– Alumni Profile, Jeffrey Ash ’96 –

– Developing a Blueprint – First associate dean for diversity and inclusion at UM nursing school has designs on innovation –

Jeffrey Ash ’96 is on a mission. As the first associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, he wants to make the school a better place to learn and work. 

Ash, who earned a Doctor of Education degree in urban educational leadership from Morgan State University, works with colleagues across the University of Maryland, Baltimore, campus to promote and execute diversity and inclusion initiatives. He also serves as the primary adviser to the school’s senior academic leadership and senior administrative team.

“I want to ensure that we demonstrate ‘inclusive excellence’ in every aspect of our educational and workplace experience,” Ash says. “I believe that every transaction and interaction matters and I would like for my office to be the hub of transactions involving the confluence of diverse people, processes and innovation for our school.”    

Ash has discovered advantages in being the first person to serve in this position at the nursing school. “I have found it intriguing to be able to build and create the blueprint for this position and my office from my own lens.”

Yet he also knows that others often perceive the new office or person as solely responsible for creating an inclusive environment. “So changing that mindset while building relationships, building trust and culture change takes time,” he explains.

Without a “blueprint” for the job, Ash says he uses the nursing school’s values and strategic plan as a guide. “Goal setting and planning is always designed to align with the direction and strategy that our university has developed,” he notes.

“We all matter here at [the nursing school], “ he says. “We all count. We are a community. If we can create this type of capital in our environment, we create the space to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve at a really high level.”

– Alumni Profile, Susan Gebhardt ’78 

– A Fierce Competitor – Hall of Fame swimmer represents Team USA in World Triathlon championships –

“Get back in the pool where you belong.”

Those words spurred Susan Gebhardt ’78 to leave the TU field hockey team and return to competitive swimming, something she had done since age six.

Then TU swimming and tennis coach John McCleary uttered the advice that pushed Gebhardt to become the athlete she is today.   

“I cried my way through the first week of practices,” she recalls. “Coach George Kropp asked me to give him one month to turn me into a competitive collegiate swimmer. Coach Ray Riordan asked me to practice with the men’s team so he could make me a champion swimmer.” 

Both coaches kept their promises. They molded Gebhardt into a fierce competitor who was worthy of being inducted into TU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.

Fast forward almost 40 years and Gebhardt still uses the discipline, determination and confidence she learned during her years as a TU swimmer. She began competing in 5K races, half marathons, marathons and now triathlons where she showcases all of her athletic abilities. 

“In 2015, I qualified for and competed in the annual Triathlon National Championship in Milwaukee,“ she says. “My finishing time was good enough to qualify for the World Triathlon Championships in Mexico, representing Team USA in September in Cozumel. It was exhilarating walking through the center of town in the Parade of Nations with athletes from 56 other countries.”   

Next year, she will represent Team USA in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

A physical education teacher and now an assistant principal in Harford County, Gebhardt and her husband have raised six children.

Her advice to TU students and alumni? “Be curious … resist complacency and ‘just getting by,’ pursue activities that inspire you, know your limits … treasure and thank those who support your dreams, and give back along the way.”