Piloting Success

Finals are in session and along with countless hours of studying, students must manage their psychological state to end the semester successfully.

During finals week, stress can be mounted from the long hours of reviewing class materials. This can influence sleep patterns. The brain can take time to slow down from working to cover everything that is on an exam. All the academic challenges and requirements that need to be met can take a psychological toll on students. A lack of rest can influence your physiological state. There are many ways you can set the grind of studying down and reset your body to be more effective. Exercising hours before bed, eating nutritious foods and trying to relax your muscles by stretching can all aid your body in times of stress.

What does it really take to be successful in our journey to graduate? It’s all laid out in front of you. You may have three research papers, a group project and four exams in the span of one week. You have the ability to prepare yourself. Most importantly, you take control of your own performance and appreciate every effort you give. Breaking up the work and taking on several individual goals can go a long way. This puts your mind in the right place when time comes to put the hours in. If you’re experiencing problems from certain circumstances or people, remember that the time you set aside for your academic career can be your way to escape. Each obstacle in your life has its own time. People deal with family or financial obligations and still graduate. It is possible.

Take this time to be with the classmates and family that matter the most. Appreciate every moment you spend with them to have a clear mind when you start to prepare for finals again. This will counter your stress and anxiety. While you will undoubtedly experience mental or emotional strain, the only way to go is up.

Posted in Academics, Fitness & Wellness, Life at USG, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflecting on a New Degree

it's here 2

Ok, it’s this Friday. My nursing class’s graduation. I am tempted to say it went by quickly, but I feel that would suggest that it was easy. It. Was. Not. Easy. It was challenging, aggravating, thrilling, surprising, tedious, joyous, insomnia-inducing, etc. You get it. But, I must say, that never did I once want to quit or think I had made a mistake. Did I have fleeting thoughts that I was going to fail an exam? Yes. Did I ever fail one? No.

Sometimes we (or our subconscious) expects the worst will happen. It usually never materializes though. But here are just a few of the questions I asked myself during my two years at USG and some possible answers:
Question: What if I start nursing school and can’t cut it?
Answer: Well, I would use the many USG resources to get back on track and if I need to reduce my workload, I can go part time and complete my degree in a longer period of time.

Question: What if I fail a skills test?
Answer: Take it a second (or third) time and be an expert at it.

Question: What if I don’t make the Dean’s List?
Answer: Well, I never did and will still earn my BSN just like everyone else.

You can “What if” yourself to death. I believe that it’s just a part of being a flawed human. Anyway, back to me. ; )

So what is next? Study for the NCLEX which is the national exam that tells the Board of Nursing that I do indeed know enough to be a Registered Nurse. And in February, I will start a nurse residency at Washington Adventist Hospital in the Emergency Room. Yikes! Kind of ironic that two years ago right before I started school, I ended up in the Emergency Room thinking I was having a heart attack. (It was actually just anxiety about starting a new chapter in my life.) And now I will be working in one—life can be quite humorous at times—full circle indeed. But don’t worry, I will still be blogging next spring so you’ll hear all about my new adventures and you know there will be tons!


Posted in Academics, Campus Activities, Life at USG, Uncategorized, Work Experience | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Finals Week & GSA Raffle

Hello all! You survived! It is officially finals week. Many of you must be stressed and cannot wait until you are done with your final exams/final papers. USG’s Center for Student Engagement and Financial Resources (CSEF) is having their Destress Lounge week from Monday, December 10th to Thursday, December 13th. They have really great activities from DIY hot chocolate mason jars to games and pizza. This week-long event is FREE! Make sure you come by and participate in this awesome events. I will be at the DIY hot chocolate if you would like to come by and say hi 🙂Destress lounge

USG Destress Lounge

LOCATION: Building III, 2nd floor next to Campus Rec Center
Dates & Times:
Monday, 12/10 at 5pm – DIY Hot Chocolate Mason Jars
Tuesday, 12/11 from 11am-1pm – Pause for Paws  4-7pm CAS Finals Countdown
Wednesday, 12/12 from 12:30pm-1:30pm – Ping Pong Tournament 3:30-5pm Games & Pizza
Thursday, 12/13 from 10am-12pm – Get Crafty with Pharmacy: DIY Snowflakes & ColoringGSa RAffle

Also, have you heard? GSA is having their GSA Scavenger Hunt Raffle!
Guess what?! If you are a graduate student, you can enter for a chance to win wonderful prizes from the GSA! How do you enter? Complete the GSA Scavenger Hunt Raffle form and “hunt” down the answers to the first three questions AND/OR like the USG GSA Facebook page/subscribe to the GSA monthly Newsletter. Raffle entries will be accepted between 11/10 to 12/14. A winner will be announced on 12/17. Please note that it is one entry per graduate student. Feel free to spread the word to other USG Graduate students!

I hope you have an amazing and relaxing winter break!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Watch Crazy Rich Asians Free!

Yes, you read the title right. Crazy Rich Asians will be shown here at USG, FREEEEEEEE on December 14, 2018!

If you are not rich like me, but enjoy watching rich people do their thing (and secretly judge them), then this is your movie.

Guess what, it is easy to register, you can register your whole family even (btw I registered my sister). You can register here. Seating is limited so register now!

The movie starts at 5PM and will end at 7PM, so make sure to come early if you want a good seat. My sister and I will be here at 4PM to get VIP seats (it’s just seats in the back. lol. Nothing fancy).

Did I mention that they will be giving out FREE popcorn, FREE pizza and other food items?!. This is a real win win. Watch a new movie free, and eat for free too. Say no more, I’m down!

