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

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Hands on Hospitality Classes to a Rising Star in Hotel Management

Cindy 250x250

Cindy Rivas

Cindy Rivas always wanted to work in the hospitality industry, and knew she wanted to work at the management level. To get there, she recognized that she needed to go back to school to pursue a degree, but she needed a program that was flexible and allowed for an easy commute so she could maintain her full-time job. Cindy found a match in the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s (UMES) Hospitality and Tourism Management program, offered locally at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG).

Another main reason why Cindy chose to pursue her UMES Bachelor’s Degree at USG was its affordability. Cindy applied for and was awarded a full scholarship through the USG Kendall Scholars Program, which not only allowed her to focus more time on her studies, but propelled her into leadership positions within other campus organizations. “The #1 thing that I took away from being part of the USG family are my leadership skills.”

While at USG, Cindy was the founder and first president of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, a student-run organization that promotes diversity of leaders in the hospitality industry. Cindy was also an active member of Campus Kitchens Project (CKP), a community service organization that provides food to homeless and low-income families in Montgomery County.

“One of my happiest memories is learning how to cook, and then delivering that food to a low-income family with CKP,” says Cindy. “At USG, I was constantly doing things that were bigger than me, bigger than just 9 universities and 1 campus. It was all about how can we make a difference in the community and what we can do outside once we graduate.”

Cindy’s leadership prowess wasn’t confined solely to the USG campus. She was one of two students selected to be part of the Voyage Program at Marriott International, a highly competitive 12-18-month leadership program within the regionally headquartered hotel chain company. “UMES at USG was a big help in getting me ready for the Voyage Program. I was confident I would get in because I had so much help every step of the way.” Participation in this program is what set Cindy on the path to becoming the General Manager of a local branch of the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, where she now manages an 8 million dollar asset portfolio and more than 140 people.

“Who I am as a person and who I am as a leader is because of the experience I gained here on campus.”

Today, Cindy is a guest lecturer at USG, where she shares her knowledge with a new group of students who are pursuing a career path just like hers. She encourages students to take advantage of all the opportunities on campus, like she did. “I stepped on campus bright eyed and bushy tailed, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I took advantage of the opportunities and made good memories. I left with a lot a knowledge and as a confident leader with the ability to give back to my community.”

Find your transformation at


Posted in Community, Guest Post, OnCampus, Power of 9, Top Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Come Celebrate Grammar Day: Frustrating Grammar Fails and How to Fix Them!

Adam Binkley

By: Adam Binkley

Grammar Day? No, I’m not talking a day during which we binge watch Frasier (that’s Kelsey Grammer, with an er).

I’m talking about grammar, that crazy system that governs the way we use language to express ideas.

National Grammar Day drops every year on March 4th. As that is a Saturday, the Universities at Shady Grove is celebrating on Tuesday, March 6th—and you’re invited!

Maybe you are the type of person who is unsure as to what makes sentences sensible. You find spelling and grammar scarier prospects than skeletons and ghosts.  Misplaced modifiers create mayhem in your life and drive you to madness.

On the other hand, you might find commas as calming as chamomile tea.  You search for improper grammar on street signs like it is your own personal Waldo. Exclamation points actually excite you!

Maybe you fall somewhere in between these two extremes—a grammar goldilocks wanting to taste that just right porridge of punctuation.

No matter who you are, grammar day will have something for you. We’re offering up games, food, prizes, and workshops on grammar.

Now, I’m guessing there might be a skeptic or two out there who just can’t get excited about grammar. If that’s you, I humbly offer up these frustrating grammar fails (and how to fix them!)

  1. The comma splice. It’s sunny, wear sunscreen. What’s wrong with that? Well, comma splices occur when you use a comma to connect independent clauses. The simple fix for this one is to separate the information into two sentences. Do the sentences still make sense? It’s sunny. Wear sunscreen. You’ve turned your comma splice into something nice!
  2. Commonly misused words. There dog sleeps over their. Did reading this sentence make you a little bit (or a lot of) mad? If so, chances are commonly misused words already grind your grammar gears. To fix this one, slow down! Type that email out in a word processor. Read over your sentences a few extra times after drafting—and after reviewing a list of commonly misused words.
  3. Apostrophe catastrophes. Remember that “it’s” from my first example? That means “it is” or “it has.” Without an apostrophe “its” is possessive. This is one of those quirks of grammar, virtually every other time you see an apostrophe before an s it will indicate possession. Learn the rule for it’s and its. Then reserve the apostrophe for indicating possession. What about contractions, like “can’t”? Your best bet is to not even use them in academic writing!

Still hungry for more grammar (or just plain hungry)? Come see us at grammar day on March 6th and we’ll feed your mind and body.

Chances are there is a reader of this blog who has found a grammar mistake or two—come by and correct me!

