USG Emergency Assistance Fund: A Lifeline for Students During Pandemic

As the Universities at Shady Grove enters its 20th academic year, it has never been more clear that we are more than a campus. We are a community. So as students were hit by the economic effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns, members of our wider community stepped up to help through the USG Emergency Assistance Fund

Emergency Asst. FundThe Emergency Assistance Fund was established by USG’s Board of Advisors at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis to aid students in financial peril. The Board of Advisors realized that a majority of students at USG work part-time and full-time jobs while enrolled in classes, and that most of those jobs and paychecks would be going away. A goal of $150,000 for the fund was set and a process for applying for and receiving aid was created. 

The call for donations to the USG Emergency Assistance Fund has gone out through email appeals, website announcements, and special notices in Bethesda Beat, thanks to editor-in-chief and publisher Steve Hull, a member of the USG Board of Advisors. 

The response has been fantastic. Giving kicked off with a $15,000 match challenge from Montgomery County Business Leaders Fighting Hunger, led by USG Board of Advisors member Andy Burness. Nearly $110,000 of the $150,000 goal has been contributed so far, thanks to our caring USG community.  USG’s Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources has worked to meet the basic human need for food and other household items for more than 500 students. Tuition assistance, textbooks, and technology assistance is also available. Simply put, the fund has been a lifeline for USG students.  

Along with individual donors, a number of area businesses have made significant contributions to the Emergency Assistance Fund, with Rockville-based software company DSFederal leading the way with a $20,000 gift.

“Now more than ever, it is a top priority for DSFederal to give back to the community that has allowed us to flourish,” says company CEO Sophia Parker. “We recognize that education is the backbone of our county, and that USG students represent the future of our innovative, energetic business community.” 

With the beginning of the new academic year and no end in sight for the pandemic, we’re asking the USG community to step up and contribute to help us meet our goal. Every dollar helps and without the Emergency Assistance Fund, many students will be forced to give up their dream of a baccalaureate degree. To help, go here and select the USG Emergency Assistance Fund from the dropdown menu. If you would like to discuss other giving options, please contact me at  

“I wanted to take this time to thank you for your help,” wrote one student after receiving emergency assistance. “It will truly help in feeding my family and me, along with alleviating some financial stress. I truly thank the donors and the amazing community within the Universities at Shady Grove.”

Tom Clifford

Tom Clifford, Major Gifts Director, works for USG’s Office of Advancement & Community Engagement.

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Are You Career Ready? Guest post: Julia Rader, CISC Director

College to Career

It has long been understood that “soft skills” can provide a competitive edge – an edge which distinguishes a “good” employee from a “great” one.  In today’s COVID challenged world, those words ring truer than ever before, especially when considering today’s tightening job market.  Are you searching for a job or internship or know someone who is? If so, take just a moment to think about what employers really want.  A college degree, relevant training, previous experience? Yes, Yes, and Yes.  But don’t forget the skills that might actually get you from the interview chair to the office chair.  In the world of work, these skills are known as “employability skills.”

Leadership, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, global fluency, and professionalism are just a few of these skills which are worth their weight in gold.  As reported by the NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition, when asked what they seek most in job candidates, employers have overwhelmingly expressed a need for individuals with the ability to “bring solutions to the table, communicate well, and collaborate to solve complex problems.”  Other characteristics most sought after include “the ability to think on one’s feet, take initiative, and demonstrate innovation and creativity.”  Not surprisingly today’s global marketplace also attributes great value to candidates “who speak multiple languages and have the ability to function effectively across cultures and stakeholders.”

When it comes to assessing how graduates measure up for success in the workplace, perceptions vary widely among employers, academic institutions and students.  Revealing a jaw dropping difference in perceptions, Gallup and the Lumina Foundation brought major attention to this issue beginning in 2014 when their study revealed that “a whopping 96% of chief academic officers said their institution is very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the world of work.” Compared to 11% of business leaders and 14% of Americans who felt that college graduates “have the skills and competencies needed for the workplace,” these numbers revealed a huge disconnect in what is needed to prepare students for the real world.

