CMNS Spring 2022 Commencement Speakers Announced
Nancy Kopp, Maryland State Treasurer from 2002-21, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Maryland's College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) Spring 2022 Commencement Ceremony. Kianté Brantley, Connor Lu and Alythia Vo were selected as the student speakers for the ceremony.
Nancy Kopp, Keynote Speaker
Nancy Kopp served as Treasurer for the state of Maryland from 2002 through 2021. The 23rd Treasurer and only the second woman to serve in over 170 years, Kopp was responsible for investing and banking state funds and leading the state’s AAA-rated public debt management.
As Treasurer, Kopp chaired the State Retirement Board, the Maryland College Savings Board and several other public finance agencies. She was an active member of Maryland’s Climate Change Commission and a leader in the state’s efforts in climate change mitigation and adaptation, with a special focus on reducing inequities and supporting vulnerable communities. Serving on the Board of Public Works with the governor and comptroller, Kopp insisted that climate change impact be included in all major state building and development projects.
Before being elected State Treasurer, Kopp served for 27 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, including serving as Speaker Pro Tem and Chair of the Spending Affordability Committee. She chaired the committee overseeing funding and support of Maryland’s higher education system. Her legislative accomplishments ranged from governmental transparency and efficiency to equal rights for women and minorities to the merger of the old state college and universities systems into the new University System of Maryland with the University of Maryland, College Park as the flagship campus. Her colleagues named her the most effective woman legislator and one of the 10 most effective members of the House.
Kopp has been a leader in numerous national, regional and state organizations and boards over the years, focusing on education, public finance and climate change. She has served as an enthusiastic member of the CMNS Board of Visitors for 21 years. Kopp was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012, and upon her retirement from state service in 2021 she was honored with the Speaker Medallion for outstanding service to Maryland. She has also received several honorary degrees and is an honorary alumna of the University of Maryland, College Park.
Kianté Brantley, Graduate Student SpeakerKianté Brantley is graduating in May 2022 with a Ph.D. in computer science advised by Pier Giorgio Perotto Endowed Professor Hal Daumé III. Brantley designs algorithms that efficiently integrate domain knowledge into sequential decision-making problems. He is most excited about imitation learning and interactive learning—or, more broadly, settings that involve a feedback loop between a machine learning agent and the input the machine learning agent sees. He has published five first-author conference papers and co-authored three more. He won second place for his talk at the Natural Language, Dialog and Speech Symposium, a leading machine learning conference.
Brantley successfully defended his dissertation in December and received a prestigious Computing Innovation Fellowship, which is supporting him for two years as a postdoc at Cornell University. He is studying theoretical and practical aspects of learning-to-rank recommendation system problems with Professor Thorsten Joachims. The outcome of their study will be new methodologies with theoretical guarantees and practical benefits for sequential decision-making in recommendation systems.
As a Ph.D. student, Brantley was awarded the competitive Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on High-Performance Computing/Intel Computational and Data Science Fellowship, the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate Program Fellowship, the UMD Ann G. Wylie Dissertation Fellowship and the UMD Graduate School’s Dean’s Fellowship. Over the past four summers, he interned for Microsoft Research.
Before coming to UMD in 2016, Brantley attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree (advised by Tim Oates) in computer science. He also worked as a developer for the U.S. Department of Defense from 2010 to 2017. In his free time, Brantley enjoys playing sports; his favorite at the moment is powerlifting.
Connor Lu, Undergraduate Student SpeakerConnor Lu graduated in December 2021 with a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences specializing in general biology and a minor in general business. He is from Rockville, Maryland, where he was born and raised by his parents, who emigrated from Vietnam.
Before coming to the University of Maryland in fall 2018, Lu attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, playing on the basketball and soccer teams as well as playing the piano recreationally. He was admitted to the University Honors program at UMD and received a Dean’s Scholarship.
He quickly joined the Vietnamese Student Association, Delta Epsilon Mu and the Student Dental Advisory Board and became a CMNS Peer Mentor. He also participated in the First-Year Innovation & Research Experience program. Lu was selected for membership in several honor societies, including Alpha Lambda Delta, Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi.
Aside from academics and extracurricular activities, Lu has volunteered with service organizations including Mission of Mercy, Terps Against Hunger, the Food Recovery Network and Miles for Smiles.
Since graduation, Lu has worked full-time as a dental assistant and will attend the University of Maryland School of Dentistry this fall. His career goal is to be a general dentist in the area, managing his own practice and providing care to underserved communities.
Alythia Vo, Undergraduate Student Speaker
Alythia Vo is graduating in May 2022 with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences with a specialization in physiology and neurobiology; a bachelor's degree in Spanish language, literatures and culture; and minors in U.S. Latino/a Studies and Asian American Studies. She received her Honors Citation through the Integrated Life Sciences program and was awarded this year's University Medal, the highest honor given to an undergraduate by the university.
Vo has participated in several research experiences throughout her undergraduate career. She conducted research on neural circuits in the gustatory systems of Drosophila at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md. Currently, she is studying the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to contraceptive care at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. Vo is also investigating the causes of child mortality in Mali at the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health in Baltimore.
A medical scribe in the Suburban Hospital Emergency Department, Vo has also worked as a community outreach coordinator for COVID-19 vaccine research studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and as a medical assistant at the Retina Centers of Washington in Rockville, Md. She volunteered at the Pregnancy Aid Center and Latino Health Initiative.
On campus, Vo has served as the co-president of the Asian American Student Union, co-president of the Taiwanese American Student Association, and recruitment and community outreach chair for the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society. Vo was also a brother of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and a teaching assistant for mammalian physiology.
Vo will work as a research assistant at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle following graduation and plans to pursue a career in medicine.
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College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
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About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 9,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $200 million.