Celebrating National Grammar Day. Guest Post: Adam Binkley from MCAS

Imagine 60-foot balloons meandering across the Rockville skyline, shaped like punctuation marks. Instead of seasonal treats, your favorite bakery has cupcakes decorated with semicolons and exclamation marks. Each house in your neighborhood is adorned with essays. The Riddler, with all his question marks, is bringing up the rear of the county parade.

Okay, so maybe the world isn’t quite ready for my vision of National Grammar Day. Did you even know National Grammar existed, celebrated on March 4th each year?

First-time celebrators, allow me to be the first to welcome you to the grammar gang, the semi-colon squad, the exclamation nation—you get the idea.

At the Macklin Center for Academic Success, grammar is a frequent topic of conversation when I work with students on their papers. Some are self-proclaimed grammar gurus, always on the lookout for rogue errors on signs and in emails. Others find themselves vexed by a set of intricate rules that don’t always make logical sense.

Adam Binkley, Senior Coordinator at USG (Macklin Center for Academic Success)

Me? I’m somewhere in-between. As a kid, “reading” was my favorite subject but I hated “English” and “spelling.” I was passionate about storytelling, which encouraged me to be creative and not rigid when writing. For most of my life, I didn’t really understand the rules; I learned the way one learns to play by ear or shoot on a rusted hoop in a driveway.

This changed the more I studied great works of literature, especially poetry. The way a poem can create a current of emotional tension with a simple piece of punctuation showed me that structure can empower creativity. As I spent years learning and teaching writing, I became more attuned to grammar as a thing of beauty as opposed to a favorite tool of the pedantic.

I work with many students who, like me, are looking to grow as grammarians. Whether it’s picking up on the nuances of a new language or trying to strengthen your understanding of your native tongue, there are some simple things you can do to improve your grammar.

Read and write. Find a book of poems or dive into your favorite fiction. Argue with someone on reddit or discuss a passion on an old school message board. Go back and find some of those old papers you’ve written. Look through them, focusing on any aspect of grammar you want to know better. Record yourself reading the paper aloud and play that back as you read again—are ear and eye on the same page?

The more you explore any language, the more the rules and quirks fall under your command and become an extension of the way you express the beauty of life and its complications. If grammar is something you struggle with, try out one of these suggestions or make a writing appointment at MCAS. And for those who already feel like their command of grammar is strong, I have a simple plea—treat others with grace. Instead of being the person who asks “I don’t know– CAN you”, use your understanding to share a little tip and help someone along their journey with language.

After all, under the punctuation mark balloons and figurative fireworks, there is room for all of us at the parade celebrating National Grammar Day. Well, except for maybe the Riddler. Everybody knows you shouldn’t end with a question.

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College Can be a *Major* Decision. Guest Post: Jennifer Riehl from USG Recruitment

According to several nationwide studies, more than half of all undergraduate college students change their major at least once. This is understandable, as college is indeed a time for exploration and discovery. Students are trying out courses not previously available to them in high school. They are learning about fields they’d never considered, or in many cases, even heard of. Everyone is searching for that “aha” moment when it clicks that *this* is where their passion lies, that *this* is the field in which they want to start their career. But for some, it takes many “nope” moments to get there.

Maybe you know you want to be in the medical field but have recently discovered a fear of giving shots that causes you to change your mind about studying Nursing. Did you know you could study Public Health Science, Translational Life Science Technology, or Health Management instead, putting that medical know-how to use in a less-clinical setting?

Jennifer Riehl, Senior Recruitment Coordinator at USG

Perhaps you love technology, but are such a people-person that you fear getting stuck behind a screen all day? Did you know a degree in Information Science can lead you to roles as a front-facing Data Analyst, while a degree in Cybersecurity Management & Policy can quickly propel to you to team leader? What if your passion is actually using technology to build curriculum as an Elementary/Special Education major and future teacher?

