Seeds of Change and Growth: My UMBC Years

Eric Anthony Grollman ’07, sociology and psychology, is a PhD candidate at Indiana University.  He will begin teaching at the University of Richmond in August.

Eric Anthony GrollmanRecently, I watched Dr. Freeman Hrabowski’s TED talk on the key initiatives needed to help all students to be successful. As usual, I was inspired by his passion, creative vision, and ideas. To share his message, I wrote about his talk in my blog, and reflected a little on my time at UMBC. “Wow,” I thought, “I hadn’t realized just how much UMBC set the stage for my career as a researcher, teacher, and advocate.”

At the start of college, I was an outspoken, know-it-all 18-year-old, struggling as a Meyerhoff Scholar. I was a math major, frustrated by what felt like a disconnect between my passion to make a difference in the world and calculus. I had immediately taken on a leadership position in the Freedom Alliance, the university’s group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Thanks to some tough love from my parents and the Meyerhoff staff, I decided to “get it together,” which meant leaving the program to pursue a major in sociology. That was probably the hardest, yet best decision I have made in life thus far. [Read more…]

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Shriver Peaceworker Fellows Join National Day of Action

Joby Taylor is director of the Shriver Peaceworker Program.

Joby TaylorAdvocacy is a skill that all of us can use in our effort to create positive social change! There are so many ways to get involved in making a difference, and letting your voice be heard by public officials is one important way to impact issues and policy.

Last fall, UMBC’s Shriver Peaceworker Fellows participated in an “Advocacy 101” workshop to get them thinking about and practicing these important skills.  We spent part of our retreat weekend in discussions, brainstorms, and mock meetings focused on advocacy training. Then, on February 28th, as part of Peace Corps Anniversary Week, we hit the Hill–Capitol Hill that is!

Six Peaceworkers cleared their schedules and traveled to Washington DC to spend the day meeting with diverse Congressional Offices. We shared stories from our Peace Corps experiences and talked about the many lessons they taught us and their ongoing influence on our commitment to service and civic engagement back home.  Beyond sharing personal stories, we took the opportunity to ask our members of Congress to support a strong Peace Corps (and thoughtful foreign policy) for years to come.

Shriver PeaceworkerDid you know that there are currently five members of Congress who are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers? We met them all at the start of our day as they gave us some insider tips for our Hill meetings and then sent us out with an inspired charge to really make our voices heard. By day’s end our group, along with 90 total Returned Volunteers, had met with over 150 Congressional Offices!

This day of meeting with public officials and talking about a program that’s dear to our hearts was an experience that we can now apply to advocacy for other issues that we’re passionate about. Whether it’s writing a letter, making a call, or walking the Hill…think about adding Advocacy to your civic skill set. And if you are interested in the Peace Corps, call us at The Shriver Center and we’ll be happy to tell you more.

Contact the author, Joby Taylor, at jtaylo14@umbc.edu.

My Service Animal Advocacy Experience

Amy Lacosse is an employment specialist for The Arc Baltimore, placed at the UMBC SUCCESS program and UMB’s Project SEARCH. She completed her BS in Psychology at UMBC earlier this year.

I was the first student ever to apply to live on the UMBC campus with a psychiatric service animal. My motive was not to be a pioneer, but simply to cope with my anxiety disorder so I could succeed as a student and member of the campus community. Yet when I discovered that UMBC’s policy on service animals did not afford me all the opportunities guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, I became an advocate. And by advocating for myself, I also advocated for others in my position: people who needed service animals for reasons not covered by older definitions of disability.  After a lot of work with the Office of Residential Life, not only can I say that our policies and forms are up to date, but also that it’s become more common for students to request to live with service animals.

I created the video below as a way of sharing my experience and providing information to others about service animals and and the ways they are able to help people with disabilities.

Contact the author, Amy Lacosse, at lacosse1@umbc.edu.