Thank you for visiting DiscoverUSG, the official news blog for The Universities at Shady Grove.

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Suite News: Tips to Prepare You for Graduate School

Mary headshot

Mary Gallagher

If you’re reading this right now, congratulations are in order! Your semester is about to wrap up, and that hopefully means you’re done with classes, your final papers are turned in, and only a couple of exams stand between you and your summer break (or graduation!). I’m proud of you: you’re almost there!

My name is Mary Gallagher, and I’m the Assistant Director of the Center for Academic Success (CAS). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling your pain: I too, have been writing a few final papers. In addition to working full-time here at USG, I’m also a student. When this semester ends (FINALLY!), I’ll be five classes away from completing coursework for my Ph.D in Language, Literacy, and Culture, which I’m pursuing at UMBC (Go Retrievers!). Just like you, I have been fighting senioritis, the exhausting feelings that beg you to do ANYTHING but study for that test, or finish that paper.

Mary 1It’s not always easy to juggle my work life, personal life, and Ph.D life, but I enjoy my program, and what I learn in my classes, I apply directly to my work with you. I’m glad I made the decision to go on to graduate school.

As we approach the end of an academic year, I imagine many of you may be considering graduate school. Whether you’re exploring your options, or know exactly the school and program you want to attend, here are a few tips to help you navigate the process:

  • Find a mentor and advocate in your discipline: Finding the right graduate school for you and your specific career goals is important. You’ll need to consider things like availability of funding and assistantships, faculty reputation, job placement, research opportunities, location, etc. Make sure you seek advice from people who know the landscape in the particular field you’re pursuing, specifically your program director or your professors. Their specialized knowledge in the field will help guide your search. As a bonus, these mentors can also become advocates for you when you need letters of recommendation!
  • Now that you’re done studying for your classes, study some more! I know, I know… more studying is just about the last thing you want to think about right now, but the summer is a key time to prepare for and take any entrance exams that will be required for your applications. For most graduate schools, you’ll need to take the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, but specialized or professional schools may require other entrance exams (e.g., MCAT for medical school; LSAT for law school; GMAT for business school).

Those of you who need to take the GRE are lucky: did you know that CAS is offering a GRE Preparation Workshop Series this June? For only $50, current USG students and alumni will learn strategies to master the math, verbal, and writing sections of the GRE. The Series will meet in the evening (6-9pm) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 5 – 30.

GRE flyer

  • Now that you’re done writing papers, write some more! Again, I know… but the summer is also a great time to draft your personal statement! This is an important piece of your application. By the time you apply to graduate schools, a lot of your application is essentially set in place: you don’t have much control over your transcript or your letters of recommendation but, you do have a lot of control over your personal statement. This is your chance to really make yourself shine! I recommend getting lots of feedback on this document and drafting, revising, and editing it multiple times so you can be very proud of it. Also, don’t forget that you can make a writing appointment at CAS for help on your personal statement.

With summer looming and freedom so close, I realize that it may be difficult to make any decision that might result in additional classes, exams and papers, but if you do decide graduate school is in your future, than you should start to explore and prepare now.

I look forward to seeing you this summer for the GRE Preparation Workshop series.  To schedule an appointment with CAS call 301-738-6315 or visit us online at https://sg.mywconline.com/.

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Guest Post: Arnold Adja, UMBC Political Science Student

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Arnold Adja with Senator Cheryl Kagan

On April 10th, the 2017 Maryland Legislative Session ended, traditionally known as Sine Die. Unfortunately, this date also signaled the end of my time with Montgomery County’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations (IGR).

As the first Gene Counihan Legislative Intern, I was chosen to support the County’s IGR office during the annual Legislative Session. The Office of IGR represents the County’s interests at the regional, state, and federal levels. Moreover, the Office prepares the Legislative program and acts as the liaison between the state government, the County’s state delegation, and congressional staff.

This position was advertised through the Career and Internship Services Center (CISC) at The Universities at Shady Grove.  I am indebted to Jennifer Willis-Oliveira, Acting Assistant Director of Employer Relations, who met with me on numerous occasions to help me  improve my resume and cover letter.