Grammar Day 2018 Full Poster


Posted in Faculty/Staff, Guest Post, OnCampus, Students, Suite News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

From Video Game Enthusiast, to Educational Game Developer

Brian 250x250

Brian Doyle

Reflecting on his time in higher education, Brian identifies himself as a perennial college student. While at Montgomery College (MC), he worked various jobs and took classes on and off, unsure of what he wanted to do. One job he had was working as a freelance writer creating business development proposals for a government contractor, and he noticed he had the qualifications and experience to do that as a full-time employee, except for one aspect: he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. It was then that he decided to continue his education and earn his bachelor’s degree.

While at MC, he learned about the Universities at Shady Grove’s (USG). He realized the University of Baltimore (UB) offered a B.S. in Simulation and Game Design at USG.

“It was great option for me, to have a campus so close to where I lived, especially since I needed to continue working to support myself while pursuing my degree,” said Brian.

At USG, Brian thrived in the state-of-the-art campus and fully equipped computer labs. He really enjoyed the diversity of the student body. He was able to enroll in a few interdisciplinary classes with students from other majors, which allowed him to view gaming in a new way. “I was able to get perspective and input from people who weren’t like me, who don’t think the way that I think, and had different needs and wants related to the product that I was trying to learn how to create,” said Brian. “It helped me design better gaming products.”

Not only did the diverse student population allow Brian to grow as a game designer, but it was essential in developing his professional network. “With nine different schools at the Universities at Shady Grove, it’s a great opportunity to network,” said Brian. “You meet people from all kinds of different industries and jobs, and you make great connections. Even today, I continue to reach out to those contacts to help me with projects.”

As part of his program, Brian completed an internship with Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) during which he was required to design an educational game. His idea was selected by BCPS to move forward to the next phase, so Brian led a group of interns to develop their environmental science game, “My Own Biome.” BCPS funded further development of the game and it was later implemented in the curriculum for middle and high school students.

In a two-year span, Brian went from taking courses at USG, to teaching courses at USG, to running his own company using some of his students as interns. Now, he works at Coley & Associates, Inc. as an Instructional Games Designer, and he credits the experiences he had at USG for helping him achieve his success.

“The Power of 9 is the opportunity to make the best out of yourself.”

Learn more at


Posted in Community, Guest Post, Power of 9, Students, Top Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Building His Skills to Building the Region’s Most Innovative Spaces

Muhammad 250x250

Muhammad Ahmad

When most people think of a construction site, they think of the hard hats, bright yellow vests, and tall scaffolding. But, there is another equally important behind-the-scenes part of construction – the project managers who play a critical role in getting projects started and completed on time.

And it’s that career path that captured the passions of Muhammad Ahmad. “I wanted to become a business major, but I also felt the desire to work with my hands,” said Muhammad. “For me, construction management was the best of both worlds.”

But, pursuing that path proved challenging. As one of the oldest of 9 siblings, Muhammad played a critical role in supporting his mother at home in Montgomery County. That meant he couldn’t take the time to move away for school, nor could he spend hours at a time commuting to a campus far away from home.

When he learned that he could pursue a B.S. in Construction Management Technology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), on the campus of the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), he enrolled right away.

“My USG experience was invaluable. I don’t think I could have gone to school and completed it in the time that I did without USG being here,” said Muhammad. “To me, the Power of 9 means opportunity and collaboration. It’s the unique collaborative effort between these 9 universities to provide an education opportunity to the community that everyone can benefit from.”

In addition to USG’s close proximity to home, Muhammad was able to pursue his degree at USG because he was awarded a full scholarship through the USG Kendall Scholars Program. He began working closely with other scholarship recipients and staff advisors, and felt his personal transformation taking effect. “Through working with that team and all of the other representatives at USG, I found my inner voice,” said Muhammad. “I found my ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds and vantage points, and my ability to connect with people through speeches and community efforts.”

One of the requirements of his UMES construction management program was the completion of two externships. After completing his first externship, Muhammad landed his second externship with Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc., which then turned into a full-time job offer. He’s now been a project manager with the company for seven years, and credits UMES at USG for his success.

“UMES at USG is the main reason why I received my externship and then a job with Coakley & Williams, but it also helped me hone my social and technical skills that have propelled me as a leader in both my industry and my community,” said Muhammad.

“When I think about how far I’ve come since starting my classes at USG to when I graduated, the amount of growth was immeasurable. Looking at me then versus me now are two very different people, and that’s all thanks to the Universities at Shady Grove.”

Muhammad says the day in the life of a project manager means hard work, long hours, and a lot of team effort. In many ways, it feels similar to his time at USG, because he’s constantly relying on the tools and people around him. “I think that my experience at USG is the reason that I push for success every day,” said Muhammad. “It’s why I’ve been at Coakley & Williams for seven years, and why I am going back to USG for my graduate degree with UMUC. USG taught me to be my best self.”

