Archive for June, 2018

UMB Champion of Excellence: Randi Barclay, SHRM-CP, PHR

UMB Champion of Excellence: Randi Barclay, SHRM-CP, PHR

The Champions of Excellence campaign is a multi-year branding campaign at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in which we highlight individuals and teams that exemplify extraordinary accomplishment and represent excellence at the University. During the next few months, The Elm will be featuring these UMB Champions, who are making Baltimore, our region, and in some cases the world a better place. (Read about all the 2017-18 UMB Champions of Excellence.)

Today’s Champion:
Randi Barclay, SHRM-CP, PHR
Value-Based Approach to Human Resources

Accountability. Civility. Collaboration. Diversity. Excellence. Knowledge. Leadership.

These aren’t just the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) core values — they’re how Randi Barclay, SHRM-CP, PHR, approaches every day as human resources manager at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

“The core values align with my own personal values,” she says, “and being able to use them as a foundation is very important to me.

“They’re one of the things that attracted me to the School of Nursing and UMB,” she adds. “Sometimes core values are just ‘wallpaper’ — they look or sound good, but that’s where it ends. Not here. We really do live ours. You can feel it. They’re in the energy on the campus.”

They’re also captured in job listings for the School of Nursing. When recruiting new talent, Barclay says she wants applicants to know what UMB’s core values are and what UMB is committed to.

“We strive to identify candidates whose values align with ours,” she says. “We want all candidates to know from the beginning exactly what the core values are and that we take them seriously. We look for individuals who are able to define those values and demonstrate them here.”

It’s clear why Barclay’s the perfect fit for her position. She’s a spark of positive energy; her warmth and passion make her a strong advocate for UMB and a calming presence for job prospects — faculty and staff alike.

Since she began her position at the school in 2015, her can-do attitude and infectious philosophy to her work, grounded in the University’s and school’s core values, permeate everything she does — from staffing and recruitment to employee growth and retention, to helping the school achieve its strategic planning goals.

“Randi creates an environment that motivates our team to make changes to improve ourselves, both professionally and personally,” says Monica Williams, MSL, HR program specialist at the School of Nursing. “She’s very friendly and has such a compassionate approach to her work. Her care and concern for others really pushes her to be diplomatic in her approach to dealing with HR matters.”

For more than 20 years, Barclay has worked as a human resources specialist in a number of industries, from investment banking to nonprofit, from health care to the public defender’s office.

“I love being a resource to employees as well as the organization,” Barclay says. “Dealing with people every day, it’s not like working with this BIC pen, for example. I know exactly how this pen will perform when I need it, but when dealing with people, it’s not always that simple. I never know what I’ll walk into the next day.”

In a past job, she spent five years as director of human resources at Health Care for the Homeless, an organization that works to end homelessness in Baltimore and beyond. She longed to return to health care — when her position at the School of Nursing became available, she knew that was it.

“Health care is one of those sectors where something is always new or cutting edge,” she says. “It’s exciting to know that you’re part of something that’s helping people and contributing to the greater good. I feel privileged to be a part of that. There’s always a new advancement or innovation happening at UMB — take the BioPark, for example. I feel like I’m part of that energy now, too.”

Barclay loves that no two days are the same in HR — or at the School of Nursing. In her three years at the school, one of the oldest and largest nursing schools in the United States, Barclay’s increased the size of her small HR team, worked in collaboration with other UMB schools on various HR initiatives, and advocated for a strong, diverse school alongside Jeffrey Ash, EdD, associate dean for diversity and inclusion.

The School of Nursing is the first school at UMB to devote a full-time, associate dean position to diversity and inclusion. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is the school’s hub for service and community outreach, collaborative and innovative thinking about diversity, and inclusive excellence among students, faculty, and staff.

Barclay recalls during her own interview process when Jane M. Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing, shared her vision for adding a dean for diversity and inclusion. That vision became reality not long after Barclay joined the school and she began the recruitment process for the position.

Barclay has worked collaboratively with Ash to support diversity and inclusion initiatives at the School of Nursing. For example, she helped to facilitate a breakout professional development workshop session on tools for resolving conflict. Barclay has helped to grow and expand the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s professional development programs and initiatives, strengthening a working and learning environment where all are welcome.

In her quest for excellence, Barclay utilizes another core value (collaboration) regularly with her UMB peers. Just recently, she brainstormed with another UMB human resources manager to implement a successful staff hiring strategy.

“It truly does take a village to do everything that we do from an HR perspective,” she says.

Communication and Public AffairsCollaboration, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeJune 18, 20180 comments
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K-12 Partners Celebrate Graduations on UMB Campus

Four weeks after UMB’s commencement celebration, some of the institution’s closest K-12 partners and neighbors celebrated their graduation exercises on campus.

Ceremonies were held at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Leadership Hall, beginning with Southwest Baltimore Charter School on June 8 for its eighth-grade promotional ceremony, followed by James McHenry Elementary School’s kindergarten and pre-kindergarten ceremonies June 11, and culminating with George Washington Elementary for a fifth-grade graduation June 13.

Valedictorians addressed their classes, students reflected publicly on academic and social challenges they’ve overcome, family members cheered their loved ones and, most of all, UMB was able to play a role in the successes of its neighbors.

The University’s K-12 partners value the opportunity to culminate their academic year on the UMB campus, as eloquently expressed by Christophe Turk, principal at James McHenry Elementary/ Middle School, as he used part of his remarks to thank the University for allowing use of the space.

“Facilities matter. They send a message,” Turk said. “And this beautiful space sends a positive message worthy of our students and families. It says we value you. And we want only the best for our children.”

Please join UMB President Jay. A Perman, MD, and the Office of Community Engagement in congratulating the graduates of these and the University’s other neighboring K-12 schools and encouraging their continued commitment to education and achievement.

