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IN TOUCH The Official Newsletter of the Incentive Awards Program SPRING 2018


Ervin Bishop ’15 networks his way to becoming congressional staffer


Ervin Bishop ’15 networks his way to becoming congressional staffer Ervin Bishop ’15 was a shy and soft-spoken high schooler when he first arrived at the University of Maryland, but today, he is thriving as a legislative correspondent and systems administrator for U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.). Ervin drafts legislative responses, meets with constituents, trouble-shoots technology problems, and hires and supervises congressional interns (including IAP student Jocelyn Nolasco ’19), among many other duties. IAP Director Jacqueline Lee caught up with Ervin during a rare quiet moment in Cummings’ Washington, D.C., office.



As you close in on two years working in the office of Congressman Cummings, how do you describe your budding career in politics? It’s been a whirlwind. I pinch myself every day regardless of how difficult things may seem because I know there are others who would kill for an opportunity like this. I'm always grateful and look at the positive aspects of this position. As a freshman, you were an engineering major. How did you end up in a public service career? I must have changed my major about five times! It was my IAP mentor, Dr. Nina Harris (associate dean, School of Public Policy), who got me excited about the realm of public policy. She encouraged me to be part of the Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program and, through it, I was able to have open dialogues about various policy issues facing society. It inspired me to find tangible solutions to problems that plague my community on a national and global scale. Landing an internship after graduation with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation paved the way for a position as staff assistant in Congressman Cummings’ office.

When I think about meeting you as a high school student, I can hardly believe that young man is the same person I know today. You have evolved so much. Tell me about this metamorphosis. When I got to college, I was an insecure person, very introverted, unsure of myself, and suffered from self-esteem issues. But as the years went by, I met regularly with IAP staff and grew to be confident in who I was. I was open to the academic resources at Maryland to improve my writing and math skills. Also, speaking with my peers at MerVo (Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School), as IAP required me to do, improved my communication skills. Having those resources and opportunities available to me was invaluable. My relationship with God has kept me grounded, and my mom and friends have helped me so much. It’s remarkable that I’ve made so much progress in such a short period of time.

constituency and address questions or suggestions for a bill that’s up for consideration on the House floor. The letters are critical in developing the fundamentals so I can advance to a position as a legislative assistant or legislative director in the future.

What is the highlight of your job? I enjoy drafting constituent response letters because it involves an extensive amount of research and helps me to synthesize information from many different sources. It helps me to write critically in a way that engages the congressman’s

What would you tell IAP students? Build your resume, intern and be open to the possibilities! If anyone had told me years ago that I’d be working in Congressman Cummings’ Washington, D.C., office, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not!’ It’s been a dream come true.

What is one of the most memorable moments during your time on the Hill? One day, I had a conversation with the congressman and he told me how much he appreciates all the things I’ve done so far and that he noticed some of the improvements I’ve made since starting in the office. He said he could see my growth and my newfound confidence in how I interact with the staff and my ability to supervise and manage the interns. It was so affirming to hear him say that he was really proud of me and that I went far beyond what anyone expected of me.


CALL THEM “DOCTOR” Misbha Qureshi, Ph.D., Robyne Rivers, Psy.D. and Darian Senn-Carter, Ed.D. have different degrees but are addressed the same way: Doctor. They are the first IAP alumni to earn doctorates, fulfilling long-held personal and professional goals. Though each has a different career path, all are committed to being change agents within their spheres of influence.

Misbha Qureshi ’06 Family therapy supervisor, Connections Center for Children and Families M.F.T. ’09, Drexel University Ph.D. ’17, couple and family therapy, Drexel University What aspect of the doctoral program was most challenging? I had almost no experience in research, and I didn’t care for it. I really had to embrace it and be resourceful to get the assistance I needed. I had so many moments when I wanted to give up, where I had no balance and I struggled. Because I was the first one in my family to get a Ph.D., I felt that I was in the world all by myself. What are you most proud of? My self-growth. The faculty pushed me to challenge my own insecurities and self-doubt. I also learned a lot without even realizing it. I’m surprised at how well I can articulate my thoughts and back it up with the literature I’ve read or research I conducted myself. What did you learn about yourself? That I’m more powerful than I think I am and that I can use myself in the therapeutic sense to bring about change in people’s lives. I also learned that I am a fighter. I didn’t want to let myself down and I knew that I’d be letting my parents down (if I quit). What would people be surprised to learn about you? I would love to go to cosmetology school. I love hair, makeup, everything. My sister and I have even talked about creating a full-service wedding planning company. What is your favorite UMD memory? I loved the spring receptions at the president’s house. I loved getting dressed up. And the IAP retreat at the ropes course at the Eppley Recreation Center—that was so much fun!