Or maybe you’re extremely persuasive and always assumed a Marketing major would be your calling, but you’ve recently realized that the finance and accounting classes required as a business major are over your head? Did you know a major in Communication, Graphic Design, or Hospitality & Tourism Management can lead you to careers in marketing departments across several industries (no upper-level math required)?

I could give countless more examples of how it takes intentional exploration for many students to discover the major and related career options that truly call to them. Not knowing exactly what you want to study – or knowing but still being open to other options – is not only okay; it’s healthy! What’s not ideal is not being willing to invest in yourself enough to start on that path to discovery in the first place.

That’s where the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) can help!  Not only does our campus offer over 35 undergraduate degrees spanning several industries, but since all of the students are upper-level transfers, it’s inherent in our mission to provide prospective students with information to help them decide which bachelor’s degree program is indeed right for them – so they can finish their last two years as efficiently as possible.

To that end, I am super excited to announce that we are again hosting our virtual USG Pathways & Programs Week event series this March! Pathways & Programs Week is a chance for prospective undergrads to not only learn more about the USG campus, but also to hear from program representatives and current students from three respective “industry clusters.” Whether you already had your “aha” moment and are looking to learn more about admissions requirements for a particular major, or if, like many, you are still exploring, attending one or more of these events will most certainly provide you with a clearer understanding of your future academic options and the next steps you can take to get there. I look forward to meeting you then!

USG Pathways & Programs Week
March 8, 9, & 10; 5:30-7pm on Zoom

More information and registration

Session 1: Computing, Engineering, & Information Technology “Cluster”
Monday, March 8, 5:30-7:00pm

Session 2: Bioscience, Nursing, & Health “Cluster”
Tuesday, March 9, 5:30-7:00pm

Session 3: Business, Communication, Social Sciences, Design, & Education “Cluster”
Wednesday, March 10, 5:30-7:00pm

*To see a full list of featured majors for each session, please visit shadygrove.umd.edu/usgpathways.

Can’t make the event? Check out other upcoming virtual offerings and get more information on the USG campus by visiting shadygrove.umd.edu/usg101.

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Wednesday Wipeout Sessions. Guest Post: Sam Angell from UMBC at USG

Blog post by: Sam Angell

Dr. Sunil Dasgupta, Program Director, UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove Campus

For more than a decade, Dr. Sunil Dasgupta has been ready to have a chat. The Program Director for Political Science at UMBC-Shady Grove, Dr. Dasgupta started a program he titled Wednesday Wipeouts back in 2010, and has held an informal weekly gathering of members of the Shady Grove community ever since.

“The point of this from the beginning was that we were going to come together and provide a venue where people could feel free to discuss what was on their mind,” recalls Dasgupta after a recent Wipeout session. “That was the purpose in 2010, and that remains the purpose today. There isn’t another regular and open forum for students, staff, faculty, and even community members to gather on campus.”

The free-flowing conversations are billed as a current events open forum, where students and faculty members can drop formalities and share opinions, rationales, and observations about the political world around them. The discussions, which moved to a virtual format along with the rest of UMBC-Shady Grove back in March, drew particular interest during the fall election cycle, but the conversation can reach well beyond the headlines of a presidential election.

“What we discuss depends on who is there and who is participating,” said Dasgupta, who shares leadership roles in the group with History Program Director Dr. Andrew Nolan and Political Science professor Dr. Candace Groudine. “We’ve now gone through three administrations and three presidential election cycles bringing together opinions, calming anxieties, and looking forward to what’s coming next. But we have no set agenda.”

Open to any student, faculty, or staff member within the Universities at Shady Grove, Wednesday Wipeout sessions are held at noon on titular Wednesdays, running until 1 p.m. Dasgupta may be the organizer of the event, but he says he never has to prod the conversations in any particular direction. His only introductory speech as the participants log on is an inquisitive “What’s on your mind?” Things take off from there.

