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Class of 2023


Hi! My name is Avnee Sharma and I’m a sophomore Anthropology and Biology BA double major at UMBC. While also being a member of the Humanities Scholars Program, I’m also part of the Filipino American Student Association (FASA), secretary of the Anthropology Club, and potential Desk Receptionist at ResLife. After completing my (shortened) freshman year at UMBC I’ve definitely gotten used to the independence and freedom away from home, but that also comes with being organized and staying on top of your studies and free time. The Humanities Scholars Program is an open and supportive environment. Dr. Phin is someone that is always there for you whether it be an issue with class, or to just talk. And that goes for any scholar, as we’re all there to support each other! For our study abroad, I’m still deciding on my destination, but I’m planning on potentially traveling to Europe, but I’m honestly open to anywhere that would allow me to continue my studies in both Anthropology and Biology if possible. I’m excited to continue my studies at UMBC this sophomore year and be back to a normal learning environment 🙂


What’s cookin’ y’all?
This is Reese and I come in peace. Reese Reinert, to be exact. I’m majoring in Philosophy and minoring in sarcasm (no, not really). Let’s look at me through the lens of a TV show. I proudly stand as the token transgender character in every teen drama. I’m here to flash my trans pride flag then disappear into the background, after the writers decide that my “coming out of the closet” arc was the peak of my existence. My dream, in the future, is to fix the way Hollywood writes their movies and shows, because dear god, it’s about time we got better quality material. As of right now, my hobbies include singing Christmas songs in a voice that sounds like the Aflac duck choking on bread, playing Spanish classical piano as loudly as I can, and making bad dad puns to terrorize innocent civilians. In the past, my backstory is a humble one. I went to Glen Burnie High School. Our proud mascot, the gopher, terrified weeds and soggy earth worms. We were famous for losing every single sports game in the county except for track and dance. I was also a member of the nihilism club. It was great because it didn’t exist, and it didn’t matter anyway.
Now you may be wondering why I’m in the Hum program. It’s for absolutely none of the reasons above. Have you ever stayed up to stare into reality, and saw how diaphanous it is, how beautiful, like a silk curtain billowing in the winds of time? Where time and space and motion flash in different colors and inverse into the fourth dimension? No? I clearly need more sleep. My synesthesia goes wild. Even though I went to a STEM high school, I never stopped loving the humanities and I knew in the end that I would come back to it. I returned to it throughout my life the same way waves return to the shoreline; again, and again, and again, being reborn each time I find myself coming home to it. That must be how love is too; coming, and going, and changing every time. I also love chocolate, which is less healthy than the humanities and all that deep stuff that I love, but while the humanities can fill my heart, only chocolate can fill my arteries.
I’ve spent one year with the Humanities Program, and let me tell you, I love it. When you’re surrounded by fellow nerds who actually enjoy reading books—I know right, like books? Seriously?—the amount of thinking and theorizing is astronomical. Everyone comes in with different perspectives and life experiences and shares them in a way that helps you not only sympathize and become a better humanist, but a better human. I’ve talked with older Hum scholars while living on the Humanities LLC floor and the words they’ve shared with me have changed my life. I love changing. And if you love changing and getting better character development for yourself, start by loving yourself and the humanities, because finding the deep questions are one step away from answering what your own happiness is.
This last year was wild. The next 3 years I expect nothing less with my chaotic nature. Let’s see how this goes! Send any prayers and donations to my mother. I accept bitcoin and Nook Mile Tickets.


Hi!  My name is Matthew Kelbaugh, and I am majoring in history and Russian.  I have not been as extensively involved in student life as much as I would like so far, but I have attended several ethnic and cultural associations, including the Coptic, Russian, Ethiopian, and Persian clubs.  From both a historical and personal component, I love interacting with and learning about other cultures, and UMBC and the Humanities Scholars program have provided opportunities for me to do so.  Also, I have immensely enjoyed the off-campus excursions I have attended so far.  During my first year of UMBC, some of my little accomplishments include improving my research skills and learning the International Phonetic Alphabet, as well as some basic Russian.
While in this time of uncertainty I have made no definite or official plans, I intend to visit Israel for my study abroad, and hopefully conduct my studies in Jerusalem.  The thing I am most grateful to the Humanities Scholars Program is that its financial aid enables me to more fully concentrate on my studies without worrying about falling into debt, especially as I will have to later enroll into graduate school in order to accomplish my dream of eventually becoming a history professor.  To that effect, I have been fortunate to conduct historical research for meaningful historical issues and events during my time at UMBC so far: the territorial disputes between Russia and Ukraine, the factors behind the Islamic Conquest of the Middle East, and, my personal favorite, an examination of clothing’s role in creating an imperialist, national narrative in Ethiopia.  I hope this is just the beginning for creating useful and insightful research to benefit the public, which will inform it of humanity’s complex and important past.


Hi! My name is Clair Volkening and I’m a sophomore English major in the Communications and Technology track at UMBC. My freshman year did not go quite like I thought it would. When I got to school I did not expect to get used to the brightness of my dorm room at night or the sheer number of people everywhere (it’s very different from where I grew up in rural Western Maryland). But, I did get used to it, and it even became rather endearing. More importantly, I did not expect to make such amazing friends or to wind up missing campus as much as I did when we all got sent home because of Covid-19. The Humanities Scholars Program is a big reason for why I miss campus. Being in this program creates a small, almost family-like group, within the much larger student body.
On campus I am involved in the Good Friends of Yours Club (a service club) and the orchestra. I look forward to joining more clubs in my sophomore year! As of right now I plan to study abroad in England, though I am still unsure of where in England. This is mainly because I enjoy writing fiction about historical London and really want to see the places where I set my stories.
Well, that’s me. I can’t wait to be back at UMBC when everything has settled down, because despite the bright streetlights and that my friends tend to keep me up past my bedtime, I love it there!


