University of Maryland Global Campus’s Innovative In-Person “Grad Walk” to Recognize More Than 3,600 Graduates from Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022, May 16-22

Some 1,700 Graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 to Return for Recognition

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has announced Spring Grad Walk 2022, an innovative in-person and online experience designed to accommodate thousands of graduates and guests while protecting the health and safety of the university community.  

The UMGC Class of 2022 will be joined by graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021 the week of May 16–22 for the university’s first in-person graduation celebration in more than two years. More than 3,600 graduates have registered to attend, including some 1,700 from the classes of 2020 and 2021.  

The event will take place at the College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, with graduates selecting from multiple time slots to cross the stage and receive individual recognition.  

Special features of Spring Grad Walk 2022 include:  

  • Each graduate’s name will be called as they cross a formal commencement stage in regalia  
      
  • Family members and friends can cheer their graduate from a viewing area directly in front of the stage  
      
  • Professional photographers will be on site to take photos as each graduate crosses the stage, along with individual and group photos before and after recognition  
      
  • Each graduate will receive a video clip of themselves crossing the stage to keep as a memento and share online  
      
  • Graduates may take photos and selfies on UMGC’s beautiful grounds and at photo stations decorated with the colors of UMGC and the state of Maryland  
      
  • Graduates can commemorate their achievements with family and friends in a special Celebration Zone, where they can meet UMGC faculty, staff, and Alumni Association representatives and purchase UMGC Alumni apparel, gear and other mementos.  

Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, UMGC has conducted its commencements online to help protect the health and safety of students, guests, faculty, and staff. This year, a special website has been created for the Class of 2022 that includes an on-demand ceremony with presentations by speakers, the formal conferral of degrees by UMGC President Gregory Fowler, a keynote address from UMGC alumna Ginger Miller, and an online “Gallery of Graduates” showcasing graduates’ personalized recognition slides that can be shared via social media or e-mail.  

Graduates in the Class of 2022 have received a mailed Grad Pack containing UMGC ‘swag’ to help jump-start the festivities. They are encouraged to share their achievements with fellow graduates via social media using #UMGCGrad.  

A profile of the UMGC FY2022 graduates: 

  • Number of graduates: 13,685 
  • Average age: 35 
  • Oldest graduate: 78 
  • Youngest graduate: 19 
  • Graduates come from all 50 states, four U.S territories and 20 countries 
  • Degrees awarded: 
  • Associate: 2,426 
  • Bachelor’s: 7,278 
  • Master’s: 3,980  
  • Doctorate: 34 

UMGC also conducts graduation ceremonies for military servicemembers and dependents overseas in Germany, Japan, Korea and Guam.  

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce and the military. 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 and hybrid programs and specializations.   

UMGC has a long history of innovation in reaching students where they are, including as a pioneer of internet instruction, piloting its first online classes in 1994. The university has received numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in developing fully online degree programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, business, data analytics, health care and education.  

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

### 

Maryland Artist’s Work Is a Guiding Light

The phrase “to see the light” suggests something hidden will be revealed, which is why light bulbs go off over cartoon characters’ heads when ideas occur to them. But there is seeing the light and then there is truly seeing the light, as the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) exhibit, “Sharon Wolpoff: Wherever I Turn I See Light,” demonstrates.

For the Maryland artist—who paints, makes prints and etchings, takes photographs, makes collages and designs jewelry—light’s emergence creates the conditions for artistic expression. A March 13, 2022, event with the artist turned a spotlight on her latest exhibit at UMGC’s gallery at its headquarters in Adelphi, Md, which runs through June 5.

“For many of us, a ray of sunlight or the light from a light bulb is just something that brightens a space. But Wolpoff views light adorning a landscape or peeping through a window differently,” Eric Key, director of the UMGC arts program, wrote in the exhibition catalog. “She sees more than just a well-lit space; she sees how the space is transformed. She perceives the contrast between dark and light and envisions geometric shapes and angles. She also enjoys exploring how light affects color and creates different shades.”

Take Wolpoff’s oil painting “November” (2010), which evokes the urban landscapes of Edward Hopper. An orange-brown telephone pole nearly bisects the canvas horizontally, cutting through both the bright blue sky and the orange, pink, green and off-white and earthy tones below. A smaller streetlight beside the pole echoes its form, and two doors (one pink and one orange) boldly emerge from a nondescript, windowless building on a quiet street.

Most pedestrians might walk by this scene without a second thought. But to the artist, the symphony of light and shadow was irresistible. The diagonal shadows of the pole and streetlight climb up the building, and even though much of the palette is muted, one can tell by the brightness of the lightest colors that this is a sunny day. Just as a Renaissance painting might turn an otherwise typical figure into a saint with the insertion of a halo, Wolpoff has elevated this street scene with its stunning light and shadow.

Whether interior scenes or outdoor landscapes, figures in motion or seated at a table, light is always a protagonist—if not the star of the show—in Wolpoff’s artwork. That is also true in the desert of Tucson, Arizona, one of her favorite locations and a destination she has visited with her mother over the past two decades.

“I would meander through the desert, and this is how the painting got started,” she said of her 2007 work, “Pink Cactus and Agave.”

Wolpoff took many photographs of the sky and the mountains, but two cacti—one pink and one agave (green)—grabbed her attention. She even found them seductive, she told the audience at the UMGC event. Back in the studio, she cut up three photographs she had taken and put them back together as a deconstructed and then reconstructed collage.

She called her technique “structured freedom” because it lets her advance 50 percent of the way before she begins to apply brush to canvas. In effect, she has already mapped out the composition and figured out what is going where. Brush in hand, she then can “relax into the intuitive process of painting,” she said.

“There’s something about the desert, where the perception is that it’s a barren and lifeless place. I found it to be so alive, and it was just a tremendous voracious presence that I wanted to be able to capture,” Wolpoff said.

Here too, of course, her dramatic interplay of light and shadow dances across the landscape.

In an artist statement, Wolpoff called light both part of the composition and a “metaphysical presence.” She explained that the show is called “Wherever I Turn I See Light,” because light “is something we need now more than ever.”

“It’s my intention that this show be offered as a counterpoint to the extraordinary events ongoing in our world today,” she said. “Light is an invitation to encounter the divine spark that exists in all of us.”  

When Key first told UMGC President Gregory W. Fowler about the show, the president slipped in to see it.

“I have been inviting everyone I know. It is absolutely stunning,” Fowler said, adding that an arts program at an institution that is primarily online might be a surprise to many people, but not to him.

“There’s nothing more universal, nothing more global than the arts, and the ability for the arts to speak across cultures,” he said.

At the event, he told Wolpoff, “I can’t think of anything that’s more timely than the work that you’ve been doing.” He also said Wolpoff’s “ability to see special things in places where other people may not necessarily is part of what I believe UMGC’s role is: to help those who[m] others might not always see as special, but to find that special light that’s within them as well.”

The president’s experience prior to coming to the university included time at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The hour-long discussion at the event also featured Julia Langley, faculty director of the arts and humanities program at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, which exhibits Wolpoff’s works, and Myrtis Bedolla, chair of the UMGC art advisory board and owner and founding director of Galerie Myrtis in Baltimore.

The conversation at the event touched on everything from how the artist first became obsessed with light in the late 1970s, when she painted light streaming in a window while she waited for a model who was late, to the fact that she holds a law degree. After failing the bar twice, Wolpoff became a professional artist but, 14 years later, she again sat for the bar and passed.

Wolpoff’s works that were supposed to hang for three months at the cancer center ended up staying for two years. The artist recounted meeting an oncologist at the center, who bought one of her pieces. Wolpoff was introduced to the doctor’s family when she went to the buyer’s home to deliver the work. Two months later, the oncologist called Wolpoff one evening. The doctor had to deliver bad news to a family and wanted first to talk to the artist to lift her spirits. She bought a second painting from Wolpoff during that discussion.

“I was so touched by that. I remember being moved to tears to be part of something like that, and also to get a glimpse of what it’s like,” Wolpoff said. “My perception was, ‘Oh this is for the patients coming in, and then through Julia, I started learning it’s for the staff. It’s for the doctors. It’s for everyone.”

Langley, the program’s faculty director, said it is important to have art in a cancer center—a distressing place where nobody wants to be—to make it more user-friendly and to give people things about which to dream. From the start, Wolpoff’s work drew rave reviews.

“People streamed into my office and said, ‘This is the most amazing show. Please don’t take it down. We love it,’” Langley said.

At the end of the program, when it seemed that all that could be said had been said, Fowler elicited yet another revelation (shedding more light) with a seemingly basic question: Had the artist’s way of seeing light changed over time?

“Yes,” Wolpoff said, noting that she grew increasingly aware of the kinds of auras that surround people. “It has expanded.”

Inauguration of University of Maryland Global Campus President Gregory W. Fowler to be Held Thursday, March 10, 2022

MEDIA ADVISORY

Adelphi, Md. (Feb. 28, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) will celebrate the inauguration of Gregory W. Fowler, PhD., as its seventh president on March 10, 2022. The investiture will serve as a hallmark event of the university’s 75th anniversary, opening a new chapter in the UMGC story while honoring its proud history, and will include representatives from the global UMGC community and the University System of Maryland, as well as other state and national leaders. 

What: Inauguration of UMGC President Gregory W. Fowler, PhD 

When: 10 a.m., Thursday, March 10, 2022 

The ceremony, which will be broadcast online beginning at 10 a.m., includes:  

  • Inaugural Procession 
     
  • Greetings and Video Presentations: Inaugural Committee Honorary Chair William R. Roberts, DPS, chair, UMUC Ventures Board of Directors; academic officials from other institutions; elected officials from local and state government, including Governor Larry Hogan, U.S. Sen. Christopher Van Hollen and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks; members of the global UMGC community. 
     
  • History of the University: Lawrence E. Leak, PhD, Administrator Emeritus, UMGC. 
     
  • Reflections from Colleagues: a video presentation  
  • Investiture and Charge to the President: Linda R. Gooden, DPS ’06 & ’09, chair, University System of Maryland Board of Regents and Jay A. Perman, MD, chancellor, University System of Maryland. 
     
  • Inaugural Address: Gregory W. Fowler, PhD, president, University of Maryland Global Campus 

Where: College Park Marriott Hotel and Conf. Ctr., 3501 University Blvd. East, Hyattsville, Md. 

To register for the online broadcast, click HERE

MEDIA CONTACT:
Bob Ludwig, 301-887-7614
robert.ludwig@umgc.edu

Background: 

Dr. Fowler was selected to serve as president by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and began his tenure on January 4, 2021. 

Raised in a family of modest means, President Fowler knows first-hand the power of education to transform lives, and his leadership is shaping UMGC’s next chapter marked by an evolutionary shift in higher education that places the needs of students first. As he has often said, his goal—and the university’s goal—is to fulfill the university’s mission “by bringing the right learning experience to the right students at the right time and in the right way.” 

Read Dr. Fowler’s full biography 

UMGC’s 75th anniversary represents an opportunity to celebrate its rich history of service to students in the workforce and the military, and its expanding mission providing students around the globe access to a quality, workforce-relevant education. Dr. Fowler’s inauguration serves as a welcome and celebration of an innovative higher education leader with a dynamic vision for UMGC. 
 

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce, including military servicemembers and veterans in Maryland and around the world. 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 and hybrid programs and specializations.  

UMGC has a long history of innovation in reaching students where they are, including as a pioneer of internet instruction, piloting its first online classes in 1994. The university has received numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in developing fully online degree programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, business, data analytics, health care and education.  

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

In addition to education centers in Maryland and across the metropolitan Washington, DC, area, UMGC offers in-person classes or services to military personnel and their families at 175-plus locations in more than 20 countries. More than half of the university’s student body are active-duty military personnel, reservists, members of the National Guard, veterans, and dependents.  

UMGC Event Looks at Martin Luther King Jr. through a Personal Lens

A University of Maryland Global Campus event to honor the civil rights legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. spotlighted the rich personal recollections of Juandalynn Abernathy, the daughter of one of King’s closest friends and partners in the civil rights movement.

Abernathy is the oldest daughter of civil rights leader Ralph David Abernathy, who was one of the strategists of the yearlong Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was also King’s successor as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which organized some of the civil rights movement’s most iconic nonviolent protests.

Juandalynn Abernathy

During Wednesday’s webinar, which was part of the university’s Martin King Luther Jr. Day activities, Abernathy talked about the man she called “Uncle Martin” and detailed the deep friendship between the Abernathy and King families. She noted that her father was an early driver of the effort to name a national holiday in King’s honor.

Abernathy also discussed what she described as the “very scary” complacency and current backsliding on voting rights in the United States. 

“If people do not come together to fight this, we’re going to have a similar situation that we had in the ’50s,” she said. She encouraged both activism and education.

“There is hope, there is really hope, but we have to begin … with children. They are the future. We, as parents, have to talk to [young people], to open their minds to history so that history does not repeat itself,” Abernathy told the nearly sixty people in Europe, Asia and the United States who joined the UMGC discussion.

The event was hosted in Germany, where Abernathy lives and works as a singer and vocal coach.

UMGC Europe Vice President and Director Tony Cho said presentations like Abernathy’s not only offer a rare look at the personal experiences that mark moments in history, but they also underscore an essential responsibility of education.

“As an educational institution, we have a role in keeping history relevant,” he explained.  

Abernathy, born in 1954, described herself as the first child of the civil rights movement. She lived in a house where the changemakers of the era held meetings. King’s year-younger daughter Yolanda was her friend and playmate.

Abernathy’s childhood edged up against some of the country’s most transformative—and tragic—moments, including King’s 1968 assassination. Her father was with King in Memphis to provide support to striking sanitation workers at the time of the shooting.   

“I do remember my father taking me to school before he got on the plane to go to Memphis and I asked him when he was coming back,” Abernathy recalled. “He had a strange look on his face. ‘I don’t know. This is a really tough fight. And I don’t know when we’ll be back.’

“And a couple of days later Uncle Martin was shot,” she said.

Abernathy was on a phone call with Yolanda King when she learned about the shooting. Another friend had called in on one of other phone lines in the Abernathy house and told her to turn on the television.

Immediately the Abernathy house became a hub of action, with people at the door and the telephones ringing.

“I kept praying that he would survive the shooting,” she said. She called King’s death “devastating” for her family.

During her presentation, Abernathy reminded the audience that the civil rights movement was started by “energy generated from women,” referring to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the women who refused to ride the buses to their jobs. She said her mother typed letters—and paid young boys to distribute them—to let people know of the boycott.

She also discussed her father’s arrests, the bombing of the Abernathy home and her father’s calling as a pastor, like King. Unlike King, however, she said her father insisted that his children be present at important marches—except in Birmingham. “We used to say as children that it was ‘Bombingham’ because so many bombings were taking place,” she noted.

Tucked in with the serious memories were happy ones. She recalled the first time she took a plane with her family. They traveled to Los Angeles where they went to the world’s fair and saw the opening of the movie, A Raisin in the Sun, starring Sidney Poitier. She also mentioned two summer vacations at Coney Island with the King family.

UMGC Collegiate Associate Professor of History Michael Mulvey kicked off the virtual presentation by detailing King’s connection to Europe, starting with King’s father’s 1934 trip to Germany where he learned of the religious reformer Martin Luther. At that time, owing to King’s father’s admiration of Luther’s story, the child who had been christened Michael, had his name changed to Martin Luther.