I am seriously freaking out! My sister and I wanted to go watch it, but we could not because of scheduling issues, but now that it is here, at USG and we both happen to be free, we are coming to watch it!

As someone who has a final exam on December 14th, 8AM-10AM (ugh), this will be a great way to relieve some stress. I cannot wait for next Friday.

So, are you coming?


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An interview with John Brandt about Safety & Security @ USG

This blog post is in a questionanswer-note format. Edits made for clarification or simplification are in [brackets].  The interview I had with Mr. John Brandt, the Safety and Security Manager at USG, occurred on 11/19/2018 at about two in the afternoon. It lasted for an hour.

“How did you get into the field of Safety and Security, and what brought you to USG?”

“In 1980 I was hired as a police officer for University of Maryland at College Park. I worked there for thirty years, I left there as a Captain to…take over here.”

“So, you had a [University of Maryland] connection?”

“Right, thirty years as a university cop…so a lot of experience with university public safety, policing…commercial and residential crime prevention. I did a lot of those different types of projects…I did training, I managed a lot of different units in the department.”

“Started from the grunt level, moved up to the top?”

“Yep, right from entry level.”

“When did you become manager here?”

“2010… been here almost eight years now.”

“You had, I guess, the connection to [USG] through the University of Maryland?”

“Originally… there was no presence like mine on [USG’s campus.] There were some security guards, but they started here a long long time ago with one building, one guard. So the guard just reported to the facilities department. There was building manager who…kept track of payment, stuff like that. But he didn’t have any experience in crime prevention, or university policing or anything like that. That went along for a while as the campus grew…and as the campus grew security grew with it. Years before I came here, maybe five years before I came here…special events got needed some sort of police presence.”

“Some dedicated team?”

“Someone to take care of the place, and the University generally looks within itself. So when you graduate from here if you go to the graduation celebration you’ll see University of Maryland College Park police officers. We’ll bring a whole team of them out here and…if a traffic light fails they’ll manage the traffic control, crowd control…get rid of any disruptions.

“Are you talking about the [local police department] over here?”

“No, no – University of Maryland at College Park. They’ll send me a whole team of officers. The reason is – if I use Montgomery County Police, one I have to figure out how to pay them which is difficult…but let’s say do you remember the…shooting and hostage taking years ago [in Silver Spring]? If I had say six Montgomery County Police Officers working here, off duty, working my campus, [and another situation like that happened again], they’d say “Sorry, got to go.” Their responsibility is to their county, and they’d be called right back on duty…I bring University of Maryland Police Officers out, they work for me. And, they all know me…basically I manage, I give an operations order, I set up my guards…and I run it.”

“Do you collaborate with the security manager who is at the other university as well – do you trade notes?”

“There are no – well, actually there’s one. But each University of our nine here has its own police department. So I can collaborate with the different departments as necessary, I also collaborate with their Title IX people, their judicial programs people, their behavioral assessment teams, that’s all part of what I do. University College is the only one that does not have a police department and one of their reasons is that they’re so scattered out all over the place that security is easier for them to run. They run it internally, all their own employees, while I run it by contract. I have a company that works for me.”

“At any rate, about five years before I came here [to work as manager] I was the guy in charge of the team from College Park that would come out for special events, so I got to know the director here, student services, staff. I got to identify the need for someone like me. Then before I retired, one of my Majors…they hired him here as a consultant to start putting policy into place, but he didn’t actively do what I do. Then he left in 2010 about the time I retired, and I came over as a consultant, originally at about twenty hours a week part-time…transitioned in, was asked “can you do this too, can you do this too,” up to 40 hours. They put the whole security contract on me, they put access control on me, all the things that used to be hooked up to facilities and such – and then they started adding stuff, the [clerical] stuff, title IX, as it grew until now…I’m overwhelmed. Busy, busy, busy.”

“Hopefully the “overwhelmed” will die down a little bit.”

“I don’t think it ever will – the new building brings a lot of new responsibilities, in fact my staff will have to increase from, well, me, to me and somebody else at least. I do have twenty guards, but…”

“Outside of the twenty guards do you have any delegation, subordinates whatsoever?”

“I do not. I can hire a student employee, I’m in the process of looking for a student employee – are you interested? If you do know someone, please tell them to come and talk to me.”

“You’re looking for someone security-minded and interested in the field, or do they have to have background?”

“I’ve had both…people who are aimed towards police jobs and criminal justice, and went on, and people with no connection at all. The job here isn’t really them doing a lot of that stuff, it’s a lot of office work, filing, logistics…as an example when you go through the classrooms, you’ll notice there’s [a security information sheet] on every podium, that’s for my faculty and staff that we built for them. I have to have someone go around to every classroom every week and make sure – because it’s there for the faculty to take, need to restock…I don’t have the time, but I could use a student, pay a student.”

“Would that position be full-time, etc.?”

It’d be about twenty hours a week, part-time. But the neat thing…I can work around your schedule. So when you change your class schedule, we can change your [job] schedule…and it works.”

“So, it’s not about hours, it’s more or less finishing the tasks you need to get done?”

“It is. It’s a great student position, and it’s empty at the moment. Also, I mean – I got 38 years of experience in university security…I used to teach a class to our student police academy at the other campus on how to get ready for police jobs, you know, what to look for, how the process works, so…in conversation with me you could get a fair amount of information on the police business, might help [my student assistant] to refine their search if they’re looking into police or federal or whatever.”

“I know there’s a criminal justice department here – have you given any talks, or spoken to any of them at all?”