Sam Angell, Senior Marketing Coordinator, UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove Campus

During one recent session, student participants joined the virtual roundtable with a goal of brainstorming events that the student council could run to promote engagement in the pandemic-necessitated remote learning environment. What started as a straightforward exchange of ideas led to an offhand mention of Dr. Dasgupta’s upcoming dental appointment, which segued into a lengthy aside about politicians who were also practicing medical doctors.

Later, the group turned its attention to the recent controversy surrounding GameStop stock trading. One student opened up about his experience as a casual day trader. That led not only to chatter about stock trading tactics and strategies, but also prompted one participant to mention the role of hedge fund manager and majority owner of the New York Mets, Steven Cohen. A brief foray into the dubious history of the Mets organization quickly ensued.

Some conversations are more serious and structured than others. Occasionally, Dr. Dasgupta or his fellow organizers will bring in a guest speaker to talk about career choices or to share life experiences. Generally, the rule is if someone shows up, they get to pick the topic.

“I have committed to being there every Wednesday at noon,” Dasgupta explained. “Sometimes we have a large group and sometimes, it’s just me and a couple of faculty members. If I can’t be here, Dr. Nolan or Dr. Groudine are. And on the rare occasion when there was no faculty member present, students have self-organized. When that happens, that’s the best. There’s never a shortage of discussion.”

To join the conversation, click here on Wednesdays at noon.

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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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A message to the USG community from Dr. Anne Khademian as we begin the spring semester

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and USG Community Members:

I want to wish everyone a very successful and productive spring term. These past several months have been difficult for everyone and we’re starting another semester at the Universities at Shady Grove with primarily remote services, online learning and limited on-campus classes, due to COVID-19. Yet, I am so proud of the resilience that you have shown as, together, we work through the extraordinary challenges of this ongoing pandemic.

I’ve just crossed the three-month mark in my new role as executive director of USG and I continue to be amazed and humbled by the number of university, community, government and business leaders who believe so strongly in USG and in the unique way we serve students and the greater community.

Last Friday, I ended another busy week by meeting (via Zoom, of course!) with a prominent biotech CEO who praised USG for its innovation in providing a diverse population of students with affordable and convenient access to cutting-edge degree programs, state-of-the-art facilities and life-changing experiential learning opportunities. I especially loved how he really embraced the unique, multi-university model of the USG campus, saying: “Education is so important to getting ahead, but it has to fit our times.”

I hope and trust all of you at USG feel that same way. We are steadfastly committed to ensuring that we will always be ready to meet the challenges of the “times” in which we live – even when a global pandemic forces us to pivot and deliver our services in new, innovative ways that will enable students to “get ahead.”

One last note about my conversation with that CEO and maybe the best part: His rapidly growing firm has already hired three recent graduates from the UMBC Translational Life Science Technology program at USG. One of those graduates is already leading a major project involving an accelerated process for COVID-19 testing. How gratifying is that?

Onward into the Spring Semester

Over the next few months, we at USG will be preparing for the important development of a strategic plan to guide us into the future. As some of you already know, we will be starting that process with what I am calling a “deep dive,” in which we are examining in depth all aspects of our current operations and services.

Throughout the planning process, we will be seeking input from all stakeholders including staff, faculty and our academic partners, students and other members of the USG community, such as our Board of Advisors. Please stay tuned for more information and know that we are really looking forward to getting feedback from all of our stakeholder groups. We will build on the successes of USG and develop a shared vision for USG 2.0!

Although the beginning of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts has provided hope, for now, we must continue to be vigilant in doing all we can to protect the health and safety of everyone in the USG community. As such, all USG events will continue to be held virtually, including the 2021 Graduation Celebration, which will take place the evening of Friday, May 7. Looking further ahead to the summer, we have also decided to continue to hold new student orientation events in virtual formats.

