Alumni Awards 2023—Making impact through relationships

Published: Nov 1, 2023

a group of alumni award winners stand together on a stage
From left to right: Kay Bidle, Joshua Michael, James Dorsey, E.F. Charles LaBerge, Asif Majid, Valerie Sheares Ashby, Rehana Shafi, and Annica Wayman. (Marlayna Demond '11/UMBC)

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 of relationships.”

three women pose together at a fancy event
Taifa Simpson, former assistant director of MARC U*STAR, Rehana Shafi, and Stanyell Odom, director of Alumni Engagement at the 2023 Alumni Award reception. (Marlayna Demond ’11/UMBC)

The full circle moment

Several of the alumni recipients have come back to work at UMBC. Recipient of the Outstanding Engineering and Information Technology alumna award, Annica Wayman ’99, mechanical engineering, called it her “full circle” moment. Wayman, now associate dean for Shady Grove Affairs in the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, said, “Now that I’m on the ‘inside’ as a faculty member, it’s the same as I observed as a student and alumna—UMBC’s commitment to inclusive excellence, innovative teaching, and supportive community is authentic and I have the chance to see it every day working with UMBC faculty and staff.”

Annica Wayman ’99, left, and Josh Michael, right, speak at the 2023 Alumni Awards.

Josh Michael ’10, political science, Ph.D. ’22, public policy, found his why at UMBC. “I knew I was planted in the right place,” he said, “a place where I would evolve and grow…. It is here at UMBC where I developed a voice and confidence to lead in public education.” Michael, the awardee for Outstanding Alumnus in Social and Behavioral Sciences, is dedicated to public service and community engagement.

A former Baltimore City math teacher and now executive director of the Sherman Family Foundation, Michael took the opportunity on the stage to remind the audience, “For as a community, it is how we treat other people’s children that demonstrates our collective belief in our future.”

Creativity rooted in big ideas

Another teacher was honored for his long commitment to Maryland’s children. James Dorsey ’05, music technology and vocal performance, is in his 19th year as an elementary music teacher. He shared that, “All of our creativity is rooted in big ideas. Ideas that relate to our shared human experience and how we interact in our world.” 

a man stands at a lectern with his hand on his heart
James Dorsey after giving his remarks at the 2023 Alumni Awards. (Marlayna Demond ’11/UMBC)

Dorsey, who received the award for Outstanding Alumnus in the Visual and Performing Arts, said, “I’m blessed to get to help students express their messages and respond to their cultures through creating. It sets a precedent that the arts are a natural way to respond to the issues of our community, self-expression, coping with change, and social justice.”

Other 2023 Outstanding Alumni awardees include: Humanities—Aaron Ralby ’05, English and modern languages and linguistics; and, Natural and Mathematical Sciences—Kay Bidle ’91, biological sciences. The Rising Star award was given to Asif Majid ’13, interdisciplinary studies, and the Outstanding Faculty award was presented to E.F. Charles LaBerge, Ph.D. ’03, professor of the practice in computer science and electrical engineering at UMBC.

Find out more about the 2023 Alumni Awards and past award winners.

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