Entrepreneur Will Use Health Administration Degree to Expand Her Hair Business

Kathryn Akinmuyisan’s Bachelor of Science in Health Administration puts her a step closer to her goal: to augment a thriving hair business with health and wellness offerings, including group fitness and nutrition.  

“I have my own hair business, Bundled Up Beauties, and now I plan to use my degree to support my fitness business,” she said. “Health care and nutrition are what I’m really into.” 

Akinmuyisan comes from a family that values education and hard work. Her Nigerian father and Kenyan mother met in, of all places, India, where they were attending university.  

“My family had a church in Nigeria, which they wanted to expand, and so they sought to do this in America,” Akinmuyisan said. They won a visa to the United States through the lottery program. 

Through sponsorship from an aunt already in the United States, the family initially moved to Prince George’s County, Maryland, and shortly after settled in Columbia, Maryland, where Akinmuyisan’s mother became a first-time homeowner.  

Akinmuyisan had the example of her mother. When Akinmuyisan was 9, her mother became a single parent who put herself through nursing school and supported the family. Knowing that her mother didn’t have the money to put four children through school, Akinmuyisan joined the Air Force to gain access to higher education and see the world.  

In the military, she began studying for a criminal justice degree, which was not easy.  

“When I initially started school in 2017, I was working from deployed locations in Europe and Africa,” she said. “Often, I didn’t have Wi-Fi, so I just got my time in whenever I could go to a hotel.” 

It was during her time in the Air Force that Akinmuyisan saw an opportunity to start a hair business. “There were a lot of women around me in the military who were having trouble finding hair extensions and products they needed,” she said.  

When she was honorably discharged in 2019, she decided to pursue a health administration degree at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) to build out her expanding hair business with health and fitness. “People kept asking me questions about fitness since I was in the military so I decided to pursue my all-around interest in wellness and just helping people be the best they can be,” she said.  

At 26, Akinmuyisan is looking forward to a bright future. She and her partner are thinking about starting a family, and she aims to establish herself firmly in the health care and wellness space, eventually pursuing a master’s degree in a health-related area. “Whatever I do, I want to incorporate nutrition because what you put into your body is so important,” she said. 

Coming from a supportive family that values higher education, Akinmuyisan never thought twice about pursuing her degree and her dreams. To others who might be having doubts about education or their career path, she advises, “Just make a plan and do it, because if you don’t, you’re going to have regrets.”  

For UMGC Alum, Cyber Competitions Improve Skills that On-the-Job Training Overlooks

Chris Haller loves capture the flag competitions (CTFs). The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) graduate, who received his B.S. in Computer Networks and Security in 2017 and M.S. in Cybersecurity Management and Policy in 2020, frequently enters these cybersecurity events where individuals compete in security-themed challenges for the purpose of obtaining the highest score.

“They are a huge plus for my career,” he said. “They allow me to hone my skills and they compel me to apply what I’ve learned.”

Haller, the director of Professional Services at Centripetal Networks in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, added that cybersecurity competitions are one of the biggest things he looks for when he hires for his company. “CTFs can help bridge the experience gap for new grads trying to break into cyber,” he said.

Haller’s passion for cybersecurity started young. Driven by his own curiosity, he was always interested in computers and video games. “I was lucky enough to find a position with the Navy to provide formal training,” he said.

Haller’s early enthusiasm for computers, combined with his professional experience in all things cyber, has paid off. He recently captured first-place in the National Cyber League Individual competition, a twice-a-year performance-based collegiate cybersecurity competition that draws more than 6,000 participants.

The National Cyber League, a mission-driven organization that focuses on preparing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, is known in the competition world as offering some of the most challenging events. For Haller, the biggest challenge is time management and accuracy.

“Entrants are required to answer questions across a three-day period, so it requires a significant time investment,” he said.

Haller’s competition experience has led to on-the-job success, as he and his team address some of the biggest challenges of the day, notably to proactively block advanced threats before they can damage networks.

