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.” 

A Woman of Many Hats, Lauren Sterner Finally Puts on a Mortar Board 

At 17, Lauren Sterner set off for college. It was 1998 and she planned to study business administration at Salisbury University. But she struggled to find her footing. 

“Like many teenagers going off to college, I was not really sure what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “By 1999, still unsure about a major, I took a few classes that interested me and switched my major to secondary education and English. 

“But I also knew I did not want to be a teacher, so I switched my major to communications.” 

The more she was unable to settle on an area that held her interest, the less of a priority college became. Sterner started working full time, which led to taking classes part time. Eventually, like many young adults, she put her education on hold. 

Fast forward to 2009. Sterner, a single mother of two small children, works at Northrop Grumman Corp. Her supervisor encourages her to take advantage of the company’s education assistance benefits. And that’s how her path to University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) began.    

“Had this benefit not been made available to me, I would not be here today—a graduate of UMGC with a bachelor’s degree in business management,” she said. 

Over the past several years, Sterner has worked full time, bought a house, watched her children grow and continued to chip away at her degree requirements. Through COVID-19 quarantine, she, like many others, wore the hats of mom, teacher, employee and student as she worked from home with her children in virtual school. 

“Over the seven years it took to complete my degree, I lost many weekends and fun activities with family and friends,” she said. “But I knew that having my children see that hard work and dedication can help you to achieve anything you want was the most important part of my journey.” 

Sterner sees her degree as essential to advancing in her career.  

“I have now taken over the role of principal logistics management analyst at Northrop Grumman and I plan to work my way up within my company,” she said. “But right now, I’m just looking forward to spending the holidays with my family and friends and just enjoying our time together.”  

Overcoming Her Own Health Issues, Regina Cain Makes Helping Others Her Passion  

A lifetime of mental health challenges derailed Regina Cain’s education several times, but she held fast to her goal of a college degree. Now she is getting ready to carry what she learned forward—by helping others like she was helped. 

“I never gave up,” said Cain, who graduates in December with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). “I’ve always been good at school, and so school was the one thing I could hold on to.” 

Mental health struggles threw obstacles onto Cain’s academic path, but she would not be defeated.  

“The first time I was in therapy was around third grade when I was diagnosed with depression,” she said. “Later, as a young adult, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Through perseverance and the support of family, friends and mentors, she fought through a number of setbacks to bring purpose to her life and achieve her academic dreams.  

Cain’s path to a UMGC degree was circuitous, and it did not start with a focus on business. After graduating from high school, the self-professed “science geek” began her college career studying forensics at Stevenson University outside of Baltimore.  

“I excelled at science in high school, so I wanted to do the whole CSI thing,” she explained. Unfortunately, after the fall 2011, Cain had to leave Stevenson to seek mental health treatment. Later, after stabilizing her life, she transferred to Towson University in the fall of 2012 and changed her major to biology. Then came another setback. 

“One night, I was walking across campus, coming from the library, and I stumbled on a ‘take back the night’ event where sexual assault survivors were talking about their experiences,” she said. That event triggered memories of Cain’s own childhood trauma and, eventually, a PTSD diagnosis. She left Towson in 2013 to seek additional treatment. After two additional departures and re-enrollments at Towson, she left in 2017 for the final time.  

Years later, at age 26 with her life steadied again and a job at the University of Maryland payroll office, Cain discovered UMGC. She enrolled as a business administration major, partly because the COVID-19 pandemic limited lab work opportunities for science classes, but also because she knew that a business degree would allow her to positively impact her community.  

“A lot of people, especially in the Black community, lack financial literacy, and so I thought that if I can learn this, I can bring this to them,” said Cain. UMGC’s commitment to accessibility and accommodation was also critical to her success.  

Cain, now thriving in her job as an acquisition management specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is happy—and ready to give back.  

“I’ve created a working group dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility,” she said. “In this group, we created a strategic plan to embed these ideals and practices within our office.” She also helped launch a work-life balance program in her office, as well as a “gift back” program in which she and her colleagues pick and donate to two or three organizations each year.  

Cain is aiming high with her new business skills. She is putting together a proposal for a community health center pilot program she hopes to eventually expand nationwide.  

“Everything I’ve taken from school, even biology and chemistry, will go into the program because we will provide resources to address diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure and other issues that affect the Black and brown communities disproportionately,” she said.  

Having benefited from the help of her mother and stepfather, Gail and Niles Haynie, friends and mentors, Cain is playing it forward by working to improve the well-being of others around her.  

FAA Capstone to Protect U.S. Airspace Helps Data Analytics Grads Advance their Military Careers 

Two active-duty servicemembers in the Master of Science in Data Analytics Program at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) have become the first students to complete a new capstone project co-sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

The goal of the FAA capstone was to detect when an aircraft deviates from its air route. Being able to spot and predict deviations quickly is critical to maintaining the integrity of FAA-imposed flight restrictions. 

“I participate in many roles in the battlespace,” said Sarah Gaylord, a captain in the U.S. Air Force and a recent graduate of the data analytics program. “I manage gas plans and airspace safety, aid fighter aircraft in their tactical intercepts and communicate a common operating picture of our area of responsibility to upper echelon leadership.”  

For Gaylord, who is busy with her work as a battle manager, participating in the FAA capstone was the perfect fit. Likewise for Oscar Cardec, a fellow graduate of the data analytics program who joined the Air Force in 2000 as an aerospace maintainer on AC-130H gunships.  

Capstone projects with industry partners are an invaluable part of the last course in the data analytics graduate degree program. Gaylord and Cardec earned their degrees this December. 

“Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, several partners discontinued their involvement with UMGC for a variety of reasons,” said Elena Gortcheva, program director of the Master of Science in Data Analytics. She intensified her search for industry partners last spring, and her deep alumni network paid off.  

“I have been using my professional contacts since 2015 to start projects with partners such as NASA, USAID, American Institute of Research and the Department of Defense,” Gortcheva said. The FAA capstone came about when a recent UMGC graduate, Sarah Eggum, led Gortcheva to Sherri Shearon of the Chief Data Office at the FAA. After several meetings with Shearon, the two arrived at a number of project proposals from different FAA units. They selected two for UMGC under adviser Mike Paglione of the FAA Research Division.  

The two projects, with UMGC professors Jon McKeeby and Hany Saleeb serving as advisers, are now part of the collection of capstone projects for data science.  

The Data Analytics Capstone course allows students to demonstrate, through hands-on experience, a complete data science experience that includes problem scoping, dataset preparation, comprehensive data analysis and visualization, and the use of advanced machine learning techniques to develop a predictive model.  

“Students must tell a story and explain their project approach and results along with recommendations for future work” said Gortcheva, who noted that capstones benefit both students and industry. “Students gain exposure to real analytics problems using industry data and, quite often, the industry partner will recruit them after having evaluated them on the job.”  

Gaylord brought a unique perspective to the capstone. “One of the functions of my job is airspace management and making sure the area we are in charge of stays safe, which is very similar to the air traffic control [ATC] function of the FAA,” she said. “The concepts of ATC are ideas that I have been working around for the last five years of my career, so I was excited to see if I could apply my experience to this new project.” 

Gaylord believes the FAA capstone project will help her progress in the Air Force. “I hope to get to 20 years of service and apply the lessons from this project to products in my own squadron,” she said. 

For Cardec, the capstone offered an opportunity to complement his academic accomplishments with a real-world perspective.  

“I successfully presented various classification predictive models, expanded on the rationale behind each of the models and elaborated on possible applications,” he explained. “The deliverables were immediately accepted by the Chief Data Office and lauded as novel groundwork for further expansions.”  

Paglione at the FAA mentored Cardec and Gaylord during the project, providing focus and guidance.  

“He offered insights into what would work and what wouldn’t for the project,” said Gaylord. “At one point, I started moving down path he thought wouldn’t work and he helped to steer me in a more beneficial direction.”  

At the conclusion of their capstone, Gaylord and Cardec presented to a team from the FAA Aviation Research Division and a data scientist from the Chief Data Office. The two-hour presentations described their traffic data research on spotting when aircraft deviate from the route the FAA has given them.  

The presentation brought positive outcomes. The FAA wants to continue working with future students in the UMGC program. The agency invited Gaylord and Cardec to present their findings to its upper management and executives, and the FAA now wants to hire them.  

Like many UMGC students who are balancing work and school, juggling the capstone amid the demands of military service was a challenge.  

“As a captain and instructor in an operational squadron, I have a lot of responsibilities just in the office alone, but I also have to maintain physical fitness standards,” said Gaylord. “I managed by working on most of my schoolwork over the weekends.”  

For Cardec, the capstone was part of an important personal accomplishment.  

“Being the first person in my family, where English is a second language, to attain a graduate degree means a lot,” he said. “I am grateful for the shoulders that have carried me to this point, and I am looking forward to additional challenges and opportunities to put in practice my skillset before embarking again onto my next educational endeavor.”  

Faculty Experts at University of Maryland Global Campus Predict Cybersecurity Trends for 2022 

Zero Trust networks, attacks on the metaverse, cooperative threat hunting, and more. Faculty members in the School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology offer their forecasts for the year ahead.  

The Metaverse Will Become More Vulnerable to Ransomware Attacks 

Jason M. Pittman, Sc.D., collegiate faculty, School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology 

We will begin to see ransomware attacks push into the metaverse, the burgeoning iteration of the internet that supports online 3-D virtual environments accessed through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality devices such as headsets. Specifically, these attacks will target social media influencers on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. Augmented reality brings with it a host of truly novel vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals will seek to exploit weaknesses in the devices that enable access to the metaverse, or even from within augmented reality itself.  

An Increase in Zero-trust Frameworks Will Help Security Architects Protect Cloud and On-site Premises 

James Robertson, Ed.D., Program Director, Cyber DevOps, School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology  

As the number of cloud migrations increase, understanding the shared responsibility model—between the security team and provider—continues to be problematic. Cloud migrations and environment updates happen on an increased timeline which, if not handled, can cause security controls to be missed or weakened. Authorization boundaries are often blurred or ill-defined in cloud development efforts leaving additional security gaps. Adopting a Zero Trust model, which incorporates many mechanisms, including the monitoring and logging of all network traffic at those authorization boundaries, will enforce controls for system and application access and protects data. 

Threat Intelligence Sharing and Cooperative Threat Hunting Activities Will Rise 

Valorie King, Ph.D., Program Director, Cybersecurity Management and Policy, School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology  

Threat intelligence sharing and cooperative threat hunting activities will increase in importance as businesses and government organizations seek to improve collaboration and proactively identify potential threats and sources of threats. Stand-alone defenses of an organization’s assets and infrastructures are no longer sufficient to prevent and deter attacks against digital assets and business processes. Additionally, phishing will become more subtle and focused as attackers increase their use of data analytics to target and manipulate specific individuals within organizations.  

  

Innovative Attack Methods Using Artificial Intelligence Will Expand the Threat Landscape  

Philip Chan, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology  

In 2022, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will expand the cybersecurity threat landscape, bringing new dangers and altering the typical characteristics of threats. Attackers will employ new and highly innovative methods, notably Machine Learning (ML), which will enable cybercriminals to use AI to carry out more cyber and ransomware strikes. AI/ML techniques will generate more sophisticated phishing intrusions, pervasive ML email attacks and zero-day attacks on top of other well-known ransomware deployments. In the hands of cybercriminals, AI/ML can create significant harm as machine-learning and deep-learning techniques will make cyberattacks more accessible. The result? Faster, better-targeted, and more destructive assaults.  

Attacks on the Software Supply Chain Will Ramp Up, as Will Demands for Transparency  

Chris Hughes, Adjunct Professor, School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology  

Due to several high-profile software supply chain attacks, most notably SolarWinds, we will continue to see an increased focus on the software supply chain. With the Cybersecurity Executive Order, the evolution of the Software Bill of Materials, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and emerging guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the software supply chain is one of the most talked-about subjects—and will continue to be so for the coming year. Software consumers are demanding increased transparency from software producers who, in turn, are eager to gain consumer trust. Organizations such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation are hosting entire conferences that focus on the software supply chain. Emerging technologies and practices are being honed to provide never-before-seen levels of transparency in the software ecosystem.  

Certification Provider EC-Council Names UMGC 2021 Academic Partner of the Year 

Adelphi, Md. (Nov. 30, 2021)– The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) has named University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) its 2021 Academic Partner of the Year. EC-Council’s most coveted honor recognizes UMGC as the top cybersecurity partner and program in the council’s North America partner community.  

“This award is a testament to the dedication of our faculty and staff in preparing our students for EC-Council certifications, graduation and the workforce,” said Helen Barker, who chairs the Department of Cybersecurity at UMGC. “That the number of UMGC students pursuing EC-Council certifications is one of the largest in the country reflects our commitment to providing students with the skills employers value most.” 

UMGC was selected as Academic Partner of the Year for several notable accomplishments, including offering Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification in its CMIT321 ethical hacking course, preparing thousands of students for CEH certification; expanding its programs to include several EC-Council stackable credential opportunities for students; consistently redeveloping courses linked to EC-Council certifications; and offering an extensive faculty network to teach EC-Council courses.  

“We are pleased to award UMGC with our highest honor in the North America education partner community,” said Wesley Alvarez, director of academics at EC-Council. “UMGC has consistently redeveloped courses linked to EC-Council certifications to ensure students have the opportunity to achieve valuable stackable credentials throughout their degree so they can become more competitive in the career field.”  

UMGC is an EC-Council Academia Partner, allowing institutions to take advantage of semester-based learning resources in support of EC-Council certifications, and an Accredited Training Center partner, providing “boot-camp” classes structured around non-credit courses and programs. UMGC was awarded the EC-Council’s Circle of Excellence award for four consecutive years, from 2017 to 2020.  

About UMGC  

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 higher education that is accessible, high quality and low-cost.  

About EC-Council 

The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants, also known as EC-Council, is the world’s largest cybersecurity technical certification body. It operates in 145 countries globally and is the owner and developer of the world-famous Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator (C|HFI), Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) and License Penetration Testing (Practical) programs, among others. The EC-Council is proud to have trained and certified over 200,000 information security professionals globally who have influenced the cybersecurity mindset of countless organizations worldwide. 

“No Fear of Math” Carried UMGC’s Goldberg to STEM Career Success 

Professor Kate Goldberg’s career choices and mentors shaped her path to the University of Maryland Global Campus, creating a life journey that echoes the story of many of our students.  

Kate Goldberg, collegiate assistant professor of data analytics at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), grew up in a family that both embraced and excelled in math and science. She recognized early on that the encouragement she received made a huge difference in her life, especially when it came to STEM education.  

“My father was a math teacher and my grandfather was a math teacher, so I was fortunate to grow up with no fear of math,” she said. “When I was doing homework assignments, my dad was right there helping me, and so I recognized that a nurturing environment is important.”  

When she attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia, now the co-ed Randolph College, Goldberg again benefited from a supportive environment.  

“At a woman’s college, I didn’t experience the gender discrepancies in math and science that a woman in a co-ed environment might experience,” she said.  

Although she excelled at math at an early age, she went to college intending to become a veterinarian. However, Bs in biology discouraged her from continuing on that path. Sage advice from her father helped Goldberg set a course for future success. 

“My father told me to do three things,” she said. “Get up, get dressed and go to breakfast in the morning; take a math class next semester; and practice your music every day.” Goldberg had grown up playing clarinet and cello. 

“At the time, I didn’t really understand what he was getting at, but the next day I went to breakfast, and I looked around at the women there,” Goldberg said. “They were all dressed professionally. They were the leaders of my college, organized and put together.”  

Goldberg’s father knew she needed to see what leaders look like. He also believed she should follow her passion and strengths. And he understood that music, something she loved when growing up, would help to enrich her college experience.  

Dr. Paul Irwin, her first math professor at Randolph-Macon—at a time when she was still majoring in biology—introduced Goldberg to mathematical biology, which would eventually become her self-designed major and path to data science.  

“I was fascinated with the idea of finding phenomena in nature, like a sunflower, and studying the way it grows its seeds, its geometrical pattern and underlying formula,” she said. For her senior research, she investigated the rate of growth of the mold Penicillium chrysogenum in different glucose levels, which impacts the production of the antibiotic penicillin.  

Goldberg’s new major led her to learn computer programming and then to a job at the college’s help desk, where she was able to study how people worked with computers and what problems they needed to solve.  

Dr. Irwin later encouraged Goldberg to pursue a master’s degree in public health at Johns Hopkins University, but an anxiety disorder and fear of test-taking kept her from taking the GRE exam and derailed her graduate school plan at that time.  

“During the spring of my senior year of college, my mother saw an ad for a nearby environmental software company looking for technical support,” said Goldberg. “I ended up getting the job, and it actually is what launched me into everything I know and do now.”  

The company’s clients were large refineries and other industrial businesses. It calculated, modeled and predicted the level of pollutants they emitted into the air.  

“I was there for three years, but it seemed like a lifetime,” Goldberg said. “I traveled the country, I went to refineries and worked on installations, and I learned all of these computer skills that I had never known before.”  

When the environmental company was in the process of being sold, around 2000, Goldberg’s mother played another important role in determining her daughter’s future.  

“My life had changed. I was about to get married and become a stepmother,” she said. “My mother read that Washington College, which was closer to home, was looking for a help desk manager.”  

Goldberg would spend the next 19 years at Washington College, the small liberal arts school in Chestertown, Maryland, in a variety of positions, gaining knowledge, experience and clout along the way. She professionalized the help desk department by hiring students, giving them job descriptions and helping them move through the organization and on to jobs in technology. She also revamped and automated the fundraising department and provided research and analytics in institutional research. In addition to her role as a staff member, she served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Business Management.   

“At the help desk, I got to know everyone because I was usually the first person they met on campus,” said Goldberg. Fortuitously, this position led to her meeting the new vice president of fundraising, who asked Goldberg to update the school’s entire database system. 

Developing a way to make predictions about donors ended up being an important step in Goldberg’s path to data science, and it led her to the Susan M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. “I heard that Rice University had just launched a continuing education certificate program in fundraising that was entirely remote, so I could complete it while raising my family,” she said.  

Goldberg was matched with a capstone mentor at Rice, Clint Shipp, who asked why she didn’t have a master’s degree. Goldberg explained that family and job demands prevented her from commuting or moving for a graduate program—and there was also the issue of the test-taking anxiety. Dr. Shipp advised her to look at online programs. Goldberg found UMGC.  

Discovering UMGC was a game-changer. Goldberg enrolled in the Master of Science in Data Analytics Program and fell in love with the work.  

“I was solving real problems,” she said. “I would get homework assignments, and I would use my work experience at Washington College to provide real-life solutions. I was becoming an expert.”  

Faculty were supportive and provided practical exercises that were immediately applicable to working adults like Goldberg. During a meeting on campus, Goldberg talked to Dr. Susan Vowels, the chair of the Department of Business Management at Washington College. Vowels invited Goldberg to teach the data analytics course as an adjunct.  

Goldberg found that she enjoyed teaching and helping students to learn about data analytics. During a reflective moment on the beach with her husband, she decided to pursue more teaching opportunities. “I want people to experience that moment I had when I was excited about data analytics. I want to give that to other people,” she explained.  

Goldberg reached out to Elena Gortcheva, chair of the UMGC Data Analytics program, to ask about teaching. Dr. Gortcheva told her that she would need a doctoral degree. So, Goldberg returned to UMGC as a student again, this time in the Doctor of Business Administration Program in the Business School.  

With the support of her family, Goldberg completed the program. Her dissertation provided a framework for nonprofit organizations to adopt analytics in furthering their missions, and she remains an active alumna in the program. She often speaks with current and prospective students to help them find their passion.  

Goldberg’s doctorate has paid off and today she is living her dream. She is a full-time collegiate faculty member in UMGC’s Bachelor of Science in Data Science Program. This new undergraduate degree and certificate program offers students from all around the world an opportunity to learn data analytics, problem-solving, data-driven decision making, business intelligence, data modeling, data visualization, machine learning and artificial intelligence.  

Goldberg, who also teaches as an adjunct in the UMGC Master of Science in Data Analytics Program, uses her experiences in the real world to provide interesting assignments and scenarios for her students to investigate.  

Goldberg has come full circle in her journey and now helps others unlock their potential just like her mentors did. She has a mentoring relationship with several former students. One is helping to create affordable housing in their community, another recently completed the dissertation phase of a doctoral degree and a third has decided to return to college to pursue a master’s in data science.  

Perseverance Pays Off for Couple Pursuing Careers in Cybersecurity and Health Informatics 

Shkelzen Deshishku and his wife, Teuta, came to the United States in 1999, just after the war in their home country, Kosovo, ended. The move forced both to leave family, jobs and university studies, but it never diminished either’s desire to earn a college degree. 

In his first years in the United States, Shkelzen, who goes by Xeni, worked in a series of jobs that included selling cars. Then he discovered University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and realized he could work full-time while studying in a program that afforded him the flexibility he needed. Teuta found employment as a medical assistant. 

They settled into their new life and started a family that would grow to include four children now ranging in age from 6 to 19. They juggled work, school and home life. 

With patience and perseverance, Xeni obtained a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity in 2019. He went on to earn a Master of Science in Digital Forensics Cyber Investigation in May 2021. Meanwhile, Teuta moved up the ranks to clinical manager at the medical practice where she works. She obtained a B.S. in psychology from UMGC. 

“It was important for us to earn degrees so that our kids would see us as role models. In fact, I graduated a year before my oldest started college,” said Xeni. “I tell my kids that college might be difficult, but it’s a gift many people around the world aren’t able to obtain.

“‘Slow and steady wins the race’ became our motto,” he added.

For Xeni, a degree in cybersecurity culminated a lifelong interest in information technology. Teuta’s childhood enthusiasm about becoming a medical doctor evolved into an interest in psychology and the administrative side of the medical field. She is now pursuing a Master of Science in Health Informatics Administration at UMGC to advance her career as a clinical manager of electronic health record systems. 

Xeni now works as an information systems security officer at Synergy ECP, where he enjoys bringing new talent together to positively address challenges. 

Teuta also recognizes the cybersecurity risks inherent in her work. “It is important to keep health records secure, especially when considering all the cyber intrusions as well as ransomware attacks that are crippling the health care systems,” she said. 

Xeni aspires to become a special agent with a focus in digital forensics and cyber investigation, while Teuta has her eye on becoming a clinical informatics analyst. For both, the biggest challenge is time management. Through their pursuit of work-life balance, perseverance has emerged as the tool that keeps them focused and committed to the end goal. 

“A letter from my son at graduation showed me that our greatest achievement is not necessarily our degrees, but the example and the expectations we set for our children,” said Xeni.