Thank you for visiting Discover USG, the official news blog for The Universities at Shady Grove (USG). The Discover USG blog features news stories and guest posts from students, faculty, staff, program directors, and community members. We want you to have a voice and engage with us on the news and events that are happening at USG.

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Repurposing Campus Furniture for a Good Cause: Guest Post: Erin Fernandez from USG Facilities

By: Erin Fernandez, Space & Scheduling Manager, Facilities Management, The Universities at Shady Grove (USG)

Facilities Planning team delivering the study carrels

The last time I drove a box truck was over a decade ago, when I moved from Georgia to DC after grad school for my first professional job. Recently I found myself asking, how hard can it be — just like riding a bike, right?

So there I was one afternoon, picking up a 15’ truck to deliver 15 wood study carrels to public schools throughout Maryland. The Priddy Library at USG had recently reconfigured its study zones after research suggested students prefer to use furniture that is mobile, allowing them the flexibility to go back and forth between independent and collaborative work. This trend is prevalent in the classroom environment as well, with modular tables that seat groupings of 3 to 6 becoming much more popular than individual desks.

Now that the library had new furniture, Facilities needed to dispose of the study carrels — a process that can be more daunting than it seems. We are required to give right of first refusal to Terrapin Trader, the University of Maryland’s surplus property operation. If TerpTrader cannot resell the items, we are able to donate to a nonprofit organization.

Furniture is often referred to as the forgotten waste stream because it’s generated less frequently than other waste. However, it is very difficult to dispose of responsibly. It’s often made of material that is challenging to recycle – a single piece may combine metal and plastic which cannot be separated. Or wood pieces may actually be made of a composite, which has lots of little pieces of wood held together with glues and other chemicals. If we can’t recycle it, where does it go? The EPA tracks the disposal of durable goods. In 2018, the last year for which data is available, Americans generated 12 million tons of furniture waste. Eighty percent went to a landfill. Office furniture is actually the primary source of furniture waste, equaling 8.5 million tons of waste per year.

Further complicating this issue at the state level, is the Climate Solutions Now Act which was passed in 2022. Importantly, the Act requires the State to establish a net-zero statewide greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2045. A study by the Furniture Industry Research Association found that the average piece of home furniture generated the same amount of greenhouse gas as burning 5.3 gallons of oil. The study also claims that a building’s interior FFE (Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment) can be responsible for the same, if not more, carbon footprint as the building structure.

When we combine our legal obligations under Climate Solutions Now with USG’s commitment to sustainability, it becomes clear that we have to take action on a number of fronts. It’s not enough to recycle paper or glass; it’s composting, recycling electronics and metals, lowering utilities, buying carbon offsets, and finding new homes for every piece of furniture that crosses our threshold.

Carrels in their new home at the Spring Grove Hospital Patient Library

Ultimately, we donated 18 study carrels to five nonprofit organizations around the region, including the Dominican Theological Library, Ernest Everett Just Middle School Library, Oxon Hill Elementary Library, and the Spring Grove Hospital Center Patient Library.

We all have to do our part to reduce our impact on the environment.  My contribution was spending a day delivering furniture to communities in need. It wasn’t quite as easy as riding a bike, but it still made a big difference.

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Equity incubator competitions at USG this spring. Guest Post: Jack O’Donnell, UMD comm student at USG

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Equity Incubator Rocket Pitch Competition hosted by the Universities at Shady Grove’s (USG) Entrepreneurship Lab on March 29th, and I must say, it was quite an event! The competition featured groups of entrepreneurs who had been working together for eight weeks to develop and refine their business ideas, culminating in a final pitch to three judges who included Mike Priddy, Cathy Bernard, and MaryAnn Mayhew. 

The energy in the room was fun and exciting and led by Equity Incubator Program Professor, Le Marie Vanessa Joan Thompson. Each group was given one minute to take their turn at the front of the room, confidently presenting their ideas with passion and conviction. The judges listened intently, and then had one minute to ask thoughtful questions and provide valuable feedback. 