“At Centripetal we’ve found a way to do this by ingesting cyber threat intelligence, which tells us which IPs and domain names are malicious, and we stop it at the perimeter,” he said. “By stopping attacks at the reconnaissance stage, we prevent malicious attacks downstream.”

Haller believes more cybersecurity teams need to adopt this approach of blocking known malicious threats before they reach the perimeter. “

Every organization that manages a security information and event management system (SIEM) can see millions of alerts every day about the attacks launched against their environment. There is simply no way for a human to review them all,” he said. “Blocking with intelligence about known malicious activity on the internet reduces the number of alerts in the SIEM to manageable levels, making it easier to investigate for malicious activity.”

With billions of threat alerts bombarding defense organizations every day, Haller believes that the industry should be more proactive in its approach—using designated hit lists to block known bad actors from the web and free up time and energy to go after as-yet-unidentified threats.

When he’s not honing his skills in cyber competitions or researching nation-state bad actors damaging organizations around the world, Haller enjoys providing value to customers through professional services, such as penetration testing and incident response. Down the road, he hopes to give back.

“I would like to see myself in a teaching position as well, helping others understand the things I’ve learned on how to protect networks from attacks,” he said.

Juneteenth: Carrying its Meaning Around the World

Juneteenth may be a federal holiday in the United States, but many people do not know its history or understand its significance. Faculty and staff at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) stepped forward this month to change that.

On June 12, a week before the United States’ newest holiday, members of the UMGC Diversity Council in Germany hosted a Juneteenth event on Ramstein Air Base. The Diversity Council also recorded videos of faculty in Asia and Europe speaking about the importance of the date, which is celebrated this year on June 20. And the UMGC Europe Book Club dovetailed its reading with a literary classic that springboards from Juneteenth.

“Events like this are important to not only celebrate special observances and heritage months but also educate and raise awareness,” said Patricia Jameson, who directs UMGC’s overseas diversity and equity programs in Europe and Asia. “In the spirit of our core values [of] diversity and people first, our staff and faculty are our competitive advantage, and we leverage our rich diversity to educate our communities on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“As educators, we have the social responsibility to help educate our communities,” Jameson added.

Slavery was abolished in the United States in 1862, but it took another three years for the news to spread. Juneteenth marks the June 19, 1865, announcement in Galveston, Texas, that all enslaved people were free. For many generations of Black families, it has long been a day of celebration. For the general public, however, it is not a story that has been widely told.

In a Juneteenth message to faculty and staff, UMGC President Greg Fowler underscored the university’s role in carrying forward the significance of Juneteenth to make the world “more equitable, more inclusive, and more just.”

“More than two years had passed since President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and today, as we observe Juneteenth, my thoughts turn to those around the world who are still waiting for their circumstances to change,” Fowler said in a broadcast message. “Education has long offered an opportunity for individuals to influence those circumstances, but for too many, economic or societal factors have stood in the way.

“At UMGC, it is our privilege and solemn obligation to bring learning experiences in reach that have the power to transform lives, families and communities,” he added.

UMGC Europe led off this year’s Juneteenth events with the public celebration at the Ramstein Air Base, where discussions centered on the significance of the date. The event was also designed to foster community and build relationships. Games, snacks, music, and dramatic readings from UMGC staff and community members were part of the activities. One discussion focused on how to explain Juneteenth’s origins to children.

Matthew Mackey, a Diversity Council member and academic adviser at the Ramstein Education Center, described the event as “both jubilant and reflective.” The guest speaker was award-winning poet Mervyn Seivwright, who read from his work.

The week that followed was marked by the Juneteenth Video Project. Jameson said the Europe and Asia faculty members she videotaped—Professor of Psychology LaShawn Thompson, Professor of Business Steven Carter and Professor of History Anita Anthony—recounted when they first learned about the historic date and what it meant to them.