“I get invited to classrooms around the campus on a fairly regular basis, mostly it has to do with emergency preparations…how to prepare your life for that.”

“Is that specifically for [the Criminal Justice department students]?”

“I do it for anybody. I’ll go talk to any class about anything, anybody wants me to talk about as long as I can get information out to them that will help make their life better and safer and smoother…my job is to protect this campus. So, anything I can do, so when that fire happens you’ve already thought about how to get out of the building, or anything like that at all, anything that makes you better prepared to meet your life. Same as when I was a police officer – I may have just been a cop on a campus, but I have a responsibility toward my student body to help them in any way that I can. I don’t teach a class per say, but I have a lot of information that can help…that’s why I show up at every town hall, every orientation, everything I can get my hands on, because it helps you guys have a better and more successful time here.”

“From a Safety and Security, what are your thoughts about the new building being built on campus? I know you said about the one building with one security guard, when a new building is built what are you security concerns?”

“Staffing will grow with it.”

“Do you see it as a positive thing, or as an “oh boy, more people to manage?””

“Oh, no, no – there will be more people to manage but that’s just part of the job…the benefit is solely, directly aimed at [students], this is more facilities, more equipment, more classes, more programs… I just have to make up for [campus growth] …the new building will just require more coverage, and I have more things built into it to help me do my job better – I have a security operations center for instance.”

“Did you have any say in what they’re building in there?”

“I’m peripherally involved, architecturally speaking…they want to know what kind of hinges do you want on the doors for security, what kind of doors should be there…should it be electronically controlled or key controlled. Then the entire key schedule for that building has to be planned – you can’t just make it up as you go. You have to know what keyholes go in what door…is there a grand-master key that will open the whole building with some exceptions…key for the entire dental suite, or a key that opens this suite or that suite or this floor, offices, study rooms. All the way down to individual user keys. All that has to be planned out in advance so when the building opens the locks are in and keys are ready to go…we have very tight key control.”

“Do you have electronic unlocking for any of the doors?”

“Sure, we have some in this building…the exteriors are all electronically locked on all the buildings.”

“Is there going to be a new security desk like there is in building 3?”

“Yes… [and everything’s on cameras too].”

“The entire campus is already pretty covered in cameras, right?”

“Better than any of the nine campuses that students come from…I have a tighter area [to cover] and an administration that has been fairly responsive to my needs, my request to them to provide for security, so we pretty much have every door coming and going, every hallway in every building.”

“And that’s something you push for constantly?”


“How did you develop the sense for not just cameras but all these different security things- is this something you picked up along the way, or is this something you had a specific class for?”

“There aren’t classes – there are ways to learn, takes years. The goal is, in the end, when you’re deprived of the ability to go out there let’s say I’m stuck in my office – can I see everything I need to see? If I can’t see it, I need to put a camera there.

We had a brief lapse is the focused conversation to talk about credit card skimmers. Remember – whether you’re at a gas station or anywhere else, grab the card reader and feel for any detachable parts, shake it hard, to make sure there’s no skimmer attachment that will take your information. Link for more info here.

“My personal impression is that everyone here – student, faculty – we’re all upstanding law-abiding civil people. Is that something you’d say is accurate – and then off of that, how would you relate the pretty much near zero crime rate we have. Is that because we have an excellent security protocol and team, or because we have a kind of easy population to work with?”

“It’s a combination of factors, and I’ll give you one you may not have ever even thought of. We have gated parking here. Bad guys do not want to be the fourth car in line behind the gate when the police arrive. Bad guys don’t use gated parking – people don’t even think about that; this gated parking system is part of our security system and it provides for you. But there are a number of factors. First and foremost – we have no residence halls here. If you do any research at all you’ll find [residence halls] bring up to 75% of crime to campuses, because they provide a living, sleeping, place for alcohol, place for sexual assaults. All that type of stuff. If you think about it, Universities are a place with a bullseye on them. An average person on an average university has a little more money than anyone else…slightly nicer car, little bit nicer computer, nicer phone – “

“And probably carrying that stuff around in their backpack.”

“Etcetera. And universities are – to university police – we know that they are enormous bullseyes to a surrounding community that might not be quite as well off. They also have young people, who are – let’s face it – not quite as sophisticated in protecting themselves as other people may be, and they have women. I say that bluntly. Essentially, that is an attraction to this campus – young single women – [and it is the same at any other] campus.”

I realize that this may be an uncomfortable statement to read. I’ll tell you what I told Mr. Brandt – I am a nursing student, and in nursing – like in security, like in most professional fields – there are uncomfortable things that we must simply acknowledge as unfortunate truths. When someone with thirty-eight years of experience in the field of safety and security tells you that young women on a college campus are a targeted population, then they’re probably onto something.

“As a result of all these things on campuses, campuses have become a target. I’ll keep going – our students generally are not as young as the other campuses because we don’t in general have any freshman or sophomores. So most of our students are anywhere from two to eight years older and more experienced and more adult and more mature – and they’re not getting to campus for the first time…and “look at all this alcohol.” Not here, [partly] because of the age of our students. And there’s – and this is personal opinion that I’ll give you from this one, this is developed from thirty-eight years of looking at campuses and stuff like that. The population here – our students – are the exact population of students that every campus loves and wants – personal opinion.”