Arnold 3I was beyond excited when I found out that I had been selected as Gene Counihan’s Legislative Intern. The anxiety I felt about being the new person quickly faded as the Director (Melanie Wenger), analysts, and staff members (Kathleen Boucher, Sara Morningstar, Amy Samman, Leslie Frey, Verna Price, and Wanda Wells) went above and beyond to make me feel part of the team. I was given important responsibilities and was lucky to witness what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Arnold 5I assisted Delegate Queen (District 14) in receiving a unanimous vote on a bill to extend the eligibility period during which businesses that lease property in the Burtonsville Enterprise Zone may claim both real property tax credit and personal property tax credit. Some of my responsibilities included attending hearings, helping to implement a new county legislative tracking system, analyzing bills, and writing position statements and briefing materials.

Arnold 6In addition to tracking legislation, I attended weekly meetings. On Mondays, the staff would generally meet with the County Council to discuss bills that would be coming on the agenda and asking the Council to take positions on the bills. On Wednesdays, we attended meetings at the Maryland Association of Counties, where representatives from our 24 state counties would try to come to a consensus on the different pieces of legislation. On Fridays, there would usually be Montgomery County House Delegation meetings where the County’s Delegates would discuss and vote on upcoming legislation. Some of the speakers at the Delegation meetings included Senator Ben Cardin and Dr. Jack Smith, Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools.

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Arnold with Gene Counihan

The highlight of my experience was meeting Gene Counihan – the man who my position was named after. Gene has an impressive CV – he spent most his life as an educator for Montgomery County Public Schools, he served in the House of Delegates for over 12 years, he served as a special assistant to Governor Glendening, he was the Maryland Government Relations Officer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, he was elected Chair of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and served as the inaugural chair of the Board of Advisors at the Universities at Shady Grove.

He told me to meet him in the Legislator’s Lounge of the historic Calvert Inn in Annapolis. To my surprise, it turned out to be the local hangout spot for, Senators, Delegates, administrative and legislative staff members. There I was having dinner with representatives I saw at committee hearings. Gene made sure to introduce me to everyone who entered the room. I even made the acquaintance of some of the Governor’s closest advisors.

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Governor Larry Hogan

Ultimately, it was an experience that I will never forget. I met some truly amazing people with enormous hearts. I will cherish my time with the Office of IGR for the rest of my life and my only regret is that I will no longer see their faces on a day-to-day basis.

It is fair to say that I have learned the importance of civic duty and I definitely plan on returning for the 2018 Legislative Session.

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Suite News: Graduating Soon? Learn How to Navigate the Job Search Process


Jessica Johnson

Hi, I’m Jessica Johnson, Career Advisor of Graduate Students and Special Populations in the Career & Internship Services Center (CISC) at USG. As a career services professional for the past six years, I’ve seen and heard students’ mix emotions when it comes to the job search — excitement, frustration, procrastination, and more. As many of you approach graduation (congratulations!) and the job search process, I have some tips to share that I hope will help you navigate this process:

  1. Before you begin the search, take a step back and reflect. Your interests have influenced many choices in your life, including your major and hobbies. Begin assessing your interest areas. Do you wish to analyze and synthesize data? Interact with children? Solve problems? Work with chemicals? Interests hold your attention, motivate you to get out of bed every morning, and lead to personal and professional success.
  2. Understand your values. Values are our guiding principles and informs our decisions. Examples of values include: work/life balance, professional development, upward mobility, working for a prestigious company, financial gain, variety, ability to be creative, and much more. It is important to rank your values from most to least important and identify the top motivators that must match the organization and position.
  3. Develop a strategy and make use of your resources. Now, that you’ve spent time reflecting, let’s discuss the actual job search. Since there are many moving parts (ex. crafting your resume and cover letter, applying to a position, networking, and interviewing), I encourage you to begin early. Here are some considerations and additional resources to help you in your search:
  • Career Connector – As a student at USG, you have access to our internal job and internship database. Employers post opportunities on the platform and are looking to hire YOU! Career Connector is updated weekly with new opportunities, so I encourage you to check often.
  • Your personal network– Identify who is in your circle that you can contact for advice, insight on their career path, or potential job leads.  Feel like you don’t have a network? Believe me, you do! Start with your classmates, professors, family members and friends. Did you intern while in college? Your former internship coworkers and supervisors are part of your professional network too. There are also many networking events in the area that you can attend — this is the perfect opportunity to go and meet professionals in your industry.
  • Develop a target list of organizations– The job search can be overwhelming when applying to every position you find. Having a strategic approach is essential in order to save time and energy. Create a target list of 20-30 organizations you are interested in and review open positions on their website. If you don’t see any opportunities, tap into your alumni network to find individuals who may work for the organization. Once you find an alumnus, request an informational interview (a formal conversation to learn about the professional’s career path and experience working at the company).. Developing a target list allows you to spend time tailoring your resume and cover letter to the position and organization, as well as find companies that match your values.
  • Utilize LinkedIn – Over 90% of recruiters are searching the site for their next talent. Since recruiters are heavily utilizing the platform, you should be an active participant on LinkedIn. Need help getting started on LinkedIn? Read more about how to use Linkedin effectively on one of our previous posts by Lindsey Seaby, Assistant Director for Student Services & Academic Outreach in CISC at USG.

