Connecting Students and Startups: A Profile

Jenny O'GradyJenny O’Grady is UMBC’s new director of marketing. She previously served at director of alumni and development communications at UMBC.

UMBC alumnus Greg Cangialosi ’96, English, is a tech entrepreneur who seems so ahead of the curve that following him on Twitter feels like time travel. But that’s not what I find most striking about him. I’m inspired by the way Cangialosi defines “success” for himself and how he’s worked to build new connections throughout the UMBC community—connections with impact.

After graduating from UMBC in 1996, Cangialosi launched Baltimore-based email service provider Blue Sky Factory. In 2010, Baltimore SmartCEO magazine recognized the company as one of the 50 fastest-growing in Greater Baltimore. The company also made the INC 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in the United States for four consecutive years. Cangialosi sold Blue Sky Factory in 2011, moving on to co-found Betamore, an 8,000 sq. ft. urban campus for tech entrepreneurship focused on “education, community and incubation.”

Cangialosi found success in business, but he wasn’t just off and running, leaving the other runners in the dust. He calls himself “a big believer in giving back and helping to make the places and the institutions that support you better and better.”

While Cangialosi was growing his companies, he was also growing his relationship with UMBC, sharing his experiences with students and learning from their fresh perspectives as a lecturer at the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. Over the years, Cangialosi has spoken with students and alumni at relationship-building events and has served as a judge for our Idea Competition.

Greg C. w-students [Read more…]

Finding Their Voice: Mill Stories in the Baltimore Sun

Dinah WinnickDinah Winnick is UMBC’s senior communications manager for research.

Congratulations to UMBC’s Mill Stories team on their tremendous work documenting the history of Baltimore’s Sparrows Point Steel Mill community through the past semester. We were so proud to see their work highlighted in the powerful Baltimore Sun web feature on Sparrows Point earlier this month.

Two classes participated in the Spring 2013 collaborative project supported by BreakingGround. AMST 358 Cultural Documentation in Partnership with Communities focused on cultural research and documentation within the communities that have been shaped by the Sparrows Point Steel Mill for over a century. Students explored the ideas, techniques and ethical considerations that underpin community-based qualitative research. They became familiar with the challenges of post-industrial economic and social transition and ideas of community cohesion, sense of place and sense of belonging.

Intercultural Video ProductionStudents in MLL 495/695 Intercultural Video Production focused on creating short digital stories based on community interviews, supporting participants in telling their stories in their own words.

Students learned about diverse aspects of Sparrows Point culture and residents’ experiences, from union participation, to the intricacies of making steel and operating cranes, to experiences of segregation and gender discrimination. View the “Mill Stories” on UMBCtube to see the fruits of their labor.

Contact the author, Dinah Winnick, at

Taking a Stand against Street Harassment: WILL Chalk Out

eMaureen Evans Arthurs 2013cMaureen Evans Arthurs ’13, Gender and Women’s Studies, serves on the National Student Advisory Council for the American Association of University Women.

“Why don’t you show us what’s underneath that towel, baby?”

I heard this shouted from a car of four young men, no older than 19, hanging out the window, being obnoxious. I had been walking home alone one summer afternoon after swim practice in my suburban neighborhood and immediately looked around to see if anyone else was walking near me when I realized I was alone, ashamed, and powerless. I’d like to think if I had been older, I would have been less afraid or maybe even shouted something back. But I was 13, relatively quiet, and awkwardly uncomfortable in most settings, let alone one I had just been harassed in. Back then, I never realized there was a term for what I had experienced (street harassment) nor that there was an impending movement to educate about it and eradicate it.

This was the start of a personal story I shared on the AAUW Community blog in recognition of Meet Us on the Street, an annual week of anti-street-harassment activism, held April 7–13 this year. The campaign serves as a platform for activism, discussions and demonstrations around the world, for women and men to advocate for safer spaces that are free of catcalling, groping and lewd gestures. At UMBC, the group WILL (Women Involved in Learning and Leadership) hosted Chalk Outs and conducted a survey to gauge students’ perceptions of safety and street harassment on campus.