Brian SturdivantCommunity Service, Education, For B'more, UMB News, University LifeJune 18, 20180 comments
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Dr. Abraham Schneider

UMB Champion of Excellence: Abraham Schneider, DDS, PhD

The Champions of Excellence campaign is a multi-year branding campaign at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in which we highlight individuals and teams that exemplify extraordinary accomplishment and represent excellence at the University. During the next few months, The Elm will be featuring these UMB Champions, who are making Baltimore, our region, and in some cases the world a better place. (Read about all the 2017-18 UMB Champions of Excellence.)

Today’s Champion:
Abraham Schneider, DDS, PhD
Preventing the Progression of Oral Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, about 51,540 people will get oral and oropharyngeal cancer in 2018. Of these, an estimated 10,030 — more than one person per hour each day — will die from the disease.

Numbers like these are sobering, but they inspire researchers like Abraham Schneider, DDS, PhD, at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry to search for ways to stop cancer before it strikes.

Schneider grew up in Lima, Peru, where he received his dental degree before coming to the United States in 1991 for advanced training and specialization in periodontics.

After being in clinical practice for a few years, he decided to pursue a PhD in oral health sciences at the University of Michigan. There, he met a group of scientists at the dental school who were collaborating with the medical school’s cancer center to study prostate cancer and bone metastasis.

Prostate cancer had personally touched Schneider’s life when one of his close family members died from the disease, motivating him to join his colleagues in hopes of finding a solution.

In 2005, he came to the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) with his wife, Monica, also a faculty member, to continue to teach and conduct research at the School of Dentistry while also working with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). It was working with the NIDCR that first exposed him to the study of oral cancer.

Today, he is an associate professor in the Department of Oncology and Diagnostic Sciences, where he is studying the drug metformin and its relation to reducing the risk of developing cancer.

Metformin is a relatively inexpensive, nontoxic, and well-tolerated drug currently used by more than 120 million people worldwide. Most who use metformin do so to lower their blood sugar in relation to diabetes. After research revealed that those diabetic patients taking metformin had a lower risk of cancer, Schneider became interested in learning more about the non-diabetic effects of the drug.

Originally, Schneider, with collaborators at the NIDCR, researched oral cancer development in mice. The results? About 90 percent of the mice given metformin never acquired fully formed cancer.

Schneider studies metformin’s effects at the cellular level: how metformin gets into the cells and how his team can develop the drug to work more efficiently. So far, metformin appears to be most successful when used in the early stages of cancer development.

Yet, Schneider isn’t limiting himself to just cancer prevention. He is also addressing the potential aftereffects of cancer treatment by applying these strategies to regenerating oral and craniofacial bone tissue. To do so, he combines metformin with specific stem cells. If successful, the findings of this research could create new approaches to enhance skeletal regeneration after the consequences of tumor resection, trauma or infection.

Not only is Schneider interested in metformin because of its unexpected positive effects, but also because it is so affordable.

“Metformin could be great for people who can’t afford costly treatment because it is an inexpensive and well-received drug,” he says.

He has used his five-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore the impact of metformin in the chemoprevention and treatment of oral cancer.

“Results emerging from these studies may ultimately contribute to the implementation of novel personalized approaches to control the development and progression of oral cancer,” he says.

For Schneider, the most effective research is conducted through interdisciplinary collaboration, which abounds at UMB.

“Being proactive in reaching out to other experts at UMB who complement my own research studies has been key, I believe, to advance my research program,” he says. “A cross-disciplinary, team-based research approach that is based on the diversity of opinion generated from different scientific backgrounds broadens, by many folds, the possibility of answering specific research questions.”

The collaboration he has found at UMB is unlike any other he has been a part of. Specifically, Schneider has worked with faculty from the schools of pharmacy, medicine, and dentistry on this project and others. The access to a diverse and accomplished faculty for interdisciplinary research, along with the proximity of UMB to NIH and major hospitals, has been extremely helpful for advancing his studies.

Outside of his research, Schneider says the most gratifying part of his job is seeing his students in the School of Dentistry grow professionally and personally.

“They start off knowing very little, but in just a few years they are much more knowledgeable and confident,” he says. “It truly makes my life much nicer to see how our students and postdoctoral fellows grow at UMB.”

Communication and Public AffairsCollaboration, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeJune 14, 20180 comments
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UMB Alerts - Emergency Notification System

Sign Up for UMB Alerts

UMB Alerts is the system used by the emergency management team at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) to notify the campus community about emergencies and weather-related closings.

UMB Alerts messages are sent out via campus phones and campus email accounts. Users also can register personal devices such as cellphones or pagers that are capable of receiving text messages.

In the case of a campus emergency or weather situation, the UMB Alerts web page will provide the latest available information.

The same information will be available by calling the campus emergency information phone line at 410-706-8622.

Sign up for alerts.

Dana RampollaUniversity LifeJune 13, 20180 comments
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Computer Keyboard-Update

The Importance of General Software Updates and Patches

What do you do when you see those little icons and pop-up messages that appear in the system tray, indicating there is a new software update available for you to download and install?  Most people find such notifications and the process of installing new software updates insignificant and disrupting. The truth is, people ignore such notifications for various reasons, such as, “Do I really need to install this update?” or “My computer is working just fine, I don’t think this update is for me!” or “I don’t have time to reboot my computer,” etc. If you are accustomed to dismissing those update notifications, you need to reconsider that practice. Applying software updates is one of the most important things you can do with your computer. In fact, if you don’t do it, you’re very likely going to get some kind of malware in your system and even get hijacked.

Your computer at UMB should already be on a regular patch cycle that updates the software automatically without you having to do anything, but it is extremely important for you to remember to do this for your personal computer at home.

What Are Software Updates, Anyway?

A software update, also known as a “patch” or a “service pack,” is a piece of software released by software vendors, mainly to address security vulnerabilities in their products. Software updates occasionally contain bug fixes and product enhancement. These updates are installed over the current installation and do not require uninstallation or re-installation of the software in question. In simple words, when you need to update a program, you don’t need to do anything other than let the updater do its thing.

