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Kick-Off and Networking Event

Wednesday, October 2nd / 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. / ILSB 118

From Psychology Major to Chief Innovation Officer

UMBC Alum, Jay Nwachu, Shares His Inspiring Story

A former first-generation college student at UMBC, Jay, will share how self-reflection and experiential learning enabled him to fully embrace his strengths forged early in his life as the oldest of five children growing up in Nigeria.   During this talk, he will explore the impact family expectations played in his early academic planning; and how his passion for people ultimately fueled his desire to help others through business platforms and a commitment to entrepreneurship.   With Human Resource experience within private, government, and non-profit sectors – Jay can offer all UMBC students a spirited and informed perspective on the relationship between majors and careers.

6:30pm-8:30pm Skylight Room

Come interact with a panel of UMBC alumni as they share stories of how their undergraduate degree impacts the real-world work they do today.  Students will also have the chance to network with alumni and meet department/program representatives. Food provided.

Panelists Include…

Markus Proctor,  UMBC 2016, INDS  Technology Entrepreneurship & Organizational Management.  As an undergraduate, Markus designed his own degree, participated in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, and launched a multi-award winning start-up. Today, he directs the technology and development operations for a national government affairs organization in Washington D.C while working toward a Master’s degree at Georgetown University. Markus founded Suitland Ventures to continue his entrepreneurial pursuits and started his own scholarship called Innovators of Progress to mentor and support other entrepreneurs with tuition assistance and seed capital.


Chien Zhou, UMBC 2018, Financial Economics and Entrepreneurship.  Graduated in December 2018 with a bachelor’s in Financial Economics and Entrepreneurship. Currently working as a financial analyst at Lockheed Martin. In my spare time I love to watch NFL, play tennis, and swim. My favorite football team is the Indianapolis Colts. During my free time, I am also a huge fan of hiking and kayaking. Lately, I have also gotten into a few hobbies including playing the piano and cooking new recipes I find on Buzzfeed.


Frankie Cerquetti. UMBC 2014, Visual Arts.  Frankie graduated with a BFA in InterMedia and a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. She is a filmmaker and now partners with her mother, Rena, a photographer. Together they started a portrait photography and film business called Storia Studio. As a mother-daughter team their clients vary from nonprofits to businesses. Frankie still applies what she learned as a college student in the visual arts program to her work everyday and believes their business is about collaboration, creativity, and generosity.


Jason Reid.  UMBC 2007, Mechanical Engineering.  Jason was born and raised in Maryland and graduated from UMBC with a degree in Mechanical Engineering (ME) in 2007.  He moved west to Californiaand completed an MS at Stanford and and a PhD at UC Berkeley, also in ME with a focus on robotics.  After that, Jason moved south to the Los Angeles area and spent the next 6 years working on disaster response robots and mars rovers at the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL).  He recently moved back to Maryland to be closer to family, bringing along his wife and son.  Jason continues to work on fun robotics problems at the JHU Applied Physics Lab (APL).


Steve Chu.  UMBC 2012, Economics.  Steve was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, and eventually settled in Montgomery County with his Taiwanese parents. Although his father is a chef, he discouraged Chu from following the same path. As he studied economics at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Chu realized that his dream was to open his own restaurant. While volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, he met his future business partner Ephrem Abebe. After graduation, Chu learned on the job in the kitchen and on the floor at Petit Louis Bistro working for Chef Ben Lefenfeld. He also worked for Harold Dieterle at Kin Shop as a line cook and spent summers helping out at his family’s restaurant, Jumbo Seafood.  In 2014, Yesupriya, Abebe, and Chu opened Ekiben, an Asian fusion fast-casual stand in a farmers market. In 2016, Ekiben moved into a brick-and-mortar space in the Fell’s Point neighborhood of Baltimore City. Chu’s goal with the cuisine of Ekiben is to create a space for anyone, from any demographic, to try something different. In Baltimore, a city deeply divided along economic and racial lines, Chu aims to make everyone feel welcome “one bun at a time.”  In 2017, Travel & Leisure named Ekiben the best place to get a sandwich in Maryland. In 2018, Eater nominated Chu as a semifinalist for their Young Gun Awards. Chu is also involved in Youth Works, a summer program for teens in Baltimore that provides job training and mentorship. He has more concepts in the pipeline for the Charm City—with different food but the same community-oriented ethos.

Ephrem Abebe.  UMBC 2013, Information Systems.  Ephrem was born in Ethiopia and came to the US with his family at the age of 11.  After finishing high school in southwest Virginia and deciding to attendVirginia tech, he ended up on UMBC Campus to visit a friend. Subsequently, he enrolled in classes at UMBC solely “because the campus is beautiful.”  Ephrem met Steve Chu and Nikhil Yesupriya while building houses for Habitat for Humanity.  A couple of years after graduation they decided to stay in Baltimore and start Ekiben.  Ephrem currently resides in Baltimore County.