Army Veteran Andre Washington Survived the Challenges of Military Service—Even a Mortar Attack During a Class—to Earn his UMGC Degree   

When Andre Washington looks back on his academic career, which stretched over two decades as he moved around the world as an IT specialist with the U.S. Army, there is a particular day that stands out. 

It was 2013 and he was among a group of 20 servicemembers taking a University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) course that would lead to an in-demand computer science certification. Their classroom was a building on an airfield base in Afghanistan. It was during Ramadan and mortar attacks on the base stepped up in the evenings, so the servicemembers were required to wear combat gear around the clock.  

“We were in class in full gear—Kevlar, helmets, anything else that was considered protective gear. The instructor had his gear on, too,” Washington recalled. “On this particular day, we heard the whistle you get when a real rocket is incoming. When you hear that, you know that a rocket is close enough to hit you.” 

The entire class hit the floor as mortar fire slammed the buildings nearby and set off shockwaves. 

And then? 

“We all got up and resumed the class,” Washington said. 

Washington took his first UMGC courses in 1998, right after he joined the Army and was sent to a base in Korea. 

“A captain in my unit, my supervisor, suggested that I take classes on the base. They were held in the base high school,” he said. “Then, periodically over the next 20 years, I took more classes.” 

He started his studies with an eye on a degree in computer science but, in later years, he switched his focus to cybersecurity. “I thought cybersecurity could be big and my job in the army was IT so I already had a lot of experience, so it made better sense to switch.” 

Over the years, the military sent him to California, to Kuwait, back to Korea. He spent time at Fort Drum in New York and Fort Belvoir in Virginia. And, of course, there was the duty station in Afghanistan, where he spent nine months assigned to a helicopter unit. 

 “It was hard taking classes with some of these assignments. Sometimes I was in training with no time. Sometimes the motivation just wasn’t there or there was anxiety related to what I had witnessed overseas and I wasn’t coping enough to take classes,” Washington said. “But I always saw a degree as a personal accomplishment.” 

When he retired from the military in 2018, Washington put himself on a steady path to a bachelor’s degree in computer networks and cybersecurity. 

Washington works as an IT contractor at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He said the new degree opens doors, especially with the certifications and job experience he already acquired. He may even be able to switch from being a contractor to being a government employee. 

After earning his degree, he, his wife and his children—aged 16, 13 and 4—are celebrating by going out to eat. “I’m going to be happy. And relieved. It’s a big accomplishment and I did it with no help,” he said. 

Washington also offered advice to others. 

“I’ve been trying to get this degree for over 20 years. I never gave up. It didn’t matter if I lived to be 80 years old, I wanted to finish it,” he said. “Having a degree shows that you can complete a task. If it’s a personal goal of yours, don’t give up. You’ll reach the finish line.” 

Student Finds Home at UMGC and Connects with Fellow Veterans

Gibril Bangura moved to the United States in 2009 after winning a spot in the Diversity Lottery, a visa program focused on individuals from countries with low rates of U.S. immigration. Born and raised in Sierra Leone, he relocated to take advantage of new opportunities, first by serving in the U.S. Army and now by attending University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). 

Growing up amid a civil war in Sierra Leone, Bangura was determined to make a change for his future. He attended a few university classes in Sierra Leone before moving to the United States.

“I felt like I had to move from Sierra Leone to find a better opportunity because I always had bigger dreams of being successful and helping others,” Bangura said.

Bangura arrived in the United States in 2010 and immediately joined the army. He served as a financial technician performing payroll duties. Unfortunately, a cracked tibia injury that occurred during a training exercise worsened, and he officially retired from the military in 2015, ready to focus on his education.

Bangura attended two universities before finding his new home at UMGC.

The flexibility that UMGC offers with remote learning attracted him. Bangura has long-term effects from his injury and still uses a cane. With UMGC, he can participate in classes in the comfort of his own home, which helps on days his leg bothers him. Another key reason Bangura selected UMGC was its long history with veterans.

“I have taken general education classes, including accounting, where I learned a lot. This has given me a strong foundation to continue my studies as a veteran who was out of college for some years,” Bangura added.

Bangura decided to pursue a major in cybersecurity with a focus on business. He plans to graduate in 2023 with a B.S. in Computer Networks and Cybersecurity.

“Attending UMGC, being a veteran and feeling like I’m at a military home has helped me professionally,” Bangura said.

