Presidential Faculty and Staff Awards 2018


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 the 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.

Almost three weeks ago, over a weekend in March, the world got to know UMBC a little better. With the incredible upset win over the University of Virginia, our men’s basketball team sealed their place in history as the first number 16 seed to defeat a number 1 seed in the history of the ncaa men’s basketball tournament.

Please join me in celebrating the UMBC men’s basketball team and coach Ryan Odom and his team of coaches.  We are so pleased that ryan has agreed to stay with us at UMBC.

As I said in the piece I wrote for The Atlantic, people now know us, as the ultimate cinderella, an overnight media sensation. But our story is far less fairy tale than it is the classic American dream. Our magic comes from questioning expectations, putting in the hard work, and staying focused.

What we saw during that weekend reflected inclusive excellence, people of diverse backgrounds, races, and economic classes working together. It’s clear from the commentators in the media, on social media, and in other venues, that many people were impressed by the rich diversity of our community, not only on the court, but in the band, on the dance team and cheer squad, and in the audience of alumni, faculty, staff, and students. We encourage broad participation and interaction among all groups—and in so doing, we are reflecting what we hope America will become.

I often talk about the genius of the and versus the tyranny of the or. In the same academic year that we experienced this unprecedented athletic success, we also achieved great things in the classroom.

Please join me in celebrating, Naomi Mburu, who in November, became the first student in UMBC history to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. She is one of 32 students from across the united states to receive this honor in 2018.  Mburu is currently working with Gymama Slaughter, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering, to develop a bioreactor to extend the viability of human organs awaiting transplant. The sensors will track glucose levels, lactic acid, and nitric oxide to ensure that the organ remains healthy as it is transported to the recipient.

Thank you to all of the faculty and staff members who help guide Naomi through the intense Rhodes process.


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

  • UMBC has again been named a best value college for 2017 by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, appearing on both the best value public university list and “top 300” national best value university list.
  • Times Higher Education has named UMBC one of the world’s top universities for 2018, marking UMBC’s sixth consecutive year on the prestigious international list.
  • The 2017-18 U.S. News & World Report college guide ranked UMBC the seventh most innovative university in the nation. UMBC is joined by Stanford, MIT and Harvard. And UMBC was named the thirteenth top national university for our strong commitment to undergraduate teaching, joining Princeton, Yale, Michigan and University of California–Berkeley on that list.
  • According to the 2019 U.S. News best graduate schools rankings, UMBC graduate programs are among the best nationwide. The rankings recognize a dozen UMBC graduate programs including nine top-100 programs from a broad range of fields, with all three UMBC colleges represented. They are based on a survey of more than 20,500 academics and professionals, plus data on over 2,000 programs, indicating the quality of each school’s faculty, research, and students.
  • The Center for World University rankings named UMBC as one of the top universities in the world according to their most recent report. UMBC lands in the top 1.9% of higher education institutions worldwide and joins only four other institutions in Maryland on the list.
  • Princeton Review has again selected UMBC as one of the nation’s top universities for undergraduate education, featured in its flagship guide, the Best 382 Colleges.
  • UMBC was named an outstanding workplace for the eighth consecutive year by the Chronicle of Higher Education.


I want to briefly highlight some of our recent achievements, which exemplify our strength in partnering with local, regional and national organizations and universities.

  • UMBC faculty were awarded nearly $100 million in research support in FY17. Sources include the NIH, NSF, NASA, NEH, NEA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Humboldt Foundation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Institute of Justice, Spencer Foundation, Cisco, GE Global Research, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Phrma Foundation, and State Of Maryland.
  • NASA has committed $87.5M over the next five years to the center for research and exploration in space science and technology (CRESST II), co-led by UMBC.
  • UMBC’s Dresher Center for the Humanities and College of the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences launched 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 UMBC economics department received a $1.3 Million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to increase the number of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups who complete highly competitive doctoral programs in economics.
  • UMBC continues to expand collaborations with local institutions, including a Peabody Conservatory partnership to strengthen musical training and innovation, collaboration with music for minds to launch Festival Baltimore, and expanded partnership with the Walters Art Museum focused on training in art conservation that bridges the arts, humanities, and sciences.
  • UMBC’s strong partnership with Lakeland elementary and middle school has grown steadily over the last five years. The relationship includes professional development for Lakeland teachers; an opportunity for Lakeland students to attend special events; and a math coaching program, where UMBC students travel to Lakeland and work with small groups of students during the school day. The positive results of this program are clearly evidenced by Lakeland’s success on the math portion of the PARCC, Maryland’s state test. A $6 million gift from the George and Betsy Sherman Family Foundation to establish a new center for early learning in urban communities will continue to support these efforts at Lakeland elementary and middle school.
  • UMBC’s College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences dedicated the Earth and Space Institute last September. The research center includes a prototyping lab and operations center. It also acts as a physical home for the interdisciplinary earth and space science UMBC researchers do with support from NASA, NOAA, and other Federal agencies, as well as collaborators around the world.
  • The National Science Foundation has selected UMBC to lead a new $3 million research partnership that will deploy next-generation computing hardware to solve major infrastructure challenges. UMBC will launch the center of accelerated real time analytics through a five-year grant from the NSF industry-university cooperative research centers program, receiving $150,000 in support for each of the next five years. The remaining funds will support collaborative research with partner institutions including North Carolina State University; Rutgers University, Newark; and Rutgers University, New Brunswick; and Tel Aviv university.
  • The Office of International Education services hosted its first passport caravan this spring to jump-start students’ study abroad journeys. In partnership with UMBC’s study abroad affiliate, the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), and the Baltimore County Public Library, the event increased access to study abroad programs by fully funding 40 students’ new passport applications and providing information to students across all majors on how international education can enhance academic and professional opportunities.
  • UMBC’s commitment to stem education and increasing diversity in engineering and computing fields is a trademark of the university. Five mechanical engineering faculty are continuing to expand this work through a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation S-STEM program, which focuses on retaining and graduating STEM students via scholarships and activities. Liang Zhu, professor of mechanical engineering is the lead on the grant. Zhu is collaborating on the grant with Deepa Madan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Ronghui Ma, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Chuck Eggleton, professor of mechanical engineering; and Tim Topoleski, interim chair and professor of mechanical engineering.
  • UMBC has been selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to organize an “engaging scientists project: dialogue on science, ethics, and religion” workshop. The intent is for the workshop to serve as a springboard to broaden our culture of inclusive excellence by more deliberately including the sometimes challenging conversations centered on science and faith.


In addition to the success that we saw this year with our men’s basketball team, we also had some history making moments in other sports.

  • For the first time in program history, UMBC men’s baseball team won the America East Championship and played in the NCAA Tournament.
  • After successfully competing for four years as part of the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association, UMBC men’s swimming and diving returned to the America East for the 2017-18 season with a hunger for victory. Their vision became a reality when the retrievers emerged with the America East championship trophy.
  • UMBC’s women’s team also made huge strides, bridging a nearly 100-point gap during the America East championship. Their tenacity paid off, landing them in second place by the end of the meet, only 4.5 Points behind New Hampshire.
  • Alex La Noire represented UMBC at the annual NCAA student-athlete leadership forum in Washington, D.C. As a member of the soccer team and a student dedicated to service both to his campus and to his latino community, the junior right-back was tapped to represent both the America East Conference and UMBC in mid-November.
  • UMBC junior forward Joe Sherburne was named to the 2017-18 Academic All-America Division I men’s basketball first team. Sherburne, who has a 4.0, Became the first UMBC and first America East Conference men’s basketball player to earn the nation’s top academic honor at the NCAA division I level.


It’s impossible to measure just how dedicated our faculty and staff are across the campus and 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.

  • UMBC biologist Erin Green received a five-year, nearly $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine how cells respond to environmental signals at the molecular level. Her work could provide clues to understanding processes as broad as how cancers take hold, the causes of autism, and aging.
  • Lee Blaney, associate professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering, has received a prestigious career award from the National Science Foundation to advance his research on contaminants of emerging concern and their effects on the environment.
  • Tinoosh Mohsenin, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, and Ting Zhu, assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering, also received NSF career awards.
  • UMBC faculty from all three colleges collaborated to create the PI2 (pie 2) immersive hybrid reality lab, a virtual reality research facility supported by an NSF major instrumentation program and the next century corporation. The lab will enable faculty and students explore complex questions and data in new ways, across all fields and scales, studying systems from traffic patterns to blood flow to energy production.
  • Gymama Slaughter is working on developing a bioreactor to extend the viability of lifesaving human organs as they await transplant through a major new grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Funding for the project totals nearly $1.5 Million for a period of three years. Slaughter, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering, will collaborate closely with two professors at Johns Hopkins.
  • The Whiting Foundation has awarded associate professor of history, Denise Meringolo, a $50,000 public engagement fellowship to teach historical understanding through the “Preserve the Baltimore Uprising” project. Meringolo is one of just seven scholars to receive whiting fellowships in 2018. The recipients represent the diversity of thought and research in the humanities, from history, literature, philosophy, and anthropology to gender studies, and they engage numerous different communities across the United States, particularly groups underrepresented in the humanities.
  • UMBC’s F. Chris Curran, assistant professor of public policy, has received a two-year $620,000 National Institute of Justice Comprehensive School Safety Initiative grant to lead a new research study on the role of law enforcement officers in public schools.

Several of our faculty and our provost recently have been recognized for significant achievements:

  • The American Democracy Project honored Provost Philip Rous with the 2017 William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement.
  • Charissa Cheah, professor of psychology, has received a Fulbright to collaborate with  psychologists at the University of Palermo in Sicily to explore Muslim-Tunisian immigrant adolescent identity development, civic engagement, positive youth development, and risk behavior engagement. The award is one of only six Fulbright awards open to all academic disciplines and specializations in the humanities, sciences, social sciences and the arts to conduct research in Italy.
  • Guenet Abraham, associate professor of graphic design, was awarded a Fulbright Scholar award in 2017-18 to pursue her project labyrinth of memory in Ethiopia and has just received a 2018-2019 award to continue her research and teaching for an additional year.
  • Maurice Berger, research professor and chief curator for the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, and a major national figure in the field of media studies, has won the International Center of Photography 2018 Infinity Award.
  • UMBC faculty and staff serve in prominent leadership roles outside the university, including Joby Taylor, Shriver center, as chair of the National Peace Corps Association; Jessica Pfeifer, philosophy, as executive director of the Philosophy of Science Association; Theo Gonzalves, American studies, as president of the Association for Asian American Studies; and Tim Hall, athletics, as president of the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association.

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


  • 16 UMBC students have been nominated by Fulbright’s National Selection Committees as semifinalists, to teach, research, and study in nations from South Korea to Germany.  We look forward to learning about final Fulbright awards later this spring, and to sharing that news through the university news website.
  • UMBC junior Linda Wiratan has been awarded the Goldwater Scholarship for 2018 and Yasmin Graham earned an honorable mention.
  • Linda is a biochemistry and molecular biology major with a minor in creative writing. She is a member of the Honors College, a URA Scholar and URCAD presenter, published poet, and has a 4.0 GPA. As a representative of science, she hopes to improve its public perception by advancing its approachability. To this end, in addition to all of her academic achievements, Linda is the founder of City of Cells, LLC, a science-focused organization with the mission of improving the public perception of science through interactive and creative means such as blogs, science-inspired products, and educational animation. She will pursue a Ph.D. in cell or molecular biology and conduct protein dynamics research. She has won various awards for her research posters, and has consistently been named to the Dean’s and President’s Lists at UMBC. Most impressively, she has co-authored four articles with her mentors, Hua Lu and Marcin Ptaszek, in peer reviewed journals, including Nature Communications, Inorganic Chemistry, and Organic Letters.  Yasmin is a junior mechanical engineering major, a Meyerhoff and MARC *U Star scholar, LSAMP participant.
  • Senior dance major Maia Schechter’s piece “Now Elsewhere” has been selected to be performed at the American College Dance Association National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in june.

It was an exceptional year for our scholarly student organizations.

  • For being so young, UMBC’s mock trial team has quickly made a name for itself in collegiate competition. Having outperformed hundreds of other college and university teams since last September, these exceptional undergraduates traveled to the American Mock Trial Association’s national championship tournament in Los Angeles last april. The tournament included a select group of only 48 teams from across the United States.
  • Cyber Dawgs, UMBC’s cyber defense team, traveled to San Antonio, Texas, in 2017 to dominate the national collegiate cyber defense competition. The UMBC team defeated nine other regional winners from across the country in a contest to protect their networks from cyber attacks and threats efficiently and effectively to become the winners of the 2017 competition.


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

  • We made a national news when UMBC alumnus Jerome Adams ’97, m4, biochemistry and molecular biology, was sworn in as U.S. Surgeon General on September 5, 2017. The baton was passed by alumna rear admiral and current deputy Surgeon General Sylvia Trent-Adams Ph.D. ’06, public policy, who served as acting U.S. Surgeon General until Adams’ appointment.
  • Sean Pang ’09, English, M.A. ’11, education, was named Teacher of the Year 2017 by the Washington Post.
  • Kavita Krishnaswamy ’07, computer science and mathematics, ph.D. ’18, Computer science, was named both a 2017 Microsoft Fellow and recipient of the Google Lime Scholarship. Krishnaswamy’s research focuses on building a teleoperated mobile robotic prototype that seniors and people with disabilities will be able to control by repositioning their arms and legs.


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

  • On February 3, we opened the UMBC Event Center, our $87 million state-of-the-art athletics venue and multipurpose facility. The completion of the event center marks an important milestone in UMBC’s evolution. This venue provides our athletic teams with an exceptional home base, while also enabling us to host more events focused on the arts, culture, and the life of the mind.
  • Construction is underway on the new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building. This new facility supports our mission of student success and expanding research opportunities in areas of strategic importance to the state. The project is scheduled to be completed in fall 2019.


The state legislative session is nearing its end.  There is much to be thankful for in the current plans for higher education in FY 2019.

The total budget authorization for umbc is $457 million, a 3% increase over the FY2018 adjusted working budget. The FY2019 authorization includes $3 million to cover the operational costs for opening the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building, just a little more than one year from now.  It also includes $0.3 Million to fund the Maryland Technology Internship Program, a statewide program that will be administered by UMBC. This total does not yet include funding for a two percent cost of living increase for faculty and staff scheduled to go into effect in January 2019, which will be funded in a separate allocation from the state.

Finally, I’m very pleased to report that our state allocation for FY 2019 includes $4 million to continue increasing UMBC’s funding per student. You may recall that UMBC received supplemental funding of $3.5 Million for this purpose in FY2018. The additional $4 million in FY2019 is a continuation of the plan to build UMBC’s funding to align with the state’s funding guidelines. This means that the state will have added $7.5 Million to the base for UMBC, over and above regular operating increases.


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.