My Journey to USG. Guest Post: Michael Schlitzer, UMBC Data Science Graduate Student 

Michael Schlitzer, UMBC Data Science Graduate Student 

Every state in the union has a motto, a statement of purpose.  Some of them are excellent, while others are a bit unusual.  Virginia’s motto, emblazoned on its flag is Sic Semper Tyrranis, or “Thus Always to Tyrants”.  New Mexico’s is the rather odd Crescit eundo, or “It grows as it goes”.  Maryland’s state motto is Fatti maschii, parole femine, which, although it can be translated differently, means roughly “Manly deeds, womanly words”.  So, while there’s quite a range, a motto is really just a statement of purpose, an easy to remember reminder of why you are doing what you’re doing.  It helps to keep you focused on your goals when the going gets tough.  So, do you have a motto for your academic journey at the Universities at Shady Grove

My academic journey to USG was a long and winding one.  My original dreams were interrupted many years ago by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which then took me on a pleasant detour with a nice career and wonderful family – I even appeared on Jeopardy!  (that’s me on the left).  But, I always wanted to learn more and was a voracious reader.  Then, a few years ago I decided to see if I could learn how to write code and I started with a Coursera Course called “Web Design for Everybody” with the wonderful professor Colleen Van Lendt.  I loved that class, and it led to another class and another, and then another, until I was ¾ of the way through a Coursera specialization in Data Science from the University of Michigan.  By that point I had learned the Python programming language and told my wife: “You know what?  I really like this.  I think I might like to study this formally.”  And so, with her encouragement, I began to look at different graduate programs, but I was nervous about taking this step so late in my life.

And then, serendipitously, I heard a radio commercial for graduate degrees in Data Science from UMBC at their Shady Grove campus.  UMBC?  My alma mater?  I love UMBC!  At Shady Grove?  Wow, that’s not too far from me!  I think this just might work!  And it did work out.  I’ll finish my MPS in Data Science this Spring.

So, that leads me to my first motto from the state of California: Eureka!, I have found it!  As you take your classes at USG, have you found “it” yet?  Whether you’re here as an undergraduate or a graduate student, what is it that excites you?  What subject makes others groan, but makes you want to dig in and learn more?  Whatever that is, whatever it is that sparks your interest, that is your unique Eureka! 

Once you have that Eureka moment, then you move to my favorite motto of all, the motto from the great state of New York: Excelsior!, Onward and upward!  I like the motto so much that my oldest daughter gave me a keychain with Excelsior! engraved on it; it is one of my most prized possessions and a constant reminder not to settle, but to keep moving forward.

Never ever be afraid to succeed.  Once you have found the thing that you love, pursue it with all your heart.  Drive onward and upward and achieve things that you might never have thought possible before.  Don’t let your past performance (before your Eureka! moment) weigh you down either.  After all, it’s not how you start that counts, it’s how you finish!  So, pursue your passion and take advantage of the resources that are available to you at USG.  Even though we’re temporarily shut down due to COVID, this is still a thriving academic community.  We still have all sorts of resources available to you, you just access them from home instead of on campus.

No matter which of the nine institutions you’re enrolled in, even if we are all socially distant for a little while longer, you are a valued part of the USG family, and USG is an important part of your success story.  Have you found your academic spark yet?  Keep looking for your Eureka! and then, Excelsior!

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