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Presidential Faculty and Staff Awards 2017


This is a wonderful way to celebrate the contributions of our faculty and staff. Please join me in congratulating all of our awardees today.

Our awards ceremony is an important annual tradition, when we take time to gather to celebrate our colleagues who are making positive differences in the lives of our students, faculty, staff, and community. As we recognize their contributions, I want to thank each of you for the many ways you contribute to the campus, particularly the experiences of our students.

We have so much to be proud of at UMBC. I’m reminded of the excitement we felt in September as we kicked off our 50th.

Thousands of Retrievers came together as a community—alumni, faculty, staff, and students from all of the decades in UMBC’s history—to celebrate our remarkable story. The weekend featured 55 events developed through the collaborative efforts of 75 programming partners. Highlights included the fireworks event, House of Grit community festival and men’s and women’s soccer games. In total, more than 3,300 attendees participated in the events, including nearly 1,500 alumni, and more than 200 participants chose to make a gift to UMBC.

UMBC Achievements

Through your incredible work and accomplishments we continue to be a leader in inclusive excellence and academic innovation, and an outstanding place to work.

For the eighth consecutive year, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has named UMBC a “Best Value College,” featuring UMBC on both its “top 100” public universities list and “top 300” national list. UMBC is one of just three universities in the State of Maryland to be featured for 2017.

Times Higher Education has named UMBC one of the world’s top universities for 2016-17, marking UMBC’s fifth consecutive year on the prestigious international list.

The 2017 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Guide ranks UMBC in the top five on its closely-watched most innovative schools list, joining Stanford, MIT, ASU-Tempe, and Georgia State.

Princeton Review has again selected UMBC as one of the nation’s top universities for undergraduate education, featured in its flagship guide, The Best 381 Colleges.

UMBC was named an outstanding workplace for the seventh consecutive year by the Chronicle of Higher Education. We are one of only a handful of universities to receive this distinction–and the only four-year institution in the State of Maryland to be recognized.

I want to briefly highlight some of our recent achievements, which exemplify our strength in partnering with local, regional and national organizations and universities. Some of our most successful, impactful teaching and research efforts are based on collaborations – across the campus, with other academic institutions, and with outside partners.

The Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology (CRESST II) is prepared to embark on a new era of innovative research and teaching with the commitment of close to $90 million from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
UMBC and the University of Maryland, College Park are the leading partners in the consortium. CRESST was first launched in 2006 under a ten-year cooperative agreement. The CRESST II agreement is valued at $87.5 Million over the next five years, and it provides for a renewal option for another five years.

UMBC’s Dresher Center for the Humanities and College of the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences are launching a major new five-year initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the humanities through a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation. The Inclusion Imperative will cultivate a supportive regional community of scholars committed to diversity in the humanities and to expanding community-engaged humanities research, teaching, and learning focused on issues of race, equity, inclusion, and justice. This is a major award for the university.

The Choice Program at UMBC was chosen by Starbucks to be the community partner for their new Baltimore City opportunity cafe currently under construction in East Baltimore. Choice will be delivering Starbucks customer service excellence trainings for 100 youth in Baltimore. In addition, Starbucks also hired 25 Choice youth who came through one of our three Flying Fruit Social Enterprise, small business job training platforms.

UMBC and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) have a long-standing partnership that goes back several decades. Sarah Chard and Kevin Eckert, sociology, anthropology, and health administration policy (SAHAP), are working collaboratively with faculty researchers at UMB School of Medicine on two studies, focusing on medical care experiences of patients with irritable bowel syndrome and with hip fractures.

Tech transfer is growing rapidly at UMBC, fueled in part by the University’s notable success in securing Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) grants designed to promote the commercialization of research. UMBC researchers have received $2.4 Million to develop their ideas into commercial applications, with an impressive success rate of 50 percent. The MII program is a powerful collaboration between the State of Maryland and five Maryland institutions: Johns Hopkins University; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, College Park; Morgan State University and UMBC. UMBC has one of the highest success rates for MII awards.
Linda Dusman, professor of music, and Eric Smallwood, assistant professor of visual arts, will use their Phase III award to scale up a prototype of their mobile app, Octava, to make it available to a larger slice of the public.
Chris Geddes, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the Institute of Fluorescence, won a Phase III award for Lyse-It, a company that produces a low-cost portable device that breaks open cells and chops up their DNA to prescribed fragment sizes.
Neel Savani, a researcher at UMBC’s Goddard Planetary Heliophysics Institute (GPHI), is developing a system that can forecast solar storms up to 24 hours in advance.
Jeffrey Gardner, Assistant Professor of biological sciences, received a Phase I award for a technology that will support the biofuels industry.