With an emphasis on building tomorrows talent, the Universities at Shady Grove’s (USG) Career and Internship Service Center (CISC) has worked to identify and respond to what employers really want both nationally and in the local region.  Through their “College to Career” campaign, USG has launched an initiative to build career competencies across the student community, giving them the competitive edge.   Adapted from the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) career readiness recommendations, USG has identified nine critical competencies deemed essential for the world of work:

  1. Oral & Written Communication
  2. Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  3. Leadership
  4. Teamwork & Collaboration
  5. Professionalism & Work Ethic
  6. Global & Intercultural Fluency
  7. Personal Development & Well-being
  8. Career Management
  9. Digital Technology 

How well do you stack up? Recognizing that these competencies are developed on a continuum and over time, USG’s campaign encourages students to take advantage of a wide variety of experiences both in and out of the classroom.  By doing so, students can take part in meaningful, hands-on experiences which will increase their level of proficiency and give them the opportunity to learn through action.  Indeed, moving the needle on career readiness will require a real commitment and action across all stakeholders: developing curriculum which provides relevant exposure to critical thinking and application of knowledge, emphasizing student development activities which give students access to skill building and mentoring, and developing partnerships with the business community which build a talent pipeline while providing meaningful internships and real world experiences.

While just one part of a complex solution, USGs “College to Career” campaign lays the groundwork for students to achieve the trifecta sought by employers – a high quality degree, meaningful practical experience, and critical competencies needed to thrive in the world of work. With an eye on the future, USG seeks to empower students to become the best version of themselves, yielding a powerful edge on the competition.

For a complete list of defined competencies, tools for self-assessment, or more information on USG’s College to Career campaign, visit

Julia Rader

About the Author: Julia Rader, Director of USG’s Career and Internship Services Center (CISC)

Julia graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a B.A. in Psychology with a specialization in Speech Communication and completed a M.S. in Management with a specialization in Nonprofit Administration from University of Maryland University College. Julia is also a graduate of Montgomery County’s Leadership Montgomery CORE program. Julia currently serves as the Vice President of the Board of Trustees for Future Link of Maryland and serves on the Board of Directors for Montgomery County’s Corporate Volunteer Council. In addition, she is a member of the MCPS-MC-USG Partnership Collaboration Committee and a founding member of the MCPS-MC-USG “Career Experience Opportunities” Taskforce. Throughout her career in higher education, Julia has held numerous professional roles within the University System of Maryland including Coordinator of the Federal Work-Study Community Service Program, Education Finance Coordinator and Associate Director of Student Services. Julia is particularly interested in the causes of student advocacy, building community partnerships, and growing volunteerism among our community.

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UMBC’s Ting Huang Takes on a Different Type of Covid Research


Ting Huang, UMBC Psychology student at USG

It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented disruption to everyday life. As research continues to find medical solutions, everyone is adjusting to their new normal in a changing landscape.

For college students around the nation and the globe, that has meant being thrust – at a moment’s notice – into online learning environments, something they may never have wanted and certainly were not expecting. Just what impact this disruption has had on students’ academic achievements, however, is still unknown. That is what Ting Huang, a Kendall Scholar and McNair Scholar from UMBC’s psychology program, wants to find out.

After the initial shock of the change back in March, Huang and her classmates began recognizing that online learning meant more than just shifting the normal class into virtual space. There was a difference in how they perceived their classes.

“We had been enjoying our interactions in the classroom with the professors and with each other, and suddenly we didn’t have that anymore,” Huang said. “We felt like it was impacting our grades and our satisfaction with classes.”

So alongside UMBC Psychology Program Director Dr. Diane Alonso, Huang has begun putting together a research proposal. Existing literature points to engagement between instructors and learners as being critical for learning. Students are more likely to learn more when they are engaged in the topic at hand, Huang points out. For her study, though, she wants to focus on the stress resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and how that plays into students’ academic satisfaction.

