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Guest Post: Saqib Rana ’19 UMD at USG publishes book, ‘The Story of Life, In a Tale of Words’

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Saqib Rana ’19 University of Maryland, Public Health Science at USG

A year ago, when I was a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park in the Public Health Science program at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), I never thought I would self-publish a book of my poetry only months after graduating. The poems in this book, ‘The Story of Life, In a Tale of Words’, were not written with the intent to be part of a book. They were written because I poured my feelings and emotions out on paper when no other form of expression would allow me to chronicle how I felt about certain things, as these feelings and emotions were as eager stallions running wildly in my heart and vehemently through my soul. If I felt it, I wrote about it. If I saw it, I wrote about it. If I cared about it, I wrote about it. If it kindled the heartstrings at my core, I wrote about it. I had to. Because all the things I believe to be important to life- to my life, to your life, and to the lives of all who have come before us since the beginning of time- are the instruments of goodness in life that are there to help us and guide us as a people. And if I strive for this goodness, if I aspire that this goodness shines like the sun in a world that is full of darkness, then I make it my duty to reach those who care about this goodness, reach those who care about what is right in life, with my words. And the realization for and care for that duty is the origin story of how poems I was writing simply to express what I cared about and that initially I thought were not linked became pieces to a puzzle, parts to a whole, that became the story-poem ‘The Story of Life, In a Tale of Words’.

Saqib bookIf interested, below is the back-cover description that delves deeper into the contents of the book:

“Why is there so much pain in the world? Why is there no peace? So many people around the world are dying, hurting, suffering, and yearning for hope, freedom, justice, and peace. Why have we failed to help them? Why have we failed each other? Do we truly understand each other? Why do we still fight? Where is the love we speak of but fail to embody?

The Story of Life, In a Tale of Words is a story-poem meant to reverberate the heartstrings of goodness within us. The Story of Life, In a Tale of Words strives to relinquish the curtain over our hearts that causes us to hate instead of love. We are all lost, we are all in pain, and we are all broken. But that pain is precisely what bonds us as a people, as kindred kind. The Story of Life, In a Tale of Words serves as a beacon of hope to remind us that together, we can help each other end the pain in all our hearts and in the world. Together.

Open your heart to the Story of Life, and it will open its heart to you.”

Available on Amazon now! Furthermore, a significant portion of the profits go towards helping those in need.

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Grover Essentials: Increasing Food Access & Wellness at USG


By: Mahmoud Nofal
CCMA Americorps VISTA 
Grover Essentials Food Assistance

One day, when you’re sitting in the Green Grove Cafe for lunch or lounging in the beautiful new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (BSE) building, take a look around at those around you. Did you know that as many as one third of the people you see may be worrying about how they will afford their next meal? Or, perhaps, you are in that position. If so, know that you’re not alone. Food Insecurity is prevalent across university campuses nationwide. A 2018 study by the Wisconsin Hope Labs found that 29% of university students struggle with food insecurity, while a survey at USG found that 36-38% of students may be dealing with this issue. This far outstrips the approximately 11% of Americans who experience some degree of food insecurity. For the next year, in my role as a CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA I will help tackle the problem of food insecurity in the USG community by growing and developing Grover Essentials, USG’s on-campus food pantry, and by working on comprehensive resource guides and planning informative events to address this pressing issue.

During my time working with the Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF) team on Grover Essentials, I’ve found that one of our fundamental goals is to decrease barriers and stigma around food insecurity and the use of programs and services to increase food access. One surprising barrier is the general lack of understanding about exactly what food insecurity is, and some people not recognizing that they may be experiencing food insecurity themselves and thus are eligible to use the wide array of resources available at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) and in Montgomery County as a whole.

The Oxford dictionary defines food insecurity as “the state of not having reliable access to enough healthy food that you can afford,” with the USDA breaking food security into 4 different levels, from High Food Security to Very low food security, the latter being defined as an individual reporting “…. disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake” on many occasions. Too many consider being food insecure as resembling only the “very low food security” category, whereas in reality one is experiencing food insecurity if they have any level of anxiety over how they will be able to consistently afford sufficiently nutritious meals. While the idea of the ‘starving college student’ may sound somewhat romantic to the more privileged and can almost seem like a rite of passage to some, difficulty obtaining nutritious food is severely detrimental to the educational experience and hurts a student’s ability to succeed academically and personally. Recognizing food insecurity in all its degrees is an important step to developing effective and meaningful ways to enhance food security and promote wellness at USG.

