Celebrating our May 2020 Returning Women Student Scholar Graduates!

A post curated by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers.

Last week, the Women’s Center celebrated our Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates graduating this semester at our pinning ceremony. While distance learning in a pandemic has disrupted and cancelled many things over the past semester, we weren’t going to let this tradition get cancelled! So, as with most things these days, we took to our computers and phones to celebrate virtually!

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A “group photo” via a screen shot during our Webex Graduation Celebration! 

This event has become a tradition in the Women’s Center as a means to celebrate our continuing and graduating returning women students who are UMBC students 25 years and older seeking their first undergraduate degree. These students are called “returning” because they often have various circumstances that have kept them from what our popular culture deems as a traditional college path and they are now “returning” to college to pursue their degree. Student scholars in this program not only receive scholarships to help financial supplement their tuition, but also benefit from tailored support and programming from Women’s Center staff through individualized meetings, programs, and events that meet the specific needs of older students on campus. Each year we have between 20-25 scholars and affiliates participate in this unique program.

In usual times at this special “pinning” ceremony, graduating seniors receive their Women’s Center Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates pin to wear at graduation along with a yellow rose. This year, we sent their pins to them via snail mail and they pinned themselves!

Upon their pinning, each scholar says a few words. Despite being in their own homes and not sharing physical space with each other, graduates still invited us to share in their joy, excitement, gratitude, and sheer exhaustion. “I finally made it!” rang through the Women’s Center lounge walls along with laughter and tears.

Anyone who has spent time in the Women’s Center knows that working with this special group of students is one of my favorite experiences in my role as director of the Women’s Center. At a University which celebrates, grit and greatness (even during non-pandemic times), no other student cohort exhibits both with such deep grace and humility. As individuals and as a community, they are brave and unstoppable.

So, it is with great joy that I invite you to join me in celebrating these fantastic students and their accomplishments. Below are some of our graduating students who in their own words* share what they were involved in at UMBC, what’s next for them after UMBC, and some sage advice for other adult learners.

I also invite you to read a UMBC graduation news story I had the privilege of writing that  features a more in depth view of 4 of our students’ experiences at UMBC and their quest to graduation.

Happy Graduation!!!

Shanice Bramwell, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Health Administration and Policy (HAPP)

20200511_185525 - Shanice Bramwell

A self-submitted photo of Shanice. 

What was your experience like as an adult learner?
Adult learning is more complex than traditional learning. I loved that the Women’s Center gave me a place to belong.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
Realize that it will include many sacrifices in order to do well. We work twice as hard because of our family load and our school work load. Organization and creating realistic schedules will come in handy.

What are your plans after graduation?
More school, work, and family!

Karla Gonzalez, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Social Work

Karla G- self-submission.1

A self-submitted photo of Karla and her family. 


What you were involved in at UMBC and what was your experience like as an adult learner?
During my time at UMBC, I was involved with the Social Work Student Association (SWSA) and volunteered at many events as well as participated in the monthly meetings. I was the service event board member position through fall semester 2019. It was during spring semester 2019 that I became involved with the Women’s Center and I wish now that I had become involved as soon as I came to UMBC.
As an adult learner, I wanted to fit in, I wanted to have a college experience like traditional students and I wanted to take advantage of all the resources available on campus. Although I knew I could never really have a traditional college student experience, I met so many people that helped make my experience at UMBC, wonderful. These included professors that were helpful in me learning the material (like human biology), other adult students who could relate to my experiences as well as younger students who treated me as any other student, not caring that I was ten years older than them. I am grateful for the Social Work department, Women’s Center, the Off-Campus Student Services (OCSS), the Career Center and the Writing Center. These resources really helped me have a great experience at UMBC.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
My advice would be to allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone and participate in different activities. OCSS offers adult learners activities like family game nights and it was great to connect my two worlds, parenthood and “student-hood,” even if it was one night. I know it’s easier to come for class and leave right away, but take that time to make connections with other students, with professors, to get the best out of your learning experience.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I will be attending the University of Maryland School of Social Work as an advance standing student.

You can learn more about Karla’s story and experience at UMBC through this UMBC graduation news story featuring 4 returning women students. 

