Andrew Gordon, Communications and Marketing Assistant at the American Health Assistance Foundation, completed his BA in English at UMBC in 2008.
“I have this idea that I really want to make happen. I’m not sure how, but I just hope I can figure it out before it’s too late.” I wrote those words in my journal from a Walker bedroom in the middle of a July night in 2007. It’s where UMBC Underground began.
I was preparing for my senior year, flooded in feelings of nostalgia and excitement for the future. Having continually lived on-campus since the winter of 2005 after a falling out with family, I’d been involved with about as much as I could, including First Year Council, SGA, an OPA through Admissions, SEB, Pi Kappa Phi, a Maintenance Assistant, intramural basketball (2005 champs with Right Hand Rule! haha) and The Retriever Weekly. I was feeling really frustrated with the wide-spread apathy and lack of community I saw among UMBC students. At that time, I felt a particular frustration with The Retriever Weekly, which I didn’t think talked about the issues, news or events that mattered most to students, although they had a special vehicle to do so. I decided to start my own newspaper to fill that void, not yet knowing I was about to embark on the most important experience of my college career.
From the beginning, I wanted to help share the awesome hidden gems I’d discovered about UMBC and hopefully some advice to help others behind me. I decided to write anonymously to avoid the stigma of being seen as another “holier than thou involved kid with an agenda.” Instead, I was just “treeveins.” Soon after launching, I went out on a limb and looped in 3 other guys I didn’t know that well but had always respected, and the Founding Four were formed: treeveins, IBeCheerful, RALPH?, and Short. Somehow we all sort of shared the same vision, and we pressed ahead with more determination and enthusiasm than I’d ever had for any of my classes.
We would meet up in Deep Creek 621 at midnight and talk for hours, devising a strategy and schedule for the week. We covered news no one else would, and I think we truly gave students a space to honestly express their opinions about the issues they faced every day. What started with us changing the default homepage on all the public laptops in The Commons to get more exposure turned into hundreds and then thousands of hits a day as more and more students relied on UMBC Underground for their news and the open dialogue the site facilitated.
As you might guess, that was by far the best year for me, and when I think back on UMBC, it’s the experience I remember most clearly and most fondly. It’s the thing that taught me the most, and what I feel most proud of as an undergrad. While UMBC Underground was ultimately shut down a few years after I graduated, you can see its influence on myUMBC’s features and design (in fact, IBeCheerful has worked on myUMBC since 2008).
I would strongly urge any student with an idea to pursue it. I never could’ve known where the rabbit hole would take me that summer night in Walker, but I’m so glad I pursued it. All UMBC students are so lucky because there are literally no bounds to what you can do. If you’re new, it might feel like lip service, but UMBC really does live by “Make UMBC Yours,” and you have people all around you willing (and actually waiting) to help you!
For me, in the end, I felt UU was a success because 99% of readers thought of treeveins as just some student. I literally could’ve been anyone in that May of 2008 graduating class… and that was the point. Anyone can do something important and lasting — you just have to decide you’re going to try. Best of luck to everyone, and please let me know if I can help with anything.
Contact the author, Andrew Gordon, at email@example.com.