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UMGC Alumni AssociationCelebrating Women’s History Month

Alumnae Cultivate Healing and Hope Through Their Work

​March is Women’s History Month, a time set aside for acknowledging the contributions that women—both throughout history and today—have made in the world.

The official theme of this year’s Women's History Month is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” which honors the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during the ongoing pandemic. It also recognizes the countless ways women of all cultures have always provided healing and hope around the world.

Here, you’ll meet five UMGC alumnae who are doing just that both in their industries and in the community at large.

Jackie DeCarlo '99

CEO, Manna Food Center  

What led you to work in the social services field

I had been fortunate to have been involved in international programs focusing on economic justice and human rights. When I moved to Montgomery County, Md., I encountered homeless people and other signs of poverty in the community. I decided it was a good time to reverse the saying on the bumper sticker. I had been acting globally, and I needed to take what I had learned in my work around the world and use it to act locally to help my neighbor here.

How is your work making a difference?

At Manna, we really feel like we are able to bring people together both to address the concern of food insecurity and to uplift what is best within our community. We are making a difference because we provide the opportunity for folks to give their time, talent and treasure and to work side by side with neighbors who are receiving our services. They are coming together to make Montgomery County a better place where there is food for all.

What are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about the justice aspect of my work. We are not simply feeding people, although that is important. We are trying to promote community engagement so there will always be a place for people to turn when they fall on hard times. We feed people for a reason: so they can be their best selves and give back to their own community.

What advice do you have for fellow alumnae entering a career in this industry?

First, definitely find a way to volunteer to get to know different nonprofits. Working shoulder to shoulder with staff gives you great perspective about what it would be like to join the organization as a professional.

It’s also important to remember that nonprofits are businesses, just with a different tax status. We have a social purpose, but we still have to do our work with the same level of professionalism required in any successful venture. You should bring the skills and talents you learned through your degree program and add them to the not-for-profit sector.

Nichole Kennedy Jaramillo ‘16

President & CEO, Kennedy Foundation of Hope

What led you to work with human trafficking victims?

When I was a young child, I remember the Jacob Wetterling case vividly as the first time I understood that children were victims of crime. Since that time, there has always been a drive within that guided me towards wanting to make a difference in this area.  

During my time at UMGC, professors encouraged us to find the gaps in society that were just waiting for our passion to create a solution. After graduating, I worked at a women’s shelter and began to understand that human trafficking was more common than most are aware and [that victims of human trafficking] are an underserved population. I knew this was where my focus needed to go!

How is your work making a difference? 

There are a lot of dynamics in this field, and one area that has been a huge help is connecting victims to specialized trauma resources that can provide full-scope healing. The physical and psychological toll for victims is devastating and unique, so creating a community where people feel safe sharing their stories and finding peace with others who truly understand their challenges is impactful.

What part of your work are you most passionate about?

One of my favorite parts is creating and sharing prevention programs. In an age where the enemy is a keystroke away, our children have become extremely vulnerable. Providing scenarios they can relate to and tips to keep themselves and friends or family safe is critical. Youth are the future hope of the world. I pray that our efforts, in combination with those of other organizations, can put an end to this tragic abuse of our most valuable resource.

What advice do you have for fellow alumnae entering a career in this industry?

Be open to feedback, and accept failure as a pathway towards success. No one gets it right every time, but you will always get it wrong if you quit. If you’re following your passion to make a positive impact on the world, never give up!

Morayo Fakiya, MD, MHA, CPHQ, CPPS, CLSSBB ‘20

Chief Executive Officer & Founder, ORET Healthcare Enterprise

What led you to work in healthcare?

As a child, I accompanied my mum, a community health nurse, on various trips to provide healthcare services in underserved and rural communities in Nigeria. I observed the impact of her work and the work of other healthcare providers on these communities. This exposure led to my passion and interest in healthcare.

Due to this interest in healthcare, I obtained my undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry, worked in medical research, attended medical school and completed my residency program in internal medicine. During my residency training program, I was introduced to quality improvement and patient safety. I subsequently obtained my master’s degree in healthcare administration from UMGC to expand my knowledge of the complex healthcare system.

As a physician and healthcare administrator, I have experience in clinical care delivery, quality improvement, patient safety and medical education. I decided to extend my healthcare improvement work as a social impact entrepreneur. Therefore, I started a healthcare quality improvement organization focused on population health improvement, clinical business intelligence and capacity-building of the healthcare workforce.

How is your work making a difference?

My work in healthcare makes a difference by providing services to prevent, manage and improve health outcomes.  Also, my work uses data-driven strategies to improve the quality of health care, lower healthcare costs and decrease healthcare disparities. Moreover, my work supports and empowers healthcare providers through career development, coaching and mentorship.

What part of your work are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about improving healthcare quality and outcomes in underserved and marginalized communities through data-driven strategies, improvement methods and tools.

What advice do you have for fellow alumnae entering a career in this industry?