Huang knows that her experience at UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) has given her the confidence and capabilities to conduct this study. After two years at Montgomery College, she realized that UMBC’s psychology program at USG was much closer to home and more convenient than UMBC’s main campus. At USG, her interactions with Dr. Donald Knight, in particular, shaped the type of researcher that she has become.

“Dr. Knight’s classes led me to this research in the first place,” Huang said. “He’s inspiring in the way he teaches, so that’s why I wanted to pursue this and continue my academic career.”

Huang also hopes that the unique set-up of USG will lend itself to a more thorough study. In the fall, she will be administering a survey to college students about their general satisfaction and anxiety levels, as well as how they perceive online learning in general. Though she only currently has clearance to survey UMBC students, she is working to get approval to send the survey to students from all nine universities at USG. After completion of the survey, Huang intends to use that information to create an experimental study in the spring semester.

Though remote learning is not Huang’s personal ideal academic environment, she recognizes that it is the best and safest way to proceed in the near future. “Ultimately, my opinion is less connected to my research than it is to the real-world situation happening right now,” she explained. “I would encourage all universities to commit to online learning and only return to full operations when there is a vaccine in sight. Keeping students off campus is also connected with lower mobility in general, which helps stop the spread of this virus, so it makes the most sense for us right now.”

Sam Angell


Author Sam Angell is the Senior Marketing Coordinator for UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove. Follow along on Instagram at @umbcsg.

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How Technology is Helping People with Traumatic Brain Injuries.

AlexaAlexa: Can you help people with traumatic brain injuries?

Six years ago, when I started working with smart speakers, I had to go into a long explanation about the “Echo” and who Alexa was. I remember the very first Amazon smart speaker commercial and thought to myself, “what is this strange black tube that tells the weather?”  Fast forward to the famous SNL skit, Alexa is now a household name.  I have multiple units in my home, and I most certainly ask her about the weather (and you probably do too). But “she” is capable of so much more! In my research with older adults who have Dementia, she read stories to someone who couldn’t understand words on a page. She helped them change their home temperature with only their voice and assisted them to remember how they felt the day before through voice notes they made. Writing a grocery list or tapping on the phone to call someone, a simple task for you and me, but for someone with tremors or low vision, telling “Alexa, put potatoes on my grocery list” or “call mom” is beneficial.

Imagine you are lying in your bed; you wake up and are staring at the ceiling and have to wait three hours for someone to help you prop up to watch tv or read your tablet. A person who is injured and cannot move can have the power to modify their bed position, turn on the TV, and bring up a newspaper, only by using their voice.

Students at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Information Science program at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) have created a research team to show how Voice-user Interface Technology (like Alexa) can make a positive impact in a person’s life. The team decided to focus their research on Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries.  By controlling various aspects of their house through their voice, they can regain independence and feel supported in their own home as long as possible without the need for institutionalization.

ElderlyUsing a voice command can help someone who has a cognitive condition or is paralyzed and has limited hand or finger mobility. Veterans with TBI can access and control many aspects of their home, such as lights, doorbell cameras, thermostats, TV, and their bed.  Voice recognition is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and we are setting out to explore how we can customize and fit the needs of those who need it the most.

If you are also passionate about technology and how it can make a huge difference in someone’s life, a B.S. in Information Science may be a great fit. Our interdisciplinary program focuses on the intersection of people, technology, and information. Our students are excited about making a difference by doing research, engaging in internships, and find the opportunities InfoSci provides exceptionally fulfilling. Contact me to learn more!



Galina Madjaroff is a faculty member at the University of Maryland, College Park’s iSchool, and Program Director for the InfoSci program at USG. Her research focus is on improving the quality of life of those who suffer with cognitive impairments including elders and individuals with disabilities through low-cost, consumer technology. She is passionate about teaching and supporting students in finding internship, research and career opportunities. 