“There are generally – if you want to lump it into two chunks…there are two populations. There’s the party population, and the “I’m here to study, I’m not doing that” population. They’re very hard to pull apart, and police departments are heavily involved with this party population – I call them the entitled students. Now, that doesn’t mean just being entitled to go to college makes you one of these, but – there are a lot of people in a larger campus who are young, eighteen – nineteen years old, first time out of the house, their college is being paid for by somebody, they have been told since they were three that they are going to go to college…they go away to college, the last words their parents say to them are “It’s going to be the best four years of your life!” And they proceed to try to make it the best years of their life, and there are people in College Park who – in their four-year career on the campus – I had interactions with that same person six or seven times, in a negative faction, as a police officer, because of that lifestyle.”

“We don’t have almost any of those students here, and if they were…they’re still rather focused by the time they get here, they’ve got rid of that first two years of college…focused on that degree…our population here is very, very focused on getting their degree. There is almost no student life here. I like student life, but as a cop I know student life brings problems. But because we have nine universities meshed – they don’t really mesh that well…you’re in your own group, so you tend to have a smaller student body that’s much more focused on academics, and as a result there’s no alcohol culture here. At College Park on any given day…I’d smell alcohol on people’s breath three or four times a day. Rarely if ever do I ever smell alcohol on someone’s breath here. People come here, they study, they work – and they go home, because they have a job and two internships already, or they have a family…our student population is so much more focused, there’s not any time for this extracurricular stuff.”

“We have no sports, almost no fraternities or sororities, no social situation – especially that involves alcohol – that would bring it onto this campus. We’re a commuter school. And all those reasons put together – that and the fact that we’re not in downtown Rockville. We’re kind of out here hard to find – so the professional thieves haven’t spotted us as a target yet, or if they did they went “I’m not parking in that garage, I’ll get caught.””

“So they don’t see [USG] as a worthy spot.”

“Exactly…adding to that we have the robust CCTV system here.”

On the topic of the camera system at USG, Mr. Brandt shared several anecdotes concerning previous incidents of campus security using the cameras to either proactively or retrospectively deal with crime. One incident included a serial wallet thief in the library. By the second wallet the perpetrator was identified, and by the third they were caught.

“Professional thieves notice those cameras very quickly, and that limits what we have going on.”

“They don’t see it as a worthy opportunity.”

“They see it as a chance to get caught…those types of things tend to discourage theft. We don’t tell people how long we keep video, but we keep it for a long, long time.”

Another anecdote detailed someone stealing a calculator, and them being identified within twenty-four hours. Yet another, about a cart outside the library with free books on it – a sign saying “free” had been left on the cart, and some people had taken the cart itself. It was returned shortly thereafter after the people responsible were identified.

Continuing on the subject of factors which make USG less of a target for thieves;

“University of Maryland has [a number] cars in service at any given time, but there are [a much higher number] of buildings on that campus… [the campus police] are not very visible to the professional thieves. They know that they’re out in cars patrolling, not in the buildings. Here I have a security officer in each building, and extra floating around. They do rounds…and I can tell whether they are missing portions of their rounds [based on guards clicking a device against a wall mounted sensor along their patrol routes] and I can defend them, [if people say they aren’t completing their rounds and they are]. I lay out those rounds…I can also tell if one guard has forgotten to check [a certain place].”

“Here’s an example. Open rooftops are horrible. [Two reasons – one, active shooters can use them, and two, there can be suicide attempts there.] Our roof doors are always locked. And some of the roof doors are on the sixth floor of a five-floor building. So, my guards have to go up, touch the button…and check the door while they’re up there [because they are a major security concern]. If I notice one of my guards is missing the roof doors, I know they’re one either lazy or I can retrain…to make sure they’re not missing certain portions of their rounds…as far as they’re concerned it’s probably just me being a big brother, but it really does [make this campus safer].

With the conversation having touched on suicide, I decided to broach the topic. This connects to the next topic afterwards, concerning collaboration between Safety and Security and the Counseling department.

“Has there been a jumping incident here?”

“We had a, what was classified by the Montgomery County Police about ten years ago as a suicide, yes.”

“That’s rough. But it’s good we haven’t had one since then.”

“Correct – always good. And there’s things you can do – again, this is part of what I do.”

“Do you collaborate with the counseling office whatsoever?”

“Sure – I talk with [Dr. Jonathan Kandell] all the time. We’re both on the behavioral assessment team, also, so we work with people who have issues and problems and concerns. He does not consult with me – he’s confidential. But as far as if there’s an incident, I will refer to him and so on and so forth. He does not share – he’s a doctor, he does not share [patient information] – but if I bring him stuff, I can talk to him.”

The topic shifted back to the subject of patrols deterring thieves.

“When you’re here, there are never less than four guards here in uniform moving around constantly. Which again, is a real detraction for the people who want to come here to steal.”

“I get all these notifications [from the UMB alert system] that people are looking down at their phones and they aren’t paying attention, and then suddenly someone’s mugging them. I’m curious to know if you’ve noticed an increasing amount of reckless behavior on campus…countless people, I’ve seen, leave their laptops out because they feel as though [they won’t be stolen].”

“The bane of my existence…it has always been here, it’s something that we try to discourage. As far as looking down at phones, our distances are relatively short and fairly well protected. For instance, the boardwalk, which is unfortunately closed, has [a significant number] cameras on it…I can watch it on my phone while walking around campus. It’ll have another [amount] of cameras on it when it reopens, and it has the best lights in the state on it. So, I don’t have a real issue or problem out there. Our biggest – the bane of my existence – are students who feel just a little too safe. It’s like a two-edged sword [my guards and I doing our jobs well], resulting in our students using their personal property – expensive personal property – as what we call a “place marker.””