Hi! My name is Julianna Bumgardner and I am a sophomore at UMBC! I am a double major in English and Media and Communication Studies as I plan to pursue a career in publishing. At UMBC, I have been able to run the social media account and contribute to the publishing of Bartleby, UMBC’s media arts journal. I have also been a part of Cru on campus, and this year I am on the servant team! Second semester of my freshman year, I became a Grit Guide and was able to lead a few campus tours before having to return home. I discovered a new family among the Grit Guide group on campus! I am excited to return, whenever I am able, and continue to meet prospective students and foster relationships with other student employees. As a Hum scholar, I also have a family both within my cohort and the entire program. I enjoyed the two first year seminars we took as Hum scholars; they challenged me in my ways of thinking and abilities as a writer. I am looking forward to the rest of my days at UMBC, however they may occur, because I know that the years ahead of me will bring personal growth and opportunity.


Bonjour! My name is Sarah French. I am a sophomore at UMBC! I’m an MLLI major with a track in French, I also have a minor in dance, and I’m planning to become a part of the pre-physical therapy program as well. Coming into UMBC, and this amazing program, I knew that it was the perfect place to broaden my horizons, and to learn about different cultures, experiences, and people, and I still strive to do that every day. Getting involved really helped me start to learn more about my environment and the new people around me. As a member of the Honors College, and Phi Mu Fraternity for Women, I’ve met so many new people that helped me to grow and learn more about them, but also learn about myself.
My first year at UMBC, while it didn’t go as planned, helped grow my love for my school and allowed me to get involved in a lot of different things. In the beginning of the year, we had so many opportunities to see shows and speakers, and it was amazing to listen to so many people who were passionate about what they did. Having two different Humanities forums also helped to challenge me into new ways of thinking and develop as an academic and in my personal life. I can’t wait to see what my next year at UMBC will teach me, and all of the amazing people I’ll get to learn from.


Hello! My name is Lexi Smith and I’m a History-Economics double-major with a minor in Public History. In addition to the Humanities Scholars program, I’m a member of the Honors College here on campus, as well as the UMBC Dance Team and the Econ Council of Majors. At UMBC, I’ve learned and grown as both a student and a person through the people I’ve met, the classes I’ve attended, and the projects I’ve taken on. Last year’s Storytelling humanities seminar with Dr. Phin in particular taught me many lessons that were valuable to me as a writer, including why we tell stories, why certain stories persist in society for decades or even centuries, and how stories affect our lives. I love the community that is available to me as a Humanities Scholar; I’ve been able to bond with so many other Scholars through our shared interests and passions. Though I have yet to select a program for my semester abroad, I’m interested in visiting either France or Ireland. Last year, I was lucky enough to spend two weeks abroad in Bristol, United Kingdom with the Dawg Days Abroad program. It was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to see where UMBC and the Humanities Scholars program take me in the future!


Hello people! My name is Julia Hope Palmer. First semester of college was a lot harder than I expected. I totally didn’t understand that the freedom I always craved would come with real responsibilities and challenges. For example, without the spoken reminder from my mother to eat vegetables at dinner, I really didn’t :).
Through the Humanities Program, I had the relief of knowing that I would be walking into a community already established. Upon meeting everyone, it was so much more spectacular than I could have imagined. This is mainly because of the people.
Fracturing my cuboid and spraining my foot the first week of fall semester wasn’t what I expected from my freshman year. However, being on crutches for 2 months and going through this challenging time really opened my eyes to the amount of compassion and care my friends poured out. They went beyond anything I could ask by carrying my food during meals, walking with me to class to hold my backpack, and sitting with me in my dorm when I couldn’t go anywhere. This definitely allowed my new found friends to become like family as I had to depend on them. Most of these friends are in the Humanities Program. They walked beside me and got me through the semester.
In high school I thought being a well-rounded student with sports and good grades was the best way to live. However, at UMBC without the pressure of college acceptance and the expectations of others, I learned that really growing in education (and especially life), is about making mistakes and learning from those around me.
Outside the Humanities Program, the only group I committed to was Agape Christian Fellowship. When invited to a weekly meeting I went with a hometown friend. I cried that first meeting when I remembered that my God actually loves me and wants me to love Him too. Everyone there was so warm and welcoming, coming to God in a new atmosphere changed my life. Going back to church with friends and attending Agape’s weekly meetings truly impacted my college experience.


Hey! My name is Nailah-Benā Chambers and I am an incoming freshman at UMBC and in the Humanities Scholars Program. I have decided to major in Global Studies with a Minor in Chinese. I hope that I don’t change them any time soon but only time will tell! I am very excited to be a part of the incoming freshmen class this Fall semester, and am very fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful program. I have not planned out what my freshman year will entail, however I am hoping that my interests in language, history, and civil rights activism will lead me to the right clubs and organizations where I can meet others! I do not have a lot to say about my experience so far, as the semester has not started but am looking forward to the experiences I will have at UMBC!