The judges have the difficult task of selecting just five groups to move on to the next stage of the competition. The stakes are high, with the winning group set to receive a $10,000 prize to help bring their business idea to life. 

But even for those who don’t make it to the final round, there is still plenty to celebrate. Everyone worked hard to create something meaningful and contribute to a great event. The evening was full of positive energy, and attendees were treated to delicious coffee and pastries provided by Jaliyaa Coffee, a previous Equity Incubator participant. 

Overall, the Equity Incubator Rocket Pitch Competition was an inspiring showcase of the power of entrepreneurship and innovation. It was clear that each group had put in a tremendous amount of effort and dedication to develop their ideas, and I have no doubt that many of them will go on to achieve great success in the future.

While in attendance, I took a number of photos in support of USG as part of my current internship with the Marketing and Communications team on campus. You can check out photos from the Rocket Pitch here on USG’s Flickr account.

Next up, is the Equity Incubator Showcase, happening on April 19th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. The five teams will convene again to compete for the $10,000 grand prize. I hope to see you there as well!

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USG Open House, May 6: Learn About Degree Programs and the Campus. Guest Post: Melany Claros, UMD student at USG

By: Melany Claros

Melany Claros, University of Maryland, College Park – Robert H. Smith School of Business at USG, Marketing program

Hello USG community! My name is Melany Claros and I am a Junior at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). I am a Marketing major in UMD’s Robert H. Smith School, and minoring in Technology Entrepreneurship & Corporate Innovation. 

On behalf of USG and my fellow Student Ambassadors, we are thrilled to invite you to join us for our Undergraduate & Graduate Open House on Saturday, May 6, 2023 from 10am-1pm. Whether you are a high school student interested in a program from one of the nine Maryland universities at USG, a parent looking to support your child’s education, someone interested in completing a bachelor’s degree after two years of community college (or at another institution), or maybe you are seeking a graduate-level education — our open house is the perfect opportunity to see all that USG has to offer.

Before diving into the nitty gritty of the event, let’s learn some more about our campus. USG is a full-service campus located in Rockville, Maryland that offers select degree programs from nine Maryland universities. Students apply directly to the university offering their major, but on their application, they choose USG as their preferred campus location. Students still get the same professors, curriculum, and degree as if they went to the institution’s main campus, and a very important point: it won’t say USG on your diploma at all — this is a very common question we get! 

So for me, when I graduate, my diploma will indicate that I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. Another detail that is important to understand about USG is that at the undergraduate-level, only junior and senior year courses are offered, which means that students must complete their lower-level prerequisites for their desired major prior to transfer. Students choose USG over the main campus for a variety of reasons, but the big draws are the significant cost-savings (by following the MCPS > MC > USG pathway), location (for many, the campus is closer to work and/or home), the small class sizes (which enables students to get to know classmates and professors better), the additional scholarship opportunities (which can be awarded by your university, as well as USG), the diverse student population and the personalized student services.

Now that you’re an expert on what USG is, how to apply to a program, and why you should consider being a student on our campus, let’s learn about the fun that’s awaiting you on May 6 at the Open House! 

Student Ambassadors at last year’s Open House in the fall

During your time with us, from 10 a.m. -1 p.m. that day, all open house attendees will be able to meet with program advisors from each of the career-focused undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered on our campus; receive personalized next steps in the application and admission process for your program(s) of interest; tour campus and hear about student life directly from Students Ambassadors (that’s me!); explore scholarship opportunities exclusive to students at USG; learn about USG’s customized academic, career, and personal support services; and apply on-site and/or receive application fee waivers for select degree programs.

Last year, I had the privilege of working with my fellow Student Ambassadors at the fall Open House and it was one of the most rewarding days of my life. I am excited to be part of it again on May 6! I felt exceptionally empowered guiding the students and their parents on campus tours, info sessions, and answering any questions they had. I also had the opportunity to speak with many parents that only spoke Spanish, and it was motivating to see how these parents are truly the backbone of their children’s dreams. As a first generation college student, I feel honored to be able to guide other first-gen Latin students in pursuing their goals.