Today he builds on his military experience by aiding fellow veterans at the Office of Veterans Initiatives and Outreach (VIO) at UMGC.

“As a student worker in the VIO, I’m the first line of response. It is not easy transitioning to civilian life, so I’m happy to help veteran students,” Bangura said. “We work hand in hand with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”

The VIO offers resources and assistance related to veteran-student issues, including transcripts, financial aid, military benefits and advice on the best way to access the information. The best part about the job is that Bangura can work from home while connecting with fellow veterans.

Kelly Grooms, assistant director of veterans’ initiatives for the VIO, described Bangura as “a dedicated team member.”

“He is committed to assisting fellow student veterans in understanding how to use their benefits, as well as how to balance the transition from combat zone to classroom,” Grooms said. “He is diligent in accomplishing tasks and his attention to detail is an asset to his colleagues and overall mission of the Veterans Initiatives Office.”

As a retired servicemember, Bangura has firsthand knowledge to share with new veteran students. He credits professional development and mental health programs through the VA with helping him regain his identity as a civilian and attend UMGC.

Bangura also praises the leadership at the VIO, saying they serve as role models and mentors as he progresses in his academic journey and eventual professional career. 

“I know with a UMGC education, I can leave here and find a better job. And the flexibility with the program is just great,” Bangura said.

Veteran and UMGC Alumnus Gives Back to Military One Day at a Time

Former President Barack Obama once remarked, “It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.”

Obama’s 2010 speech underscores the country’s duty to those who have served in the armed forces. U.S. Army veteran Vernon Green Jr., a University of Maryland Global Campus alumnus, embraces that responsibility through his leadership of GCubed Inc., a provider of IT and cybersecurity solutions, and his mentoring and hiring of veterans.

Green received his bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity from UMGC in 2010, and his master’s degree in cybersecurity in 2014. He officially retired from the Army in March 2014 and started GCubed—shorthand for “Giving, Growing, Globally” —a month later. 

He made his company one that puts people first.

“My experience at GCubed, being a veteran hired by a company started by a veteran, has been the greatest experience I have had since leaving the military. I say this because, as a veteran, I hold my service to our nation as one of my greatest accomplishments in life, and GCubed reminds me of my military service by our culture,” said Keith King, IT manager at GCubed. “GCubed saw the value that I brought to the company as a veteran and utilized my experience to help advance our customer base and the organization.”

Twelve of GCubed’s 48 employees, including Green and King, are retired veterans. Green still has many peers and subordinates who are getting ready to transition out of the service. They contact him for career advice or to find out more about opportunities at GCubed.

“It starts out as mentorship, then communications and it grows into, ‘I like what you built, do you have an opportunity?’” Green explained. “When I can, I prioritize those because veterans come with a natural proven ability to prioritize the mission. They come with leadership experience, a whole career of lessons learned behind them. And when you take those very focused mission-first people, when you bring them into your organization, it benefits the organization.”

GCubed is a three-time winner of the Gold Medallion Award, which is given annually through
The Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017, for its efforts to recruit, employ and retain veterans.1 In fact, GCubed has captured the award every year since the honor was launched.  

The company also was recognized by the Financial Times in its 2021 List of The Americas’ 500 Fastest Growing Companies, grabbing the No. 153 spot, while Inc. Magazine listed GCubed at No. 171 on its second annual Inc. 5000 Regionals: D.C. Metro list. The Inc. roster is the most prestigious ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the Washington, D.C., area. Other accolades have spotlighted GCubed’s commitment to its employees and clients.

At the time Green launched GCubed, he also started a nonprofit organization, G3 Community Services, which provided male mentors to kids. The COVID-19 pandemic forced G3 Community Services to redirect its focus to supplying food trucks to low-income areas where youngsters depended on school lunches for a meal. G3 Community Services also partnered with other area nonprofits to open a food bank. Plans are in the works for G3 Community Services to ally with AccessVR to create a virtual lab for STEM training.

Green is invested in helping the community as much as he is in elevating veterans’ workforce success. He frequently collaborates with his alma mater, sharing his experience and mentoring veteran students. When GCubed has job openings, Green lets UMGC know. The university sends resumes and contact information for anyone who fits the qualifications.

“I never in a million years imagined I would be sitting here as the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company,” Green said. “My time in the military was critical to giving me the stability, the knowledge, and the work ethic to succeed in this.”

