All posts by: Randianne Leyshon '09

Illustration by Rebecca Bradley, featuring colorful overlapping hands grabbing for wine glasses and mugs over a green picnic blanket.

Grab a Seat at the Table

These days, it’s tempting to grow numb to the polarization of society and the breakdown in public discourse and to retreat into our silos of solidarity. But a liberal arts education has the potential to offer an antidote to these seemingly inevitable fates—through modeling and practicing empathy. At UMBC, students are invited to the table to share their stories and listen to their peers. These acts of educational hospitality help Retrievers find their why and pursue the public good. It’s the first day of class. You’re looking around, bright-eyed and a little nervous, and then your instructor smiles at the… Continue Reading Grab a Seat at the Table

on a rehearsal stage, one actor straddles another actor holding a wooden stake in her hand

How to plan a successful stage battle

Van Helsing straddles the vampire, brandishing her cross and wooden stake. The undead—mouth and shirt stained with blood—had just confessed to a brutal kill when the vampire slayer brings down her stake. A half second delayed, a comically small amount of blood spurts from the wooden prop. Van Helsing, played by Franchesca Parker ’25, acting, and the rest of the group in the theatre rehearsal space titter at the anticlimactic moment. Tessara Morgan Farley, production stage manager, and Sierra Young ’23, the fighting and intimacy director, immediately jump in to triage a better death for the vampire, Lucy (played by… Continue Reading How to plan a successful stage battle

a group of alumni award winners stand together on a stage

Alumni Awards 2023—Making impact through relationships

On the stage of the 35th annual Alumni Awards, awardees and their nominators repeated a shared theme: the freedom and flexibility to grow at UMBC—not alone—but in community. Presented by the Alumni Association Board of Directors, the event recognizes inspiring alumni in a range of fields, as well as a rising star and an outstanding faculty and staff member. Rehana Shafi, recipient of the inaugural staff award, emphasized that she was only able to do so much “with so many.” Shafi, director emerita of the Sherman Teacher Scholars Program, said: “This work, this way, isn’t an individual endeavor….Impact happens inside… Continue Reading Alumni Awards 2023—Making impact through relationships

students dressed in black and gold celebrate at the academic success center

Academic Success Center earns elite international distinction

In September 2023, the UMBC Academic Success Center (ASC) gained a Learning Center of Excellence designation from the International College Learning Center Association (ICLCA). There are only six other institutions in the world with an active designation of excellence from ICLCA, shares Amanda Knapp, associate vice provost and assistant dean for undergraduate academic affairs. “It’s remarkable what has been achieved since establishing our one-stop shop learning center model in 2019,” says Knapp. “We can now say with full evidence that our ASC is among the best in the world!”  It was no small feat. ASC staff—in addition to their role… Continue Reading Academic Success Center earns elite international distinction

black and gold flags span across academic row

Standing Ovation for Outstanding Retrievers

At UMBC, we celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni community year round, but our annual Athletics Hall of Fame induction and Alumni Awards ceremony and reception give us a chance to cheer extra loud for the outstanding Retrievers among us.  Stanyell Odom, director of alumni engagement, says it best about the incoming class of awardees: “These award winners embody so many of the characteristics that make UMBC such a special place. They are leaders in their professions and fields—innovative teachers, educators, and scientists—and are engaged and proud members of this UMBC community.” The 23rd Hall of Fame induction  Coming up… Continue Reading Standing Ovation for Outstanding Retrievers

Four people stand in front of a quilt with a gold heart on it. The people are holding copies of a book titled This Belongs to Us.

UMBC Belongs to All of Us

UMBC is a young institution—and not only do we have active alumni from the first four graduating classes still working to make an impact on campus and beyond, we are still discovering new stories about the establishment of the university and the ways the campus community was invited to co- create UMBC at its inception. In fact, Diane Tichnell ’70, political science, describes the impetus for the Founding Four’s book, This Belongs to Us (2023), as its own sort of inception. Several years ago, she had a dream—literal dream while she was asleep. In it, she was attending a lecture… Continue Reading UMBC Belongs to All of Us

A young man takes a picture outside with a pinhole camera in a packing tube

How to Make a Pinhole Camera

When Chris Peregoy ’81, visual and performing arts, M.F.A. ’99, intermedia and digital arts, received a tin full of Christmas cookies from his sister around the year 2000, he immediately dumped the contents out on the table to eat later. He had a moment of inspiration staring at the empty container—“This tin would make a great camera.” If you’ve ever looked at an oatmeal container, a hollowed-out book, a mailbox, or an entire room, and thought, “This object would make a great camera,” chances are you are familiar with the concept of a pinhole camera. It’s photography distilled to its… Continue Reading How to Make a Pinhole Camera

Beck smiles in front of a sign reading, "Community of St. Dysmas."

Ministering to the Most Vulnerable

Having the sally port gates slam behind her after walking into the prison for the first time was a bit of a shock to Susan Beck ’74, French. Luckily, a friend was there to hold her hand as they adjusted to the tight space and waited for the next door to open. As Beck got her breathing under control, she joined her classmates in a clinical pastoral education class on the rest of the tour of the facility. Beck, a former French teacher and a childbirth instructor, never envisioned her retirement as a career rebirth, but as she contemplated how… Continue Reading Ministering to the Most Vulnerable

Three men walk down academic row, the middle man points to something in the distance

The math (and the man) behind our national security

In the 1960s, a common routine for elementary school students was to practice hiding under their desks in case of a nuclear blast. Following the Bay of Pigs standoff in 1961, international tensions remained high as the United States and the Soviet Union continued advancing their nuclear weapons. But global armament was only a minor inconvenience to Stanley Czajkowski in those days. As a third grader in Miss Hamill’s class, he was busy falling in love with the riddle of math.  Unbeknownst to this future Retriever was how he would eventually use those foundational mathematical skills to develop algorithms designed to… Continue Reading The math (and the man) behind our national security

Elle Kreiner sits and talks while Chicken, an amazon parrot, preens himself

Bird Brainiac

At UMBC, we welcome Retrievers of all stripes… and feathers. Spotted on campus recently enjoying student life is an 87-year-old yellow crowned amazon parrot named Chicken. Yes, you read that right, Chicken.  Elle Kreiner ’20, anthropology, a current master’s student in applied sociology, rescued the bird in 2017 after his long-term caretaker passed away and the family wasn’t able to keep him. Despite coming to campus to spread his wings (metaphorically—Chicken doesn’t enjoy flying), Kreiner doesn’t believe their parrot would make a great student, although he does speak three languages.  Prior to his time with Kreiner, Chicken lived in pre–World… Continue Reading Bird Brainiac

Three students walk down academic row on a sunny day

How to Bridge Your Two Homes

With Jess Presuel ’23, biological sciences, an international student from Mexico Jess Presuel’s route to UMBC was not a direct flight from Mérida, Yucatán—her home state in Mexico—to UMBC. She originally arrived in Maryland in 2015 as an au pair to a family with five children. There, she immediately felt accepted and as she cared for the children, they helped her learn English. Over time, Presuel realized she was ready to pursue her dream of becoming a surgeon, starting in fall 2021 working toward a degree in biological science. At UMBC, Presuel knew that she wasn’t just on campus to… Continue Reading How to Bridge Your Two Homes

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