Alumni Ambassadors at USG

Pedro Branco

Pedro Branco, Alumni Relations and Community Engagement Coordinator

My name is Pedro Branco and I am the Alumni Relations and Community Engagement Coordinator at USG. I graduated from UMBC at USG in 2017 and am currently enrolled in the UMBC Industrial Organizational Psychology Graduate program. A few months prior to graduating from UMBC at USG, I was wondering what my next step in life would be. Where would I work? How will I be able to sustain myself financially? How was I supposed to succeed in my post-academic career?

As the Alumni Relations and Community Engagement Coordinator, I am able to alleviate some of the stress that comes with life-after-graduation. I have the ability to collaborate with our nine university partners to provide resources and support to alumni as they navigate their professional lives and aspirations.

So…What is an Alumni Ambassador at USG?

Having attended your program on the USG campus, I understand that you had a unique college experience. Through excitement of recent alumni eager to stay connected both to their alma mater and to the campus they’ve come to know and love, the Alumni Ambassadors at USG was born. It has become our goal to keep alumni of our nine partner universities engaged through regional alumni events, professional development initiatives and to broaden your professional network through various networking opportunities.

As you move forward into your career, we hope that you will remember your time at USG and be inspired to make a difference in the lives of future students. As alumni of one of our nine partner universities, here’s how you can remain a part of the community long after graduation:

Volunteer to mentor a student

Your experience as a graduate of a program at USG is invaluable for future students at USG. By mentoring a student, you will be able to offer insight and knowledge of your time at USG and as a graduate of your respective program.

Attend USG community and partner institutions alumni events

As we develop new programming and events tailored to your experience at USG, we hope that you will be able to come back to campus and local venues to network and meet like-minded alumni.

Be considered for USG and partner institutions program speaking engagements

As you move forward in your professional career, we hope that you consider assisting USG and your respective institution by speaking or presenting on a topic of choice to current students/alumni at USG or your home institution.

Utilize on-campus career services

You are still eligible to utilize on-campus resources, such as: career services, our Center for Academic Success, library and most of the facilities at USG. Whether you need help writing your resume, having a fresh pair of eyes look at your cover letter, or searching for job/internship opportunities, USG is here to help you succeed!

As we expand our communication efforts, we ask that you follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to stay updated on all the exciting things happening at USG. Sign-up to become an Alumni Ambassador at USG: Welcome to the Community!

For more information on how to stay connected to USG, please contact:

Pedro Branco
(301) 738-6128

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We Can’t Wait to Celebrate With You on May 10th!

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The home stretch is here! Undergraduate seniors — you’ve almost made it. The year has flown by and has been filled with studying, classes, and hopefully some fun with events such as USGFEST, Cultural Tea Times, and USG Got Talent #LifeAtUSG.

Congrats! Those of us at USG and in the Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources can’t wait to celebrate all of your hard work and accomplishments.  We commend you for those late night study sessions in the Priddy Library and for all those papers you’ve written with the help of the Center for Academic Success.  You’ve tapped into perseverance and overcome challenges in order to bring you to this point. And to celebrate, USG invites you to the Graduation Celebration on Thursday, May 10th from 6:30-8:30pm to revel in your success surrounded by your peers, faculty and staff. And as an added bonus all Fall 2017 graduates and Spring 2018 graduation candidates are invited to bring two guests with them. Photobooths, food, fun, and memories will be made at the annual Graduation Celebration and you won’t want to miss it!  Don’t forget, you must RSVP by Friday, May 4th #USGSuccess.

This year’s theme will be all about making you feel like the Hollywood Star you are for completing your degree! Governor Larry Hogan will be joining us to give the keynote speech.  Additionally, we’ll hear a heartfelt personal story from one of Towson University’s Early Childhood Education graduates, Kathy Pham. The USG Student Council will present the senior class gift to leave their mark on campus from the Class of 2017-2018. Hope to see you there!

