Suite News: I’m throwing a party and you’re invited!

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Jennifer Riehl, Senior Coordinator, Center for Recruitment & Transfer Access

I’ve always loved hosting family and friends for special events. From setting out handmade place cards at the Thanksgiving dinner table when I was a kid, to creating elaborate birthday party themes as a teenager, and to most recently planning my own wedding — I get a special joy from seeing my visions come to life in a way that benefits all those in attendance. It’s lucky then, that as the Senior Recruitment Coordinator in the Center for Recruitment and Transfer Access, one of my main duties is planning USG’s tri-annual Undergraduate Open House events!

Open Houses allow prospective students the chance to check out our campus, learn more about their programs of interest, and mingle with staff and Student Ambassadors — and hopefully leave with a greater understanding of and appreciation for USG as a whole. When I first took this job nearly five years ago and was expected to run my first Open House a month later, I simply tried to mimic what I was told about the most recent event. But after seeing a few in action, I began having visions about how to make the day better, bigger, and even more useful to prospective students, and to that end, along the way we’ve added student panels, application labs, sessions specifically for high school students, a formal welcome, and more. As I approach planning my 15th (!) Undergraduate Open House, I finally feel all the tweaks have paid off, and I’m really looking forward to welcoming prospective students and their families to campus on Saturday, October 28th!

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Jen with several of her wonderful Student Ambassadors after an Undergraduate Open House

Some of the highlights of our upcoming Undergraduate Open House that you won’t want to miss:

  • The chance to meet with program representatives from all undergraduate majors offered by our university partners at the Shady Grove campus. Bring your unofficial transcript, as most will review it with you on-site!
  • Tours of the whole campus and of special locations such as the Priddy Library, Marriott Teaching Kitchen, Exercise Science labs, and Campus Rec Center.
  • A presentation and student panel for high school families about the MCPS-MC-USG Pathway.
  • Sessions on how to write the perfect scholarship and application essays, conducted by my colleagues in the Center for Academic Success, as well as ones on how to map your career path led by our Career & Internship Services Center.
  • Information on financial aid and USG-specific scholarships provided by the Office of Student Services.
  • The opportunity for eligible students to apply to join a Transfer Access Program.
  • USG Student Ambassadors from various majors eager to share their stories with you.
  • And NEW to this event, a fun photo booth for you and your friends to pose in! (Be sure to tag your social media photos with #USGOpenHouse!)

    Photo Booth

    Jen and fellow USG staff members, including USG Executive Director Stewart Edelstein, pose in a photo booth last summer

If you are a prospective undergraduate student reading this, I do hope you will register to attend! Or if you are a current student, staff, or community member but know friends or family members who may benefit from learning about USG, please encourage them to come check us out (you may not know it, but you’re a recruiter, too!). If there’s anything I do well, it’s throwing a good party, and the USG Undergraduate Open House is the type of party where you can not only have fun but also leave one step closer to your next degree. I’d say that’s a winning combo!

**Check out the complete schedule of events, learn more, and register here!

open house

See you on October 28th!

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Suite News: Be your best with SAS


Robyn Dinicola-Wagle, USG Chief Student Affairs Officer

Hello everyone! My name is Robyn Dinicola-Wagle and I am the Chief Student Affairs Officer for the Student and Academic Services (SAS) division at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG).

Have you ever sat down in front of a computer screen to approach a writing assignment or some other task and drawn a blank, or been uncertain about where to begin? This was me 18 years ago when I was tasked with building a student affairs operation at USG from the ground up. I was sitting in an empty office in Building II, with a blank sheet of paper in front of me, and a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety about how and where to begin. While the task was a challenging one, I refused to let doubt or uncertainty derail me. I forged ahead with optimism and excitement and tried to remember that I was not alone, that I had resources and support at my disposal. I stayed focused on my goal of ensuring that, through close collaboration with our partner campuses, the students who enrolled in programs at USG, would have a support system in place and opportunities to have a robust college experience at the USG campus.

While there were a few bumps along the way, I am delighted at how far we have come and excited about the services and programs available to students at USG. Students are the heart of what we do and we continue to let your voices guide the development of the student experience at USG.

