The Key, November 2023 Edition

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A newsletter for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends

‘It’s been a wonderful and rewarding year’ President Heidi M. Anderson closes term as AASCU board chair, begins two new chair roles

Photo: Rhonda Nunn, AASCU

(From left) University of Maryland Eastern Shore President Heidi M. Anderson presents California State University, Stanislaus Interim President Susan Borrego with the AASCU Excellence & Innovation Award.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore President Heidi M. Anderson recently concluded her tenure as the chairperson of the board for the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AASCU), culminating with a farewell speech she gave during AASCU’s annual conference held in Chicago on Nov. 10. Anderson, UMES’s 16th leader, finished her year-long term in the role, which she assumed at last year’s annual conference held in Carlsbad, California. Anderson said her tenure brought her “insight, collaboration, and inspiration,” as she deepened her appreciation for

the impact of what leaders and colleges and universities must navigate on a daily basis. “My AASCU experience provided me and UMES with a substantial rate of return,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful and rewarding year and I’m deeply honored that you afforded me the opportunity to serve this outstanding organization.” Prior to becoming AASCU chair, she served on the board since 2020 and chaired its Council of State Representatives. Anderson was also co-chair of AASCU’s presidential search committee. Proceeding Anderson as AASCU Chair is University of Southern Indiana President Ronald S. Rochon. In closing her speech, President Anderson discussed the theme of the conference – Leading for Democracy— Reimagine, Reframe, Rebuild – by referencing Richard F. Hazel professor of education Richard Warren Jr.’s quote, “You’ve got to leave it better.” Anderson’s transition out of the role of AASCU chair was just the beginning to a busy month. President Anderson also moves into the position of chair of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Council of 1890 Universities, which is a two-year term and started Nov. 13. She previously served as the board’s chair-elect for two years before replacing outgoing President Paul Jones of Fort Valley State University who now assumes the role of past-chair. The mission of the Council of 1890 Universities, comprised of presidents and chancellors of the 19 APLU-mem-

Photo: Rhonda Nunn, AASCU

University of Maryland Eastern Shore President Heidi M. Anderson addresses the audience during the closing ceremony of the 2023 AASCU Annual Conference in Chicago.

ber historically black land-grant universities, primarily addresses all matters pertaining to strengthening teaching, research and extension programs at these important institutions. In her role as Council of 1890 Universities chair, Anderson will “preside at all meetings of the council and collaborate with APLU staff liaison to carry out the activities and work of the council,” according to the APLU website. Other responsibilities include appoint chairs and members of standing and ad hoc committees as appropriate. In addition, Anderson also began a two-year term as chair of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’ Presidents and Chancellors Council after serving as vice chair since 2021. She follows North Carolina Central University chancellor Johnson Akinleye, who served in the position from 2021 to 2023.


PAGE 2 Virgin Galactic Mission


FAFSA Changes


Civil Rights Tour


NAAAHP Conference


Veterans Gala


Women of Color Incubator


Homecoming 2023


Dr. Das APS Fellow

PAGE 11 Athletics


HBCU Film Festival



Photo: Virgin Galactic

Soaring above and beyond into the stars

UMES-designed payload goes to space aboard Virgin Galactic research mission The University of Maryland Eastern Shore made its mark in space as a payload designed and built by assistant professor of engineering, Dr. Aaron Persad, was aboard Virgin Galactic’s Galactic 05 research mission on Nov. 2. The payload, built utilizing parts designed at the engineering program’s machine shop laboratory, tested how confined fluid behaves in a low-gravity environment. It was the first untethered, freely floating payload ever utilized by Virgin Galactic, according to Persad. “This is a monumental occasion,” he said. “It’s very much been a UMES effort with the help of staff, faculty, students, and facilities to get this payload ready and flown into space. An HBCU having a payload that was developed there and the principal investigator being there is new.” Funding for the flight and payload was sponsored by the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences, with additional payload funding coming from grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research of Canada, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency. The experiment was conducted in space by Kellie Gerardi, the payload specialist, and bioastronautics researcher for the International Institute for the Astronautical Sciences. The payload, which