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It’s Awesome to be a Grad Student at USG!

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Shelby Speer

Did you know that there are over 1,000 graduate students taking classes at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG)? My name is Shelby Speer, and I am the Graduate Student Services Coordinator in the Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources. My main role is to enhance programming, engagement, and support for this wonderful population.

You may be aware that we hosted our second annual Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week earlier this month. I am proud to announce that we were even more successful than last year, as we had 234 total interactions! As part of the week’s activities, students made their own trail mix, planted flowers, gave feedback to Dr. Edelstein, played board games, enjoyed a networking happy hour, and challenged undergraduates to Family Feud! By popular demand, we will be having an encore of the trail mix/flower planting during De-Stress Week on May 7th from 5:30-7:00pm in the Student Lounge, which will be open to all students!

Our next big event is Graduation Gala on May 11th. This is a celebration for graduating graduate and professional students and their families. The event will feature food and drinks, keynote and graduating student speakers, recognition of the Academic and Community Excellence Award recipients, photo booths, gifts, a string quartet, and more. We are looking forward to celebrating with everyone!

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USG Graduate Student Association

Finally, all these accomplishments would certainly not have come to fruition without the amazing support of the USG Graduate Student Association. New this year, the GSA has been instrumental in programming and support of our graduate student population. In addition to Grad Student Appreciation Week, we have hosted fundraisers; participated in #USGFest, the Involvement Fair, and International Night; held Coffee Days with the GSA; and ran activities during CSEF Saturdays, just to name a few. If you are a continuing graduate student, or will be joining the grad student community next year, please keep your eye open for board member applications in late August. In addition to paid positions, there is also the opportunity to become a general member.

I encourage all grad students to check out what USG has to offer. Please be sure to periodically visit the Graduate Student Resources webpage for lists of upcoming events and announcements, as well as to subscribe to the GSA Monthly Newsletter. Feel free to reach out to me with any ideas on how to improve the graduate student experience at USG. See you around the Grove!

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From Caring About my Grades to Caring for Other People

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Andrew Richardson

Andrew always knew that he wanted to be a nurse. When the time came to pick a college, he looked all around the mid-Atlantic to find nursing programs that were the right fit. Then, he learned about the University of Maryland School of Nursing program offered at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). It quickly rose to the top of his list, not just because the top-rated program was right in his backyard, but because of the high marks it received from his friends who were already on campus. They told him that the classes were smaller than a typical main campus, and as a result, they got to know their professors and colleagues.

“I was concerned about choosing a school with a good student to teacher ratio, and that personal touch from the professors was one the golden nuggets – something that stood out from other schools – that helped me make my decision,” says Andrew.

“When I came across the Universities at Shady Grove, I realized they had exactly what I needed, right here in my backyard.”

Once on campus, Andrew discovered that the professors were just as invested in their students’ success as his friends described. The close-knit cohorts and direct contact with the faculty provided the perfect environment for Andrew to learn and grow. “USG had a personal touch unlike any other campus,” Andrew says.

It wasn’t just his professors that were invested in Andrew’s success: staff at the Career & Internship Services Center taught him how to talk with recruiters and network in the professional field; the Center for Academic Success provided support for writing resumes and papers; and the Center for Student Engagement & Financial Services helped him navigate the scholarship application process. Everywhere Andrew turned on campus, there was someone ready to help him pursue his goal of becoming a nurse.

But, Andrew says that the number one thing that stood out to him upon coming USG was seeing that there were 9 universities, on 1 campus. “I think the beauty of USG is that you have 9 different universities to collaborate with,” says Andrew. “I think that’s a very unique aspect of this campus; I mean, where else can you find that?”

USG’s unique structure fostered a sense of camaraderie on campus, where each student had the ability to interact with students from different majors and universities. In fact, Andrew and his nursing peers frequently worked with the students in the Doctor of Pharmacy and Masters of Social Work programs. Together, they learned how they could work as a team in a clinical setting to help patients, just as they would when they graduated.

