Patrice (Owens) Tillery (2003-2007)

On what she remembers most about UMD

The bonds that I made, honestly. I often will tell people who aren’t familiar with it, or especially people that went to HBCUs, that I feel Maryland had its own little HBCU, because we had enough Black students to make up what the average size of an HBCU is. I felt I had a Back experience, even though it was a predominantly white college. Definitely, the people that I met, and the network is still now helping me to advance in life 15 years later.”


Interview with Patrice (Owens) Tillery (2003-2007)             

Interview Date: 9-1-2021

Interviewer: Francena Turner

Method: Zoom recording

Length: 20:50 minutes

Transcription software:

Transcription edited by: Francena Turner


NARRATOR BIO: Patrice Owens came to the University of Maryland from Baltimore, Maryland in 2003. She graduated in 2007  with a criminal justice degree. After working for twelve years in retail, Tillery is now an entrepreneur. She is a licensed real estate broker and an event planner. While at UMD, Tillery was a member of the Black Student Union and the National Society of Black Engineers. Tillery is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 


KEYWORDS: Baltimore, Maryland, Hagerstown Hall, Courtyards Apartments, Criminal Justice, Black Student Union (BSU), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), police harassment, Kanye West, John Legend, Hornbake Library, Anti-abortion protests, Jason Reynolds, Jook Joints, Nyumburu Cultural Center, Jonathan England, real estate, entrepreneurship. 


Francena Turner  00:03

My name is Francena Turner and I’m conducting an oral history interview for the Reparative Histories: The Black Experiences at UMD Oral History Project with Ms. Patrice Tillery. Am I pronouncing your last name correctly?


Patrice Tillery  00:17

Yes, that’s correct.


Francena Turner  00:18

Was Tillery your last name while you were at the University of Maryland?


Patrice Tillery  00:30

No. My last name was Owens. 


Francena Turner  00:33

It was Patrice Owens.


Patrice Tillery  00:35



Francena Turner  00:36

What’s your hometown?


Patrice Tillery  00:38

Baltimore, Maryland.


Francena Turner  00:40

Okay. And what’s your birthday? 


Patrice Tillery 0:44

October 11. 


Francena Turner 0:45

Okay, how would you describe your life prior to enrolling at the University of Maryland?


Patrice Tillery  00:52

How would I describe my life? It was a mix of privileged and not. I would say I grew up in a single parent household. My father lived in Chicago from the time I was four until now—moved away early. I saw him regularly, which was probably like twice a month. But single parent life was normal to me, Most of my friends were in single parent households too. It probably was in high school before I realized that that was abnormal, or should be abnormal, if you will. I went to private school my entire life, particularly for high school. I went to a relatively competitive or elite, private high school. I would say that I had a good life, but definitely not your typical quintessential American upbringing.


Francena Turner  01:52

Can you tell me a little bit more about your parents or guardians backgrounds and sort of their sort of philosophy on the education?


Patrice Tillery  02:02

Absolutely. My father actually went to University of Maryland College Park. My mom went to Towson University, but did not graduate, My father did graduate from college. I was not a first-generation college student. I grew up my entire life where education was important. College was always just expected. It was never optional. There was just always what was happening after high school. Education is very important. I got good grades from a young age, and it was always celebrated. Always. It was kind of a big deal. Definitely made to seem like it was my primary focus to do well in school.


Francena Turner  02:47

How did you make the decision to attend the University of Maryland?


Patrice Tillery  02:51

It was my last choice; I wanted to go to Tulane. That was my first choice. I did not want to stay in Maryland. I applied to schools in New Orleans and in Atlanta, I applied to six schools, if I remember correctly. I got into three, didn’t get into one. I can’t remember which is which. I got waitlisted at one. I did get into Tulane, which was my first choice, but it was very expensive. Then they gave me almost no financial aid. I ended up going to University of Maryland because of finances, basically. I didn’t make the decision; my mother made the decision for me.


Francena Turner  03:36

What year did you enroll at UMD?


Patrice Tillery  03:40



Francena Turner  03:44

How did you come to choose your major?


Patrice Tillery  03:47

That was a journey. I was initially a math major because it was my favorite subject. I really enjoy math. And I was a math major until my junior year, until we started moving away from mathematics and more into like proof writing, and more theoretical mathematics and it was just not my cup of tea. My GPA was bad too. I had always gotten really good grades. I think part of it that was a mental struggle for me is how hard it was for me. I was putting in what I felt like was a good effort and not getting results. I ended up changing my major to Criminal Justice and graduating with a criminal justice degree. But also, a lot of that was me wanting to graduate on time and me choosing something that I could graduate on time with, because honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted as a career path. I had no idea, so I was just like “Well I’m just gonna do something so I could graduate because I don’t know what I want to do anyway.” That’s how I ended up with the major except that I also had a minor in Spanish that I kept. 


Francena Turner  04:58

Walk me through your memories of the first time you walked through the campus as a first-year student.


Patrice Tillery  05:05

The first time I remember walking on campus is actually when they had the overnight stay program. I met my first friend. We ended up being friends through college. But as I think about when I actually enrolled, my first memories were how big it was, that the dorms were not as big and the campus was huge, and that it was just going to be an entirely different experience. I had never slept in a twin bed. So that was a thing too.


Francena Turner  05:44

You lived on campus. Which residence halls?


Patrice Tillery  05:47

I lived in Hagerstown for my first two years, and I lived in the Courtyard for my second two years. Okay.


Francena Turner  05:54

Did you belong to any campus based social organizations or clubs? If so, what were they, and did you hold any leadership positions?


Patrice Tillery  06:03

I was in the Black Student Union, that was probably the first thing that I did. I did not hold any leadership positions there. I also was in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. I don’t remember what I did there specifically, but I had multiple roles. I also was in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). I remember doing a few other things. I can’t remember them all. But yes, I was involved on campus.

For the full transcript, please email university archivist, Lae’l Hughes-Watkins at