As you plan for your visit, I’d like to offer a few helpful tips to make your open house experience a productive and memorable one:

  1. Arrive on time. “The early bird gets the worm,” can apply easily to USG’s Open House. Arriving early will give you the opportunity to be a part of the first few groups that goes on tours, speak with advisors, and familiarize yourself with the campus.
  2. Prepare questions ahead of time. Preparing questions makes you stand out! Staff, advisors, and student ambassadors will be very impressed with your interest and will gladly answer any questions you may have. While thinking about your questions, also be sure to take a look at the schedule of events happening at the open house.
  3. Bring a notepad and something to write with. A plethora of information will be delivered throughout the day that you won’t want to forget, so this will come in handy! 

To learn more about USG and our Open House on May 6, visit shadygrove.umd.edu/open house, and don’t forget to pre-register to save time at the door. Friends and family are welcome to attend. We can’t wait to see you!

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A look back on my time at USG. Guest Post: Lucas Perez, a recent UMD at USG alum

Lucas Perez, ’22 Graduate from University of Maryland, College Park at USG – Communication Program

I first heard about the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) through my brother, who attended the campus in 2019. However, it wasn’t until a University of Maryland, College Park (UMD)Communication Program at USG advisor visited one of my classes at Montgomery College (MC) that I really learned about everything the campus had to offer. Prior to MC, I had also briefly attended Bethany College in West Virginia for a year in an attempt to continue my athletic and educational career after high school.

When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, it really allowed me to take a step back and think through what I wanted to do with my life. In high school and college, I had always had a passion and interest in writing, journalism and public relations. I eventually realized that a degree in communications could be a great fit for me, and I was pleased to find that the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) offered their communications program at USG. I knew from the moment I began learning more about USG that I wanted to attend the campus based on the campus size, student to professor ratio, and distance, as it was only a 10-minute commute from my home. So, after contacting the program advisor for UMD’s communication program at USG, I figured out exactly how many more credits and which classes I still needed at MC to make the transfer, and I was accepted into the program in the Spring of 2021.

Due to the pandemic, my very first semester at USG was virtual, so it wasn’t until the fall that I was actually able to meet my professors and peers in person. Prior to USG, I was always one of those students who would come to campus and leave as soon as my classes were over. However, through my time at USG, I had fallen in love with the campus and the close-knit community it offered. By the Spring of 2022, I was catching myself spending hours in the breakout rooms in the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (BSE) Building, which was by far one of my favorite features about the campus. Whether it would be studying for finals, writing a paper or just hanging with friends, you could always catch me there after classes!

I also had the honor of interning with USG’s Marketing and Communications department on campus. Here, I created and edited content for USG’s website and social media channels, provided on-site support for events on campus, assisted with photography or video-capturing, and more. This showed me firsthand how tasks are handled from an organization’s standpoint, and I am extremely appreciative for the opportunity and the connections I was able to make.

I graduated in December of 2022, and before I enter the real world, I’ve decided to take a break and travel to Spain. Ever since I can remember, school has been my entire life, something that has always been creeping around the corner come summer or winter time. And while it does feel awfully weird not having a specific path for once, I could not be more excited for what’s to come. I am forever grateful for USG and the endless opportunities it has presented to me, as well as allowing me to call a campus my home.

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A reflection on my experience in the Karel Fellowship. Guest Post: Millena Prather, a current student from UMBC at USG

Millena Prather, UMBC at USG, Social Work and Psychology program

It’s internship application time! That time in the school year when you’re not only finishing up schoolwork for the semester but also looking and applying for internships. 

My name is Millena Prather and I was in your shoes a year ago. I was a junior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), looking for internships that involved Social Work or Psychology since I’m majoring in both. It never occurred to me to do a fellowship involving public interest communications. However, when I learned about the Karel Fellowship, I knew I had to apply immediately. The Karel Fellowship is a two-month-long paid internship that includes paid housing and travel. It allows students to advance social justice with an organization that matches their interests and major. 