“I loved studying at USG because it gave me all the avenues I needed to be successful, and it was a one-stop-shop to achieving the career that I wanted – becoming a nurse,” Andrew says. One of the mandatory requirements for all University of Maryland School of Nursing students is participation in clinicals, and Andrew started his at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Using both the technical and networking skills that he learned at USG, Andrew excelled in his position and connected with the right people, who helped him land his current full-time job as a clinical nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center right after graduation.

“To have a goal written on paper, then get into the dream school that you wanted to get in to, then walk across that graduation stage, and to now be working in the field that I always believed I belonged in, is just amazing,” says Andrew. “And that’s all thanks to USG.”

To learn more about the power of 9, visit


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Open House is Approaching: All Hail the Red Polo!

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By: Jennifer Cohen Riehl

It seems like just yesterday I was writing my last blog post about the University at Shady Grove’s (USG) Fall Undergraduate Open House, but here we are again – less than a month from our Spring Open House, and I am privileged enough to have been asked to write another post about our April 7th event! While you’re still invited to my party, rather than write again about my personal enjoyment of hosting events, I instead want to focus on those who help me throw this tri-annual USG shindig, those without whom the Open House would fall flat, those who wear the almighty RED POLO!

That’s right; I’m talking about the wonderful group of students selected to serve as USG Student Ambassadors. USG Ambassadors help me, USG’s Senior Recruitment Coordinator, in promoting our campus to prospective students year-round, but their presence is perhaps most crucial surrounding Open House. The day before the event, they sign up to help with “prep,” which involves collating the event schedules and information fair maps, preparing easel signage that will be placed outside classrooms with information sessions, organizing the free tote bags that will be given to each guest, and blowing up LOTS of balloons to add to the festivity of the day!

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Ambassadors helping with Open House preparation

On the morning of Open House, the Ambassadors, sporting their signature red polos and black dress pants, arrive sharply at 7:00am to set up the tables which will soon host reps from each of USG’s undergraduate degree programs, prepare the computers which will check in the roughly 500 guests, set out the balloon bunches, and happily assist with any other task necessary to ensure the campus is ready for all our special visitors!

Finally, at around 8:00am, the attendees start arriving. Ambassadors are stationed between the Shady Grove Garage (where attendees can park for free!) and Building II (where check-in is located) to greet guests with a smile and guide them through campus. More red polos sit behind the check-in desk and at the on-site registration computers. Still others are at the ready for our “early-bird” tours at 8:30am, ensuring guests are returned to the ballroom for the official event welcome and USG overview at 9:00am. At 9:30am, they help to direct the attendees to Building III for the information fair, information sessions, application labs, academic advising, and class visits that comprise the rest of the event.

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A birds-eye view of a campus tour at Open House

Looking for a specific program or service table? An Ambassador will be there to guide you! Having trouble finding the classroom for the Financial Aid & Scholarship or Application Essay Writing session? No worries – red polos will be on each floor to help out! Still a little confused about how USG works? These USG warriors will be giving tours and manning the USG Info Table throughout the event to ensure you are able to see exactly why they love our campus. And love it, they do. So much, in fact, that they will willingly get up at the crack of dawn after a week of classes and homework in the name of sharing their beloved campus with you.

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Ambassadors manning the Event Info Table

Finally, after the last guest has left campus, the Ambassadors help clean up all the things they set up only a few hours earlier. They are tired, yes, but also fulfilled as they talk excitedly of all the prospective students with whom they connected and hopefully convinced to choose USG. But there is one last task before they head home to nap – assembling for the signature post-event group photo, wearing their mighty red polos and happily accomplished smiles:

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Tired but happy Ambassadors after last fall’s Open House

Register now for USG’s Undergraduate Open House on Saturday, April 7th from 8:30am-12pm. The Ambassadors can’t wait to meet you!