Diane Nnaemeka writes, “Calling me sweet cheeks ain’t cute.” Photo by Maureen Evans Arthurs

Diane Nnaemeka writes, “Calling me sweet cheeks ain’t cute.” Photo by Maureen Evans Arthurs

[Read more…]

It’s Not Just School, It’s Life: President Hrabowski’s TED Talk on Student Success

Dinah WinnickDinah Winnick is a communications manager in UMBC’s Office of Institutional Advancement.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching President Hrabowski’s TED talk on how colleges can promote success for students from all backgrounds. In its first day online, the video reached 58,000 views!

One moment that caught my attention is when Dr. Hrabowski recounts how, a few years ago, a faculty member who returned to campus after a snowstorm to work in his lab found several students camped out there, working on an AIDS research project. He said, “They saw the work not as schoolwork, but as their lives.”

This is a sensibility that permeates the UMBC experience. Our SGA isn’t a “pretend” government; it’s a group that empowers students to create the community and the campus they seek. Our students don’t just solve theoretical problems in the classroom; they go into communities to fix infrastructure, tackle food insecurity and document public history. The take-away: The story President Hrabowski tells isn’t just inspirational, it’s real. It’s our story.

Contact the author, Dinah Winnick, at

President Hrabowski Shares BreakingGround Message on WYPR

Dinah Winnick is UMBC’s communications manager for social sciences.

Freeman Hrabowski 2012UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, spoke on Baltimore’s WYPR radio today about connections between UMBC’s civic initiatives and his experience as a participant in the Children’s March with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

In addition to describing the For All the World to See exhibit and BreakingGround courses, Dr. Hrabowski observes:

BreakingGround is teaching a lesson I learned about 50 years ago on the streets of Birmingham: Each of us, no matter our age or station in life, has the power to make decisions that can change lives.

What an inspiring way to frame the vision animating so much good work at UMBC!

Contact the author, Dinah Winnick, at

Hrabowski Fund for Innovation Announces Inaugural Grants

Delana GreggDelana Gregg is assistant director of the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program.

UMBC has announced the first recipients of Hrabowski Fund for Innovation grants: projects that will empower UMBC students to take an active role in their education, “to not only persist, but to excel.”

Hrabowski Fund for InnovationThe Hrabowski Fund for Innovation honors President Hrabowski’s 20 years of service to UMBC by investing in the future of our university. In 2011, Dr. Hrabowski received the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award, one of the highest honors given to an educator. The award included a $500,000 grant, which he has directed to promote a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and student success at UMBC. In a 2011 Baltimore Sun interview Dr. Hrabowski described faculty “constantly thinking about how to make students succeed” as “part of our culture.” This fund enables our innovative faculty to put their ideas into action. Here are a few projects I’m particularly excited about:

The Math Gym – A team led by Nagaraj Neerchal, professor and chair of mathematics and statistics, will develop The Math Gym, which will feature “conditioning coaches” and “personal trainers” who will help students keep their foundational math skills in good working order. The gym will promote healthy math habits among all our students, like the regular work outs and conditioning needed to maintain both athletic and mathematical skill.

Putting Students’ German Language Skills to Work – A team led by Susanne Sutton, lecturer in modern languages, linguistics, and intercultural communication, will develop new experiential and service-learning course requirements for undergraduates studying German, connecting students to Baltimore’s German community.

Active Computing Teaching and InnoVation Environment – A team led by Marie desJardins, professor of computer science and electrical engineering, will create ACTIVE, a dynamic “laptop laboratory.” The lab will support innovation in computing courses – with a particular focus on improving the retention and success of women, underrepresented minorities and transfer students – extending active-learning environments, such as CASTLE and the new English writing labs, to a new area of the university.

Check out the other inaugural grant-funded projects and learn more here. Contact Delana Gregg at

BreakingGround Backstory

Dinah Winnick (Square Photo)Dinah Winnick is a communications manager in UMBC’s Office of Institutional Advancement.

This week UMBC alumni across the county are opening their mailboxes to find the latest issue of UMBC Magazine. Featured in that magazine is a new interview with SGA President Kaylesh Ramu ’13, political science, and David Hoffman, assistant director of student life for civic agency, on BreakingGround’s origins, goals and future.

UMBC Magazine - David + KayleshI meet with Kaylesh and David all the time to discuss the ins-and-outs of BreakingGround — what we should post on the blog, how we can reach out to different communities across campus — and, let’s face it, to drink lots of coffee. But it was such a pleasure to sit down with them and have a truly open-ended conversation about what BreakingGround means and how they envision its transformative potential becoming a reality. Here’s a short (but revealing) excerpt from the piece.