A software update may contain:

  • Security vulnerability fixes: More than 90 percent of software and operating system (OS) updates are to patch security vulnerabilities in programs. A software program with a security hole in it can allow very bad things to happen to the computer. Exploiting security vulnerabilities in programs to deliver malware is a common method employed by cybercriminals.
  • Bug fixes and product enhancements: Although most software updates are developed mainly to address security holes in programs, you might come across software updates with bug fixes and product enhancements to improve program’s performance. A “bug” refers to unintended mistakes created by the programmer that cause the program to give unexpected results and errors.

Why Are Software Updates So Important for Your Computer?

To get the best performance from your computer and, most important, to stay protected against cyberattacks and malicious threats, it is very important that you do not neglect any critical software updates. Using an unpatched/outdated computer is like living in a house with no locks on the doors, inviting unwanted intruders. When you ignore updates on your computer, you are choosing to leave your computer open to infection. Cybercriminals depend on the apathy of users around software updates to keep their malicious endeavor running.

Downloading updates and installing them can sometimes be tedious, but the advantages you get from the updates are worth the time and effort to complete. The good news is you don’t even need to manually download and install most updates for each piece of software. Operating systems and a majority of programs installed on your computer can do the job for you with very little or no intervention. All you need to do is simply grant your consent when asked, by just the click of a button.

How to Manage Software Updates Efficiently

The best way to manage software updates on your computer is to let the software itself do it for you. Operating system and other software, such as your Antivirus program, can be configured to automatically download and install updates for you. However, not all software offers an automatic update feature. Widely used programs like Java and Adobe® Reader® will not update automatically, unfortunately these are typically the most frequently abused programs when they develop security vulnerabilities.

The icon will show in the bar near the clock indicating that the relevant program needs an update and requires you to activate them to start the update procedure. If you see such icons down near the clock, do the update as soon as you can.

It is important to mention that software updates are not limited to computers. Software updates also are available for mobile devices like your smartphone and other devices. The updates for such devices are usually known as “firmware updates.” In the case of smartphones, you also might receive updates for the applications installed on your phone, just the way you receive program updates on your computer. The bottom line is: Do not restrict yourself to just updating your computer. When you see updates for your other devices, make sure you install them as well for better performance and enhanced security.

Fred SmithTechnologyJune 12, 20180 comments
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The President's Message-June

The President’s Message

Check out the June issue of The President’s Message.

It includes:

  • Dr. Perman’s column on last month’s State of the University Address
  • A recap of commencement, UMB’s Neighborhood Spring Festival, Glendening and Ehrlich’s political discussion, and the CURE Scholars’ end-of-year celebration
  • A look ahead to Dr. Perman’s June 19 Q&A
  • Stories on philanthropic gifts to the schools of medicine and nursing
  • Two more employees benefit from the Live Near Your Work Program
  • UMB police start active shooter response training
  • A roundup of student, faculty, and staff achievements
Chris ZangABAE, Bulletin Board, Clinical Care, Collaboration, Community Service, Contests, Education, For B'more, People, Research, Technology, UMB News, University Life, USGAJune 11, 20180 comments
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UMB Champion of Excellence: James Polli, PhD

UMB Champion of Excellence: James Polli, PhD

The Champions of Excellence campaign is a multi-year branding campaign at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in which we highlight individuals and teams that exemplify extraordinary accomplishment and represent excellence at the University. During the next few months, The Elm will be featuring these UMB Champions, who are making Baltimore, our region, and in some cases the world a better place. (Read about all the 2017-18 UMB Champions of Excellence.)

Today’s Champion:
James Polli, MD
Ensuring Prescription Drug Quality for All Patients

Growing up, James Polli, PhD, thought everyone worked in pharmaceuticals. After all, his father was a longtime researcher who developed medications, and the young Polli spent his summers working on research projects at Pfizer and Merck. “To me, that was pretty normal,” he says with a shrug.

Professor and Ralph F. Shangraw/Noxell Endowed Chair in Industrial Pharmacy and Pharmaceutics, Polli has been part of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy faculty for 25 years. In that time, he’s devoted his career to two main research interests — maximizing oral drug availability, and developing public quality standards for oral dosage forms.

“The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] talks about safety, efficacy, and quality. I’m interested in quality — quality medicine,” Polli says.

How medications are designed and manufactured isn’t something the public fully appreciates, he says. “I make sure a drug is designed to be absorbed not only on a chemical level but also from a tablet and capsule point of view,” Polli says. “There are lots of challenges to maintaining drug product quality over time.”

Ranked in the top 10 nationally, the School of Pharmacy partners with numerous organizations to enhance product quality. For instance, Polli and his team collaborate with the FDA on research initiatives to help understand how to maintain drug product quality for complex formulations.

“We’re interested in drug product quality,” Polli says, “but we’re also interested in not having regulations be overbearing. We just want to know what risks there are, and how to mitigate those risks.”

They do this in part through the Maryland Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (M-CERSI), a collaborative partnership between the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP).

As M-CERSI co-director, Polli helped to secure a $3 million grant from the FDA to develop the education and research program focused entirely on regulatory science — the first of its kind to an academic institution (it’s since been replicated at other prestigious universities, including Johns Hopkins, UCSF/Stanford, and the Yale/University Mayo Clinic).

M-CERSI trains the next generation of regulatory scientists, working from both UMB and UMCP to develop new tools, standards, and approaches to assess the safety, efficacy, quality, and performance of products regulated by the FDA. These revolutionary professionals are modernizing and improving the way drugs and medical devices are reviewed and evaluated.

Currently, researchers are looking at the safety of e-cigarettes, evaluating the metal ions found in their aerosol condensates. One M-CERSI project is predicting the toxicity of certain cardiovascular drugs; another is improving communication between elderly women and the FDA regarding FDA-regulated products.

Under Polli’s leadership, each year M-CERSI hosts symposiums, conferences, and workshops on regulatory science issues. One recent workshop attracted nearly 300 attendees to Pharmacy Hall and was highlighted by a keynote address from Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA.

