Produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications
Meet 10 Standout First-Year Students as They Join UMD
Photos courtesy of students; illustration by Valerie Morgan
An elite ice skater, a world-record crocheter and a computer science education website founder are among the talented and driven members of the University of Maryland’s new freshman class—one that even includes a talented racecar driver.
The Fall 2022 first-year class of around 4,700 also includes poets, programmers, artists and budding entrepreneurs, along with broad diversity and dedication to making the world a better place. Read on to meet 10 of the impressive Terps below:
Elise Barber has twisted and twirled her way toward success since she was 9, when she started ice skating. The Clarksburg, Md., native has glided up the ranks, landing a spot on the Team USA synchronized figure skating squad in 2020. “I liked the fact that synchronized skating had a team environment, where I could be supported and uplifted by other skaters rather than always having to fight with them for a spot,” she said. Barber plans to leave campus by noon on Fridays to make the six-hour trip to the Connecticut training facility, but that doesn’t mean she’s not delving into her studies. The chemistry major, part of the Honors College’s Integrated Life Sciences program, looks forward to working in the lab and researching inorganic catalysts.
Marcus Barros doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t in the saddle. “My dad legitimately took me out of the hospital and put me straight on a horse,” he said. That experience turned into Barros’ passion as he became an accomplished equestrian, representing the United States at international show jumping competitions. Highlights include wins in several classes in events at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina, as well as a fifth-place finish as a 15-year-old at a competition in Colombia. Barros also grew up training clients’ horses to “jump bigger, jump cleaner or walk smoother,” he said. When he wasn’t at the barn or the course, he also enjoyed teaming up with his grandfather to design, build and compete with radio-controlled model helicopters. Now, the Orlando, Fla., native, who’s majoring in business, is ready to start a new chapter in his new state—and see some snow, he said.
An adrenaline junkie committed to spreading the word about the most (literally) down-and-dirty form of automotive sport, Aidan Borden of Jackson, N.J., who began racing in 2013, is an internationally recognized dirt track car racer. He races with his father, Ian Borden, who retired from racing himself in 2013. “These events I’ve raced at are absolutely gigantic,” Aidan said. “We’re just a … small father-son racing team competing against people with unfathomable amounts of money who race at national tours.” Recently, Borden says he took on the “challenge of entering the world of sprint-car racing—open-wheeled, ridiculously light, scary-fast cars that race on dirt ovals.” He called himself a big fish in a small pond in that respect. While the freedom he feels behind the wheel keeps him drawn to the sport, he’s looking forward to a new kind of independence as a freshman at UMD, where he will be pursuing a degree in computer science.
Noora Ghahremani is a poet, and if her hundreds of copyrighted poems are any indication, she does know it. The Ellicott City, Md., native grew up listening to her grandfather recite works from the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, and she began writing around age 9. Her now-extensive catalog covers topics “from something as small as flower petals to something as broad as religion,” she said. This past year, she began compiling them into a book that she hopes to publish in the coming months. She also co-founded Glenelg Country School’s first literary arts magazine, Bittersweet, which recently featured content reflecting on the pandemic’s new normal. Ghahremani, an English language and literature major, will continue writing at UMD while exploring all the campus has to offer.
When Asher Harcum was tasked with choosing a project for her International Baccalaureate class, the incoming architecture major decided to construct a house out of Popsicle sticks. But the Baltimore native did not stop there. Her goal was to precisely model it to a small scale, make it sustainable and use environmentally friendly materials in the three-month process. Her masterpiece is displayed for all to see at her alma mater, Baltimore City College High School. She’s talented with words as well as wood, winning the annual WJZ Black History Oratory Competition this year for her lyrical interpretation of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s advice: “Have a vision. Be demanding.”
Brayden Huang’s major is computer engineering, but the Northern Virginian enters freshman year already boasting a plethora of experience in the field. He founded a site called Codefy with his friends during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has since boosted in popularity. Since its inception in 2019, they have raised over $8,000 and have north of 2,300 enrollments for the free, online computer science courses available to students worldwide. The organization is run entirely by students. “I thought it’d be one of those three-month things or hobbies that just goes away,” Huang said. “It’s still going today, which I’m really happy about.”
Shonchori Mukherjee’s dancing talents have not only netted her national competition wins, but they’ve also benefited her community and beyond. The New Providence, N.J., native began Indian classical dancing when she was 4 and has since racked up the accolades, including several first-place finishes in virtual IndianRaga competitions and a runner-up nod at an event in India. During her 2018 arangetram, a debut showcase after years of training, she channeled that dancing drive for good, donating around $2,000 of her gift money to help victims of sex trafficking. She kept the giving going during the pandemic, raising over $4,000 for personal protective equipment during a danceathon of sorts and performing in the Virtual Arts for Humanity concert. “I really enjoy using something that I’m passionate about to give back to the community that has given me so much,” she said. The economics major and College Park Scholar will continue her dance journey on campus, with plans to join the UMD Moksha team.
For Sayee Naresh, crocheting isn’t just a relaxing (and warm) hobby, but also a claim to fame of sorts. In 2019, she and others in her hometown of Plainsboro, N.J., joined Mother India’s Crochet Queens’ successful Guinness World Record effort to craft the largest collection of Christmas decorations, with Naresh contributing 100 ornament-like trinkets to the group’s total of more than 66,000. She’s also graced the leaderboards in chess, placing second in the state in 2019, and in music, winning the junior category in the New Jersey Tamil Peravai Indian Music Singing Competition that same year. As if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Naresh, a computer science major who won West Windsor Plainsboro High School South’s Pirates of Technology Award, has also written three children’s books in the Tamil language, with her latest about—of course—crocheting.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Kaisha Snowden turned her quarantine reflections into meaningful art. She started making waist beads—African-originated accessories that traditionally represent femininity, spirituality or coming of age—and selling them through a business she called the Serenity Series, promoting body positivity along the way. “It was kind of a way for me to enjoy doing something that could connect me back to this culture,” she said, “and where I could bring this culture to other people like me.” Now, as the Baltimore native begins her time as a Terp, she’s shifting her focus to other passions. With plans to major in kinesiology and dance, she hopes to one day open her own studio and recently began hosting free dance classes in her community.
Alexandre Trad has never seen his favorite soccer team play in person, yet his takes on London-based Arsenal have garnered a fan base of their own. The government and politics major amassed a community north of 63,000 followers on Instagram @gunner.talk. He stopped running the page in April, however, there is no shortage of content with team photos and graphics analyzing stats still on the account. “I just started watching this team. I really liked the way they played and the brands they spread,” he said. “I’ve been supporting them since I was 8 or 9, so almost half my life.” Posting on Instagram helped him gain valuable writing skills and experience expressing his opinions on the team.
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