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.
Getting Involved Through the GSA. Guest Post: Alyssa Berrios, Alum and Current Graduate Student from UMD at USG
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit go.umd.edu/medstem.
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 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 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 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.
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.
Happy Spring Semester, everyone!
I know it seems unimaginable that nearly two years into this pandemic, we are still unfortunately having to plan our lives around the COVID-19 virus.
And now, as we continue to deal with the Omicron variant, we find ourselves once again operating at USG on a mostly virtual basis until February 7. Most classes will be offered online through at least that time and our services and on-campus functions will be delivered on a remote basis. There will be some limited exceptions for a small number of classes that may require the use of lab facilities.
We know and understand how frustrating this is for everyone.
However, as always, our primary concern is to do all we can to keep everyone within our campus community safe and healthy. That’s why we took this two-week pause until cases of the virus would begin to level off and to give everyone a chance to get tested or to get their vaccine booster shots.
Our plan right now is to resume on-campus operations on Monday, February 7. We look forward to welcoming back students, staff and faculty at that time. If, for any reason involving the virus, we find that we may need to postpone that return date, we will notify you.
But as of right now, I look forward to seeing many of you back on campus, beginning the week of February 7.
Of course, we will still be requiring everyone to wear masks – KN95 when in classes and in close contact with others. And if you need a mask, you will be able to find them at our security desks in buildings 3 and 4.
We also expect everyone to be in compliance with the vaccine requirement of the University System of Maryland and to be up-to-date on booster shots, as soon as you are eligible.
We ask that you take a COVID test within 24-48 hours of your return to campus and that you can confirm that the test is negative.
Throughout the semester, we will have COVID-19 PCR testing clinics on campus three times a week in the BSE building.
Two of the clinics will be exclusively for members of the USG community on Mondays and Thursdays. And on Wednesdays, we will continue to host the clinic that is operated by Montgomery County Health and Human Services, and open to the general public.
You can find more details about the testing clinic hours and location, and plenty of other information about our operations during COVID-19 on our website… on the USG Onward page.
Despite the continuing challenges brought on by the pandemic, we are looking forward to a great semester and 2022.
Students, we are here to support you in your educational journey at USG, every step of the way. As we speak, we are putting the finishing touches on a new strategic plan for USG – which I call “USG 2.0.”
While this plan will help us to chart an exciting new future for our institution, at the center of it always is the student experience… and how we support and enhance the success of all students from our nine university partners.
The USG team and all of our partner university staff and faculty are all here to make sure that your USG experience is a memorable and successful one.
Please take advantage of all that USG has to offer. Join a student organization. Make use of the outstanding services of our Priddy Library, our student and academic service centers, our information technology team, our recreation center and our study rooms.
Have a great semester and to those who may be nearing graduation time in May, best wishes for a great home stretch! Let us know how we can help in anyway. USG is here to serve you.
Anne Khademian, Ph.D.
Executive Director, USG, & Associate Vice Chancellor, University System of Maryland
Although this year has been challenging, we are sincerely thankful to all the staff, partner university faculty, our many friends in the community, our generous donors and of course, the students at USG.
Happy Holidays, everyone! We look forward to a great year together in 2022!
This holiday season, please consider a gift to the General Scholarship fund, and help us support students at USG by providing the financial assistance they need for tuition and fees. When making your donation, select “General Scholarship” from the drop down menu.
First Year Reflections: The Launch of UMBC’s Computer Science Program During the Pandemic. Guest Post: Sam Angell from UMBC
Blog post by: Sam Angell
At first it seemed like a straightforward plan. UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove was going to be introducing Computer Science as a sixth undergraduate program for the 2020-21 academic year. It was coming shortly after the introduction of Translational Life Science Technology (TLST) as the fifth program, so while all involved knew it would be an intensive process, the guideposts were in place.
And then, 2020 actually happened.
We all know what that meant for the world and UMBC, but on top of all the lifestyle and societal shifts taking place, there was even more to negotiate for Jeannette Kartchner and the UMBC-Shady Grove Computer Science implementation team.
“One of the advantages of being here at Shady Grove is that this is close to where the students live,” Kartchner said. “But being in an online environment, it didn’t really matter where you lived. So some of the things that were pros for our program weren’t exactly applicable to the timeline when we were launching the program. We were expecting a lot more students to be starting off [last year], but there were a lot of prospective students who were hesitant about starting in that virtual environment.”
