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.
Graduating seniors Anthony Cano, Renato Zanelli, and Maya Scheirer came to UMBC with pride and hunger instilled by their immigrant parents’ work ethic. They brought rich cultures, languages, and hearts full of dreams and aspirations with the goal of forging futures of their own. “As a first-generation college student,” Zanelli says, “I can now be a role model for my younger cousins. I can help and inspire them. They will not have to do it alone.”
UMBC’s Constantine Vaporis, professor of history, has partnered with TED-Ed Animations to produce “A Day In The Life of A Teenage Samurai.” This original video draws from over thirty years of scholarship Vaporis has completed on Japanese history and culture, and it’s already received over 550,000 views.
Gloria Chuku, chair and professor of Africana studies, has been named UMBC’s Lipitz Professor for 2020 – 21. This distinguished professorship recognizes and supports innovative teaching and research. Chuku will carry out research for her new book project, “Becoming Igbo in Nigeria and the Diaspora: A History of Ethnic Identity Formation and Negotiation.”
For Nadia BenAissa and Sam Hertl, UMBC has been a place to grow as leaders and advocates. Their college experiences have been defined by their work to educate, speak out, and create resources for survivors of sexual assault and LGBTQIA+ students at UMBC. As the university community has responded to COVID-19 and transitioned to a virtual environment, they have held steadfast in their commitments.
King and Drabinski recognized the need for an updated history of Baltimore, written by and for scholars and community members alike, so they took up the task. “We wanted our work to reach beyond the academy because these histories belong to everyone,” shares Drabinski. “We hope readers can find pieces that speak to them.”
“Most people don’t know there are twenty-two countries in the Arab league. These countries share Arabic as the primary national language. Many are Muslim-majority nations,” shares Shomali. “Many, but not all.” She notes, “There is great linguistic, cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity within the Arab world.”
Many students come to UMBC with the goal of leaving the familiar behind to take on new challenges and gain a fresh perspective. Once they’re on campus, that’s also what inspires some Retrievers to explore international learning opportunities. Balancing course requirements, activities, research, and other responsibilities, while also pursuing study abroad, can prove challenging. But for these four UMBC students earning undergraduate degrees this month, it’s also been transformative.
Meet a few of the many UMBC students graduating this December who exemplify the Retriever spirit of building connections and community by offering a compassionate ear, a helping hand, and a voice of support when it is most needed. Together, these students have created a more inclusive, accessible, and supportive UMBC for everyone, and they continue to reach together to help UMBC grow.
“Now more than ever, Professor Bhatt’s research is crucial in helping all of us understand the everyday impact of high-skilled immigration,” shares Jessica Berman, director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities. “Thriving academic research communities are enriched by the knowledge and expertise highly-skilled international faculty, staff, and students bring and share.”