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As current UMBC-Shady Grove students, members of the UMBC Peer Advisory Team (PAT) serve as a critical point of contact in the successful and seamless transition of students transferring to UMBC-Shady Grove from other institutions. PAT members undergo extensive leadership development and work closely with UMBC-Shady Grove administrative staff, faculty, and current students to reach out, serve, and create meaningful connections with prospective students through a variety of formal and informal recruitment and retention events. We are proud to be UMBC!

Group of people standing on stairway wearing matching gold shirts and holding a UMBC sign.

Meet the UMBC Peer Advisory Team members below.

Nowshin Ahmed: Political Science

Noshwin Ahmed

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

I can speak up to five languages. Hindi, which is not my native language, was my first language that I ever learned.

Why did you choose UMBC- Shady Grove?

I chose this campus because being a student who only lives 20 minutes away from the campus, I found the location quite convenient for me. I also chose this campus for the average class size as for me, being in a class that has thirty students is best for student and professor interactions. I feel as if my professors will be more of more help rather than being in a classroom of two hundred students.

In what internship or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I recently joined the International Club. This is my first extracurricular activity at the UMBC-Shady Grove, so I am excited to be a part of this club and help with International Night at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG)!

What are your plans following graduation?

After graduation, I plan to get a job in the private sector within the government. A few years after graduating, I might consider going to law school.

What is your advice for prospective students?

Transferring to a new school with no friends can be overwhelming. Trust me, I have been in your shoes and I can guarantee you it will get better. The UMBC-Shady Grove campus is super welcoming. There are so many people who you can count on whenever you are stuck on which classes to take for the upcoming semester and tips on how to balance school life with your personal life. This is a great place to be if you want to be successful in earning your degree as well as making good friends along the way.

Kimberly Blankenship: Psychology

Kimberly Blankenship

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

My go-to interesting fact about myself is that I spent my senior year of high school at a Wilderness Boarding School in Virginia. Yes, I lived outside. Yes, in ALL the weather conditions. What I can say is that I learned a lot about myself, and that it was a life-changing experience for me. Being here today can in part be credited to the school and the friendships that I built there.


Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

I chose UMBC-Shady Grove because I wanted to attend an established university in Maryland, but did not want to deal with a long commute or the whole living on campus thing. After seeing the campus and realizing that I would still get to have a great college experience, I chose the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). It seemed like the best fit for me, and so far that has been true!


In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I am currently a Writing Fellow here at UMBC-Shady Grove. I have found that it has been one of my favorite parts of being a student here at USG. The opportunity to work with other students on their writing has been so rewarding for so many reasons! My favorite being the confidence it seems to bring to other students during and after our sessions. I have always loved to write, and being able to spread that love has been pretty rad.


What are your plans following graduation?

I want to go to graduate school and then *fingers crossed* into a doctorate program. I really feel passionate about working with individuals living with Substance Use Disorders, but my dream job would be a profiler (shout out to Elizabeth Keene from the Blacklist).


What is your advice for prospective students?

Don’t limit yourself! There are so many different opportunities and experiences waiting for you at UMBC-Shady Grove. I didn’t start paying attention to them until I was already two semesters into my time here, and I wish I would have started to take advantage of them sooner. There are so many awesome things here, don’t let them pass you by!

KeAndre Blue: Psychology

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

I have a habit of waking up at 4:00am with the discipline of going to bed at 8:00pm. Over the years, I have found that my peak productivity hours occur in the morning. Plus, early morning runs are my form of meditation; a perfect combination of quiet solitude and connecting with the environment. (With the added perk of seeing the sunrise).

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

I chose my institution based on the hybrid course availability in addition to its location. This allows me to be a full-time college student while being able to work close to home. These two incentives motivated me to become a dedicated student and prioritize my academia.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

As of Spring 2019, I am currently President of the Psychology Student Association affiliated with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Psi Chi chapter in addition to a new member of the USG’s Peer Advisory Team. I hope to participate in more extracurricular activities and pursue internships relative to my major in the coming semesters.

What are your plans following graduation?

Post-graduation, I plan to apply to an international graduate school to challenge my personal beliefs and nationalistic and cultural values. Being a student amongst a diverse population, I wish to hone my interpersonal skills abroad while gaining a broader perspective on my academic discipline.

What is your advice for prospective students?

My advice for prospective students is to make the most of your university. Being that the Universities at Shady Grove is a progressively renowned regional higher education center composed of several Maryland institutions, it prompts diverse dialogue from all walks of life, scholastic disciplines, as well as diverse perspectives. With this being said, most college students enjoy their studies and or university of choice through being involved in campus activities; whether your niche is captured through student governance or drawn to a book club, the more involved on campus the better your collegiate experience will be. Make the most of your time.

Julia del Carmen Aviles-Zavala: Psychology & Social Work

Julia del Carmen Aviles Zavala

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

Is that I am an immigrant rights activist. It is a passion I carry wherever I go and put effort to engage in through education and social participation. I often attend rallies, and have even participated in documentaries pertaining to immigrant families.

Why did you choose UMBC- Shady Grove?

I chose to attend UMBC-Shady Grove when I made my decision to attend Montgomery College (MC). Following my senior year of high school, I was accepted to go to UMBC (main campus) but declined as MC was the better option financially and I wanted the intimate classroom environment MC provides. As USG is a similar model to MC, I had no hesitations in attending UMBC-Shady Grove. I really wanted to continue attending smaller sized classes, and again, a better option financially. The biggest influencers in my attending UMBC-Shady Grove was the the Achieving Collegiate Excellence & Success (ACES) program and my need to say close to home. Without the support of ACES, my higher education journey would be in shambles and my family depends on me. I was set on attending UMBC since I decided to pursue social work in high school. It was just a matter of which campus and I am very happy with my choice of attending UMBC-Shady Grove.

What internships and/or extracurricular activities have you been involved with at UMBC-Shady Grove?

When it comes to internships and extracurricular activities at UMBC-Shady Grove, I have participated in a handful. I and two friends started the Latinx Student Association in the fall semester of 2019. As a co-founder, I have been able to bring cultural awareness to our campus while providing a safe space for students to share in culture. I am also an active member of the Social Work Student Association and the Psychology Student Association. I have been lucky enough to have been able to participate in USG’s First Gen. Panel event and thanks to UMBC’s internship fairs, I have been actively applying to internships for this upcoming summer.

What are your plans following graduation?

My immediate plan following graduation is grad school! I am going to pursue an MSW in my efforts to becoming a LCSW-C. I look forward to attending the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore. I also hope to apply for the Title IV-E program, which will catapult my work in child welfare following my master degree completion.

What is your advice for prospective students?

My first piece of advice for prospective students is to not overload yourself. The transfer process can include preparation for attending a four-year-university, but you are not truly prepared until you are immersed in the environment. This will be a shock especially to first generation students. At your community college, the work load is possibly more lenient and easier. There is a demand for more dedication to your work and it will pay off in the long run. My second piece of advice is to use your resources at USG! It can be intimidating asking for help, or maybe you think it is unnecessary, but it is not. All the resources and staff at USG and your home institution are here because of you and for you! You will not find helping hands such as these outside of USG.

Christian Figueroa: Social Work

Christian Figueroa

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

Something I consider interesting about myself is the fact that I enjoy watching Chef Gordon Ramsay’s videos on YouTube. I have been teaching myself to cook through his tutorials and learning how to make more complex dishes.

Why did you choose UMBC- Shady Grove?

I chose UMBC-Shady Grove because it was much more affordable and convenient for me. I also felt much more welcome at this campus than I did in other college visits. I also really appreciated the idea of small classroom sizes, and the ability to feel less overwhelmed by the number of students.

What internships and/or extracurricular activities have you been involved with at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I have been involved with the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) Interprofessional Scholars Program, SWSA (Social Work Student Association), and the Student Leadership and Diversity Learning Series.

What are your plans following graduation?

Right after graduation, I would like to go to Ecuador with my friends, one of which is from there. He has told me a lot about his country, and I would love to visit the Galapagos Islands. After my trip, I am hoping to go to University of Maryland- Baltimore to continue my education in Social Work with their advanced standing master’s program.

What is your advice for prospective students?

My advice for any prospective student is to visit the campus during an open house to experience the many options and facets the school has available for its students. I also believe that asking questions, although sometimes uncomfortable, is very important. The professors and other staff members are very helpful and are almost always available and willing to answer.

Tracey Heckel: Social Work

Tracey Heckel

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

An interesting fact about me is that I returned to college at 49 years old. I started taking classes at Montgomery College (MC), was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, and received my Associates Degree at 52 prior to transferring to UMBC at the Universities at Shady Grove.

Why did you choose UMBC- Shady Grove?

I first learned about UMBC Shady Grove because of the information I received while attending a transfer fair at MC. A member of the Peer Advisory Team told me about the Raptor to Retriever (R2R) Program which helps students with advising prior to transfer. The program piqued my curiosity and after attending an event at the Shady Grove campus for UMBC I was impressed by the small class sizes, the feeling of community within the different programs, as well as the fact that I would be receiving the same classes and education as students on UMBC’s home campus. I have strong ties where I live now - family and friends are my support network. Being able to continue to live here and go to school close to home in Montgomery County was crucial to me.

What internships and/or extracurricular activities have you been involved with at UMBC-Shady Grove?

This is my first semester as a Peer Advisory Team member for UMBC. My first semester on campus I was focused on succeeding academically. This semester I am excited to become more involved in extracurricular activities on campus. I am in the process of securing an internship for my senior year next fall. I’m inspired by all the opportunities to put my learning into action.

What are your plans following graduation?

I plan to take a graduation trip to the Republic of Georgia with my husband and daughter. After that I would love to secure a social work position in a hospital or medical facility. As a cancer survivor I feel called to work with people in the medical field. I also look forward to furthering my education by completing a Master of Social Work (MSW) program.

What is your advice for prospective students?

I would advise prospective students to talk to advisors, peers, and the head of the program you are interested in attending. Tell them what you want, where you want to go, and if you have any issues that might make reaching your goals more difficult. The members of the UMBC and USG staff are immensely knowledgeable at helping you set plans to reach your goals. I also think it is important that someone tells you that at UMBC- Shady Grove you are welcome. And when I say you, I mean your true authentic self. The understanding, support and acceptance at UMBC- Shady Grove for all types of students are truly one of the best attributes of campus.

Carol Hurtado: Social Work

Carol Hurtado

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

Currently, I am trying to self-teach myself the French language and play guitar. I have always been saying that I need to learn these two things before I die so, I set my priorities straight during winter break and made it my top priority. Shout out to the French New Wave Films that have helped me learn the language and shout out to trusty YouTube which has helped me learn some guitar notes.  

Why did you choose UMBC- Shady Grove?

I chose the UMBC- Shady Grove campus for many reasons. I previously attended another university and felt extremely lost in a large amount of students so I felt like I never found my rhythm as a student there. Finding out that UMBC offers a social work program, I had to apply as soon as possible as it was closely related to what I was studying in the other university I attended. Another reason why I chose UMBC- Shady is because it is cheaper and the commute is extremely convenient for me.

What internships and/or extracurricular activities have you been involved with at UMBC-Shady Grove?

This is my second semester at UMBC-Shady Grove and I have always been interested in being involved. I am currently a member of the UMBC-Shady Grove Peer Advisory Team (PAT) and I am part of the Social Work Student Association (SWSA). I plan to join more extracurricular activities and am extremely excited to start my internship/field work during my senior year.

What are your plans following graduation?

Following graduation, I would love to volunteer internationally or get a chance to be part of the Peace Corps.  I would also like to earn my Master of Social Work (MSW).

What is your advice for prospective students?

My advice for prospective students is to use the resources the campus has to offer. I have always struggled with my writing.  Going to USG’s Center for Academic Success (CAS) - where they help you with your papers - has been my grade saver. Also, take advantage of getting to know your professors and allow your professors to get know you. Keep in mind that they were students too and know what you are going through. Every professor that I have had has been helpful and the overall staff at UMBC-Shady Grove is always willing to give a helping hand. Another advice is to try to get involved in clubs or attend the events on campus. Meeting new people and feeling part of the school makes the experience of a college student amazing. My last advice is to have your mind set on your goal.  Yes, school will be hard, but always remember to keep going.

Karlee Kenny: Psychology

Karlee Kenny

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

An interesting personal fact about me is that I can complete a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle by myself in about 2-3 days. I can only do this during winter and summer breaks because I get too involved in it that I tend to neglect my school work.  In addition, it is kind of an expensive hobby.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

I chose UMBC-Shady Grove for many reasons. One reason is the convenience of the Rockville location. It is only 10-15 minutes from my house. During my first semester here, I noticed its similarity to Montgomery College which made the transition process go a lot more smoothly than expected.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

One thing I noticed about my last few semesters at Montgomery College is that when I got involved in extracurricular activities, I enjoy school more and, thus, did better in school. So, when I transferred to UMBC-Shady Grove, I thought why not get involved right away?! So, I am a member of the Psychology Student Association (PSA). I am currently co- treasurer of the Care Package Club at USG. Finally, I have joined the UMBC-Shady Grove Peer Advisory Team. I am also in training to become a veterinary assistant through Montgomery College.

What are your plans following graduation?

My ultimate career goal is to become an animal behaviorist.

What is your advice for prospective students?

My advice for prospective students is, first and foremost, take advantage of the guidance of your professors and advisors at UMBC-Shady Grove. Also, make sure to get involved in various workshops, events, activities, clubs, and organizations around campus.

Jamilet Machado: Social Work

Jamilet Machado

An Interesting personal fact about yourself ...

My guilty pleasure is dipping my chocolate chip cookies in fruit punch! (Not weird at all right?).

Why did you choose UMBC – Shady Grove?

I chose to attend UMBC-Shady Grove due to its location and it being so close to home. I get to still spend time with my friends and family, but especially, I am able to continue being the main caregiver of my father who has received two kidney transplants. Attending USG not only saves me tuition money but it gives me a higher chance of being awarded scholarships. I also like the idea of smaller class sizes which helps to build stronger relationships with faculty members and peers.

In what internship or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC -Shady Grove?

I am a member of the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program, and I have just become a member of the UMBC-Shady Grove Peer Advisory Team (PAT).

What are your plans following graduation?

After graduation from UMBC, I first plan to reward myself with a nice vacation with my family and friends! Continuing on, I hope to get into an advanced placement program, so I can pursue my Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

What is your advice for prospective students?

DO NOT hesitate to ask for help! UMBC-Shady Grove has many resources to help you reach your goals. Coming to a new school is pretty scary but if you stay open-minded, you might surprise yourself at the end. Involve yourself with campus activities -- trust me you will meet wonderful people and the fun will be endless. As for studying, I recommend keeping a color coordinated planner; it will become your best friend. Organization is key. The ride will bring hard situations but when you sit down, take a deep breath and organize your tasks, things will flow better. Remember, hard work pays off; your future is bright!

Mariandree Paiz: Social Work

Mariandree Paiz

An interesting fact about yourself ...

Well...a few interesting facts about me! After graduating from high school in 2016, out of passion and as a way to pay for college, I decided to start my own photography business. I’m also a huge fan of self-care, as I’ve come to realize how important it is for my well-being. I love working out, hiking, finding new places, and spending time with my friends and family. I took American Sign Language classes for almost 2 years and it’s one of the most beautiful languages!

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

I have been a part of the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program since I was in high school, so that’s where I made up my mind of following the Montgomery College and The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) pathway. Attending USG was going to save me a lot of money and ACES would support me with scholarships if I took this pathway. I also decided to come to USG because of the convenience in location and small class sizes.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I am the Public Relations Officer for the Social Work Student Association (SWSA), a member of ACES and Career Experience Opportunities (CEO) programs, and I just became a member of the UMBC-Shady Grove Peer Advisory Team (PAT). In addition, last summer I was an intern for the client relations team at A Wider Circle. I was responsible for conducting intakes for incoming clients and assisting them throughout the whole process of their appointment.

What are your plans following graduation?

After graduation, I definitely want to take a nice vacation and celebrate with family and friends! I also plan to devote a lot of time to my photography business so I can remodel my studio. I also plan to go to graduate school and get my Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. I hope to get into an advanced placement program, so I can complete my MSW in one year instead of two. That summer I plan to get an internship in order to explore more and make more connections.

What is your advice for prospective students?

Please, please, please use the resources the UMBC-Shady Grove campus has for YOU. All the professors and staff here want to help you. They will go out of their way to help you be successful. Also, use a planner. It is so helpful to have all of your classes’ due dates written down in order for you not to miss anything. Be organized in every way possible and that will make a huge difference. Lastly, get involved, have fun, and give it all you got. Best of luck to you! You can do it!

Ana Rodriguez: Social Work

Ana Rodriguez

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

I have 5 parakeets!

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

I chose UMBC – Shady Grove because of the convenience, cost, and smaller class size.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I am an active volunteer at the Universities at Shady Grove’s mobile market and I am also an active member of Latinx Student Association, and the Achieving College Excellence and Success (ACES) program. I will be starting my internship at Adventist HealthCare in the Fall, which I am super excited about!

What are your plans following graduation?

Following graduation, I plan on pursuing my Master of Social Work. I am still undecided on where I will be attending grad school.

What is your advice for prospective students?

My advice for prospective students is to ask questions. University can be scary, but ultimately, we are here because we want to be. There are many resources available on campus, all which are available for student use – use them! I definitely recommend joining clubs and extracurricular activities -- they helped me step out of my comfort zone.

Pierina Santa Maria: Social Work

Pierina Santa Maria

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

Last year in preparation to see Avenger’s Endgame with my friends, I saw all 22 marvel movies in five days! I had never seen a marvel movie before and now I love the MCU.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

Prior to UMBC-Shady Grove, I attended Frederick Community College, so I was used to small class sizes. Personally, I’ve always been someone who learns better in smaller settings, and I love that that Shady Grove campus makes that possible. UMBC-Shady Grove is also very convenient for me, as a caregiver in my family, the thought of commuting every day to Main Campus was a bit daunting. By attending UMBC-Shady Grove I am able to be present at home when necessary while also staying in my community!

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

Currently I am involved in the Social Work Student Association (SWSA). Now starting my second semester, I am glad that I joined SWSA so early on because it helped me make friends that shared the same major as me last semester. SWSA also does a lot of community work which I feel is super great. As a new PAT member, I know that there will be more chances for me to get involved around campus as well as the community!

What are your plans following graduation?

After graduation I plan on taking a few weeks off to see my family in Peru and Brazil. I also plan on going to graduate school in pursuit of my Master of Social Work (MSW).

What is your advice for prospective students?

My advice to anyone that is considering UMBC-Shady Grove is to come visit campus and see if it is a good fit for you! The campus is full of staff and students that are willing to help, so don’t be hesitant to ask around. As a transfer student myself, I was worried about the transition to the University, but UMBC-Shady Grove has made that transition seamless. With help from professors, and on-campus assistance (such as the Center for Academic Success) I was able to adapt to the more rigorous coursework. I love being a UMBC student and I love the shady grove campus -- I hope you see yourself joining us!

Morgan Schrader: Social Work

Morgan Schrader

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

I love hunting for fossilized shark teeth! In Maryland, there are actually a few beaches where you can find them. I enjoy finding shark teeth because they all have a different story. Not to mention, it can be so peaceful to be on the shore during sunset, engaging in such a relaxing activity.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

I chose to attend UMBC- Shady Grove because it was the most advantageous choice for me. In choosing this campus, I have a short commute to school. I also work close to the campus as a behavior technician so it’s very helpful for me to be close by, in the case that I may need to accommodate one of the clients last minute. Lastly, I chose to attend UMBC- Shady Grove because of its many resources. The Universities at Shady Grove offers free groceries, a gym, and counseling services to name a few.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I just started my second semester at the Universities at Shady Grove as a Peer Advisory Team (PAT) member. I have also participated in a few of the events in the Social Work Student Association (SWSA), like one of our famous bake sales. I hope to join SWSA soon, but first I will be focusing on developing my skills as a PAT member.

What are your plans following graduation?

After graduation, I intend to travel for a bit. Earning your bachelor’s degree, after all, does take some hard work and dedication. I think I will owe it to myself to practice some self-love and earn some more stamps on my passport!

What is your advice for prospective students?

New environments can be daunting at times. I recommend students be vulnerable with their peers and teachers during this time of change. All teachers and students have once been in the shoes of a new student, so they can empathize. Also, when you engage with your peers, staff, and faculty you’ll find many resources whether it be the staff members themselves or the resources they can refer you to.

Issoufou “Izzy” Tchiany: History & Political Science

Issoufou Tchiany

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

I was originally born with two extra fingers. I had them removed as a baby but I still have a little bump where they used to be.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

Shady Grove has a convenient location and allows me to remain in the University of Maryland System (USM). Maryland is a great state and the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) is a great resource for students that do not want to deal with the long commute to UMBC’s home campus in Catonsville, Maryland.

What internships and/or extracurricular activities have you been involved with at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I’m currently a member of UMBC-Shady Grove’s History Student Association (HSA) as well as the Model U.N. Club on UMBC’s main campus. Both organizations have been very enriching and provide great ways to develop new connections.

What are your plans following graduation?

Right after graduation, I am looking into joining either the Navy or attending graduate school. If I pursue graduate school, I’d like to work my way up to a doctoral degree and pursue a career as a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department.

What is your advice for prospective students?

Take full advantage of UMBC-Shady Grove and all the resources. You have a great team in USG’s Student and Academic Services (SAS) Suite as well as dedicated UMBC staff. Professors are really helpful as well; one of the benefits of smaller class sizes means that you can better know your professors. That advantage will be more evident down the road when you need a recommendation for a future academic endeavor. Make sure to be as involved as possible, but also understand your limits. Join clubs that you truly feel passionate about and stay organized so you are on top of your schoolwork and club duties.

Lucy Tembo: Social Work

Lucy Tembo

An interesting personal fact about yourself…

Some exciting facts about me are that I love watching soccer, and the other thing is that I like gardening.  I grow grapes in my back yard and enjoy making grape juice during the holiday season, an idea which has now become a yearly holiday tradition.

Why did you choose UMBC – Shady Grove?

I chose UMBC-Shady Grove for a few reasons.  As a working family woman, I can live at home, take care of my family, continue to work and attend school at the same time. I chose UMBC specifically because of its excellent reputation and diversity.  When I came for the open house, I found both faculty, staff, and students to be very welcoming and always willing to help.  I also liked the smaller class sizes at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), which made it easy to build relationships with faculty members and students or seek help when needed.   

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC – Shady Grove?

I have not been very much involved in extracurricular activities at UMBC-Shady Grove.  I have, however, volunteered at Manna food center with my kids and also took part in volunteering for the Elderly Abuse Awareness Annual Campaign.   Now that I am a member of UMBC-Shady Grove’s Peer Advisory Team (PAT), this will allow me to be more involved in the activities around Shady Grove campus and the community for the remainder of my semesters.

What are your plans following graduation?

Following my graduation from UMBC, my goal is to first get licensed as a social worker and work part-time while pursuing a Master's Program, hopefully here at USG.

What is your advice for prospective students?

The advice I can give to prospective students is not to be scared to ask for help, no matter the situation.   Prospective students should try to make full use of the opportunities and benefits offered here.  There is a lot of support and resources available for use to enable new students to achieve success.  Faculty, staff, and students are fantastic and are always willing to help.

Donta Williams: Social Work

Donta Williams

An interesting personal fact about yourself…

An interesting fact about me is that I love animals. I wanted to become a zoologist before I discovered my interest in social work. One of my goals later in life is to go on a safari and observe exotic animals in their habitats. As of now I have two cats, one dog, and I’m trying to get a snake, but my wife is not budging.

Why did you choose UMBC – Shady Grove?

I chose to come to UMBC-Shady Grove for a few reasons. First, the environment here on campus is great. The professors are attentive and ready to help. The students at UMBC- Shady Grove are welcoming and hard working. I have met many cool people my first semester who are my friends today. Second, is the location. I live in Germantown, MD, a 10-minute commute from my house to the campus. Third, is the affordability. For the education I am acquiring, the tuition is inexpensive. Also, students here at the Shady Grove campus have two pools of scholarships, scholarships available here at Shady Grove and scholarships that are available from UMBC’s home campus. Lastly, the class sizes are small. With the smaller class sizes, I have more one-on- one time with the professors. 

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC – Shady Grove?

I haven’t been that involved with any internships or extracurricular activities. Besides working and focusing on schoolwork, the Peer Advisory Team “PAT” is the only group I am part of at the moment.

What are your plans following graduation?

After graduation I plan on earning my LBSW, working part-time, and immediately plan to start pursuing my masters.

What is your advice for prospective students?

My advice for prospective students is to jump out there. Leaving your comfort zone can lead to extraordinary results. Sit in the front of all your classes because the professors will remember your name easily. Also, everyone is either going through the same thing as you or they are there to help, so don’t be shy and ask for help if you need it.

Mariam “Mimi” Yaldram: History

Mariam Yaldram

An interesting personal fact about yourself ...

An interesting personal fact about me is my passion for collecting dolls and hunting for antique and cultural items at thrift shops. I currently own over fifty dolls that include ethnic dolls from around the world and dolls that are over fifty years old. The oldest doll in my collection is a German-made Bisque doll from 1894. I currently attended an African American Doll competition that was organized by the Chesapeake Doll Club to celebrate Black Dolls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Both my dolls won 1st and 2nd prizes. I also attended the largest Eastern Doll Convention in Gaithersburg and will soon be a member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) and the Charm City Dolling Club in Baltimore.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?

I first heard about the USG community from my older brother who graduated in 2012 from University of Maryland College Park’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Both my brother and I attended the Montgomery College-Germantown Campus and had to stay in Montgomery County due to being caregivers to our parents. What also appealed to me is that the UMBC-Shady Grove program offers smaller class sizes, the convenience of commuting and less expensive student fees in comparison to UMBC’s home campus, personal interactions with professors, and numerous leadership opportunities. As a student attending UMBC-Shady Grove, I will not only save more money while completing my bachelor’s degree, but I will have the opportunity to find connections for internships and jobs in Montgomery County. 

What internships and/or extracurricular activities have you been involved with at UMBC-Shady Grove?

I am currently involved in numerous leadership opportunities because I am passionate about being involved in my community and building my leadership skills. My USG leadership roles include: Student Orientation Leader, member of the Student Advisory Board, member of the History Student Association (HSA), reviewer and the faculty/department liaison for the Mild Awareness: UMBC-Shady Grove Student Journal of History (I am also published in the History Journal) and Moderator for USG CommUNITY Book Club. I am also a member of the Delta Alpha Pi Disability Honor Society, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and the Golden Key International Honour Society. For the next two years here, I plan on doing an internship under the public history requirement, joining Student Ambassadors in the fall semester and plan to run for USG Student Council as President.

What are your plans following graduation?

Following graduation, I plan to apply for graduate school in history and hope to be a world historian like my mentor Kelly Rudin at Montgomery College, Germantown Campus.

What is your advice for prospective students?

Dear Prospective Students, I welcome you to transfer to and join the USG community. As a transfer student, I encourage you to continue working hard to finish your bachelor’s degree but don’t loose sight of other opportunities that USG offers. I implore you to seek out resources, find support from your professors and peers, build social and professional connections, and be involved in leadership opportunities and USG events --even if it’s just for five minutes. And don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help!