Job search image

As you navigate the job search, you should diversify your strategy and employ a combination of all the steps presented here. When I meet with students who have applied to jobs for weeks or months but have not received an interview, we discuss being stalled in their search. In this situation, the student may be spending too much time applying to jobs online and not enough time leveraging their relationships or developing a target list.

Need help fine-tuning your job search strategy? Meet with a career advisor in CISC to discuss your job search strategy in depth. Log-in to Career Connector today to schedule an appointment that can be conducted in-person, over the phone, or via Google Hangouts.

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Suite News: Disable the Label


Kelly Rogan

My name is Kelly Rogan and I am the Coordinator for Disability Support Services at USG (housed in the Center for Academic Success). It is my mission to create an accessible and accepting atmosphere for students, staff, and faculty. I would like to take this opportunity to share some information on the use of inclusive language related to individuals with disabilities.

We most likely have no intention to marginalize or cast judgment on those with disabilities but the use of certain phrases or words can do just that. I am not here to give you the “PC” talk and tell you that everything you have ever said, thought, or wrote is wrong or offensive. My intention is to provide you with some insight to help make our campus community an even more inclusive place.

Here are some tips and examples:

  • Use person first language. When talking about people, we always want to refer to them as people or individuals before we identify them as something else.
    • Write this: USG provides services for individuals with a disability.
    • Not this: USG provides services for disabled individuals.
  • Focus on ability rather than disability.
    • Write this: I have a professor who utilizes a wheelchair.
    • Not this: I have a wheelchair-bound professor.
  • When saying wheelchair-bound it seems like the person lacks particular abilities where as someone who utilizes a wheelchair is less “bound” by the label.
  • Consider how we label the places that people with disabilities use.
    • Write this: Accessible parking is available in the Traville Gateway Garage.
    • Not this: Disabled parking is available in the Traville Gateway Garage.
  • When we use the word disabled with a service or location it sounds like that service or place is “disabled” or broken. What we intend to says is that those areas are most accessible for those needing it.
  • Do not assume someone is suffering. You should avoid stereotyping by using objective language.
    • Write this: The student was diagnosed with chronic depression.
    • Not this: The student suffers from depression.
  • When writing about a particular diagnosis, notice how it reflects the person’s abilities to cope. Being “diagnosed” and “suffering from” (while often used interchangeably) have very different tones.

I encourage you to keep these in mind as you interact with others on the USG campus, as well as in the general community. Whether you are planning an event, creating signage, or meeting one-on-one, these tips will help you to create an accepting and inclusive environment. Remember – not all disabilities are observable, so consistent use of inclusive language is important, as there are individuals who may never disclose to you that they have a disability; doing so establishes that you are a safe and accepting part of our campus community.

For questions about our Disability Support Services on campus or assistance in creating accessible materials or events please reach out to the Center for Academic Success at sg-cas@umd.edu.


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Suite News: You May Not Know It, But You’re a Recruiter, Too

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Jen Cohen

Are you familiar with the Universities at Shady Grove?

Over the last four years, I’ve asked that exact question at countless transfer fairs, college nights, presentations, and Open Houses. As a reader of this blog, you may be tempted to answer “yes,” but just how familiar are you? Do you know how we work? If so, could you explain how we work to others? Could you explain why someone would want to attend USG instead of anywhere else?

