The News – Fall 2011

Published: Sep 2, 2011

(Delali headshot)


UMBC’s reputation as an “honors university in Maryland” and as a place that revels in the diversity of its community have made it a destination for students. But what do the university’s faculty and staff members think about working at UMBC?

If the Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of “Great Colleges to Work For” is any indication, professor and staffers alike are finding UMBC to be a destination as well. The university was one of only 42 colleges and universities in the nation – and the only four-year institution in Maryland – to make the newspaper’s Honor Roll of workplaces.

The Chronicle conducts an institutional audit of demographics and workplace policies, and then surveys more than 43,000 faculty and staff at 310 institutions across the United States, in order to compile its list. UMBC ranked highly in eight of the 12 categories surveyed, including “collaborative governance,” “professional/career development programs,” “work/life balance,” “confidence in senior leadership,” “respect and appreciation,” and “diversity.”

Employee responses were the key factor in the rankings, and faculty and staff members were selected at random. To make the Chronicle’s Honor Roll of “Great Colleges to Work For,” a university needed to place in the top ten in one of three respective categories of enrollment.

Stanyell Bruce, associate director of alumni relations and the president of UMBC’s Professional Staff Senate, says “It’s no surprise to me that the university won this distinction. UMBC is a place where people truly care about one another, and a place that encourages innovation and out of the box thinking.”

— Richard Byrne ’86


When UMBC provost Elliot Hirshman departed in June to become the new president of San Diego State University, the university quickly tapped two of its distinguished academic leaders to fill key positions for the upcoming academic year.

On June 17, UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, named Philip J. Rous, dean of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (CNMS) as the university’s interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Rous came to UMBC in 1990 as an assistant professor of physics, rising to positions as professor of physics and as vice president and president of the university’s Faculty Senate from 2003 to 2007.

William R. LaCourse, chair of UMBC’s chemistry and biochemistry department, was tapped to replace Rous as interim dean of the College of Natural and Mathematical sciences. He arrived at UMBC in 1992 as an assistant professor of chemistry.

Both Rous and LaCourse have been in the forefront of UMBC’s nationally recognized efforts to reshape the institution’s curriculum and improve student outcomes. Interim provost Rous spearheaded the creation of CNMS’ Active Science Teaching and Learning Environment (CASTLE), which is reinventing teaching practice with an emphasis on student engagement. He is also principal investigator (PI) for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s National Experiment in Undergraduate Science and Co-PI for the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Through Institutional Integration.

Interim dean LaCourse founded the Chemistry Discovery Center, which has become a national model in teaching innovation in the sciences, and he has been at the forefront of efforts to weave entrepreneurship in disciplines across the university through the Kauffman Entrepreneurship Initiative.

— Richard Byrne ’86


Among the highlights of UMBC’s Homecoming 2011 is a ceremony that honors university alumni who have achieved distinction in a wide range of disciplines and careers.

The UMBC Alumni Association – which selects recipients and presents the awards – moved the annual Outstanding Alumni of the Year ceremony back to campus in 2009, and it has since become a key element of the university’s celebration of school spirit.

This year’s recipients of the awards – which will be presented on Thursday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery – include alumni who’ve reached prominence in the fields of technology, medicine, journalism and business. This year’s recipients are:

Ralph Semmel ’92, Ph.D., computer science, is the UMBC Alumnus of the Year in Engineering and Information Technology. In 2010, Semmel was named as the eighth director of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory – one of the most prominent hubs of advanced technological research in the world.

Ronita Marple, ’05, Ph.D., chemistry, is the UMBC Alumna of the Year in the Natural and Mathematical Sciences. She is an analytical chemist and senior scientist for consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble.

Jamie Smith Hopkins ’98, English, is the UMBC Alumna of the Year in the Humanities. She has been a reporter at The Baltimore Sun since 1999, and writes and blogs for the paper on the housing industry in the Baltimore metropolitan region. (UMBC Magazine profiled Hopkins in its Summer 2010 issue.)

Garrett Wright ’01, theatre, is the UMBC Alumnus of the Year in the Visual and Performing Arts. Wright is a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project, where he provides legal support to low-income tenants and tenant organizations.

Dr. Jeffery Wilkinson ’89, interdisciplinary studies, is the UMBC Alumnus of the Year in the Social Sciences. He works at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, and he has won renown as a global leader in combating obstetric fistula in some of the poorest regions of the world – including Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. (Wilkinson was profiled in the Summer 2009 issue of UMBC Magazine.)

Delali Dzirasa ’04, computer engineering, is UMBC’s Young Alumni Rising Star. He is the owner of Fearless Solutions, a cybersecurity company based in the bwtech@UMBC Research Park that focuses on secure software development, and already boasts several contracts with the federal government.

— Richard Byrne ’86

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