadors can’t wait to share their stories of success with you!

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Start Networking Now with LinkedIn!

ARB Headshot (1)

Ada Rodriguez
Career Coach, Career & Internship Services Center

Networking as a verb is not something we all grew up doing. As humans, we all value a substantive network that is something that transcends culture, class, and race. We can figure out how to connect with a stranger at a party, but the moment we call it a networking event, a lot of us are struck by a paralyzing fear. “Networking” seems like something only the professionals do, and it’s sometimes hard for students to realize who exactly their “network” is.

College is one of the most significant opportunities for us to grow our networks. It is unlikely that you will have access to this many people from so many different backgrounds, interests, and professional paths again. Your classmates could one day be industry leaders, so it is less sketchy to connect with them now than it would be in ten years when they might have forgotten you went to school together (no one wants to feel like people are only reaching out to them only because they are successful).

Besides establishing your network, there are other benefits to setting up your LinkedIn profile now. And you will ask, “Why do I need another account to keep up with?” and I’ll tell you:

  1. Recruiters are on LinkedIn—it’s where they spend most of their time. If you aren’t on LinkedIn, they aren’t seeing you, and you’re missing out on job opportunities.
  2. It is the easiest way to brand yourself online, giving you more control over your online presence and reputation when you are Googled.
  3. Learn about your industry, connect with alumni, ask for informational interviews, make connections. See how the person with your dream job got there.
  4. FIND A JOB!
  5. Establish your network. I know I talked about this at the beginning of the blog post, but I cannot stress how important it is to begin growing your network now. It may seem intimidating at first, but it will be worth it.

Having a LinkedIn profile that is set up well can give you the confidence you need to jump into the networking pool. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, on November 7th, the Career & Internship Services Center (CISC) will host Link Up with LinkedIn, where we can help you create your profile and put your best foot forward. Gussy up and get your headshot taken by a pro. Meet with staff and recruiters to have a profile review on-site. Or come to the Lunch & Learn where we’ll have a recruiter from Coakley Williams to teach students what recruiters look for in a profile and how you can maximize your LinkedIn presence.

All of CISC looks forward to seeing you there, in the meantime link up with USG and join the CISC group on LinkedIn. I would love to hear what you are looking forward to the most on November 7th.

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Guest Post: Priscille Diwa, UMD Communication student

Priscilla and boy

Priscille and her brother at a reception for the completion of her Missionary Trip.

I am where I am today as a result of my parent’s actions. My family and I were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We lived a wonderful, and comfortable life until civil unrest occurred between my country and Rwanda. My parents gave up everything to come to the United States so that we could have a better life. The strong foundations in integrity and morals that my parents set for my siblings and I is what steered my path to where I am and the decisions I have made.

After graduating from high school, I did not want to rush into college. Although there is a lot we learn from school, our professors, and fellow classmates, I wanted to learn from the best teacher, life itself. I signed up for a missionary trip for one year in Buffalo, New York (coldest city in America). Living in Buffalo taught me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I was away from my family, I knew no one in the city, and lived with a group of people that I have never met (whom later became like my family). However, I learned to adapt and be flexible. I developed communication skills and learned how to deal with people from different categories of life.

Priscilla Group

Priscille’s Missionary Team

When the year was up, I returned home and enrolled at a Montgomery College where I graduated with my Associates degree. I had originally planned to go to the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), but my parents encouraged me to go to UMCP at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG).

USG has been a family affair. My dad graduated from UMCP’s Criminology and Criminal Justice program at USG in 2014 and my mom is anticipating graduation from UMBC’s Social Work program at USG in 2019. Hearing about my parent’s great experience at USG and all of the benefits and resources they had received, I decided to enroll in UMCP’s Communication program at USG.

Priscilla and friends

Priscille and her two roommates

There are many reasons why I love USG. The first reason is the additional scholarship opportunities, which has allowed me to achieve my goal of graduating debt free! Plus, I love the small class sizes because I get the chance to know my professors and classmates. I feel confident in my decision to take classes at USG and I know that this learning environment will propel me to thrive and excel. After I graduate in 2020 I want to travel and gain more experience in marketing. My future career goal is to own my business.

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Grover Essentials

Grover Essentials is a service that provides students, faculty, and staff at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) with the opportunity to get staple foods, toiletries, and baby items at no cost to them. It was started as a way to increase food access and promote wellness at USG. Grover Essentials had its grand opening on August 20th and so far it has had great success as measured by the number of total visits, number of unique customers, and self-reported satisfaction with this service. The only requisite to use Grover Essentials is to have a valid USG ID. Customers also fill out an intake and liability form the first time they shop at Grover Essentials and fill out a satisfaction survey after each use. Customers are encouraged to visit Grover Essentials once a week.

Grover Essentials

Increasing food access and promoting wellness became a central idea to the creation of Grover Essentials as the more we talked to students, faculty, and staff it became apparent that this would not only be a beneficial service but also a much needed one. In Psychology classes we are taught about Maslow’s pyramid of human needs and the first level is composed of securing physiological requirements for breathing, food, water, shelter, clothing, and sleep. Keeping this in mind we decided that if we could help students attain their basic needs, they would be better prepared to help themselves with succeeding in their education and personal lives.

Food insecurity has recently been a hot topic among researchers as studies have shown that college students at all levels (2-year and 4-year colleges) are experiencing hunger and having to make decisions between paying for food, housing, and tuition bills (Blumenthal & Chu, 2018). Food insecurity is defined as, “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or the ability to acquire such foods in a socially acceptable manner. The most extreme form is often accompanied with physiological sensations of hunger” (Goldrick-Rab, Richardson, & Hernandez, 2017).

The University of Wisconsin’s Harvesting Opportunities for Postsecondary Education (HOPE) Lab surveyed more than 33,000 students across 70 colleges in the United States and they found that 67% of the students were food insecure (Goldrick-Rab, Richardson, & Hernandez, 2017). Not only is this significant from the standpoint that the majority of college students surveyed were experiencing food insecurity but also because this was much higher than the 12.3% of Americans in the general population who reported being food insecure according to the United States Department of Agriculture (America’s Eating Habits: Food Away From Home, n.d.). Being centered in one of the wealthiest counties in the country does not completely insulate us from these issues. Manna reports that 79,000 to 81,000 Montgomery County residents do not know where their next meal will be coming from (Manna Food Center, n.d.). Grover Essentials has become one of the tools we are using to ameliorate this reality for our students.

Grover Essentials was made possible through the generous donations from various departments and individuals at USG. We are thrilled with the response and usage that Grover Essentials has gotten thus far. We have had more traffic than we had previously anticipated and as a result we have secured two UMBC interns to help us keep up with the demand. Manna has also been a strong supporter of the Grover Essentials effort and has committed to helping us restock Grover Essentials as need arises. We are fully stocked so pass the word around and come check us out!

America’s Eating Habits: Food Away From Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Blumenthal, S., M.D., & Chu, C. (2018, August 06). Food Insecurity on College Campuses.
Retrieved from https://www.clasp.org/press-room/news-clips/food-insecurity-college-campuses

Goldrick-Rab, S., Richardson, J., & Hernandez, A. (2017). Hungry and homeless in college:
Results from a national study of basic needs insecurity in higher education. Madison, WI:
Wisconsin Hope Lab.

Manna Food Center | Facts and Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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