When applying for the Karel Fellowship, I had to do two applications. One just for students at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) and the general application which is open to everyone across the USA. The USG application consisted of five essay questions, a resume submission and eligibility questions. In order to be eligible for the Karel Fellowship, applicants must either be a BIPOC and/or a first-generation student, as well as continuing school in the fall after the internship. The USG application is there so that the USG Career and Internship Services Center and the Macklin Center for Academic Success can help students edit their resume and essay questions before they submit the general application for the program. It also allows USG staff to pick finalists for the USG spot in the Karel Fellowship. When it came time to complete the general application, it was incredibly straightforward because all I had to do was submit the same materials as I did for the USG application. 

Once that was all done, I learned a few weeks later that I was a finalist for the general application. I was so excited and proud of myself. I immediately scheduled a practice interview with the Career and Internship Services Center on campus, so when it came time to do my interview, I was fully prepared. 

My interview was nerve-wracking, but thinking back on it, it wasn’t that hard. They asked me typical interview questions as well as questions like “Why did you apply for this fellowship?” and “How have you used social media to advance social justice?” A week to two weeks later, I received a call from the head of the fellowship. At first, I didn’t pick up the phone because I didn’t have the number saved, but when I listened to the voicemail, I called back immediately. After our conversation, I cried, hugged my friend, and called my mom. I got the sole USG spot for the fellowship!

During my time in the program, I stayed and worked in D.C., on various projects for Mary’s Center, a healthcare organization that provides healthcare, education, and social services for the public. I worked on a breastfeeding social media campaign for National Black Breastfeeding Week and researched different prenatal clinics, hospitals, schools, etc. for their Prenatal Symposium. I also worked on various other projects for the fellowship. Everyone has to do one presentation a few weeks into the program on their host organization, as well as an end-of-the-year presentation on a topic that connects back to their host organization. We also were required to write two blog posts. 

But my time in D.C. wasn’t all work! I got to know my cohort since we all lived in the same dorm together right near the Lincoln Memorial! We would make dinner together, go out dancing, go grocery shopping, and visit museums. 

If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved being involved in the Karel Fellowship, made lifelong connections, and gained invaluable experiences that I’ll never forget.

If you’re interested in the Karel Fellowship for next year, the application is currently open! Go to shadygrove.umd.edu/student-services/CISC/student-services/CISC/2023Karel and apply by Tuesday, January 31, 2023!

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Discovering my passions and finding my home. Guest Post: Millicent Sasu, UMD alum and current graduate student from UMB at USG

The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a second home to me, and if I were to explain all the positive experiences the campus provided me, this blog post would go on forever. So, I will limit the list of my positive experiences to just a few.

First, I received a quality education through the University of Maryland, College Park’s Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS) program at USG which enhanced my passion for juvenile justice. The classes I took on juvenile delinquency, criminal investigations, domestic violence, and many others, provided me with a practical and theoretical framework of the criminal justice system. I thoroughly enjoyed my program not only because the material was intriguing, but because I was learning from local defense attorneys, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers; all of whom helped me develop my own understanding of what justice is.

Second, as a former undergraduate student and current graduate student, I understand the stress that comes along with academics. But in the moments when things got challenging, I found comfort in knowing I was not alone. My study squad in undergrad were there to lean on for support, study sessions in the library, and most importantly, encouragement. But it was not just the friends in my program that provided this support. My peers in other programs and I would send each other internships and job postings related to our respective fields of interest. Now, USG is not solely a place to take classes and leave. No, USG is a place where my friends and I stayed late on campus to attend events (with free food!). USG is a place where students celebrate diversity at events such as International Night and give back to the community by volunteering at mobile market food distribution events. USG helped me develop lifelong relationships and a community right here in Montgomery County.