Josephine Gyasi-Baaye, Bryson-Neville and Aegon Scholar
Major: Social Work 

What was your experience like as an adult learner?
My experience as an adult learner was motivated by my set goals as and a determination of achieving a professional growth. At UMBC, I was a member of Sigma Alpha Lambda.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
My advice to all adult learners is never to give up on themselves as a student… and take advantage of campus resources.

What are your plans after graduation?
As mother of three, I plan to work part time and continue with graduate school this Fall. I have been accepted into the University of Baltimore for their Master’s in Social Work.

Samantha Homa, Affiliate
Major: Geography and Environmental Studies

IMG_1943 - Samantha Homa

A self-submitted photo of Samantha. 

What you were involved in at UMBC and what was your experience like as an adult learner?
I thoroughly enjoyed participating in service learning as a Peer Facilitator for the Introductory to an Honors University (IHU) courses for four semesters. As an adult learner, I felt very grateful for my professors, UMBC staff, and classmates because I could appreciate their effort in my learning experience. This was something I definitely did not see my first semester. That is growth and the beauty of perspective.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
Try to understand what you need to be productive and satisfied in all areas of your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it because you may be surprised to find out others are going through the same struggles as you.

What are your plans after graduation?
Enjoy more hikes with my handsome hound Harry! Work part time and continue to take a few more courses at UMBC to eventually apply to medical school!

Nia Latimer, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Social Work

What was your experience like as an adult learner?
Initially, I was nervous about being an adult learner, but when I saw the diversity on campus, I was very comfortable and never made to feel out of place in my classes.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
Be open and don’t be afraid. You have support! The Women’s Center helped me tremendously being my home away from home.

What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to attend and have been accepted to UMB’s School of Social Work’s Advanced Standing graduate school program.

You can learn more about Nia’s s story and experience at UMBC through this UMBC graduation news story featuring 4 returning women students. 

Joanna Riley, Newcombe Scholar
Major: Social Work 


A self-submitted photo of Joanna and her son in their UMBC gear while out for a hike.

What you were involved in at UMBC?
I was a student in the Social Work program and during my free-time I visited the Women’s Center. I live an hour away from campus and a single parent to a 10 year old. It has been hard to be active with the other students on campus because I have to return home to take care of my son.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
I would tell people to utilize the Women’s Center as much as possible. I felt so out of place and the Women’s Center was the one place I felt at home. If I had more time I would have loved to attend more events and workshops.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be in Social Work Advanced Standing at University of Maryland, Baltimore campus.

Terece Young, Bryson-Neville 2018 Scholar
Major: American Studies and Sociology 

amst - Terece Young

Self-submitted photo of Terece

Whhat was your experience like as an adult learner?
My experience at UMBC as an adult learner was challenging and rewarding. When you look around your class and see you are the oldest one or get mistaken for a professor on the first day of the semester, it’s easy to get discouraged. However, as time went on, I began to see that me being older was a benefit, because I had life experience to rely on, which helped with discussions, writing papers, projects, etc. I don’t know if I would have done as well in school fifteen years ago, so in hindsight, I am glad that went for my degree when I did.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
My advice for current Returning Women Students is to use your age and life experience to your advantage, especially when in comes to writing papers, projects, discussions, and problem solving. No one else sees things from our point of view. Also, the Women’s Center is an amazing place, so use it. I would go there sometimes to study or relax. If you have a problem, they are there for you, and will always make you feel better and find a way to help. I don’t know if I would have made it without the Women’s Center and the people that work there.

What are your plans after graduation?
The plan I have for after graduation is to move to Florida where my dad and sister live. I want to work in the pro wrestling business, and luckily, wrestling is very popular in Florida, so I am going to find a way to get involved. I was accepted to Full Sail University for their MFA in Creative Writing Program. In the program, I plan to focus on writing for wrestling.

Lauren Hall, 2018 Newcombe Scholar
Master of Arts in Teaching 

What you were involved in at UMBC?
I was a Returning Women Student Scholar for my undergraduate career, a Graduate Assistant with the Education Department during my grad career. This year, I submitted a piece to the Bartleby Literary Magazine and I was the Creative Non-Fiction section winner. That piece also won me the Braly Award for Creative Non-Fiction.

Looking back on your experience, what is your advice for current Returning Women Students?
…Never give up. Even if you get bad marks on a project, keep trying. I got a D on the first paper I wrote as an adult learner but I’m graduating as a celebrated UMBC writer with a 4.0 🙂

What are your plans after graduation?
I’m taking the summer off (something I was never able to do as a single-mom going through school) to finish a book I started during my time at UMBC. In the fall I hope to be high school English full-time while I look into grad writing programs. My hope is to make a living writing or teaching at the college level.