In fall 2018, M-CERSI, the Center on Drugs and Public Policy at the School of Pharmacy, and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the FDA will host a one-day workshop on best practices for patient engagement in the National Evaluation System for health Technology (NEST). The workshop will focus on how patients are engaged with real-world evidence generation for medical device or device and drug combination evaluation.

“M-CERSI would not exist without Dr. Polli’s leadership,” says Paul Shapiro, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the School of Pharmacy and M-CERSI researcher. “Under his guidance, M-CERSI has brought together leaders from academia, biopharmaceutical industry, and government agencies to develop better approaches to improve the safety and efficacy of drugs regulated by the FDA. Regulatory science students have the opportunity to meet with these leaders and learn about the issues that affect health care.”

M-CERSI’s not only improved collaboration and communication with the FDA — it’s also led to the development of an online master’s of science in regulatory science program, also directed by Polli.

Launched in 2014, the part-time, two-year program is one of the school’s first online degree programs. With an emphasis on drug discovery, drug development, clinical research, and post-approval drug regulation, the program provides additional learning and training for people who currently work or would like to work in drug regulation and biologics development.

“About 20 percent of students in the program actually work at the FDA,” Polli says, with others attracted from academia (including other schools at UMB), industry, and federal government. The program is entirely online, though students work in groups on team projects and presentations.

To date, the program has enrolled 120 students. The first cohort graduated in 2015. In May 2018, Polli graduates the fourth class, the latest students who will continue his legacy of looking beyond efficacy to research and provide quality medicine.


Communication and Public AffairsCollaboration, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeJune 11, 20180 comments
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On Your Feet! actor Doreen Montalvo and others

For ‘On Your Feet!’ Cast Member, Acting is a Labor of Love

A group of 15 UMB students, faculty, and staff took their lunch breaks and gathered at the Hippodrome Theatre on June 7 for an intimate conversation with Doreen Montalvo, a longtime actor and principal performer in the touring production of the musical On Your Feet!

The Broadway 101 lunchtime event was the latest in an enlightening series organized by the University’s Council for the Arts & Culture that takes members of the UMB community behind the scenes of the Hippodrome and its shows. On Your Feet! — which just finished a six-day run at the historic venue on Eutaw Street — is billed as “an inspiring true story about heart, heritage, and two people who believed in their talent and each other to become an international sensation: Gloria and Emilio Estefan.”

In this production of the musical, Montalvo plays Gloria Fajardo, the mother of Gloria Estefan — and a staunch critic of her daughter’s music career. Though Montalvo plays the unsupportive mother, the actor herself has much in common with the show’s main characters, and she shared stories of her career that illustrated her love of the theater, determination to make it on Broadway, and dedication to her craft.

“I still go to dance class when I’m home at least once or twice a week,” Montalvo told the UMB group. “I still take voice lessons with my same voice teacher that I’ve had since I was 18 years old. You’re constantly learning.

“I love it, and what’s why we do it — because we love it.”

Montalvo discovered that love of performing at an early age: A priest in her parish recognized and nurtured her talent, and she recalled singing in church as early as 6 years old. She said she chose to study broadcast journalism in college because her school didn’t offer theater as a major.

After graduating, Montalvo began her career at a local television station in New York, but her love of theater never left her. At 24, she heard about a yearlong touring production of Man of La Mancha and decided to audition. Much like with Gloria Estefan and her mother in On Your Feet!, Montalvo’s mother was not supportive of her acting career at first. She wondered why her daughter couldn’t simply continue to work in journalism and pursue theater as a hobby.

But Montalvo said her mother quickly came around. Montalvo booked a role in that production of Man of La Mancha, for which she received her union equity card, and she never looked back. She has been acting on Broadway and in television and film ever since.

‘Survival Jobs’ Before a Life-Changing Show

Montalvo shared many stories that illuminate what life is like as a theater actor and what it takes for a show to finally reach Broadway. She held many “survival jobs” over the years, including voiceover work and part-time posts at trade shows and conventions that allowed her to make a living while continuing to audition.

Her first Broadway show was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, which focuses on the largely Hispanic-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York.

Montalvo revealed that she was the first person in New York to audition for Miranda for In the Heights, when the playwright/performer was 20 years old. In September 2002, Montalvo joined the first reading of In the Heights in the basement of The Drama Bookshop in New York. She participated in readings of the show for five years and stayed with it through various productions until making her Broadway debut in the ensemble at nearly 40 years old, when the show premiered at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 2008.

Montalvo spent nine years working on the show in some capacity, from the first reading to closing night on Broadway. To put it simply, Montalvo said “That was the show that changed my life.”

That was just one of the stories from the Broadway 101 event’s conversation that illustrated the uncertainty of a life spent in theater, but Montalvo never let it deter her from pursuing her goals, and she told others not to be deterred, either: “It’s never too late to live your dream. It’s never too late to dream it and do it.”

After her time in In the Heights, Montalvo continued acting in theater. She joined the cast of On Your Feet! early on, when she participated in the second reading of the show — the first of Act 1 and Act 2 together.

Referring to the musical’s subjects, Montalvo said Gloria and Emilio Estefan were actively involved from the beginning. She remembered the surreal moment of singing Gloria Estefan’s songs with Estefan sitting in the room for the first time. “The minute those two walked in the door of the theater, everybody’s hearts just stopped. They are two of the most generous and loving people on earth,” Montalvo said.

After the reading of On Your Feet!, Montalvo re-auditioned for the Chicago production of the show and stayed with it as an original Broadway cast member in the ensemble as well as the understudy for Gloria’s mother when it debuted on Broadway. She took over the role of Fajardo for the final six months of the Broadway production. After a break, she returned to reprise her role on the national tour, which led her to the Hippodrome on June 7.

Don’t Stop Working on Your Craft

One UMB attendee asked whether Montalvo feels like there are more roles of substance for Latina performers today than in her earlier years as an actor. Montalvo said that when she was starting out, “West Side Story was pretty much it,” but with shows like In the Heights, Hamilton, and On Your Feet!,  more roles are being written that allow performers to share their heritage with the audience in a universal way. “It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate a culture and share the culture, yet keep the show open to everyone and make the story open to everyone.”