When SAS opened in 2000, it was staffed with just two people. Today, SAS is comprised of five departments with 40 dedicated, knowledgeable, and professional team members. Our extraordinary team provides services and creates opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to connect, engage, and succeed. We provide numerous opportunities for you to develop your skills and abilities, and to engage in the USG community. The question is . . . will you take advantage of all that USG has to offer you?


There is no shortage of opportunities for you to engage at USG. We offer more than 50 student organizations, and promote an active and diverse community through a variety of programs, events, and activities. Students at USG can develop leadership and organizational skills through involvement in Student Council, Student Ambassadors, Guided Study Session Leaders, Student Event Board, Orientation Leaders, and through a variety of leadership programming, including our newly forming USG Emerging Leader badge and our monthly lunch and lead series. Don’t miss the first event in this series for a discussion on Women in Leadership, happening October 12th.

In SAS, we offer assistance in locating meaningful internships that work with your competing life and school priorities and will assist you in preparing for your transition from school to career. We will help you strengthen your writing abilities and enhance your academic abilities through our expert writing coaches, peer-led guided study sessions and Writing Fellows Program. We provide free counseling and skills workshops as well as opportunities for you to de-stress and have fun. I encourage you to explore the broad range of services, programs and activities we offer through SAS:

Office of Student Services (OSS)
Need to get your USG ID? Stop by OSS! Do you need help with scholarships or financial aid? The OSS team can answer your questions. We also support student organizations, veteran and international student services, and leadership development.

Center for Academic Success (CAS)
Need help with writing papers or study skills? The CAS team can help you by providing academic coaching, writing consultations, disability support, and great workshops to help you achieve your academic goals!

Career & Internship Services Center (CISC)
Looking for a job or internship? CISC staff will provide one-on-one coaching to help improve your resume and cover letter, enhance your job search strategies and even prepare you for interviews!  Find jobs and internships on our USG Career Connector.

Center for Counseling & Consultation (CCC)
Need a safe place where you can talk about some life’s stressors or other personal concerns?  The CCC team has licensed therapists who will provide you free and confidential services; including personal/relationship counseling; career and major counseling and skills workshops.

Student Life
Do you want to get involved and make a difference? The team in OSS provides many ways for you to get involved in the USG community. We provide opportunities for you to develop your leadership skills, to take part in community service and to attend social events on campus.

I encourage you to take advantage of all that USG has to offer. Don’t let feelings of uncertainty or anxiety hold you back! Keep forging ahead and know that we are here to assist you — all you need to do is take the first step and connect with us! Please feel free to call upon me or any member of the Student and Academic Services team for support and assistance. You can find us in the SAS Suite, Building III, first floor for access to our services, or find us on the USG website to make an appointment. And keep an eye out for USG’s first mobile app, which will be available in November!



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Guest Post: Lisa Huffman, UMUC Assistant Director

Lisa Hoffman

Lisa Huffman

As I celebrated my 56th birthday recently, I realized that I have spent half my life working at the Shady Grove location. Little did I know when I took the office clerk job with University of Maryland University College (UMUC), and walked into my new office located at the Montgomery County Public Service Training Academy on July 31, 1989, that over 28 years later, I would still be with UMUC and would still be working at the Shady Grove location.  Of course, back then the location was not called The Universities at Shady Grove (USG). That name would not be used until the year 2000, and none of the three buildings, that currently make up The Universities at Shady Grove campus, had been built yet, but it was still a location where students could come and take college classes within Montgomery County.

At the time I started at Shady Grove our offices were on the 2nd floor of the Montgomery County Public Service Training Academy located at the corner of Darnestown Road and Great Seneca Highway. We had about six classrooms in that building along with a small computer lab and an even smaller library area. There were approximately ten full and part-time staff members. Since we had very few classrooms in that building, we also used classrooms in the evenings, at nearby Quince Orchard High School and also used a few classrooms in one of the buildings at NIST.

We were very excited when we found out that we would be getting our own location a little ways down Darnestown Road. I can remember my first visit to the new building. My supervisor drove us over to the site one day, before the building was finished, and we went up to the third floor to see where our new offices were going to be located. There were construction workers in the hallway laying the carpet, and the song on their radio was Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.” That song will always be linked to Building I in my mind. In May of 1992, we moved into Building I.