The complex healthcare industry has diverse career paths that require specific skills and competencies. Therefore, I will advise fellow alumnae entering a career in healthcare administration to conduct a personal skills and competencies assessment. The assessment will identify the career opportunities that align with their strengths and [their] potential for personal and career growth. Fellow alumnae should also seek supportive mentors in healthcare administration. Moreover, they should have a collaborative mindset to meet the diverse needs of different healthcare stakeholders.

Selina Y. Holmes ‘10

Vice President, LEED Marketing, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

What led you to work with the USGBC?

I have been engaged in the buildings industry for my entire career. After graduation, I joined Southern Management Corporation, one of the largest privately owned residential property management companies in the U.S. While there, I had the opportunity to study under skilled and effective mentors who helped me understand my craft as a marketing professional. From brand management to content generation, I was able to experience it all.

As time went on, I felt the pull towards the nonprofit world. I desperately wanted the work that I loved to do to have a positive impact on the world. What better way than through sustainability? I remember my first interview with USGBC. I walked into the lobby, which was a marriage of minimalist design and reclaimed materials, and heard Nina Simone playing on the speakers. I knew that I absolutely had to work there. That was nearly 14 years ago, and it is one of the most fulfilling decisions I’ve ever made. 

How is your work making a difference?

USGBC is dedicated to the mission of extending the benefits of green buildings to all people. The organization is the creator of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the most widely used green building certification program in the world. LEED is a framework that can be applied to buildings of all sizes, uses and in all stages of their lifecycle. It defines strategies that minimize the impact on the environment and promote the health of those who live, work, play and learn within them.   According to Architecture 2030, buildings account for nearly 40% of annual global CO2 emissions. Additionally, two thirds of the building area that is here today will still be here in 2040. That’s a great deal of incentive to make sure that the buildings we have are as sustainable, high-performing and healthy for occupants as possible. 

What part of your work are you most passionate about?

I deeply believe in the power of sustainability and the power of connecting people and telling their stories. In my role, I lead a team dedicated to articulating the story of LEED and the impact it has on people and industries all over the world. I am passionate about telling those stories, using this platform that I have been blessed with to communicate how to implement strategies, achieve outcomes and spread the message that green buildings are not only for the fortunate few.

What advice do you have for fellow alumnae entering a career in this industry?

My mentor has a phrase that she lives by: serve with joy. Simply put, this means love what you do. Regardless of where you are in your journey, entry level or senior level, you must genuinely feel fulfilled and satisfied by what you do. This will give you the drive to move forward. It will push you to treat others with kindness and grace. It will motivate you to absorb all of the knowledge available. And so, my advice is to serve with joy. 

Shannon Long Bent, MBA, PMP, CBCP ’20

Program Manager, Engineering Solutions Inc. (ESi)

What led you to work with the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education?

My daughter, Mason, and I moved to Queen Anne’s County in 2007.  My daughter was very fortunate to have gone through the Queen Anne’s County Public School (QACPS) system. She had fantastic teachers, made great friends, and learned what she needed in order to be successful in the next phase of her life.

In August 2021, she began her college career at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY.  Mason had a very active school life – she danced, played the piano and practiced martial arts.  When she went off to school, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands with only her dog Polo as company, and he is not a big talker!

In our county, we had a vacancy in District 1.  A couple of my mom friends asked me to consider it.  After doing some research and reflecting on the successes my child had while in the school system and the struggles families faced during the pandemic and home schooling, I decided I wanted to work to ensure that all students in the county had the same opportunities that my daughter had.

How is your work making a difference?

As a current member of the board, my focus has been the students of Queen Anne’s County, ensuring that, like Mason, all students have opportunities for success.  I am so thankful for all the opportunities she had available to her, but it has always been clear that every student does not have the same access to these opportunities.

When a large portion of our community does not have access to the internet, when there are massive food inequities, when students do not feel safe or accepted being themselves in their schools, we as a community have work to do. This is not a political issue. We need to come together to make sure every QACPS graduate achieves our mission of being well-educated, globally competitive and prepared to become a caring, productive citizen of the 21st century.

While being very new to the Board, I am still learning all the ropes, but I feel have made a difference just by being present and letting my voice be heard.  Just recently we had a resolution submitted to block Critical Race Theory and Collectivism versus Individualism.  I voted to not implement either, as they are political positions and have no place in the PreK – 12 school system.  We should be focusing on student education, safety, access to resources and teachers. We should be supporting our teachers in creating safe, supportive and empowering environments for all students. Using my management skills and having a direct connection to parents, teachers and the community, I can aid in bridging the gap between the Board and those stakeholders.

What part of your work are you most passionate about?

I am most passionate about the students and their accomplishments.  We have some very talented young people: artists, athletes and academic achievers.  I love going to events, plays, band and chorus concerts, and sporting events and cheering on our students.

What advice do you have for fellow alumnae entering a career in this industry?

For someone entering my field, the biggest advice is to build relationships. You will not know all you need to know, but building a team of subject matter experts will enable you to be successful.  When I was in business development at Northrop Grumman, a colleague had a signature block that said if you want to go fast, go it alone; if you want to go far, you need a team. 

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