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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


Jen headshot 1

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

Adam headshot

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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Celebrating Women in STEMM: Inspiring Innovation


Parisa Meisami, STEMM Services Coordinator, Center for Academic Success (CAS)

The Student and Academic Services at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), will host its annual event: “Celebrating Women in STEM: Inspiring Innovation, 2019” on October 3, 2019, from 3:00-7:00pm.

The event is a mini-symposium focusing on research insights and career pathways for women in STEMM (second M for Medicine).  We will have a panel presentation with discussion and a networking session for students and attendees.

With the upcoming opening of the new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (BSE) facility, USG’s partner universities will be able to bring additional STEMM degrees to this campus and region in the coming years.

Let’s bring together bright minds and kind hearts, and inspire emerging scientists and students and make strong meaningful connections among all attendees!

Keynote Speaker: Carla Easter, Ph.D.
Chief, Education and Community Involvement Branch
National Human Genome Research Institute

Panel Moderator: Hadiya Woodham, Ph.D.
Program Director, Biological Sciences
University of Maryland, College Park at USG

The featured panelist are:
– Kandice Tanner Ph.D. (NIH Stadtman Investigator Head, Tissue Morphodynamics Unit)

– Oldooz Hazrati, Ph.D. (Senior Staff Fellow at FDA)

– Luz J Martinez-Miranda, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering at UMD, Maryland Energy Innovation Institute)

Chair of Networking Session: Mina Izadjoo, Ph.D.
President and Chief Science Officer
Integrated Pharma Services

We are asking all attendees to please RSVP.

Women In Stem Event Flyer_Final2_KL

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Are you robot-proof? Guest Blogger: Tetyana Bezbabna, Assistant Director UMD Information Science


Tetyana Bezbabna, Assistant Director, UMD Information Science

In the 21st century, robots can mimic human intelligence and can do anything: interpreting medical images, scanning resumes, manufacturing automobiles, collecting data on people, and even building other robots! Robots do the same work as humans but much faster and with minimum mistakes. Therefore, many companies are replacing their human labor with machines to optimize their production and make it more cost-efficient. Numerous studies have shown that 40-50% of jobs done by humans today may be eliminated in the next two decades by robots and AI-powered machines.

Have you thought about a robot being able to do your job? Would it be more efficient and productive at it? Should you worry about the chance of an AI machine replacing you?  What skills you need to learn and master to make yourself robot-proof, making sure no robot is as successful as you are when performing your responsibilities. The University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) Bachelor of Science in Information Science (InfoSci) program offered at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) will help you answer those questions and gain the necessary skills and proper qualifications to differentiate yourself from AI-powered machines, securing your job and helping you advance professionally.

Data Visualization

Our academic program teaches students the skills from three following areas, making sure they are competitive in a current job market:

  • Creative thinking and continuous innovation — we teach our students to have a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to adopt, invent, discover, and create novel technology and information solutions valuable to organizations and our society as a whole.
  • Effective teamwork and strategic leadership — our students are taught to work in teams, motivate their team members, and lead their teams to success.
  • Human, data, and technology literacy — our students do not only know how to effectively work with computers, but also how to successfully work with people and use available data and information to make strategic decisions.

Group Brainstorming

InfoSci is a multidisciplinary program which combines knowledge from computer science, data and information science, management, and user experience. Therefore, whether you want to work with data to discover and visualize novel solutions to organizational problems or lead a team in designing, developing, or deploying an information system, an InfoSci degree from UMD will help you achieve your professional goals. In our courses, students learn a great variety of skills by undertaking different organizational roles including the role of a creative designer — responsible for building a system prototype, business analyst — responsible for gathering system’s business requirements and translating those into user stories, or developer — responsible for building the actual system based on communicated system requirements.

Contact us today at usginfosci@umd.edu to discuss your professional interests, and the ways our program can help you work towards achieving those. Join us today to ensure your career in the future!