A few important “housekeeping” notes for students and employees as the spring semester gets underway:

  • For information about USG’s operations amid the COVID-19 crisis, please be sure to consult the USG Onward page on the USG website. As I noted above, there will only be a limited number of on-campus classes this spring, with extensive health and safety protocols in place. All student services will be delivered remotely once again. You can find additional information and details on the website and if the situation changes in any way, we will notify everyone with updates.
  • A reminder that we encourage everyone to be certain that you are signed up to receive USG Community Alerts (text and/or email) for any emergency messages, whether related to COVID-19, inclement weather or any type of incident involving the USG campus.
  • Although there will not be events on campus, there are so many virtual events and activities happening at USG and one of the best ways to keep up is to regularly consult the events section of the website.
  • Also, remember to read the USG Weekly e-newsletter each Monday – you can sign up for it on this link if you are not already receiving it. Another great tool for keeping up with USG activities is the USG Mobile App, which I would urge you to download on your smartphone.

And here are a few other ways to keep up with what’s happening with USG and our nine partner universities:

I invite you also to learn more about USG – as I have been doing – through my weekly video podcast series, entitled “This is USG.” We’ve had some great conversations over the past few months with student leaders, leaders and colleagues from our university partners, elected officials, and others. You can find links to all of the episodes on our website. I’d love to hear your feedback and ideas for future discussions.

Have a great start to the spring semester, everyone. You’ve probably heard it said many times, but it’s worth saying again – together, we will get through this challenging time. Stay safe and healthy, and take good care of yourselves, your family members, friends and colleagues. Thank you.

Anne Khademian, Ph.D.
Executive Director, USG, & Associate Vice Chancellor, University System of Maryland

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A message from USG’s Executive Director, Dr. Anne Khademian in response to Jan. 6 events at Capitol

Dear Colleagues and Students in the USG Community:

I am sure that many of you were deeply saddened and impacted by the events that took place in our nation’s capital yesterday and I wanted to share some of my own thoughts with you via this short video. If you have a few minutes, I invite you to watch it below. As always, I hope this finds you well and I thank you all for making the Universities at Shady Grove such a wonderfully inclusive and supportive community.

Anne Khademian, Ph.D.
Executive Director, USG, & Associate Vice Chancellor, University System of Maryland

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Using Innovation to Navigate Today’s Job Market. Guest Post John Zuknick

In today’s unprecedented environment, the job market is challenging at best for anyone from a recent graduate to someone laid off to a career-changer to those reentering the job market. Due to the pandemic we’re in a global recession and looking for employment during a recession is difficult.

The five principles of effectuation (Image source: https://images.app.goo.gl/u8LvVwVEjsy2ZYPTA)

What can you do to better position yourself for success in these uncertain times?  I suggest you employ an innovative process that many entrepreneurs have used for years called effectuation.  The effectual thinking process works on the philosophy of, “If I can control the future, I do not need to predict it.” Some very successful serial entrepreneurs, including Michael Rubin, an e-commerce and sports entrepreneur, and Oprah Winfrey, an entrepreneur who built businesses based on her television audience following, each used effectual entrepreneurship.  Serial entrepreneurs are effectual thinkers.

To navigate through an uncertain job market, consider using what you already know.  Focus on the given means (what you know) and choices; and then, define your goal. Effectuation encourages creative, innovative and transformative tactics to control your future, and is based on the following five principles that can help you control the job market uncertainty:

John Zuknick is Director of Economic Development & Workforce Initiatives for the Universities at Shady Grove. He volunteers as an entrepreneur-in-residence and teaches marketing, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the University of Baltimore.
  1. Bird in Hand Principle  

The first step of effectuation is your means, not your goal.  Begin with looking at the resources you have at your disposal right now. Make an assessment by asking yourself:

Who am I?  Conduct a self-reflection and complete a value map exercise to determine your strengths, traits, and abilities. “Who you are” is something you likely take for granted, think of as obvious, and have never thought about memorializing in a written document.  However, defining your values is key when trying to explain your work to colleagues, superiors or hiring managers. When developing your value map, survey your supervisor, co-workers, professors, and peers.  Try to keep away from asking your mom, as she already knows that you’re brilliant, and BFFs are not always unbiased!