When it comes to getting a show to Broadway, Montalvo noted that securing investors to fund the production is crucial, and that involves getting people to come and see the show and to believe in it.

As for her advice to aspiring actors and performers, Montalvo noted the importance of being a triple threat — singing, acting, and dancing — and encouraged people to always continue to learn and work on their craft.

“Keep taking classes. Don’t stop,” she said. “Keep learning constantly. And keep growing.”

–  Emma Jekowsky

Visit the UMB Council for the Arts & Culture website to learn more about its events and programs.

Emma JekowskyCollaboration, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeJune 11, 20180 comments
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Alexander MacKerell at the CADD Symposium

CADD Symposium Shows Collaboration is Key in Drug Discovery

The Computer-Aided Drug Design (CADD) Center — an organized research center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) that is housed within and led by faculty at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy — welcomed researchers from across academia, government, and industry to its biennial CADD Symposium on May 23. Designed to facilitate collaborations between the CADD Center and researchers across the University System of Maryland and beyond, the symposium presented recent developments in the fields of drug design and development and offered opportunities for researchers to network and discuss potential collaborations.

“As researchers, we know that collaboration is key not only to the success of our individual projects, but also to the advancement of science as a whole,” says Peter Swaan, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSC) and associate dean for research and graduate education at the School of Pharmacy, who offered opening remarks to attendees. “For nearly 20 years, the CADD Center has been phenomenally successful in its efforts to foster collaborative research between biologists, biophysicists, structural biologists, and computational scientists. In addition to highlighting the latest advances in computational chemistry, this symposium explores how the research being conducted in this field can be applied to solve important biological and clinical problems in other areas.”

Bringing Experimentalists and Computational Chemists Together

The symposium was organized by Alexander MacKerell, PhD, the Grollman-Glick Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the CADD Center at the School of Pharmacy, who kicked off the event alongside David Weber, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of the Center for Biomolecular Therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The two researchers presented an overview of the drug discovery initiatives being pursued by scientists across UMB.

“By combining experimental methods with computational methods, we can help expedite the drug design process,” MacKerell said. “On their own, experimental and computational methods are very useful. However, when you combine the information, it works in a synergistic fashion to move the science ahead. Each problem is unique, and selecting the appropriate methodology to apply can be challenging. That is why researchers at the CADD Center regularly interact with experimentalists to take the idea from the basic science stage and identify compounds that can be molded into new drug candidates and brought to the market.”

Pioneering the Development of Biologic Drugs

Sponsored by the School of Pharmacy, SilcsBio LLC, and Early Charm Ventures, this year’s symposium focused on biologics. Unlike most medications that are developed through chemical syntheses, biologics — which include vaccines, certain medications for cancer and autoimmune diseases, as well as emerging drugs for cell and gene therapies — are made with living cells and represent the cutting edge of biomedical research, often succeeding where traditional drug treatments have failed.

The symposium featured presentations from a number of faculty members at the School of Pharmacy, including Bruce Yu, PhD, professor in PSC and director of the school’s Bio- and Nano-technology Center, who presented his work to develop a water proton nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology that uses a benchtop device to perform non-invasive chemical analyses to help ensure the quality of biologics throughout the manufacturing process. Explaining that there are a number of errors that can occur during the pharmaceutical manufacturing process, Yu noted that his benchtop device would allow manufacturers and health care practitioners, such as pharmacists and doctors, to detect these rare but serious product defects before the drug is dispensed to a patient.

“Think about weather forecasting,” Yu said. “Meteorologists use large supercomputers to help formulate their predictions for the week’s upcoming forecast. However, the average individual also has access to an app on his or her smartphone that can display that same forecast whenever it is opened. That is how we think about our work — this benchtop device will be the app equivalent of the large NMR spectrometers with which many of us are already familiar.”

Showcasing Regional Research

Additional presenters from the School of Pharmacy included Jana Shen, PhD, associate professor of PSC and co-director of the CADD Center, who presented her work on incorporating pH in structure-based drug design; Stephen Hoag, PhD, professor of PSC and director of the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Facility at the school, who spoke about the formulation of therapeutic antibodies for colonic delivery; and Lisa Jones, PhD, assistant professor in PSC, who highlighted her efforts to examine protein structure in vivo (within living organisms).

Embracing the CADD Center’s pharmapreneurial spirit, the symposium also included a presentation by the Office of Technology Transfer at UMB, which spotlighted the University’s commitment to helping faculty bring their new technologies into commercial development.

Other presentations were delivered by Jeffrey J. Gray, PhD, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University; Sandeep Somani, PhD, senior scientist at Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Joseph Curtis, PhD, research chemist at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST); Luke Arbogast, PhD, research chemist at NIST; Eric Sundberg, PhD, professor of medicine and co-director for the Basic Science Division with the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine; Alex Drohot, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the School of Medicine; and Suresh Singh, PhD, vice president of HotSpot Therapeutics.

“I attended the CADD Symposium because I was interested in learning more about computer-aided drug design,” said Ben Nkapbela, an undergraduate student at York College of Pennsylvania. “I truly value all of the connections that I have made with other researchers during my time at the symposium as well as all of the information that I have gained from listening to the presentations.”

The symposium concluded with a poster session that offered attendees the opportunity to learn more about the cutting-edge research being conducted across the regions.

To watch a video about the symposium, go to YouTube.

Malissa CarrollCollaboration, Research, UMB NewsJune 8, 20180 comments
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2018 Healthiest Maryland Business Award-Silver

UMB Awarded Wellness at Work Award

At the Ninth Annual Maryland Health and Wellness Symposium on June 1, more than 50 Maryland employers were recognized as Healthiest Maryland Businesses Wellness at Work Awardees for their exemplary accomplishments in work site health promotion.