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Human Trafficking…Exposed. Guest Post: Dr. Wendy Stickle, Program Director, UMD Criminology & Criminal Justice

Wendy Stickle

Dr. Wendy Stickle, Program Director of the University of Maryland, College Park Criminology and Criminal Justice program at USG

Human trafficking.  Prostitution.  Child labor. Exploitation.  These are words we have all heard.  These are words we often attribute to far off, exotic places.  Maybe Vietnam? India? Russia? Places that aren’t as developed and modern as the United States.  Not as wealthy as Montgomery County.  Those who make these assumptions are partially correct. Human trafficking occurs in Eastern Europe. It is happening in South East Asia.  But, it is also happening here in Montgomery County. It is occurring in every state in the United States.  If confirmation is needed, consider the recent arrest of Emily Zhang.  After a four-month investigation by the Montgomery County Police’s Vice and Intelligent Unit, Ms. Zhang was arrested for prostitution and human trafficking.

Like most people, I also didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the world’s human trafficking problem. It wasn’t until I was asked to teach a course on the topic in 2014 that it really hit home.  Human trafficking is occurring in every country, on every continent in the world.  Corruption, demand, and fortune are just a few factors that explain how this could be.  Once I finally digested this knowledge, I was overwhelmed, almost suffocating.  How could slavery still exist? What could I to do about it? I struggled with this last question.  I couldn’t give money to every worthy organization. I couldn’t travel to work exposing the traffickers and those complicit in the crime of trafficking. What I could do, however, was raise awareness.  I could make people realize this crime is occurring in their own backyards.  Help people understand the signs of trafficking, hopefully increase the reporting of this often invisible crime.

Human Trafficking book.jpgIn this effort to raise awareness, I began teaching a semester-long course on human trafficking—the first at the University of Maryland, College Park.  My colleague and I developed a study abroad course, taking students around the world, to see for themselves how this crime occurs.  I am the Chair of the Montgomery County Human Trafficking Committee’s Education and Outreach subcommittee. And most recently, I co-authored the first textbook on human trafficking from the criminology/criminal-justice perspective.  It is my hope that this book will land in the hands of many.  Students and those interested around the country, will gain a better understanding of the complexities that allow for this crime to occur.

Stickle Class

Dr. Stickle and her students studying the intersection between
 refugee status and human trafficking in South Italy, July 2019.

I work in higher education to expose students to ideas, opportunities, and challenges they may have never considered.  Whether it be through a book, in the classroom, or places like Thailand, Cambodia, Italy, and next summer, South Africa, I hope that I am empowering all of my students to be informed and to be pioneers of change.  This generation will have the ability to not only demand, but create change towards a more just world where human trafficking does not exist.

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Sign Up. Stand Out. Guest Post: Shelby Speer, Graduate Student Services Coordinator


Shelby Speer, Graduate Student Services Coordinator

Want to develop some superb skills that will make you stand out to employers? My name is Shelby Speer, and I am the Graduate Student Services Coordinator here at USG. I am also the main coordinator of leadership programming, and wanted to tell you a little bit about some great opportunities that you should take advantage of.

First, register for the #USGLeads Leadership Symposium on September 18. At this event, you will hear from experts and engage in activities designed to increase your leadership proficiencies. Our keynote speaker is Tony Spearman-Leach, the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for Make-a-Wish Mid-Atlantic. He will be followed by an activity where you will learn how to make the most your online presence. Next, you will choose from three workshops on different leadership topics.

Next, sign up to complete a nationally-recognized Emerging Leadership Badge! This self-paced achievement will encourage you to apply leadership development theory to activities that you may already be doing. It only takes about 15 hours to complete, and you’ll receive a certificate and gift at the Student Engagement Recognition Awards ceremony. Already completed this badge? Apply for the Expanding Leadership Badge! Enrollment is encouraged by September 15, though applications are rolling.

Finally, I am excited to announce the launch of the Interculturalist Badge: the first in the state! You can either complete this at your own pace like the leadership badges, or in conjunction with the in-person Leadership and Diversity Learning Series. Sign up today!

We hope that you will engage in one or more of these rewarding opportunities: in addition to looking great on your resume, they will help you to expand your co-curricular opportunities at USG. Please feel free contact me with any questions at srspeer@umd.edu.


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