What do I know?  What value do you bring to the table with education, training, expertise, interests and experience that employers can use to solve their problems?  Here is where you want to uncover your value through a competence mapping exercise.  Use the results from competence mapping (what you bring to the table) to match your value to solving the employer’s requirements and needs.  Maybe you are applying for a social media marketing position and have been successful with social media marketing through a volunteer organization or club.  That’s great, and you are very qualified, but you also need to highlight what differentiates you from the other qualified applicants who are applying. 

Who do I know?  Target and segment your social and professional networks for employment opportunities.  This provides you with effective introductions via your network (e.g. colleagues, classmates, former employers and co-workers, professional acquaintances, friends, family, etc.).  You will find an excel spreadsheet works well for this task.  Research on how to best develop this process as there a number of books and websites with good information on identifying and farming your network.

After answering these key questions, you will be ready to create a personal value proposition (PVP).  A PVP is a summary of why an employer should hire you! It’s not about what you want, but instead, what value you bring to the opportunity. Usually the first question asked in an interview is, “Tell me about yourself.”  When answering this question, the first sentence should be your PVP! It’s extremely important to develop a strong PVP and a message map is an excellent place to start when developing your PVP.

2. Affordable Loss Principle  

By using this principle, you kill failures early and you cumulate successes by leveraging on what works. Ask yourself, “What can I possibly lose by taking this action and is that affordable to me?”  If it is an affordable loss and there are potential gains, go for it! Here are a few examples:  

Initiating contacts with other people has a very low cost but high upside.  

The job market is challenging, should you stay in school to earn a Master’s degree? You already have $70,000 worth of debt from your undergraduate degree.  Is the additional debt worth it?  

There is a significant need for cyber security specialists. You could attend a cyber-academy, incur an additional $20,000 of debt and in six months have multiple certifications making you a candidate for a variety of high paying jobs.

A company you desire to work for has a non-paid internship. Can you afford to work free for three months to increase your chances of landing a paid position at the end of your three-month internship?

There is no “right” answer to the question of “What is an affordable loss?” The question is very personal and can only be made by you after careful consideration of your personal aspirations and financial situation.  

3. Lemonade Principle  

There is an old saying, “When you get dealt lemons, make lemonade.” I always use lots of sugar!  Leverage the possibilities by embracing the unexpected that arises from uncertain situations; be flexible rather than chained to your current goals. A great story I share with my entrepreneurship classes on the lemonade principle is the invention of the potato chip. George Crum invented the potato chip in 1853. Crum was a chef at a restaurant where French-fries were popular, and one day a diner complained that his fries were too thick. Mr. Crum cut the potatoes thin, salted the potatoes heavily and fried them up. Out of just one customer complaint, the potato chip was born! Learn to work with surprises and turn those surprises into opportunities. For example, if you have a business degree with a concentration in marketing but there is an opportunity at a large company as an accounting clerk, why not consider it? After getting your foot in the door, you’ll have a better opportunity to move towards that desired marketing position.

4. Crazy-Quilt Principle

Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships…create a personal “quilt” by forming partnerships with diverse people and organizations willing to make a real commitment to jointly creating the future with you. For example, you join a business civic organization and volunteer to serve on a committee. A committee member notices the hard work and skills you employed to ensure the success of the committee project. Her company has an opening and she recommends you for the position before the job is on Indeed (actual story). The Crazy-Quilt Principle can serve as a paramount resource in finding employment.

5. Pilot in the Plane Principle 

You are in the pilot seat of your career, which means you need to “Control vs. Predict.”  By focusing on activities within your control, you need to know your actions will result in the desired outcomes. Of course, not everything can be shaped or controlled, but effectuation encourages you, as the pilot of your career, to focus on those aspects of the environment that are, at least to a certain degree, within your control.

I hope you find the above points helpful as you take the next step in your personal and professional journey.  Looking for employment in a recession is difficult. However, working through adversity makes us stronger and produces great character traits that can lead us to great success.