Under Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, Tony Moreira’s guidance, UMBC and Tel Aviv university signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize an academic collaboration between the two institutions. The agreement establishes a framework for joint research as well as academic exchange opportunities for students, faculty, and staff.

​Through support funds from PNC bank, Student Life’s Mosaic: Center for Culture and Diversity partnered with the Career Center to create a new internship focused ​​on UMBC Hispanic and Latinx student outreach, cultural support, and career development.

Under the guidance of UMBC music faculty member Airi Yoshioka, a new partnership between UMBC and the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University brought Peabody Conservatory students to UMBC to coach our chamber music students on musical and career preparation skills.

UMBC undergraduate enrollment at the Universities at Shady Grove continues to grow at a rapid pace, increasing 12% from spring 2016 to spring 2017. UMBC@USG also recently launched the Raptor to Retriever Program, a transfer access program to support Montgomery College students in completing their bachelor’s degrees through UMBC@USG.

The Shriver Center’s MDCCC Americorps Vista Project, College Jump, a college access mentoring program for high school refugees, is thriving in its second year. UMBC undergraduate students work with Baltimore County and Baltimore City refugee youth one-on-one each week to support them in gaining admission and preparing for success in higher education. A team of UMBC students affiliated with the program received a BreakingGround grant to organize five days of refugee awareness events this week on campus.

We cannot forget about the success of our sports teams and some remarkable, history-making seasons.

Under the leadership of our new head coach, Ryan Odom, UMBC men’s basketball was named the nation’s third most improved team out of 350 NCAA Division 1 programs, and the team accepted a bid to host our first post-season tournament game since 2008. I’m also delighted to announce that Coach Odom has just been named the recipient of the 2017 Joe B. Hall award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in Division 1, nationwide.

UMBC’s women’s basketball team, led by head coach Phil Stern, reeled off 10 wins in an 11-game span during America East competition and placed third in the league. Players received numerous America East All-Conference honors this year—the most all-conference selections the team has earned since joining the league in 2004.

Men’s swimming & diving won their third consecutive CCSA title. Women’s swimming and diving won their third straight America East title and tenth overall Conference Championship since 1997-98. Emily Escobedo, ’17, earned her 4th consecutive America East swimmer of the year honor. She also earned bronze in the 200m breaststroke at the NCAA championship, becoming one of the most decorated swimmers in UMBC and America East history. UMBC finished the NCAA championship as one of the top swimming programs in the nation. Congratulations to our talented student athletes and proud UMBC alumnus, Coach Chad Cradock.

And let’s not forget that we had two athletes competing on the global stage at the Olympics: our current master’s student in engineering management, Mohamed Hussein, who represented Egypt in the 200 meter individual medley in swimming, and alumna Cleopatra Borel, who represented Trinidad and Tobago and qualified for the finals in the shot put.

It’s impossible to measure just how dedicated our faculty and staff are across the campus & beyond. Thank you for working to support both our students and our greater community.

I want to mention just a few of the recent accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

Faculty and Staff Achievements

Three UMBC faculty have been awarded new grants announced by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under the Neural and Cognitive Systems (NCS) program to support multidisciplinary research related to the brain and behavior.
Fow-Sen Choa, professor of computer science and electrical engineering (CSEE), will receive nearly half a million dollars over three years from the NSF to develop technology that will allow very targeted stimulation to be delivered to any area in the brain.

The second NCS grant was awarded to Seung-Jun Kim, assistant professor of CSEE and Tulay Adali, professor of CSEE, with partner Vince Calhoun Ph.D. ’02, electrical engineering, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of New Mexico. Over the four-year grant, Kim and Adali will use nearly half a million dollars in funding to better understand how individual brains function.

UMBC’s PI2 Immersive Hybrid Reality Lab opened this year, giving students and faculty the ability to interact with data in a more visual way, thus reducing the distance between researchers and the information they work with, whether they are studying wind farms or blood flow in the human body. The lab was funded by an NSF grant to Jian Chen, assistant professor, computer science and electrical engineering.

