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.”
UMBC’s newest graduates in computing and data science fields include students at all stages in their education and careers. Undergraduates, master’s students seeking to access new career opportunities, and Ph.D. students completing high-impact research have thrived at UMBC. Many cite the university’s strong academics, accessible faculty, research opportunities, and connections across disciplines as drawing them to UMBC.
Each summer, hundreds of UMBC students complete summer internships to get hands-on experience related to their majors and career goals. The COVID-19 pandemic has moved many networking opportunities and jobs online, including some internships. Still, undergraduate and graduate students from across the University have spent the summer developing their skills and connections virtually.
UMBC Mock Trial continues to reach new heights at a national level, even with COVID-19 impacting the competition season. Sydney Gaskins ’22, political science, finished as a runner-up in the final round of the national Trial by Combat (TBC), a head-to-head individual mock trial championship hosted this summer by the UCLA School of Law and Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law.
UMBC’s Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program has launched an intensive virtual math incubator for Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City this summer. The free, voluntary five-week program is a math intervention for 150 Lakeland students in third through eighth grade. The program seeks to prevent summer learning loss, which could increase this year, intensified by COVID-19’s impact on student learning during the school year.
Community-engaged work has been integral to the UMBC experience for so many Retrievers, including the four featured here. Despite coming from such different academic programs, they have all been able to connect in meaningful ways with local and international communities. And after graduating this week, they’ll each apply their talents, skills, and sense of commitment to community-engaged careers.