As an adult and religious leader, King returned to Europe and Germany multiple times, Mulvey said. The civil rights leader visited both East Berlin and West Berlin to spread messages of reconciliation, democracy, and nonviolent resistance. Mulvey said King was surprised by how much Europeans knew about the civil rights movement. He was also interested in understanding the shifting social concerns of European Christians and how they tied their religious beliefs into other social movements including environmentalism.

Patricia Jameson, UMGC director of Overseas Diversity and Equity Programs, organized the event with Abernathy to advance the public conversation focused on diversity and the role the community can play. She echoed the speaker’s message that “education is key” to social progress.

Maryland Del. Jazz M. Lewis, Entrepreneur, Veteran and Alumna Ginger Miller to Keynote University of Maryland Global Campus Commencement Ceremonies on December 18 at Xfinity Center in College Park

Some 2,000 Graduates, along with their Guests to Attend Two In-Person Ceremonies 

Ceremonies to be Livestreamed and Include Virtual Components 

Adelphi, Md. (Dec. 9, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) will host its winter commencement on Saturday, Dec. 18. UMGC will award more than 8,000 degrees this winter, with nearly 2,000 graduates, along with their guests, attending two in-person ceremonies at Xfinity Center in College Park, Md. 

NOTE: All graduates and their guests must show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to be admitted to the Xfinity Center. 

Keynoting the morning ceremony, which begins at 9:15 a.m., will be entrepreneur, veteran, and UMGC alumna Ginger Miller, who is founder, president, and CEO of Women Veterans Interactive Inc. She was recently appointed by President Biden to the USO Board of Governors.  

Addressing graduates in the afternoon ceremony, which begins at 3:45 p.m., will be the Honorable Jazz M. Lewis (District 24, Prince George’s County), who was appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates in February 2017. He serves on the Appropriations Committee and has worked tirelessly to focus on the issues important to everyday Marylanders. 

Both the morning and afternoon ceremonies will be livestreamed. A link to the livestream can be accessed on the UMGC Commencement website: Commencement | UMGC. In addition, a virtual recognition website will be available with personalized slides for more than 7,200 graduates​, which include photos and messages from graduates. 

Each ceremony features a graduate selected in a competitive process to address their classmates. Brittany Renfro (Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security) was chosen to speak at the morning ceremony, while Jayla Nowlin (Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology) will address the afternoon ceremony. 

Here is a snapshot of UMGG 2021 Winter Graduating Class:  

  • Number of graduates worldwide: 8,045  
  • Graduates come from all 50 states, 4 U.S. territories, and 26 countries 
  • Youngest graduate: 18 years old 
  • Oldest graduate: 78 years old 
  • Average age: 34 years old 

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 today strives to bring the right experience to the right student at the right time and in the right way. 

### 

Honor, Service, Sacrifice: UMGC Salutes Veterans

In a ceremony marking Veterans Day, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Devon D. Nieve was awarded UMGC’s Gen. John W. Vessey Student Veteran of the Year while Army Gen. Lloyd Milo Miles (Ret.), the university’s senior vice president for Global Military Operations, and Maryland State Sen. William C. Smith vividly reflected on the meaning of the War in Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrawal.

In his eight years in the Corps, Nieve balanced his military career while at the same time completing a bachelor’s degree in accounting summa cum laude and jumping right into a master’s program in Intelligence Management that he expects to finish next year.

Nieve talked about the rigor as well as the opportunities to working toward degrees while serving in demanding military assignments and deployments.  UMGC, he said, made that possible.

UMGC’s Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. Student Veteran of the Year, Staff Sergeant Devon Nieve, U.S. Marine Corps

Advanced education is essential for up-and-coming military personnel, Nieve said, “to provide the innovation, the ingenuity, the new approach to the problems that we face today. “t’s absolutely necessary in future wars.”

Not only will that education help him in his military career, but it will be essential as he makes the transition to civilian life.

He donated his $3000 in scholarship money that came with the award to a UMGC fund that helps veterans who have exhausted their VA benefits to extend their education.

In opening the ceremony, UMGC President Gregory W. Fowler spoke of the importance of the university’s relationship with the U.S. military.

“Today, as we honor the students, alumni, faculty and staff who have won the uniform of our country, and say thank you to all of our nation’s veterans, we are grateful for the many ways our relationship with the military has shaped our institution, clarified our mission and inspired us every day to live lives of service of honor, and have courage,” he said.

The Veterans Day ceremony was the first since the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to take over control of the government after 20 years of fighting.  A subtext for this year’s event centered on whether the fighting, bloodshed and cost were worth it.

Army Gen. Lloyd Milo Miles (Ret.), UMGC’s senior vice president for Global Military Operations, said he wrestled with this, but concluded the struggle and sacrifice were worth it.

“I hope that someday when you take the long view of your life, you will remember the good you tried to do in that land of terrible beauty,” he said.  “The roads you constructed, and the wells you dug and the schools you built. And you will remember the excitement of the children as you handed out candy and the tear-filled eyes of a mother as you gave her something to eat.”

The historians and politicians will debate the ultimate worth of the struggle, he said.