Photo: Virgin Galactic

(From left) Payload specialist Kellie Gerardi and University of Maryland Eastern Shore associate professor Dr. Aaron Persad assemble the payload that went aboard the Virgin Galactic Galactic 05 research mission on Nov. 2.

included a glass cylinder filled with water that was double-distilled, de-ionized, nano-filtered, and microwaved, was briefly deployed for 40 seconds with its movement recorded and monitored on a GoPro camera. “Virgin Galactic put a lot of trust in our ability regarding the payload because, with any free-floating payload, there’s always a risk for safety,” Persad said. “They

trusted us, we did our job and it worked so well.” Persad, who was on-site at Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America in New Mexico, said going into the experiment, the prediction was that the liquid in the cylinder would disperse at either the top or the bottom of the cylinder leaving nothing in the middle. When Gerardi deployed the device as



UMES prepares for new changes in FAFSA process

Filing date for application moved to end of December

Freshman Gilbert Pinkett holds the payload that was designed at the UMES engineering program’s machine shop laboratory.

the ship was in its suborbital state, what Persad discovered had him beyond elated as his forecast was confirmed. “This is what we predicted, and this image has been what we’ve been going after for almost 20 years,” he said. “I was blown away.” Persad added that the findings of the experiments could be beneficial for future technological advances in space missions, such as developing more efficient fuel engine prototypes and medical devices such as syringes to safely administer fluids while preventing bubbles from entering the bloodstream. “Being that the theory can be used to predict where the liquid will be, or to put the liquid where we want it opens up the door, not tomorrow, but a few years down the road to having prototypes of these technologies available for testing,” he said. Persad is also optimistic that this first payload flight is just the beginning for UMES. “We have demonstrated our ability to train people to operate these payloads in space, to train these astronauts to be very effective payload specialists and that’s something to be very proud of,” he said. Top left photo: Payload specialist Kellie Gerardi deploys the payload designed by UMES associate professor Dr. Aaron Persad aboard the Virgin Galactic Galactic 05 spaceship on Nov. 2.

Danena Livingston, Director of Financial Aid

Students and their families applying for financial aid for the 2024-25 school year will see changes that are meant to simplify the complex and cumbersome process. One of the first changes will be the start date for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms for the procedure, which is slated to be available by Dec. 31. “FAFSA is experiencing its greatest change in nearly 40 years,” said Danena Livingston, the Director of Financial Aid at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. “They wanted to remove questions that really have no bearing on the amount of federal aid that students would receive.” With the changes, UMES is trying to adapt like all other financial aid departments across the country. To ensure that UMES students and their parents are better educated on the significant changes, Livingston and the financial aid staff have been preparing by participating in Department of Education seminars and training sessions. They’ve also engaged in an extensive communications campaign with flyers, screensavers, text messages, and weekly installments called “FAFSA Tip Tuesdays”. Some of differences on this year’s FAFSA include streamlining the form

by reducing the number of questions from 108 to 46, changing how students and parents enter information in the FAFSA form, and how financial aid departments must report all Federal Work Study earnings as student income. “It’s supposed to be more simple for students, but it’s a lot more administrative responsibilities on the institution’s part,” she said. The overhauled process and new date were the result of the passage of the FAFSA Simplification Act, which went into effect on July 1. Some of the changes as part of the new legislation include the replacement of expected family contributions in determining financial aid, the expansion of access to Federal Pell Grants, and streamlining of the FAFSA form, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Information for the tax year 2022 will be required and will be automatically retrieved and imported into the FAFSA form if consent is given by each contributor. Failure to give consent may lead to delays in or the ability to receive financial aid. With the changes in the FAFSA geared to helping widen the reach of financial aid, there may be some students who may be negatively impacted by the new process. “It could be a situation where a student that was Pell eligible through their junior year but now as a senior, they are no longer eligible,” Livingston said. “The question is, what can we do for those students?” Livingston said that in order to mitigate those potential situations, her division has been working on doing projections to get a determination of how many students may be impacted. “We want to arm ourselves with the knowledge with what we can anticipate the funds we may need to help our students so that they don’t feel any potential impact with this change,” she said.



