About the Awards

Graduates of the University of Maryland are among the best and brightest in their fields. From scholars and innovators to entrepreneurs, teachers and researchers, our alumni are leaving their mark on our state, nation and world. The Alumni Excellence Awards recognize the accomplishments of select Terps and honor these recipients with distinction. The following standout alumni are the inaugural recipients of this honor. 
 

Rising Terp Award

Honors an alumnus/a under 30 years old who has distinguished themselves personally and professionally. Up to three Rising Terp Awards will be granted annually, celebrating a Terp/s who excel in their career and inspire the next generation of Terp leaders. 

Honorees

Beth Barkley

Beth Barkley '12, M.Ed. '13
Secondary English/Language Arts Teacher, District of Columbia Public Schools

Beth Barkley holds a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature, with a minor in Spanish language and culture and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She began working in El Salvador during summers and breaks from Maryland and immediately following graduation, then moved there to volunteer as an English and literacy teacher. Beth is a relentless advocate for immigrant rights, equity and social justice. She works closely with United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led organization, which advocates for comprehensive laws at the local and federal levels to protect immigrant youths and their families, and D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice.

Beth teaches ninth- and 10th-grade English at the International Academy at the Cardozo Education Campus for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). There, she fosters its mission to create a highly supportive environment for students who are new to the United States and in the early stages of their English language development. She received the 2013 University of Maryland Rebecca Williams Award for Commitment to Social Change and is a finalist for the 2020 Teacher of the Year award for DCPS.

Mackenzie Burnett

Mackenzie Burnett ’15
Co-founder, the Next 50

Mackenzie Burnett is the co-founder of the Next 50, an organization making politics more accessible to young people. While pursuing bachelor’s degrees in international relations and government & politics from the University of Maryland, Mackenzie co-founded Bitcamp, the university’s annual hackathon, and was the executive director of Startup Shell, a student-run startup incubator and coworking space. She was the Spring 2015 student commencement speaker and was recognized on Forbes magazine’s 2017 30 Under 30 list in the enterprise technology category for another startup she co-founded called Redspread, which CoreOS acquired the same year.

Mackenzie is committed to building communities that unlock the potential of people who want to do good. She serves on the board of directors for Interact, a nonprofit that provides fellowships to mission-driven technologists, and the advisory board of the Well, a nonprofit community and coworking space for women of color entrepreneurs in Columbia, Md. She also hosts community events that engage people in dialogues around politics, including the 2020 presidential election.

Jonathan Chen

Jonathan Chen ’14
Co-founder & Technology Advisor, FiscalNote Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Pathover

Jonathan started computer programming at the age of 14. As a computer science major at Maryland, he was a key volunteer with Bitcamp and a member of the Hinman CEOs Program and the Taiwanese American Citizens League. Jonathan also delivered the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences’ Spring 2014 commencement speech. During his time at Maryland, he co-founded FiscalNote, which uses open data and artificial intelligence to foster transparency in the legal system. Its software analytics platforms forecast trends and outcomes in legislation and government filings to help clients make strategic decisions based on how the government may be impacting their businesses. FiscalNote raised over $60 million in venture funding from notable figures such as Mark Cuban and Jerry Yang.

CNN named FiscalNote “one of the 10 emerging companies whose products have the potential to transform industries, help the planet’s less fortunate and become a handy part of our lives.” Jonathan and his co-founders were named to Bisnow’s Top 40 under 40 entrepreneurs in the Washington, D.C. region, and Inc. magazine named FiscalNote the “Coolest College Startup of 2014.” Jonathan’s latest startup is Pathover, an e-commerce platform for grocery delivery.

 

Research Award

Honors an alumnus/a whose research has made a significant impact on the university, the state and/or the nation. Up to three Research Awards will be granted, celebrating a Terp/s whose research is transformational.

Honorees

Headshot of Sharon Fries-Britt

Sharon Fries-Britt ’81, Ph.D. ’94
Professor, Higher Education, University of Maryland

As the first African American woman promoted to professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, Sharon Fries-Britt is a pioneer committed to transforming higher education into a better working and learning environment for African American students and racial and ethnic minority faculty. Her research examines the experiences of high-achieving blacks in higher education and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. She was one of the faculty co-leads and authors of a recently published report, based on a collaboration with the University of Missouri and the American Council on Education, to study campus racial climate. In addition, Fries-Britt is part of a national task force for the American Institutes of Physics, where she researches the systematic underrepresentation of African Americans in physics and astronomy and is a co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to explore the academic trajectories of black transfer engineering students from community colleges.

Sharon received a Mentor of the Year Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and most recently received the 2019–20 Distinguished Scholar Teacher Award. She has spoken at a number of college campuses to share her research and experience, and has worked as a consultant for Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, the U.S. Secret Service and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Headshot of Stephen Kerber

Stephen Kerber ’03, M.S. ’05
Vice President, Research, Underwriters Laboratories

Steve Kerber is the vice president of research for Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and director of its Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI). He leads research in the areas of fire safety engineering, firefighter safety, fire forensics and science to address risks and emerging dangers from fire. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fire protection engineering from Maryland and is a 13-year veteran of the fire service, mostly at the College Park Fire Department.