“During your time in the crucible, you did your duty, to care for one another, to help the oppressed and defended the weak,” he said. “You fought for your friends and you helped people. From my perspective, that would be a good epitaph on any tombstone.”

In his keynote address, Sen. William C. Smith, who served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army and is now an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, agreed that those who served in Afghanistan should be proud of their accomplishments. 

“Today, despite the current state of the country, every service member can hold their head high, knowing that we kept the United States safe for over two decades, and we unleashed unparalleled opportunity for millions of Afghans that they’d never seen before. Those ideas and that energy have taken root and will not die off quickly. Our service has made a difference.”

The ceremony featured a poignant video honoring the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, which included historical and personal perspective from Lillian Pfluke (U.S. Army, Ret.), a UMGC faculty member and founder of the American War Memorials Overseas, and Timothy French, a UMGC alum and sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Old Guard Caisson Platoon, which helps perform funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.

To view the entire UMGC Veterans Day Ceremony, click HERE.

World Teachers Day: A UMGC Classroom Can Be Anywhere

John Barbato has an uncommon claim to fame: He has taught for University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) on three continents.

“I’ve been all over Europe, the Middle East and South America for a year when UMGC had a program in Montevideo, Uruguay, in the early 1990s,” he said. “I’ve also had the privilege of being deployed to many remote sites like Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Bahrain. The list is long.”

Barbato is one of approximately 565 UMGC overseas faculty members for whom a classroom may be any place in the world. These educators usually teach in education centers on military bases—except when COVID-19 drove them to online education platforms—but they also have moments where a class might unfold in a tent, in a building stairwell, in a bunker.

They are drawn to the experience because of their links to the military, by their interest in nontraditional students, by their love of travel or, sometimes, by all three.

On Oct. 5, World Teachers’ Day, the experiences of these UMGC teachers especially resonate.

UMGC Psychology Professor Mindy Otis said teaching in a global classroom has been her best job. She enjoys her students and she gets to indulge her lifelong love of travel. Before joining UMGC as a full-time faculty member, she had multiple positions in the education field, including as a special education administrator and a school principal.

“I was living in Connecticut and I didn’t like the job I had. It was very stressful. I was looking for a change,” she said. She spotted a UMGC advertisement for overseas teachers and applied.

That was seven years ago, and she hasn’t looked back.

For Renaldo Walker, teaching at UMGC has an intensely personal significance. Walker is both a former servicemember and a former UMGC student. Deployed to Germany to support Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, he began studying German through the university. Today he is a full-time faculty member teaching graduate and undergraduate business, human resources and project management classes in Germany.

“The experience of being away from the United States and still having the possibility to pursue a valuable education with a respectable institution was influential in paving the way to where I am now,” Walker said. “I always valued what it meant to me as a member of the military to be academically supported away from home.”

Walker, even while teaching, continues his own education at UMGC. He is pursuing a doctorate in business administration.

Walker noted the irony of his current career, given that he was interested in sports—not education—when he was young. He described himself as an “at times below average” student when he joined the Air Force in 1987.

Several years into his military service, he felt “it would be an honor to travel abroad and pay service to our military members, Department of Defense employees and contractors, and their families in their pursuit of academic accomplishment.”

Gretchen Koenig, meanwhile, had always wanted to teach outside the United States. A professor of English, speech and writing since 2016, she said her position with UMGC in Europe “was a perfect fit.”

The theme for World Teachers’ Day in 2021 is “teachers at the heart of education recovery.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most stateside UMGC classes were already online or hybrid, which is a combination of online and in-classroom. At military education centers overseas, however, in-person classes were the norm.

The pandemic was a game changer. Walker described it as “the biggest challenge that I have experienced” in teaching.

John Nolan, a UMGC professor of history, leads field study courses in which students do online work and reading then meet for guided travel marked by lectures, museum visits, meetings with local experts and other on-the-ground experiences. Nolan was in London with a field study group when he got word that countries were locking down because of the novel coronavirus. His students managed to finish their trip, but a field study program in Spain was derailed mid-week.

Despite needing to shift gears for COVID-19, Nolan said he enjoyed the challenges that came with teaching online. “Though the classes have been small, the students have responded well and produced some of the best work I have seen from undergraduates so that, too, is rewarding,” he said.

Otis, meanwhile, was teaching in Korea when the global lockdowns started. “I’ve been in quarantine four-and-a-half times,” she said, “but being in Germany or Korea, compared with the United States, was much more restrictive. We were shut down and the only thing you could do was go to the grocery store or pharmacy or pick up takeout.”

She said the isolation of lockdown was hard, and her students in Italy and Germany seemed to arrive at the Zoom classes seeking both academic and social engagement.

“My students would stay online after class and we would all chat. It was our social exposure,” she explained.

Indeed, the interaction with students—and the opportunity to unleash their potential—is one of the things that drives Walker passion for teaching. He recalled the time when an MBA student was in touch to say a job would prevent her from attending the first cohort weekend in his class. Shortly afterward, Walker learned that the student was taking steps to drop the course.

“A program coordinator … was instrumental in advising her that she should first speak with me before doing anything further. She agreed, we eventually spoke and during our telephone conversation, she began to cry and explain to me that the office where she worked was understaffed so she was working most weekends, and that she was trying her hardest to establish work-life balance while also being a wife and mother of three,” Walker said.