You can learn more about Lauren’s s story and experience at UMBC through this UMBC graduation news story featuring 4 returning women students. 

Congratulations to our other Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates graduating this May:

Tatiana Pearson , Newcombe Scholar 
Vicky Hughes,
Aegon Scholar 

Jumina Ito,Newcombe Scholar
Tomiko Shine, 2015 Newcome Scholar
Aieda Solomon,
Newcombe Scholar 

Sheila Yeelon, Jodi Mister/Newcombe Scholar 

RWS Orientation Fall 2019 - group photo with Nia, Jumina, Karla PLUS Freeman

The 2019-20 cohort of Returning Women Student Scholars and Affiliates at August orientation. 

For more information about the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates program, visit the Women’s Center website. Returning Women Students at UMBC are also encouraged to join the group’s Facebook group.


*Minor edits were made for clarification and tone. 

‘Pandemic: New Horizons’ or How Animal Crossing and Other Games Offer Comfort in Chaos

Kaitlyn is a junior Social Work major and is a student staff member at the Women’s Center.

Are you feeling isolated? Lonely? Lost in a chaotic world that doesn’t make sense anymore? Me too! At a time where we feel more out of control than ever, video games are something that I know many of us are using to keep us going. I asked some of my friends what games they were playing, and how it’s been helping them cope with the chaos. Everyone agreed that the games they were playing functioned as a distraction, and something that brought them joy. Others felt that it brought a sense of control.

In terms of control, I feel like we’re lacking a lot of that right now during this pandemic. I don’t get to visit people, go out to movies or restaurants, or even just stop by a Yankee Candle to get too many candles (when you think about it, the scented candle industry is hit pretty hard here). In Animal Crossing, I can feel control… I get to decide what I want to do, where I want to go, what flowers I’m going to plant, and even if I want to sell my prized oarfish or give it to the museum. Really, I just want to keep it forever. Regardless of my fish-mongering tendencies, it’s nice to build a world all your own where animals are neighbors and you have no-interest loans. It’s like a lucid daydream in some ways.


Rosie had some more…unique hopes for the games.

If I make my island in animal crossing perfect, then maybe one day I’ll get sucked into my switch and live out the rest of my existence on this island where I can play with cute animals.


Games can also be a great way to connect to friends during a time where a lot of us are feeling isolated.

animal crossing is my heart and soul. i can dress however i want, talk to the cutest little islander characters, and visit my friend’s islands! it helps me stay connected to the people i hold close in my life.


While animal crossing is a popular choice during this pandemic, there are some other games that are getting people through too! Kay has been playing a lot of Stardew Valley in recent weeks.

Stardew Valley is a game you can’t rush through. It guides me in being patient and taking time to enjoy the game.You can slowly build relationships with the other characters in Stardew Valley. Every CPU character has their own personality, daily routine, likes and dislikes. Over time you learn more about the townsfolk!


Autumn has been playing a lot of old school runescape. Her favorite part? The grind. They also find the game to be a good distraction.

It’s a massive time sink that I can play without thinking about much else.


Not only are video games a fun way to distract yourself from the terrifying reality that we’re facing, they can be really affirming too! In Animal Crossing for example, clothing and hairstyle choices aren’t confined to binary gendered options. You can design your character however you like, and have fun designing your character to be whatever feels best for that day. There are endless possibilities!

In ACNH, they default to they/them pronouns for everyone. That feels really really good.


I’ve been playing a ton of Animal Crossing lately. Hanging out with my cute islanders, listening to the calming music, and decorating the island all bring a little more peace to my life. It’s a strange and scary world right now, and it’s okay to feel every bit of that confusion or grief or fear. And, when all that feeling gets a little too overwhelming, it’s okay to escape for a while into whatever world makes you happy.  

A Mother’s Day Shout Out (Plus Some Action Items)

This post was written by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers as a tribute to our UMBC moms. Special thanks to the moms who provided photos to help curate our Women’s Center moms collage. Wishing happy thoughts to all our UMBC moms in your first and hopefully last quarantined Mother’s Day! 