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From Doctoral Student to Leading Clinical Trials

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Jacob Wesley

Jacob was working at John Hopkins as a lab technician while finishing up his Master’s degree when he learned about the Doctor of Pharmacy program through University of Maryland, Baltimore at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). Initially, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to take courses off of the main campus, but when he learned of the up-and-coming Biotech corridor in Montgomery County, he knew USG was the right choice.

“When you work in the pharmaceutical industry, there’s not many opportunities in terms of saturated locations,” says Jacob. “Knowing I was specifically interested in Biotech, and when I saw the large biotech corridor in Montgomery County, I saw it was a great place to settle down. It’s been six years since I graduated from the Pharmacy program and I’m still living in the area.”

Jacob also appreciated that taking courses at USG would allow him to continue working full time as a lab technician, while maintaining a healthy work, life, and school balance. “I’d gone to school for a very long time,” says Jacob, “and my time pursuing my undergrad and my masters were skewed more heavily on the education aspect, and I wanted a little more schedule flexibility when pursuing my doctorate.”

Once in the program, Jacob immediately noticed the stark difference in class sizes from his previous education settings. Each of his doctoral class had 30-40 people, which was a huge change from his undergraduate organic chemistry class of about 700 students. “Any time that you get a smaller class size and you have more interaction with the professor, you’re going to get a better result, and the result is a better education,” says Jacob. “The Pharmacy classes are in cohorts, so the people I graduated with were the same group of people that I started with, which allows you to really get to know your classmates throughout the years.” In fact, one of the people that Jacob met on the first day of classes became his friend, his roommate, and later, his best man in his wedding.

“The Power of 9 is having 9 universities on 1 campus, where you are always developing and drawing from colleagues that are having a different educational experience than you.”

“I think when this program first started, some people were leery that it might be a doctorate program that was watered down, but that was no means the case; we were absolutely equivalent to the Baltimore campus,” says Jacob. “USG had a real measurable impact on my ability to land a post-doc fellowship in the area as well as to get many different offers around the nation when I graduated.”

Jacob landed a highly coveted postdoctoral fellowship at MedImmune in Gaithersburg, and was the first ever USG student to land that position. He was employed there for roughly four years after his postdoc ended before moving to his current position as Director of Senior Clinical Scientists at REGENIXBIO, Inc.

“I think my time at USG and my ability to work hard helped me land not only the postdoc fellowship at MedImmune — where they only take one fellow per year — but it helped me get offers from six different companies when I finished my education,” says Jacob.

To learn more about the Power of 9, click here


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Skilled for Success: An Evening of Entrepreneurship

Dr. Stewart Edelstein

Dr. Stewart Edelstein

Timothy Chi got the idea for WeddingWire after planning his own wedding. As a groom, he experienced firsthand how difficult it was to execute on the wedding plans, and as a technologist, he couldn’t find an online resource that would help him plan more efficiently. So, he set out to create a more effective solution. Twelve years later, that small startup—launched in his Chevy Chase living room—is now the world’s largest vertical marketplace serving the wedding industry, connecting millions of engaged couples to wedding professionals. WeddingWire has over 900 employees and currently operates leading wedding planning properties in 15 countries.

For Kelly Leonard, it was a change in professional focus that led her down the path of entrepreneurship. Trained as a CPA, but passionate about connecting people in her community, she saw an opportunity to build a company that could better equip professionals with training, business development and IT solutions, while helping them drive profitability. She also saw an opportunity to create a professional lifestyle that allowed her to be more available for her children as they grew.

And for Tien Wong, it was the lure of designing and building big ideas that gave him the entrepreneurial bug early on in his career. From his time at Dartmouth University, through the launch and sale of his first company in 1991, and now the management of several training, IT professional services, and advisory companies, Tien Wong has become one of the region’s greatest champions for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. He serves as entrepreneur-in-residence at Georgetown University and his popular ConnectPreneur platform serves a community of 6000+ Mid Atlantic leaders, CEOs, Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and angels.