The student was ashamed that she wasn’t keeping pace with the rest of her cohort.

“I went on to make a deal with her that she should suspend all efforts to catch up on her classwork until she had the opportunity to meet with her cohort. If she still felt ashamed after that point, then I would fully respect her wishes to withdraw from the course,” Walker said.

She went to class, met the other students and explained her situation.

“Needless to say, she fell in love with the cohort, caught up with her classwork, confronted her [work] manager about the importance of her pursuing her education and became one of the best students that I ever had,” Walker said. The woman completed her MBA, becoming the first woman in her family with a graduate degree.

Otis, too, finds it gratifying to see her students achieve.

“My students are the best part of the job. They never cease to amaze me,” she said. “Some of them come out of less-than-stellar K-12 education and they think they aren’t college material, that they can’t learn. Then they come to UMGC and realize, ‘Hey, I can do this!’”

Koenig noted that teaching servicemembers overseas often feels exactly like teaching students stateside—and then she is reminded of “the different stressors that our students have to content with.

“Many of these students are away from home for the first time, living in a foreign country, and many are facing deployments or training to additional countries. They are trying to maintain a stable life at home while everything around them is different,” she explained. “That potential loss of equilibrium can make classes more challenging.

“The actual classes and classroom interactions aren’t different, but the concerns or distractions weighing on our student’s minds certainly are,” she added.

Barbato said it’s not only the unexpected experience of teaching against a backdrop of different countries, cultures and challenges but, sometimes, the unusual form the classrooms themselves take.

On the first night of a teaching assignment in Kandahar, Afghanistan, his class was interrupted by sirens signaling a rocket attack. He was instructed to crawl under a table in the classroom until the group moved to a bunker.

“Once in the bunker, which was pitch black, I asked, “Can I still talk?’” Barbato recalled. “I was told I could, so I continued on with the class as I would have anywhere, going over the syllabus, the assignments, forming groups and talking about human resource management.

“We had been in the bunker for almost two hours when a student said, ‘Professor, it’s nine o’clock,’ pointing to his watch. The class was scheduled to go from 6 to 9 p.m.

“I said, ‘Do you have somewhere to go?’ We all laughed a bit and then we kept discussing human resource management until we were given the all-clear sign,” he said.

Not surprisingly, many of the UMGC faculty overseas love being on the road, and they take advantage of the opportunity to travel when they can.

Otis is an old hat at off-the-beaten-track experiences. On one trip she visited an amusement park in the bottom of a salt mine in Turda, Romania. On another, she tried out a multi-level trampoline in a coal mine in northern Wales. A 5,000-miles road trip took her through several countries.

“Before I came to UMGC, I was a normal suburban soccer mom. I went to work, I came home, I did potluck,” she said. “I love the life I have now. Next weekend I’m going hiking by myself in the Canary Islands.”

In Nolan’s 23 years with UMGC, he has taught in nine locations in Germany, six in the UK, four in Italy, three in Belgium and two in Bosnia. He has also had multiple postings in Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan and Diego Garcia. His field study courses, notably in Ireland and France, give him an extra opportunity to travel when he’s not at his home, a small farm in rural

Cornwall where, as he puts it, “I wear bib overalls a lot.”

For all his postings with UMGC, Barbato’s link to the university came through his father who retired from the military, served as dean of the European operations of a U.S. college that no longer exists and then taught at UMGC for 17 years.

Just out of college and ready to begin a job as an investment banker in New York, Barbato found his father trying to lure him back to Europe, where Barbato had attended school on military bases.

“My father had financed my studies in the form of a loan. He told me, that if I came over to Europe and taught with him for one year, he would erase the loan,” Barbato said. “That one year turned into 32 years and going.”

Barbato teaches business courses, including management and marketing. He is assigned to Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, the same base where his father served. At the Commencement ceremony marking the last year his father taught, the father and son—both UMGC faculty members—walked across the stage together.

Juneteenth Forum Highlights Contributions of Black Women Leaders from Civil War Era Onward

UMGC Europe celebrated the Juneteenth holiday with a special online forum that focused on the role of Black women in the fight for civil rights. The presentation was designed, in part, to address what one speaker characterized as the invisibility of the significant work Black women did to further the cause of civil rights both before and after the Civil War. 

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when a Union general in Texas read the proclamation freeing enslaved people. Black Americans have celebrated the holiday for years, and a number of states have observed it as well. UMGC’s celebration came just as the U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to make Juneteenth a national holiday. 

As part of the hour-long program, Juneteenth: Women, Contribution, Evolution, Dr. LaShawn Thompson pointed out how, in American history, the role of Black people has often been obscured, and the contributions of Black women abolitionists in particular were practically invisible. 

“We must ask ourselves why the accomplishments of Black women in the march towards freedom have been hidden away,” said Thompson. “The little-known facts about African Americans in America become no facts at all. African American women are the most invisible of all.” 

And yet, before the Civil War, she said, they worked to keep families together when possible and to provide guidance for resistance, and after the war they became community organizers, despite starting with no formal experience. 

