The Power of a Helping Hand

“EDUCATION IS THE GREAT ENGINE OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT” -activist and peacebuilder Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s idea is embodied by UB, an institution dedicated to helping students and community members create meaningful personal and professional futures while giving back and making a difference.

We highlight two programs that empower people in challenging circumstances. By providing resources and support, these initiatives give participants tools to choose their next steps. After all, as Mandela also noted, “It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”


When UB undergraduate Marcus Lilly, 36, came to campus, he had some of the first-day jitters that most students experience. But Lilly brought with him the confidence that comes from being a veteran student: For more than a year, he had been attending UB classes at the Jessup Correctional Institution through the University’s Second Chance College Program.

“Prison can make you feel like an outcast,” Lilly says. “The program helped me believe I belonged in
a classroom.”

A 2016 Experimental Sites Initiative of the United States Department of Education’s Pell Grant program, Second Chance provides post-secondary education to incarcerated students. Research shows that those who participate in educational programs while incarcerated have a significantly better chance of successfully transitioning into society and finding employment, as well as lower rates of recidivism.

“Education changes your worldview and mindset. You feel empowered in many areas: as a parent, a worker, a community leader.” – MARCUS LILLY

LEFT TO RIGHT: Andrea Cantora, Latonya Epps, and Marcus Lilly. (photo by Chris Hartlove)

“Education changes your worldview and mindset,” says Lilly, a Human Services Administration major and Helen P. Denit honors scholar at UB. “You feel empowered in many areas: as a parent, a worker, a community leader.”

Expanding educational access to Second Chance students is extremely rewarding, says Andrea Cantora, director of the program and associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice. “These are some of the most motivated students I have ever worked with,” Cantora says. “Seeing their love for learning and how they strive to excel is inspiring. If we weren’t providing this program they would still be trying to educate themselves.”

During the fall semester of 2018, 45 men at Jessup, who range in age from early 20s to 60-plus, are completing coursework towards a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Administration degree. Non-students can also participate in a mentorship and tutoring program developed by UB faculty and staff. “Incarcerated men who are active leaders and role models in the prison community—and who are strongly committed to helping their peers succeed—attend classes with students and help them with their studies,” explains Cantora.

The program also provides support as the men return home and begin attending classes. Second Chance Reentry Coordinator Latonya Epps, B.S. ’16, says the transition period for former inmates is complicated. “It can seem overwhelming,” she explains, noting that many of the men are simultaneously searching for jobs, beginning classes, and updating identification and records. “Even dealing with technology is a challenge—most have had limited access to laptops and no internet use, and may need updated skills to submit paperwork and job applications online.”

Epps is available to help with everything from providing transportation for job interviews to lending a listening ear. But the most gratifying part of her job, she says, is “welcoming the students to campus—being able to see their excitement, give them a hug and tell them we’re glad to have them here.”

Lilly is one of the first Second Chance students who has transitioned to UB. But, Cantora says, more than 40 will be eligible for release in the next several years. “We are already anticipating how we can increase support services and involve some of the men who are already on campus,” she says.

In addition to his UB studies, Lilly works at Concerted Care Group supporting individuals who are dealing with substance abuse and addiction. “What drives me is to see people do better,” he says. And, he continues, having opportunities to help others, especially at-risk youth, is important to him: “I feel I owe that to the guys still inside, who are dedicated to changing their lives.”



Fewer than 20 years ago, support services for victims of crime were almost nonexistent. But now an ever-growing range of professionals in a variety of fields are dedicated to helping them and their families deal with the effects of crime and its aftermath.

For over fifteen years the Roper Victim Assistance Academy of Maryland (RVAAM) has been a catalyst in the shift toward more comprehensive services and protections. Based at UB, RVAAM sponsors an annual five-day residential training program and certification for service providers, conducts regional workshops and events throughout the year, and facilitates a large alumni network. The Academy is named in honor of Stephanie Roper, who was killed in 1982, and her parents, who were early and important advocates for victims and their families.