How has BreakingGround resonated with the UMBC community?

Hoffman: Part of what has amazed me about this process is how intuitive it is for so many people at UMBC. When the provost talks about UMBC as a scholarly community, I think this is what he’s talking about—a community of human beings who want to make a difference together finding ways to apply their intellects and their talents and their passions to contribute to the common good.

Ramu: I’ve seen students do amazing things here and that gives me the sense of confidence that public service is not really about your age, it’s about your determination.

For the full interview, see UMBC Magazine. Contact the author, Dinah Winnick, at

Event: Free Screening of The Interrupters (2/8)

RTFFlyerThis Friday, February 8th, 7:00 p.m., Visual Arts is sponsoring a free screening of The Interrupters in ITE 201 as part of the REACT TO FILM college screening program (watch trailer). The Interrupters, an official Sundance selection, tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed.

REACT to FILM is a nonprofit that leverages documentaries to promote social responsibility and spark civic engagement through screenings at schools nationwide. Their slogan: EXPOSE. ENGAGE. INSPIRE.

Speaking Up to End Rape Culture

Jess Myers, Women's Center DirectorJess Myers is director of the UMBC Women’s Center.

The idea of “breaking ground” is the perfect metaphor for my recent first radio appearance experience. When radio producer and UMBC alum Stefanie Mavronis first asked me to speak on the Marc Steiner Show about my perspective on the Steubenville sexual assault case (you can read more about it here and here, trigger warning), I immediately thought about all the reasons why I shouldn’t do it. I’m a better writer than a public speaker. I am more comfortable speaking to small audiences versus large. How could I possibly be “expert enough” to speak on a radio show? But, then I put a pause on all of those negative thoughts and considered how important it can be to try new things, even if they seem scary.

After we finished recording, I hung up the phone and thought, “Well, I am never doing that again!” I immediately began to judge what I said, how I said it, and all the things I could have said instead.

Over the course of the week, though, I have allowed myself to once again push out those negative thoughts. As a young professional, I am reminding myself that everyone has to start somewhere and that if we constantly tell ourselves reasons not to do something, in fear of our imperfections, we will never give ourselves the opportunity expand our boundaries or be agents of change. Without giving myself permission to do something new, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have follow-up conversations with colleagues, students and family members about the desperate need to end rape culture, the messages women are socialized to believe about themselves, or the important work of the Women’s Center’s men’s engagement program. [Read more…]

Civic-Minded Courses Spring Up at UMBC

Dinah Winnick (Square Photo)Dinah Winnick is a communications manager in UMBC’s Office of Institutional Advancement. Delana Gregg is assistant director of the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program.

UMBC faculty are offering a number of innovative courses this spring that encourage students to flex their civic engagement muscles. These classes offer great Delana Greggopportunities for students who want to address real-world problems, lead successful social change projects, connect with on- and off-campus communities, and become creative social entrepreneurs.

Course descriptions are available through the 2012-13 catalog and BreakingGround-funded courses are indicated with an asterisk (*).

AFST 385/ POLI 340: Problem-Solving in the Urban Black Community (Terrence Hickey)
AMST 358: Documenting Cultural Heritage (Michelle Stefano)
AMST 420/630: Power, Place, and Identity (Theo Gonzalves)
ENTR 201: The Entrepreneurial Mindset (Gib Mason)
FYS 102M: Conflict Resolution Education: Handling Conflict Constructively (Sue Small)
FYS 102S: The Deaf Community and Its Culture (Denise Perdue, Suzanne Braunschweig)
GWST 200: Studies in Feminist Activism (Kathryn Drabinski)
GES 302: Changing Context of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (Margaret Holland)
GES 424: Environmental Justice (Dawn Biehler)
HAPP 403/SOCY 403: Introduction to International Field Research (Mary Stuart)
HONR 300: Race, Poverty, And Gender in Baltimore (Jodi Kelber-Kaye)
SOWK 200H: Social Issues – Social Action (Jessica Guzman-Rea)
THTR 390: Theater of Lived Experience* (Alan Kreizenbeck)
LRC 101A: Student Success Ambassadors Program* (Jackie Wilson, Cassie Bichy, Ericka Thompson)
PSYC 216: Foundations of Leadership Development (Lee Calizo, Virginia Byrne)

Contact the authors, Dinah Winnick and Delana Gregg, at and