Tim, Kelly, and Tien were just three of the remarkable entrepreneurs who shared their start up stories with a room of more than 200 students and entrepreneurs, as part of the University of Shady Grove’s (USG) Beyond the Degree conversation series. We were equally honored to host Steve Hull, founder and publisher of Bethesda Magazine, Peter Ettinger, Senior Advisor, Aldebaran Partners, Inc., and Shahab Kaviani, Social Entrepreneur; and Co-Founder of Breezio; and Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Startup Maryland.


Together, they discussed the importance of strong teams; of understanding your strength and weaknesses and then building a team to help you fill in those gaps. They discussed the importance of research and intentionality; not jumping at the next big idea, but building something that is sustainable. They stressed the importance of math, marketing, and economics classes—and leveraging opportunities available during your education to expand your experiences, from internships to studying abroad. Most speakers talked about wanting to be their own bosses, the freedom that comes with it, and their willingness to try, fail, and try again until they became successful.

It was a powerful moment to be connected to USG, and to witness the desire for information among our student body and this extended community, and for good reason.

Maryland is one of the most ‘small business-friendly’ states in the U.S., ranking second in the percentage of women-owned firms, and third in the percentage of African American owned-firms. It also ranks fourth overall in the Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship, which is based on the rate of startup growth and the density of high growth scale-up companies. Maryland is home to more than 30 startup incubator programs, many of them right here in Montgomery County.

This is an environment built for entrepreneurship, and we feel that every day on the campus of USG. As the partner campus of 9 Maryland public universities—we’ve been powering many of the entry and mid-level jobs in this region since 2000. Of the 10,000+ students who have graduated from programs offered at USG, nearly 9,000 have remained in the region and remain active participants in the workforce.

I’m particularly proud that at USG we have current students who embody this entrepreneurial spirit. Students such as Audrey Awesome, a senior in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, who launched Noble Uprising, a nonprofit geared at helping women rise out of poverty, or University of Baltimore alumnus, Brian Doyle, who built and launched his company, Let Me Think!, LLC, during his time on campus. I invite you to learn more about Brian through our Power of 9 campaign.

One way in which USG will continue to support these on-campus entrepreneurs is through our new Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (BSE) Education Facility, which is slated to open on 2019. This new building will play a central role in our continued building of an entrepreneurial eco system here at USG, and in Montgomery County. It will feature maker space with state-of-the-art resources to foster innovation and entrepreneurship, flexible workspace for inter-disciplinary student projects, and a unique meeting space for students, faculty, and business to work together on projects.

At USG, we realize the immense opportunity we have for our students and for our region to grow entrepreneurial programs, while increasing access, awareness, and opportunities for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be in our region. But, just as the entrepreneurs in last week’s program experienced, we too realize that we cannot build it alone.

This is a special time to be involved with the future of USG, and I personally invite the business community and our students to engage with us.

  • For business owners and entrepreneurs in the region interested in further building this ecosystem with us, we suggest that you consider visiting USG to engage with our students, explore how they can help solve problems faced by your organization or hire one or more of these talented and career-ready students. You can work with the USG Career and Internships Services Center to build a custom classroom-to-career pipeline to power your future workforce, or join our Entrepreneurship Advisory Group, which will support USG on building its framework to help increase access, awareness, and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the region.
  • And for students enrolled in a program at USG or planning to take classes here in the future, we suggest you engage with the USG Career and Internship Services Center, where you can find out about internship and job opportunities in your field. We also invite you to join our Entrepreneurship Advisory Group to play a part in building the future of the region.

As Peter Drucker once said, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”  As we continue building an entrepreneurial ecosystem for our region, including USG’s own entrepreneurship initiatives, we invite you to get involved. Bring your ideas, your passion, and your talents to bear. For together, I know we’ll do great things.

For more information, or to get involved in USG’s entrepreneurship activities, please email John Zuknick at

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