Six UMGC Students Make the Cut for Prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program

Matthew Sinclair is watching his email to see what job opportunities open in this year’s Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program, a high-profile gateway to government employment. Sinclair is one of six University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) students selected as finalists in the highly competitive program that identifies talented individuals and invites them to apply for positions within the federal workforce.

Matthew Sinclair

“I have lots of friends who work in the federal government, and they told me the PMF is a great way to get your foot in the door,” said Sinclair, assistant director of the Mechanical Engineering Program for University of Maryland College Park. “They said it is prestigious and an honor.”

Sinclair is among only 1,100 people, out of more than 8,000 applicants from 299 academic institutions worldwide, who survived the rigorous multi-step selection process to be named a finalist. PMF finalists are invited to government career fairs—held virtually last year—and receive regular notices of federal job openings for which they may compete. Once matched with a job, a finalist is officially a fellow and has access to training, mentoring and other career-advancing opportunities.

“The Presidential Management Fellows Program is a training and leadership development program, specifically for graduate students. It is extremely competitive and it ends with a two-year fellowship in a federal agency,” said Career Advising Specialist Isa Martinez, who oversees UMGC’s involvement in the program. “This carries a regular salary and benefits and training and access to professional development programs.”

PMF job openings surface across the country, and finalists may have to compete with other fellows for the locations, government agencies, and positions they seek. Martinez said being a finalist doesn’t guarantee a job but 80 to 85 percent of finalists generally find positions.

Isa Martinez

“You can apply for as many openings as you want,” Sinclair explained. “Or, if there’s a specific department or agency that interests you, you can wait for those.”

Sinclair completed his MBA from UMGC last year as part of a career move, and he sees the PMF as a way to propel that aspiration. He also holds undergraduate degrees in education and history, as well as a master’s degree in reading and language arts.

Many of the agencies have webinars explaining their goals and mission. Sinclair said he found the webinar for the Department of Veteran Affairs especially compelling, adding that his maternal grandfather had been a veteran.

When the finalists for the 2022 cohort were announced in December, the selection of six students from UMGC was unprecedented. A year earlier, there were no finalists from the university. In the 2020 cohort, there were two. Both were placed in jobs with the Department of Homeland Security.

“For us to go from zero to six, competing with students from Yale and Georgetown, means that the program is starting to see the wonderful potential of UMGC students,” Martinez said.

Martinez said students from all disciplines are eligible for the PMF but the jobs tend to dovetail with the government’s needs at the time. In 2020, the focus was on IT and cybersecurity. In 2022, it seems to be business administration and health care.

In addition to Sinclair, three other UMGC finalists have degrees in business management or administration: Caren Clift, Clair Curtain and Thuy An Truong. Finalist Elena Candu is completing a degree in emergency management and Xia Lao’s degree is focused on health administration.

Candu, a mother of two who was born in Moldova, is slated to graduate from UMGC in August. She already is a federal employee, but she hopes the PMF will put her on track to a leadership position in emergency management or humanitarian assistance.

“I heard of the program from alumni PMFs who found the program an excellent opportunity for professional development,” she said.

Candu enrolled at UMGC in 2020, two months after her family relocated to Northern Virginia following six years in Africa while her husband was on Foreign Service assignment in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea. She was getting a haircut when she received an email telling her that she had been selected as a PMF finalist.

Caren Clift

“I was glad that I was wearing a mask covering the big grin on my face when seeing the email,” she said. “I wonder what the stylist was thinking about me grinning, without any explanations, for a good part of the time I was there.”

Martinez said finalists like Candu who are already working for the government can use the PMF to “get a boost in their salary grade level or switch agencies.”

She said she heard about a PMF finalist who worked as a program analyst during her two years as a fellow. “Now she’s a director,” Martinez added.

When it comes to the PMF, three’s the charm for Clift, who had eyed the fellowship on three occasions before becoming a finalist.

When she first learned about PMF, she was “thrilled” about applying but discovered that her UMGC graduation date fell just outside the window for eligibility. Later, her return to school to pursue a dual graduate degree program in health care administration and business administration enabled her to apply, but she was not selected as a finalist.

But she had another chance. The 2020 completion date of her MBA enabled her to jump on the complex Presidential Management Fellowship application process in 2021.

“At the time I applied, I was thinking I could find an opportunity within Health and Human Services or the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” she said. “I wanted to utilize the education I have, focused on wellness and translate that … into a steady income.”