Kartchner came to UMBC in 2019, a year before the program was due to get off the ground. She applied for a lecturer position knowing that there could be expansion to the Shady Grove campus, and was tapped as the Assistant Undergraduate Program Director for Computer Science thanks in part to her 20 years of experience at Montgomery College. “I had a good understanding of the program and what we’d need [at Shady Grove],” she said. “It was a good fit for me.”
Though much of the groundwork for the program had been laid before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, 2020, there was still a lot of work to be done promoting the program and making it real in the eyes of prospective students. That was all complicated by the new reality.
“I visited a lot of classes online to tell them about the program, but the online setting isn’t ideal for that,” Kartchner remembered. “Anytime you’re trying to start something new with so many variables, it’s hard for students to visualize what the program is going to be all about. But students are starting to become aware that the program is here and is another option for them to pursue.”
For that unpredictable first year, Kartchner was also carrying a sizeable load as an instructor within Computer Science. Along with Dr. Mya Larson, she split the course load for the first year of the program. She was also assisted on the recruitment side by Academic Advisor Kim Casimbon, who also joined the UMBC team in 2019.
“Kim has been fantastic,” Kartchner said. “She is the first point of contact that the students make, so she’s always encouraging them to meet with her for pre-transfer advising, even if they’re more than a year away from coming here. She wants to get them on the right path with all the classes that they’ll need, and answering any questions that they have. Even while we were virtual, she met with more than 50 prospective students last spring.”
Now, in Year Two for the Computer Science program, things are starting to resemble the original plan. “All of our in-person courses are in the beautiful new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education Facility,” Kartchner happily pointed out. “It’s a fabulous building. And it’s nice to just be in the same room [as the students]. I’d taught some of them for a year without actually meeting them. That feeling that you get when you’re on campus is exciting, and they missed out on that for over a year and so did we as professors.”
It was not the first year that Kartchner or anyone else envisioned for the Computer Science program at UMBC-Shady Grove. But she and her team made the best of the situation, and are excited about the future for the program at Shady Grove.
Classroom Conversations: Solving “Essential” Public Health Problems at USG. Guest Post: Adam Binkley from MCAS
A pizza eating pizza. I realize this mental image isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of a capstone writing class focused on rigorous academic research and engaging in scholarly conversations. Still, this was the scene the Thursday before Halloween, as I arrived to class in my cheesy (pun definitely intended) pizza costume with two boxes of my tasty counterpart, cheese in one hand and pepperoni in the other.
I suppose food had been on my mind. Just a few weeks prior, Derek Russell from the Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF) stopped by our class to talk about Grover Essentials and how USG is tackling the issue of food insecurity here on campus.
You might be thinking, “Grover? You mean the super-heroic blue muppet?”
Here at Shady Grove, Grover is actually a reference to Grover the Llama, our official unofficial mascot. And Grover Essentials is USG’s answer to food insecurity and hunger prevalent on campus. Opened in August of 2018, Grover Essentials is a food and toiletry pantry open to all members of the USG community.
As a staff member, it has been awesome to see the evolution of this program, from a few densely packed shelves of canned goods to sleek lockers perfect for easy and anonymous pickup. During the pandemic, Grover Essentials became Grover to Go, prioritizing safe distribution of items to help those in need.
Many of my students hadn’t heard of this program, and the classroom conversation facilitated by Derek was an ideal fit for the issues we’re discussing each week in class. You see, Grover Essentials isn’t just a service being offered on campus—it’s a shining example of how USG has created an innovative solution to a public health issue right here on campus. By collaborating with community partners like Manna Food Distribution Center and taking a research-based approach, the CSEF team has done a fantastic job of providing basic needs to promote the well-being of our students and campus community.
Derek brought the data—did you know 36% of students at USG worry about how they’ll pay for their next meal? Between August 1-October 31st, Grover to Go served over 85 unique students and distributed 310 bags of food or toiletries.
This framing of a public health problem and potential solutions aligned with the exact type of work we’re doing in the capstone papers. As a class, it was energizing to think about ways we could build on this program and use it as a model to further benefit our campus and beyond. I know Derek, CSEF, and Grover Essentials helped make a strong connection between researching existing interventions and building recommendations to addressing the biggest issues in our communities.
If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to check out Grover Essentials. Here you can learn more about the program and donate funds or items via their Amazon Wishlist.
And, just like my last blog, the invitation is open to track me down on campus or in a virtual space to continue the conversation about USG, public health, and the way our educational experiences extend beyond the classroom.
Hey, maybe we can even grab some slices of pizza. Only this time I promise I won’t look like one.