Self-Care Content Note: There’s lots of reasons why Mother’s Day can be hard for a lot of different people. We see you and your story and your pain and hurt matter to us too. Be kind to yourself. Create boundaries in ways that feel right for you. Reach out to someone who can validate your real emotions that don’t require censorship.

Image with 6 different flower bouquets to represent various challenges for people on Mother's Day. Text reads: Thinking of you: Mothers who have lost children; Those who have lost mothers; Those with strained mother relationships; Mothers with strained child relationships; Those who have chosen not to be mothers; Those yearning to be mothers.

To those who may be hurting. We see you.

Okay, so let’s just put this out there. My mom is my favorite human being. So much so, I just got teared up writing that last sentence.

How else can I explain it? I remember one Mother’s Day when I was in high school. My mom and I were in the car to go visit my Busia (that’s grandmother in Polish). We were listening to the radio and a caller request came in. The caller explained that the requested song for her mom was “their song.” And, as caller requests go – she shouted out her mom, said she loved her, probably gave a woooo!!!, and then the song came on.

It was Celion Dion’s Because You Loved Me.  

It took all of three seconds for my mom and I to look at each other with the biggest “wows” on our faces (also mom upside down is wow). A love song. A love song for a mother and daughter. By then we had pulled up to my Busia’s house, but we just sat in the car, listened to the lyrics, and cried. And, that was the moment we too had a love song.  I am everything I am because my mom loves me.


Jess and her mom with True Grit at UMBC’s Faculty and Staff Awards celebration in 2018! 

I could go on and on, but the point of this blog post isn’t to gush about mom (well not exactly). It’s about gushing about you, Dear Moms of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

To the moms who serve or who have served on the Women’s Center Advisory Board

To the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates Moms and all of our student moms

To the moms who have spent countless hours in our lactation room pumping away

 To the moms who have served as staff members over the decades

To our Friends of the Women’s Center Moms

To the moms who have donated their money, their time, their skills to support our mission

To those who aren’t moms but support and champion the work of the Women’s Center because of the space and meaning it holds for moms

Thank you for you. Thank you for being a part of the Women’s Center community. In the words of Celine Dion, we are everything we are because you love us… you make us a stronger and richer community because we get to learn from you, benefit from your skills, and call you our friends and allies.


So, in honor of all these brilliant moms we offer some suggestions and action items to take this Mother’s Day weekend:

Virtual ways to celebrate or honor a mom in your life:

  • Plan a virtual Mother’s Day celebration. I know, the Zoom burnout is real but how can you get creative so it doesn’t feel like another work or school meeting? Send invites, encourage people to dress up or bring some fancy snacks to the call, or make it a game/trivia call. 
  • Not up for organizing something? Watch something together that’s already planned like Un Dia Especial con Mamá (Special Day with Mama) hosted by Creative Alliance, Somos Baltimore Latino, Nuestras Raíces Inc., and Artesanas Mexicanas. The live stream begins at 11am on Mother’s Day. 
  • Zoom again but this time with the kiddos! Give a mom you love the chance to take a deep breath by offering to entertain their little ones via Zoom by reading them a story or leading an activity.
  • Send or drop off a care package or meal.
  • Create a grateful jar. What are the things you’re grateful for when it comes to a special mom in your life. Write it down and put it in a jar so that gratitude can be called upon in times of need. This can be an individual or collective effort.  
  • Send some snail mail (or a text!). ! If there are people in your life that could benefit from feeling seen and appreciated on Mother’s Day, consider writing them a thoughtful note, reminding them you’re here for them, or simply drawing something that words can’t quite capture. As we reminded folks in the content note above, there are lots of feelings people can experience on or close to Mother’s day. Acknowledge and validate those feelings.
  •  This list not working for you? That’s okay! Let Google be your friend or let this simply be the beginning of a creative brainstorm session.

To help advocate for a mom in your life:

For those of us who aren’t moms, we may have no idea what it’s like to be a mom in quarantine. Even moms in quarantine won’t know exactly what other moms are going through. What we do know, though, is that at home and on the front line of this pandemic, women are essential.

So how can you learn more? Here’s a few recommended readings and podcasts. After checking out those, consider ways you can advocate for mothers in your own life and spheres of influence. As always, we appreciate your own ideas and suggestions in the comments!