Before she learned that she was a finalist, she had added a project management certificate to her professional credentials and accepted a job with the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates. She likes the job and, especially, her work team but she is also keeping an eye on PMF opportunities.

Whether she ends up working for the federal government or not, Clift said to be selected as a finalist was impressive on its own.

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.

Alumnus Credits UMGC Degree for Shaping Federal Career

Thomas Brandt ’19, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, lives in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to his degree from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), he has switched from a job marked by tough physical labor to a career as a financial analyst. 

“Without having gone to the University of Maryland Global Campus graduate program, I would not have been afforded the opportunity to have shifted gears from doing hard work as a field service engineer into training to be a financial analyst so easily,” Brandt said. “I have nothing but applause and praise for the program that I went through and all the programs at University of Maryland Global Campus.”

Brandt is employed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Energy. His current post as a GS-9 employee is a one-year temporary position, which Brandt is optimistic will develop into a permanent job in 2022.

In his role as a financial analyst, Brandt coordinates and trains on how to calculate the federal budget, capital expenditures, rate case development, and understanding the deep nuances and financial partnerships and memorandum of understanding (MOU) that BPA has within the Pacific Northwest environment.

Brandt joined the Navy as an electronics technician (ET) shortly before 9/11 in 2001 then switched to an information technology specialist (IT). Growing up in Binghamton, N.Y., he saw the Navy as a pathway to something adventuresome and fulfilling. He was stationed on an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and participated in the tsunami relief effort in Indonesia in 2005. He switched to the Navy Reserve in 2006. He has mobilized and deployed to Iraq, United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Djibouti and Bahrain while in the Reserves to aid in the Global War on Terrorism efforts. 

During his time on active duty, Brandt developed shoulder and back pain and sleep apnea, and his injuries were exacerbated by 12-hour shifts working on lab equipment in Hillsboro, Oregon. He deployed to Bahrain for a year, took a brief graduate study pause, and came back to work on his Master of Science in Financial Management and Information Systems Integration, which he completed in 2019.  

“I just had to dig deep and find that internal motivation because coming off of deployment can be very exhausting and you want to take more time off,” Brandt said. “I knew that I had to get through this.”

After beginning his UMGC studies in 2016, he relocated because of his job with ABB to Portland, Oregon, from North Carolina. Brandt also has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Excelsior College. Additionally, Brandt has a second bachelor’s degree in electrical technology from Thomas Edison State University. 

After 20 years in the Navy, Brandt will retire later this year as a Chief.

As he reflects on his years studying at UMGC, he remembers fondly his last capstone project, which incorporated the financial management and information systems skills he received in the master’s program. The final project divided students into teams and had them come up with a business. Each team then had to design its website and create a portfolio spreadsheet for investors and others interested in the business.

“He really cared about his education and kept it a priority in his life,” said Randy Kuhn, adjunct professor of business at UMGC. “I am very proud of him for his persistence and dedication to finishing his program despite what was going on in his life.”

University of Maryland Global Campus Joins Wiley’s Extended Learning Network

UMGC will now offer degrees for Wiley Beyond’s Network of 80 Companies and 500,000 Employees 

Adelphi, Md. (Jan. 11, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a pioneer in providing innovative and quality academic degree programs for adult and underserved populations, has joined Wiley, a global leader in research and education, in an alliance that adds UMGC to Wiley’s Extended Learning Network. This network includes 57 partner schools that support degrees and reskilling programs through Wiley Beyond, the company’s tuition benefits solution, and the 80 companies and 500,000 employees currently partnered with Wiley Beyond will have access to UMGC’s more than 90 fully online degree programs and specializations.   

As part of this agreement, UMGC will work with Wiley and workforce development agencies around the country, as well as with community colleges that are seeking more efficient access to bachelor’s degree programs.   

“We are pleased and proud to partner with Wiley to develop a more skilled workforce,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “Our experience with establishing transfer relationships with community colleges will benefit the participants in Wiley Beyond and increase the pipeline of students who are completing bachelor’s degree.” 

“Through Wiley Beyond, Wiley offers one of the most extensive learning networks for employer-sponsored education programs,” said Todd Zipper, president of Wiley Education Services. “We’re excited to add University of Maryland Global Campus to our learning network to provide more learners with affordable, accessible and outcomes-driven education.”   

UMGC enrolls more than 90,000 students each year, more than half of whom are active-duty military personnel and their families stationed on military bases around the world.  