Lisa Hoffman 1As impressive as the physical growth has been, the technological changes I have seen in the past 28 years have been incredible. I am sure younger staff, who currently work at USG, would have a hard time imagining getting their work done without current technology such as the internet,  e-mail, voicemail, and scanning capabilities. When I first started working at UMUC we didn’t even have Windows capability so we needed to work in one computer program at a time, logging in and out of the programs as we needed them all day long.  It was a big deal when we got a fax machine. No longer did we need to wait several days to get documents through the mail. We could receive or send them almost instantly with a phone call. Another huge technological addition was when all the classrooms at USG became smart classrooms with computer and projection equipment. We no longer had to wheel VCRs in and out of the classrooms or sign-out laptops and projectors to the instructors as they needed them.

These are just a few of the many changes, improvements, and growth I have seen during the past 28 years here at Shady Grove. As I think back on all the changes that have taken place, all the great staff members I have worked with, all the students who have arrived at USG, wanting to complete their degree, and then watching them fulfill that dream, it makes me feel great to have been a part of it all.

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Welcome from Dr. Edelstein

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USG Executive Director, Dr. Stewart Edelstein

Dear USG Community,

A warm welcome to students, faculty, and staff and especially those new to USG! With nine universities on site, over 80 degree programs and a very diverse student body of more than 4000 students, USG is a unique campus.

We pride ourselves on the full range of academic and student services we offer and the many activities available to enrich your educational experience, support teaching and learning and assist in personal and career development. Follow USG on social media, our website and reading USG Weekly.

Look forward to an easier way to stay connected with a new phone app, USG Mobile, launching later this fall. I encourage you to get connected to your fellow classmates by reading and commenting on the Around the Grove student blog.  We also feature guest bloggers (faculty, staff and students) on this blog.

Please follow and participate in the Town Hall meetings of our Student Council and Graduate Student Advisory Council. Their advocacy efforts directly benefit you. The Priddy Library is now open until 3:00am most nights of the week.  And a new Market was installed in the library so you can have access to food and drinks on the late nights and weekends. Also, a new All-Gender bathroom was added outside of the Priddy Library. I encourage you to get involved and be a part of campus life.  Your experiences and feedback only make us stronger.

USG is committed to fostering a culture that embraces diversity and rejects senseless acts of hate and violence.  In light of the recent hate-driven events that have taken place around the country and in our own region, students, faculty and staff will be devoted this year to a campus-wide effort to fully explore, understand and fortify our commitment to free speech, diversity, inclusion and respect.  Watch for information about these activities from our newly formed Diversity and Culture committee.  I urge you to participate actively in these events.

I am sure everyone can see the progress of the new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education (BSE) Facility. The concrete structure continues to advance and is currently completed through the fifth and final floor. The BSE will provide state-of-the-art science and engineering laboratories, clinical training facilities, active learning classrooms, academic offices, and an expanded level of student services necessary to support almost doubling the number of students who enroll in degree programs on campus. The completion is on track for January 2019.

Over the summer there was also a prodigious amount of construction in Building I, which houses our health sciences degree programs.  All of the healthcare sciences labs were renovated and new simulation facilities were built.  The renovation made room for the expansion of the University of Maryland School of Nursing bachelor programs and the introduction of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. Welcome new DNP students!  Stop in Building I to check out the new facilities including the auditorium that transformed to provide a venue for collaborative learning and special events.

Since we were established in 2000, more than 10,000 students have received bachelors, graduate and professional degrees from programs offered at USG.  I hope you share my pride in all that we have accomplished and my resolve to make USG even more impactful as we begin the new academic year. Please join me in welcoming our new community members and in continuing the progress we have made together. Here’s to a wonderful year!


Stewart Edelstein, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, USM
Executive Director, Universities at Shady Grove
Office: 301-738-6034
Fax: 301-738-6060
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Guest Post: Mehir Uddin, Summer R.I.S.E. Intern at USG

Mehir Uddin

MCPS student Mehir Uddin

My name is Mehir Uddin and this is my story….

So I was spending the first week of summer doing what you would expect – eating, sleeping, and not much else. One day I was just perusing the internet when I got an email. I thought it was spam but on closer inspection it was forwarded by my counselor. It was about the Summer R.I.S.E. (Real Interesting Summer Experience) Worksource Program. The program is a locally funded initiative led by WorkSource Montgomery in collaboration with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and other partners, that provides MCPS rising juniors and seniors with enriching summer career development experiences.

