Q&A with UMaryland’s Chris Bender

Chris Bender headshot
Chris Bender


Chris Bender


University of Maryland, A. James Clark School of Engineering



Assistant Dean for Communications, and fortunate to work with a smart, creative and dedicated communications team.

What do you do for fun?

    • Spend time with my six-year-old boss, Zach, and my amazing wife, Melissa. Zach is CEO, Melissa is COO/CFO and I’m “other duties as assigned.”
    • Smoke meat and BBQ. I’m not Myron Mixon but have fun cooking for people, and experimenting with different woods, proteins, vegetables and seasonings. 
    • Spend time outdoors. I run, bike and swim but will pretty much participate in any outdoor activity. We’ve got a garden, for example, and play lots of cornhole (where I mostly lose). 
  • Be a UCLA basketball and San Diego Chargers fan. Yes, I said “San Diego” and, yes, it’s a soul-crushing enterprise, but I’m committed.

What is your favorite thing about working in engineering communications?

UMD’s engineers are in the business of helping people, and it’s a fun privilege to storytell about their work. If communications can deliver a narrative that turns people’s heads and exposes them to a better fire protection system, for example, and that exposure improves someone’s life, I’m inspired.

Something really cool currently happening in engineering at your school?

There’s a lot! Drones that smell. Wood that’s transparent. Quantum computing. I’m inspired by the student clubs and competition teams: Terps Racing build winning racecars. We’ve got another team that finished in the top four in the Boring Company’s Not-a-Boring Competition, which challenges students, companies and hobbyists to build a tunnel infrastructure necessary to enable fast, safe and comfortable transportation, including Loop and Hyperloop. It’s cool to be in an environment with that much innovation. We’re also having a dialogue about what we at UMD can do to promote more DEI in engineering.

What is the most challenging part of the job?

People often don’t see communications as a strategic function. That’s not specific to engineering: I’ve experienced it in the private and non-profit sector, too. It’s also partly that when we as communicators discuss our work, we can focus on tactics. It’s important we see ourselves, and our internal stakeholders see us, as strategists – that a Tweet, for example, is driving a larger goal – and we position our roles and work in that way.

Project or achievement in your current position that you are most proud of?

Our team is top-flight. Even with the pressures of the last year, it kept innovating – and credit goes to team members. The team found better ways to deliver targeted advertising, grow and engage our online audiences, delve deeper into DEI as it relates to engineering and more. I’m proud to work with and learn from our team.

Advice for someone just starting out in higher ed communications and marketing?

  • Ask lots of questions. Understand historical precedent: What’s been tried and/or not tried, and why.
  • Create and articulate a relationship between what you’d like to do and the college’s strategic plan. 
  • Network with people in your role at other colleges and universities. You get great advice when you get a diversity of advice.