At Play – Summer 2009

By: Magazine Editor
Jun 21, 2009

Monkee Business

In a crowded basement bar in Silver Spring in late winter, the Stepping Stones are bashing out a version of the Monkees’ “Mary, Mary.” As the song veers out of its chorus, UMBC professor of public policy and economics Timothy J. Brennan unleashes a dirty and riveting guitar solo that has the crowd buzzing with approval.

By day, Brennan is a researcher whose work tackles the intersection of markets and government regulations – antitrust laws, utilities, and copyright. But in his free time, you might find him playing jazz guitar, working over a blues song with friends, or in a Monkees cover band like the Stepping Stones – which he formed last year with Washington Post Metro columnist John Kelly.

The Stepping Stones are a “cover” band – and not a tribute band with costumes and moptops. “There are 25 to 30 Monkees songs that are palatable,” Brennan wisecracks. “And there’s not a lot of issue among the band as to which ones are palatable.”

Brennan is also a self-admitted guitar aficionado who has 17 guitars in his collection, including a Rickenbacker, a Gibson SG and a classic Gretsch Country Gentleman (made famous by Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins and Monkees guitarist Mike Nesmith) that he says “might be the finest guitar I own.”

— Richard Byrne ‘86

Saddle Up

UMBC’s Equestrian Club isn’t all well-pressed riding jackets and spit-shined boots. There are arguments about pizza toppings and recollections about a member who was nearly trampled filming a riding lesson.

And, of course, there are horses. The club practices once a week at the Patapsco Horse Center, and its members have competed in ten intercollegiate shows this year. (They have the ribbons to prove it.)

The club was formed in 2003 by students Amanda McClaskey and Heidi Brueckner ’06, interdisciplinary studies, who brought the idea to C. Jill Randles, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, who serves as the club’s advisor.

The competitive aspect of the group has caused perplexity: is it a club or a team? Members are required to take lessons, and the group may hold tryouts next year. Still, says club president Emily Plitt ’11, “we are more concerned about riders’ commitment than their actual skill.”

Funding is also a bit of a puzzle: As a club, the group gets no money from UMBC Athletics, but the Student Government Association does not fund competitive teams. The solution? The SGA funds field trips, but team members must pay for their own entry fees and transportation at competitions.

“The club’s initial goal was to pull a group of students together who love horses, rid[ing], and want to learn more and share experiences,” says Randles. “The creation of a team that would compete as part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association was a longer-term goal.”

— Kaitlin Taylor ’09

Fun & GAIM

All-nighters. Advanced skills in video gaming. Both factored into the Global Game Jam, an annual weekend-long sprint of gaming creativity held in late winter all over the world.

UMBC hosted one of the regional pods in the competition, an event brought to the school by the two faculty members behind the university’s Games, Animation and Interactive Media (GAIM) Program – Neal McDonald from visual arts and Marc Olano of computer science.

“It was 48 hours of frantic activity,” said Olano. “It was exciting to be part of something that involved 53 sites in over 20 countries, with more than 1,600 participants creating over 300 games.”

Five teams made up of 15 UMBC students and eight guest participants worked through the weekend to create original games of five minutes in length with titles such as “Q-Tip Nightmare” and “Feather Tether.”

The GAIM program brings together UMBC students in visual arts and computer science to work on projects that can lead not only to careers in gaming, but are also applicable to aerospace, architecture, healthcare and other fields.

“It’s good energy, lots of laughing, but more importantly, learning to do things just like they’re done in the industry,” says McDonald.

For more information on the Games, Animation and Interactive Media Program, please visit

— Chip Rose

Catonsville 1, Chapel Hill 0

Late last spring, the University of North Carolina began courting long-time UMBC men’s lacrosse coach Don Zimmerman. And when the Tar Heels go after something, they go hard.

Word leaked quickly that Zimmerman and North Carolina were talking. The rumor mill, turning more quickly than ever in the Internet age, thrust the coach’s dilemma into the spotlight. Would he stay or would he go?

Many assumed he would take the job at the bigger school. But Zimmerman decided that he would skip a chance to coach lacrosse at one of the most prominent schools in college athletics to remain at UMBC.

His family was a big factor in helping the coach decided that staying where he had been for 16 years was the right call. “I just realized this was the place for me,” Zimmerman said.

A Baltimore native, Zimmerman coached Johns Hopkins to three national titles during his seven years there before leaving the school after the 1990 season. Earlier in his career, he also was an assistant coach on two North Carolina national championship teams, which was another reason many felt he would make the jump to Chapel Hill.

The entire saga only took about a week. Zimmerman spoke with UMBC president Freeman A. Hrabowski III and the university’s athletic director, Charles Brown after being contacted by North Carolina, and promised a quick decision.

During the decision process, Zimmerman attended the NCAA Final Four men’s lacrosse championships in Massachusetts, where curiosity about his status meant his phone literally wouldn’t stop ringing. The exasperated coach even skipped the national championship game just to escape the questions.

Zimmerman’s family told him they thought that staying UMBC was the best decision for him. In the end, the coach never even visited North Carolina before giving Brown the happy news that he would stay. UMBC promptly rewarded Zimmerman with a new six-year contract.

“The reason I decided to stay is I’ve fallen in love with UMBC,” Zimmerman said. “This has been my home for 16 years…and I just couldn’t see turning my back on all those people who have made the commitment as I did to develop this program to where it is today. To me, that’s not the right thing.”

Zimmerman now has his sights set on even great success in Catonsville. UMBC has made the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament in each of the three years. The team also started the 2009 campaign ranked highly in the national top 10.

“The fact that he stayed showed a great deal of confidence in us,” says Alex Hopmann, a team captain. “There was a great deal of worry, [but] when he came back, we felt complete.”

Brown agrees that Zimmerman’s decision will keep the university’s rebuilding process in men’s lacrosse on track. UMBC has given Zimmerman many of the resources that he felt the school needed to be a top-level program: a new field, new locker room facilities, multiple assistant coaches and an improved schedule.

“We have the right coach for the right situation,” Brown says. “For us to be able to retain him here is a big feather in our cap.”

— Jeff Seidel ’85

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