Thompson quotes Anne Scott (1990) author of the journal article Most Invisible of All: Black Women’s Voluntary Association, “How was it that women who had grown up in slavery were able to so quickly organize themselves after emancipation? But move, they did. In one way or another, organized black women touched every area of life, from home to politics.” 

That invisibility has been damaging for Black women, Thompson explained, even as they live with the myth of the strong Black woman who cares for everyone else. 

“It is the root of both physical and mental health disparities in her current existence,” she said and quotes Ward & Heidrich (2009) authors of the journal article African American women’s beliefs about mental illness, stigma, and preferred coping behaviors, “Additionally, negative social and political experiences including racism, discrimination and sexism have put African American women at risk for low-income jobs, multiple roles strain and health problems, all of which are associated with the onset of mental illness.” 

These challenges only underscore the significance of the work being done, and the program celebrated the lives of Black women who emerged to lead the fight against slavery and discrimination, to help educate African Americans and to establish businesses. 

  • Harriet Tubman, who grew up in slavery in Maryland and escaped north to freedom, returned repeatedly to lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. 
  • Sojourner Truth, who escaped slavery and was the first African American to successfully sue her former owner to win the freedom for her son, went on to become a leading abolitionist and women’s rights activist. 
  • Nannie Helen Burroughs—an educator, orator, religious leader, civil rights activist, feminist and businesswoman—helped establish the National Association of Colored Women in 1896.  In 1909, she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, D.C., to help provide opportunities beyond domestic work.
  • Mary McLoud Bethune, who founded Bethune-Cookman College in Florida—which became the standard for other Black colleges and universities—became president of the National Council of Negro Women and fought for Black voter rights. 
  • Dorothy Height, who worked against lynching in the South and worked for voter registration. 
  • Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to win a seat in the U.S. Congress, was also the first to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972. 
  • Madam C.J. Walker, who became the first female Black millionaire by creating a haircare system for Black women, employed hundreds of Black women through her business, which eventually included hair culture colleges. 
  • Ida B. Wells, who as a journalist attacked Jim Crow policies, fought to expose and combat the practice of lynching after a close friend was killed because he tried to break up a fight between a white boy and a black boy outside his grocery store. Her writings chronicled the struggles of Black people whose stories might have been lost to history without her work. 

Other participants in the program included faculty member Dr. Steven Carter, who provided an introduction;  Genesis Neely, senior traveling academic advisor, who presented “Black Women Through History”; faculty member Janique Parnell, who presented “Hidden in Plain Sight: A Legacy of Greatness”; faculty member Renaldo Walker, who performed a W.E.B Du Bois Reenactment; Pamela Frank, a member of the Diversity Council and a National Test Center coordinator, who presented on Ida B. Wells; Emerald Smith, a member of the Diversity Council and National Test Center coordinator, who read from a poem by Frances E. Harper; and Patricia Jameson, director of Overseas Diversity and Equity Programs, who led the organization of the event and provided closing remarks. 

UMGC Awarded Grant for 2021 GenCyber Teacher Education Program

Adelphi, Md. (June 7, 2021)– University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has been awarded a $90,000 grant through the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct a GenCyber program for high-school teachers in the summer of 2021.

Building on the success of a similar program conducted in 2019, the 2021 GenCyber Teacher program, to be held July 26-30, aims to help a new, diverse group of high school teachers improve their methods of delivery for cybersecurity content in their curricula. Like the 2019 event, participants will leave with lesson plans, classroom projects, and a network of like-minded teachers to share future ideas.

“As cyberattacks continue to rise, particularly among educational institutions and school systems, it is vitally important that we arm educators with the skills needed to ensure the security of their students and schools,” said Dr. Loyce Pailen, senior director of the Center for Security Studies at UMGC. “This year’s GenCyber program will build on the 2019 event to provide educators the tools they need to train and inspire the next generation of cyber professionals’

The 2021 GenCyber program will comprise 25 teachers from STEM fields in Maryland and the surrounding area with a priority on teachers in Baltimore City. Consideration will also be given to teachers in other subject areas such as business, given the fact that cybersecurity is a critical element in all facets of the private sector. Participants will receive a $1,300 stipend for full program participation. UMGC will conduct follow-up sessions with participants to further their professional development and support the use of curriculum and materials in their classrooms.

The application deadline for the 2021 camp is Friday, June 11, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Eligibility requirements and application instructions are available on the UMGC website. In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 program will be conducted in a virtual learning environment.

Brig. Gen. Janeen L Birckhead to UMGC Class of 2021: “Think Critically and Act Intentionally”

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, commander of the Maryland Army National Guard, called on University of Maryland Global Campus graduates to help others, pursue self-improvement, and focus on solutions in her keynote address at the university’s 2021 Virtual Spring Stateside Commencement. Herself a UMGC alumna, Birckhead commanded the National Guard troops that protected the U.S. Capitol and presidential inauguration following the failed insurrection of January 6. 

Keynote Speaker Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead

“There is no lack of talent for identifying problems,” Birckhead said in her keynote. “However, fewer people can identify solutions, and even fewer are prepared and able to take action on that solution. Use what you have learned, and the relationships you have built through the UMGC program to think critically and act intentionally.” 

