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.
“Wait, why are all those schools listed here?” Guest Post Michael Schlitzer, UMBC Data Science Graduate Student
Now, I’ve already stated in this blog that, until I enrolled in classes at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) two years ago, I did not know exactly what USG was. But, after two years of taking remote classes at USG, and hosting the Graduation Celebration earlier in May, that was the FIRST question both my parents and my wife had when watching the introduction video for USG. So, I explained the benefits of USG with passion, and it dawned on me that you might be investigating higher education opportunities in the DC area, or maybe the mighty Google algorithm has randomly served this blog up and here you are. You might be asking yourself the same question my family was asking me: “Just what exactly is the Universities at Shady Grove?”
First of all, it’s not a University in and of itself, it’s a non-residential campus that houses programs from 9 universities from the University of Maryland System. So, you get accepted into and enroll in one of the 9 universities, but you go to USG to take your classes. It’s sort of like a timeshare for schools.
But USG is not a “satellite campus” like many universities have (University of Virginia – Wise or University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, as examples); it is simply another location where students can take classes from their home institution. If you take classes from Salisbury University at USG, your degree won’t say Salisbury University – Shady Grove, it just says Salisbury University. You’re not a “sort-of” Seagull, you’re a fully-fledged Seagull (I hope you see what I did there, ornithologically speaking!).
Second, USG is much richer because of that diversity. To some extent, we are all prisoners of time and physical geography. University of Baltimore (UB) has a great program in Forensic Science and Cyber Investigations, but if you live in Montgomery County and work in Northern Virginia, the fact that Baltimore is “only” 40 miles away from DC is cold comfort. It can take hours to make that drive during rush hour, so that great UB program might as well be in Boston. And forget about traveling between Salisbury University or Towson University and Montgomery County for a Tuesday night class! USG solves that problem by providing in-person instruction from the best programs in the University of Maryland system close to where you live and work.
The third reason that USG is so valuable is because it is a physical campus. Now, during COVID, we have all had to adjust and adapt to full-time distance learning, but there is something really useful about in-person instruction. If you have the ability to receive instruction, ask your questions, and interact with your peers in-person, most people would pick that as an option. It’s a great value for your investment.
The fourth reason that I think USG is such a great value is that it is not a residential campus. Let’s face it, paying money to live, eat, and spend money someplace else for 8 months out of the year is an unthinkable luxury for many people. For most families it involves taking on a pretty significant amount of debt, and that’s often out of reach. Other people have family commitments that prevent them from leaving home for such a long period of time, and some people may simply need the support mechanisms that their home environment provides in order to reach their full potential at their own pace. I think we all know of people who “went away” to college, incurred a substantial amount of debt, and left that school without a degree.
Education is almost never wasted, but that model of spending a lot of money without a tangible return on the investment is not particularly cost effective, and it is really only sustainable for lenders, not borrowers. For those reasons alone, USG may be the best value in higher education in the State of Maryland. The pathway from Montgomery College to any one of nine universities all across Maryland all without needing to leave Montgomery County, is a road that can give you all the riches that higher education brings without the risks to your family’s finances and, let’s face it, your own ego.
Now, none of that is to say that a university education comes easy – whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate student, the USG campus doesn’t offer a substandard education. You are going to have to work hard, maybe harder than you have ever worked before, but for many of us, it’s easier to focus and work hard on school when those other things that would cloud our minds and distract us with worry can be managed.
So, why, indeed, are all of these schools here? It’s really because the State of Maryland had the foresight to put the best that they have to offer in one place at USG.
USG is your education, served on a silver platter.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will undoubtedly shape the course of technology across fields, ranging from health care to self-driving cars, to financial investing. Data scientists and statisticians remain the oft-unsung heroes of the AI boom as they play a key role in extracting insights from complex datasets to design the algorithms and data processing methodologies that – put simply – make AI more intelligent.
But what draws someone to data science in the first place? Is a childhood love of math enough to drum up dreams of data mining and analysis?
“If you talk to middle school kids and ask them what they want to do when they grow up, surprisingly, nobody [would raise] their hand and say, ‘Data scientist!’ It’s not necessarily on their radar,” said Delfi Diagnostics co-founder and Head of Data Sciences Robert Scharpf during a recent webinar hosted by the University of Maryland’s Biocomputational Engineering degree program at the Universities at Shady Grove campus. “I started out more in traditional biology in basic science research and became more interested in data analysis than in laboratory experiments that were used to generate the data. And, that led me to a biostatistics program.”