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New Computer Science program at UMBC-Shady Grove. Guest post: Kim Casimbon

Casimbon, Kim - UMBC

Kim Casimbon, UMBC-Shady Grove Computer Science Academic Advisor

As the Academic Advisor for the Computer Science program at UMBC-Shady Grove, I am proud to announce that our B.S. in Computer Science with a Cybersecurity track is now being offered at the Universities at Shady Grove location starting Fall 2020. With access to numerous scholarships, small class sizes, high quality applied learning opportunities, and the new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Education (BSE) facility, there are many advantages in pursuing UMBC’s ABET-accredited Computer Science Program. As exemplified through a recent survey of CMSC graduates from UMBC, 91% are employed within six months post-graduation (Amazon, Google, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, NASA, CIA, and many more) and 95% obtain employment that is related to their career path. Additionally, career possibilities abound. There are 20,839 open jobs in the computer science field within 50 miles of Washington, D.C. with starting salaries of $70,000 – $75,000.

While our physical campus is temporarily closed due to the current COVID-19 response, I encourage students to schedule a virtual pre-transfer advising appointment with me in the near future. As a former transfer student at UMBC-Shady Grove, I understand how important it is to solidify your academic path as soon as possible. During our pre-transfer advising appointment, we will review your unofficial transcript(s), required and recommended courses for transfer, and develop your academic path to UMBC-Shady Grove. In the meantime, those interested in the program may proactively view our required and recommended transfer coursework here. Students applying to UMBC’s Computer Science program at Shady Grove this fall are eligible for a $75.00 application fee waiver. You may access our application and further information here.  Please note that the B.S. in Computer Science continues to be offered at UMBC’s home campus in Catonsville, MD in addition to the Universities at Shady Grove location.

UMBC Computer videoHear from Jeannette Kartchner, Associate Program Director of Computer Science.

 To learn more about the B.S. in Computer Science program, please visit the Computer Science at UMBC-Shady Grove website. You may also email me Kim Casimbon, at or our Undergraduate Associate Program Director, Jeannette Kartchner at

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The University of Baltimore is Unique. Just like You. Guest post by: Seth Marc Kamen, Assistant VP, Office of Admission


Seth Marc Kamen, University of Baltimore, Assistant VP, Office of Admission

I’ve spent most of my career in higher education working with adult learners and transfer students in Maryland. Over the course of nearly 20 years, I’ve been driven by a single goal: help students find their path and pursue their dreams. That’s why I work for the University of Baltimore (UB).

We’re different by design. UB doesn’t fit the traditional college mold, and that’s on purpose. We focus on transfer and graduate students who are seeking to advance their careers, improve their lives, or expand their knowledge.

You might even say we are as different as you are.

UB has been offering online courses and services since 1995, and we have transitioned to a fully virtual learning environment more quickly—and seamlessly—than most. Early on, we recognized the need to support our students by offering classes at times and locations that meet their individual needs. Many of our regional and national rankings support this effort.

At the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), we offer innovative and unique academic programs tailored to the regional job market, and offered with your schedule and life commitments in mind:

  • Our accelerated, weekend Health Management programs will help you launch or advance your career as a health-care manager.
  • The B.S. in Simulation and Game Design prepares you for employment at companies that focus on gaming, education, defense, and non-entertainment simulations.
  • The weekend M.A. in Integrated Design blends conceptual thinking, professional writing and graphic design to prepare you for a career in communications, design, publishing, or other visual arts fields.
  • Prepare to become an expert in investigating criminal activity involving computer and digital information systems, accounting and health-care fraud through our accelerated M.S. in Forensic Science–Cyber Investigations program.
  • Students interested in government or contracting will benefit from our online or weekend degrees in Public Administration (M.P.A. and D.P.A.).
  • Our Graduate Certificate in Government Financial Management focuses on financial reporting, government auditing and government contracting and budgeting, while qualifying you for the Certified Government Financial Manager and Certified Defense Financial Manager examinations.