Director Debra Stanley says that the RVAAM and similar organizations help to transform the landscape for victims and those who assist them. “Victim advocacy has developed primarily through grassroots efforts, and academically-based training and certification have helped to legitimize the field,” she says. A professor in the School of Criminal Justice, Stanley has conducted extensive research in victimology and other areas, and also developed substance abuse treatment and violence-prevention programs for high-risk youth and criminal justice populations.

“Our goal is to give service providers tools to meet people where they are and empower them in whatever way is right for them.” – DEBRA STANLEY

Debra Stanley (photo by JJ Chrystal)

RVAAM attendees include victim service professionals, social workers, victim advocates, teachers, counselors, clinicians and criminal justice professionals, and, adds Stanley, “there are always some UB students in the group.” The curriculum is focused on the state of Maryland, although other states do recognize RVAAM certification.

“We cover current policies and procedures, legislation, best practices and other developments in victim services and victim’s rights,” Stanley explains. In addition to a 500-page manual of resources that is updated yearly, the program incorporates role playing, art therapy, case studies and other hands-on techniques that involve participants.

Staying on site at facilities such as Bon Secours Conference Center in Mariottsville, Maryland (the site of the summer 2018 training) is key to the program’s effectiveness, says Suzy Boisclair. Boisclair, who is the Supervisor of the Victim Services Unit of the Frederick Police Department in Maryland, attended the Academy in 2012. “The residential format is so valuable,” she says. “It allows you to go into depth with a variety of key topics, and build relationships and professional ties.

You learn about yourself, too,” she continues, noting that victim support work is challenging and can be depleting. “Self-awareness, self-care and connecting with others in the field is critical—you form bonds that continue long after the program is over.”

In addition to staying involved with the alumni network, Boisclair has also attended RVAAM regional workshops, which are often developed in response to requests for particular types of information. “The local trainings are very helpful because the needs we’re dealing with at a particular time in Frederick may be different from the needs of victim services providers in other regions of Maryland,” she says.

Rosemary Raiman, who recently retired from her position as coordinator of the domestic violence branch of the Charles County State’s Attorney’s office, attended the training in 2004. “When I began advocacy work 24 years ago, we were looking for credentials of some kind, and couldn’t find them,” she says. “Roper Academy was a blessing, giving us greater professional credibility as well as a broader knowledge of what’s available for those we serve.”

This year Raiman’s granddaughter Emily, a student at the University of Maryland, attended RVAAM training. “Emily is in the criminal justice program and has been involved in many events with me over the years,” she explains. “Seeing her passion for this work and watching her graduate from the Academy fourteen years after I did was very special.”

The impact from a crime is different for everyone, Stanley says. “Our goal is to give service providers tools to meet people where they are and empower them in whatever way is right for them.”

Paula Novash is managing editor of the magazine.

Taylor Jenkins

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has long been considered the golden ticket to career advancement, the degree that can open the salary coffers and the boardroom’s doors. Considering that women represent 47 percent of the workforce, one would expect their numbers to be commensurate in MBA programs. Yet studies show that female enrollment at the country’s highest business schools gets less than top marks.

A recent study by the Forté Foundation states that women’s enrollment in full time MBA programs at its member schools—which represent the top business schools in the United States and abroad—was just 37.4 percent in 2017. That’s up 4 percent from 33.4 percent in the fall of 2013.

Progress, but hardly pacesetting.

More concerning, the Chronicle of Higher Education cites research that indicates women’s attendance in MBA programs has not only plateaued, but that the number of females applying to the MBA program has decreased in recent years.

Not so at the University of Baltimore, where female enrollment in the MBA program for fall 2017 was 53 percent. Why are women still under-abundant in MBA programs? And what is UB doing differently?

According to Lisa Stickney, chair of the Department of Management and International Business and associate professor of management in UB’s Merrick School of Business, there’s no simple answer.

“Women, like everyone else, are overwhelmed doing a million things, so the idea of going back to school can be daunting,” she says. “And I think there’s still a perception in some circles that an MBA is a man’s degree and, if you look at the upper echelons of business, there is still a glass ceiling, doubly so if you’re a minority and female.”