As a successful research engineer at UL, Steve was tapped to lead the new Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI). Steve strategically located the FSRI office in Columbia, Maryland to foster a relationship with UMD’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland. Under his leadership, the institute has published 38 research reports and papers, created 16 online learning courses, presented at more than 250 conferences or seminars, improved standard operating procedures in more than 70 fire departments and created the Close Your Door public safety campaign that was featured on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” In March 2019, he was promoted to vice president of research at UL.

Steve is a fellow of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers and serves as a member of the UMD Department of Fire Protection Engineering’s Board of Visitors. He has also been appointed an honorary battalion chief by the Fire Department of New York, was named the 2014 ISFSI and Fire Engineering George D. Post Instructor of the Year and was awarded the 2019 Metropolitan Fire Chiefs President’s Award of Distinction.

 

EnTERPrenuer Award

Honors an entrepreneurial alumnus/a whose company has made a significant impact on the university, the state and/or the nation. Up to three EnTERPreneur Awards will be granted annually, celebrating a Terp/s who has started a business that is fearlessly disrupting its industry.

Honorees

Anthony Casalena

Anthony Casalena ’05
Founder & CEO, Squarespace

Anthony Casalena started Squarespace, the all-in-one platform for websites, domains, online stores and marketing tools, from his Maryland dorm room in 2003 after noticing a lack of services that prioritized design and aesthetics. Now with headquarters in New York City, Squarespace has grown to more than 1,000 employees with offices in New York, Dublin and Portland, Oregon. Squarespace’s product suite functions in six languages, serving millions of customers around the world. Anthony remains actively involved in setting the company’s vision and has played a significant role in building and conceptualizing each iteration of its award-winning software. In early 2019, Anthony led Squarespace’s first major business acquisition, of the appointment scheduling company Acuity Scheduling. Along with many accolades in the technology world, Anthony is a member of the UMD Department of Computer Science Alumni Hall of Fame.

Evan Lutz ’14
CEO, Hungry Harvest

Evan Lutz is passionate about food justice, entrepreneurship and the Baltimore Ravens. Prior to graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Evan created Hungry Harvest, a socially conscious business that he started from his dorm room basement. Hungry Harvest "rescues" fresh produce (surplus from local farms and markets that would otherwise go to the landfill) and sends it each week to subscribers in nine states. To date, Hungry Harvest has prevented 15 million pounds of food from going to waste while providing millions of pounds of fresh produce to areas of high-food insecurity. Its innovative Produce in a SNAP project, which sells low-cost fresh produce in neighborhoods where food access is limited, has served nearly 10,000 people through 26 sites across Baltimore, Frederick and Philadelphia, partnering with organizations such as University of Maryland Medical Center, the YMCA and Baltimore City Public Schools.

Evan has been recognized as an honorary member of the University of Maryland chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, in the Baltimore Business Journal’s 40 under 40 in 2016 and Forbes magazine’s 2017 30 under 30 list in the social entrepreneurship category, and as one of the Maryland Daily Record’s 2018 Most Admired CEOs. Evan was also featured on ABC's “Shark Tank,” where he won a $100,000 investment.

Headshot of Shayan Zadeh

Shayan Zadeh M.S. ’02
Founder & CEO, Leap Rail

Shayan Zadeh is the founder and CEO of Leap Rail, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup helping hospitals to run more efficient and streamlined operating rooms through the power of machine learning and predictive analytics. Previously, Shayan co-founded Zoosk, one of the world’s largest online dating platforms and a top 10 grossing app in the Apple App store. Shayan led Zoosk as CEO for seven years, raising over $60 million in venture capital and growing the company to over $200 million in annual revenue. Shayan, who holds eight patents, has used his success in the development of AI software to introduce new concepts and techniques to different industries. He’s an angel investor and adviser to startups including Polymath, Medopad, Sherbit, Mavatar, SnapShip, PaperKarma, Identified and AppComputing. In addition, he has been a mentor and role model for many young immigrants to the U.S. His companies have sponsored a number of these immigrants for F1 visas, an important part of the journey to legal U.S. citizenship. He has been named to the 40 Under 40 list by the San Francisco Business Times and was inducted into the UMD Department of Computer Science Alumni Hall of Fame.

 

Legacy Award

Honors an alumnus/a who has made a significant impact to their community over their lifetime. Up to three Legacy Awards will be granted annually, celebrating the personal and professional lifetime achievement of Terps.

Honoree

Headshot of David Diehl

David Diehl ’74
Retired

Dave Diehl has been a loyal Terp since he first stepped onto the University of Maryland campus 50 years ago. He was a two-sport letter winner, in swimming and soccer. After graduating, Dave served Maryland Athletics and the University of Maryland Alumni Association in numerous ways. He has been a member of the board of directors of the M Club since 1974, including roles as sports representative, president (1983) and executive director (1996–2018) and now as director emeritus. He has served on the University of Maryland Alumni Association Board of Governors since 1996 and was recently named to the Advisory Council. He has sat on two Alumni Hall of Fame selection committees, chaired/co-chaired the awards committee for more than a decade and served as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Governors scholarship committee. In addition, he was a member of the board of directors of the Sports Legends/Babe Ruth Birthplace museum representing Maryland Athletics and now serves as a member of its advisory board.

In the world of competitive swimming, Dave was a USA-Swimming coach for 15 years, president of the Potomac Valley Masters Swimming, chartered three U.S. Masters Swimming clubs and was a vice president and an at-large member of its board of directors. He spent 35 years in the computer/information technology field and has now retired as the chief of computer security and oversight at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.