The university also offers award-winning online programs in disciplines including biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics and information technology that are in high demand in today’s increasingly technical, global workplace. UMGC also offers cost savings through its use of digital resources, which have replaced costly publisher textbooks in most courses.  

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military servicemembers and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.
 
UMGC was the first university to send faculty overseas to teach active-duty military personnel at installations in Europe, beginning in 1949, expanding to Asia in 1956 and to the Middle East in 2005. UMGC faculty have taught in the war zones of Vietnam, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.   

UMGC now offers classes to military service personnel and their families at more than 175 locations in more than 20 countries. More than half of the university’s student body are active-duty military personnel and their families, members of the National Guard and veterans.  

About Wiley

Wiley empowers researchers, learners, universities, and corporations to achieve their goals in an ever-changing world.

For over 200 years we have been helping people and organizations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. We develop digital education, learning, assessment, and certification solutions to help universities, businesses, and individuals move between education and employment and achieve their ambitions. By partnering with learned societies, we support researchers to communicate discoveries that make a difference. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, books, and other digital content build on a 200-year heritage of quality publishing.

After the Great Resignation: The Great Hiring?

Upheaval in the labor market continues, changing the way people view the jobs they have and the careers they want. University of Maryland Global Campus experts looked ahead to the job market in 2022, including where opportunities will be found, how salary and benefits are being reshaped, and the toolkit job seekers will need.  

The U.S. Department of Labor opened 2022 by releasing its latest job market data, which showed that 4.5 million people changed or left jobs in the month of November. The quitting rates continue to outpace hiring. UMGC Associate Professor of Economics Matthew Salomon said the so-called Great Resignation is the sign of a strong economy.

“If people are scared about jobs they don’t resign,” he said. “Even though inflation is high right now we’ve recovered ahead of what was anticipated with the pandemic.” 

Salomon noted that a COVID-19 halt in visas for foreign workers and a crackdown on undocumented workers has also contributed to the labor force shortage. “And of course, there are the mothers and fathers who left the workforce because child care was not available and their children had to go to school remotely,” he said. “That is an unfortunate loss of talent.”

What do job seekers want?

“That’s a loaded question with multiple layers,” said Darren Cox, UMGC senior director of employer relations and student affairs.  “To a large degree, it’s about quality of life. During the pandemic, people have had more time for retrospection.” 

Workers are shifting careers—and career fields—in a quest for greater opportunities, higher salaries and work conditions that better dovetail with their lives. Cox said some UMGC students and alumni have told him that flexible work hours are important. People want to escape long work commutes. Entrepreneurship is also experiencing an uptick.

As they seek out safer working conditions and wages that allow them and their families to progress, Cox said UMGC students seem especially interested in jobs that are remote. “Our students are accustomed to being virtual, so they’re able to adapt to that type of environment,” he said.

A guarantee of job security has also gained new traction. The onset of COVID-19 pandemic left many people unsure whether they would have a job from one day to the next.

Francine Blume, assistant vice president of career development at UMGC, said the trends may reflect the fact that for some workers “their values simply changed.”

“After getting a taste of a healthier work-life balance, many workers are moving on to jobs that offer greater flexibility so they can spend more time with their families or enjoying other personal pursuits,” Blume explained.

What jobs are in demand?

IT and cybersecurity jobs remain hot. These are career fields with opportunities to advance. Even more, employees can often work remotely, making these safe positions during the pandemic, and the hours may be flexible. But job applicants should be aware that the skill sets sought by tech employers are changing. 

“From an employer’s perspective, they’re looking for people skilled in data aggregation and data analysis. They need people who understand cloud infrastructure,” said Cox. “This is a huge shift from just knowing a basic language like JAVA.”

Tech job opportunities are especially rich for professionals in automation, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Shuruq Alfawair, UMGC job development and placement specialist, said tech leaders maintain that they are not trying to take away human jobs but, rather, to make people more productive.

“How will that disrupt how we hire? We don’t know yet,” Alfawair asked. “Some people may feel like it’s an Armageddon, but it is not. It’s just the reality of the future of technology.”

There are extraordinary job opportunities this year for nurses, health care administrators, technicians and other medical professionals. Increased numbers of workers are needed to manage the COVID-19 crisis, at the same time that burnout and illness at the front line have brought waves of resignations—in a field that faced worker shortages and high turnover even before the pandemic.