He said leadership opportunities from his military service and learning opportunities at UMGC offered the expertise he needed.

“I just can’t say enough about how the partnership between my military service and my education at UMGC have prepared me for this role.”

For more information about the University of Maryland Global Campus, visit umgc.edu.

1 Award Recipients | HIREVets Medallion

University of Maryland Global Campus and Easterseals DC MD VA Join Forces to Support Military and Veteran Students and Alumni

Organizations to Collaborate on Education Fairs, Support Services and Other Programs and Activities  

Adelphi, Md. (May 24, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and Easterseals DC MD VA have teamed up to support military-affiliated students with a host of programs designed to help them secure employment, housing, healthcare and other needs as they transition to civilian careers. 

“Easterseals is a world-class organization that provides compassionate and quality care and support to active duty servicemembers, veterans, and their families,” said Nicole DeRamus-Suazo, Ph.D., assistant vice president for Veterans Programs at UMGC. “We are pleased and honored to join this alliance and help bring that stellar service and support to our military-affiliated students and alumni and their families where they need it most.” 

The alliance collectively integrates the efforts of the UMGC’s Veterans Programs, Career Services, and Corporate Learning Solutions teams and yields an agreement that aligns with the missions of both organizations and supports transitioning veterans and their families. 

“We are excited to partner with UMGC to serve members of the military community more comprehensively, said Jon Horowitch, president and CEO of of Easterseals DC MD VA. “At Easterseals, we are committed to respecting each individual and ensuring he or she meets personal goals— which is critical for veterans transitioning to civilian employment who want a meaningful career.”  

As part of the alliance, Easterseals DC MD VA will connect UMGC students with internships and other employment opportunities at their organization, while UMGC will invite Easterseals to participate in the university’s military and veteran appreciation fair, military open houses, informational webinars and career fairs. Additionally, Easterseals employees and their spouses and dependents may qualify for tuition discounts at UMGC.  

Easterseals provides a variety of services to ensure military families are fully embraced in a hopeful, inclusive community, including the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals for mental health; the Veterans Staffing Network (including the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program) for employment coaching and placement; Military Family Respite, which provides support for military families whose children have severe disabilities and children of wounded warriors; Child Development Services for military families (including the Little Warriors scholarship program for children of wounded warriors); and Adult Day Services that help keep veterans with disabilities out of nursing homes and in the community. 

Paul Chilcote Navigated Life Challenges and the Demands of a Military Career on His Path to a Degree in Cybersecurity

Air Force Veteran Played a Key Role in UMGC Cyber Competition Team’s Recent 1st-Place Finish at the Maryland Cyber Challenge

For Paul Chilcote, life sometimes felt like a juggling act.

“Often, I found myself completing readings and written assignments late at night,” said Chilcote, whose path to a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Management and Policy, which he received in May, was anything but easy. “Other times, my location or current work duties prevented me from taking classes for a semester or two,” he added.

But Chilcote, recently separated from the United States Air Force, persevered, chipping away at his degree requirements one class at a time while also maintaining a full-time military career and the responsibilities of being a single parent, all during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Chilcote learned persistence early and followed his passion in technology tenaciously. “When I was a kid, I was navigating the command line on an old Amiga computer and playing games on now-obsolete 5-inch floppy disks,” he said. As a teen, he was online constantly, even during the dial-up days.

“I was making friends with computer enthusiasts all over the world, learning to modify hardware and write programs by talking to these new friends in online chatrooms and message boards.”

High school classes in computer programming, 3D animation, and Cisco networking led Chilcote to join the Air Force in 2009 as a fighter aircraft crew chief, where his interests in computers and electronics helped him quickly learn the complex electrical systems that enable aircraft to fly.

Eventually Chilcote seized on an opportunity to retrain as a cyberwarfare operator. In 2013, that training opportunity, as well as his passion for computers and networking, prompted him to enroll in a cybersecurity program at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), tackling one or two classes at a time at night after work.

“My classes at UMGC and my own self-guided learning and computer hobbies helped me prepare for the difficult computer skills tests required to gain acceptance into the Air Force’s training program for cyber warfare operations,” he said. From 2016-18, Chilcote trained for and was tested on system administration, network configuration, and advanced cybersecurity concepts. After that, he began serving as a cyberwarfare operator for the Air Force.