Watch Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead Keynote Address 

Birckhead said graduates should “stay grounded and help others. We all stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us. Be a giant in the life of someone who wants to be a solution finder, not a divider.” She added, “Commit to spending time every day in the pursuit of self-improvement, and actuating your plan. This will change you. This will change how you see the world, and it will change how the world sees you.” 

Read UMGC Global Media Center Feature Story About Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead 

The 2021 virtual commencement website also features the complete commencement program, including the conferral of degrees by UMGC President Gregory W. Fowler, a message from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a roll call of graduates—including their photos and quotes—as well as congratulatory messages from UMGC faculty, staff and friends. 

UMGC President Gregory Fowler

UMGC Virtual Commencement Website

The site was visited by more than 14,000 unique viewers on Saturday, May 15, and messages on social media garnered more than 55,000 views. The ceremony will remain available for on-demand viewing through October 15, 2021. 

Raymond Fisher, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spoke on behalf of the graduating class. Fisher, who traces his lineage to a slave owned by George Washington, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in information systems management after a 25-year journey.  

Watch Raymond Fisher Address 

A native Washingtonian, Fisher was the youngest of six children and orphaned by the time he was 11. Yet three of the six children now hold UMGC degrees. After graduating from high school and attending Anne Arundel Community College, Fisher joined the Marines, serving two combat tours. 

He attended Purdue University but left to work as a junior engineer, rising to a software programmer and tester in the dot-com era.  Often the only person of color in his office, Fisher acknowledged that he “dealt with the challenges that came with that.” 

Watch WJLA-TV ABC 7 Feature Story on Raymond Fisher 

Student Speaker Raymond Fisher

Six years ago, he decided it was time to finish his bachelor’s degree, “with all of the early mornings, late nights and family time that had to be managed, not sacrificed. It took all of the courage, self-discipline and integrity that I developed growing up and solidified in the Marines, where I became a man.” 

He faced an inner journey, as well, acknowledging that “I have a little boy, trapped deep inside of me, who is so afraid to fail. So, he hides. But in this journey, I had to open the door within me. Take him by the hand and say, We need to step outside, outside of the comfort zone to the limitless possibilities life has to offer.’” 

Noting that he and his fellow graduates were tested by having to complete their degrees during the coronavirus pandemic, Fisher said: “It did not shake our resolve. Instead, it brought us closer together, more determined than ever, even as we mourn those who have fallen to this illness. At the start of spring semester, I had two classmates become ill with the virus. But our professors showed compassion and empathy, extending deadlines, and allowing my classmates to focus on their health. It made a huge difference. They both are graduating with us today.” 

Read UMGC Global Media Center Story about Raymond Fisher

“We—the class of 2021—collectively say, Here we are,” Fisher concluded. “We’re fierce, confident, and ready for any challenge, shaped by the academic crucible of this institution of excellence.” 

Governor Hogan also highlighted the perseverance of the graduates completing their programs during the pandemic. 

“Normal life came to a screeching halt over the past year, and it forced all of us to pause and reflect on the things that truly matter,” Hogan said. “Staying apart from friends and family reminded us how much we depend on and need each other to get through the hard times. We were reminded that each day is precious.” 

Watch Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Address 

With the end of the pandemic in sight, Hogan challenged the graduates to “remember that each of us can make the days ahead count that much more.” 

In special remarks to graduates who are active-duty military servicemembers and veterans, UMGC’s senior vice president for Global Military Operations, Maj. Gen. Lloyd “Milo” Miles (U.S. Army, Ret.), praised their achievements and urged them to “acknowledge all of those who have helped them along the long path to get to this day. 

“There were probably parents, mentors and children and close personal friends who encouraged you to keep it up [and] press on,” said Miles. He continued, “When you were tired: press on. When you were sick or discouraged: press on.  When you didn’t think you could do any more: press on. Wherever they are, you owe them a debt of gratitude. Please take some time today to reach out and thank them.” 

From the perspective of a distinguished 32-year military career, Miles said that “what truly matters in life is not the amount of education a person has or his race or his economic background or station in life. What matters is how you treat others. It’s about your heart and your commitment to your fellow man. It’s about sacrifice and honor and loyalty.” 

Watch Special Message from Maj. Gen. Lloyd “Milo” Miles (U.S. Army, Ret.) 

UMGC Graduate Mariya Wasti’s winning entry in the UMGC cap decorating contest.

Vivian Mojica, another 2021 graduate, sang the university’s alma mater at the conclusion of the ceremony. Mojica earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Science. 

Mariya Wasti, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Services Management, received the most votes in a cap decorating contest that included more than 100 entries. Her winning cap featured the Arabic phrase “Alhamdulillah”—which means “thank God”—in gold lettering surrounded by white and pink beads and a turquoise fabric boarder. Wasti said her faith “kept her motivated and determined on achieving my life goals. I also believe God always has better plans for us.”  

Snapshot of UMGC graduates for 2020-21: 

  • UMGC held separate commencement ceremonies in Asia (April 24) and Europe (May 1) to accommodate graduates who are serving in the military overseas. 
     
  • Total number of graduates worldwide: 13,171 
      
  • Locations of our graduates:  All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 32 countries and territories. 
     
  • Youngest graduate: 17 years 
     
  • Oldest graduate:  78 years 
  • Average age: 35 years