UMB placed silver based on its wellness program planning, assessment, implementation, and evaluation. The award demonstrated an advancement from previous years — winning bronze for two consecutive years.

The theme of the conference was “Mental Health in the Workplace.” Preventing mental illness and promoting good mental health involves actions to create environments that support mental health and to help people adopt healthy lifestyles and place measures to abolish stigma in the workplace.

UMB and is partners will continue to provide employees with wellness events and activities that pertain to their needs and promote trending topics by increasing awareness and communicating programs to the University.

Jina BacchusCollaboration, Contests, Education, UMB News, University LifeJune 8, 20180 comments
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UMB Champion of Excellence: Neda Saghafi

UMB Champion of Excellence: Neda Saghafi, JD ’18

The Champions of Excellence campaign is a multi-year branding campaign at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in which we highlight individuals and teams that exemplify extraordinary accomplishment and represent excellence at the University. During the next few months, The Elm will be featuring these UMB Champions, who are making Baltimore, our region, and in some cases the world a better place. (Read about all the 2017-18 UMB Champions of Excellence.)

Today’s Champion:
Neda Saghafi, JD ’18
Inspiring Action for Social Justice

When Neda Saghafi, JD ’18, applied for the Teach For America program, she had only one destination in mind — Baltimore. She wanted to live on the East Coast, and Baltimore was less costly and crowded than Boston and New York. Her path to law school was a bit more circuitous.

In 2011, she relocated from the West Coast to teach English to Students of Other Languages (ESOL) at Moravia Park Elementary School in the northeast corner of Baltimore City. Her students included a diverse group of young refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Nepal, and Bhutan. There, she began to see how the educational system and society at large intersect with young girls’ lives — and shape their interactions with their male peers.

After three years in the Baltimore City public school system, and seeing how “things were broken and ‘solutions’ were in place that weren’t sustainable,” she decided to do something about it. She wanted to tackle the issues she saw in the classroom from a grass-roots angle but she also wanted to confront the larger, systemic issues at play.

“Teachers can create immense changes,” she says. “I just think that law school fit my personal skill set for creating the most change.” So she applied to the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

A May 2018 graduate, Saghafi is preparing for a career in public interest law and social justice. Her studies focus on gender violence in society, particularly violence against women (VAW), and how in some societies cultural patriarchy and international or domestic VAW go hand in hand.

Saghafi’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Iran. Though she grew up in the U.S., her heads of household came from a country where women’s rights were restricted. “I think that gave insight into my interest in how culture shapes our relationships and how the dynamic of gender plays out,” she says.

By no means does Saghafi believe that law and policy change is the solution to all problems, but it’s one solution that can make a big impact. “If I feel something is unjust, I can develop the tools and find the resources to do something about it,” she says. “That inspires me to take action.”

Her friends agree Saghafi is not one to wait for others to spark change. “I still remember reviewing her résumé when she asked to volunteer with us,” says Adam Dodge, a close friend and the legal director of nonprofit shelter Laura’s House, where Saghafi interned in California. “Her credentials were ridiculous. We simply don’t get prospective volunteers walking through the door with Neda’s educational and extracurricular background. When it comes to this work, she is just so driven. It’s really inspiring.”

Adds friend Sana Shaikh, a PhD candidate at Brandeis University, “When we were Teach For America Corps members, Neda not only taught students during the day, but she completed her coursework at night, and during the weekends drove throughout the city to support her students in various recreational and sports activities. Complacency and idleness are definitely not in her nature.”

Saghafi is a catalyst for justice, every day committed to serving those who suffer historic or systemic disadvantages within the legal system.

Since enrolling at Maryland Carey Law, Saghafi’s résumé has included an internship at U.N. Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In the U.N.’s EVAW (Ending Violence Against Women) Section, she wrote briefs for the interim chief of the department and developed concepts for better collaboration between the U.N.’s other sections. In that role, she facilitated timely conversations with #MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke and represented U.N. Women at the fifth Annual 30 Under 30 Film Festival, whose opening night selection featured international films about U.N. Sustainable Development Goal #5: Gender Equality.

Saghafi has served as a research assistant for Maryland Carey Law professor Leigh Goodmark, JD, evaluating alternative approaches to criminalization for perpetrators of intimate partner violence, and interned at the University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, where she assisted with writing and researching court-related documents, legal and policy research, and legal memoranda.

For Saghafi, it’s not about taking on every opportunity — it’s about the impact she can make. “When given a job, I want to do something with it,” she says. “I don’t want it to just be a résumé filler — I feel an obligation to make it impactful.”

She did just that a few years ago, when she organized a panel discussion at the law school on another issue near and dear to her heart, “Battling the Stigma of Mental Health Conditions.”

According to a 2014 American Bar Association (ABA) survey, 17 percent of law school students screened positive for depression, 23 percent for mild to moderate anxiety, and 14 percent for severe anxiety. In another ABA survey, 42 percent of respondents thought they needed help for mental health or emotional problems in the last year.

“The stigma for mental health is already so great, but it seems exacerbated in the law school community,” Saghafi says. Within the profession, there’s a fear of being deemed incapable of completing complex tasks for those who seek mental health treatment. The character component of the bar application only heightens the pressure. “Law students may not seek help until it’s too late,” she says.

Saghafi was inspired by the ABA’s Mental Health Day, where law schools across the country are encouraged to sponsor educational programs and events to break the stigma of depression among law students and lawyers. She also gathered a team of law professionals and advocates of mental health for a discussion on campus.

“As a student, Neda consistently used her intellectual gifts and leadership skills to serve others, whether they are victims of domestic abuse, employment discrimination, or human trafficking operations,” says Donald B. Tobin, JD, dean and professor at Maryland Carey Law. “Given her outstanding performance as a student, I know she will be an amazing lawyer.”

Communication and Public AffairsCollaboration, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeJune 8, 20180 comments
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Join ASDA at Baltimore Wine Fest on June 16

The American Student Dental Association is selling tickets to the fourth annual Baltimore Wine Fest, which will be held Saturday, June 16, noon to 7 p.m., at Canton Waterfront Park (3001 Boston St.) in Baltimore.