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Grover Essentials Pantry

Another important step we’ve taken is paying close attention to feedback from Grover Essentials customers and the wider USG community. We’ve all filled out satisfaction surveys before and have had the sneaking suspicion that nobody will actually read your feedback, or at the very best your comments and concerns will get a brief once-over by someone with no intention of taking them seriously. Not so at Grover Essentials. Part of my daily routine includes carefully reviewing the feedback we receive from our customers for ideas and inspiration and sharing some of the best suggestions and most pertinent concerns with the rest of the Grover Essentials team. We often make decisions as a direct result of this feedback. For example, several customers mentioned that check in times were too long because intake forms were only loaded on a single iPad, and the shelves were sometimes lacking variety. So, we responded by adding additional Grover Essentials dedicated iPads and making an effort to increase the variety of items on offer. These are small but important changes that keeps Grover Essentials a pleasant service to use, which increases the likelihood that those who need it most will continue to visit regularly.

My overall goal as a VISTA is to build capacity at Grover Essentials and help institute lasting changes that will enable USG to continue addressing food insecurity for years to come. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I’ve seen on campus for increasing food access and learning more about this important issue, and I’m confident that there’s enough interest, passion, and concern among the students, faculty, and staff at USG to ensure that the entire community continues to work towards a future where all of our friends and colleagues have ready access to safe, healthy food and basic necessities.

Grover Essentials flyer

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From Student to Commencement Speaker


Bita Riazi, UMCP at USG Communication student, will be the UMCP student speaker at the campus-wide winter commencement ceremony.
(Photo by John T. Consoli)

For Bita Riazi, graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) is the culmination of the hopes that her immigrant family carried to the United States nearly 30 years ago.

Her parents left Iran and all their relatives behind for Maryland in 1991, hoping then-one-year-old Riazi’s educational prospects would be brighter. And while the journey to a degree wasn’t a straight line, it has been rewarding.

“I had a lot of faculty who believed in me,” she says.

Riazi earned an associate’s degree in general studies from Montgomery College in 2011 and planned to immediately transfer to UMCP. But when her parents faced several health crises, Riazi, an only child, instead took care of them and worked full time at a spa in Gaithersburg.

“I always did want to go back and finish school, but sometimes life happens,” she says. “Family is first.”

Beset by doubts about being able to navigate a return to higher education, Riazi attended three open houses at the Universities of Shady Grove (USG). USG is a campus in Rockville that offers degree programs from nine Maryland public universities including UMCP. Learning that UMCP at USG offered a bachelor’s degree in communication enabled her to take the leap. It was the best way, she says, to honor the sacrifices that both she and her family had made.

“I’m going back for me,” she told her parents at the time, “but I’m really going back for you guys.”

Over the next two years of pursuing her bachelor’s degree in communication, Riazi made Dean’s List every semester and was nominated for the dean’s Senior Scholar Award. Since August, she has also been a programming and production intern in the D.C. Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment, booking guests, researching stories, writing scripts and other duties.

While interested now in a career in media and entertainment reporting, Riazi ultimately wants to work in a field that can help and inspire people, be it through writing or speaking. Her experience at UMCP has been a key step toward that goal.

“Between the faculty and my fellow Terps, they all have such impeccable vision,” Riazi says.

The 2019 University of Maryland, College Park Winter Commencement Ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 in the Xfinity Center. Individual college and school ceremonies will be held on Monday, Dec. 16 and 18. For more information, visit commencement.umd.edu.

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Be a Giver this Giving Tuesday. Guest Post: Craig Kendall

Craig Kendall Headshot

Craig Kendall

I’m Craig Kendall, the oldest of the four sons of Cliff and Camille Kendall. You may have met me at an event on campus – I’m at USG often with my mom, my brothers, and our families. USG is part of my family, too, as my late father was one of the leaders who first imagined and pushed to make USG a reality. Dad believed that Montgomery County needed a place where students could earn their bachelor’s and graduate degrees and help local businesses succeed. Most of all, my dad believed in people helping people. Dad was, in every sense of the word, a giver.