Mr. Brandt detailed several situations that arise when someone on campus leaves their stuff around as a place marker. One – they have to lock the room until the person comes back from wherever they went, which is a massive inconvenience to all involved. Two – they can take the stuff and hold onto it, which leads to false stolen reports and more stress for students involved. Not enough people are aware of security possibly holding place marker items to know to come to them to get them back.

“That’s the problem. The day we do get hit by a professional it’s going to be five laptops, three or four phones, in the space of two hours…I’ll get them on video, but that first time…we’ve already had people come in and mess with classroom materials [and we’ve caught them and banned them from campus]. I’m talking about [people turning projectors backwards so professors can’t use them] …breaking computer screens…we do have people here on campus that do not belong here, and the guards get to know them.”

The conversation turned to a brief discussion of the benefits of using a contract with a company for security personnel versus internal employees.

“Have you had any issues with any of your guards?”

“Sure. All the time – I’ve been doing this for years…I’m doing pretty well now, and my guards have to…have a huge list of things before they can work here…”

Once again, the conversation touched on health.

“…and after a while, you can get to know certain students, and you’ll realize when you have one that’s worked up. And you can identify that person. We know we have certain people who have emotional difficulties or are on certain medications or whatever, we know that because they’ve either self-communicated or it’s obvious…we have staff or students who are, for instance, diabetic, and the guards know it because they’ve watched them go to the wellness room to use their insulin or whatever.”

If you didn’t know, we have a wellness room in building 3. It is not a first-aid room. Primarily it is for breastfeeding women to either breastfeed or pump. There will be another in the new building when it opens.

“My guards would know who, in the staff…are diabetic. So, if they see them “asleep” on their desk, they’re not going to assume they’re asleep. They’re going to get them treatment, check on their welfare. So, the guards get to know the life around here, they spot the irregularities.”

Mr. Brandt explained that one of the security team’s many duties is to recognize faces – sometimes unwelcome ones. Here is a hypothetical situation to explain what I mean – a student at USG ends a relationship with an abusive significant other. The student’s ex knows that the student attends USG, and the student is afraid that their ex may come to campus at some point for any reason. The student doesn’t know what to do – as a last resort, they talk to one of the security guards. Then they find out there are procedures in place for this exact situation.

“Down at my desk, we have a file…of anything we can get. A woman comes to us and says “I have a separation agreement,” and we ask for photos, and we basically have a file downstairs. The guards all look at the pictures, and if they see that person on campus, they call 911. Immediately. Or if the person who gave the information comes to us and says “My ex is here,” 911, like that. And inside that file is a [standing] letter from me to the Montgomery County Police detailing what is going on and asking for them to ban the person from campus legally. So, we do…denial of access frequently.”

I asked Mr. Brandt whether or not there was some formal basis for this denial of access, if there had to be legal documentation in place – the answer was no. Informal or formal, whether there’s a divorce agreement or you suspect someone is stalking you, it’s all the same to the security team.

If you are that hypothetical student, please talk to one of the guards, or talk to Mr. Brandt. They are here for you.

“All you have to do is type me something that has some pictures and says “if this person’s on campus they got no business.” So, they’re not a student, staff or faculty, have no lawful business to pursue on a campus, and are acting in a manner that is disruptive of the educational or professional-administration function of the university… they’re trespassing. That’s where the benefit of me being a cop comes in, I know what the laws are, and so I can write a letter to Montgomery County Police…guards have photographs, they’re always looking for people.”

I steered the interview back to the list of questions I had brought with me.

“[Are there any major security flaws on campus?]”

“Our inability to get our students to…look, it’s “study together,” or go into the room with someone else. It’s a social thing, it’s a psychological thing, but most of our students tend to go away as far as they can in a corner and find their own place to study – that’s not safe. I used to lock half the classrooms on the campus and keep them locked…the goal is to clump people together so they’re safer. So, you can say, “Hey you guys, I’m going to go use the bathroom can you watch my computer for a minute?”  I would much prefer that people got a little more social and did that – studied in groups, even in twos…”

“Or even just…safety in numbers.”

“Exactly. If I could somehow concentrate all of our students into one area to study I would, because it’s so much easier to keep an eye on people, ensure their safety. It’s why our classrooms don’t lock from the inside – it’s because you’re far more likely, thousands of times more likely, to be raped, robbed, or murdered in a classroom than to have an active shooter break into the classroom. It’s just reality – you have to deal with the real world. An active shooter…there hasn’t been an active shooter on a college campus in two years. Two years. This is probably the single safest environment you’ll ever [be in] in your life.”

I checked some statistics online – there have been incidents where people have been shot while on college/university campuses in the past two years, but no “active shooters” like the recent tragedy at Parkland.

“An impressive feat.”

“It’s not even so much a feat as it is. All these things you do – reality put it together. The fragility is our students own desire to be alone, to study in back corners, and not realize that is placing them at a risk.”

“As the campus expands, do you think that level of security is going to degrade?”

“I don’t think so. We’re going to keep doing what we’re going to do – I’ll get more guards, more cameras – there is a stunning amount of money already sunk into the video system in that building…and I had professional help for that.”

Again, the conversation shifted to detailed security topics – this time, keys. The keys used for USG are all proprietary, made by a private company out of state. There are different forms of keys for each building on campus, and there will be another new one for the new building.

“I feel as though, just through this conversation, I have become safer on this campus.”

“I don’t want to give you a false sense of security. Part of it is your own awareness…if you see something, say something, tell me…I try to get to as many student groups as possible because I want a lot of people to be comfortable coming up to my office and going “Hey, did you know – – – – -?” Probably, all the feedback – we unfortunately opened the other day and the weather deteriorated like crazy…we take abuse one way or the other, if we open, we get abuse for opening, if we close, we get abuse for closing, most of the comments will come to me. As a result, people know me…I’m the guy who sends the message. Technically, if you get down to it, each campus would be responsible for their own stuff – if there was an active shooter on campus, they would all have to tell their own students about it…it’s better for us to do it, rather than have the other campuses do it.”