The new campus-wide recreation wellness initiative, led by our human resources department, has made a positive impact across the campus with students, faculty, and staff. This past year the RAC was visited over 200,000 times.

UMBC is the lead institution on a $5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that provides additional funds for the University System of Maryland Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (USM LSAMP). Universities will use the renewed funding to support students from underrepresented groups in stem. The funding boost also allows for expanded support for transfer students and new programming focused on performance in mathematics.

The Women’s Center is celebrating its 25th anniversary through special engagement events all year long. The Center hosted a week of critical social justice events in October. Jess Myers and former UMBC staff Crystal Diaz-Espinoza and Virginia Byrne also co-authored a chapter in the recently published book Theorizing Women and Leadership. Their chapter, focused on the work of CWIT and the Women’s Center’s returning women students program.

Three more UMBC faculty members have received prestigious National Science Foundation career awards for their groundbreaking research, bringing UMBC’s total recipients to 34 since the program’s founding in 1995. New awardees include:

Lee Blaney, assistant professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering, has received a $500,000 grant for his research on pharmaceuticals, hormones, and personal care products in the local Gwynns Falls watershed.
Tinoosh Mohsenin, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, has received a $500,000 grant for her research on deep learning technologies and machine learning algorithms that will have applications in medicine, intelligence, and environmental science.
Ting Zhu, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, has received $500,000 for his research on leveraging different sensing capabilities from internet-of-things devices, such as cell phones, for applications in personal health monitoring, building energy management, and education.
Sebastian Deffner, assistant professor of physics, who has just published the first results from research funded by an NSF Inspire Grant, has now also won an early career award from the New Journal of Physics.

Several of our faculty recently have been recognized for significant achievements:
Katherine Seley-Radtke, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and 2016-2018 UMBC presidential research professor, was selected by the Maryland section of the American Chemical Society as the Maryland chemist of the year.

Renetta Tull, associate vice provost, was awarded the ABET (engineering accreditation organization) Claire l. Felbinger diversity award.

Theo Gonzalves, an associate professor of american studies, has been elected to serve as president of the Association for Asian American studies (AAAS).

Conductor E. Michael Richards, professor of music, and the UMBC symphony were awarded honorable mention in the college/university division of the American Prize’s Ernst Bacon Memorial Award in the performance of american music for their 2016 performance and recording of William Grant Still’s “Afro-American Symphony.”

Michael Summers, Robert E. Meyerhoff chair for excellence in research and mentoring and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, became the first UMBC faculty member to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.

Kate Brown, a professor of history, has received a prestigious research fellowship from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and is one of just 33 scholars nationwide recognized for their significant scholarship in humanities and social sciences as part of the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellows program.

Public policy assistant professor Chris Curran received a $620,000 comprehensive school safety initiative grant from the National Institute of Justice for the study “Understanding the Adoption, Function, and Consequences, of School Resource Officer Use in Understudied Settings.”

Connected World has honored Govind Rao, director of the Center for Advanced Sensor Technology (CAST) and professor of chemical, biochemical, and environmental engineering, with a 2017 pioneer award for his work creating technologies that have revolutionized how doctors and hospitals provide care to patients of all ages and from around the world.

Again, these are just a few of the recent our recent accomplishments. Thank you all for the important work that you do.

Student Achievements

12 UMBC students and recent alumni have been nominated by Fulbright’s national selection committees as semifinalists, to teach, research, and study in nations from Bulgaria to Colombia. Additionally, at least two UMBC faculty will be named Fulbright recipients. We look forward learning about final Fulbright Awards later this spring, and to sharing that news through the university website.

I am also delighted to share with you our four winners of the prestigious National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship awards for 2017.

Daniel Ocasio ’17, chemical engineering; Hollie Adejumo ’16, chemical engineering; Matthew Landen ’17, computer science; and Brandon Enriquez ’17, economics.

We are proud of our four students selected as Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholars by Diverse Magazine. They are: Pandora Wilson (women’s basketball) ’17, health administration and policy, Elijah Wright (men’s diving), ’19, visual arts, Afees Abourlin (men’s track), ’17, political science, and Rachel Katzenberger (women’s lacrosse), ’17, biology.