The health care labor deficit has been exacerbated by the growing need for care for the large Baby Boomer population and ongoing worker shortfalls in rural areas. At the same time, the ongoing push toward robotics has shaken health care, requiring workers to have more technology finesse.

Within the business arena, Cox said, project managers are in demand. Business analytics, too, remains a strong field for job applicants in 2022.

Increasing numbers of CEOs say they want employees who thrive as part of a team. Salomon said job applicants with military backgrounds are especially well-suited for that workplace culture. Companies across the country are also working more conscientiously to diversify their workforces.

The mass exodus from the service industry, including the hospitality sector, has left a surfeit of jobs there. Low wages and a fear of COVID-19 spurred many of those departures. 

“There was also the great rudeness of people,” Salomon noted, a disturbing trend that may have roots in the stressfulness surrounding the pandemic. “And there are workers who have decided to go back to school.”  

What about job training?

Degrees continue to open doors, and certifications in particular skill areas add oomph.  Employer-offered training and education are also on the rise, but they are starting to look different.

“Employers are offering apprenticeship programs that are done remotely. These are surfacing because employers are finding skill gaps,” Cox said. “Prior to the pandemic, most of these were in person because the thought was that someone early in their careers needed hands-on learning. The pandemic has taught employers that they can do this training remotely.”

TEKsystems, a UMGC employer, is one of many companies moving toward training boot camps. TEKsystems has reshaped itself as an all-remote IT staffing firm and its employee training is also now virtual. 

“They’re offering interesting training opportunities. They have a boot camp that pays the participants a stipend. It is full time and remote,” Cox said. “Because it is full-time, participants can’t balance a full-time job with the boot camp, but it is a great training opportunity.”

For its part, UMGC participates in SkillBridge , which collaborates with several organizations—including government agencies—to provide skilled training, internships and other workforce experience to individuals transitioning from the military. 

Where’s the money?

Some workers are shifting careers to boost their salaries, but Cox said job candidates might want to think about compensation beyond the dollar signs, particularly if training programs are part of the job offer.

“Sometimes our students aren’t willing to take a pay cut for an apprenticeship program, for example. They are older, often with families, and for someone who has been in the workforce for 15 years, the idea of taking an apprenticeship that means transitioning to a salary that is less than they currently make is not appealing,” Cox said. “But they need to look at this long term.”

He said jobseekers who sign on to lower-salary cybersecurity apprenticeships, for example, could earn back lost income within a couple of years—and their future ability to earn would be much greater.

“There are people who will get entry-level jobs in the $60,000 a year range,” Cox said, “but with expertise in AI or automation, they’ll be able to command a salary at or well over $100,000.”

Better pay is also one of the drivers of the growing trend toward entrepreneurship.  

“If you’re underpaid or underemployed, then you tend to look at other avenues for income. Also, many people want to work for themselves,” Cox explained. “And there is the idea of legacy building. The older you get, the more purpose you want. The average age of our students is 32. As someone gets into their 30 s and 40s, they start to think more intentionally about their career and where they see themselves long term. 

“They’re ready to take what they’ve learned from their workplace and make it their own.”

And job benefits?

The desperation to fill job vacancies in some career areas has sparked new benefits, including big hiring bonuses—even for hourly workers—as well as more flexible work schedules, wage increases and educational or professional training benefits.

“Money is very attractive, but time has become a draw. Maybe the work hours are not so exhausting. Maybe the schedules are better,” said Blume. “Or maybe the work allows people to make decisions on their own without micromanagement.”  

Education remains a coveted benefit in 2022, with employers looking at that perk in new ways. Amazon, which had been helping hourly employees at its fulfillment centers obtain associate degrees while still working, has now upped the ante. It is paying for bachelor’s degrees. UMGC has been education partner with Amazon since 2019.

“Even more interesting is that Amazon’s previous position had been “we’ll pay for you to get an associate degree while you work for us because, after a while, we want you to leave us for a better job,” Blume said. “Now they’ve changed the model to ‘we are a great place to work and we’ll pay for your education—even a bachelor’s degree—so you stay with us.’”  

There are also signs that workers will move to or remain at lower-salary companies if the benefits include childcare, paid leave and remote or hybrid work.

Salomon said federal and local governments need policies that makes the workplace more attractive. He cited childcare as an increasingly important benefit, especially in attracting and retaining female workers. Also urgently needed, he said, is immigration policy designed to fill job gaps and education reform that dovetails with labor market needs. 

Building a Job Search Toolkit for 2022  

UMGC job development and placement specialist Alfawair keeps an eye on what’s ahead. What she’s seeing for 2022 and beyond is “dynamic, fast-changing, and exciting.” 

On the employer side, companies are thinking about ways to disrupt hiring practices so they can better evaluate job candidates. In an unusual move, a few employers in fall 2021 bypassed resumes in favor of social media platforms, including TikTok.

“These were warehouse-worker companies or restaurants seeking line cooks, including Chipotle,” Alfawair said. “They were looking to see if TikTok would be a feasible tool for hiring individuals into the food industry as marketers or product managers or even chefs.  

“One idea was for a chef to go on TikTok to ‘show us your best meal,’” she explained.

She said the verdict is still out on alternative resumes, but younger job-seekers—particularly the Gen Z demographic—seem especially responsive to these unusual approaches. Instagram stories and chat features on other social media platforms are joining videos as ways job candidates can promote themselves. 

“Whether traditional resumes remain depends on the industry,” Alfawair said. “[Tesla and SpaceX CEO] Elon Musk wants to do away with resumes completely and look at alternative ways to hire.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know how this is going to look down the line, but I do think the hiring process can be made easier for the employer and the employee,” Alfawair said.

Another trend is that gaps in employment—once a red flag for employers—are losing their stigma. Employers are no longer skipping over applicants whose resumes show periods of unemployment, a pattern that had disproportionately affected the careers of women, many of whom leave the workforce to raise families.  

Even though jobs abound, Alfawair said job applicants will need to be agile about their career strategies in a labor market that is shifting at lightning speed. For example, she said many people do not use LinkedIn as effectively as they could to make new contacts in their fields and stay aware of trends.

“People will have to be ahead of the game,” she said. “Because UMGC already had career services online, we didn’t have to make a big transition on that front when the pandemic hit, but now we have to make sure we stay ahead.

“I’ve told students that they should use all the UMGC career tools, as well as talk one-on-one with an adviser. People need to keep up their resumes and their interviewing skills, even if they aren’t actively looking for new jobs,” Alfawair added.

In the past, she said, people had time to get used to new changes in a field. But now, “by the time you figure out something, a new tool has already appeared. For some people, it feels like a constant catch-up game,” she said.

Blume said the strong job market has not changed all the rules. She said job applicants still have to be thoughtful about how they ask questions about job benefits or working conditions.  

“I still advise people not to be difficult in an interview. They should get the job and then negotiate on smaller points,” Blume said. “It’s not all about what the employer can do for them. Job candidates still need to have good interview skills, a good resume and to think about what value they offer the company.”  

All UMGC students, alumni and staff have access to CareerQuest, a suite of tools and resources to help improve their resumes, upgrade their LinkedIn profiles, practice interview skills, research companies and find contacts in their industries. CareerQuest, available around the clock, includes a database of resumes available to national hiring managers. 

On Jan. 11, UMGC Career Services hosts a webinar on resumes for career changers. For information on this and other upcoming webinars, click here

Work Took Precedence Over Mike Easley’s Studies—for a Crucial Reason 

There’s a year-long gap in Michael Easley’s march toward a master’s degree in project
management from the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). But he had a good
reason for the time out.

As a project manager working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Easley was one of
only a handful of individuals assigned to execute personal protective equipment (PPE)
acquisitions at a national level during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The various types
of PPE were necessary to meet the high demand throughout VA medical facilities to protect
both caregivers and patients.


“We were executing $millions in PPE buys to support the effort,” Easley said. “I was working a
lot of overtime, and I couldn’t keep it up with my studies. So, I took almost a full year off while
supporting COVID requirements and picked it back up this past year.”
In November, he finished all his degree requirements.

“Unfortunately, some people tried to take advantage of the high demand for PPE,” he said.
“Businesses who had no prior experience in medical supplies were trying to offer products,
products offered at well above market rates, and in some cases, vendors tried to sell
counterfeit products. We had to do a lot of market research to scrutinize vendors promising the
moon. Would they be able to deliver as promised? Would the products be safe for veterans and
care providers? Each product had to go through a clinical review before issuing contracts.”

“Many of the things I learned about project acquisitions, quality management, and risk
assessment came into play,” he said.

Easley said that what he learned from his UMGC professors in the graduate program became
knowledge he immediately applied to his work, which aided in his selection as a deputy
program manager.

He said that his degree program’s last two capstone projects were highly beneficial. They
allowed him to take all he had learned from his professors and from the Program Management
Institute (PMI) to do a self-assessment of his own organization.

“What I learned, I could apply throughout my job,” he said. “Those [capstones] were a critical
part of tying up a master’s degree.”

Easley grew up in Macon, Illinois, a small town where everyone waved to each other because
they all knew one another. Seeing few opportunities after graduating from high school, he
enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1983, coming up through the enlisted ranks and serving
ashore and deployed around the world. His work provided financial and logistical support for
both garrison and deployed troops.

While serving in Okinawa, Japan, he retired in 2008 as a Chief Warrant Officer Four after 25
years of service. His wife Noriko was born in Okinawa, so he remained on the island and took a
position as the logistics chief for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)
Okinawa School District. He was responsible for all logistical and facility support for the 13
DoDEA schools in Okinawa.

No one in Easley’s family had gone to college, but he knew that he had to take college courses
and complete degrees to get ahead in the military.

“The first thing you do is get your associate [degree],” he said. “That makes me a little bit more
competitive than the next guy. Then you work on getting your bachelor’s, and then that makes
me a little bit more competitive.”

He completed a bachelor’s degree in management while still in the military, but he did not
begin the UMGC master’s program until returning to the United States in December 2016. In
Northern Virginia, he ended up working for DoDEA at the Marine Corps Base Quantico School
District, which ultimately led him to the VA as a project manager.

Easley is a published photographer with a passion for landscape and underwater photography.
He has traveled around the world with a group of underwater photographers. His last trip was
in the Bahamas, photographing hammerhead sharks. He is an avid golfer and was proud to have
completed the Marine Corps Marathon six times. His best time of 3hrs and 42 minutes was
when he flew from Okinawa to Washington, D.C., and back to Okinawa, all within a five-day trip
that included picking up his son in Illinois.

“I live by two simple rules,” he said. “You do not have to be perfect, just do the right thing,” and
a motto that has continued to serve me well for over 30 years, “Not everything that is faced can
be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” If you follow these rules, you can
move forward in life and make a positive change.”

Edith Vinson-Maitlandt Completes Bachelor’s Degree to Support Work at FEMA 

Edith Vinson-Maitlandt, or “Edie” as she is known by her colleagues and professors, is closing 2021 by completing her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management, with a minor in business administration. The new credential will add value to her position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Even in the online asynchronous environment, one could see that Edie is a thoughtful person and a good listener,” said Sabrina Fu, program director and collegiate professor for UMGC’s Environmental Science and Management Program. “Often she integrated her life experiences and observations to deepen concepts and provided thoughtful perspectives.”

Fu most recently taught Vinson-Maitlandt in the Stewardship and Global Environmental Challenges course (EMT 365). The course provides a brief history of how we got to the present environmental crisis, the role of human behavior in that journey, especially as it relates to population growth, use of technology and affluence, and system changes needed to be stewards of our earth.

Since Fu and Vinson-Maitlandt’s first meeting in class, they have developed a friendship outside UMGC through Citizens Climate Lobby, an organization focused on national policies to address climate change. Fu invited Vinson-Maitlandt to attend a conference through the organization two years ago to speak as a representative of FEMA.

“One of the workshops talked about the impacts of climate change to the Mid-Atlantic and specifically New Jersey,” Vinson-Maitlandt said. “I did flood house-mapping when I worked for contractors of FEMA, so I understood the coastal impact and wanted to share how FEMA responds to all sorts of events, such as a hurricane like Sandy that devastated the coastline, and what the expectations are.”

Today, she still supports the Delaware chapters of Citizens Climate Lobby by identifying what is happening in that state regarding clean energy. She also keeps elected officials and other groups in Delaware informed.

In Vinson-Maitlandt’s current role as emergency management specialist with FEMA, she resides in Dover, Delaware, but travels 90 percent of the time to help with emergency recovery response in the United States and its territories. Vinson-Maitlandt’s team writes grants to assist communities seeking financial recovery. She recently was in Kentucky—the site of an early 2021 ice storm and flooding—to help the police, road and fire departments, and other public entities, with their financial recovery process.  

Vinson-Maitlandt’s experience with FEMA began in 2012 in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Without power for nine days, she felt the need to lend a hand. Even then, while working full-time, Vinson-Maitlandt continued her UMGC classes toward her bachelor’s degree.

“The journey Edie took to keep going with academics, amid serving communities one emergency after another, is inspirational,” Fu said.

Looking to the future, Vinson-Maitlandt plans to use her degree by applying in 2022 for a position on a FEMA strategic group created to focus on climate change.

“It would be really exciting for me if I could get this detail and contribute a little bit of what I learned and what I see happening with regards to climate change and helping our agency formulate a message,” Vinson-Maitlandt said. “By incorporating these concepts and policies into what FEMA does and how we respond, it will benefit people with a little more thought.”

Protecting the Capitol After the January 6 Riot Didn’t Deter Paul Cooper from Earning His MBA, Only Delayed It

On Jan. 6, 2021, Paul Cooper and his wife were celebrating their three-year anniversary over dinner at home when his phone lit up. He was to report the following morning for duty. The next evening, he and his unit stood guard at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., where he spent 30 days, including during the presidential inauguration.

“Fortunately, nothing major happened at the Capitol, and no one was hurt or injured after the 6th,” says Cooper, who recently earned an M.B.A. from University of Maryland Global Campus.

Cooper’s wife was pregnant at the time, which made it scarier to not know how long he would be gone, and the pandemic was a concern given the tight living conditions for him and his colleagues, who weren’t yet able to vaccinate.

Having just finished his first assignment in a course, Cooper was anxious to stay on track, but he contacted his professor at UMGC, who said the course was very intensive. He decided to drop out that semester, in part to maintain his 4.0 GPA. He knew he would re-enroll the following semester—which he did—but he was disappointed to part with his cohort, to which he had grown attached.

Cooper engaged in independent study and preparation after his activation ended, and he and his former cohort stayed in touch. Classmates would text and check in on him. He got back on track and having now finished his degree and with military benefits remaining, he is weighing future options, including a second master’s degree, a doctorate, or several graduate certificates.

“I feel so accomplished,” says the Cincinnati native, who helps manage a traumatic brain injury clinic as a health systems specialist for the Defense Health Agency. “I know that this has opened the door for me in my current position to advance and get me to those upper-level management positions. I would like to hopefully manage a clinic at a military treatment facility.”

After graduating from the College of Mount Saint Joseph, where he played football and majored in history, Cooper taught junior high school at a small charter school. He had recently married and had two young children, so he decided to join the military to support his family and to repay his student loans.

While stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Cooper was able to meet a UMGC advisor face-to-face, which was hard to do with other schools. The advisor was very helpful and explained the process, he recalls. He was weighing a second bachelor’s in education, but the advisor helped him get into the M.B.A. program.

He recommends UMGC to working adults who have been out of school for a while or want to study with other adults. “It helps to ease a lot of fears and tension about working in groups,” he says. “We all understood that we all had competing priorities and were willing to give each other grace. I think the teamwork and support were so important. We had so many different abilities that you could always find someone with experience in each of the subjects that we had.”

Using Personal Tragedy from the Pandemic Inspires Mahawa Bundor to Reach Higher Goals

It would be an understatement to call the past two years “difficult” for Mahawa Bundor. The Sierra Leone, West Africa native—who moved to Maryland with her family at age 10—was studying full time in the master of science in cybersecurity technology program at University of Maryland Global Campus while raising her 12-year-old son as a single mom. Both of her parents contracted Covid. Her mother was hospitalized for two weeks and came home with oxygen, but her father tragically passed after fighting for his life, ventilated, at the hospital.

“I was completely heart-stricken after my father passed due to his complications from Covid, for I loved my father dearly. But I was not as sad as I was stressed and overwhelmed with responsibilities,” Bundor says. “I learned of true dedication to education when working on my master’s degree. I got a better handle on juggling school, work, and home life, and I learned that everything is earned.”

Somehow, Bundor summoned the energy and fortitude to complete her studies and to earn a 4.0 grade point average despite all of the hardships her family faced. “I was not going to disappoint myself by allowing my personal problems of my home life, global pandemonium, and bad health to get to me so much that I neglected my schoolwork. No!” she says. “The day after receiving the terrible and traumatizing news of my father’s passing, I studied harder and sacrificed my time to classes and dedicated myself to continue to focus on my son.”

She has never worked harder in her life than she has in the past two years, Bundor says. She kept telling herself that things were only going to get better and drew inspiration from the Frederick Douglass declaration, “If there is no struggle there is no progress.” She also realized that with family support and her own self-motivation that she was not alone.