This dearth of female executives coupled with ongoing pay disparity complicate the business school landscape. Research by the Forté Foundation states that women still account for only 17 percent of boardroom positions and 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. While a woman obtaining an MBA can still expect immediate pay gains of 35-40 percent of her pre-MBA salary, because of the gender-based wage gap the return on investment in education for a female is less.

Stickney states that UB’s history as a place of entrepreneurship and its standing as “a professional school for professional people” uniquely positions it to serve the needs of busy working women seeking the career advantages an MBA provides. Because many women not only work but are primary caregivers for their families, a return to school may seem impossible from both a financial and a time perspective. The flexibility UB offers is essential; program options include specialized entrepreneurial tracks as well as a general business track, and both asynchronous online courses and evening classes on campus.

“People need to understand what the degree will do for them, because no one is going to go back to school if they don’t know how it will serve them,” says Stickney. “They need to know we can help you understand the world of business better.” Stickney adds that the program can be tailored through extensive elective courses; there’s even the option to create a customized specialization.

Women in UB’s MBA program are utilizing the degree in a wide variety of professions. In the following pages, current and former MBA students share their experiences.Tracy Imm

Tracy Imm, MBA ’92
Director of Public Affairs,
Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA)

When Imm was appointed by the governor to her current post at MIA in 2016, it was her first political appointment. She’s spent most of her career in corporate communications in Fortune 500 companies. But now she’s reached a stage when she wants to give back.

When an executive training program offered to fund her MBA, Imm chose UB because the convenient location and the richness of the program appealed to her. She says the degree has been instrumental in every job offer and promotion she’s received since.

“If you’re going to work in the business world you need to speak the language of the executive suite,” she states. “Because I have a business degree on top of my communications experience I was more than a communications manager. It’s been a competitive differentiator. Once you have that degree and can speak that language, you get a seat at the table where strategic decisions are made.”

“Once you have that degree and can speak that language, you get a seat at the table where strategic decisions are made.” – TRACY IMM

Two years ago, Imm started a consulting practice, Tracy Imm Worldwide, to provide executive coaching and leadership training for women. She’s also authored The Brave Girls Guide to Work That You Love and Conquer Shame and Claim Success: Three Keys to Abundance, Love, and Leadership to facilitate her work. Imm recently launched her own podcast, as well, Brave Girls with Tracy Imm. She anticipates that the gaps that can stall a woman’s career will slowly close as a new generation moves up in the workforce and as women start their own enterprises.

“We’re in a transition from a patriarchal, command-and-control way of running organizations to a more diverse, inclusive way,” Imm says. “The traditional structure isn’t appealing to women. That pendulum is swinging but there’s a long way to go to address work life balance and how we want to work now.” By having a “seat at the table” Imm can be an influential part of the change she expects to come.

Renee ChristoffRenee Christoff, MBA ’91
Vice President and Head of Global Associate
Engagement + Corporate Responsibility, T. Rowe Price

Renee Christoff was halfway through an MBA program in New York when her husband’s job moved them to Baltimore. Christoff was working in finance, though her academic background was in political science and she had a Master’s degree in European History.

“Because I had such a liberal arts background I pursued the MBA to leverage the other side of my brain,” she states. “Getting the MBA made me more well-rounded and gave me a better appreciation for the business environment in which I was working.”

She chose to complete her MBA at UB because she could go part-time on her own schedule. She liked that her fellow students were also working professionals, bringing maturity to the classroom as well as opportunities for her to build her local business network. She states that the professors were “rock solid” and brought a diversity of experience in work and academia to the program.

“Because I had such a liberal arts background I pursued the MBA to leverage the other side of my brain.” -RENEE CHRISTOFF

It is useful background for her current role. Christoff and her team analyze employee surveys to take the pulse of employee satisfaction and develop programs to support employee experience and engagement. She also creates corporate responsibility programs and community engagement opportunities for T. Rowe Price employees.