Tickets are $10, which is an $8 discount compared to buying at the festival doors. Please purchase them at this link.

The festival features 160-plus wines from all over the world, craft beer and spirits, food from 30-plus local eateries, live music, cooking demonstrations, wine tasting seminars, unique shopping, and a family zone.

A portion of proceeds will benefit local nonprofits

Kids 16 and under will be admitted free. Visit for more details.


Devon AllisonPeople, University LifeJune 7, 20180 comments
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Dr. Noel Wilkin

Pumpian Lecture Explores Meaning in Pharmacy Profession

Chasing innovation — being an entrepreneur — is not an easy task, especially when creative or financial resources are limited. So why would an individual willingly choose to pursue such a difficult endeavor?

This was the question Noel E. Wilkin, RPh, BSP ’89, PhD ’97, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of pharmacy administration at the University of Mississippi, sought to answer as he delivered the annual Paul A. Pumpian Memorial Lecture at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy on April 11.

More than Money

Titled “Innovation and Meaning: The Building Blocks of Entrepreneurship and Professional Satisfaction,” Wilkin’s lecture focused on a grant he received from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) that aimed to encourage pharmacists to implement more innovative approaches in their practices by demonstrating how profitable such innovations could be for the pharmacy.

However, Wilkin was quick to explain that the results of his research did not quite match his funders’ original hypothesis.

“NCPA was convinced that pharmacies would innovate if we could demonstrate how profitable it was for pharmacists,” said Wilkin, who also serves as a research professor for the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Mississippi. “But our team quickly recognized that there was no profitability source. We had 300 pharmacists coming to a sponsored breakfast to learn about how to innovate and how to be profitable, and we had nothing to tell them. We were panicking.”

Do What Makes You Happy

Wilkin and his team conducted interviews at 14 pharmacies across the country to learn about the factors that motivated those pharmacists to innovate in their practices. Although none of the pharmacists reported increased profits as a motivator or result of incorporating their innovations into their practice, they explained that their innovations left them feeling a high level of personal and professional satisfaction. One pharmacist interviewed by Wilkin even described his motivation to rearrange his practice by saying, “My lawn service calls me before I need my lawn serviced. Why can’t my pharmacist call and talk to me about my medications before I need my prescriptions refilled?”

Although Wilkin appreciated the honesty with which the pharmacists responded to his questions, he struggled to frame the results in a way that would encourage other pharmacists to pursue innovation in their own practices. It was an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that led Wilkin to his greatest epiphany surrounding the reasons that pharmacists might still choose to pursue innovation even in the face of constrained resources.

“I’m lying awake thinking about this problem, and Jon Stewart began interviewing a man named Tal Ben-Shahar, a faculty member at Harvard who had just written a book titled Happier,” Wilkin recalled. “And, as I laid there listening to him talk about people who are pursuing meaning in their lives and how it made them happier, it clicked. Pharmacists were not innovating because they were motivated by money. They were not innovating because the pharmacy profession told them it was what they ought to do. Instead, they were doing it because it made them happy.”

Find Meaning in Your Work

Wilkin then further examined personal motivators, such as identity and purpose, as potential drivers behind pharmacists’ desire to innovate in their practices.

“We know that identity drives actions,” he said. “Our purpose is manifested in our roles; it gives us a sense of direction. Accepting the role of being health care professionals affects our actions and outlines our purpose. It is our reason for being, and success in this role is then knowing our purpose, growing to reach our potential, and sowing those seeds to help others.”

He also explored the concept of “meaning,” noting that if pharmacists have accepted their role as health care professionals, pharmacies can further energize their performance by ensuring that the activities in which they are engaged relate to their purpose and have significant value or an impact on others — or, in other words, are meaningful.

“Meaning is self-generated,” Wilkin said. “It’s based on your experiences and linked to the circumstances that you accept in your life and that define your purpose. It’s also linked to, I believe, happiness. It’s the pursuit of meaning on an everyday basis and on a long-term basis that helps you to appreciate and understand happiness.”

Strive for Lasting Happiness

Wilkin argued that happiness is not a dichotomy in which a person is or is not happy at a given time, as many people think. Instead, he posited that all individuals, including pharmacists, can achieve sustained happiness by engaging in activities that offer both an immediate, present benefit as well as goals that they can strive to achieve in the future (or future benefit). “If you get in touch with what you believe is your meaning and it brings you present benefit and future benefit, then it’s going to result in greater happiness and, ultimately, it will help you find direction as you engage in activities that are connected to your roles in society,” he said.

To conclude his lecture, Wilkin revisited the pharmacists he interviewed during his NCPA-funded study.

“Pharmacists have incredible opportunities to find purpose and meaning in their work,” he said. “For the pharmacists that we interviewed, the purpose and meaning that they found wasn’t a function of profitability; it wasn’t a function of them making more money. Instead, it was a function of them finding incredible meaning in their life — taking daily pleasure in their work and the benefit they found in interacting with patients on a day-to-day basis, while also keeping sight of their overall goal and drive to improve the health of their patients.”

Malissa CarrollPeople, Research, UMB NewsJune 7, 20180 comments
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Project Search Graduating Class of 2018

Project SEARCH Graduation Provides Celebration, Inspiration

On a day of singular celebration, Carolyn Spencer had reason to be doubly proud June 1 as she watched not one but two sons graduate from the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Project SEARCH Class of 2018.

Spencer showed off that pride speaking at the ceremony, captivating the crowd of 75-plus family members at the SMC Campus Center with the inspirational tale of her sons, Wesley and William Powell. The twin brothers were among the 18 graduates wearing dark-blue robes and carrying sky-blue hopes after completing the UMB program, which offers a year of workforce and career development for Baltimore high school seniors with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (See a photo gallery.)