Find your transformation at the Universities at Shady Grove. #Powerof9



Posted in Community, OnCampus, Power of 9, Top Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Raising Her Children to Becoming a Child Therapist

Yancy 250x250

Yancy Padilla

Yancy Padilla’s academic path started differently than most of her undergraduate peers. As a mother of two young children, Yancy had big responsibilities that delayed her from starting her higher education, ultimately choosing to pursue her degree at the request of her children

Yancy searched for an academic program that would be local and affordable so that she could continue to spend time with her children, while maintaining her then-current job. With a passion for helping people, she found the social work program she was looking for at UMBC, but the commute to Baltimore was a real deterrent.

Then, Yancy discovered the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), which offered the same exact UMBC Social Work program, right in the same county where she lived and worked. She jumped at the chance to enroll in a university that not only put her on the career path she wanted, but also allowed her to balance school with work and family.

“USG helped me at my job, because the school is embedded in the community that I was working in,” said Yancy. “Plus, I took advantage of all the resources that the campus had to offer, and even recommended some of USG’s services to those that I was working with.”

For Yancy, affordability was also a major factor. She earned enough scholarships to pay for her tuition in full. “One of the big benefits of being at USG was that I had access to several different financial supports, including the seven scholarships I received from USG as well as those from the UMBC main campus,” said Yancy. “Had I not come to USG, I don’t think that I would have had the financial support I needed to get to where I am now.”

Because she chose attend UMBC at USG, Yancy was able to continue working, pursue her desired career, and complete her evening homework side-by-side with her children. She thrived in the small class size setting which provided personalized attention from professors and a close cohesion with her cohort.

“Before USG, I was a single mother raising two beautiful kids. Now, thanks to UMBC at USG, I am also the social worker that I had always wanted to be.”

Her educational experience at USG was so positive that Yancy chose not to stop with her undergraduate degree. She went on to receive her MSW from the University of Maryland School of Social Work and now works as a Transitional Trauma Therapist at The Tree House Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County Maryland.

“It was USG that paved the way for me, and I continue to be a therapist here in the area,” says Yancy. “USG is where transformational things happen. It happened to me and it can happen to you, too.”

Find your transformation at the Universities at Shady Grove. #Powerof9


Posted in Community, Guest Post, Power of 9, Students, Top Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Discovering His Passion for Science, to Working Towards Discoveries in Cancer

Armen 250x250

Armen Ghazarian

By the time Armen Ghazarian started taking courses at Montgomery College (MC), he was certain that he wanted to be a doctor. So, when it came time for him to decide where to transfer after his two years at MC, the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) rose to the top of the list because of its Biological Sciences program; but the location and price tag made it hard for Armen to see himself there.

That’s when he learned about the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). Having just opened its doors in 2000, USG was a new model that was changing the way education was delivered in Montgomery County. As a regional campus, USG offers degree programs from 9 Maryland public universities in Rockville – one of which was UMCP’s B.S. in Biological Sciences program.

So, Armen applied to UMCP and selected to take his classes at the USG campus.  He was among the first set of students to attend the new Montgomery County campus.

“USG was a lot closer to my home, which was great for me because at the time, I didn’t have the financial resources to live on campus in College Park,” says Armen. “Plus, it was awesome to learn about so many programs from the state’s top universities housed right here in Montgomery County. It was exciting to be part of that.”

Like most students interested in a medical field, Armen started on the pre-med route, until an elective course in epidemiology – the study of disease and its determinants amongst specific populations – changed his path.

“Looking back, I didn’t know what epidemiology was. It was just an elective that sounded interesting,” says Armen. “As soon as I started the class I realized I had found the start to my career.”

“It was exciting to see so many electives offered here, like the epidemiology course that changed my career path.”

Armen credits the wealth of electives, small class sizes, and personalized attention from professors as contributing factors to the success and personal transformation he experienced at USG. With the help of one of his advisors, Armen received an internship in a lab close to campus, which confirmed his passion for epidemiology and research.

Now, Armen is an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, where he looks at various data sets to try to find a link between certain risk factors and cancer types.

To Armen, the Power of 9 is success. “I can’t believe that I’ve made it this far, and I have USG to thank for the beginning of my success,” says Armen. “I was introduced to epidemiology through a course at USG which shaped my future.”

“To me, the Power of 9 means an opportunity for students who don’t have the resources or time to commute to all of these institutions to come to something that is close. At USG, there are so many programs offered through different institutions that your opportunities are truly endless.”

Find your transformation at the Universities at Shady Grove. #Powerof9


Posted in Community, OnCampus, Power of 9, Top Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment