From Homelessness to a Master’s Degree, Yannick Bopda Now Aims for Medical School

For two long years, Yannick Bopda has looked forward to walking across the graduation ceremony stage to receive his degree in full regalia. Bopda officially completed his master’s degree in health administration in 2020, but COVID-19 interrupted plans for commencement. Bopda now can finally don cap and gown and put an exclamation point on a journey that was far from easy.  

Bopda’s path to higher education started as a child in Cameroon. Seeking political asylum, Bopda and his family left the country in 2005 to escape the ongoing warfare and genocide. In the United States, the son of college-educated parents did not initially follow in their footsteps. Describing himself as a typical rebellious teenager, Bopda dropped out of high school.  

“Sometimes teenagers just want go to McDonald’s and work and earn money, and they think that’s enough,” he said.  

Shortly after dropping out, Yannick’s life took a turn down a path that would forever change him – homelessness.  

Upon learning he had dropped out of high school, Bopda’s parents kicked him out of the house. With nowhere to go, he sought refuge in a local homeless shelter. During his year in the shelter, Yannick discovered a resiliency and drive that he did not know he had. Witnessing chronic illness and death around him, he found himself at a crossroads. He woke up one morning in the shelter thinking deeply about the meaning of his own life.  

“There will always be obstacles,” he thought, “but how you respond to these will define if you deserve to get that big breakthrough.” 

He decided that day to complete his GED and then pursue his certification as a licensed medical administrative assistant, which launched his career and provided a way out of the shelter.  

In the shelter, Bopda had to rely on his inner strength to survive. With no real guidance or mentorship, he focused only on the future, hoping that tomorrow would not be like yesterday.  

“I held onto academics as my way out and knew that although life was pretty hard, the best is yet to come,” he said. “I decided that I will not become a statistic but will one day be able to give back to this country that adopted me and always help others.”  

Upon leaving the shelter and beginning work in the medical field, Bopda earned his associate degree at Prince George’s Community College, which propelled him to complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology at University of Maryland Global Campus in 2018.  

Bopda’s journey from homelessness to higher education has given him the confidence, zeal, and courage to take on further challenges. As a result of his hard work toward a health administration degree, Bopda earned induction into the Upsilon Phi Delta Society, as well as the Marquis Who’s Who and National Society of Leadership and Success.  

Now, Bopda aspires to train to become a medical doctor, specifically a gastrointestinal surgeon. 

“UMGC has helped me become the person I am today, to prepare me for medicine,” he said. “My master’s degree has allowed me to gain a better understanding of what it takes to run a successful health care practice.”  

Bopda believes that medicine is his calling. In the shelter, he came to understand that the world needs him to become a doctor. “I saw the lack of medical care and neglect; I saw what homeless people were going through, sickness and loss of life,” he said.  

Yannick is already taking steps to become a doctor for underserved populations. “I hope one day to create a technological solution to provide early detection for the diseases that are death sentences to many,” he said.  

Perhaps the most gratifying part of Bopda’s journey is that today he enjoys the full support of his family, both biological and spiritual. He and his father reconciled several years ago and the two remain close and supportive. “I have a great relationship with all of my family,” he said. “After I received my bachelor’s degree, my father came to my graduation that evening and he asked me to forgive him, which I did.”  

U.S. Cyber Command Selects University of Maryland Global Campus for New Academic Engagement Network

Network Schools Support USCYBERCOM in Promoting Cybersecurity Workforce Growth and Collaborate on Research and Analytics 

Adelphi, MD (April 25, 2022) — The U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) has selected University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) to join its Academic Engagement Network (AEN), a select partnership of more than 80 colleges and universities throughout the United States tasked with supporting the USCYBERCOM mission of promoting cybersecurity workforce growth and collaborating on research and analytics. 

“The selection of UMGC as an inaugural member of the USCYBERCOM Academic Engagement Network aligns with our goal of preparing a more diverse, robust and qualified pool of cyber professionals for today’s workforce,” said Douglas Harrison, vice president and dean of the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at UMGC. “With a proud heritage of offering award-winning, flexible academic programs and services for active-duty military service members, veterans, and families, we are particularly honored to help the USCYBERCOM strengthen the Department of Defense (DoD) cybersecurity capabilities.” 

UMGC is one of 84 civilian and military academic partner institutions forming the network. Other AEN partners include the U.S. Naval Academy, National Defense University, and the U.S. Army War College. 

Along with the other AEN partners, UMGC will assist the DoD in fortifying its cybersecurity capabilities and expertise, and engage with USCYBERCOM in cyber-related applied research and analytics to provide insight into our adversaries’ cyberspace activities and help USCYBERCOM identify key issues and responsibilities in national security and cyber operations. 

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022, University of Maryland Global Campus is a world leader in innovative educational models with award-winning online programs in biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, information technology, and other high-demand disciplines in today’s increasingly technical, global workplace. With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family, and military service. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate programs, including doctoral programs. A pioneer in distance education since 1947, UMGC is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver accessible high quality, low-cost higher education.

UMGC Takes Third Place in a Strong Field at the Hack the Port 22 Maritime Cybersecurity Competition

Adelphi, MD — The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) cybersecurity competition team earned a bronze award at the Hack the Port 22 Virtual and Live Maritime and Control Systems Cybersecurity event, finishing behind first-place Northeastern University and second-place Texas A&M University. For its accomplishment, the UMGC team was awarded a monetary prize of $3,000. 

The event, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from March 21-25, was hosted by the U.S. Cyber Command and its innovation and prototyping partner, DreamPort. The competition featured teams from more than 30 universities nationwide.

Jesse Varsalone, associate professor of cybersecurity technology, coached the five-member UMGC team. Team members were Joshua Taylor and Artem Asoskov, undergraduate students majoring in computer network and cybersecurity; Scott Horner, an undergraduate majoring in Business Administration; Raiden Redila, an undergraduate in cybersecurity policy and management; and Team Captain Michael Frauenhoffer, a graduate student in the UMGC Cyber Operations Program. 

“It’s notable that all five UMGC team members have earned their CompTIA Security+ certification and two-thirds of the team is currently working in the field of cybersecurity, which puts us in a strong position for success,” said Varsalone. 

During the event, teams either chose to participate as attackers, known as “red teams,” or defenders, known as “blue teams.” Red teams attacked the critical infrastructure of the port, including gates, trains and ships. Blue teams tracked down and thwarted the actions of the attackers. 

“We chose to defend primarily because a large majority of the jobs in the field are associated with defending networks, so establishing that position offers our students an opportunity to gain real-world experience that best reflects the cybersecurity professional landscape,” said Varsalone. 

Participating schools included Bowie State, Florida Institute of Technology, Fordham University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University, Naval Postgraduate School, New York University, Norfolk State University, Northeastern University, Pennsylvania State University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, The Citadel, Towson University, and the United States Naval Academy, among others. 

Established in 2012, the UMGC cybersecurity competition team is composed of students, alumni, and faculty who compete regularly in digital forensics, penetration testing, and computer network defense scenarios that help them gain experience to advance their cybersecurity careers. To prepare for competitions, students detect and combat cyberattacks in the university’s Virtual Security Lab and work through case studies in an online classroom. 

Through its history, the UMGC team has received numerous top honors, including recent first-place finishes in the 2021 Maryland Cyber Challenge and the 2020 MAGIC, Inc. Capture the Flag competition and a second place finish in the 2012 Global CyberLympics.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022, University of Maryland Global Campus is a world leader in innovative educational models with award-winning online programs in biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, information technology and other high-demand disciplines in today’s increasingly technical, global workplace. With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family and military service. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate programs, including doctoral programs. A pioneer in distance education since 1947, UMGC is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver accessible high quality, low-cost higher education.

University of Maryland Global Campus to Pilot Virtual and Augmented Reality Learning Environments

Some Fall Classes to be Offered Via Immersive Technologies

Adelphi, MD (April 5, 2022) — University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a pioneer of online education with a history of exploring innovative learning solutions, has partnered with VictoryXR, a global leader in creating learning environments through immersive technology, in a pilot program that will use virtual and augmented reality in classes in the fall term.

UMGC is one of 10 schools in the initial phase of the program that will implement a “digital twin campus” for students, whether they are enrolled in a face-to-face class or studying online.

Using an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset or a personal computer, students will enter a “metacampus” and interact with instructors and fellow students in a classroom experience. Students can form small groups and work on projects together, regardless of where they are located.

“This is an opportunity to be a leader and early pioneer in leveraging the metaverse, which will represent a radical paradigm shift in online education and the end-to-end learner experience,” said Doug Harrison, vice president and dean of the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at UMGC. “Our partnership with VictoryXR represents another step toward creating broader access to higher education and strengthening the connection between students, faculty and other stakeholders, including success coaches, advisors, student services representatives, and other external academic and business partners.” 

The partnership was funded, in part, by Meta Immersive Learning (NASDAQ: FB). Meta will provide Quest 2 headsets during the project on each campus as well as funding for the digital twin buildouts. Each campus is built by VictoryXR on the EngageVR platform (LON: EXR). 

“Metaverse education is taking hold at American colleges and universities in a big way, and this fall’s cohort finds some big names planning to roll out digital twin campuses,” said Steve Grubbs, VictoryXR CEO. 

In addition to UMGC, other partner schools include Morehouse College, University of, Kansas School of Nursing, New Mexico State University, South Dakota State University
West Virginia University, University of Maryland Global Campus, and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Additional metaversities will be released in May.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military service members and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.

UMGC was the first university to send faculty overseas to teach active-duty military personnel at installations in Europe, beginning in 1949, expanding to Asia in 1956 and to the Middle East in 2005. UMGC faculty have taught in the war zones of Vietnam, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.   

UMGC now offers classes to military service personnel and their families at more than 180 locations in more than 20 countries. More than half of the university’s student body are active-duty military personnel and their families, members of the National Guard and veterans.  

About VictoryXR

VictoryXR is the global leader in metaverse education with active partners like Meta, Qualcomm and T-Mobile. VictoryXR pioneered the first metaversity with Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. VictoryXR won the Viveport award in 2018 for the best global VR education experience. 

Gender Diversity in Cybersecurity Starts with Early Education and Overcoming Biases

Historically, women’s path to STEM-related careers has been challenging, whether through unconscious bias, lack of early education and mentoring, or work-life balance hurdles. According to the latest research by the non-profit cybersecurity certification group (ISC)2, men continue to dramatically outnumber women in the field—only 24 percent of cybersecurity professionals are female—and pay disparity persists.  Still, there was a bright spot: The report found that women in the field are earning leadership positions in higher numbers. 

What is the most effective way to close the gender gap in cybersecurity? Loyce Pailen, Valorie King, and Tamie Santiago, members of the UMGC School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology faculty, share their thoughts and experiences.  

 Loyce Pailen, D.M., senior director of the Center for Security Studies, believes that embedding cybersecurity into media and popular culture will lead to early education and increased diversity. 

I firmly believe that early cybersecurity education, which incorporates the interdisciplinary nature of cyber-related topics and careers, will help increase gender diversity in cybersecurity through expanded exposure in all media, with special emphasis on social media. Political agendas, daily news about cyber breaches and personal injury from cyberattacks will force more people to engage and focus on the cyber concerns of the future. 

These forces will energize our society to put more emphasis on cyber in elementary and secondary schools on both the technical and non-technical sides. To support this effort, we need to see cyber make it to the forefront of our minds through media and popular culture that includes diverse players in multidisciplinary careers. TV shows and social media are featuring more cybersecurity themes today, which will engrain some of the concepts.

 Professional mentors helped Valorie King, Ph.D., director of UMGC’s Cybersecurity Management and Policy Program, overcome education bias early on and work-life challenges later. 

Throughout my career, I was guided and mentored by a succession of managers, executives and senior executives—all women—in the U.S. Department of Defense. Following in their footsteps, I mentor women who are just starting out in the field. 

Early preparation in advanced math prepared me for college [and a B.S. in computer science]. However, 15 years into my career, motherhood-related work-life balance challenges derailed my career advancement. As a full-time mother, I made sure that my daughter had access to math, science and computer classes and resources that neither public nor private schools provided because STEM wasn’t yet a priority for girls. 

Re-entering the workforce was not easy and it took almost a year to find a well-paying job as a management consultant. Along the way, mentors helped me identify ways to update my technical and soft skills. My mentors also encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree. During my degree program, peers supported me and provided a professional network that led me to my next career fields, information assurance and later cybersecurity. I now lead an academic program where my duties allow me to continue mentoring and coaching cybersecurity professionals who are building and improving their skillsets through advanced studies and teaching in the discipline.

Tamie Santiago, M.S., D.B.A., collegiate professor in the School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology, maintains that we must overcome unconscious biases if we’re going to close the gender gap.

Unconscious biases often lead to conclusions that frame inquisitiveness as nosiness, curiosity as potentially self-destructive, and the gift of organizing and leadership as being “bossy.” A girl or woman who is investigative is often considered “nosy or a busybody.” One who has great attention to detail and organization is thought of as “controlling.” Someone who demonstrates the gift of problem-solving may be considered a trouble-maker, while another who has a fascination with the mechanics and methods of things may be looked at as being weird. 

However, these are the very skills and traits needed in the cybersecurity field. The making of great digital forensic experts, data analytic scientists, cyber technologists, and management and policy professionals all draw from the strength of these talents. 

How do we overcome these gendered biases? Mentors who can observe and correctly discern the importance of raw talent and the gifts in others will recognize the hidden biases in language and labels and will know how to avoid or dismiss them. Young women and girls who are fortunate enough to be mentored will see a future far greater than otherwise imagined. 

Mentees value mentors with whom they identify or have shared values. They also feel a sense of connection to mentors who positively challenge them academically and in discovery. I should know—I’m one of them! Correctly harnessing, properly directing and creatively exposing young women and girls often and early to the field of cybersecurity are key success factors.

With demand from both the public and private sectors, cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing career sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 33 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. With a median pay of $103,590 (as of March, 2020), combined with growth in the frequency of cyberattacks, demand for information security analysts is expected to be very high. Initiatives to eradicate bias, promote early education and encourage mentorship are vital to supporting women in this field, now and in the future. 

Degree in Cybersecurity Opens a Door to Space Exploration for Rachel Jones 

Growing up on a farm near the Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, Georgia, Rachel Jones always looked forward to Astronomy Night. That’s when she could gather with other stargazers. It was then, pondering the unknown, that she fell in love with outer space.  

“It’s pretty normal for kids to go through a space phase,” she said. “For me that phase never stopped.”  

Fast forward to Dec. 10, 2021, when Jones officially introduced her space dream to a new generation. On that date, she culminated a year-long project by helping 10 students at Savannah River Academy in Georgia talk to an astronaut on the International Space Station using the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) Program. Over 200 people attended the event, and Jones’s coordination with the local community enabled 2,000 others to live stream the conversation.  

The project had begun two years earlier with Jones reaching out to schools, completing an application, designing a curriculum, teaching students and, ultimately, coordinating a large-scale event.  

Jones knew early on that she wanted to pursue a career in outer space, but her path was circuitous. After a stint at a community college in Florida, she graduated from LaGrange College, not with a STEM-related degree, but as a political science major with a minor in graphic design. However, internships with NASA and former Sen. Bill Nelson, the second sitting member of Congress to travel into space and current NASA administrator, allowed her to keep her dream in sight.  

After college, Jones worked as a graphic designer and then traveled to China to teach English. In China, she used Google to search for universities that offered programs about outer space and discovered the International Space University near Strasbourg, France. She was accepted into its Master of Space Studies (MSS) program, keeping her space dream alive.  

It was during her graduate program that Jones had an “aha” moment. Through a thesis project that involved security breaches of space assets, she discovered a love for cybersecurity and realized she could combine this with her passion for space.  

“I focused on the cybersecurity of what’s called a ‘ground station,’” she said. “I never knew before where I’d fit in with outer space, but I knew I loved it, and so this was the moment I realized this was my niche.”  

After several job searches, Jones discovered that her newfound interest in cybersecurity was not enough to get a job in the field, especially without a degree or certifications. Eventually, she landed a civilian position with the U.S. Air Force in Washington, D.C. After three years, she transferred to San Antonio. There, she worked toward a second master’s degree—in intelligence, focusing on cyber. She was fortunate to join a cybersecurity group, and within that group even more fortunate to meet her future husband.  

After her husband transferred from the Air Force to the Army, the couple relocated to Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones embarked on her fourth degree, the one that would move her closer to her career goal. She expects to complete that Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity from UMGC this spring. 

“I know this will help me prepare the certifications I need to advance my career,” she said.  

If that’s not enough, Jones is also working toward a Ph.D. in aerospace sciences from the University of North Dakota. She expects a cybersecurity degree combined with an aerospace sciences degree will establish her as an expert in cybersecurity of space assets. 

The degrees will help her fulfill her dream, but it was the ARISS project with students at Savannah River Academy that brought home for her the importance of fostering a love of science at a young age.  

“I really didn’t have the mentorship to recognize what I wanted to do earlier in life,” she said, “so I want to make sure I provide that to others.”  

The Present and Future of Data Science: Five Questions for Elena Gortcheva  

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) this year began enrolling students in its new Bachelor of Science in Data Science program. Offered through the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology, the program is designed to meet the growing need for skilled data science professionals who can transform data into actionable insight.  

We caught up with Elena Gortcheva, UMGC professor and director of the data analytics program, for her thoughts about the field, the new program, and the future of data science.  

  1. Data science is in the news almost every day. What is it and how is it used in business decisions?   

We live in a data-driven society, flooded with data. Data science comes to the rescue by making sense of data. It provides expertise in how to manage and manipulate data; create data visualizations; build predictive models using different machine learning techniques, applying artificial intelligence and natural language processing techniques to get insights from free text, images and videos data; and make strategic data-driven recommendations to influence business outcomes.  

Large companies use data science in their everyday business. For example, Apple uses data to develop new products to meet their customers’ needs. Data science helps Amazon deliver the right products at the right time. And pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer use data science to develop new drugs and vaccines in a timely fashion. Data science helps local governments build smart cities to improve quality of life, and it helps streaming companies like Netflix build new products based on customer preferences.  

  1. What types of jobs does the B.S. in Data Science prepare students for?   

Data scientist is one of the most in-demand careers. Job demand exceeds supply by 50 percent and the shortage of skilled professionals is expanding. For the third year in a row, Glassdoor places data scientist in the top spot of the 50 best jobs in America in terms of salary, job satisfaction, and openings.  

Potential careers, among others, include data scientist, data analyst, business analyst, machine learning engineer, AI application developer, and cognitive analyst. Professionals in data science are essential in any organization, from federal and local government to private companies in just about any sector—finance, insurance, health care, social assistance, transportation, manufacturing, education, entertainment, food services, you name it. 

  1. What if I’m coming from a non-technical background? Can I succeed in the UMGC bachelor’s degree program in data science?  

Candidates from different backgrounds are well-suited for the program. Knowledge and experience in other fields, such as accounting, finance, health care, environment or industry are extremely important and useful in data science. The skills you’ve obtained from your work experience will supplement your newly acquired knowledge and skills in data science.  

You also are in the right place if you have no previous experience. You will learn about application fields through data used for course projects.  

The main prerequisite is that you love finding solutions to business and social problems and that you are willing to dedicate time to learn and to be an active, non-stop learner. This field provides the opportunity to work at the cutting edge of technology and its applications in any field or industry.  

  1. How does the UMGC program differ from other similar programs?  

There are several ways in which we believe we rise above other programs.  

  • We offer a skill-based curricula, designed on what emerged as the workforce needs of the industry. Additionally, we focus on application—the ability to do—as employers are looking for employees with hands on experience who are prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.  
  • Our program is multidisciplinary, involving both technical and managerial skills. This program is unique in preparing students with business, data analytics and computational competencies. The graduate will dominate the business operations of an organization and the information technology requirements necessary to ensure its viability and competency. The program culminates with capstone projects addressing real life problems from industry sponsors. 
  • Our program is cost effective. There are no additional fees for textbooks and software. Free access to all advanced data science software is made available in the cloud. 
  • All faculty have strong industry credentials in the field. Most of them are practitioners, with ample expertise in the field of data science and analytics, who bring their current relevant expertise to the classroom. 
  1. What are the emerging trends in data science? What does the future hold?  

Data science is impacting almost any industry. From the arts to science and healthcare, very soon data science, through machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), will be at the center of every major technological system in the world. For example, during the pandemic ML/AI helped accelerate the development of the Covid 19 vaccine by using powerful deep learning algorithms to predict protein folding. In the future, data science will permeate every aspect of health care, from providing clinical decision support for disease diagnosis and patient care delivery to developing new and more effective drugs and vaccine. We also will see data science play a significant role in helping the blind through the ability of ML to leverage sensors in smartphones as well as Bluetooth radio waves to determine the location and provide detailed information that the visually impaired need to explore the real world.  

UMGC Recognized for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity 

Adelphi, Md. (Feb. 14, 2022)—The National Security Agency (NSA) Program Management Office has once again designated University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, singling out the university as a leader in cybersecurity education.  

Since April 2002, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have consistently designated the UMGC as a leader in cybersecurity education.  

“Receiving the National Center of Academic Excellence designation validates the high quality of our cybersecurity-related programs,” said Helen Barker, department chair of the Cybersecurity program at UMGC. “The rigorous application process demonstrated our commitment to academic excellence in this area.”  

The announcement this month places UMGC among a select group of two-year, four-year, and graduate-level institutions nationwide to receive the prestigious CAE-CD distinction. It follows the recent approval of UMGC’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management and Policy as a recognized program of study with the NSA and Department of Homeland Security. 

The CAE-CD designation validates UMGC programs of study through the academic year 2027 and continues the university’s advancement at the forefront of teaching and training the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.   

“The designation reflects UMGC’s ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria to contribute to the protection of the national information infrastructure and address the critical shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills,” said Dr. Loyce Pailen, senior director for the Center for Security Studies, which led the CAE Institutional and Program of Study redesignation process.  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted a 32 percent growth rate in the cybersecurity industry through 2028, highlighting the critical importance of quality higher education in the field. Pailan said the 10-month process that resulted in the CAE-CD designation “was the culmination of a significant cooperative effort among many academic and administrative stakeholders at UMGC.”  

Since April 2002, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have consistently recognized UMGC strength in cybersecurity education.  

“(UMGC’s) ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the national information infrastructure,” said Karen Leuschner, national CAE program manager at NSA.  

The CAE-CD designation is awarded to regionally accredited academic institutions offering cybersecurity-related degrees including majors, minors, and/or certificates at the associate, bachelor and graduate levels. An applicant institution must show significant community involvement, academic activities, and institutional practices in cybersecurity, as well as have one or more programs of study under consideration that meet the CAE-CD requirements. 

With Three Big Goals Accomplished, Luis Arriaza-Kibby is Reaching New Heights of Career Success

Luis Arriaza-Kibby came to the United States from El Salvador as a teenager. Settling in Damascus, Maryland, just shy of his 16th birthday, he had three goals: to learn English, to get his driver’s license and to continue his education.  

With his new Bachelor of Science in Human Resources in hand from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), he has hit that trifecta.  

“I remember telling my father that I wanted to go to school because I saw kids my age going and there was a high school near where we lived,” said Arriaza-Kibby. But his father had other plans, and the teenager gave up education and went to work at various jobs. A cousin encouraged him to take English classes in the Montgomery County school system, so he started a night program, attending sessions two to three times a week. Although his erratic work schedule prevented him from finishing the class, he learned enough English to start meeting people and making connections.  

His expanding network led to a job with a heating and air conditioning company, which immersed Arriaza-Kibby in the English language. It didn’t take long before he had gained enough vocabulary and fluency to achieve his first goal.  

Then he followed by securing his driver’s license, accomplishing goal No. 2. But the third aspiration, education, proved a more arduous task.  

“I wanted to go to high school and college, but no one in my family had ever gone, so I did not have that support system,” he said. “I fell into the restaurant and retail businesses after the heating and air conditioning job, which made it even harder.”  

While in his 20s, a news report about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program caught Arriaza-Kibby’s attention.  

“I met most of the requirements for DACA, except you had to have a high school diploma or GED to qualify,” he said. Because of his age and since work permitted no time to get into the school system, a GED was Arriaza-Kibby’s only option.  

His erratic work schedule allowed him only enough time to study on his own. After a few attempts, he passed the required test sections and earned his diploma. With the encouragement of teachers he met during the GED process, Arriaza-Kibby enrolled in Montgomery College and, after three and a half years of hard work, earned an associate degree in business.  

In 2013, Arriaza-Kibby met his future husband, William. They married in 2016. With William’s encouragement, Arriaza-Kibby continued his higher education journey, now as a permanent resident of the United States.  

“[William] has been the biggest support throughout all of this,” said Arriaza-Kibby.  

By 2018 he was settled into a more manageable work schedule as a grievance representative with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32 BJ. That’s when Arriaza-Kibby enrolled at UMGC in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree. It took an exhausting two years, but he finally did it, fully realizing the third goal he set for himself as a teenager.  

Arriaza-Kibby runs through a range of emotions as he reflects on his educational journey. “I still can’t believe it,” he said. “I thought to myself so many times that I was so close, yet so far.”  

With his degree in hand, Arriaza-Kibby hopes to advance his career with the SEIU and push to improve the workplace.  

“I believe that it is important for any job to understand how human resources works because working with people involves development, training and so much more,” he said. “Whatever I decide to do moving forward, I can now check this [education] box, which demonstrates my hard work and commitment.”  

Caitlyn Burroughs Followed Unexpected Path from Marketing to Nursing 

“Nursing was not my first degree,” said Caitlyn Burroughs, explaining that a job working on research studies convinced her that health care was really where she belonged. 

Burroughs graduated recently from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Curiously, it was her first degree, a bachelor’s in business marketing, that put her on a path to nursing. 

After getting her marketing degree from Towson University, Burroughs was hired by the Maryland Stroke Center to work on research studies. “There, I discovered that what I really wanted to do was nursing, and so I went back and got my associate degree in nursing,” she said. 

While studying, Burroughs obtained a student nurse position at a busy Baltimore hospital emergency room. She stayed on as a nurse in the ER, where she has now worked for six years. In 2020, a scholarship through the hospital allowed her to begin working toward her BSN. 

And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.  

“It was scary because we knew nothing about this virus,” she said. “We were in N95 masks all the time and because face shields were scarce, I had to buy a welder shield at a Tractor Supply store.”  

At the outset of the pandemic, Burroughs found herself juggling school, a job as an emergency room nurse and the demands of raising two small children with her husband. Since she worked in a high-volume emergency room with high-acuity patients, her main concern was making sure she didn’t bring the virus back to her family. 

Fortunately, with a garage where she could change out of her hospital clothes and two cars, one for her and one for her husband and children, Burroughs could self-isolate enough to protect her family. 

“The hardest thing at the end of the day was watching my kids, age 2 and 4, run toward me and then telling them they need to get away,” she said. 

Given the stress of her job and other responsibilities, Burroughs found UMGC provided the perfect fit, particularly with a Wednesday-to-Tuesday class schedule. That timetable allows working parents to complete assignments over the weekend. Also critical to her success was the personal attention of her advisers. 

“My adviser called me to ask if I was ready to enroll and if we needed to meet,” she said. “I’ve never in a four-year college received a call from an adviser.”  

Burroughs said her heart remains in the emergency room right now, but the BSN will open doors. 

“It is a really good stepping-stone to the next area, whether it’s nurse management, a master’s in leadership, a nurse practitioner path or a doctorate,” she said.  

Her children are a priority and the in-demand nature of nursing means Burroughs can focus on her family for the next couple years and then take her career to the next level when she’s ready. 

“There are so many opportunities and career paths,” she said. “I could go to critical care, anesthesiology, esthetics. It just depends on what piques your interest.”  

With her studies behind her, Burroughs now also has time to reflect on her accomplishment.  

“It was worth for my kids to see their parents working hard together and supporting each other,” she said. “Without my husband’s support, pushing me to do my homework and taking the kids out so I can carve out time, and the support of my emergency room family, I never could have done it.”