University of Maryland Global Campus is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 UMGC Student Organization Awards. These winners worked hard throughout the year to encourage student development and engagement within the UMGC community and were able to turn pandemic-related challenges into new opportunities.
Student Organization of the Year
Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society for the Social Sciences, Maryland Theta Chapter
The Maryland Theta chapter of Pi Gamma Mu did not let a worldwide pandemic get in the way of planning activities and engaging members. Led by chapter officers Dillon Dorsey, Mia Terrell, Allison Stein, and Kristen Gipson, with the support of faculty advisors Katherine Im and Emma Bate, the group worked hard to provide students with opportunities for growth, academic recognition, and engagement.
Throughout the year, the chapter—a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award—promoted community service by encouraging members to volunteer virtually for the Citizen Archivist program with the National Archives. In the fall, the chapter partnered with the Behavioral and Social Sciences Student Association (BSSSA) to hold a webinar about graduate school, and in the spring, Maryland Theta held its award-winning annual social science essay contest. Many of these activities help engage not just the honor society members, but any UMGC student who has an interest in the social science field.
The chapter has a lot to look forward to in the upcoming year, starting with hosting the virtual 2021 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. In addition, the chapter recently held its annual induction ceremony, welcoming more than 180 new student members, many of whom will be eager to keep the chapter going strong.
Student Organization Advisor Award
Jesse Varsalone, UMGC Cyber Competition Team
As coach for the UMGC Cyber Competition Team, Jesse Varsalone had to ensure that the student members were still able to test their skills and grow despite challenges related to the pandemic. Professor Varsalone held more than 40 meetings with the team, keeping them engaged and allowing them to network and practice their skills. He also instituted a Speaker Series, bringing in high-profile professionals to engage with the team members.
In terms of competitions, Professor Varsalone redeveloped the tryout process for the team. He opened tryouts to students who are career changers, enabling more students to have the opportunity to compete. He and the team's faculty helped prepare the students so that they went on to place in multiple competitions in 2020 and 2021. Professor Varsalone's dedication and enthusiasm to the UMGC Cyber Competition Team and its members are unparalleled.
Student Organization Leader Award
Kristen Gipson, 2020–2021 Communications Chair, Pi Gamma Mu, Maryland Theta Chapter
As communications chair of the Maryland Theta chapter of Pi Gamma Mu, Kristen Gipson focused on helping the group run smoothly and engaging its members. Initiatives she helped coordinate include developing virtual communities for the chapter and planning a webinar panel in partnership with another group. She also served on the panel to share her experience with the graduate school application process. In addition, Gipson reached out individually to each of the more than 100 members to hear about their preferences. Her dedication and involvement has helped the chapter better communicate with its members and the community.
Student Organization Member Award
Paul Chilcote, UMGC Cyber Competition Team
During the five years Paul Chilcote has been an active member on the UMGC Cyber Competition Team, he has been a valuable contributor and mentor to others. He has finished on several first-, second-, and third-place teams, including recently being on a four-member team that earned 91 out of 100 points, winning first place in the country among all four-year universities. Chilcote has also served as team captain on other teams.
Best-in-Show Activities and Events Awards
"Ask Me Anything" Speaker Series, English and Humanities Club
The English and Humanities Club developed a new event series that enables students to ask questions of humanities professionals from various fields and learn about their work in the community. First organized by the club advisor, the series was taken over by a team of students who coordinated the events during the second half of the academic year. Members have been able to hear from various professionals, including an artist and podcaster, a film maker and musician, and a historian. The speakers also discuss how studying the humanities has helped them in their careers and beyond.
BSSSA Newsletter, Behavioral and Social Sciences Student Association
To stay connected with members and encourage discussion, the leaders of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Student Association developed a newsletter. The goals of the newsletter are to share opportunities available in the field, establish an informal peer-mentoring tradition, and provide a connection between students. The first edition came out in the spring semester, and the association plans to continue the activity into the next academic year.
CyberMaryland Competition, UMGC Cyber Competition Team
At the annual CyberMaryland Conference, which brings in students and professionals from around the country, the UMGC Cyber Competition Team hosted a national cyber competition for two-year and four-year schools. The UMGC Cyber Competition Team held meetings for all competitors and coaches from other colleges and universities to allow teams to collaborate and to provide insight and reflection on the event's educational components. The competition gathered top national cyber talent competing in an online virtual competition.