During her MBA program, Christoff says, “I took an international marketing class and one of the speakers was from McCormick. It really ignited my interest in international marketing, something I hadn’t thought about at all. I now work for a global company and it all ties nicely to my international politics background and to my understanding of how things work across different cultures and backgrounds and how you make that work in a diverse corporate culture.”

Michelle BoardmanMichelle Boardman, MBA ’08
Senior Manager, Branding & Publications, Global
Engagement & Communications, Jhpiego

Boardman’s journey to her MBA began at an unlikely spot: the Allentown Museum in Pennsylvania where she was working as a curator.

“I’d started looking at a career change because my specialty was in historic and contemporary textiles and there were not many museums with a textile collection big enough to warrant a curator,” she recalls. She accepted a position as the manager of creative services at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) with an eye to moving up in administration. A colleague from the Allentown Museum suggested she obtain her MBA.

“He strongly urged me to go back and get an MBA in nonprofit management because nonprofits were becoming increasingly savvy about operating by standard business practices,” she explains. “Part of that pressure was coming from their boards, which were comprised of executives. It was important to be able to speak to them on their level.”

“They could see the leap I could make from the art world to global health, in part because of the MBA.” -MICHELLE BOARDMAN

She entered the UB program in 2001 and took courses for years at night and on weekends, eventually graduating with a 4.0. She describes UB as “a motivational place,” where everyone was balancing work and family with their schooling, and where she discovered that she could excel in the finance and math classes she never imagined she would enjoy. No sooner had she received her MBA than she was promoted at the BMA.

Eight years later, after the 2016 election, Boardman decided it was time to career shift again, this time to an organization working to better the world. She was hired at Jhpiego, a non-governmental organization (NGO) affiliated with Johns Hopkins University.
Its 4,000 employees work on health issues facing women and families around the globe.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the MBA,” she states definitively. “I went after one of the largest NGOs in Baltimore, one doing innovative work, and they could see the leap I could make from the art world to global health, in part because of the MBA.”

Taylor JenkinsTaylor Jenkins
Marketing assistant, Humentum; current MBA student

Taylor Jenkins jumped directly into the MBA program in 2016, fresh from her college graduation. She currently works in marketing at the Washington, D.C. –based nonprofit, Humentum, and explains that it was important to her to have the competitive edge needed for career advancement.

“This gives me more skills, because even with my concentration in marketing I get so many different types of courses. It raises the stakes of the knowledge I have and that can be applied in many ways,” she explains. “It’s even more important now because it seems having a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough to advance in your career.”

Although she lives in Montgomery County, Jenkins says UB’s combination of flexibility and quality made the program a good fit. She’s able to take a combination of online and on-campus courses so she can manage work and school. “I think there’s a misconception that you don’t get as much out of online course work,” she notes, “but it’s extremely challenging—you must be very focused.”

She adds that UB is working hard to break down the stereotype that business is male dominated. “There is support for everyone, in general,” she says. “You see a diversity of men and women even when you go to the website to apply. As I’ve been there taking classes I’ve always felt respected and valued. There may not be as many women in class but I’ve never felt intimidated.”

Jenkins is still figuring out her future. She likes her current work in digital marketing but she also aspires to start her own business. “That’s one of the things I really appreciate about this program,” she explains. “It gives me the flexibility to stick with marketing, which I love, but also gives me the potential to do my own thing.”

J.M. KitnerJ. M. Kitner
Current MBA student

Kitner always knew she wanted to get her MBA. However, when she completed her undergraduate degree in 2008 in an economy in shambles, she chose to be strategic rather than accrue more debt from school loans. She also wanted to get real world experience before going after another degree, anticipating it would enrich her MBA program. When she moved to Baltimore from Florida four years ago, the time was right to return to school.

UB’s flexibility, particularly the option to do coursework online, appealed to her. She’s found the program insightful, with a good balance of discussion forums, case studies, readings and real life experiences. She’s already using skills from her theoretical leadership and marketing classes.

Kitner expects the MBA will give her greater flexibility and marketability as she navigates her career path. “There is still a glass ceiling,” she states. “I feel that additional education will reduce that for me.