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A Salute to UMBC’s First TLST Graduates. Guest Post: Dr. Annica Wayman

Since stepping into the role of Associate Dean at UMBC-Shady Grove in August of 2018 to oversee undergraduate and graduate applied biotechnology programs, time has surely flown by. I’m completing only my fifth fall/spring semester but this one is special. This semester, the first three students of UMBC’s new undergraduate biotechnology program, a Bachelor of Science in Translational Life Science Technology (TLST), are graduating.  

Dr. Annica Wayman, Associate Dean at UMBC-Shady Grove

I couldn’t be prouder of Charmaine Hipolito, Loic Soumani Mowa, and Titina Sirak. Because of COVID-19, we are unable to celebrate this milestone with them during commencement as we normally would. So I want to salute them here –– congratulations on completing your bachelor’s degree and being the inaugural graduates of UMBC’s TLST program at The Universities at Shady Grove

Along with the other students in the TLST program who will graduate over the next year, they have paved the way for future TLST students by being smart, hard-working, and gracious students who are passionate about science and its application in making life-saving medical products. We need your talent more than ever in the biotechnology workforce.

UMBC’s TLST degree uniquely prepares students for the many jobs in the growing biotechnology industry where medical products are made.  Among the 300-plus biotech companies in Montgomery County, there will be hundreds of jobs opening in the next few years to work on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, cell and gene therapy products, and other novel biopharmaceuticals. In the TLST program, students complete a hands-on, multidisciplinary program that includes cell biology, bioinformatics, epidemiology, and biomanufacturing courses, as well as internships at biotechnology companies or in the TLST lab doing research.  

When graduating from the TLST bachelor’s degree program, students will have an applied understanding of the many facets of science and engineering used to make medical products and relevant experience to lead them into a secure and impactful biotechnology career.

With Charmaine, Loic and Titina, I had the pleasure of witnessing their growth in knowledge, experience and professionalism in the TLST program. They not only understand the science, engineering, legal, and organizational aspects of making a medical product, they have also gained excellent laboratory, computer, critical thinking and communication skills. They acquired work experience from UMCP’s Biotechnology Research and Education Program (BREP), GeneDx, AstraZeneca, Kite Pharma and American Gene Technologies, which solidified their classroom learning, improved their professionalism, and grew their network. They now have many options to consider for their postgraduate plans.

Whatever Charmaine, Loic and Titina decide to pursue after graduating, I know they will leverage their education in the TLST program to achieve successful careers in biotechnology.  I wish them and the soon-to-be TLST graduates all the best!

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Thankfulness during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Guest Post: Obioma (Obii) Akaigwe

Hello, I’m Obioma (Obii) Akaigwe, Manager of the Auxiliary Services department at USG. Day-to-day I manage several operations at USG that many of you enjoy on campus (in normal times!), including food service, vending, the campus rec center, the copy center, parking & transportation, Mobile Market Mondays and the bookstore. I enjoy enriching the campus experience for students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

Obioma (Obii) Akaigwe, Manager, USG Auxiliary Services

It has been seven months since the pandemic rocked our world – literally! By that, I mean switching from our usual way of life to adopting new ones, like Work-from-Home (WFH) and Virtual Learning (VL). It has been a struggle adjusting to the new norm of doing pretty much everything, from Zoom calls to mask wearing! But, it is what we must do to kick this virus far, far away. As I was thinking about my plans for the holidays under this new norm, I can’t visit or host friends or family (according to the CDC, social distancing helps slow the spread). Well, I did not want that to dampen my holiday plans or spirit, so I started thinking of the many things I am thankful for; I had a long list, but narrowed it down to these few:

• I am thankful for health and life (when many are sick from and have died of COVID-19)

• I am thankful for family and friends (even though we can’t see each other in person just yet)

• I am thankful to have a job (even during a time when many people are unemployed)

• I am thankful for hope (because it helps me look forward to the days ahead when we can once again stay close to one another, talk, smile, and laugh together)

What are you most thankful for? Make your own list and consider these tips for making this holiday season a memorable one.