UB ScholarshipA UB degree is affordable, since that matters to you. We offer merit-based scholarships for graduate students, and full- and part-time scholarships for transfer students. The Bob Parsons Scholarship Fund, in particular, awards full tuition and fees to eligible transfer students. These scholarships—in addition to regional tuition rates for graduate students–are reasons why Washington Monthly ranked UB a “Best Bang for the Buck” college.

UB is dedicated to your success, academically, professionally, and personally. Our online tutoring services will ensure you succeed in your classes. Our Career and Internship Center provides online workshops and career advising. Our Student Assistance Program provides you 24/7 access to emotional, mental, health and legal aid.

Discover how a UB degree can help you reach your career goals. Contact an admission representative to begin the application process.

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When the world changes, design leads the way. Guest post: Megan Rhee, UB Integrated Design Director


Megan Rhee, University of Baltimore (UB), Director of M.A. in Integrated Design

My name is Megan Rhee and I am the new director of the Master of Arts in Integrated Design program at the University of Baltimore (UB).

I didn’t set out to be a graphic designer or a designer of any kind, really. Truthfully, I was in college before I even heard the term or saw the career possibility. I wasn’t an artist or an illustrator. I was a communicator who used words to make a difference.

In my first career as a communications specialist, I wrote and sent my words out for another to visualize. But the materials always came back lacking. The meaning was lost between the visual and the verbal. It was then that I first saw the true value of design as a way to communicate and impact change. I began to see that even the best words were lost if the visuals didn’t align and the audience didn’t respond. And so began my pursuit of design.

At its simplest definition, design means to plan or create. I read recently in The Design Way by Harold Nelson & Erik Stoltermann that everything we have is either created by nature or designed by people.  Humankind doesn’t just haphazardly make discoveries; they design their world. Design is what makes us human. It’s what allows us to express our creativity and solve human problems, both big and small.

Design is also integration or bringing things together. It’s about the integration of words and images; of theory and practice; of observation and action.

Design is practical, creative problem solving. It has the potential to change systems, to bring unification and to make meaningful impacts in business, health care, social services, and the list goes on and on. But design, or rather design thinking, can only make an impact if we allow it. We must pursue it and invest in the next generation of designers to lead the way.

Design is integrated into everything we do from the way we communicate to the way we take in an experience. Today, we’re faced with many human problems, both big and small, and the world is changing around us faster than we could have imagined just six months ago. When the world changes, design should lead the way.

How might we use design to make significant changes in our world?

As we look for ways to continue to connect people, to reach across the aisles and to build a better tomorrow, it is my hope that we’ll look to design, and to the design thinkers, to create new systems, new policies, and new ways of thinking that will lead us into a stronger future.

Learn more about the impact you could make when you learn graphic design, web design, motion graphics, design thinking and more in the UB Master of Arts in Integrated Design program at the Universities at Shady Grove.

Join me for an upcoming virtual information session on Tuesday, June 30 at 6:30 p.m. RSVP here.

UB_IntegratedDesignUSG (1)

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First Engineering Program Joins USG in Fall 2020. By: Kathryn Weiland

The University of Maryland, College Park is excited to bring the first engineering program to the Universities at Shady Grove beginning in Fall 2020. The Bachelor of Science in Embedded Systems and Internet of Things (ESIOT), offered through the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the A. James Clark School of Engineering, is a groundbreaking new program and the first of its kind in the state of Maryland.

As our world moves rapidly in the direction of widespread interconnected devices, it is essential that we have engineers who are trained in the growing field of embedded systems. Not only will these engineers be able to design and implement these smart devices, but using the Internet of Things, they will be able to connect these devices through networking and cloud computing. This kind of expertise is necessary for the next generation of the workforce, and our degree program will ensure the development of these cutting-edge skills.