Lastly, and most importantly, USG gave me the opportunity to become a leader as a Student Ambassador, a role that I came back to hold now as a graduate student. As someone who once feared public speaking, I now find myself standing before large groups at events, such as the USG Open House, and giving tours of the campus. I watch as parents grin when they learn about the wide range of scholarship opportunities that are available for students. I get to see students’ eyes light up as they learn about their programs, student life, and begin to envision themselves at USG. These are experiences that make me feel fulfilled, knowing that I am able to help students for whom college may have once seemed far-fetched, with the realization that their dreams can be achieved. I can attest there is no greater feeling than this.

Now, there is so much more that I could say about USG, but I had promised to keep this short. I am glad to be back at USG and learn with and from my social work classmates and professors who are passionate about social justice and dedicated to creating positive change in Maryland. USG has created a community that cares. A community that students each day get to walk into where they feel valued, supported, and a part of a family. USG to me, and to many students, is more than just a campus. USG is home.

The USG Open House will provide high school through graduate-level attendees a chance to explore all degree programs offered at USG from our 9 partner universities, as well as learn about scholarships, take campus tours, explore student life, and get customized next steps. More information and registration can be found at shadygrove.umd.edu/openhouse.

About Millicent Sasu
Millicent Sasu graduated from Clarksburg High School in 2016, obtained her Associates degree from Montgomery College in 2018, and attended the University of Maryland, College Park at USG where she graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Currently, she is a dual JD/MSW student, entering her second year at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and completing the first year of her Masters in Social Work (MSW) program with the University of Maryland, Baltimore at USG. She plans on pursuing a career as a juvenile defense attorney and supporting children and families impacted by the criminal justice system.

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Turn a hobby into a career? Yes, really! Guest Post: Juleka Hundley, current student from UMD at USG

Juleka “Jules” Hundley, Communication student at University of Maryland, College Park at USG
(Pit lanes at Lime Rock Park, CT after JDC Motorsports Unitronic TCR car win)

Have you ever truly enjoyed an activity and thought about turning it into a side hustle or even your full-time career? I had this same thought during my senior year of high school. I had so many interests and passions that I wanted to pursue but was fearful that I couldn’t fulfill them all. . . that is, until I found my program at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG)! 

The University of Maryland’s Communication program at USG offers a focus in digital media, which allows me to dabble in all of the creative areas I love: writing, event planning, photography, production, and graphic design. Since being surrounded by like-minded communicators and creatives, I have learned how to put my love of my hobbies and my studies into a career. Here I found my love for all things marketing and creative management. This blog post is a simple guide using four steps I’ve learned to transform your passions into a career:

Step One: Find something you’re truly passionate about.

You won’t enjoy the hustle of profiting off of a hobby if you aren’t doing what you love.

For me, this looked like combining my love for digital media and cars with content creation. Growing up, I was always at car shows or the track. I often loved pretending I was one of the professional photographers around the track and in the pits with the teams. Remembering times like this made me really think — why not combine my hobby of cars with what I’m studying in school? That’s how I found my niche!

Step Two: Find your niche.

It’s true! Finding a niche is an important step to making your profit a unique experience. Not only does having a niche allow you to have unique experiences, but it often creates loyal consumer relationships. A niche can be anything from eco-friendly content to tourism and travel. Whatever floats your boat! 

No matter what your ball game is, there is always someone that will be looking for what you’re producing. 

Step Three: Research

Explore the market of what you’re passionate about and what your goals are to see if it’s already being done. If it is, you can join a team to learn the ropes and join in on the fun. 

In 2021, I stumbled upon Out Motorsports, an LGBTQ+ car enthusiast and motorsports competitors company connecting people within the community all over the nation. Out holds car events, posts reviews, and even has a membership program. On a whim, my partner and I reached out to get involved and connect with others by creating content for their social media accounts. After they accepted our offer to do an Instagram takeover, we traveled to Lime Rock Park in Connecticut to brainstorm and create content. Shortly after this project, I learned from Out about how they connect with their audience and how it all started for them. Then, I applied those skills to my current marketing intern roles where I get to create, write and post social media content, including fun animations!