“If you go to your home campus [website], and look at what’s called the annual security report, you’ll see the chart for your campus and you can calculate for population what the averages are – and behind it you’ll see my chart. So I communicate with all nine campuses… if you’re a student at UMBC you can see all the crime here without having to try to figure out which is what and where. And that’s how we do that.”

Once again, the topic changed.

“I am a nursing student – I’m very interested in the interdisciplinary relationships between different disciplines. I’m curious if you’ve had any interactions in your work with nurses.”


“Could you tell me about those?”

“We’re always taking people to the hospital, or going along because a crime occurred, and then – unfortunately, in this world as a police officer some significant number of your arrests are going to involve physical confrontation, they’re going to involve fights, involve somebody who has drunk so much alcohol that they’re poisoned – but they’re driving. So now you have to go to the hospital with them or whatever – and the ones that go really bad and end up in really heavy physical altercations you’re going to break people. Or you get broken, one or the other. I mean, just in my career I’ve had six or seven trips to the hospital for injuries on the job. It just is. It’s not – police is not a real great job to look at for thirty years and then retirement, because a lot of cops won’t finish. They’ll disable out, or just leave the business.”

“But we interact with nurses all the time. And I can tell you – many times very positively, and sometimes very negatively. I had a car chase – I was chasing a motorcycle up and down route one. We would hit a red light, and he’d go between the cars and we’d have to get up on the shoulder and put two tires up on the curb and keep going…finally [he] drove over a curb median and hit the outer curb, flipped over the handle bars and crashed…right in the middle of College Park campus. Should have been the “end.” So I’m bailing out of my car, and I’m on the other side of the road, so I’ve got to run across the median…I’m about ten feet out and he takes his helmet off and shouts “I give up, I give up!” And when the first cop got close enough, he just swung at him. The cop – [a University of Maryland police officer, who later became a Montgomery County police officer], got under the strike and tackled him. He gave up, we cuffed him – he fought until there were three cops. He was wild. So we cuff him, I put him in a cell, I’m doing all the paperwork. Takes about two hours to take care of all this stuff.”

“I’m in the cell area, and I’m looking at him – and I hear him make a noise and I look up to see what it is. He’s sitting there looking at me and [he groans] and I just watch his [shoulder slide down.] And – the bone was broken, the collarbone. He’d gone over the handlebars, and he’d [attacked with his helmet] – we didn’t do anything to him or anything. So I’m like “Crap, call the ambulance.” Get an ambulance in there, they immobilize him, I got to follow him to the hospital because [he’s a prisoner]… and the nurses see this poor kid who’s been “beat up” by the cop, and it was like the coldest I’ve ever been treated by nurses. They were not happy with me – because he was in a lot of pain, and the paperwork shows I kept him in a cell for two hours, “how dare you,” it was horrible. And then his blood tests came back – alcohol, PCP, cocaine, and marijuana. Basically, because the PCP was in him…probably broke his collarbone going over the handlebars. Never even knew it. But later when the PCP wore off…”

“So when the blood panel comes back, all of a sudden all of the nurses are nice to me – “Do you need a cup of coffee, you want some donuts?” and I was all their buddy again. But like I said…six, seven times hospitalized for injuries that occurred in the course of the job…realistically, nurses and doctors, hospital people – are our best buddies. We actually adore you guys… We do really care about those people, because those people are going to take care of us when we show up with a [bullet] in our shoulder. We would do anything for a hospital, most cops – which is why it was so disappointing to have all of the nurses hate me.”

I asked whether or not Mr. Brandt was aware of or had an opinion on the incident in Utah where police officers arrested a nurse for denying them access to a patient to draw blood.

“They were wrong. They were wrong – simply put, they were wrong. We need retraining – I don’t know if you know, but there’s something like 52,000 police departments out there. The level of training varies. My department – when I was a Lieutenant one of my sergeants had a PHD in clinical psychology. Almost no one in my department from Captain up did not have at least a Master’s degree…we ran a police academy… [the training levels varies].”

“There’s different types of police departments…one of them is the type that owns where it is. Park police, university police…if you throw a brick through a 7/11 window and a Montgomery County cop arrests you, the owner or representative of the 7/11 has to come to court as the victim. The cop is merely a witness. Just because he saw you throw a brick through a window does not mean you didn’t have permission. So if the owner doesn’t show up – case dismissed. On a university – I’m the representative of the university, so I’m not only the witness I represent the university I don’t need the owner of the building…we tend to think much more “we own,” and for this I apologize but – you’re mine. I’m a parent, I’m a protector – we tend to be very protective of our campus and our people and our community. The county out here – they work for the county…it’s a different kind of policing. You do get community-oriented agencies – Montgomery County’s is pretty darn good – but I don’t think anybody beats a university [at community-oriented policing].”

At this point we were reaching the hour mark in our conversation. Mr. Brandt had a meeting to go to, but I managed to squeeze in a few more questions.

“Have you considered teaching [self-defense, security training, etc.] classes on campus at all?”

“I don’t have the time, or the necessary equipment or team.”

Is there one message you want to get to the students through the blog?”

