Meet the Peer Advisory Team

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!

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Julia del Carmen Aviles-Zavala: Psychology & Social Work

Julia del Carmen Aviles ZavalaAn 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.

Emma Earnest: Social Work

An interesting personal fact about yourself …Emma Earnest
I am a fire spinner and spend some of my free time dressed up and playing with fire.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?
I chose UMBC-Shady Grove because I wanted a unique college experience that included students from many different campuses.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?
I started a student advisory board for the Counseling and Consultation Center and am also the president of it. I also am the president of the honor society, Delta Sigma. It is an honor society for students with disabilities. I also am starting a chapter of the Psychedelic Club International at USG. Lastly, I volunteer my time visiting clubs and offering meditation and mindfulness.

What are your plans following graduation?
I plan to go right into grad school at UMBC and spend my free time completing psychedelic therapy related trainings. I will become a certified psychedelic psychotherapist.

What is your advice for prospective students?
The best advice I can give is to make time for your self-care. For anyone to be successful they must be able to take care of themselves. Additionally, be sure to really take time to study and integrate what you are learning in your classes into your life in some way. Learning comes easier when we practice what we learn or teach others what we learn.

Elsy Estrada: Psychology and Social Work

Elsy EstradaAn interesting personal fact about yourself …
I am a foodie! I love traveling and finding new places to visit and trying new cuisines.

I also love Disney World and travel there at least once a year; what can I say? Disney World truly is the most magical place on earth for me.

This past year I also discovered that I love all things related to skincare. I can spend all day watching YouTube videos on my favorite new skincare tips and new products to try out. P.S. wear your sunscreen daily!

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?
I chose UMBC-Shady Grove because I wanted to be a part of a small, close-knit community, and UMBC-Shady Grove is precisely that. I love that campus is very close to my home, the class sizes are right for me, and I get personal interactions with caring faculty, plus I have an array of opportunities to get involved in campus.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?
This is my second semester at the Universities at Shady Grove and my first semester as a Peer Advisory Team (PAT) member. I am currently a member of the Tau Sigma Honor Society, the Phi Alpha Honor Society, and I soon hope to be a member of the UMBC Circle of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Society.

Additionally, I look forward to joining the Social Work Student Association in the fall and starting my Field Placement internship for my Social Work Major.

What are your plans following graduation?
Following graduation, my plans are to take a nice long vacation to celebrate my achievements and try a ton of different foods. After that, I look forward to pursuing my Master of Social Work (MSW) at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore, MD. My current goal is to work in Child Welfare following my master’s degree; therefore, I have applied for the Title IV-E Program and hope to finish my degree with the advance standing master’s program.

What is your advice for prospective students?
My best advice for prospective students is to hang in there! Both figuratively and literally! An undergraduate can be daunting at times; therefore, do not be afraid to lean into your peers, friends, faculty, and the community as much as you need to. Everyone here wants you to be successful and achieve great things. Ask questions, be present, get involved in what interests you, and be the best version of yourself. I promise it gets easier, and I promise UMBC-Shady Grove has many opportunities to get involved and to get out of our comfort zone.

Dashawn Herbert-Williams: Social Work

An interesting personal fact about yourself…Dashawn Herbert-Williams
I rank in the top 100 in the nation for shot put.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove? 
I picked UMBC-Shady Grove for two reasons. The first reason is that the UMBC social work program is a great program and I know that I would achieve my goals at UMBC. My second reason for choosing UMBC-Shady Grove is for the location. Being a mother of two young children, distance is always a priority for me. Going to UMBC campus would be time consuming and difficult for me.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove? 
I am a second semester junior, so I am happy to say that PAT is my first extracurricular activity I have joined.

What are your plans following graduation? 
Following graduation, I will go on to work on my master’s in social work. At the moment I am not sure about which school I will attend.

What is your advice for prospective students? 
My first advice I’ll give to prospective students is to always ask. Never think that the staff or even classmates will not help you when you are in need. Always communicate to your professors even when you think you shouldn’t. These professors understand that life happens, and they are more understanding when you speak to them when things happen.

Celeste Puente: Psychology

An interesting personal fact about yourself …Celeste Puente
I have a collection of about 200 Funko POPs and about 10 of them are Chase (which are rare) of my favorite TV shows and movies. Some of my favorite POPs are from the Stranger Things, Star Wars, and Marvel collection.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?
I chose UMBC-Shady Grove for many reasons. The first being that the cost of tuition is cheaper. I only live 20 minutes away from the campus and I take advantage of staying at home with my parents and not paying for room and board. Also, I did not have to take out a loan to pay for school. Another reason I chose this campus is because the class sizes are smaller. Being in classes filled with mostly my peers who have similar interests as me makes it easier to connect with my classmates and professor and feel comfortable in the environment. Lastly, I’ve always grown up in such a diverse community. I’ve lived in the Montgomery County area all my life and in every level of education I was in a school filled with different backgrounds and I love it! Here at the shady grove campus I only get to continue to see new faces and learn different backgrounds from my peers around me.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?
I am part of the Writing Fellows program at the Center for Academic Success (CAS). I work with the Psychology students in the course Psyc 309. If you sign up for the class I hope to work with you and your writing!