“I want to thrive in whatever role I choose to pursue in my career and the program will help me do that,” she continues. “The program has challenged my thought processes, it’s challenged how I interact with people, it’s challenged the way I approach and solve problems. There are so many benefits attached to the MBA in terms of professional and personal growth.”

“There is still a glass ceiling. I feel that additional education will reduce that for me.” -J.M. KITNER

Kitner theorizes that many women opt out of the MBA program because they anticipate that the workload is intense and difficult to balance with the demands of work and life. “It is all true—it is intimidating and a lot of work,” she confirms. “This definitely stretched me out of my comfort zone.”

But, she continues, that does not mean it isn’t possible or worthwhile. Kitner hopes to lead by example and it appears to be working—a colleague told her recently that watching Kitner pursue her degree has inspired her to go back to get her own MBA.

“Even beyond the MBA, there’s still a lot of pressure on women to act a certain way—to not sound bossy, for example—and that holds women back,” she explains. “Historically speaking, the world I’m in has been a man’s world and, across leadership, it continues to be. Representation matters. There’s a desire among women to do this, but you need representation so you can say: Yes, I can do it too.”

Christianna McCausland is a writer based in Baltimore.
Photography by Christopher Myers.

Jump Starting the College Experience


Over the summer, visitors to campus might notice that some students in the classrooms look a bit younger than the typical UB undergrad or graduate student. That’s because they’re still in high school; some are even middle schoolers. For the past four years, students have come from all over Baltimore City to participate in UB’s Early College Initiatives (ECI) program’s five-week Summer Academy.>>

I’man Brooks, a student at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, in ECI class. (all photography by Chris Hartlove)

“We had close to 400 students on campus in summer 2018,” says John Brenner, B.A. ’01, MBA ’16, director of the ECI program. “It makes for a lively atmosphere.”

These students are attending classes taught by UB professors. High school students follow the same curriculum as UB freshmen. They can earn one college credit for completing a UB course, with a choice of Introduction to Video Game Design or Racial and Social Justice. Seventh- and eighth-graders take a non-credit version of these classes, and additional course offerings are planned for summer 2019.

ECI alumni (left to right) Richard Nwokeji, Kimberlee Jenkins, and Verna Agyei-Obese join program director John Brenner (second from right).

The ECI program also runs a 10-week College Readiness Academy throughout the school year that prepares students in city high schools to be better equipped to enter college by introducing them to college-level math and writing. Students who do well may be eligible for the Dual Enrollment program, which allows them to take college courses while still in high school—and earn college credits in the process. “Earning credit adds value to the offerings. It’s more motivation for the students,” says Brenner.

What started as an underfunded after-school program in a single high school has exploded into an ever-expanding initiative with nearly a dozen nonprofit partners that now serves more than 400 middle and high school students throughout Baltimore. In a city with a high school dropout rate of more than 13 percent, the expansion of UB’s programs is important and encouraging.


Brenner joined the program in 2015 and his dedication and leadership are motivated by personal experience. He was born and raised in Baltimore City and came from a blue-collar family that did not prioritize education. “No male in my family had a high school diploma,” he says. “Attending college was an alien concept.”

So when Brenner decided to drop out of school at age 16, no one objected. He expected to get a good factory job like his father’s. But times had changed; Brenner soon discovered that without a high school diploma, he couldn’t get any job at all. Like many people he grew up with, he says, he was headed down a bad path. He describes himself at that time as “a different person.”

“When I saw, this is going to end really fast, really badly, I decided to get my GED,” says Brenner. “I went to the library, got books, studied on my own.” When he received his excellent test scores, he recalls, “I was blown away. I really didn’t know what my potential was.” That was all the motivation he needed to continue his education. He remembers thinking, “I must be meant to do something more.”

Brenner went on to earn his associate’s degree in fine arts from Baltimore City Community College—maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout—followed by a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from UB, a master of liberal arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, and an MBA from UB. With a laugh he says, “I just kept going, following my passions, and never stopped.”