In 2020, Chilcote added “full-time single parent of two” to his résumé, which prompted his decision to leave the military. “I was faced with the challenge of getting my two children through elementary school online, as well as my own classes, while still performing my military duties,” he said. And so he began preparing to separate from the Air Force in late 2020 so that he could devote more time to his children and their hybrid school schedule.

Now a civilian, having separated from the military in March 2021, Chilcote’s journey has led him to his current work as a penetration tester for CyberPoint International, a Maryland-based Department of Defense contractor. Through it all, his UMGC courses in cybersecurity policy and management helped increase his awareness of the complex interaction of laws, regulations and guidelines that companies must manage.

Chilcote capped off his academic accomplishments as a member of the UMGC cyber competition team that won the Maryland Cyber Challenge, the national tournament held during the annual Cyber Maryland conference. Competing in cyber events also contributed to his professional development, allowing him to mentored other students and gain invaluable real-world problem-solving skills. “These events have helped me develop creative solutions and think outside of the typical use of many computer technologies,” he said.

For Chilcote, perseverance and passion paid off, and his advice to other students balancing work and life is simple.

“Don’t be intimidated,” he said. “Cybersecurity is a broad field with countless areas of specializations. No one person knows everything; everyone is constantly learning and relearning as new technologies arise, change and improve.”

Descendant of Slavery’s Compelling Life Journey Includes Military Service, a Musical Gift–And Now a UMGC Degree

Editor’s Note: Raymond Fisher recently was featured in WJLA-TV ABC 7’s Spotlight on Education series. Click HERE to watch.

Raymond Fisher is a father and grandfather, a technology professional, a musician, a military veteran and the descendent of an enslaved woman on George Washington’s farm. He now is adding another descriptor to his life: college graduate.

After a 25-year interruption in his education, Fisher earned a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management from University of Maryland Global Campus. Even more, he was selected as student speaker for the virtual commencement on May 15.

Ray Fisher will address his fellow graduates as the student speaker at the UMGC virtual commencement ceremony on May 15.

Fisher, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the Gulf War, said the degree may not be his last engagement with UMGC. He wants to use his military benefits to enroll in a master’s program “and then look into getting a Ph.D.”  

In the late 1990s, Fisher was enrolled at Purdue University, pursing a degree in mechanical engineering, when he withdrew from his studies to raise a family.

“I was working and studying at the same time, and I made a decision that was in the best interest of my family,” he said. In the years that followed, he made a good income. The lack of a college degree wasn’t an obstacle in the fields where he worked: engineering, construction, project management and, eventually, Internet technology.

“Then, about four years ago, I was caught up in a cycle of layoffs at Freddie Mac. I looked for job opportunities and found a match with Booz Allen,” Fisher said. The IT consulting company was keen on him until it learned he had no college degree.

“That’s when I made a decision that I would never be turned away from a job because I didn’t have a degree. I enrolled at UMGC and picked up where I left off—a bachelor’s degree I had abandoned 25 years earlier,” he said.

Fisher was raised in a family where education, music and church were valued. His mother was a nurse and his father a teacher. In the District of Columbia neighborhood where he grew up in the 1970s, there was a lot of political activism; it was the stomping ground of Marion Barry and others who would become political players in the nation’s capital. Barry, who later served four terms as D.C. mayor, lived only two doors away.

“It was a very progressive time and we were exposed to a lot. I was enrolled at the first D.C. public school program for talented students,” he said. But his life was thrown off kilter when his mother died. He was 9. Two years later, his father died. 

The youngest of six children and the only boy in his family, Fisher was cared for by family members in Dallas, Texas, and spent summers in New York’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. He lived in Maryland for his sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, attending Forestville High School in Prince George’s County. There, he entered the ROTC program “and joined a Go-Go band called Players Choice, which was managed by our shop teacher.” As a member of the band, he performed at a concert with Public Enemy, which he describes as his “15 minutes of fame.”

Fisher said his lifelong love of music started in his church. Later, during eight years of military service that began when he was 19, he was exposed to both music in other countries and the global influence of American jazz and R&B. Today, he jams with his son, an aspiring hip hop musician, in a basement music studio. Percussion and rhythm are Fisher’s passion.

“I’m a helluva beat maker,” he explained with a laugh.

Like many UMGC students, Fisher juggled a job while studying. Even after a car accident left him with a concussion, he pushed through with his coursework. He attributed his drive and resilience to his roots, including enslaved ancestors and his father’s Native American background.

“I am an African descendent of slaves. An ancestor on my mother’s side was a slave of George Washington. A grandmother was a runaway slave in Texas,” he explained. “I don’t look at my family’s link to slavery as a prideful thing. It was an atrocity. But that’s who we were and we take pride in who we are.”

Fisher said getting his bachelor’s degree was made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he credited his UMGC professors for being compassionate and working with students—including some on a class project team—who contracted the coronavirus.

“It was a long journey to get me to this point. There have been a lot of trials and tribulations,” Fisher said. “But one thing that helped is that at UMGC, I felt like we had a community.”   

UMGC ALUMNA BRIG. GEN. JANEEN L. BIRCKHEAD HAS SUCCEEDED BY “HAVING A PLAN—AND A PLAN TO CHANGE THE PLAN”

Rising to the Top Echelons of the Maryland National Guard, Birckhead Excelled at Leading National Guard Troops from Around the Country in Protecting the U.S. Capitol After the Failed Insurrection
and During the Presidential Inauguration in January

As a young girl growing up in Snow Hill, a small hamlet on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. Public service and community involvement were hallmarks of her immediate and extended family; her mother was a judge and several aunts were teachers.

A good student, Birckhead scored a prestigious summer internship when she was in high school, working as a page in the U.S. Senate, a position sponsored by Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland. She majored in political science at Hampton University in Virginia, but instead of moving on to law school, chose a career in public service and the military.

Birckhead’s decision was rooted in a lesson she learned from her mother when Birckhead was a sixth grader. She had stayed up late to finish a poster, and on her way to school the next day her mother let her know that she had done a good job. Later, though, she pointed out that the poster could have been great, if only Birckhead hadn’t procrastinated.

“I received the message loud and clear,” Birckhead vividly recalled. “I needed to take charge of my life and not let things distract me.”

Fast-forward to her senior year of high school, and Birckhead’s mother was at it again when Birckhead was applying for financial aid. She mentioned an Army ROTC scholarship, and her mother questioned whether Birckhead would be chosen in the highly selective process.

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead

“I enjoyed competition,” said Birckhead, taking on her mother’s not-so-veiled challenge with gusto. In reality, her mother was not surprised when Birckhead earned the scholarship, which changed the trajectory of her daughter’s life.

Birckhead’s ability to switch gears and adapt, “to have a plan, but also a plan to change the plan,” she says, has served her well as she rose through the ranks, first in the Army reserves and then for the next 27 years (and counting) of her distinguished career in the Maryland Army National Guard.

She has been a chemical officer, an Aide de Camp to the Adjutant General of the Maryland Guard, commanded troops at the company, battalion and brigade levels, and served with distinction as a team leader and the Designated Military Officer for the Office of Administrative Review for the Detention of Enemy Combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Birckhead has also deployed on two separate missions to Afghanistan, first supporting plans to field and grow the Afghan National Security Forces as Deputy Operations Chief, and more recently as Division Chief for Logistics at the Joint Forces Headquarters.

After commanding a regional Army training institute, Birckhead went back to Capitol Hill and directed the Legislative Liaison Office for the Maryland National Guard.

She followed her mentor, Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, in company command, battalion command and, in 2018, as assistant adjutant general for Army, when Singh promoted Birckhead to the position Singh once held.

“I admire and hold her in high esteem and seek her counsel,” said Birckhead of Singh, who retired in 2019. “She is a role model and someone who can give me another perspective on what’s going on in the world.”

Birckhead was part of a first-in-the-nation all-female state National Guard command staff, which also included April Vogel, who was promoted by Singh to assistant adjutant general for Air several months after Birckhead, and Command Sgt. Maj. Perlisa D. Wilson, the highest-ranking enlisted person. Birckhead takes extra pride in the fact that she, Singh and Vogel are also women of color.

“I didn’t even realize that it was going to line up this way,” Singh told The Washington Post in 2018. “It’s not like I engineered it for all of them to end up in these positions. It just so happened that these talented ones started rising to the top.”

It was another Birckhead mentor, Gen. James F. Frettered, who encouraged her to join the National Guard in 1993 and who emphasized the importance of education as the key to her advancing up the ranks.

His advice had an immediate effect. Birckhead enrolled at University of Maryland Global Campus (then University of Maryland University College) in fall 1993 because of its reputation as a flexible option for people like her who must juggle a full-time job and military service. Birckhead was doing both, working in legislative affairs on Capitol Hill and serving in the National Guard.