‘It’s profound’ Civil Rights Tour impactful for Henson Honors Students For Logan Forrest, it was her first trip by herself. It had an impact. “There was one museum that used to be a place where they processed slaves before being sold at auction,” she said. “You could almost feel their pain and distraught being in the rooms with those statues.” The University of Maryland Eastern Shore sophomore and Richard A. Henson Honors Program student had always wanted to participate in study abroad programs, but she was concerned about the finances. So, when the chance to go on a historical tour of cities integral to the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Forrest was intrigued. “I love history, especially civil rights history, and I love to travel,” she said. “So, this was a great opportunity.” Forrest was one of 17 students from the Henson Honors Program who went on the five-day trip, which spanned from Atlanta to Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, with an itinerary that included the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthplace, The King Center, the Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. “The honors program in the last decade has done a lot of international programs, and other than traveling to conferences for research purposes, we haven’t done a domestic group trip,” said Dr. Michael Lane, the director of the Henson Honors Program. “Since initiatives like JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) are such a thrust university system-wide and certainly here at UMES, it made sense doing a civil rights tour.” Lane, who teaches a month-long module about the history of racial terror and lynchings on the national, regional, and local levels to his freshman honors seminar, said one of the most impactful parts of the trip was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. “I’ve long been a member of the Somerset County Truth & Reconciliation Committee, so being able to be there and see the magnitude of that monument, it’s expansive and overwhelming,” he said. “When you see the names of the three victims from Somerset County and Princess Anne surrounded by others’ names, it’s very profound.” Forrest said being able to see and hear about the experiences of African Americans through slavery through the era of segregation had an emotional impact. While much of the trip focused on visiting iconic civil rights locations and museums, there were other activities to balance the heavy subject matter, including tours of the Atlanta Illuminarium and the World of Coca-Cola. Forrest said in addition to the lessons she learned about history, the trip also provided her growth as an individual. “This was the first trip I took without my parents and family, so I felt like I like to ‘adult,’” she said. “I feel like I will be more comfortable traveling by myself in the future because of this experience. Photos by Erik Hatcher Jr.

The birthplace of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta was one of the locations members of the Richard A. Henson Honors Program visited on their Civil Rights Tour in October. The five-day trip spanned three cities including Montgomery, Alabama, and Birmingham, Alabama.

Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was co-pastor.

The grave of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife Coretta Scott King.



‘It gave me more confidence’ UMES quiz bowl members experience growth in honors competition

For a brief moment, Quinton Smith wasn’t himself. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore senior history major and Richard A. Henson Honors student, known for his easygoing and calm demeanor, felt slightly out of place among a group of his peers. It was right before he and his fellow Honda Campus AllStar Challenge (HCASC) teammates, Kevin Armstrong and Victoria Casteel were about to face off in a match with Virginia State University during a quiz bowl tournament held during the National Association of African-American Honors Programs (NAAAHP) Conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Nov. 2. The competition featured honors students from other HBCUs testing their knowledge of facts and trivia. “Initially, I was nervous,” Smith said. “But I realized that it wasn’t like I was in a room where I didn’t fit in. I love information, and I love learning facts. I fit in because everyone was feeling the same way too.” The trio came out of the gate strong by building up a 14090 lead in the first three 4-minute rounds covering categories ranging from history, science, pop culture, and more. Here is an example of the types of questions included this one in the category of canceled television shows: After Fox’s 2018 cancellation, NBC picked up what cop comedy featuring Andre Braugher as Captain Holt? Casteel, a freshman biology major, swiftly buzzed in with the correct answer: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, leading to 10 points and an additional 10 points on a bonus question about the short-lived ABC show Quantico. For Casteel, who also is a class officer and one of UMES’s STEM STARS, the atmosphere of the competition didn’t rattle her. “It was more about trying to get the answer out fast, which was the most challenging part,” she said. “It was good to face off against different competition than what we normally see in practice.” Since the start of the fall semester, the UMES HCASC program has participated in twice-weekly practices comprised of study sessions, drills and gameplay as they ready themselves for intercampus competitions in the spring. This year’s 17-person team is more than double the size of last year’s. Honda Team coach and university public relations direc-