Virtual Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Centering the Margin: Bystander Intervention and Allyship (Week 5) Round-Up

In the absence of physical space to learn, create, and come together, the Women’s Center is taking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2020 online. Each week during April, we will focus on a specific topic/theme as it relates to sexual violence awareness and prevention (see image below). Together, via out social media platforms like Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram, we can watch videos, read articles, and engage in other content for learning and skill-building.

SAAM 2020 Online

UMBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month online calendar includes weekly themes to help explore important concepts related to sexual violence awareness and prevention.

But, we get it… Maybe you’re not on Facebook. Maybe you needed to take a break from social media for the day because you’re practicing self-care. Or maybe, you’re still following us on all the things and still missed a pretty cool post. That’s okay! In addition to posting on social media throughout the month, at the end of each week, we’ll provide a round-up of all the content we shared along with some action items to consider doing.

This is the last SAAM round-up with April ending last week. To conclude this year’s SAAM, we focused on bystander intervention and allyship. We teamed up with our campus partners supporting the work on UMBC’s Green Dot Program to share helpful resources about bystander intervention and shifting cultural norms that encourage looking out for one another and speaking up when others may be in danger.

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A Retriever Courage poster that reads “Culture Change Takes Advocates.”

It’s important to remember that ending sexual violence isn’t a survivor’s issue or even a women’s issue…. It’s an everybody issue and we all can play a role in changing our culture.

So what did we explore? 

  1. ““Don’t tell ME to Chill out”– Holding our Friends Accountable and saying NO to Rape Culture.” We shared a blog post from our archives written by former Women’s Center student staff member, Yoo-Jin. In this post,she shares an experience of sexual assault and the troubling aftermath when bystanders didn’t take it seriously. She goes on to share how later she received immense support and validation when she shared her experience online.  This is a great read to understand the various ways someone can support a survivor and the ways in which lack of support and believe can reinforce rape culture.

    “Looking back at what happened, I think what was most hurtful was the bystander behavior of the guy’s friends, who excused his perpetuation of rape culture behavior. Rather than holding their friend accountable for

    Excerpt from “Don’t Tell Me to Chill Out” blog post. 

    2. What is a Green Dot? Green Dot is a bystander intervention program that is built on the premise that in order to measurably reduce the perpetration of power-based personal violence, including sexual violence, partner violence, or stalking, a cultural shift is necessary. In order to create a cultural shift, a critical mass of people will need to engage in a new behavior or set of behaviors that will make violence less sustainable within any given community. The “new behavior” is a green dot.
    3. The Green Dot program empowers those who are trained to do the right thing for themselves, their neighbor, classmate, teammate or friend. The Green Dot slogan is “No one has to do everything, everyone has to do something.” Through the Green Dot training at UMBC, we learn that the 3 D’s (Distract, Delegate, or Direct!) are a helpful way to understand the various ways one can intervene. Watch this video to learn more.

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Image of a red dot and green dot that explains the difference between the two

To see everything posted on our accounts last week, check out the hashtag #UMBCsaam over at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Also, be sure to follow UMBC’s Green Dot program on Instagram an myUMBC. 

What We Didn’t Have Time to Discuss:

The root of sexual violence is power oppression and requires we take a power-conscious approach in our awareness, prevention, an response efforts. It’s important that we shift well-intended prevention efforts frequently focused on teaching potential victims how not to get raped and instead teach potential perpetrators not to rape. To develop a deeper understanding of a power-conscious framework, we recommend reading Dr. Chris Linder’s book Sexual Violence on Campus: Power-Conscious Approaches to Awareness, Prevention, and Response.

As we already shared, ending sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility but what is the unique role men can play in preventing sexual assault? Watch Jeffrey Bucholtz of We End Violence on Sexual Violence and Male Responsibility to learn more.



Front cover of our SAAM Zine: Survivors to the Front: A Call to Witness

And, in case you missed it, we are beyond proud to share with you all our zine for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Made by survivors and for the entirety of our community, we hope you can read and share these amazing, powerful, beautiful stories from our very own UMBC community!
You can view Survivors to the Front: A Call to Witness here

Follow the Women’s Center on myUMBC,  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for SAAM updates and information throughout the month of April. You can also stay up-to-date by following #UMBCsaam 


Throughout this time of distance learning, campus staff are still here and available for support. Do not hesitate to reach out for questions, concerns, or care.

On-Campus Resources Available for Virtual Support: 


To report a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination, please submit this online form