Elizabeth Silberholz is a former Editor-in-Chief of The Retriever.
In 1973, over 40 years ago, my father attended his first class at UMBC. The Administration Building was brand new and streakers and protestors were campus mainstays. Almost every student commuted and campus was almost unrecognizable compared to the UMBC of today.
Flash forward to freshman move-in day 11 years ago. I was settling into Potomac Hall, one of the few dorms that existed in the ’70s. I thought I was preparing for life as a high school science teacher. It was not until reflecting years later that I realized how a series of unexpected events at UMBC shaped my friendships, interests and ultimately my career path.
I was surprised by how quickly I made friends. By the end of Welcome Week, I had an inseparable new companion. By the end of month one, I made friends with my roommate for the next three years. There is something to be said for letting luck, mixed with a love of sitting in the second row, serve as the nidus for friendship.
Perhaps it was the allure of free pizza, but one crisp autumn day, I found myself at a Retriever Weekly staff meeting. The newsroom was crammed with people, buzzing with excitement as plans were made for the paper’s next edition. I shyly approached the news editor after the din subsided and was quickly swept into the paper’s weekly cycle. In the course of a semester, I was sequentially promoted from writer to editor-in-chief. Talk about unexpected.
In the hectic two years that followed, I drifted sleeplessly through an overbooked schedule crammed with organic chemistry and upper-level biology courses, waves of articles to be edited and arranged and countless meetings with Retriever staff, student organization leaders and university officials. In those caffeine-fueled months, I learned resilience, management skills and how to get by on only a few hours of sleep.
A surprise offer for an undergraduate teaching assistant position further honed my ability to lead, while also developing pedagogical skills. Working as a TA revealed an unsettling truth, though. While I loved teaching, the career I craved was not that of a science educator.
Enter my final and most fateful encounter at UMBC: the Sports Medicine program. One evening, sitting in the dark of Lecture Hall 4, an Honors College mentor canvassed my small group, looking for someone willing to work as a student athletic trainer in exchange for gym credit. Given my propensity to trip, I applied immediately. Years of mentorship from the program’s athletic trainers and physicians shifted my interests to medicine. Without that chance offer, would I have applied to medical school? Without the skills learned at The Retriever Weekly and through working as a TA, would I have survived the 80-hour workweeks of a pediatric residency?
In only a decade, UMBC had grown again, with the new Performing Arts and Humanities Building now dominating the skyline. My hope for students is that they allow chance to guide their experiences on campus and transform their futures. UMBC has the power to change you, if you let it.