Campus Life

a woman works on repairing a colorful mural representing different biology motifs

Alumna brings biology mural back to life

Walking down Academic Row, the ground floor windows of the Biological Sciences Building reflect the flow of student traffic, and colorful renditions of animals and microbes, silhouettes of researchers, and other elements of biology seem to pop off the wall and join the campus milieu.  For many, the images on the mural blend into the background of campus—just another wall in just another building. But the artist remembers the blank wall 10 years ago, covered sparsely in inspirational posters and placards.  “It was a huge wall, and visible from the outside,” says Anna Vikhlyayeva ’15, visual arts. In addition to… Continue Reading Alumna brings biology mural back to life

A graduate processes out among other studies smiling

The best is yet to come for 2023 graduates

“It is in times of great conflict and great challenge that higher education’s purpose is most revealed.” UMBC president Valerie Sheares Ashby addressed the crowd at the 2023 winter Commencement ceremonies by acknowledging the turbulence of this past year and noting the importance of the degrees this year’s graduates received. Then nearly 1,000 Retrievers donned robes and mortarboards and made their way across the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena stage this week to become the latest members of the UMBC alumni community. Representing the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, Anwer Hasan offered advice to the graduates saying, “As you… Continue Reading The best is yet to come for 2023 graduates

a woman writes in a journal on a bench in a park

Journals help make sacred spaces

It makes sense that in a space on campus intentionally left green, wooded, and, well sacred, there would be someplace to sit, and under that bench there would be a notebook waiting for you, along with a writing implement. Your thoughts are the last ingredient for the moment. Since the founding of the Joseph Beuys Sculpture Park on the Knoll in the southwest corner of the Loop in 2001, UMBC community members have been writing in journals tucked under benches from Nature Sacred—an organization that hopes to promote a connection to nature through journaling and contemplation spaces throughout America. Sandra… Continue Reading Journals help make sacred spaces

a crowd gathers at a bonfire at dusk

Building the bonfire from scratch

At UMBC, we’re still young enough to be making traditions. Meet Thomas Locastro, biological sciences alumnus, who knew from day one on campus in 2003 that he wanted to leave behind a lasting legacy. Locastro joined the newly-made First Year Council, designed to help students view themselves as co-creators of our campus community. “They were encouraging us to pick something to do,” Locastro explains. “How do you leave your mark?” Locastro brainstormed an idea that would be exciting for students but still relatively inexpensive, and therefore hopefully repeatable. He landed on a bonfire. In the center of campus. Understandably, there… Continue Reading Building the bonfire from scratch

Two dancers stand on opposite sides of a table while a dancer lays on it between them

Step into a dancer’s shoes

University Communications and Marketing social media intern Allison John ’24, psychology, isn’t only interested in Instagram engagement and sharing campus treasures—she’s also passionate about the creative process that brings a dancer’s performance to life. After watching this year’s Fall Dance Showcase, John sat down with one of the senior choreographers to learn more about her art. Continue Reading Step into a dancer’s shoes

UMBC's campus at night, featuring the Albin O. Kuhn library and reflective pond, with street lamps lighting a path.

Why We Love it Here

What gets you up and out the door each morning? And what makes a job more than a job—or even more than a career? For so many who make UMBC their professional home, the value goes way beyond a paycheck. Case in point: Employees for the 14th consecutive year rated UMBC as one of ModernThink’s Great Colleges to Work For in all 10 categories, including shared governance, mission and pride, job satisfaction and support, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, the Baltimore Sun has once again named UMBC a 2023 Top Workplace winner based on a confidential employee survey conducted… Continue Reading Why We Love it Here

Meredith Power, left, and Susan Graham, right, handle the century-old photographs.

Handle with care—students help digitize and rehouse thousands of historical photos

A nine-year-old stands at the mouth of a coal mine covered in coal dust, wearing a small headlamp. A woman holds her baby on her lap as she packs boxes in a warehouse along with her 5-, 8-, and 12-year-olds. These are just two of thousands of evocative black-and white historical photographs handled by Special Collections interns Meredith Power ’21, history, a public history graduate student, and Gabe Morrison ’23, anthropology. Along with library staff members, these two worked diligently to ensure that the images of the families and children who lived through these harrowing work conditions are accessible to… Continue Reading Handle with care—students help digitize and rehouse thousands of historical photos

a screen shot of a face mask with text that says "what if? decorative face mask prompts." for a talk about susus

Finding one’s face and building financially resilient spaces through ‘susus’

Sonya Squires-Caesar, a doctoral candidate in UMBC’s language, literacy, and culture program, has been interviewing communities who use susus to save money for big-ticket items like homes, farms, or everyday needs like transportation and bills. Susu, a word thought to come linguistically from West African languages, is an informal structure of communal savings where individuals agree to give an equal amount of money to one pool. Members then decide the frequency of when someone receives the entire amount. “I remember my mother planning her spending around when she would get her payment,” says Squires-Caesar, whose family is from Barbados. Squires-Caesar… Continue Reading Finding one’s face and building financially resilient spaces through ‘susus’

a woman in glasses stands in a business suit against a wooded background

Renique Kersh, VP for student affairs, values listening as the first step of leadership

Renique Kersh became UMBC’s vice president for student affairs in August 2023, and her first days were a whirlwind that included dropping her sons at school, moving from Boston to Maryland, and attending a number of UMBC welcome events for students and the community. Now that she’s had the chance to replant her roots at UMBC (her first job out of graduate school was as a community director for Residential Life from 2001 – 2003), Kersh is using her time to listen to the community and bring her expertise to the table as she works with campus leadership and partners… Continue Reading Renique Kersh, VP for student affairs, values listening as the first step of leadership

a group of students gather on the stairs, smiling together

Your story belongs here

Joining a new community can be tough sometimes, especially post-pandemic. And with new Retrievers coming from every background imaginable, it’s important to make sure everyone feels welcome when they get here.  That’s where “Your Story Belongs Here” comes in. Now in its second year, this video storytelling collaboration between Initiatives for Identity, Inclusion, and Belonging (i3b) and the Department of Theatre brings students together to learn how to share—and celebrate—their own stories of belonging.  “I think it’s pretty common to enter college and be worried that you’re not going to find your people. It’s very different from high school,” said… Continue Reading Your story belongs here

A woman and a college student sit talking to each other across a conference table with lots of windows behind them during office hours

Office Hours 

Each week during her student-facing office hours, UMBC President Valerie Sheares Ashby meets with students to chat about their lives and experiences at UMBC. Today, she’s speaking with Okechukwu Tabugbo ’25, computer engineering, president of UMBC’s Black Men’s Society, a group that provides mentorship, skills training, and community to students while trying to eliminate negative narratives and stigma around what it means to be a Black man in America. Okechukwu Tabugbo: I found out about UMBC’s Black Men’s Society when I was in my first year. I knew Marvin Onwukwe, the club secretary at the time. He was always walking… Continue Reading Office Hours 

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

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