Delfi Diagnostics is a Baltimore-based company committed to developing high-performing, affordable blood tests for early detection of cancer across multiple tumor types. Delfi’s technology utilizes low-cost, widely available sequencing technology and taps cell-free DNA fragments in the bloodstream for clues about whether a person may have early-stage cancer.
As manager of biomedical engineering & sciences at Exponent Christie Bergerson described in the same event – artificial intelligence represents the wider universe, and machine learning a portion of that universe. “Machine learning can be what’s considered supervised, unsupervised, or semi-supervised depending on the algorithms,” she said. “‘Unsupervised learning’ is where you let the algorithm find patterns for itself, and it’s potentially the scariest because it is the least controlled. But, it is also potentially the most useful because computers see things differently than humans. They have access to different data points.”
For those looking to branch into the world of AI and machine learning, a degree that merges biology, data science, and programming could be the gateway.
“The foundations of machine learning have their roots in statistics and computer science,” Bergerson said. “I encourage people to think beyond their bachelor’s degree about what would present them with the most opportunities for collaboration and mentorship from faculty – such as [deciding between] in-person and online programs. [Students in the latter] might miss out on those opportunities.”
If you’re interested in enrolling in a program that could set you on the path to a career in AI, the University of Maryland’s Biocomputational Engineering B.S. degree program may be the perfect fit for you!
By enrolling in this cutting-edge program, you’ll work toward your University of Maryland bachelor’s degree while studying at The Universities at Shady Grove campus – home to the new, state-of-the-art Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education Facility. Here, you’ll not only work at the nexus of biology, engineering, data science, and computer programming, but you’ll network with STEM students and researchers from dozens of University System of Maryland programs.
The best – and easiest – way to initiate the Biocomputational Engineering degree application process is to book a meeting with our program coordinator, Emily Bailey, who can walk you through your personalized pathway – especially if you’re interested in enrolling in the fall of 2021 or spring of 2022.Apply to the University of Maryland’s B.S. in Biocomputational Engineering degree program to jumpstart your career today!
By: Dr. Wendy Stickle
The University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS) and the UMD Information Science Program are excited to be offering three new minors at USG this Fall! You may be asking, why should I complete a minor? There are so many reasons, including:
- Being more purposeful in filling elective credit, which will be reflected on transcript;
- Opening up doors to additional career and graduate study options;
- A quick way to specialize in a specific field without the longer commitment of a major;
- A way to study a topic that students may be interested in but do not want to pursue a career in.
All UMD students at USG are eligible to add a minor. It is possible to complete minors within two years. If necessary, minor courses can be completed during the summer and winter sessions as well.
If you are a UMD student at USG, you will have three minors to choose from this Fall:
- Minor in Criminal Justice: The Minor in Criminal Justice offers non-CCJS UMD majors at Shady Grove the opportunity to learn more about the criminal justice system and the challenges it faces. Students who complete the minor will have a better understanding of how the criminal justice system, including police, courts, and corrections, operates, its strengths and weaknesses. Students will also have the opportunity to be exposed to emerging topics such as forensics, homeland security, elder abuse and human trafficking. This minor is perfect for anyone looking to better understand the criminal justice system, a topic so commonly brought up in the media, in elections, etc. Questions? Email: email@example.com
- Minor in Technology Innovation Leadership: By combining creative leadership, design thinking and understanding socio technical challenges, this undergraduate minor prepares students to tackle large scale problems relating to technology innovation. While using innovative thinking approaches, students will learn to create new ideas and energy and solve socio technical challenges through leadership experiences. Questions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Minor in Information Risk Management, Ethics, & Privacy: This undergraduate minor prepares students to evaluate major information and big data privacy and security issues that businesses and individuals encounter. Students will focus on practical strategies to mitigate risks and explore the ways emerging technologies benefit in the context of risk management, ethics, and privacy. Questions? Email: email@example.com
Join us for an info session to learn more on April 29, 2021! Register for the Info Session here: HTTPS://GO.UMD.EDU/UMD-SG-MINORS.
Driving Change Through USG’s Graduate Student Association. Guest Post: Abi Shitta-Bey, UMCP, MBA Smith School Student at USG
My name is Abi Shitta-Bey and I am a second-year MBA student studying at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) campus. As a Double Terp, I also studied at UMCP during undergrad, graduating with a double degree in Marketing and Supply Chain Management. I remember first learning about USG during a Smith school event during my freshman year in undergrad, and thought to myself how beautiful the campus was. Fast forward nearly 10 years, and here we are!
As an undergraduate, I was extremely involved, serving on various executive boards for both social and academic clubs, joining Greek life, serving as an ambassador for the Smith school, and even working as a Resident Assistant. Being involved on campus was important to me because I wanted to take advantage of the “college experience” — personal freedom, relationship-building, personal growth and trying as many new things as possible.