That’s not to say it was easy. Brenner worked his way through school mostly as a part-time student, first working in gas stations at night and later tutoring and teaching at any college that would hire him, including UB. “I put myself through St. John’s teaching as an adjunct at five different colleges,” he says. The sacrifices were worth it. From the first time he stepped onto a college campus, he recalls, “Everything changed—I was around people like me.”

Brenner was working as an assistant in the ECI program when his supervisor left in 2015. He seized the opportunity to grow the program by reaching out to people and forging new relationships. Now ECI has a network of nonprofit partners including local initiatives KIPP Through College, Sisters Circle, THREAD, SquashWise, Urban Alliance, Code in the Schools and Building STEPS. These partners help identify the students who participate in ECI, as well as provide funding. As the network continued to grow, so did enrollment.

High schoolers who attend the Summer Academy are also supported in other ways; they are registered for YouthWorks, a summer employment program for Baltimore students offered through the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. Through YouthWorks’ support, attending classes is, in part,
a summer job for them.


Brenner prefers to hire UB adjunct professors and UB graduates to teach ECI’s courses. This past summer, he had 12 instructors working for him. “For me, hiring UB grads is part of the vision,” he says.

One of those instructors is Olusegun Aje, a 2017 graduate of UB’s M.S. in Nonprofit Management and Social Entrepreneurship program. Aje, whose goal is to become a college professor one day, taught middle schoolers in the 2018 Summer Academy.

“When I see the students who are totally engaged, who get it, that’s an opportunity for me to say ‘UB, this is somebody right here you should put a lot of time and attention into.'” – OLUSEGUN AJE

“The program is really important because a lot of these students have the capacity to be successful college students, but they already struggle with self-esteem issues,” says Aje. “So for some of them, the idea of going to college may not seem attainable and it may not necessarily be something they push hard for after graduation.”

Aje has already seen what exposure to a college campus, course and professors can do for students. “When I see the students who are totally engaged, who get it, that’s an opportunity for me to say, ‘UB, this is somebody right here you should put a lot of time and attention into.’ I know once they get into college they’re going to be great.”


Brenner considers ECI’s Dual Enrollment program, now in its ninth year, to be its core offering. The program sends UB adjunct professors into high schools in Baltimore City to teach courses in writing and math. Students can earn three college credits by taking the same courses as UB freshmen.

ECI instructor Katie Graul leads a class of students from the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.

In 2017, 370 students took part in the Dual Enrollment program. By Spring 2019, Brenner anticipates ECI will be in 18 of the 39 public high schools in Baltimore City, and he has no intention of stopping there. “I think we can make a bigger impact,” he says. “My vision is to offer college credit options to every high school student in the city.”

A huge financial catalyst for ECI occurred in August 2016, says Brenner, when the University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor’s office launched an initiative called B-Power that provided funding to UB and Coppin State. This kicked off a chain reaction in which ECI began attracting private sector funding and philanthropy, doubling the USM investment. The program receives significant support from private and foundation donations to UB, including from Robert Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, Legg Mason, the Shelter Foundation and the SunTrust Foundation. (Students, parents and schools pay nothing to participate in ECI.)

It’s become clear that ECI directly benefits UB, too, as students begin to graduate from high school and enroll there. And Brenner notes that if they don’t come to UB, ECI graduates tend to go to another USM school. Many of them are first-generation college students, just as he was, although he says these students are already way ahead of him: “They’re entering college with half their freshmen credits and two graduate requirements that they’ve already knocked off. And they do well in the courses.”

This is especially significant given the city’s low college enrollment statistics. According to Baltimore City Public Schools’ most recent data, less than half of high school students continue their education immediately after graduation: only 43.6 percent of the Class of 2015 enrolled in college by the following fall.

Whether ECI graduates go on to earn several more degrees like he did or go straight into the work force doesn’t matter to Brenner. “I just don’t want them to disappear. One in four students in the city don’t show up in college rolls or in work force rolls after they graduate high school,” he says, noting that he was one of those students in danger of slipping through the cracks. “I’m hoping that we can show them you don’t have to be the one in four. You can
be among the three in four.”

Abigail Green, M.A. ’01, is a writer based in Baltimore.
Photography by Chris Hartlove.