Like many of the students at USG, both he and my mom faced financial, family and emotional hardships while trying to get through college. Dad was raised by a single mother and graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park by going to night school and working two full-time jobs. Mom grew up in a family of five in a two bedroom house, and was only able to go to college after receiving a scholarship. They never forgot their struggle to afford school and how precious it is to have an education. When they were financially secure, they created the Kendall Scholarship program so that others wouldn’t have to worry about how to pay for college.

This past June when the Camille Kendall Academic Center was rededicated as the Clifford & Camille Kendall Academic Center, my family was proud to announce $2 million in new scholarship gifts to USG. Matching gifts by the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation [as part of the Clark Challenge for the Maryland Promise] brought the total gifts to $4 million. My dad would have been very touched by inclusion of his name on the building, but what would have made Dad really smile would be knowing that every person in the USG community followed his lead and pays it forward.

Next Tuesday, December 3rd is Giving Tuesday, a day that encourages people to do good. Follow my dad’s example by contributing to the Kendall Alumni Scholarship for Working Students, the General Scholarship Fund or one of the other worthy scholarships at USG. Dad always said that giving to others is a great thing to do for yourself.  Be a giver this Giving Tuesday.  Have a great holiday season.


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A Year of Service by Mary-Kate Luft

Mary-Kate AmeriCorps Picture

Mary Kate Luft
CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA,
ACES Career Readiness Program Coordinator,
Center for Recruitment & Transfer Access

Typing away in a cubicle within the depths of the Clifford and Camille Kendall Academic Center, you can find me, the CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA ACES Career Readiness Coordinator, creating and streamlining career readiness curriculum, providing logistical support for career readiness events, and supporting data analytics and reporting in order to sustain career readiness programming that ensures the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) ACES scholars not only obtain a degree, but are ready for post-graduate success.

But wait, what does my super long title even mean? CCMA stands for Campus Compact Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit association of public and private, two- and four-year colleges and universities in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Delaware. CCMA is a collective of higher education institutions committed to advocating for and supporting collaboration between academics and civic engagement. CCMA manages AmeriCorps VISTA projects, where VISTAs are focused on building campus-community partnerships to fight poverty.

And what is VISTA? AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a federal service program designed to fight poverty. Think PeaceCorps, but members serve communities in need in the United States rather than abroad. AmeriCorps VISTA members dedicate themselves to a year of service in a community where they serve as a builder of capacity and sustainability for a particular poverty-fighting project.

Now we know what CCMA and AmeriCorps VISTA are, but perhaps you’re still wondering, “What is ACES Career Readiness?” (I do apologize for the large number of acronyms). The ACES Career Readiness Program is housed here at USG, but provides career readiness programming to the larger ACES (Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success) program in 14 high schools across Montgomery County. The ACES program – a collaboration between Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), Montgomery College (MC), and USG – provides individualized support and interventions in order to increase college enrollment and completion, especially among student groups that are underrepresented in higher education. The Career Readiness component was developed to ensure that students not only obtain baccalaureate degrees, but are also workforce-ready upon graduation. Currently, ACES Career Readiness programming is only provided to eleventh- and twelfth- grade students, but it will continue to expand each year to serve ACES scholars at Montgomery College, and then finally the ACES scholars at USG.

As you might imagine, a “year of service” is not necessarily the most lucrative or glamorous job. Yet the hardships of low-pay and a long commute are outweighed by the incredibly meaningful work I’m able to do. Although I’ve only served the ACES Career Readiness Program for four months now, I have already witnessed the impact it has on students in the ACES Program. Within my first month of service, I attended my first career immersion trip to Emergent Biosolutions. Many MCPS juniors who had only received a brief introduction to career readiness a few weeks prior were in attendance. I observed the students as they treated the immersion more as a field trip and less as a professional opportunity. A few weeks later, I attended another immersion to the Food and Drug Administration and was taken aback by the impressive level of professionalism exhibited by the MCPS seniors who attended. These students came professionally dressed with notebooks and questions ready, and gave their full attention to the FDA professionals with whom they interacted. The difference between the juniors with little to no career readiness programming and the seniors who had experienced a full year of programming astounded me and illustrated the impact of the ACES Career Readiness program and the need for it. I’m excited imagining how well-developed and prepared these young ACES professionals will be by the end of their time at USG and feel fulfilled knowing that I am playing a role in their and future ACES students’ success.

