Alumni Tell Their Stories

Scientists, authors, entrepreneurs, and artists – all of our alumni offer unique perspective into life inside and outside of UMass! Enjoy our alumni stories and look for new additions each month in our newsletter, @UMASS.


The Power of Authenticity
As deputy director of the workplace equality program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, Beck Bailey ’14 MBA works with large multinational companies on LGBTQ inclusion initiatives.

The Disease Detective
As an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Carolyn Herzig ’01, ’03 MS is on the hunt for data on diseases and how to respond to potential outbreaks in the United States.

Making Connections
After meeting at the Student Alumni Networking Night in November, Keller-Williams real estate agent Laura Slotnick Krouch ’01 and undergraduate student Anthony Amaral ’19 found common ground in their shared interests and professional goals.

A Balanced Approach to Health and Wellness
Around the world, people are taking stock of their general fitness and setting goals to do better! To truly affect change, Justin Killeen ’11, owner of 50/50 Fitness/Nutrition, recommends creating balance in all aspects of your life.

Lending Her Voice
Fatimah Baeshen ’02 was recently appointed as the first female spokesperson for the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States.

Culinary Connections
For Paul Entis ’96 MEd, director of the Jewish Food Experience (JFE), the flavors, cultures, and traditions surrounding Jewish cooking are all ingredients that enrich the lives and dinner tables of all who have a taste.

The Bones Behind Violence
Skeletal remains of generations past have a wealth of stories to tell, according to biological anthropologist Debra Martin ’80 MA, ’83 PhD, whose primary focus for the past 30 years has been on connecting the dots between ancient violence and today’s society.

Dedicated to Public Service
As a diplomat and now as a member of the Ecuadorian Parliament, Esther Cuesta Santana ’02, ’09 MA, ’15 PhD works on the ground and across the globe to listen to, act on, and respond to the needs of Ecuadorian citizens.

UMass Pride Abroad
Far from their Massachusetts roots, three UMass graduates recently found themselves stationed together in Kabul, Afghanistan. It didn’t take long for their UMass pride to show!

Balancing Security with Privacy
“The idea that you have to choose national security or privacy is a false narrative,” says the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Civil Liberties and Privacy Director Rebecca Richards ’94. “As citizens, we need to think about how we can accomplish both of these at the same time.”

Band Alumni March On
Big things are happening for the UMass Marching Band and its alumni, according to Keith Paul ’98, a veteran saxophone player and leader of the UMass Marching Band Alumni Network.

Wild Ride

Through one lucky conversation, National Geographic Field Producer and Director Brent LeRash ’07 went from playing tour guide on Cape Cod to studying, filming, and touching noses with some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet.

Supporting Future iCons Leaders
A new prize established with a gift from Peg Crowley-Nowick ’86 recognizes student leaders in the Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) program.

A Multicultural Life
“Life happens. Sometimes you just have to write about it,” says author Elizabeth Chennamchetty ’04 MPH, whose memoir Bangles, Bindis and Babies: Becoming a Family tells of her mishaps and growth in an unexpected multicultural marriage.

Color in Comics

With more than 10,000 comic books in his collection spanning nearly a century of storytelling, comic book historian William Foster ’75 has made it his life’s work to research and teach others about the representation of people of color in comics.

Enhancing the Human Experience
What if web browsing were more personalized than a Google search? User Experience Designer Gabrielle Mehlman ’10 says it’s only a matter of time until your computer will predict your needs based on a simple conversation.

Devoted to Diversity
“While I’m an adult and able to weather adversity, my responsibility is to be a touchstone for students of color who are challenged by being in the minority. I’ve taken this work to heart,” says Amherst-Pelham Regional High School Dean of Students Mary Custard ’82, ’87 MA. 

On the Run
Ultra-marathon runner and cyclist Steve Marra ’75 isn’t afraid to face the heat as he prepares for Badwater, the “world's toughest foot race” in the heart of Death Valley, California.

A Lifetime Commitment to UMass
Madeleine Noland ’89 and William Noland ’86 have seen the value of staying connected to UMass Amherst as students, professionals, and donors to university initiatives that speak to their passions.

Strategic Thinking
With UMass Amherst climbing the ranks toward becoming a top-20 public institution, Alumni Association President Gregory Thomas ’91 says now is the time for alumni to harness that energy and reignite their UMass pride.