I thought it would be a great option for me. The program ran for 3 weeks. I was interested in learning new skills and understanding how a traditional business functions – as a bonus I would also feel less lazy. So I applied online and lo and behold 4 weeks later I got a follow up email telling me that I would be interning at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). I was placed in the Marketing and Communications department.

Summer RISE

MCPS Summer R.I.S.E. interns and their USG mentors

Together we decided to make a video about my internship experience here. The idea to create such a video arose when my mentors realized I had a high interest in YouTube. This brought on the idea of creating a YouTube style video to document my internship experience at USG. On my first day I received a tour around the campus, which allowed me to visualize where I wanted to film my video. USG had everything I needed to create my video. They even had a lab fully stocked with Macs and editing software. Everyone was very supportive and gave me every bit of help they could to make my project a success.

I also learned how USG works and about the great benefits of attending a program here. It is a very innovative way to save money on earning your college degree. Also, through working on my project and working on things I have not done before, I realized another
passion I would like to pursue in college. My internship has led me to realize I want to focus on Film as well.

I had fun this summer and look forward to interning again next year. Enjoy watching my video about my experience!

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Suite News: Tips to Prepare You for Graduate School

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Mary Gallagher

If you’re reading this right now, congratulations are in order! Your semester is about to wrap up, and that hopefully means you’re done with classes, your final papers are turned in, and only a couple of exams stand between you and your summer break (or graduation!). I’m proud of you: you’re almost there!

My name is Mary Gallagher, and I’m the Assistant Director of the Center for Academic Success (CAS). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling your pain: I too, have been writing a few final papers. In addition to working full-time here at USG, I’m also a student. When this semester ends (FINALLY!), I’ll be five classes away from completing coursework for my Ph.D in Language, Literacy, and Culture, which I’m pursuing at UMBC (Go Retrievers!). Just like you, I have been fighting senioritis, the exhausting feelings that beg you to do ANYTHING but study for that test, or finish that paper.

Mary 1It’s not always easy to juggle my work life, personal life, and Ph.D life, but I enjoy my program, and what I learn in my classes, I apply directly to my work with you. I’m glad I made the decision to go on to graduate school.

As we approach the end of an academic year, I imagine many of you may be considering graduate school. Whether you’re exploring your options, or know exactly the school and program you want to attend, here are a few tips to help you navigate the process:

  • Find a mentor and advocate in your discipline: Finding the right graduate school for you and your specific career goals is important. You’ll need to consider things like availability of funding and assistantships, faculty reputation, job placement, research opportunities, location, etc. Make sure you seek advice from people who know the landscape in the particular field you’re pursuing, specifically your program director or your professors. Their specialized knowledge in the field will help guide your search. As a bonus, these mentors can also become advocates for you when you need letters of recommendation!
  • Now that you’re done studying for your classes, study some more! I know, I know… more studying is just about the last thing you want to think about right now, but the summer is a key time to prepare for and take any entrance exams that will be required for your applications. For most graduate schools, you’ll need to take the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, but specialized or professional schools may require other entrance exams (e.g., MCAT for medical school; LSAT for law school; GMAT for business school).

Those of you who need to take the GRE are lucky: did you know that CAS is offering a GRE Preparation Workshop Series this June? For only $50, current USG students and alumni will learn strategies to master the math, verbal, and writing sections of the GRE. The Series will meet in the evening (6-9pm) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 5 – 30.

GRE flyer

  • Now that you’re done writing papers, write some more! Again, I know… but the summer is also a great time to draft your personal statement! This is an important piece of your application. By the time you apply to graduate schools, a lot of your application is essentially set in place: you don’t have much control over your transcript or your letters of recommendation but, you do have a lot of control over your personal statement. This is your chance to really make yourself shine! I recommend getting lots of feedback on this document and drafting, revising, and editing it multiple times so you can be very proud of it. Also, don’t forget that you can make a writing appointment at CAS for help on your personal statement.

With summer looming and freedom so close, I realize that it may be difficult to make any decision that might result in additional classes, exams and papers, but if you do decide graduate school is in your future, than you should start to explore and prepare now.

I look forward to seeing you this summer for the GRE Preparation Workshop series.  To schedule an appointment with CAS call 301-738-6315 or visit us online at

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