University of Maryland Individual Studies Program

Alumni News and Updates

Below are some of the updates that we have received from Program Alumni about their achievements and experiences since graduation!  To see what IVSP students have achieved, visit the Student News page. If you are an IVSP alumni, please contact us at to update us on your activities and accomplishments! Put in the subject line: Alumni News. We welcome photos too. Stay in touch with your fellow IVSP graduates!


Ann Langis (Child Advocacy, 1996)

October 2017: Ann writes to the Individual Studies Program: "After my degree in Child Advocacy I moved on to Harvard and received a Master's Degree in Education. After several years of teaching elementary school in Washington DC my husband and I took a break to travel the world. We ended up living in New Zealand (and still live there today!) where I worked with special needs students until giving birth to my first child. Soon after, we joined an incredible organization called Playcentre, an early childhood co-operative which provides free early childhood and parent education, along with political advocacy for over 4,000 families. Over the past 12 years I have worked for Playcentre as a parent educator, as a child educator, as co-ordinator for curriculum delivery, and was elected as a trustee to the national board of directors. In addition to my work with Playcentre, I was involved with starting up a 100% nature play program for school aged children called Conscious Kids. This program, modeled after the forest schools in Europe, provides children with the chance to build confidence and take risks in nature, climbing trees and building huts, in all weather conditions! Currently we run after school and summer holiday programs, but are in the process of expanding the program into a full elementary school.
I love my work and I know it makes a difference for children and families. The IVSP program gave me huge confidence to follow my own passions in life, and I am so thankful for that. "


Mohammad Zia (Global Diplomacy and Development, 2014)

May 2017: Mohammad Zia, a 2015 alumnus with a major in Global Diplomacy and Development, through the Individual Studies Program, has been offered a 2017-18 Fulbright award to conduct research in Morocco. Mr. Zia’s project title is: “Public Policy and Institutional Frameworks to Encourage Solar Energy Uptake in Morocco.” He has proposed to conduct semi-standardized interviews to investigate Morocco’s progress in supply and demand policies to facilitate the growth of its nascent yet ambitious solar sector. Researching Morocco’s solar policy could lead to critical lessons for cultivating solar energy in similar Arab and African countries. Mr. Zia recently earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Oxford and is currently a Luce Scholar with the Indonesian Ministry of Energy. At Maryland he was a member of the Honors College, the Federal Fellows Program, and the Hinman CEOs Program. He is a past recipient of Boren, Truman, PPIA, and Rangel awards.Mr. Zia's long-term goal is to seek employment with the U.S. government working at the intersection of foreign policy and sustainable energy development.

March 2016: Mohammad was named a Luce Scholar for 2016-17. As a Luce Scholar, Mohammad will have the opportunity to complete an internship in Asia. As he is currently completing a Masters degree in Energy Resources and Economic Policy at the University of Oxford, Mohammad hopes to work in an organization in Malaysia or Indonesia that focuses on energy policy and economic development. Mohammad is one of 18 total scholars for this coming academic year.


Frank Luciano (Technological Marketing, 2003)Frank

April 2017: Frank is working with nationwide food delivery startup called Goldbely. In short, Goldbely powers the e-commerce for many of the nation's most iconic food makers and restaurants, helping customers find the best food around the country and have it shipped to their door. They were named one of Time Magazine's top 50 websites of the year after their launch and have been named as one of the top startups out there over the years by many other media sources.


Mackenzie Burnett (International Relations: Democracy and Diplomacy, 2015)

March 2017: Mackenzie and her business partner, UMD alumnus Dan Gillespie were named in Forbes as 30 under 30 in Enterprise Technology for their startup Redspread. Congratulations Mackenzie!


Meg Eden (Cognitive Science and Written Communication, 2012)

March 2017: Meg has just announced that her debut novel, Post-High School Reality Quest will be available in June for purchase. She will be celebrating with a Book Launch on June 30th from 7-9pm at Atomic Books in Baltimore. Congratulations Meg!

May 2014: Meg has written a chapbook titled The Girl Who Came Back, and has received great reviews.

Neon Magazine
Daily Dose of Lit


Barry Louis Polisar (Literature and Film, 1977)

Barry Polisar

March 2017: Barry writes to the Individual Studies Program:

"I just got back from a school visit today in a low income school in Prince Georges County, where I spoke about my experiences at the University of Maryland—and specifically the Individual Studies program where I was able to combine my love of books, poetry, and film into a major that has carried me through the last 40 plus years of my career.

I’m still in touch with some of my professors from that time and hardly a week goes by when I don’t find myself thinking about the courses I took then and how they ended up shaping my life and career.

Since before graduating, I’ve made my living as a songwriter and performing artist for children, but soon after graduating, branched out into writing books for children (and some for adults), hosting a TV show for kids, fighting a first amendment rights censorship battle, having songs on two Grammy Award Winning albums and in an Oscar-Award winning film, and watching as my songs began appearing in films, TV shows, and on commercials throughout the world.

Barry Louis Polisar"


Chad Zooker (the Neurobiological Basis of Sports Performance, 2000)

Chad Zooker M.D.

March 2017: Chad is putting his IVSP major to spectacular use in his work as an Orthopaedic surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy in Baltimore, Maryland.


Bob Moyer (Computer Graphics, 2000)

Bob Moyer speaking on campus

September 2016: Bob came to campus to give a presentation to the UMD community as well as have lunch with IVSP students.

February 2016: Bob was the character and sets supervisor for Pixar's Inside Out. The film won Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards this year! Congratulations to Bob and the entire team of Inside Out!

October 2012: Bob gave a presentation to University of Maryland Students about his innovative work as he continues to work at Pixar Animation Studios. An estimated 250 students attended.

June 2011: Bob is featured in an article in The Baltimore Sun about his work on the recent film Cars 2. He's also profiled in a recent Washington Post article.

April 2009: Bob gave a blockbuster presentation on his innovative work at Pixar Animation Studios at the University of Maryland. Over 100 people attended. Bob praised IVSP for supporting and encouraging his creative major and innovative, interdisciplinary work! This Spring, he was selected as UGST's 2009 UM Distinguished Alumni Award winner. You can read more about him in The Advisor, the Undergraduate Studies newsletter.


Hudson Taylor (Interactive Performance Art, 2010)

Hudson Taylor

April 2016: Hudson's non-profit, Athlete Ally, seeks to develop allies to end homophobia and encourage respect towards LGBT athletes. Lafayette College recently developed a new branch of Athlete Ally on their campus to continue Hudson's work. Read about how Hudson and Lafayette athletics are working together to foster an inclusive community here.

April 2012: Hudson was awarded the 2012 UGST Distinguished Alumni Award for his work in his non-profit, Athlete Ally!

October 2011: Hudson Taylor was featured in an article in the Huffington Post, as well as a video by Metro Weekly where he talks about Athlete Ally.

January 2011: Hudson Taylor was featured in an Article by the Human Rights Campaign to talk about the launching of his non-profit, Athlete Ally.


Kevin Kadish (Music Management, 1993)

January 2015: Kevin was featured in Terp Magazine for co-writing and producing the 2014 song "All About That Bass."
Read the article here.


John Murray (Digital Narratives, 2009)

January 2015: John's company, Seebright, has unveiled the Seebright Wave (TM) Head-Mounted Display System that supports mixed media applications for iOS and Android smartphones for Augmented Reality Display. Read the article here.

June 2013: John's company, Seebright, made their first appearance at the 2013 Augmented World Expo and has been named a Google Glass Competitor.


Rebecca Zorn (International Relations, 2009)

Summer 2014: Rebecca is currently working in Laos as a Diaster Risk Management Specialist. The United Nations Development Programme also just put together a video in which Rebecca was interviewed and the training that she does was featured. She also recommended an article for recent graduates entitled: "Graduation advice for aspiring humanitarians."

Summer 2011: Rebecca has written three blog posts about the NGO she worked with in Guatemala through Miracles in Action.


Aaron Shapiro (Global Health, 2011)

May 2014: Congratulations to Aaron who will be attending Brown University for Medical School!

October 2012: Aaron just published article in Service Mad, a very widely spread magazine in Rwanda.

May 2012:  Aaron is currently working for Gardens for Health International in Kigali Rwanda as a program manager. He is working in Rwanda through a Global Health Corps Fellowship. Aaron has previously working in Tanzania, South Africa, and for USAID in Washington, D.C.  He wrote an article in November 2011 that was published in Partners in Health blog.


Dan Granot (Global Development, 2013)

January 2014: Dan has recieved the inaugural 2014 Next Generation Leadership Award, which recognizes an individual who represents the next generation of leadership in Middlesex County, New Jersey.


Victoria Myers (Renaissance Studies, 2013)

July 2013: The Folger Library has published part of Victoria's Capstone on their blog. Her Capstone researched the history of the Folger's copy of the first printing of The Roaring Girl and ultimately revealed who the previously unknown marginalia writer was.


Randi Levitt (Sports and Recreation Management, 2012)

June 2013: Randi has launched a blog that details her experiences as she continues her studies in graduate school where she will be working to receive a M.S. in Student Affairs in Higher Education, at Miami University.  


Shoshana Rosen (Children with Special Needs and Family Support, 2012)

February 2013: Shoshana has been living in Israel while studying at Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. She describes her experiences by saying, "It is so fun to just learn, no tests, papers, or exams, but to just learn because its something I am passionate about! Besides learning, I have been really loving living in Israel! Jerusalem is one of the most beautiful places i have ever been to! The old stones, tell the story of a city considered holy by three major monotheistic religions."


Dara Padwo-Audick (Drama Therapy, 1982)Dara Padwo Audick 2012: Dara is the co-founder of the Foundation for Global Inspriation which is a nonsectarian media and educational organization dedicated to the promotion of dialogue and positive action among citizens, leaders and nations of the world. They believe worldwide happiness can be increased through positive environmental, health, spiritual and democratic values, attitudes and practices.


Jonathan Joffe (Music Consumerism, 2009)

2012: After leaving the University of Maryland, Jonathan joined a NYC tech startup developing a social music-creation website in 2010. He worked as BreakoutBand's Supervising Music Producer — handling all of the music, content, and strategic campaigns on the site. The company hassince launched their second product, — an online DJ marketing platform where electronic/hip hop DJs can host live virtual events for their fans, grow their social fanbase, and sell tracks. On a small team of only 8 people, Jonathan leads the Content and Artist Relations efforts for Mixify.

June 2010: Jonathan writes to IVSP: "I am about to make a move up to New York City for my first full time job which I am very excited about. After spending my post-college time writing and producing lots of music, I landed a job as Supervising Music Producer and Content Manager for a new company called Breakout Band (moving into public beta this fall). Put simply, Breakout Band is an internet browser based song making machine for teens, tweens, and young adults. It uses a simple interface to allow users to create songs, profiles, collaborate in virtual bands with other users, compete in song charts, etc... It's a really fun product, team, and job!"


Zahra Ashktorab (Middle East Studies, 2011)

Summer 2012: Zahra will be interning in the Radiology Department of NIH this summer.


Laura Hawkins (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, 2010)

Summer 2012: Laura just received word of a prestigious Clarendon Scholarship to pursue a Dphil (PhD) at Oxford. Laura is currently finishing up her Masters in Cunneiform Studies at Oxford and will continue there on her Dphil in Assyriology. 


Caitlin Marshall (Culture, Crime, and Family Health, 2011)

September 25, 2012: the Peace Project was highlighted in an article by the Diamondback.

August 2012: Caitlin moved to Nicaragua to start a community program called "The Peace Project" with two other UMD alumni.  The Project began in August 2011 and has been steadily growing with the help of private donors and lots of community support.  Caitlin and the other Director, Sarah, teach English in the local primary school, offer tutoring three times a week, and started an after school day camp to teach English, sports, dance, and art, among other things.  They also host peace workshops, counseling workshops, and are starting a women's support group. You can check it all out on the web at!


Talia Lewis

Talia Lewis (Health, Culture, and Inequalities Studies, 2010)

March 2011: Talia spoke about taking a "thinkmental" approach to life at TEDxMSIH; Inspiration to Action. You can view the talk here.


Ben Garner (Sport Culture and Communication, 2011)

Since graduating in May of 2011, Ben Garner has worked as an Account Executive for The Aspire Group. With Aspire, which handles all outbound sales and customer service for the University of Maryland Athletic Department, Ben has generated over $175,000 in revenue in just nine months, which leads all sales reps. Because of his leadership and success with Aspire, Ben was recently promoted to Senior Sales Consultant.  Due to his success with The Aspire Group, Ben was contacted about a position with Clear Channel Communications as an Account Executive. After a series of interviews, Ben has decided to join the team starting in May. His responsibilities will include prospecting new clients, constructing and pitching effective advertisements, and maintaining relationships with existing clients. Ben will also assist in planning events and organizing promotional activities with his clients. Clear Channel is based in Rockville, MD, and manages six of the most prominent radio stations in the Washington DC area. 


Andrew Brash (Recreation Management, December 2009)

2011: "I'm working at a new outdoor adventure center called Terrapin Adventures. We're located in Savage, MD, less than 30 minutes from campus. We have a 330-foot zipline, 3-person giant swing with 2 G's of force, a climbing tower with all sorts of options, and a 3-level high challenge course with 18 elements. We also run mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and various other outdoor trips." This is a great opportunity to be guided through outdoor courses by an IVSP student!

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Individual Studies Program  Campus Location: 2407 Marie Mount Hall
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IVSP is a degree granting academic program of the Office of Undergraduate Studies
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