Congratulations to the 2019-2020 Graduate Student Academic and Community Excellence Award Winners. These awards celebrate graduate and professional students who have made outstanding contributions to their community in the areas of scholarship, service, leadership, and involvement in the form of Academic and Community Excellence Awards. One student from each of the graduate/professional programs at USG will be eligible to receive this award.

Towson University


Priya Shahani

M.Ed. Early Childhood Education





University of Baltimore

Carrie Epps-Carey

M.A. Integrated Design

GPA: 3.90

  • Government subcontractor, where she serves as a graphic/visual designer for the Department of Justice


Her projects are beautifully designed and technically accomplished. In the classroom, she raises the standards for each project while enthusiastically supporting her fellow students

with thoughtful, supportive critique and by generously sharing her technical skills.

-Jeanne Fountain, Lecturer


Carrie plans to work for a an agency or a media company where she can grow into an art-direction role.


Benin Dakar

M.S. Health Systems Management

GPA: 3.90

  • Senior Leadership Montgomery, 2018 Class
  • American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE) Professional Membership
  • American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Professional
  • The Universities at Shady Grove Emerging Leader Badge
  • DECA - High school and collegiate Judge
  • Future Business Leaders of America Judge
  • Co-Founder of UREACH-1 (Mental Health First Aid Training)
  • Central Maryland Area Health Education Center (CMAHEC) Internship
  • Upsilon Phi Delta 
  • National Society of Leadership and Success 2018
  • Sigma Nu Tau
  • Sigma Iota Epsilon

Ms. Dakar has stated to me – while most people her age are winding down in their careers, “I see a world of endless opportunities for me to use my newly acquired credentials.” This is the essence of Ms. Dakar – she has a passion for searching, researching, and acquiring deep knowledge that will further her professional interests and have a positive impact on local and global communities.

-Tina Di Franco, Executive Director


Benin plans to earn a Doctor of Health Sciences degree from A. T. Still University and begin the steps towards being a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.


Julio Espinoza

M.S. Forensic Science: Cyber Investigations

GPA: 4.00

  • USG orientation leader
  • Pharmacy Technician at a hospital 
  • Mark A. Borenstein and Ellen Defraites Borenstein Endowment Scholarship


Julio has contributed to the MS program not only by his excellent academic work and papers, but by creating dozens of beautiful technical videos that demonstrate how to setup and complete forensic labs. These videos are posted for other students to watch and learn, including complex labs involving use of UNIX and command line techniques. Julio has additionally participated in outside associations

and conferences and has brought those experiences to the classroom.

-Nima Zahadat, Ph.D., Director and Assistant Professor 


Julio plans to use what he learned in his studies at USG and work for the federal government in cybersecurity.


University of Maryland, Baltimore


Julia Dowling

M.S.W Social Work

GPA: 4.19

  • President, MSW Student Organization
  • Social work internship, DC Public Middle School in Anacostia, DC
  •  Advanced internship, the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse
  • Case and psychosocial support worker, Safe Place Greece

Julia’s fellow MSW students, field instructors, and staff highlight her exemplary leadership, contributions to classroom discussions, ability to develop trust and rapport with others, and commitment to social work ethics. We are excited and proud to welcome Julia into the field of clinical social work, as I’m sure she will continue to bring her leadership and passion for helping others to her work at home in Maryland and abroad.

-Joan Pittman, Clinical Associate Professor and Director


Julia hopes to advance trauma-informed care in the international humanitarian sector and contribute to the field of trauma therapy through clinical practice and advocacy domestically and abroad.


JC Emmanuel Mbimba

PharmD Doctorate of Pharmacy

GPA: 3.73

  • Rho Chi Academic Honor Society
  • Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Society
  • American Pharmacist Association Academy of Student Pharmacists
  • Maryland Pharmacist Association
  • Former: USG-UMD GSS leader, USG-UMD Academic tutor, USG-UMD Physiology and Neurobiology Teaching Assistant
  • Publication: A direct interaction between NQO1 and a chemotherapeutic dimeric naphthoquinone. (2016)
  • Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) Center for Biomolecular Therapeutics - Research Intern
  • Northeast Ohio Medical University - Research Intern
  • Dean's List

“It is because of his strong academic record, leadership skills, and involvement and service to the School of Pharmacy, the Universities at Shady Grove and the wider community that I strongly nominate JC for this award.”

-Heather Brennan Congdon, PharmD, BCPS, CDE, Assistant Dean for Shady Grove, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy


JC plans to pursue a career in clinical pharmacy - looking to complete a pharmacy residency following graduation; currently awaiting match results with potential programs.

University of Maryland, College Park

UMD logo

Alexandra Daniels

M.Ed. Math Education: Special Studies in Middle School Math

GPA: 4.00

  • MCEA Building Representative for Eastern Middle School
  • 6th and 7th Grade Math Teacher, Montgomery County Public Schools,
  • 4th Grade Teacher and Team Leader, Montgomery County Public Schools
  • Long Term Substitute, Montgomery County Public Schools
  • Marian Greenblatt Rising Star Teacher

She is an exemplary student-scholar as well as a person with significant leadership skills.

-Dr. Beatriz Quintos, Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor


Alexandra plans to continue her career as a middle school math teacher.


Lorelei Dinger

M.Ed. Teacher Leadership: Special Studies in STEM Education

GPA: 4.00

A highlight of this program was working and learning aside motivated, creative and innovative in-service MCPS teachers. The professors in this program offered us unique experiences and valuable connections which we will be able to share with our students to enrich their experience with STEM.




Lorelei is both an academic leader and a leader in the community. She is active in class discussions and usually takes a leadership role in group work and projects. She is vocal about her community’s needs and always ready to advocate on behalf of others and the cohort as a whole.”

-Daniel Levin, Director of STEM M.Ed. Program


In the upcoming year, Lorelei will be an 8th-grade team leader at Silver Creek Middle School, in MCPS.