All students from the 2007 PROMISE video have defended! #ThinkBigDiversity

Today marks a milestone in PROMISE. All of the participants who were featured in the production of the “What is PROMISE” video from the 2007 Summer Success Institute (SSI) have successfully defended their doctoral dissertations! Robert Holder, UMBC PROMISE Peer Mentor, Computer Science, has been working full-time while pursuing his PhD, and today, he defended, rounding out our group of featured students.

Robert defends Dec 9 2015


The original video from 2007 is here, Robert is #8:

The participants, in order are:

  1. Patti Ordóñez
  2. Alexis Williams
  3. Sylvester Mosley
  4. Adrienne Starks
  5. Angela McRae
  6. Janet Awokoya
  7. Tommie Piggee
  8. Robert Holder
  9. Trudy Smith
  10. Frances Carter-Johnson

Where are they now?

Patti O NewDr. Patti Ordóñez (UMBC, Computer Science) is now a professor and computer scientist at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. She now has her own students, grants, and research program. Dr. Alexis Y. Williams (UMCP, Human Development) teaches in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and is a postdoctoral researcher in College Park’s Teaching and Learning Transformation Center (her TLTC profile page can be found here: Dr. Sylvester Mosley (UMBC, Chemistry and Biochemistry) is a Consumer Safety Officer at the FDA. After Dr. Adrienne Starks (UMBC, Biological Sciences) finished a postdoc at the NIH, she continued working with a non-Profit, Equity Matters, which focuses on promoting health equity in policies. Dr. Angela McRae (UMCP, Educational Psychology) is now a professor at Catholic University of America where she is the STEM Education Coordinator. Dr. Janet Awokoya (UMCP, Curriculum and Instruction) went for the dream and moved to Ghana to be a technical consultant for a non-profit after being a Sr. Researcher at the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute at the United Negro College Fund. Her work has been published by the Harvard Educational Review; read about the research here. Following a postdoc at Quillen College of Medicine, Geriatrics and Gerontology Center, East Tennessee State University, Dr. Tommie Piggee (UMBC, Gerontology) is now a gerontologist and health & wellness consultant in Little Rock.

Robert holder
Credit: Robert Holder’s LinkedIn page.

Robert Holder (UMBC, Computer Science), who hails from the same department as Patti (above) worked at Johns Hopkins Physics Lab for many years before working at ClearEdge IT Solutions. Dr. Trudy (Smith) Amin (UMB, Pharmaceutical Sciences) is a chemist employed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Frances Carter-Johnson finished a postdoc at MIT and became an American Association for the Advancement of Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the NIH. Her AAAS blog post can be found here. Frances and Patti also return to UMBC annually to give seminars on the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. To date their mentees have won more than $10 Million in fellowship money.

PROMISE has students within and outside of STEM fields who are making contributions to STEM (see the ASEE published paper here.) Many of the people who were on the conceptual design team for this initial video, while students back in 2007, have since finished their PhDs as well. Dr. Jocelyn Reader (UMB, Human Genetics) is now a Research Associate at the University of Maryland Baltimore in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. Dr. Calvin Williams (UMB, MD/PhD Immunology) finished a residency with the Jefferson Medical College/Christiana Care Medical System and is a fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Charles Glover (UMCP, Math) is Associate Data Scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton, and Dr. Shanna Smith (UMCP, English) is a Frederick Douglass Teaching Scholar at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Victor Ayala finished a postdoc at the National Cancer Institute and is now a scientist at Advanced BioScience Laboratories. Dr. Tina Ligon (UMCP, History) is an Archivist at the National Archives and teaches at Howard Community College. Dr. Stacey Williams finished a postdoc with the FDA and is now a professor at Notre Dame University of Maryland. Some of the people here, and others in the first video are also featured in the “PROMISE in One Word” video below, also filmed during the 2007 SSI at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, MD.

Congratulations to all of our PROMISE students and alumni. We look forward to continuing to celebrate with you. Save the date for SSI 2016, August 20, 2016 at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve! Congratulations also to all of the faculty, family members, and kudos to the PROMISE Dissertation House Coach, Dr. Wendy Carter-Veale, who worked with nearly everyone listed in this post.

Published by Renetta Garrison Tull

Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull is the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of California Davis. She previously served as Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives at The Graduate School at UMBC, and was Professor of the Practice in the College of Engineering & IT. She was Special Assistant to the Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs & Director of Graduate and Professional Pipeline Development for the University System of Maryland (12 institutions). She is the Founding Director of PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) –, and Co-PI for the USM LSAMP. Her research on global diversity in STEM continues, and she is an international speaker, covering nearly all continents, for groups and conferences such as the World Engineering Education Forum, the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, and the Pacific Sciences Congress. Her personal website is: Connect with her on Twitter: @Renetta_Tull;

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