Nicole and Zena Smith with the Baltimore skyline. Photo courtesy of the Smith family.

As a kid, global studies major Zena Smith often heard her mother, Nicole Smith ’02, mathematics, talk about her years at UMBC. But until she visited—and experienced campus life in person—she never really considered becoming a Retriever herself.

“There were many factors that went into why I chose UMBC,” says the younger Smith, who originally had been adamant about not attending UMBC because her mother had gone there.  But after visiting campus, “I was completely sold, and understood why my mom loves this school so much.” 

While most mothers and daughters share some things in common, it’s a special bond to carry on the Retriever legacy. And while UMBC continues to grow by building new structures, creating a new brand, and extending its global influence, no matter how much has changed, that Retriever bond is what makes our community at UMBC feel like family for so many. Even more so if you’re actually family.

The Smiths are certainly not alone in this. When it was time for her to choose a college, UMBC sophomore Miranda Sadtler, psychology, decided on UMBC because she really liked the atmosphere and knew the reputation of the psychology program here. But the stories her mother, Kim Sadtler ’82, told her about her alma mater also influenced her decision.

Sadtler majored in psychology and minored in health science and policy. After graduation, she attended the University of Maryland School of Nursing and worked as a psychiatric nurse. She attributes an internship through the psychology department at UMBC in collaboration with the University of Maryland Hospital for helping her solidify her career path as a psychiatric nurse.

Kim with her brother on graduation day 1982. Photo courtesy of the Stadtler family.
Kim with her brother on graduation day 1982. Photo courtesy of the Sadtler family.

Taking her mother’s experiences into account, Miranda is choosing a slightly different route and hopes to establish a career on the clinical research side of psychology, which her mother agrees is perfect for her. “Compassion comes second nature to Miranda,” says Sadtler. 

Despite pursuing similar degrees from UMBC, Miranda’s time on campus has differed from that of her mother, who worked as the first student athletic trainer under the head athletic trainer, Cindy Stout. During this time, Sadtler got to know the athletes, traveled with them, and shadowed Stout, who was a role model and friend. 

While Sadtler was centered on athletics, Miranda works on campus as a desk staffer, and helps the Environmental Task Force clean up trash on campus every week. “I’m really glad I joined different clubs and organizations. Both my job as a desk staffer and a member of the Environmental Task Force have really made my time at UMBC better because of the great friends and opportunities I’ve had so far.” 

Despite choosing the same college, Sadtler and Miranda have many differences between them—different fashion sense, different laugh, different smiles—but the one thing they share are the fond memories they have of campus, where they both met some of their best friends.

Sadtler’s favorite memories of 1980s UMBC center on the dorms and friendships with suitemates and roommates, sporting events, and spending time on the Quad. “UMBC gave me opportunities to expand my knowledge, take dance classes, work as a student athletic trainer, learn about policy, and enter the healthcare field,” says Sadtler. Her time at UMBC helped her figure out what her dreams were. This has turned out to be no different for her daughter.

Both women feel that going to UMBC has brought them closer together, and they love that they can share stories about how much UMBC has grown since 1982. “Whenever she visits, my mom will tell me about how things have changed and what’s still the same. UMBC feels somewhat small to me now; I can’t imagine how small it must’ve felt to her when she attended!” Miranda says. Before Miranda’s freshman year, she was pleasantly surprised to find out that she would be living in Patapsco Hall, where her mother lived for four years. 

Kim joins her daughter Miranda on freshmen move-in day. Photo courtesy of the Stadler family.
Kim joins her daughter Miranda on freshmen move-in day. Photo courtesy of the Sadtler family.

Sitting together in their cozy living room, Smith shares her first impressions of UMBC with her daughter Zena.

“I fell in love with UMBC during my visit. The atmosphere was so inviting and the staff was welcoming,” she says. But Smith was looking for an electrical engineering program, which UMBC lacked at the time. It was President Freeman Hrabowski who advised Smith to complete her associate’s degree in engineering first, so Smith started out at University of Maryland, College Park. After spending two semesters at UMD, Smith decided to change her major to mathematics, “and transferred to the school I first fell in love with, UMBC.”

Having attended multiple institutions, Smith says that some of the best benefits at UMBC were the smaller class sizes and the fact that you were able to meet with your professor directly if you had questions regarding the class, instead of a TA. 

“My professors at UMBC were the most giving of their time. If a student needed help outside of office hours, they made it a point to stay after class to ensure that the student got the assistance they needed,” says Smith.  “They always put the needs of their students before theirs. They made sure that you understood the material before you left the session, no matter how long it took. That’s true dedication.” 

Dr. Hrabowski congratulates Nicole Smith on graduation. Photo courtesy of the Smith family.
Dr. Hrabowski congratulates Nicole Smith on graduation. Photo courtesy of the Smith family.

Along with the professors and staff members, Smith also loved how welcoming students at UMBC are. “As a transfer student, I thought it would have been difficult to connect with the students that had already bonded during freshman year,” she says, “but that was so far from the truth.” 

Now, as an alumna, Smith gets the pleasure of watching her daughter experience and fall in love with UMBC the same way she did. “Not that Zena would remember, but when she was younger she would always say that she wanted to attend UMBC,” says Smith, “but as she got older UMBC was not on her radar. All of that changed when she finally decided to visit UMBC. The inviting atmosphere and the welcoming staff and students that she encountered on her walk to the RAC all made her feel like she was at home.” Smith was so proud when Zena made her college decision.

Both of the Smiths feel that UMBC helped bring them closer together because of their shared experiences. While Smith was a working student, and wasn’t able to join many clubs and organizations, she really pushed Zena to find her place on campus. “Going to the same school really helped us bond over our similar experiences or similar classes we have taken,” says Zena. “UMBC is a part of our lives that we are always going to share.”

Zena Smith on campus. Photo courtesy of the Smith family.
Zena Smith outside of Erickson Hall. Photo courtesy of the Smith family.



Header image: Nicole and Zena Smith with the Baltimore skyline. Photo courtesy of the Smith family.

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