Robyne Rivers ’11 Clinical psychology pre-doctoral intern, University of Massachusetts, Amherst M.A. ’14, Psy.D. ’18, clinical psychology, Georgia School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University

Darian Senn-Carter ’08 Associate professor, homeland security and criminal justice, Anne Arundel Community College M.S. ’10, homeland security, Towson University Ed.D. ’17, educational leadership (higher education), Edgewood College

What was the transition to graduate school like? I had a lot of research papers and there was so much reading. In addition, I had to make the adjustment to a new place (Sandy Springs, GA) and to living so far away from my family for an extended period of time.

What was the biggest surprise? I was surprised by what I was able to produce. I was able write a meaningful, relevant study that was unique and adds to the literature. I’m proud of that.

How did you maintain balance? I didn’t do a great job at maintaining balance. I was hyper-focused on academics. There were weekends when I would barely leave my apartment. I started making more of an effort to spend time with my friends, especially those from my program because we knew what we were going through better than anyone else. What do you miss most about UMD? Recently, I’ve been missing the dining halls because I don’t feel like cooking. My favorite IAP memory is our community meetings because they gave me the opportunity to reconnect with people within and outside of my cohort. What do you do in your spare time? When it’s warm, I like to hike. I got into mountain biking and I definitely make time for friends. I am also really enjoying watching Netflix and Hulu! “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder” are my favorite shows. What’s next? After graduation in May, I’ll be looking for a postdoctoral position in a college counseling setting, but eventually I’d like to open my own practice and focus on ADHD and learning disability evaluations.

What do you do in your free time? I recently took a few classes with a program called Quality Matters (QM) to become a certified peer reviewer. If a college wants to have a course certified by QM, I can serve in this capacity. I like to try new things, so I’ve tried making my own soaps and lotions, cooking and baking, and I try to run two half- or full marathons a year. What is your favorite UMD memory? My section of the marching band (trombone) had a tradition of swimming in the ODK fountain on McKeldin Mall at the beginning of each school year. Wait, can I say that? Share a fun fact! My graduating class at Paul L. Dunbar High School created a scholarship to celebrate our 10-year reunion. This year’s recipient is Shavontá Stratton ’21, an IAP freshman. What’s next? Earning tenure. I think of it as a recognition by the faculty of what you contribute to the college. I want to earn the full professor title as well, but I’d also like an administrative role in the community college setting.



THE POWER OF NETWORKS Ajit Samra ’19 Major: film studies Through networking, Ajit landed internships in the entertainment industry. While attending an IAPrequired etiquette dinner his first year, Ajit met with the host, who works with the Black Entertainment Television Network (BET) and the Entertainment Consortium Collaborative Outreach Program in Washington, D.C. “I waited until the end of the etiquette dinner, I just told her my spiel, and she took a chance on me,” he says. Ajit soon attended the BET Awards, visited the White House and met celebrities, directors, producers and other entertainment insiders. He also connected with an FX Networks employee who helped him snag a digital internship in Los Angeles last summer.

Katherine Medina ’19 Majors: accounting and information systems Last summer Katherine got an internship through INROADS, a nonprofit that prepares and places underrepresented minorities in business and industry internships. She was matched with the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, where she was working in risk analytics, helping to supervise and analyze banks' finances and future projections. Katherine's favorite part of her experiences was connecting with others. "It was nice to have an immigrant boss. Just being able to see that diversity within the federal government was the exact opposite of what I pictured.”

FEARLESS INNOVATORS Sierra Seabrease ’21 Major: mechanical engineering Sierra’s invention of a digital jukebox piano was featured in a Fall 2017 POLITICO Magazine article about tech innovation among students at Baltimore’s Digital Harbor Foundation. Her creation also led to an invitation to the 2015 White House Science Fair and her appearance on a panel last fall at the CSforAll Summit in St. Louis, a conference to promote computer science for everyone in the education system.