The video below was designed to further explain this growing field as well as summarize the curriculum of the ESIOT degree program. We are now accepting applications for the inaugural Fall 2020 cohort of students. To learn more about our exciting program, please visit or email

ESIOT video image

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A Reflection Upon this Semester. By: Sandra Amaya, UMCP Criminology & Criminal Justice student.

Sandra A

Sandra Amaya, UMCP Criminology and Criminal Justice student

My name is Sandra Amaya and I just finished up my semester in the Criminology and Criminal Justice program at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG).  Like most students, the current situation changed my life completely. This semester I was taking five classes and working two jobs, one being at the USG REC center. Most of my days consisted of me going to school then heading directly to work.

Of course, with the pandemic school transitioned to online, but my jobs didn’t. I lost both of my jobs. With such a drastic change it was difficult to take in what was happening. I was left without an income and school became more difficult to follow. I was spending much more time at home and had free time – something that I haven’t had in a long time. During the first couple of weeks I honestly spent most of my time in bed. I felt alone without my friends at school and work. I was extremely anxious about classes being moved to online, since I’m a better learner in a classroom setting. During the first couple of days of classes I was having issues focusing and was confused about future assignments.

Luckily my CEO program coach, Melissa Herrera, gave me advice on how to organize myself for school. Tips such as creating a space to do your work and to avoid doing work in your bed. Since many professors were changing assignments and due dates it was important to write everything down. I went through every class email and wrote every upcoming assignment down in specific colors and hung sticky notes in front of my desk. By doing this, I knew what assignments were coming up and their due dates. It was important for me to follow my deadlines closely so I wouldn’t fall behind.

Before this situation I would barely spend time with my family, as I mentioned earlier, I would be at school and working so we really only saw each other during the weekends. I’m really appreciative that I have had the opportunity to eat dinner with my family and interact with them more than I’ve ever had.

Sandra and dogsToday, I spend most of my time at home, but when I do have to head out I wear my gloves and mask. I usually take walks around my neighborhood with my dog. Having a dog is something that I’m appreciative of. My boyfriend noticed how down how I was feeling and arranged for his dog and their siblings to have a puppy play date. This was something that really helped me forget of the stress of finals and life now. Like millions of other people, the coronavirus has changed my life completely. But I’m extremely grateful to have my family, boyfriend, friends, and dog all by my side.

Sandra and dog

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The Hospitality Industry is Resilient. By: Sherrie Tennessee, UMES HTM Program Director


Sherrie Tennessee, Hospitality and Tourism Management Program Director at UMES at USG

Hospitality is the backbone of the world, from car rentals, to hotel stays, bus tours, baseball games, spa days and celebratory dinners… taking care of people is at the center. Even the word “restaurant” comes from a French verb that means “to restore.” The Hospitality industry restores your mind, body, and soul.

In a recent article from Tom Sietsema, the food critic for The Washington Post, “Restaurants are big businesses. Before the pandemic cost so many of them their jobs, more than 15 million people were employed in the food service industry, about 10 percent of the private sector.”

We just celebrated National Tourism Day on May 7, another arm of the Hospitality industry.  According to a 2019 Forbes travel report, “The travel and tourism sector grew more in 2018 than all other economic sectors but one, adding a record $8.8 trillion to the world’s combined Gross Domestic Product – up from $8.3 trillion in 2017 – as well as 319 million new jobs.”

The skills learned in Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) programs like the one offered at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) are transferable. UMES at USG partners with businesses across the county and state to provide a college to career pipeline. Even though the industry is on pause, there are still business recruiting graduates, from financial institutions to insurance companies, there are still plenty of opportunities available to those in the Hospitality sector.

At the heart of the Hospitality industry is resilience, from the great recession to 9-11 the industry has always bounced back and certainly will again. Why? Because taking care of people is at the heart of the industry. And I know that after this crisis passes, we will all need to restore our mind, bodies and soul.

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