Fall 2023

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 UMBC graduates posing and smiling for a photo on UMBC's campus.

Uplifting up-and-coming economists

In 2017, UMBC received a $1.3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in an effort to diversify the field of economics by creating interventions from the undergraduate level through the post-baccalaureate level. The program was originally intended to conclude in five years but has since been extended to support UMBC students in post-bac programs through 2025.  Continue Reading Uplifting up-and-coming economists

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

A family dressed in saris poses together outside in a wooded area

Three sisters—all alums—share their family’s recipes for food and comfort

Aimee, Jamie, and Gina Joshua have a lot in common. All three went to UMBC as members of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. And the sisters all have great memories of growing up in a house filled with delicious food and love. So, when their mother’s YouTube channel focusing on Indian cooking techniques started to take off, the trio made it their mission to create a cookbook of family recipes that would honor their beloved parents. Our parents, Sara and Abraham Joshua, known to us as Mummy and Chacha, immigrated from India in their twenties separately to begin their careers and… Continue Reading Three sisters—all alums—share their family’s recipes for food and comfort

A young child works in a glass factory in a 1909 black and white historical photo by lewis hine

Historical lens—3 stories that scratch the surface of a 5,400 image archive

One of the most influential sets of historical photos in UMBC’s Special Collections is an archive of more than 5,400 images documenting the harsh conditions of child laborers in early 20th-century America. Recently the team in Special Collections—which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—undertook a massive project to digitize and rehouse the photos in more protective sheaths to help safeguard the images and the hand-written details on them. The preservation effort gave UMBC student workers hands-on practice with handling the delicate photographs and allowed staff to dive deep into these historical records in order to comment on timely issues around… Continue Reading Historical lens—3 stories that scratch the surface of a 5,400 image archive

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

Smoky skies and an orange sun backdrop skyscrapers near a harbor.

As summer wildfire smoke choked Baltimore, UMBC air pollution researchers leapt into action

Starting this May, a series of wildfires in Eastern Canada sent enormous smoke clouds wafting into the U.S., triggering air quality warnings in cities from the Midwest to the Northeast. As a resident of the Baltimore area—which was blanketed with particularly bad smoke in both early and late June—UMBC Professor Chris Hennigan looked at the haze with dismay. But as an environmental engineer who studies air pollution, he had an additional thought: “We were looking at the air quality forecasts, and we thought ‘We have to gather data,’” he says. Continue Reading As summer wildfire smoke choked Baltimore, UMBC air pollution researchers leapt into action

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’

on a golf green, a man kneels with a camera, filming some one playing golf

The man behind the camera

When LeBron James comes calling, you answer the phone. Philip Knowlton ’03, visual arts, knows this better than most. The NBA legend doesn’t have the UMBC alum in his contacts because Knowlton is great at one-on-one (probably). Instead, Knowlton has collaborated with James’ media company Uninterrupted on several documentaries as a director, editor, producer, and director of photography. Uninterrupted was founded to empower athletes to tell their stories in their own words. This time, Knowlton was called upon to direct and co-executive produce Redefined: J.R. Smith, a four-part Prime Video documentary series released in April 2023 that follows J.R. Smith,… Continue Reading The man behind the camera

headshot of a woman in front of a grassy lawn

From apples to army robots, curiosity and commitment define Priya Narayanan’s career

She didn’t exactly experience a Sir Isaac Newton-like epiphany after being conked by a falling apple, but Priya Narayanan, Ph.D. ’08, mechanical engineering, spent a lot of her time at UMBC interacting with the iconic red fruit.  For her Ph.D. thesis, Narayanan worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study whether a simple device made of a long, inclined track could reliably orient apples. The ultimate goal was to automate visual inspection of the fruit—using cameras to spot blemishes—and the cameras required the same view of the apple each time. Narayanan spent thousands of hours performing experiments with rolling… Continue Reading From apples to army robots, curiosity and commitment define Priya Narayanan’s career

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 

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