“My sons are eager and they are hungry to learn. They are wonderful,” Spencer said of Wesley and William, who have gotten jobs with UMB’s Office of Design and Construction and Alban CAT heavy equipment company, respectively. “There’s no such thing as a child that can’t learn. Someone can learn from anybody. … I thank all of you for guiding my sons the right way.”

Carolyn Spencer and sons Wesley and William Powell

Spencer recounted the story of her surprise, mid-30s pregnancy, her sons’ diagnosis of mental retardation, her fears for their futures, and their ultimate triumphs. She broke it down into three chapters: amusing, detrimental, and amazing. Amusing, because she burst out laughing when told she was pregnant — with twins. Detrimental, because a doctor told her they would never learn. Amazing, because Wesley and William have thrived in school and life.

Before asking her “two blessings” to escort her back to her seat, Spencer had a closing message to the graduates as the crowd nodded and cheered its approval: “Never let anybody say that you can’t do something. Never let anybody put a label on you, because you can be anything you want to be.”

This was a major theme during the emotional, 90-minute commencement ceremony for the Project SEARCH program, a collaboration among UMB, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), the UMMC Midtown Campus (a new partner this year), The Arc Baltimore nonprofit, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the state’s Division of Rehabilitation Services. Student interns are placed at UMB or one of the UMMC facilities for three 10-week job rotations during their senior year of high school.

“This program gives them a chance to be who they are. They don’t have to be something they’re not,” said Yolanda Jones, the mother of graduate Eldridge Martin. “They are the best people you can be around. This program matters, big time. “This gets [the interns] out of their shell. They’re like the little chickens inside the eggshell, and they’re trying to get out, and this graduation is them getting out.”

Added Dana Washington, the mother of graduate Jazmine McDowell, “This program changed my little girl’s life.”

Rotations and Salutations

The ceremony opened with welcoming remarks from graduates Robert Gray, who served as emcee, and Tiffany Waters, followed by guest speeches from Washington and Spencer. Next up were the graduates, who took turns talking about their work rotations and thanking skills coordinators, mentors, and facilitators, including Project SEARCH program manager Tameka Harry and instructor Shirley Cook.

Anthony Courtney discussed his roles in patient transportation and environmental services and how his mother told him to avoid having jitters as he spoke: “Don’t be nervous, just be happy.” Brian Crawford talked about tagging and delivering packages from the loading dock and cleaning tables and floors for food services. Damond Davis spoke of building cages for veterinary resources and thanked family and mentors “for teaching me skills that will help me for a lifetime.” Demetriis Floyd detailed his work at URecFit, sorting and folding towels and wiping down exercise equipment.

The graduates also brought humor to the proceedings by reciting the nicknames they’d acquired during their rotations. Need to chill out? Check in with Dimarco Daley, aka “Mr. Mellow,” or Jaqon Sample, “The Quiet One.” Have a question? Ask Raekwon Walker, “Mr. Know It All,” or Reakwon Williams, “The Answer Man.” Need an unvarnished opinion? Talk to McDowell, “The Truthful One” — “I’m always honest with all the people,” she said.

Several of the students announced they have gotten jobs, magical words for the program that began at UMB in 2008. In addition to the Powell twins’ positions, Jamika Robinson announced she will be working at Horseshoe Casino, then blew kisses to the crowd. Gray talked about his various duties as a porter at ShopRite. Darian Moore is employed by D&L Cleanup, a nearby cleaning service.

“It’s notable that we’ve been on this campus for so many years and given this opportunity to so many young adults,” said Joanna Falcone, senior director of competitive employment at The Arc Baltimore. “There are two memorable days: graduation and the day they get their first job offer, because that’s what this whole program is about.”

The ceremony left Project SEARCH job coach Jeaneathia Yerby beaming with pride. Asked to describe this class in particular, she called them conquerors. “They have come a long way,” Yerby said. “They have made a lot of milestones. And we are so excited to see what the future holds for them.”

‘An Unforgettable Journey’

After the presentations, the graduates came up again, one by one, to receive their certificates, getting high-fives, fist-bumps, and handshakes along the way, before Wesley Powell offered closing remarks.

“Project SEARCH has been an unforgettable journey that has prepared us for a future in the workplace,” he said. “The past year has involved some of the most memorable and influential moments of our lives. Individually, our experiences were unique, but together we share a common bond. We are filled with excitement as we begin the next stage of our lives.”

As the opening strains of Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” played, the graduates formed a conga line, waving to the crowd in unison, then came together for a group picture. As family and friends converged for hugs and more photos, emotions ruled the day.

“I’m just trying to keep it together,” Washington said. “This program changed my little girl’s life. It’s an excellent program. It developed Jazmine’s independent skills, made her more sociable. At first I was a little nervous about it, but it’s just a win-win.”

Malinda Redfearn had trepidations, too, about her son, Joseph Sparrow, but she said he has thrived after working in food services for each of his rotations.

“I wasn’t sure he would accept it or embrace it, but he really did enjoy the program,” Redfearn said. “He loved it and I loved it. It was a big step for him. This is an emotional day. My other kids have their diplomas, but he’s my baby, and it was a long road. But we finally got here.”

Emotions ran high as well for Lashonda Hudson, the aunt of graduate Chay’La Hudson-Dean.

“I’m very proud of her,” Hudson said. “They initially have to deal with all the difficulties of not being what’s deemed ‘normal,’ and they’re still trying to fit into society. But it’s heartwarming to see them still pushing, to see them live their lives as normal adults.”

And the tears flowed from Jones, who said if she had cried any more, her eyes would have been swollen shut. She did swell with pride in her son and appreciation for Project SEARCH.

“I love this! I love this!” Jones repeated. “All the people in the program support you and listen to you, and it’s the best thing ever. To me, it’s almost better than winning the lottery. It’s tax-free, and it’s filled with love.”

— Lou Cortina

Departments that are interested in utilizing Project SEARCH interns can notify program manager Tameka Harry at

Lou CortinaCollaboration, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeJune 7, 20180 comments
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