Taylor-Omaree Smith ’20 Major: criminology and criminal justice As an intern in the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Taylor worked in the Crime Control and Prevention Department. She prepared case files and observed high-profile court cases. She also assisted in an initiative that gives first-time offenders a second chance. Taylor said, “I got deeper into reading legislation and saw different aspects of a court and how such a little piece of anything can change something… the bigger picture for me was the whole experience. I also enjoyed the work you have to put in before you go to court.” An aspiring lawyer, Taylor plans to return as an intern next summer.



Ladeja Robinson ’18 Major: bioengineering Ladeja was part of an undergraduate team that won an eight-week hack-a-thon hosted at UMD by Northrop Grumman. She and her peers had to invent, fabricate and present a business case for a device using 3-D printing to solve a problem or enhance performance within one of Northrop Grumman’s business sectors. They developed a helmet to improve the in-flight performance of airplane pilots. The group plans to patent the invention. Pictured from left to right: Assistant Professor Ryan Sochol, Dania Morris, Deja Duncan, Ladeja Robinson and Mr. Philip Lovell.

INTERNATIONAL TEACHING IAP alumnae paths collide in Beijing, China

Two recent Maryland alumnae found they had something in common: their desire to teach overseas. Jade Johnson ’15 and Afia Yeboah ’15 both taught English in Beijing but had no idea the other was there until seeing Facebook posts. Jade says, “We planned a day to meet up for lunch and explore the city.” Jade, a history major, taught English to kindergarteners in Beijing for two years. She enjoyed watching the students’ English skills and abilities progress from single words to reading and writing. Jade wants to study public policy and international affairs with the hope of helping girls and women in developing countries gain access to an education. With the support of IAP, Afia studied abroad in Chile in early 2015. There, she taught English to elementary school students. Upon graduation, she received the Sara Ann Soper Service Award from the English department at the University in honor of her record of public service. By spring 2016, she was an English tutor for host families in Beijing. After earning her certification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, she volunteered and co-taught English in an all-girls school in Barranquilla, Colombia. Now Afia wants to help inspire change in inner cities, “which is why I am pursuing a graduate degree in the public administration program at the University of Baltimore.”

Clockwise from top left: Afia (left) and Jade meet in China. Afia at the Great Wall. Jade with her students.

SCHOLAR-ATHLETE GETS RECOGNIZED BY THE BIG TEN Jahi Jones ’19 (right) and five of his Terp wrestling teammates were recognized as 2017 Winter Academic All-Big Ten. Students must be a qualified varsity team member, in at least their second year of college, and have a cumulative grade-point average of a 3.0 or above for this distinction. Despite a grueling schedule and double-major in accounting and supply chain management, Jahi has been on the dean’s list for each of his five semesters at Maryland. PHOTO BY GREG FIUME




142 Graduates

85% Six-year graduation rate of IAP Scholars


IAP scholars have studied abroad in countries like Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Grenada, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Lesotho, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.


IN TOUCH SPRING 2018 Created by Ronan Bolaños

95% One–year retention rate for IAP scholars


Current IAP scholars are enrolled in the Honors College, College Park Scholars, Civicus, and other livinglearning programs


IAP alumni have either completed or are pursuing graduate studies

at institutions including American University, Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, Gallaudet University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, San Francisco State University, and William and Mary School of Law.

Fantastic Fact IAP graduates are employed at places like KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Washington Laboratory School, Ernst & Young, Baltimore City Public Schools, Prince George’s County Public Schools, CollegeBound Foundation, Teach for America, University of Maryland, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Freddie Mac.

CLASS NOTES Tiana Wynn ’05, CPA, MBA was elected president of the Baltimore Metropolitan Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants for 2017–18. She is on the board of governors for the University of Maryland Alumni Association and serves as chair of the scholarship committee. Kareem Branch ’06 is lead principal systems administrator for NASA Goddard's Engineering Directorate. He graduated with a master of science, information systems, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in December. James Brockington ’06 offered his reflections about IAP to the Baltimore City Council during “Showcase Baltimore,” a time during council meetings dedicated to programs and services that benefit city constituents. He married Rosheda Harrell in Federal Hill Park, Baltimore, in October. Kelly Smith ’06 was recently promoted at Ernst & Young to global health knowledge analyst. She and partner Shawn Baker have a 2-yearold boy, Trevor. Janiceia Adams ’07 celebrated her 10th year as an educator in 2017. Last August, she became an academic intervention specialist at East Harlem Scholars Academy in New York City. Carolyn Crews ’09 is the managing director of her own property management company, GBC Management Group. High school sweethearts Thomas Palmerino ’10 and Brittany Atkinson ’11 married in October in Joppa, Md. Dekebra (Arrington) Crowe ’11 married Wayne Crowe in July and started a new position as a fifthgrade math teacher at KIPP DC Valor.