After graduation, life took a turn and I actually joined Teach For America (TFA), teaching in Texas for four years, which included an additional two years beyond my TFA commitment because I loved everything about teaching.
It’s interesting how we follow a path that makes us happy, but we also realize that there are other paths in life that may provide a different sense of happiness, hence why I decided to pursue an MBA. Through USG, I’ve been exposed to more than I could’ve imagined.
In the time I was teaching, I was so focused on working and my school community, so I vowed to myself that when I started my graduate program, I would be as involved as I could handle as a part-time student. That eventually led me to USG’s Graduate Student Association (GSA), which has been absolutely fantastic.
With USG’s nine associated universities, the GSA was created as a means to increase graduate student involvement, and foster connections with students at these different universities. Through the GSA, I’ve been able to attend women empowerment events, serve as a member of the Graduate Student Association Advisory Board, providing input and feedback on the USG campus, and being in spaces with other GSA leaders, serving as a voice for the students and possessing the ability to make change. One of my favorite experiences as a GSA member was serving as the liaison between the Diversity Learning Series and the GSA. The series provided us with an opportunity to have real conversations about our identities, where we come from and discuss hot topic issues in a safe and welcoming space.
Being on the GSA has connected me with wonderful students, amazing staff members, and a wide array of services that exist solely to support us as graduate students.
If what I’ve mentioned about the GSA sounds like it would be a great fit for you, definitely consider applying for the 2021-2022 academic school year — the priority deadline is May 31, and we’d love to have leaders on board who are looking to grow, connect and ultimately drive change!
What is information science? Why it is important? What are the typical career paths for information science majors?
As the Assistant Director for the University of Maryland, College Park’s undergraduate Information Science program offered at the Shady Grove campus, I get these questions often.
The study of information science focuses on the following:
- Data and information collection, analysis, manipulation, storage, retrieval, visualization, and dissemination;
- The application and usage of information and data by people, organizations, and society; and
- Interactions between technologies, information, and people including identifying the most efficient ways for those three areas to work together.
Information science is often considered a branch of computer science, which is actually not correct. Unlike computer science, information science is interdisciplinary and incorporates not only aspects of computer science, but also cognitive and social sciences, including economics, psychology, communication, artificial intelligence, etc. In addition to coding, information science professionals are experts in organizational practices and strategies, as well as technology solutions supporting people behavior, information, and knowledge sharing. They are well equipped to deal with all the challenges and opportunities presented by this digital era coming from various disciplines including business, education, healthcare, and others.
According to the iSchool Inclusion Institute, information science helps people “discover better information, design and use better technology, and make better decisions to solve problems.” Let’s break that down:
- Discover better information. Daily, we receive about 105,000 words/23 words per second through social media platforms, TV, radio, and print media. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025 “463 exabytes of data will be created each day globally – the equivalent of 212,765,957 DVDs per day.” What information do we need to pay attention to? What do we need to ignore? Information science professionals are well equipped in helping people and organizations browse through all the information and data, and locate the most reliable, unbiased, and correct information sources to further utilize in communications and decision-making processes.
- Design and use better technology. Information science professionals are experts in analyzing current technology solutions and assessing their support of the company’s goals, mission, and vision. Also, information scientists bridge the communication gap that exists between a company’s IT and business teams by facilitating the conversation, translating business challenges to technology teams (or technical terms to business people), and work to get everyone aligned from the very first requirements gathering meeting, all the way to product delivery.
- Make better decisions. Data enables companies to create new business opportunities, generate more revenue, predict future trends, and optimize current operational strategies. Information scientists facilitate and promote data-driven decision-making. Instead of basing decisions on intuition and observations alone, information science professionals encourage and help companies leverage various data analysis techniques and methods to support organizational decisions.
So, what are some of the typical career paths of information science majors? The following is a list of the most common job titles among information science graduates:
- Data Analyst or Data Scientist
- Database Administrator
- User Experience/Interface Designer
- Content Management Specialist
- Systems Architect
- Data Architect
- Project Manager/Business Analyst
- Information Security Specialist
Interested in learning more about UMCP’s Information Science undergraduate program offered at the Shady Grove?Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the program, or to set up a pre-advising appointment.Our cohort-based program provides curricular and extra-curricular activities to support our students and ensure their success. You will learn skills and credentials to launch a successful career as an Information Science professional in all types of organizations, including government institutions, non-profits, educational and cultural institutions, the private sector, and the intelligence community.
Bilton, Nick. (December 9, 2009). Part of the Daily American Diet, 34 Gigabytes of Data. The New York Times.
