Hang Ten with New Friends

Published: Dec 14, 2022

two men stand next to a surf board at the beach
Matt Sherriff and Nathenael Dereb meet on the beach to surf. All photos courtesy of UMBC Athletics.

When UMBC’s volleyball team headed to the University of Southern California (USC) for a tournament, Athletics reached out and invited West Coast Retrievers to an LA happy hour before the game. Eager to reconnect with their alma mater and meet other alumni in the area, folks gathered together and new friendships were formed. 

Despite the decades between their UMBC experiences, Matt Sheriff ’00, political science, and Nathenael Dereb ’21, computer science, bonded over a quintessential California connection—surfing. Specifically, Dereb, a recent relocator, wanted to learn how and Sheriff, who’s been on the West Coast for years, had the skills to teach. Since then, the pair has been meeting before work in the mornings catching the waves. They carved out some time to share the experience with UMBC Magazine. 

with palm trees in the background, a group of folks stand around a sign that says Welcome UMBC Alumni and Friends
Retrievers gathered for a West Coast happy hour.

UMBC Magazine: We know how you two met—can you tell us how you hit it off?

Sheriff: I attended graduate business school at USC, so when I read about a tournament volleyball game at USC that the UMBC team was invited to attend, I was simply amazed that my undergrad school was coming to USC. At the alumni pre-party, I met Nate Dereb, who, like me, also relocated from Maryland to LA. He was interested in learning to surf, so I’ve been introducing him to the sport when our schedules align. The beauty of living in Los Angeles is we can surf in the morning and be at work by 9 a.m., even earlier if necessary!

UMBC Magazine: What are your best surf tips?

two men stand courtside at a volleyball tournament. They would later become friends and surf together.
Dereb and Sheriff connected at the USC volleyball tournament.

Sheriff: Take it slow in terms of expectations and remind yourself that the best surfer is the one having the most fun.

UMBC Magazine: How was the change from Maryland to California?

Dereb: Relocating across the country to a city I’ve never been before was an overwhelming experience, but I was fortunate to have my family around me during my relocation. One of the shocking things was finding myself outside only in shorts and a shirt in February! I’m still amazed by that.

UMBC Magazine: What are you up to now?

Sheriff: I’m a senior advisor at Southern California Edison where I lead regulatory economics projects and represent the company before the California Public Utilities Commission as an expert witness. Most of my work is finance-related but the communication and analytical skills I learned at UMBC are immensely helpful.

Dereb: I am working as a software engineer at Adobe within the analytics organization. On the side, I’m still maintaining and adding data for the platform I built during my senior year that assists students and faculty in retrieving data regarding course grades, course evaluations, and professors at UMBC.

UMBC Magazine: What was your experience at UMBC like? 

Dereb: My involvement in the Center for Women in Technology organization, as a Cyber Scholar, is an experience I will always cherish. I was also fortunate to win several awards and scholarships, get multiple internship opportunities, become a teaching fellow for Computer Science 202, and do innovative research as part of the Interactive Robotics and Language lab on campus. I am a proud Retriever!

Sheriff: More than anything I feel like I grew into a young adult who was ready for the world.

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