London Faust ’11 writes, “I am now a special education teacher at the Strawbridge School, and I will graduate with a master of science in human services administration from the University of Baltimore in May.” Ashley Proctor ’11 is a new homeowner in Indian Head, Md. She works as a social worker with Board of Child Care’s Treatment Foster Care. Octavia Sykes ’12 earned a master of social work and a master of education degree in human sexuality from Widener University. Jose Arevalo ’13 married his college sweetheart, Christina Francisco ’14, and lives in Rockville, Md., with their york-chon puppy. He returned to KPMG as a senior associate and works on data analytics projects. Nancy Canales ’13 married Danny Bonilla in April. She is a student at Georgetown Law while working fulltime at International High School Langley Park in Bladensburg, Md. Kori Hill ’13, CPA is a senior auditor at Freddie Mac in McLean, Va. Dulce Hernandez ’13 and her husband, Hanzel Santos, are the owners of a new home in Brandywine, Md. She is pursuing a master’s of education in educational leadership at the American College of Education. Wazi Maret (Maret Davis) ’13 is the development and administration coordinator for the TGI Justice Project in San Francisco. VaRysa Williams ’13 writes, “I am a graduate student clinician in Gallaudet University’s SpeechLanguage Pathology Program. Aside from school, I am a certified personal trainer and the health ministry leader at my church.”

Rhonda (Roach) Idris ’14 earned a master of science in education from Johns Hopkins University. She is working for Center City Public Charter School as a fourth- and fifthgrade math teacher. Rhonda and her husband, Hamza Idris ’15, recently bought a home in Suitland, Md. Davian Morgan ’14 writes, “I'm at Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School teaching third grade as a lead literacy teacher. Last spring, I was recognized as the youngest of 5,000 nominees to be nationally ranked in the Top 100 most highly effective educators by the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice.” Sam Yirenkyi ’14 is an embedded innovation engineer with Esri, a geospatial technology company. He got married in October. Kendra Browne ’15 started a makeup artistry business called Kendra Bliss Beauty ( “I did makeup for attendees of the Congressional Black Caucus Conference. I was on “The Real Housewives of Potomac” for a makeup line launch (Everyhue Beauty), and I booked four weddings for 2018!” Kendra is pursuing a master of science degree in speech-language pathology at Howard University.

Jade Johnson ’15 works as a program assistant with FHI360, a nonprofit human development organization in D.C. She writes: “My department, Global Connections, works on the International Visitor Leadership Program, an exchange program through which we host young professionals from any country to come to the U.S. and work on issues of interest while fostering a bilateral relationship between our countries.”

Chris Lane ’15 writes, “I am currently swamped with design work after launching my website, (graphic design and music production). I will be performing in various productions at the Kennedy Center and at Lincoln Center in New York City. I am planning a big move to Atlanta to pursue film and television work as an actor and music producer.” Lenaya Stewart ’15 received a master of arts degree in English last December. She is the pre-college coordinator in the Office of Extended Studies at UMD. Taneisha Carter ’16 is a clinical research assistant at the National Center for School Mental Health housed in the child/adolescent psychiatry department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Most recently, she co-authored and presented a poster at the annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health in Washington, D.C. Mel. Coles ’16 is a graduate assistant at the University Chapel while pursuing a Ph.D. in American studies at UMD. Christine Oliveros ’16 is the infants and toddlers service coordinator for the Arc of Prince George’s County.

Amirah Grady ’17 says, “I am the new seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Lillie May Carroll Jackson Middle School in Baltimore City.” Jessica Nolasco ’17 is the speech and language aide at the Lab School of Washington. She writes, “Aside from administrative work, I assist in providing speech and language therapy for our students, whether it's integrated in the classroom, or in individual or group sessions.” SPRING 2018 IN TOUCH



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To learn more about or to support the Incentive Awards Program, please contact Jacqueline W. Lee, director, at or 301.405.9024.


In Touch / UMD Incentive Awards Program / Spring 2018  

The Official Newsletter of the Incentive Awards Program

In Touch / UMD Incentive Awards Program / Spring 2018  

The Official Newsletter of the Incentive Awards Program