Being empathetic and deeply-loving are among Bundor’s greatest strengths, the self-declared extrovert and “friendly person in general” believes. She brings those attributes to the mental health field in which she works.

After earning a bachelor of social work from University of Maryland Baltimore County, she practiced as a student intern at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Initially, she aimed to pursue case management, but she then decided to study cybersecurity at UMGC to bring technological skills to her social work.

“Due to the high demand of technology these days and everything gradually transitioning into digital models, I realized that with a technology degree under my belt I would be able to grow further within my career into this emerging, crazy crypto world,” she says.

Bundor speaks highly of both the campuses and atmosphere at the University of Maryland systems, which she calls “exemplary” and motivating, and she particularly wanted to study cybersecurity at UMGC, because she knew it was so well regarded.

“UMGC gave me the platform to continue my educational goals by providing the proper tools to help reach my great accomplishments,” she says. “It provided the most patient professors, centers for research, labs, books, tutors, and workshops to improve the educational process.” And where one can feel alone in graduate school, UMGC offered Bundor a “gentle push” to keep striving and succeeding.

“The first day of graduate school was surreal,” she remembers. “It suddenly hit me that I was no longer a child. Every decision that I made henceforth could have the ability to dramatically change my life for the better or the worse. UMGC has made my future life better.” She wishes her father was here to congratulate her on her newly minted degree, but she also knows he is looking down, happy, and smiling upon her.

Down the road, she intends to advocate for women on health issues, including focusing on fighting human trafficking and domestic violence (of which she is a survivor). She also has her eye on a career in the federal government focused on cybersecurity. “Dreaming big is a scary thing,” she says. “The goals that I have set for myself to reach are high up in the sky, but they are not impossible.”

Duane Tyson Works on the Frontlines of the Pandemic and Follows His Passion to Serve the Needs of Others

Duane Tyson has been at the tip of the front line fighting Covid.  As a respiratory therapist, he is, as he says, the last person someone fighting the virus wants to see. He’s the guy in the emergency room who is prepping the patient to be put on a ventilator, a difficult last stage in treating the disease.  “During this whole pandemic, when they talk about the frontline person, I’m that guy,” he said. “I’m the vent man, and I’m the one who puts a tube down your throat and manages your breathing. I’m always trying to help people breathe easier.” 

That means Duane, who now lives in Glen Bernie, has worked long hours at Mercy Medical Center and University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopedic Institute with little time off as the disease has surged and waned and surged again. 

With all that, Tyson has completed a UMGC Bachelor’s degree in psychology in time to graduate in December.  Even more amazing, he is almost finished with an MBA. 

He said his hospital job has been so intense that he never would have started this academic work during the pandemic.  But by the time Covid hit, he already had mastered the skills of online learning and was comfortable navigating courses. 

“The pandemic really didn’t leave any leeway for me doing anything else,” he said. “I was forced to do mandatory overtime. So, I was really challenged.” 

He said he has not asked any professor for special consideration in making course deadlines. In fact, he has downplayed his hospital work while communicating with teachers and fellow students. 

“I never wanted to make it my focus,” he said. “I was just hanging in there with everyone else. I never wanted to make it about me.” 

Growing up in Baltimore, Tyson started working in the mental health field right out of high school. 

“I was always that person who was listening to people, trying to solve other people’s problems,” he said.  

Working in hospitals, he started looking around at different positions.  Respiratory therapy caught his attention, and he earned an AA degree in it at Baltimore City Community College. That led to a career that has spanned more than 20 years. 

But he saw he didn’t want to do that forever. So, for his Bachelor’s, he returned to his first love of psychology. 

“It was my safe zone,” he said. “It was a place that always made me feel at peace. It felt like it was something I understood. I could work with somebody, and it was always a heartfelt type of expression. When I started doing the class, it just seemed natural.” 

So why now pivot to an MBA? 

Doing graduate work to qualify for psychology positions would take so long, he said, and the clock was ticking. Like so many people during this pandemic, he is weighing his options for the future. He believes the MBA will qualify him to get into health care administration.  

“I’m working 12-hour days, and I’m not the young person I used to be,” he said. “My job needs a lot of energy – working with the patients, flipping them, turning them, trying to do whatever I had to in order to maintain their breathing efforts is really challenging. It made me reflect on life.”