Persistent. Innovative. Determined. These are the words UMBC’s commencement speakers returned to again and again to describe the Class of 2021. And despite a year of challenges—missing family and friends, technological frustrations, life lived through the computer screen—one of the resounding themes of this year’s Commencement ceremonies was gratitude.
“I had never been part of a university whose work was centered around social justice,” says Nicholas Nguyen ‘21, M.A. sociology. “The Peace Corps showed me how political systems work at an international level. UMBC’s Peaceworker Program is giving me an understanding from a social justice and antiracist perspective.”
“I was able to access excellent research opportunities in the humanities that I never thought would be available at the undergraduate level,” says Emily Rose Paul ‘21, global studies. “UMBC is known as a STEM school, but I have received the most amazing humanities education as a global studies student. You will be surprised at all that you can find here.”
Students from across all three UMBC colleges are graduating this week having taken advantage of the unique undergraduate research opportunities and supportive mentorship UMBC offers. They’re poised to take their research to the next level and move on to new challenges through graduate school and careers.
The past pandemic year saw arts communities unable to connect with audiences in traditional ways. Usually reliant on people gathering together to experience their work, creators and performers were thrust online. Some artistic experiences were rendered impossible, but the challenging situation didn’t slow the creative efforts of visual and performing artists of UMBC’s Class of 2021.
On the back of every UMBC black and gold ID card is a guide to essential emergency resources, including numbers for health, counseling, sexual assault, and suicide prevention helplines. The new card design was the result of student advocacy through UMBC’s Retriever Courage initiative, seeking to better prevent and respond to sexual assault and violence. And the person who suggested that change is Autumn Cook, graduating this week, a tireless advocate for fellow UMBC students.
When listeners tune in to the Retriever Tales podcast hosted by Tirzah Khan ‘21, information systems, who is graduating this week, they’ll hear UMBC voices sharing their journeys of finding and creating community. Moving, inspiring, funny, and thought-provoking, the show is a testament to Khan’s own UMBC experience and a broader culture of co-creating community at UMBC.
Due to the pandemic, the NCAA has offered senior college athletes around the country a waiver to compete for an extra year. Many fourth-year student-athletes at UMBC and around the country will take advantage of this opportunity, but others decided to press forward with making the most of an unusual senior year before shifting gears to the next phase of their lives.