Andrea, Harris. The Human Brain is Loaded Daily with 34 GB of Information. Tech 21 Century.
The iSchool Inclusion Institute. What are the Information Sciences?
Desjardins, Jeff. (April 17, 2019). How Much Data is Generated Each Day? World Economic Forum.
I know I speak for everyone within the Universities at Shady Grove community when I say the increase we have been seeing nationally in hate speech and violence directed toward Asian Americans is both concerning and deplorable. Anti-Asian hate and violence is not new, unfortunately, but there is no question that the recent trend, over the past year, is especially troubling.
As part of our USG mission statement, we also identify our core values, which include Diversity and Inclusion. It notes: “USG values diversity in all of its forms, fostering a climate grounded in respect, civility and inclusion. Along with its nine academic partners, USG strives to create an educational and social environment that affirms the dignity, value and uniqueness of each person. USG embraces its responsibility to provide a safe and respectful learning and work environment where diversity is celebrated, affirmed and vigorously pursued.”
We are firmly committed to ensuring that we live by these values each day, as educators and colleagues – especially when anyone within our community is in fear of being on the receiving end of hate crimes or hate speech.
Education plays such an important role in eradicating racism in any form. Our Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF) will be sharing a variety of helpful resources for students and others within the USG community through their diversity listserv. I would encourage members of the USG community to subscribe to the listserv here.
Anne Khademian, Ph.D.
Executive Director, USG, & Associate Vice Chancellor, University System of Maryland
Making the Most of Virtual Connections. Guest Post: Michael Schlitzer, UMBC Data Science Graduate Student
Do you remember your first day of school ever? Do you remember the excitement that you felt? The smiles? The nerves? Can you remember what it was like to have your parent walk you to your first-grade class and then *gasp* leave you to stay there all day?
Now, do you remember your first day of class at USG? Maybe you were a little less excited, but I’ll bet you remember the nervousness anticipation while you tried to find the classroom and then waited for the professor to walk into the room?
Well, imagine that your professor walked to the head of room, but never turned around. She just stands there, with her back to you, and begins to lecture.
Right away you would think that was a little odd, wouldn’t you? She thinks it’s a little odd too because she says “You don’t need to see me. Besides, my hair is a mess!”
It’s hard to imagine that scenario “in real life” and yet, that approach seems to be what we expect as a baseline during COVID, and not just from our professors, but also from each other. We’ll FaceTime with our friends and go on TikTok until the cows come home but be on camera in class?!
I sat in on my first video conference all the way back in 1987 and have worked in various aspects of the Audio Visual and video conferencing industries since 1993. Building teams when team members are geographically distributed – like we all are now, during COVID – is a skill that I have been developing over my entire career, and it is one that I think will help you get the most out of your USG experience during COVID. And who knows, it will probably help you professionally as well because even when thing get “back to normal” remote work is going to be an enormous part of the job market equation, so it’s a good idea to practice now.
The disconnect between the adoption rates of personal and professional technology is fairly astounding. College-age students almost don’t remember a time when they couldn’t see the people they were talking to on their phones, but when they get to class (or work) all of a sudden they become camera shy.
We connect to the physical presence of people, not to names on a screen. As a student, you want your professors to know who you are! And professors, you are the stars of the show – you are why we, the students, are here; we would really like to see you. One of the best parts of the college experience is getting to know your classmates and you just can’t really know someone that you’ve never seen.
Maybe you don’t need your camera on all the time, but if you are speaking, or working in a small group or a team, or participating in a USG student event it really is a best practice to turn on your camera – that’s exactly how it would be on campus, so why is it so scary from a distance?
I want to share two remote access experiences that were made possible by the magic of video conferencing at USG.
USG has lots of student events that are a lot of fun, including virtual ones that you can find out about here. Over the winter I attended a caricature drawing event and got to meet all sorts of nice people while we all had our worst physical features exaggerated for fun. My favorite part of that event was finding out why students chose USG for their education – it was very informative and helped us to connect.
The other experiences in this strange COVID time at USG came over the summer when I worked on a team with my classmate Isabelle. We met several times a week in that short semester to work on our project and we always had our cameras on as we worked together and got to know each other. I saw her kids and pets, she saw (and heard) mine, and we did well on our project, while learning about each other. So, when I joined a class this Spring and saw Isabelle’s name, we had a genuine reunion; we were happy to see each other again.
Video is important to human communications. Without it, FaceTime would be just… Time and TikTok would be just… I don’t know, Tok? Whatever it would be, it would be much less entertaining.
Here’s a true statement: people are more important than things. Don’t let COVID rob you of the best part of the USG experience: connecting with people from all over the world, right here in Montgomery County, Maryland.