It was an exceptional year for our scholarly student organizations.

UMBC mock trial’s A and B teams both earned bids to the American Mock Trial Association’s opening round championship series tournament.

UMBCs Cyberdawgs again placed First at the mid-atlantic collegiate cyber defense competition. They are now headed to nationals!

Alumni Achievements

Our alumni continue to amaze us for their innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, exceptional research, and commitment to giving back.

Josiah Dykstra, Ph.D. ’13, Computer science, and Olukayode “Kami” Okusaga, Ph.D. ’10, electrical engineering, received Presidential Early Career awards in science and engineering.

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor ’93, information systems management, was appointed chair of the American Institute of CPAs’ board of directors.

2002 valedictorian Ian Ralby, modern languages and linguistics, and M.A., intercultural communication, released the first-ever major study on global downstream oil theft through his research group, I.R. Consilium, early this year.

The photography of Josh Sinn ’13, visual arts, was featured in the January issue of Feature Shoot, with a focus on his hopper-esque nightscapes of Baltimore City.

Campus Initiatives

Our campus has grown significantly over the past year, and we have reached several important milestones I would like to share with you.

Strategic plan:

In consultation with the council of vice presidents and deans, we are moving forward with the implementation of our strategic plan.

Throughout the remainder of the spring semester, Dr. Rous will be meeting with faculty and staff groups to discuss the implementation process and elicit valuable feedback from the campus community.

We appreciate your participation in this important effort and encourage you to read the university strategic plan at

Middle states:

Umbc just had its 10-year accreditation site visit by the Middle States organization. The visit was preceded by a rigorous campus self-study that included a review of our mission and goals and a thorough institutional assessment.

After reviewing our self study report and spending three days meeting with students, faculty, and staff on our main campus and at Shady Grove, the Middle States review team immediately reported that UMBC met all standards for accreditation and that they had no additional recommendations.

We just received written confirmation of this extraordinary report and the review team notes, “UMBC should be commended for the degree to which its various plans—academic, enrollment, facilities, research, and most important, financial—are interrelated. This is a sign of effective institutional planning.”

The evaluation is, by far, the most favorable and complimentary assessment I have seen in my years in higher education. I want to thank the entire campus community for their support of this important effort.

Sage Report:

We have also recently received a report on the economic impact of UMBC from Sage Policy Group. The report details the impact of UMBC and our alumni over the past five decades.

We are proud to note that the total economic impact created in Maryland by UMBC is in the billions, derived from the direct and indirect employment produced by the University, our bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park, current students, and alumni.

The completion of these important campus initiatives is critical to advancing excellence and shaping our future.

Campus Facilities

Our growth also is evidenced by the new facilities we are adding to the campus.

Work has begun on the Retriever Event Center, our state-of-the-art athletics venue and multipurpose facility that will be host to many of our student life activities and athletics programs, and create a new home for academic and institutional events. Construction is scheduled for completion in late 2017.

Later this spring, construction on the new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building will begin in the center of campus. This new facility supports our mission of student success and expanding research opportunities in areas of strategic importance to the state. Construction over the next two years may cause some minor disruptions on campus, and we appreciate your flexibility and patience. The project is scheduled to be completed in fall 2019.

Budget Update

In February, I represented UMBC in Annapolis and testified on the Governor’s proposed budget on behalf of our community.

Governor Hogan’s proposed FY2018 budget recommends a budget authorization for UMBC of $448.6 million, a 3% increase over the FY2017 adjusted working budget. The FY2018 authorization includes an additional $5.6 million (or 4.8% increase) in state funding and a $2.1 million increase in tuition and fees. The Governor provided $2.3 million of the $5.6 million in new state funding specifically for tuition relief, allowing the campus to hold its FY2018 tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students to 2%.

The additional state funding also includes $3.5 million to begin increasing UMBC’s funding per student toward the University System of Maryland’s funding goal. This supplementary funding, mandated by Senate Bill 1052 — which you may recall created a more extensive and formal partnership between UMCP and UMB — will increase funding guideline attainment for UMBC from the current 61% to 63%, bringing us closer to the 75th percentile goal. This is an important step in funding UMBC at a competitive level.

Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of our honorees. We also celebrate the fact that ours is a special community because of all of you. Thank you.