“The military teaches you to think a certain way, so it is important to attend a university outside the service to be able to think more broadly about issues,” she said.

Birckhead earned a master’s degree in management from UMGC and attributed the program with helping her to prioritize, take her critical thinking skills to another level and better articulate concepts. She added that having older students in her classes at UMGC elevated the discourse.  “Many of my fellow students had more life experience and were working in a variety of different fields, so I was learning not just from my professors.”

She also earned a master’s degree from the U.S. Army War College, preparing her to succeed in her leadership roles in the military, and ultimately leading to her assignment commanding Task Force Capitol, following the failed insurrection on Jan. 6 and continuing through the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.

People asked, “Why her?” Birckhead’s response: “Why not me? I worked on the Hill, I know it very well. I’m a leader. I’ve led at every level. I can do this.

“Not to say it wasn’t a very big challenge,” she added, “working in an environment that was volatile and uncertain. It was important that I was able to build a strong team [at the Maryland National Guard] and bring them with me.”

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead was named by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to lead the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Task Force.

Birckhead commanded more than 16,000 National Guard troops from across the country and was impressed with their dedication. “Having soldiers from every state on the ground, as professionals coming together and perform, was extraordinary,” she said.

Reflecting on a remarkable moment, Birckhead, who had been looking out from the Task Force operations center on the day of the inauguration and observing the peaceful transfer of power, said, “it was very moving for me and for all of the soldiers who were guarding our democracy that day.”

Following her role at the Capitol, Birckhead was selected by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to head the COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Task Force. She currently juggles that responsibility with her position as deputy commanding general for reserve affairs at the U.S. Army War College.

Her accomplishments stand out, underscored by the fact that she has also held full-time civilian positions during her entire National Guard career. Among those roles, Birckhead, who is currently a senior advisor in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau Trust Funds Administration, has also served as a special agent in charge of Defense Security Service and has worked in the Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights field at the Office of Personnel Management.

As a distinguished UMGC alumna, Birckhead will present the keynote address at the university’s stateside virtual commencement ceremony on May 15. What will she tell graduates? “Be proud of the degree and let it be known you are a UMGC graduate—and go back and tell your story.”

Curiosity and UMCG Courses Open Doors for Former Servicemember

In 2018, when a University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) professor mentioned in class that Student Anthropologist magazine had issued a call for papers, Ashley Mize took note.

A career with the U.S. Air Force had brought Mize to Europe from the Texas town where she grew up. It also unleashed her curiosity about different countries and cultures, encouraged her natural talent for foreign languages and led her to enroll at UMGC.    

Her experiences converged recently when she published an academic paper in Student Anthropologist magazine, looking at the Italian town of Solferino, a bloody 1859 battle and the tradition that brings a wave of International Red Cross and International Red Crescent volunteers to the community of 1,100 residents every June.

Mize was among 10,000 Red Cross volunteers from 76 countries who took part in the 2018 gathering in Solferino.

“Solferino was an amazing experience,” said Mize, who has a Bachelor of Science in social science from UMGC. “Everything was breathtaking—so much political history and unity and cultural diversity. I was exposed to cultures from all over the world, from the Middle East to Asia to different parts of Africa and South America and Europe.”

Her paper, which she drafted later, was entitled “Anthropology and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: A 2018 Interdisciplinary Observance in Solferino, Italy,” and appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Student Anthropologist magazine.   

Solferino was the site of the last military engagement in the Second Italian War of Independence. The armies of Austria, Sardinia, Hungary and the Second French Empire came together in a battle that left 6,000 dead and 40,000 wounded. The bloodshed inspired Jean-Henri Dunant of Switzerland to found the Red Cross as an independent organization to help victims’ families and bring nations together in both war and peace.

For the past 29 years, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers have traveled to Solferino each year to reaffirm their commitment to unity and neutrality. Mize’s social science degree focused on anthropology, and she brought that perspective to her observations of the event.

Mize served six years in the U.S. Air Force, most of it stationed in Germany as a personnel journeyman. When her husband, also an Air Force member, was assigned to Italy, she moved along with him. It was there, in 2015, that she enrolled at UMGC.

