UMES' Winter commencement 2017

  • 1st Master's degree in cybersecurity awarded

    Friday, December 15, 2017
    Myles Banks of Baltimore

    The University of Maryland Eastern Shore awarded 270 degrees today at its 21st winter commencement exercises. 

    Families and friends filled the courtside bleachers in the William P. Hytche Athletic Center, ignoring a chilly forecast of a potential second December snowfall and basked in the joy of a quintessential rite of passage. 

    Among those receiving degrees were two sisters who shared the milestone together, a hospitality tourism management student with a job waiting in San Francisco, a biology major whose senior research project convinced her there are environmentally safe ways to kill mosquitoes, and the university's first graduate in cybersecurity engineering technology. 

    Omolayo A. Oladimeji of Bowie, Md. delivered the student commentary on behalf of her undergraduate peers. She challenged her classmates to embrace altruism in post-college life. 

    “If you want to make a difference start with yourself,” Oladimeji said. “What can we do better? How can we empower somebody else? What skills can you develop so we can be more valuable to our community?” 

    “If you want things to change - start with yourself,” she said. “You must change. We must give back - giving back must become more proactive - almost second nature.” 

    Myles L. Banks of Baltimore entered UMES thinking he wanted to major in engineering, but discovered his real interest was filmmaking, so he switched to business administration with the goal of starting his own production company.

    Kari Colona of Westover

    As an undergraduate, he filmed “virtual recruitment videos … to show prospective students the (UMES) campus.” 

    “With a strong business background from UMES and extensive film experience, I feel that I am ready to start my own video production company,” Banks said. “I understand none of this would have been possible without the work of God, a serious work ethic and the support of UMES!” 

    Graduate Kari A. Colona grew up in nearby Westover and knows mosquitoes are not only a nuisance but can transmit harmful viruses. 

    Working alongside a faculty mentor, Colona found “we don't have to use pesticides from the 1960s and 1970s. That is very dangerous. We don't have to do it that way anymore. We can use natural substances.” 

    A dean's list student, Colona said, “It takes a strong willed individual to major biology. You have to push yourself. It's hard work. Devote yourself to your study.” 

    That sentiment was shared by Al-Jaquice F. Branham and Na'Yonna L. Boyd, sisters from Washington, D.C.  Branham earned a kinesiology degree while Boyd majored in accounting. 

    “This road was not easy,” Boyd said. “But I feel blessed, humbled and thankful for everything UMES did for me.” 

    Branham agreed she too found college life a challenge and felt a range of emotions about commencement. 

    “In some ways, I guess you could say it's overwhelming. But I'm also excited at the same time,” Branham said. 

    Juanita J. Ekue-Hettah of Silver Spring worked two part-time jobs while also pursuing a hospitality & tourism management degree UMES offers at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville. 

    “It was not easy,” Ekue-Hettah said. “But I can see now all the hard work has paid off.” 

    She said she'll soon be working as an events operation planner for the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront. 

    Roderick B. Dillard, who works for the Maryland Department of Education, has the distinction of being UMES' first graduate of the cybersecurity engineering technology program. 

    It's the 54-year-old Navy veteran's third degree; he earned a business administration degree from Mt. St. Mary's College in his native New York in 1985 and a Master's degree in management information systems from Bowie State University four years ago. 

    “It was a challenge being a full-time employee,” he said of his Bowie State experience, which required in-person attendance. “But if the window of opportunity is there, you take advantage of it.” 

    UMES' cybersecurity degree is part of a new frontier in higher education; it is offered online with interactive sessions involving students around the country. 

    “What worked for me was that each degree complimented the previous degree and created a greater body of work,” he said. 

    Another non-traditional student who also earned a Master's degree in rehabilitation counseling was David E. Turco of Crisfield. A homebuilder whose earning power was sidelined by the 2008 recession, Turco decided to change careers. 

    Two years ago, he earned an undergraduate degree in rehabilitation service and topped it off with a graduate degree. 

    “It was arduous, especially working as well,” said Turco, a father of two and grandfather of two. “But it was worth it. I feel proud I've accomplished this goal.” 

    Erika L. Graham of Oxon Hill received her degree in rehabilitation services and said looking back, choosing UMES was the right choice. 

    “I grew a lot. I learned a lot. I experienced a lot,” Graham said. “But I think one of the most important things I will take away from this experience is knowing when you have to adapt” to challenges and changes.

    Dr. Douglas E. Ruby, a retired natural sciences professor who taught at UMES for 23 years, was awarded “professor emeritus” status. His research specialty was amphibians and reptiles.

    The day's commencement speaker was Dr. Marybeth Gasman, a University of Pennsylvania professor whose research focus is on higher education disparities at historically black colleges and universities as well as institutions that serve other minorities. 

    Gasman invoked the names of legendary African-American educators who inspired her during her 25 year teaching career and invoked the name of 1965 UMES alumnus Earl Richardson, who as Morgan State University president openly challenged the status quo in how the state of Maryland funds its public colleges and universities. 

    From Richardson, Gasman said, “I learned to use my intellect to outsmart racism.”