tor, Earl Holland Jr., was excited to be able to see how his team would fare in the event. “We came into this wanting to find out where we are as a program and if what we’re doing in practices the past few months is paying off,” he said. “The competitor in me always wants to win, but knowing that they are learning and improving shows me that they’ll be ready when it counts.” Following the three rounds, the game came down to the final 60-second “Ultimate Challenge” round where Virginia State mounted a comeback answering seven questions worth 25 points each on the category of “Animal Anagrams.” Needing six to win or five to tie and force sudden death, UMES chose the category “What’s the Number”, comprised of general knowledge questions with numerical answers. They answered four correctly but came up 25 points short in the 265-240 defeat. Despite the outcome, Armstrong, a sophomore marine science major who captained the UMES honors delegation, was optimistic about his team’s performance in the exhibition. “We’re a solid team, we just need to make sure that we finish the game,” Armstrong, also a member of last year’s varsity team, said. “That’s how one of the games in last year’s tournament ended. We had a good lead, and then the ultimate challenge was where we struggled. If we carry it all the way through, and we’re lucky enough to get categories we’re good in, we should do well.” Smith said the showing in the matchup at the NAAAHP tournament should bode well as UMES attends one of Honda’s National Qualifying Tournaments at Norfolk State University in February. “It gave me more confidence,” Smith said. “We only lost by one question. If we just continue to hone our skills, we’ll be where we want to be, possibly dominating at the NQTs.” At top: (From left) Richard A. Henson Honors students and Honda Campus All-Star Challenge team members Kevin Armstrong, Quinton Smith, and Victoria Casteel pose for a pre-game photo ahead of their quiz bowl match against Virginia State at the National Association of African-American Honors Programs conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Nov. 2.



Veterans Gala recognizes 60th anniversary of America’s involvement in Vietnam New initiatives in Maryland to help veterans and their families announced

Sixty years ago, the United States’ involvement in Vietnam began, lasting more than a decade and claiming the lives of more than 58,000 servicemen and women, including 7,243 African-American military personnel. The sacrifice and service of those who fought in that war and other conflicts across the globe were honored at this year’s “Salute to Veterans” Gala held on Nov. 8 at the Richard A. Henson Center on the campus of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The annual fundraising event, which was co-sponsored by UMES and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, was emceed by Maryland Secretary of Housing & Community Development, Jake Day. Day, who previously served as Salisbury, Maryland mayor, and who also serves in the Maryland Army National Guard. “When we think of sacrifice, we think of what (U.S. President Abraham) Lincoln said, ‘the last full measure of devotion.’ The ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Let me remind you that all those who serve give something up. And so, I want us to bear in mind the thanks that we feel should not only be applied to those who lost something physically, or visibly, but to all those who serve in whatever manner they served.” Proceeds from the event will go to the Silver Star Scholarship Fund to support first-year UMES students who are honorably discharged veterans, a child of a veteran, or a child of a service member killed in action. More than $14,000 was raised from last year’s event. The event’s keynote speaker was Major Anthony C. Woods, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for the State of Maryland, and a West Point Graduate. Woods, who also currently serves as an intelligence analyst assigned to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, served two tours of duty in Iraq and earned a Bronze Star for his service. During his speech, Secretary Woods addressed the changing philosophy many Americans have with military conflicts since the Vietnam War as well as the treatment military personnel received in that era. “I think the American people can now understand that you can disagree with wars and you can disagree with policy

Photo: Maryland Dept. of Housing & Community Development

makers and conflicts, but you cannot take it out on those who served in those conflicts,” he said. “What is less understood, is the fact that we sent these individuals abroad, but we have an obligation as a nation to take care of all of their needs when they come home.” In an effort to help those veterans, Woods also announced two executive orders signed by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, including a commission to establish a Memorial to Veterans of the Global War on Terrorism and an initiative to reduce suicides among military service members, veterans, and their families, which includes a partnership with the Maryland Department of Health. The subject of suicide among veterans and their families was “near and dear” to Woods’ heart as his mother committed suicide in 2018. “Our veteran and military-connected community has double the suicide rate of our civilian counterparts. That’s a number we think is unacceptable,” he said. “Not only do I come into this as a policymaker, but I also think about this as a son who has lost someone to suicide.” Woods concluded his speech and the event by challenging members of the audience, active service members, veterans, and civilians to find ways to make a veteran’s experience easier. “We don’t know what the future has in store, but we do know that some point, men and women in uniform, will be in harm’s way yet again,” he said. “It takes all of us to ensure that those who serve find a rightful place in our community and the transition out of those conflicts are easier.” From left: Maryland Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Woods, 1968 Maryland State College Graduate, Sgt. Albert Cooks, UMES Government Relations Liaison Jim Mathias, and Maryland of Housing and Community Development Secretary Jake Day pose for a photo at the 2023 Salute to Veterans Gala on Nov. 8.



‘ I feel more hopeful’ UMES sophomore’s “Knew-U” platform wows at Women of Color Business Incubator Sometimes, the greatest ideas come from personal experiences. That was the case for University of Maryland Eastern Shore sophomore Cayla Jackson, when she came up with the concept of “Knew-U,” an online platform focusing on self-care topics while also making shopping and booking services appointments easier and more personalized for its users. “I grew up with personal insecurity, comparing myself with women on social media, or in magazines, and on TV and noticing that I don’t look like that,” she said. “I tried to go and find different avenues to make myself look like that. It was my own personal frustrations manifesting into a movement.” Jackson saw the concept of “Knew-U” as something that would beneficial to all women, which gave her the confidence to pitch her company at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s (WBENC) Women of Color Incubator Program, hosted by UMES’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation on Nov. 10. Her faith was rewarded as she claimed the $1,500 first-place prize in seed capital and received an invitation to pitch her idea at the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Denver in March 2024. UMES was one of four HBCUs, including North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M, and Howard, selected to host the competition. The Women of Color Incubator is an initiative designed for African-American female students at HBCUs, and provides the next generation of African-American women entrepreneurs with resources, community, and support needed to strengthen their idea and grow their early-stage ventures, according to the WBENC website. “Our program chair, Dr. Pamela Allison is a member of the WBENC through her personal business and that was how UMES became affiliated with this,” said Kevin O’Dell, the program specialist at the UMES Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “By establishing the relationship

with WBENC we knew that we would be a perfect candidate for this program, which gives us the opportunity to compete with other HBCUs.” As part of the incubator, the grouping participated in four sessions since September – two in person and two virtual – featuring expert speakers from Fortune 500 companies giving testimonials and advice on how implement and design their businesses and working through a business plan. The fifth and final event in the incubator was the pitch competition on Nov. 10 where every participant received a $100 cash prize and second place earned $500. Other hopefuls who sought to promote their ideas included Ebony Jenkins, a doctoral candidate whose business plan centered on rearing insects for consumption. Jenkins’s dissertation, focusing on rearing edible insects, has received attention as her research was recently featured on PBS’s NOVA. “If an entity like PBS was interested in my work, why wouldn’t other companies be interested as well as an alternative?” Jenkins, who finished second in the competition, said. “The population is expected to explode to nine billion people, so we’re going to need to find way to feed people.” In addition to gaining free access to a network of more than 4,000 attendees, Jackson will vie for $25,000 in startup money pitching their business in at the Women of Color Championship competition. Jackson, who has feverishly started to overhaul her pitch for the Denver competition, said being able to win the incubator helped instill more confidence in her. “It taught me to be more confident in myself even if I’m not all the way sure,” she said. “I feel hopeful. It’s given me the realization that this idea can really come to fruition.”