“Her passion for languages brought her to UMGC as she pursued certificates in German and Italian Studies,” said Ricky Lucas, who was Mize’s academic adviser at the Aviano Air Base in northeastern Italy. “Her enjoyment of learning about culture and languages while taking UMGC Europe classes was not confined to Aviano Air Base only. Ashley traveled to Naples, Italy, to take the Italian Life and Culture course, to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany for the German Society and Culture course, and U.S. Army Garrison in Vicenza, Italy, to take an Intermediate Italian course.”

Mize said she booked low-cost flights on Ryanair to attend those UMGC classes at other military bases so she could finish her degree early. These were typically eight-week hybrid courses that met primarily online and for three weekends in person. She also traveled to Spain to attend an academic conference.

“I was taking 12 credits per semester—more than full time—and I had a rigorous system for studying.” She joked that more coffee and less sleep were part of the formula that enabled her to graduate from UMGC in December 2018.

Mize said the Italian language courses enabled the Solferino trip. Lucas said they also entrenched her in the local community.

“Her experiences with UMGC Europe gave her the confidence to join the Italian Red Cross—the Croce Rossa—as the only American member in the local organization,” Lucas said. “Ashley was able to use her language and cultural knowledge learned from UMGC in the most positive way possible.”

When Mize’s husband was subsequently transferred to Texas, she enrolled in a graduate program at Texas State University where she expects to complete a master’s degree in elementary education with ESL certification next year.

Her education plans don’t end there. She also intends to pursue a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) through a dual-accreditation program between the University of Texas and Cambridge University. And she wants to get an online teaching certificate. “UMGC definitely has a place in my heart,” said Mize, who served for more than a year and a half on the UMGC Student Advisory Council. “The travel and studying abroad that I did, including to other UMGC campuses for classes, really opened my understanding and experiences.”

UMGC to Host Military Veterans Virtual Appreciation Fair, May 13

Event to Feature Virtual Booths with Employers and Veteran Service Organizations Along with UMGC Career Services and Veterans Programs Staff 

Adelphi, Md. (April 22, 2021)–University of Maryland Global Campus will host the 4th annual Mil/Vet Appreciation Fair on Thursday, May 13, from 4 to 7 p.m. The fair will be conducted virtually through the VFairs platform and feature virtual booths and a virtual auditorium. The event is open to all military-affiliated students, staff and faculty at UMGC. 

Attendees can visit booths staffed by recruiters from companies around the country and representatives from veteran service organizations, as well as staff from UMGC’s Veterans Initiatives Office (VIO) and Career Services Office. In the virtual auditorium, the university will host a recognition ceremony for the SALUTE National Honor Society inductees and VIO scholarship recipients. 

To register for the event, please visit UMGC Military and Veteran Virtual Appreciation Fair 

“UMGC is committed to providing opportunities and resources to our military and veterans students, and our Military and Veterans Appreciation Fair salutes the men and women who are serving or have served in defense of our nation,” said Dr. Nicole DeRamus-Suazo, the university’s assistant vice president for Veterans Programs. “It is our honor to showcase veterans service organizations and employers who are committed to serving, helping, and employing veterans and their families locally and nationally.”  

As part of UMGC’s alliance with Audacy (formerly Entercom), the media company will showcase the fair through its “Eye on Vets” series on the ConnectingVets.com website. The feature will include interviews at the event with representatives of the veterans service organizations and employers in attendance, as well as members of the university’s career services and veterans initiatives offices. 

More than half of UMGC’s students are military-affiliated, including active-duty servicemembers and their families stationed around the world, reservists, members of the National Guard and veterans. 

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

University of Maryland Global Campus (formerly University of Maryland University College) is a world leader in innovative educational models, with 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. 

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 degree and certificate programs, including doctoral programs. 

A pioneer in distance education since 1947, UMGC today is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver high quality, low cost, accessible higher education. 

In 1949, UMGC became the first institution to send faculty overseas to teach active-duty military personnel at installations in Europe. The university expanded overseas operations 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. Today, more than half of the university’s students are active-duty military personnel and their families, reservists, members of the National Guard and veterans. 

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Pierceall’s Education Journey Includes Four UMGC Degrees

Like many teenagers who did not excel in high school, Tanner Pierceall looked to the military for a career path. Admitting that he almost did not earn his diploma, he left his home in Bloomington, Ca., and enlisted in the Marines four months after graduation.

Yet now, 10 years later, Pierceall has finished his fourth University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) degree, counting on his newly minted MBA to help propel him higher in his work for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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