After reviewing my thankfulness list, it inspired me to make the most of the coming holiday season, and I wanted to share my plans hoping that others may find it helpful. First, let’s adjust our mindset; you don’t need to feel bad and dampen the holiday spirit just because we are socially distancing! We may have made various plans for this time of the year, places to go, people to see – but we must make lemonade with the lemon life has given us! So, with that, I encourage you to try one or more of the following ways to celebrate and make this holiday season just as memorable as the past ones:

1. Turkey drop-off (or bird-drop off) – Instead of gathering, try cooking and dropping off the meals to your family/friends if possible. If you were supposed to host this year, consider cooking the meals, packaging them, and dropping them off on Thanksgiving Day, or the day before.

2. Curb-side or front door pick-up – Similarly, if you were intending to host this year, consider staying at home and letting your guests drive to you to pick up their meals by the curb or by your door as they arrive for pick up.

3. Break-bread virtually – Dine together on a video call – simply set a time, and everyone will gather to eat together just as if they typically would.

4. Reach out those near and far – In addition to our family and friends, it is equally important to reach out to classmates, co-workers, and neighbors to check in and see how they are doing – and maybe, surprise them with a meal, with a turkey drop-off or front door pick-up offer. It is the season to spread joy, love, and hope in the midst of what is happening in the world and we have the power to lift each other up in these difficult times.

5. Burn holiday calories virtually – If you’re looking to get ahead of burning those calories that have yet to be consumed during your big Thanksgiving meal and drinks – join our weekly virtual fitness classes hosted by the USG Rec Center! Classes are scheduled for Thanksgiving week, too!

I hope that sharing these tips bring joy to your hearts and hope in your souls. Consider trying any of the options above this holiday season and let me know how it went, or if you have any other ideas for safe, socially distant celebrations this year, comment below to share. I wish you all a very joyous, cheerful, laughter-filled, safe and healthy holiday!

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Election is Over, But Issues Remain. Guest Post: Mariam Yaldram, UMBC History Student

Mariam Yaldram, UMBC History Student at USG

The 2020 Presidential Election is nearing its end and its journey has been important. I do not want to get too political and/or controversial, but wanted to share some noteworthy information.

In the campaign, both former Vice President Biden and President Trump had focused their issues on Covid-19, the economy, the environment, health care and racial unrest. Other issues that were unique to the 2020 election were impeachment, foreign interference, and the Supreme Court vacancy. Knowing each opponent’s platform was important because it reflected your values and core beliefs.

I gave my vote as it was my duty as a citizen of the United States to participate in this crucial election, but also it was important for me to vote because I am a first-generation immigrant who cares about these issues. This election has demonstrated many perspectives. For one thing, it gives insight to the issues that many people care about. It showcases how American citizens are willing to vote for the candidates and how it will impact their lives.

For example, the concern over Covid-19 is one that many people are worried about. How will the candidates address this issue and how will it be solved? Regardless of your political party affiliation, I think America needs to address these issues and come to an agreement on how to approach this challenge. Another issue that concerns America and citizens like me is the economy. Right now, the economy is not doing so well. We are in debt more than ever. Will the candidates fix this debt and will there be more employment since so many people lost their jobs due to Covid-19, including me?

Also, will the government continue the stimulant checks and how will raising taxes will impact someone like me? Let’s not forget about the environment. It is not looking good, especially for the younger generation who care and believe in climate change. Is there a balance to addressing the issue of climate change and industries who rely on carbon?

Our health care is also at risk, as millions of Americans depend on the Affordable Care Act. Is healthcare a right or should it be privatized? I want to know how it will affect my insurance because I rely on Medicaid.

Finally, the issue of race is problematic. How will racial disparities be approached and will the justice system be reformed? All these are a concern for many Americans.

I am not sure what the future holds. I hope that all the issues above are taken into consideration. This election was, indeed, a close one but we have so much work to do. I am pleased to know that my vote counted in this year’s election.    

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