“Try to phrase this, but basically – don’t try to think of specific emergencies, try to think of [all emergencies]. What do you need for a fire, for a smoke, for an active shooter – basically, personal awareness of what’s going on around you, knowing where you are at the time, and knowing how to leave. That’s the biggest thing…for instance from where I’m sitting right now, I know where all the exits are, there are three ways out of this hallway. I don’t have to be paranoid, because I’m prepared.”

If you’re a member of faculty and you’re interested in having Mr. Brandt give an emergency preparedness presentation to your class – takes about fifteen minutes – just email him about it. Many thanks to Mr. Brandt for allowing me to interview him. I hope all who read this blog learned something.

Posted in Campus Activities, Faculty & Staff, Life at USG | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stocking Stuffer: 3D prints!

Before my summer mini-mester earlier this year, 3D-printing was not anywhere in my scope of “things I could possibly do.” However, like a lot of my experiences at USG, I was given the chance to do something I had never done before.

As part of an engineering and design class (super exciting compared to the typical math methods or pedagogy course), we were assigned to create prototypes of a new product that would some problem. In addition to learning how to code/program, another helpful lesson to apply to our prototypes was creating 3D models using AutoCAD.

Image result for autocad 3d print

Image from AutoDesk Forums

For UMD students, it’s free through TERPware! All you have to do is create an account, sign in, and install.

Though it takes a while to get used to using the software, once you get past the initial learning curve, the opportunities are endless. Youtube will be your best friends in getting used to it, but there’s also tons of value in taking some time to mess around with the platform on your own. Click around!

After the design part comes to the printing. While the libraries on campus at UMD have printers, along with some other local libraries around the county, the option I’ve found most convenient is ordering it online. There are several websites to use. All you have to do is upload your 3D print file from your computer onto the website. Two I’ve had a little experience with is Scupteo and 3D Hubs.

The total price depends on several different components, like how much it weighs, what materials you use, if you want a particular finish on it and shipping based on distance.

With the holidays just around the corner, I plan on 3D printing several small gifts for my colleagues. It’s an easy way to make gifts customized, down to every last detail. It’s a great way to practice problem-solving and use your own creative mind in a low-pressure setting. Happy printing!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Food for Thought and a Bit More

Hello! We’re finally all here so close to the finish line for this semester, just a little left! Though I say that, this final stretch is full of final exams and assignments, and it has become more important than ever to make sure to eat well and regain your energy. No matter how much you study, it will be hard to retain anything if you’re constantly on an empty stomach. And even then, you cannot just fill yourself up with snacks and desserts. I’ve tried just pushing through a few times because I thought it would be fine, but nothing even sticks from studying at that point! So I definitely wanted to recommend a few foods that are helpful for students:

  • Fish – A great source of protein and omega 3, great for students who need to focus. Some examples are salmon, mackerel, and/or sardines on toast. It’s not the most convenient food to get your hands on, but if you can, I recommend it immensely.


Sardines on Toast Recipe

  • Eggs – Scrambled or sunny side up, there’s a bunch of ways you can cook them for a bit of variety each day! Eggs can be a great source of protein and vitamin B12 so that your day starts off energized to study away. Eggs with pancakes in the morning, or in a sandwich during lunch, visit the Green Grove Cafe to see your options for the day.


Eggs Benedict Recipe

  • Tea – My favorite way to study is wearing soft clothes, moonlight above me, and a cup of warm green tea in my hands. Tea, whether it is hot or iced, green or red, can provide your body with antioxidants while also acting a stimulant, but without the extra caffeine that coffee might give. To feel calm but energized, tea might be the way to go.


Green Tea Recipe

  • Blueberries – Blueberries can be a great, healthy snack rich in antioxidants and can even lead you to having a lower blood pressure. They are convenient and a much greater source of nutrients as a snack.



  • Nuts – From almonds, to cashews, to walnuts, your options are endless! A handful of nuts can lower your risk of heart disease while also giving you a heap of benefits  such as calcium, magnesium and iron. So make sure to get try a handful a day, no more no less, for all the benefits!

Heart shape made of mixed nuts


These are just a few recommendations, and there are plenty more! Know your body and listen to what it needs especially during finals when stress can be at an all time high. You have to eat well to study and ace your exams, so make sure to stop and breathe for a bit to energize yourself. Good luck everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Capture the Holidays!

The end of the semester is approaching, and I can’t wait to take a break and get into the holiday festivities. Besides spending time with my family and decorating my house for the holidays,my favorite part of holidays is seeing all the holiday lights in the area; but since past many years of taking classes full time, I had been missing it all. So, when my professor of digital imaging class, asked all the students to write a proposal for our final project, I got excited, and decided this would be a perfect final project. This will be my chance to go out there, and shoot all the holiday lights with my camera. I got hyper excited and wanted to do and see it all, but lets not forget! THE FINALS ARE COMING!!!Being realistic is what I told my self should be! I had visited many near by places in the area to see the lights many years ago, so I want to spend less time in holiday traffic and more doing my project…enjoying the lights. So, with a quick search on the internet and recommendations from some close friends, here’s my list of few places, that I found out that would give me an opportunity to go crazy with the winter photos.