Turn 7 bridge at Lime Rock Park, CT.

Step 4: Put the process into motion!

And just like that, you’re ready to put your skills into motion to turn your passions into a profitable market! It may be a slow and difficult process at first, but it will eventually be worth it. Continuing to network while building your passions is the best way to have a steady source of income and mentors in times of need. 

Good luck, and don’t forget to never stop driving! : )

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Getting Involved Through the GSA. Guest Post: Alyssa Berrios, Alum and Current Graduate Student from UMD at USG

Alyssa Estrella Berrios
University of Maryland, College Park – M.Ed Human Development (anticipated ’23) | B.A. Communication ’21

My name is Alyssa Berrios and I am finishing up my first year as a graduate student. I am currently studying Human Development with the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). I recently graduated from UMCP at USG with my B.A. in Communication. I loved my undergraduate experience at USG so much, even though most of it was virtual, that I decided to stay a bit longer as an M.Ed graduate student.

When I first started out at Montgomery College (MC), I wasn’t involved at all. Truthfully, I was really busy with classwork, working three to four part-time jobs, and just trying to balance out everything in college. Once I got to UMCP at USG, I made it a priority to get more involved on campus. Being involved on campus was essential to me since I wanted to build my portfolio up, meet new people, and network with my community.

I quickly got involved with the Undergraduate Communication Association (UCA) and became a USG Student Ambassador. Although my time in person was cut short because of the pandemic, USG made it easy to become more involved. My undergraduate experience at USG quickly finished and I graduated in May 2021. I knew that going into graduate school would be tough, but I wanted to continue making new connections with my community at USG, and that’s why I applied to become a part of the Graduate Student Association (GSA).

The GSA was created in order to increase graduate student involvement within the USG community. I currently serve on the GSA as the Institutional Representative (IR) for UMCP graduate students and as the Chair of Events & Initiatives. In these roles, I have been able to create events connecting students at USG. This winter, I helped foster a better connection with the undergraduate Student Council members and GSA members through a fun mixer. I also serve as a member of the Student Advisory Board, Sidney Katz Student Advisory Board, and USG Student Member on the University System of Maryland Student Council (USMSC). As you can see, I’m extremely involved on campus, and love it! All of these positions encompass my passion for promoting the Shady Grove campus and have provided me with more opportunities for my graduate student experience to be heard. Through my time on the GSA board, I have felt represented on campus and continue to meet new and amazing people.

If you’re a graduate student at USG and would like to serve on the GSA board, I would highly recommend applying for the 2022-2023 academic year — the priority deadline is May 31!

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Advancing Teacher Leadership by Uniting STEM Communities

By: Amy Green, Ph.D., Program Coordinator, M.Ed. STEM Teacher Leadership, UMD at USG; Jonathan Rivera, Elementary STEM Specialist, MCPS; Laurel Czajkowski, 4th Grade Teacher, MCPS; and Gianna Gianna Morales, 4th Grade Teacher, MCPS and Student in UMD’s M.Ed. STEM Teacher Leadership program

Today’s schools are working hard to prepare students to understand and respond to the ever-evolving, increasingly complex challenges of the 21st century. Transdisciplinary STEM education can be a powerful way to support students with the development of skills necessary to succeed in the modern and future workforce. Students need (and want!) school learning experiences that are both meaningful and relevant to their lives. Transdisciplinary STEM allows us to soften the traditional boundaries between school subjects such that the core ideas and practices of multiple disciplines come together in the service of real-world problem-solving. 

A resident of the new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (BSE) Education Facility, UMCP’s STEM Teacher Leadership M.Ed. at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) campus is an innovative program designed to prepare teachers to advance K-8 STEM education. This semester, teachers in the program are engaging with stakeholders in a variety of STEM fields through the program’s “Uniting STEM Communities” series, which allows them to explore community resources for sparking their students’ interest in STEM through life-relevant and real-world learning experiences. 