The Sights







(L-R) Mr. 1886, David Martin, UMES President Dr. Heidi M. Anderson, and Miss 1886, Kristian Francis enjoy fellowship following Sunday service at Metropolitan United Methodist Church. Students check out some of the items for sale during the Popup Shop event held at the Student Services Center. (Photo by Mekhi Stevens)



(From left) Taylor Lyles and Justice Brown take in the laughs during the Late Night Comedy show at the Ella Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center on Nov. 15 (Photo by Mekhi Stevens) Dr. Quincy Paden, Director of Student Experience, leads a faculty roundtable discussion on marriage and relationships.




s & Scenes 5






The Fly Gurlz & Fly Guyz Cheerleading Team kick off the Homecoming Pep Rally held at Tawes Gym.

Members of The Muses gospel singers sit at the edge of the stage during a performance during the Sunday Night Gospel concert on Nov. 12.


Members of Ambiance Dance Club perform during the Homecoming Kickoff Pep Rally.


Student models pay tribute to singer Beyonce presented by the modeling group Haus of Legacy. (Photo by Aniya Hughes)



UMES physics professor Kausik Das named an American Physical Society Fellow University of Maryland Eastern Shore physics professor Kausik Das was recently selected as a fellow of the American Physical Society. The APS fellowship is among the most prestigious accolades in the field of physics, signifying recognition by one’s professional peers for exceptional contributions. Election is limited to no more than half a percent of the membership. It is on the heels of his also being named a fellow of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he visited this summer to develop collaborative plans for undergraduate research projects and remote labs at UMES. Das was nominated by the APS Forum on Physics and Society for leadership in “significantly contributing to the growth and inclusivity of the field of physics and the scientific community.” “Dr. Das is known at UMES and beyond as an innovator and his efforts as an educator for enhanced learning in today’s rapidly evolving educational landscape,” said Dr. Moses T. Kairo, dean of UMES’ School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences. “This desire to create a more immersive, interactive and effective learning environment earmarked him as the natural selection for director of the school’s Center for Student Excellence.” In this endeavor, Das is primarily focused on ensuring students’ “holistic development with an emphasis on producing high-achieving graduates from

UMES” for the future STEM workforce. A faculty member for almost a decade, Das’ research includes micro/ nano fluidic mixing, creating on-chip graphene-based nano-inductors, low temperature plasma generation, bio-energy generators, space physics and work on light-activated resistive switches. UMES undergraduates under his supervision built several payloads that flew multiple zero-gravity parabolic flights to collect data for use in space missions. Das was the 2021 recipient of the Board of Regents award for Excellence chosen in the category of scholarship, research or creative activity. It is the highest faculty recognition within the University System of Maryland. He has also won UMES’ Student Choice Award for outstanding teaching. Prior to joining UMES, Das was a faculty member at the University of Toronto, Canada. Das holds degrees from Calcutta University and Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. “This achievement is not just a personal milestone,” Das said. “It is a testament to the collaborative spirit and dedication of outstanding students and the academic community at UMES and throughout the USM. It’s through our collective efforts, shared curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge that we have been able to contribute meaningfully to the field.”

UMES Professor Dr. Kausik Das

Das (left) with 2004 Nobel Prize Laureate David Gross (particle physics and string theory).