  1. Gaithersburg Winter Lights Festival: https://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/recreation/special-events/winter-lights-festival.
  2. Sailing Through Winter Solstice: https://www.visitmaryland.org/event/sailing-through-winter-solstice


    Sailing Through Winter Solstice  ( HDR Photo by Sumaira Ahmed)

  3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Kensington: https://dctemplelights.lds.org/
  4. Zoo Light at the National Zoo: https://www.tripsavvy.com/christmas-lights-at-national-zoo-1038617
  5. Glow in Georgetown: http://www.georgetowndc.com/events/signature-event/georgetown-glow
  6.  The District Holiday Boat Parade: https://www.wharfdc.com/upcoming-events/

Being a Montgomery county resident, I feel like this list… for me is doable for the project. I hope to at least go and see a few places in the upcoming weekends. I hope everyone get a chance to at least one place, before they walk into the finals week. Stay warm!_DSC3800

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

5 Ways To Develop Mental Toughness


Photo Credit: Jade Esmeralda

Often related to grit, resilience, and overcoming adversity, the idea of mental toughness is commonly explored in the fields of sports psychology. As an Exercise Science major, much of my classwork explores how the body can become stronger through undergoing an overload of stress. Just like our physical musculature, our mind can be developed in a similar fashion. In the book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, author Amy Morin dives deep into the topic of mental toughness. As a licensed clinical social worker, psychology professor, and psychotherapist, Morin draws from her own experiences and shares life lessons on how to incorporate strategies to develop mental strength.

Although initially published as a blog post, the article was reshared by Forbes and has since amassed over 10 million views worldwide. The idea of mental strength is a wide encompassing topic, but developing mental toughness is a concept that can be related to by many. In her book, Morin describes how to develop mental toughness, by means of reducing negative habits and behaviors. Some of these main points include feeling like a victim, holding resentment for the success of others, and ruminating about the past. In the text, Morin shares her own personal journey, including her experiences with grief, and how she has worked to overcome struggles through mental toughness. Here are 5 Ways To Develop Mental Toughness for your own life.

5. Control your emotions

For some, this one may seem like it’s easier said than done and might prove to be a particular challenge. In her book, Morin discusses the idea of letting others control you. “Retaining your power means changing the way you look at the situation,” Morin writes, “Make a conscious choice to think about how you want to behave before you react to other people. Every time you lose your cool, you give that other person your power” (p. 37).

4. Don’t give up

Time and time again, we’ve heard the old adage—don’t quit. Simple and straightforward, sometimes this one piece of advice is something that we need to hear again and again. In her book, Morin reminds readers to, “view failure as a learning opportunity” and “identify and replace irrational thoughts about failure” (p. 159). Whether it’s a quiz or in the workplace, we’ve all experienced failure to some degree. Morin encourages readers not to give into failure, and to keep going towards achieving your goals.

3. Stop comparing yourself

In this age of social media, it’s all too easy to fall prey to comparing yourself with others around you. However, if you find yourself drawing too many comparisons, you might feel resentment towards the success of others—and that can be very dangerous. In chapter nine of her book, Morin writes heavily about the topic, explaining some key strategies that can help to change your thought patterns. “You have your own set of unique talents, skills and life experiences, so comparing yourself to people isn’t an accurate way to measure your self-worth.” Morin writes, “Instead, compare yourself to who you used to be and measure how you’re growing as an individual” (p. 140).

2. Forget about immediate results

Holding on to expectations can also lead us into spiraling down a dark path. Everyone has bad days—especially where you just want to give up entirely—but it doesn’t mean you should. “Pace yourself so you can be methodical in your attempts to move toward reaching your goals,” Morin writes, “Learning the value of a slow and steady pace can help you gain patience and ensure that you’re on the right track rather than rushing as fast as you can to get what you want” (p.199).

1. Examine your thoughts

No matter who you are, all of these tips can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that developing mental toughness is a constant journey. In the final chapter of her book, Morin writes about taking the extra time to coach yourself through the process. “Examine whether your thoughts are realistic before determining a course of action so you can make the best decisions for yourself.” Morin writes, “Identify beliefs and thoughts that will hold you back, such as those that encourage you to give away your power, waste energy on things you can’t control, dwell on the past, or expect immediate results. Replace them with more realistic and productive thoughts” (p. 203). One of the core tenements of her book is to evaluate your behaviors and thought patterns, and to strive towards avoiding a destructive path. For more, here is a short video from Morin about mental toughness, and how you can work towards developing more mental strength in your personal life.

Written by Jade Esmeralda

Posted in Fitness & Wellness, Life at USG, Work Experience | 1 Comment

Winter break…is that you?

So…there’s only 2 more weeks left of classes. Another week after that for finals. Then it’s winter break! I know I’m not the only one that has presentations, papers, final projects, and exams piling up one after the other. But before you let loose – let’s get down to some helpful tips for these last few weeks!

Tip #1: Get Organized

Organization is a factor that either makes you or breaks you. By having it, you’re more than likely to stay on task. By not having it, we all know you’re going to prioritize binge watching Netflix with a glass of wine and popcorn by your side. Earlier this semester, I recommended using a planner. Check out that blog post here. If you haven’t started, use one til the end of the semester. You’ll thank me later!

Tip #2: Ask for Help

I know the semester has been long and all you want to do is get through it. But that doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone! Our professors are there to guide us (though we may think otherwise at times) and want to see us succeed. Oh and you know who else is helpful? YOUR CLASSMATES! Study sessions need to be fully in session.

Tip #3: Keep your health in mind

There are way too many stories my friends tell me of them pulling all nighters, not eating properly, or even forgetting to eat! I’m not telling you NOT to do an all-nighter because trust me, I’ve been there but if you can prevent it – try to get SOME sleep. Eat some REAL food! Real food may mean some McDonald’s one night but hey, don’t let it be a coffee with 2 expresso shots and some chips.

winter break loading

I could go on and on about different tips to get you through but I trust that these will help keep you motivated. I’m chugging along right with you. With that being said, I wish everyone the best in closing out the Fall 2018 semester strong!

As always, thanks for reading & ’til next time! 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment