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Show host: ‘This is the most innovative campus we’ve been on’

The students featured in “The College Tour” episode spoke to the audience after the screening Thursday night while host Alex Boylan sat and listened. Credit: Courtney Cohn

Marjorie Merida said she loves the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville because of the small class sizes, clubs and convenient location, but most importantly: It’s where she met her husband.

Merida, 27, of Gaithersburg is one of 10 students featured in the newest episode of Amazon Prime Video’s The College Tour.

The 30-minute episode spotlights the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) on Gudelsky Drive, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs from nine public universities in Maryland.

The College Tour is hosted by Alex Boylan, the show’s executive producer who got his start in television when he was declared the winner on the CBS reality show The Amazing Race in 2002.

In its 11th season, College Tour offers more than 150 episodes featuring interviews with students from different colleges and universities. During a screening event Thursday at USG, Boylan said that out of all of the featured schools, Universities at Shady Grove “is the most innovative campus we’ve been on.”

The school caters toward transfer students, offering only junior- and senior-level courses for undergraduate programs, and many students from Montgomery College come to USG to finish their degrees, USG spokesperson Steve Simon said.

The campus offers courses from state schools including the University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore; Salisbury University; and Towson University.

Nearly 4,000 students attend programs at USG and future capacity is expected to grow to 7,500, according to the school’s website.

USG Executive Director Anne Khademian said USG is working to raise awareness about the campus and hopes that its appearance on the college tour show will help.

“I’m tired of being the best-kept secret in Montgomery County,” Khademian said. “It’s affordable, it’s accessible, and has incredible degree programs offered by the top universities in the state.”

USG screened the episode in an auditorium on campus for students, staff, family and friends. Throughout the episode, the featured students shared their experiences at USG.

“As a first-generation college student, it hasn’t always been easy to navigate my educational path,” Merida said in the episode. “After graduating from community college, I visited a college fair where I learned about USG, a campus that would allow me to pursue a bachelor’s degree while staying in the community.”

Merida said she received her bachelor’s degree from USG in social work through a program from UMBC and enjoyed it so much that she has returned to finish her master’s degree through the University of Maryland, Baltimore at USG.

She said that one of the reasons that she loves USG is that there are so many clubs and social events that help her  to get involved in the community, including salsa dancing nights, which is where she met her husband.

“I just wanted to prove to people that it doesn’t matter if you have a baby, if you’re starting something new or how old you are, you can still come get an education,” Merida said after the screening. “This is something that I hope to share with my parents and the community and other Latinas like me because this is so inspiring.”

David Mejía-Buenaño of North Potomac said he attended Montgomery College and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Salisbury University at USG.

He said that the Rockville location is key for him because Salisbury is hours away and he wants to be close to home because of his commitment to his sport: karate. After training for 13 years, he earned a spot on the U.S. Karate National Team.

“When choosing a university, it was important for me to pick a school that would allow me to continue training with the same rigor,” Mejía-Buenaño said. “USG’s convenient location as a commuter campus lets me balance my time between athletics and academics.”

He said he values the many workshops and resources that help students in their professional development.

After the screening of the episode, he said that he enjoyed participating in the filming because the production team, along with Boylan, truly made him feel that his story was important.

“They make you feel heard,” Mejía-Buenaño said. “The fact that they want to listen and be authentic to you is what made it the best experience possible.”

The College Tour USG Episode