In addition to serving students in need through professional development, I am gaining professional experience that will help me in my future career. While I am still unsure of exactly what I want to do long-term, I am utilizing my skills in writing, editing, and collaboration, while also building skills in data analysis and reporting, curriculum development, and more. Additionally, I’m gaining experience working with an incredible team in higher education to build a project that develops and changes daily, leaving me as a more flexible, creative, and collaborative professional for whatever comes next. I am excited for what the future holds and thankful for my experience as a CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA serving the ACES Career Readiness Team at USG – so far – and am looking forward to continuing my service for the next eight months. Although I could do with fewer acronyms.


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USG Undergraduate Expo: In Their Own Words


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By: Jennifer Cohen Riehl, USG Senior Recruitment Coordinator

Another academic year means another prospective student open house event at USG! This time it’s our Undergraduate Expo, being held on Saturday, November 2, from 9am-12pm right here at USG. Each semester, I am asked to write a blog post sharing this event with prospective students and letting them know why it’s beneficial to attend. In the past, I’ve professed my love of event planning and invited you to “my party”; I’ve outlined the day’s schedule via the important roles the USG Student Ambassadors play at the event; and I’ve shared with you some common myths about USG and encouraged you to learn more by visiting. But it dawned on me that these were always in my own words – and while I promise I genuinely believe everything I’ve written, I think it’s time you heard from others – both those who’ve attended the event in the past and those who offer their services at the event to benefit you. So read on to see what students, staff, and program advisors at USG have to say about our Undergraduate Expo and why they think you should attend:

“The Undergraduate Expo brought awareness to a campus I was completely unaware existed! It helped me realize that the university I wanted to attend was as accessible, affordable, and rigorous as any institution in the state. When I was in and out of universities and lacking direction, the advisors at Shady Grove were able to ease my anxieties and help me on a path forward toward a psychology program that I loved.” –Nadeem Assefi, UMBC at USG Psychology ‘20


Attending the USG Expo is a MUST!!!  This is a great opportunity to find out various services that are available to students at the USG campus, especially financial literacy & scholarship resources.  USG is fortunate to offer scholarships exclusively to students attending courses and programs on-site!  Scholarships range from several hundred dollars to some that cover full-time tuition and fees. Students should learn about the process before they attend so they are in the best position to apply!”
–Gloria Kalotra, Assistant Director, USG Center for Student Engagement & Financial Resources


“I attended the Undergraduate Expo at the Universities at Shady Grove multiple times before I transferred from Montgomery College. Talking to Program Directors about various majors helped me discover that the Communication Program was perfect for me. At the Expo, I learned about the Communication courses and had the opportunity to talk to Student Ambassadors that were already part of the program. Now that I am a Student Ambassador, I have had the opportunity to share my wonderful experiences at USG with potential students and show them around the incredible campus. I highly recommend that every potential student attend the Undergraduate Expo!”
–Zoey Senzel, UMCP at USG Communication ’19 & USG Student Ambassador


“Prospective nursing students should always attend an information session presented by an admissions counselor specific to the School of Nursing to find out what they need to do to be admitted. Attending an information session at USG has the additional advantage of being able to walk around our beautiful campus and take a guided tour to be exposed to the wonderful resources we have here.  It’s a very good use of time.” –Kathie Dever, Program Manager, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) School of Nursing at USG


“The USG Center for Academic Success has always enjoyed having a presence at the USG open houses. Not only does this give us an opportunity to meet future students, we can share strategies for writing the perfect application essay so that students can get into the program that will help them reach their professional goals. 

“I’ve personally been energized by working with potential students from all backgrounds in helping them find the best way to tell their unique stories in a way that shows what they have to offer to their campus community. We don’t typically offer this workshop at any other time of the year, so I would definitely take advantage and visit CAS at the Undergraduate Expo!”

–Adam Binkley, Senior Coordinator, USG Center for Academic Success


“It is very helpful for those who are unfamiliar with our location to come check it out for themselves and see how beautiful the campus is, and how conducive to studying it is. We find it especially helpful for prospective students to be able to hear from our current students about their admission experiences, as well as their thoughts on our program here at Shady Grove. And it’s nice to be able to meet with students and their families who are familiar with USG, but were not aware that our program was available to them at this location. The information session we offer covers basic admission information as well as input from current students.  I am certain the Q&A session is helpful for all in attendance to get additional/detailed information or insight on special cases.”
–Aki Noguchi Giron, Academic Advisor, Smith School of Business at USG


“I have had the privilege of watching the USG Open House grow from humble beginnings to the signature event that it is today.  From my time as a prospective student where I had my first glimpse at this campus that I would call home for almost 20 years, to my years working for Towson University at USG, where our application lab really set the stage for the coming year, to these last three years as Transfer Access Coordinator, the Open House (or Undergraduate Expo, as it is now called) has always been an event about exploration, learning, and hope.”

“In one day, students can learn about all of the amazing academic and extra-curricular opportunities available to them (sometimes even before they transfer!). In that same day, students can begin to understand, feel, and connect with our campus and our culture of collaboration and our dedication to student success. Often, that day also brings the joyous realization that transferring is not only possible but attainable and affordable!  As our campus continues to grow, I am glad that the Undergraduate Expo remains as a “one-stop-shop” for prospective students!”  

-Marcie Povitsky, Towson at USG Elementary & Special Education ’04; former Towson at USG Site Coordinator; and current USG Transfer Access Programs Coordinator


Check out a full schedule of events, including the sessions mentioned above, and register for the Undergraduate Expo to experience the hype for yourself. And maybe next year, you will be the one telling others why they, too, must attend – in your own words of course.


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We’re Moving!: Services on Display in the BSE

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By: Adam Binkley, Senior Coordinator Center for Academic Success (CAS)

If you’ve been on campus here at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) anytime over the last year chances are you’ve noticed a little construction project we’ve got going on. You know, that rather large building that now fills out the skyline—the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (BSE) building.

On a personal level, I’ve been serenaded by construction sounds from the beginning, watching the BSE materialize right outside my office window.

Well, my office window for one more week.

If you were to step into it today you’d hardly know it belonged to me. Colorful posters and books bursting from shelves? Gone. Instead you’ll find bright blue moving crates packed to the brim and bubble wrap (bubbles mostly un-popped). My desk is still covered in papers and pens, but soon those items will be packed up too.

That big, beautiful building I’ve been watching take shape is about to become my new home, and I couldn’t be more excited for you to be my guest.


In the BSE, you are going to see innovation. You will look into laboratories and open classrooms and see science on display. You’re going to see services on display, too. Three of our campus service centers, the Center for Academic Success (CAS), the Career and Internship Services Center (CISC), and the Center for Counseling and Consultation (CCC), are all moving. CAS and CISC are going to be operational in the new building on October 22. CCC will be open in the Spring semester.

This move brings so much more than a new location, primarily it brings new opportunities for students to be their best at USG.

At CAS, we’re excited to have more space for students to work together. Open workstations, spaces for peer academic leaders, and a STEM study space are waiting for collaborative learning. Our testing center will now be in-house, and we have more space for one-on-one writing support and academic coaching.

DSC_3435Our colleagues at the CISC are looking forward to opening their space up for more engagement between students and employers. CISC’s glass wall opens out, expanding space for receptions and events. Within the center, you will see professional development on display through interview rooms for students and employers to connect.

In the spring, the CCC will be moving out of the library to their new home in the BSE. This location will be more discreet, and there will be space for students to be mindful and meditative. With dedicated areas such as group rooms and a relaxation room, students will be able to decompress and destress.

DSC_3451As for me, I’m looking forward to covering a new desk in papers, pens, and the signs that academic progress is being made. I’m looking forward to helping students set goals and exceed them.

And I’m looking forward to you, making this move with me and helping put services on display at USG.

Don’t worry, I won’t make you carry any boxes.


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