I’m Jen Cohen, and I work as the Senior Recruitment Coordinator in the Center for Recruitment and Transfer Access (CRTA), a somewhat hidden component of SAS. I say hidden because unlike the Center for Academic Success, Career and Internship Services Center, Center for Counseling and Consultation, and Office of Student Services, our most pertinent work is largely done off-campus. We help prospective students and community members to become familiar with USG – to understand both how and why it works – and hopefully to attend (or encourage others to attend) a program offered here in the process.


USG Student Ambassadors are integral in helping to promote USG

You may not know it, but you’re a recruiter, too.  If you’re a current student, when a friend or family member asks you where you attend school, you have an opportunity. If you’re an employee who works at or with USG, when you are asked about your job, you have an opportunity. If you’re a community member, when a neighbor or colleague asks you what those buildings near Giant are, you have an opportunity. An opportunity to spread the word about this hidden gem in Montgomery County that affords so many local residents with an easier path towards becoming a college graduate. But in order to do this, you will need to be armed with some tools. You will need to surpass “familiar” with USG and make it a point to truly understand how it all works. Today, I invite you to get to know USG:

  • USG offers select graduate and undergraduate degrees from nine different Maryland universities all on our one campus in Rockville.
  • Students apply directly to the university offering their chosen major, but on the application, they select Shady Grove as their preferred campus.
  • Students take all their classes and access all services/student life here, but their professors, curriculum, and most importantly, diploma, come from the university offering their program. It does NOT say The Universities at Shady Grove on the diploma.
  • Compared to the home universities’ campuses, USG offers smaller class sizes, more personalized services, reduced fees, and additional scholarship opportunities.
  • At the undergrad level, all students are transfer students, starting at the junior level. This creates a greater sense of community, but also necessitates that students complete their first two years elsewhere.
  • USG was founded as a way to keep talented students in the county beyond their associate’s degree. All programs offered by the nine universities at USG  have direct ties to the needs of the workforce in this specific region, making students much more likely to find local employment as well.

Students from all nine universities celebrate together at the annual USGFest

By sharing these simple bullet points with friends, family, and colleagues, you have the chance to provide them with an “aha” moment – that moment when USG transforms from a simple group of buildings into a place that allows them to achieve their educational dreams.

Invite others (and come yourself) to learn more about USG at our upcoming Undergraduate Open House on Saturday, April 22nd. As newly minted recruiters, I’m counting on you to help me spread the word!

CRTA Staff

Representatives from all nine universities will be present at the Open House, along with CRTA staff, pictured here

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Suite News: USG Appreciates Graduate and Professional Students!

shelby photo 11-14-16Hi there! My name is Shelby Speer, and I am the Graduate Student Services Coordinator in the Office of Student Services at Shady Grove. My job is to improve and enhance the experiences of graduate and professional students via events, programs, and services.

It is true that graduate and professional students are not often in the spotlight on college campuses, but at USG we want to make sure that they feel welcome and appreciated. If you are a graduate student who is reading this blog post, perhaps you have had a Student and Academic Services representative from one of our centers swing by one of your classes and deliver goody bags? Maybe you have relayed your suggestions to a member of our Graduate Student Advisory Committee? Or you have attended an event run by a graduate student organization? These are just a few of the ways that we recognize and value graduate students on the USG campus.

I am very excited about our upcoming inaugural Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week, which is April 3-8 in multiple locations and at various times across campus. The week will feature mini-workshops on a variety of topics, multiple opportunities for free food and beverages, and even “swag bags” just for graduate students! Get the complete event schedule on our website, and/or swing by one of our information tables this week (located in the lobbies of all three buildings).

Grad Student Appreciation Week flyer

If you are a graduate or professional student who is looking for ways to get more involved in our campus community, please contact me and I would be glad to discuss options with you. I’d also be happy to hear any suggestions for improving your experience here. Finally, please be sure to check out our Graduate Student Resources webpage, which is frequently updated with events and announcements just for you.

Let’s work together to make this place even more vibrant and welcoming for graduate students. See you at Appreciation Week! And for those of you who are graduating this academic year, I look forward to celebrating with you at our inaugural graduate and professional student Graduation Gala  on May 12th as well!

grad resources flyer

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