Das collaborating with M.I.T on a zerogravity parabolic flight

Photos by Todd Dudek, Ag Communications



UMES receives $250,000 grant to establish Men’s Volleyball team New program will be the first of its kind at a Division I HBCU The University of Maryland Eastern Shore will make history as the first NCAA Division I HBCU to establish a men’s volleyball program for intercollegiate athletic competition. The new program, which begins competition in 2025-2026, will play in the Northeast Conference and be the 68th school to sponsor the fast-growing sport at the NCAA DI-II level. The official announcement was made at a media conference held November 9. In addition, it was announced that a $250,000 grant from First Point Volleyball Foundation was obtained to aide in the establishment of the UMES men’s volleyball program. “We’re trailblazers in many ways at UMES” president Heidi M. Anderson said, “and this is yet another example of us carving a new path by adding men’s volleyball to our robust athletic program. With volleyball’s popularity on the rise everywhere it made sense to launch men’s volleyball. I think our community will join me in getting behind this dynamic sport, just as we have been strong supporters of our outstanding women’s team.” The establishment of a men’s volleyball program isn’t something unfamiliar to Tara A. Owens, Vice President of Athletics and Recreation, as she previously oversaw its creation at Central State University. “We successfully added men’s volleyball at my previous institution and went on to have great success as Central State won a conference championship. The sport has a great amount of popularity and is a growing sport. I think our community will be blown away by the athleticism of this sport and the talent on the court,” Owens said. “It is especially exciting to have the opportunity to compete in the NEC. I would like to thank NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris for the invitation to play men’s volleyball in the NEC. We look forward to the growth of the sport on the college level and will encourage our fellow institutions in the MEAC to explore the possibility of adding men’s volleyball.” The $250,000 will be granted over a period of three years to assist with start-up costs and to provide funding to UMES Athletics as they provide scholarship support, facility improvements and other services to men’s and women’s volleyball athletes. “We have been so impressed by the vision and leadership of President Anderson and Vice President Owens. First Point is honored to partner with an institution building momentum through athletics,” said Wade Garard, CEO of First Point Volleyball. “It is a pleasure working with Tara again to provide opportunities for young men to have a student-athlete experience at an HBCU and to compete in men’s volleyball on a national stage.” Since 2016, First Point Volleyball Foundation has helped start 40 new college programs that are now funding 80 new

From left: Vice President of Athletics and Recreation Tara Owens, First Point Volleyball CEO Wade Garard, UMES president Heidi M. Anderson, and Michael Schwob of the Annapolis Volleyball Club poses with the donation check of $250,000 that will fund UMES’s men’s volleyball team.

Members of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore athletic department pose for a picture with the $250,000 check presented by the First Point Volleyball Foundation to establish a new men’s volleyball program. The new program will begin during the 202526 school year and be a member of the Northeast Conference.

scholarships in men’s volleyball that did not exist before. UMES intends to fund 4.5 scholarships which is the maximum allowed by the NCAA for DI-II men’s volleyball. “We started First Point to support NCAA DI programs launching men’s volleyball and to provide more opportunities for young people to mature and develop through the sport… I am proud that our 25 volunteer Board of Directors has supported efforts to expand diversity and start men’s volleyball at HBCUs,” said John Speraw, co-founder & volunteer chairman of First Point Volleyball Foundation, and both the head coach of UCLA Men’s Volleyball and US Men’s National teams. “I want to thank all the volleyball donors who have made this grant possible. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of philanthropy to the future of college sports especially Olympic sports.” A nationwide search for a head coach is now underway.

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Digital Media students represent at HBCU Film Festival Students from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Senior Kamille Little, junior Jaylin Johnson, and freshman Tyjaun Johnson represented UMES at the inaugural HBCU First LOOK Film Festival & Challenge, held at Howard University from Nov. 10-12. All three are in UMES’ Digital Media Studies program. The focuses on diversity and inclusion opportunities that bring together HBCU students with HBCU graduates who are creators and leaders in film, television, and broadcast industries, according to its website. The program features interactive seminars and screenings, networking opportunities between student and professional alumni, and programs designed for aspiring student filmmakers. Netflix, ESPN, TVOne, HBCUGo, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music & Entertainment were event sponsors.

(Standing L-R): Freshman Tyjaun Johnson, junior Jaylin Johnson, and senior Kamille Little meet with Shelia Eldridge, founder of the HBCU First LOOK Film Festival & Challenge.

The Key / November 2023

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