The UMBC community is full of compassionate, caring people who love to give back to UMBC. Today we’re meeting one of those people, Justine Johnson, Associate Director of the Meyerhoff Graduate Program at UMBC. She was this year’s lucky – and deserving! – recipient of the Jakubik Family Endowment Award. This award was created to recognize a staff member who went beyond the norm in helping UMBC students achieve their goals. Learn more about the award and Stan Jakubik in part 1 of this series.
Q: What is your relationship to UMBC? How did you become involved with UMBC?
A: I love UMBC and I hope to retire from this wonderful place! I am currently the Associate Director of the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program and I became involved with UMBC in 1999 when I was hired as an Accounting Associate in the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program. I worked in the department during the transition from FAS to PeopleSoft and was later promoted to Business Manager. It was a very rewarding experience and I learned a great deal about higher education. But I learned my biggest lesson from the amazing students in the program. In 2004, I wasn’t looking to make any career changes, however I was working closely with MaryEllen Jackson, my predecessor who was leaving the position with the Meyerhoff Graduate Program. In casual conversation I said, “Your job looks like fun! What do you think about me doing it?” With excitement she said, “You would leave the Meyerhoff Program? I think you would be great for this position!” She immediately shared our conversation with Dr. Summers and the rest is history!
Q: Could you share a favorite memory from your time here?
A: There are so many! When I began working in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program I participated in Summer Bridge with the M11’s. As part of a trust-building field trip, we had to participate in a trust-fall where the students and staff had to catch you as you fell from a 10-foot-tall tree post. Later we had to climb a rock wall and I am afraid of heights. Those incoming M11 Meyerhoff Scholars and the staff rooted and cheered me on like I was an Olympian and I was determined to reach the top. Looking down at them and hearing them root me on was priceless! I knew I was going to love working here.
Q: How did it feel to receive the Jakubik Family Endowment Award?
A: I felt really honored to receive the Jakubik award, and it was especially nice to receive an email from Mr. Jakubik congratulating me on the award. It was also an honor to get nominated by Dr. Summers and the letters of recommendation from Dr. LaCourse, Greg Simmons, and Dr. Hrabowski. It is nice to be acknowledged for the work that you do with students every day. You never know how you are influencing their lives and decisions. I enjoy working with students and seeing their growth and watching them accomplish their goals.
Q: What would you want to say to the Stan and the Jakubik Family?
A: I would tell them thank you for establishing such an award that acknowledges contributions to students by faculty and staff at UMBC. The acknowledgement itself is an honor and the monetary award is the icing on the cake! It encourages me to continue to do better.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to give back to UMBC and its students?
A: It’s important to give back to UMBC because this institution does so much for its students, staff, and the community at-large. When I think about what working at UMBC has done for me, I’m not sure what my life or my family would be like if I didn’t work here. Giving back to the students is important because every person needs to feel connected. They also need encouragement along the way! When I think about all that I have gained from working here, giving back to students comes easy.