Universities at Shady Grove celebrates largest graduating class yet -- Gazette.Net


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More students taking courses at Montgomery satellite college campus each year

by Jen Bondeson

Staff Writer

Standing in front of fellow graduates Thursday at the Universities at Shady Grove campus, William Cooper-Balis recalled what his life was like three years before.

He said he was isolated from the world and an alcoholic.

The Bethesda resident told the crowd that he recognized that they, like him, had faced hardships. For that, and for succeeding, he called them all his heroes.

More and more students every year are taking advantage of the USG campus, in Rockville, to continue their education. USG is a collaboration of nine public universities in Maryland that offer more than 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs on the Shady Grove campus.

This spring, Cooper-Balis, who is receiving his bachelor’s degree in social work, is one of 697 undergraduate students who are graduating. The first graduating class in 2002 had 36 students. Last spring, 560 undergraduates graduated.

The USG campus will continue to grow in the next decade.

The state is contributing $5 million for a fourth building on the campus that will allow for programs such as dentistry and engineering.

Cooper-Balis said he was impressed by the level of professionalism of his fellow students, and he believes that sets the Universities at Shady Grove apart.

“Everyone is there to do the work, go to school and balance all of their obligations,” he said. “It is very academic and very professional, which is what inspires people to do well.”

New data released this spring shows that students who attend a Maryland community college and transfer to USG are more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years when compared to students who transfer to the college’s main campus. The data was released in a March 2013 University System of Maryland study regarding transfer students.

Of the 380 students who transferred into the USG in the fall of 2008, 74 percent of them graduated within four years, while 51 percent of students who transferred into a main campus that same year graduated within four years, the report states.

Cooper-Balis said he had a “moment of clarity” before going to USG. He had done little with his life since 2001, when he received an associate’s degree in art and illustration from Montgomery College.

The staff and faculty at USG helped him realize his opportunities, he said.

“I didn’t know my potential,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was capable of.”

jbondeson@gazette.net