What are your plans following graduation?
Once I hopefully graduate in Fall 2021, I plan to take a semester off so I can work an internship in my field of psychology. Then I plan to apply for the graduate program, Industrial Organizational Psychology, here at UMBC-Shady grove.

What is your advice for prospective students?
Some advice I would give is to take advantage of the resources available to you on campus and in life! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get out of your comfort zone, or to just put yourself out there. This is your time to discover and learn more about yourself. Who you are as a student, a peer, a friend, a classmate, and as an individual. So get out there! Not just in the classroom but also around campus.

Leigh Robertson: History

An interesting personal fact about yourself …Leigh Robertson
I’ve been a choral singer for going on nine years! I started in high school and haven’t looked back since. It has led to some awesome opportunities, including singing in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It’s a difficult activity to do virtually so I’m sadly not singing with any group right now but am looking forward to getting back to it somehow once it’s safe again.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?
I’ve had a pretty unwieldy undergraduate career, which has included transferring three times. I found out about UMBC-Shady Grove when Dr. Nolan, the History program director, came to speak at a history class I was in at Montgomery College. Logistically, it was a great option because of how close the Shady Grove campus is to my house and it was also affordable. When I visited an Open House, I appreciated how genuine everyone was – an impression that’s only gotten truer as I meet more students, professors, and staff here. A student community of all transfers is rare to come across and I’ve found it to be invaluable.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?
The Peer Advisory Team is the only extracurricular I’m involved in currently. When I transferred here in Fall 2020 I really wanted to dedicate myself to my classes, especially since I’ve never taken online classes before. I love the collaboration and camaraderie of my history and public history cohorts, which are small enough that we often have multiple classes together. I haven’t had an internship here either but am excited by the internship experiences I’ve heard about from others and I feel confident that the support here from professors and other school resources will help me find opportunities.

Outside of UMBC-Shady Grove, I work at an accounting firm and am involved in the Rockville Rainbow Collective, an organization that prepares and delivers meals to local LGBTQ+ people of color.

What are your plans following graduation?
I don’t have any specific plans for after graduation right now, beyond wanting to do something that I think is important. One thing I love about history is that it and the skills you develop studying it lend themselves to many different applications and paths. I learned last semester that there are a fair number of archaeology opportunities in Maryland, which piqued my interest! I’m also fascinated by archives, so those would be two internship ideas for me to think about.

What is your advice for prospective students?
Something that has held me back for too long is not asking questions out of fear of seeming unintelligent. It can be intimidating to be vulnerable, but being genuine is the only way to go beyond where you are. This doesn’t just apply to schoolwork but to pretty much everything. It’s an ongoing struggle to resist repressive instincts, but it helps me to continually remind myself of the kind of person I want to be. On a less emotional note, I’d definitely recommend keeping a planner if you don’t already – I’m the kind of person who needs to write everything down!

Selena Servellon: Psychology

An interesting personal fact about yourself …Selena Servellon
I am drawn to the creative outlets; for me that looks like writing poetry, calligraphy and hand lettering, and even doing makeup looks!

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?
The Psychology program and the small class sizes attracted me at first! Along with the convenience of not having to commute long distance to main campus.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?
I am a new member of the Peer Advisory Team (PAT)! I am currently working on seeking acceptance to a National Leadership Society and hope to join another extracurricular activity this semester. I worked through an extensive Hotline Training over the winter break that did not work out unfortunately, but I hope to seek out other internship opportunities in the coming semesters!

What are your plans following graduation?
Post-graduation I plan to apply to graduate school for a master’s in clinical psychology and following that I hope to find a career pertaining to helping children and their families work through individual or group trauma. After a master’s degree, I hope to start a family as well! Following that, I will strive towards a PhD program in clinical psychology and make research contributions to the field of Development/Human Life Span psychology!

What is your advice for prospective students?
Please use the resources provided to us! Attend the events! Join that club that you’ve been thinking of applying to! These are the experiences I have been grateful to attend, use, and be a part of!

My-Trinh Tran: Psychology and Social Work

An interesting personal fact about yourself…My-Trinh
I’m really crafty! I taught myself how to crochet about 6 years ago, and I’ve been making blankets for families and children for the last 5 years to donate. I’ve also taught myself how to do calligraphy, sew, and cook over the time that we’ve been in quarantine.

Why did you choose UMBC-Shady Grove?
I chose UMBC-USG because it’s close to home and, honestly, makes it easier for me to save money. Money management is a skill that I found that I lacked in, and picking the USG campus versus main campus was a clear choice for me.

In what internships or extracurricular activities have you been involved at UMBC-Shady Grove?
I have not been involved in any internships or extracurricular activities yet, but I have been thinking about being a USG Ambassador, as well as being a future member of Alpha Phi, the honor society for social work students. I was also looking into SWSA, the Social Work Student Association, so I’m looking forward to learning more about these organizations.

What are your plans following graduation?
After graduation, I plan on working within my field. I currently work at Sheppard Pratt, and hope to continue to be able to stay within this organization. I further hope to be able to continue my education into a Grad Program. I wanted to do Australia, but I’ll settle for UMB.

What is your advice for prospective students?
Time management!!! Coming from a person who transferred from Montgomery College to UMBC, adjustment may be difficult. Balancing work, school, and personal life is difficult. Finding that happy medium or happy spot for all of these things is a skill, but attainable. But this little happy medium will help keep you feeling sane!