Liza Manfred, the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives with KID Museum, facilitated a session on design-based learning and makerspaces. Based in Bethesda, KID Museum is an experiential museum and educational makerspace that offers a variety of programs for families, students, and teachers.  Liza engaged the teachers in one of KID museum’s project-based lessons. Teams of teachers were given design challenges to solve using the Mind of a Maker framework and presented their prototypes to the class. Liza, course instructor, Amy Green, and the teachers then discussed ways the BSE could be incorporated into design challenges. Joyce Fuhrmann, USG’s Director of BSE Operation and STEMM Initiatives, explained that “this is exactly the type of education and engagement the BSE was built for. KID Museum is an important part of our pathway work at USG and it’s very powerful to see how these teacher leaders integrated sustainability concepts in the BSE, STEM teaching and learning from KID Museum, and their own experience as educators to develop lessons for future students.” The collaboration also helps support KID museum’s mission for advancing design-based learning.  Liza shares, “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with USG and connect with the UMCP STEM teacher leaders. Delivering student programs on campus and collaborating directly with their teachers is core to our mission. Through discussions, brainstorming, and partnering with classroom teachers who work with students every day, we can create and deliver meaningful programs for students.” 

The Uniting STEM Communities series also connected the UMD STEM Teacher leaders with the Port of Baltimore to learn more about how sediment that is dredged from the Chesapeake Bay to maintain shipping channels is being used to restore Poplar Island from the effects of weather, erosion, and subsidence. The restoration of this island has resulted in new wetland habitat for a variety of local species, including the Maryland state reptile, the diamondback terrapin. Laura Baker from the Port of Baltimore environmental education team visited the STEM Teacher program accompanied by three terrapin ‘ambassadors.’ She explained that a research partnership between the Maryland Port Administration, Ohio University, the National Aquarium, and several local education agencies allows for hatchling terrapins to be collected from Poplar Island and provided to Maryland schools.  Students contribute to authentic scientific research by collecting growth data, observing behaviors, learning animal care techniques, and researching the natural history of the species before the terrapins are released back into their natural habitat at the end of the school year. 

Poplar is a great authentic example of how the environment and the economy are intertwined in this mutually beneficial and unique restoration project.  Laura explains, the “Terrapin Education and Research Partnership (TERP) program is the longest running K-12 turtle raise-and-release program in the world and would not be possible without strong support from teachers in the community.”  From a STEM teaching perspective, the Poplar Island and TERP project are powerful examples of anchor phenomena through which academic learning objectives may be met. Laurel Czajkowski, a 4th grade teacher in MCPS explains, “It was truly insightful to learn about restoration efforts currently taking place here in Maryland and the positive impact these efforts have on native species. Students of all ages would undoubtedly enjoy learning science through the hands-on experience of raising terrapins while contributing to scientific research projects.” Gianna Morales, a 4th grade teacher, agrees, explaining, “The TERP program is an example of what authentic learning experiences can look like for students. Students are given the opportunity to inform local environmental initiatives efforts in the classroom. They become active agents in restoration and research efforts. I’m sure this program is inspiring future environmental scientists and biologists.”

The Uniting STEM Communities series engaged several other STEM partners this semester. Representatives from the Maryland Department of Education’s (MSDE) STEM and Computer Science office and the Maryland Center for Computing Education met with the teachers to introduce and facilitate a training on the newly annotated elementary computer science standards. Cindy Hasslebring from the NASA Office of STEM Engagement will also join to share the new NASA CONNECTS platform, which connects educators to NASA content, resources, and opportunities.  Guests also include academic program specialists from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, a STEM Education program evaluator from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a UMD researcher who is an expert in developing online educational videos will also share their expertise and resources with the teachers. 

Connecting teachers with community STEM leaders is just one way that the M.Ed. STEM Teacher Leadership program supports the next generation of STEM learners. As teacher leader Gianna Morales shared, “This program has been invaluable to the learning experiences I’ve facilitated in the classroom for my fourth graders. I’ve often left my courses feeling even more inspired and encouraged to integrate more and more applied STEM disciplines into not just my students’ projects, but to passionately encourage other educators to do the same. Transdisciplinary learning experiences are more accessible than many educators realize. Plus, STEM learning experiences are a much-needed confidence booster for our students as well as for the educators who bring them to life in the classroom.”

UMD is currently accepting applications for the next cohort of STEM teacher leaders to begin the program this fall. For more information, including details about $1,000 in scholarship credits for teachers who are accepted into the program, contact Amy Green at amygreen@umd.edu or visit go.umd.edu/medstem.

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Why An Entrepreneurial Mindset is Important in Any Industry. Guest Post: Katherine Zmoda from USG’s Entrepreneurship Lab

By: Katherine Zmoda and co-authored by Tchuissi Mbu Nyamsi

Not every student that participates in the activities at the Entrepreneurship Lab will necessarily go on to create their own business. Many students, in fact, find that by developing an entrepreneurial mindset, they can be more successful in whatever career path they choose, and in any industry they work. The Entrepreneurship Lab aims to provide a solid foundation to hone your critical thinking, communication, creative problem-solving, and professional skills.

The Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) was created to provide resources and mentorship to students, empower local entrepreneurs, and support emerging startups in Montgomery County. 

To showcase how students at USG have benefitted from the Entrepreneurship Lab since its inception in 2020, we asked three students to share their own experiences with the activities offered by the lab:

Camelia Khansari, University of Maryland College Park, Robert H. Smith School of Business
B.S. in Management

Camelia participated in our Social Innovation Hackathon and is now enrolled in IDEA430: Creating Your Own Venture, a 3-credit course led by Lab Director Marc Steren.

“All the activities helped me to build a team spirit, as I typically like to work alone. I really enjoyed working in teams and I was able to collaborate and learn from others…I was able to further develop my communication skills through the final presentations during this [Social Innovation Hackathon] competition,” said Khansari. 
As someone who often prefers to work alone, the Hackathon helped Khansari improve her collaboration and public speaking skills —  both of which are very critical for any educational and professional setting.

Tim Andrianarison,
University of Maryland College Park, Robert H. Smith School of Business
B.S. in Accounting

Tim was a student in IDEA430 last year. During the class, he founded his non-profit organization called Malagasy in the U.S.A. (MUSA), which serves to promote the Malagasy culture, their talents and projects. Tim was later accepted to the Equity Incubator where he won $1,000.

“Before my connection with the lab I hadn’t really had any entrepreneurship experiences,” Andrianarison remarked. “When I took IDEA430 I was able to help co-found a non-profit called MUSA where our goal is to connect and empower Malagasy community here in the United States and all around the world.” 
Andrianarison hopes that this entrepreneurial experience will prepare him for launching his own  financial advising firm for underrepresented minorities in the future. “I really plan to use these entrepreneurial aspects for the rest of my life,” said Andrianarison.

Francisco Cartagena,
UMBC, M.P.S in Cybersecurity

Francisco participated in the Social Innovation Hackathon and has sought guidance from Marc Steren during the open office hours every Tuesday at the lab. His experience with the lab helped him gain a different perspective that proved to be beneficial in his current job.

“My participation at the lab changed how I approach problems and solutions. I was able to see things through a different lens and it really prepared me for my current job, where I’m an IT project manager. Having a business mentality is critical for thinking through how to improve business processes and knowing how to measure impacts that affect costs.” said Cartegena.

Entrepreneurial skills can be applied to any career path or field of study and are highly sought after by employers. Even if you do not plan to create your own business, developing your entrepreneurial mindset can set you apart from others in the job market.

Katherine Zmoda, Program Manager, USG’s Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership
Tchuissi Mbu Nyamsi, Intern at USG’s Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership and M.P.S. Data Science student at UMBC-Shady Grove

Programs and activities at the Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership are open to students from any academic program. Please stop by to check out our space in the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering building (Building IV), Room 3137 and learn more about our offerings! You can also visit our webpage to learn more.

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