“The purpose of the video is to educate viewers about Juneteenth,” Jameson said. “When we first hosted a webinar in June 2020 on the significance, history and celebration of Juneteenth, at least half of the attendees did not know about [the day]. The faculty stepped up and offered to participate in an educational video to help educate our community, including local military, students, staff and faculty.”  

Carter, based in Europe, said in the video that he learned about Juneteenth just three years ago.

“I gained a deeper understanding of … how the message of ending slavery was actually communicated from the federal level down to ordinary people and how slaveowners restricted the flow of this information,” Carter said. “More importantly, how this news was received with such great jubilation and marked the end of an era and how it was worthy of a celebration so that future generations would not forget.”

Anita Anthony-Van Orsdal

Anita Anthony-Van Orsdal, who teaches history at UMGC in Asia, said in her video that the Juneteenth celebrations should be something all Americans honor and observe.

“I have had the opportunity to attend some Juneteenth celebrations and each time I am amazed to find out historical stories I had not heard before. …The spirit of celebration, of joy and inclusion, is warm and welcoming to all,” she noted.

Jessica Stock, the professor of English literature who leads the UMGC Europe Book Club, selected Ralph Ellison’s “Juneteenth” for the club’s June 28 meeting. The book club brings together staff, faculty and students every other month for lively discussions that unfold both online and in person. Stock said 150 people connect with the club’s discussions via Facebook while about a dozen more take part in person.

Stock, who also serves on the Diversity Council, said the hour-long book discussions focus on diversity topics. She described the June book selection as especially meaningful, even beyond its title.

“Ellison’s work is incredibly important to the American canon of literature. His descriptions of race and justice … are some of the most important in 20th century literature,” Stock said.

She added that the selection of “Juneteenth” carried special relevance because of the book’s history. The original book manuscript was lost in a 1967 house fire, and Ellison had to start the book over. He died before he finished the work, and a friend continued the project using Ellison’s notes. The book was published posthumously.

Stock said the never-finished characteristic of this book, and the way it was passed on, could describe the civil rights movement. 

Jameson noted that the Juneteenth activities supported values elevated by both UMGC and the military.

“Military communities are reaching out to us to help them build their DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] curriculum, and we are stepping up to support them using various means,” Jameson said, pointing to webinars, on-site conferences, hybrid conferences and monthly diversity dialogues.

UMGC General Counsel Sherri Sampson Among Women We Admire List of Top 50 Women Leaders of DC

Adelphi, Md. (June 17, 2022)—Sherri Sampson, vice president and general counsel at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), was named to the Women We Admire Top 50 Women Leaders of DC list. Women We Admire is an influential news and information website that highlights exceptional women in a variety of fields, including law, business, sports, medicine, and entertainment.

“This group of accomplished individuals dedicate themselves to the betterment of society and the organizations they serve,” said the website in announcing the list. “We recognize these trailblazers for raising the bar in their fields, paving the way for future women in their profession.”

Sampson came to UMGC in 2019 and has steadily upgraded the role of the Office of Legal Affairs in navigating the complex higher education environment, establishing a new university-wide compliance and risk management oversight function as well as leading a project to develop and implement an enhanced information governance program with a keen focus on strengthening privacy and security policies and practices at UMGC.

“I am truly honored to be recognized with such accomplished women,” said Sampson. “I am driven by serving my family, profession and community and I appreciate the recognition.”

Sampson leads a team of lawyers in providing legal advice and recommendations on student matters, human resources, state ethics, real estate and procurement, state, military and global compliance, accreditation, and state authorization, as well as key business transactions and venture opportunities. She also leads a team of compliance practitioners focused on enterprise risk, data privacy, records and policy management.

Before joining UMGC, Sampson was a chief human resources officer, general counsel, and secretary at the Graduate Management Admission Council®, and before that, a corporate and securities associate at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells). Earlier in her career, she was a corporate associate with the law firm of Perkins Coie.

Sampson earned a JD from the University of Washington School of Law and an undergraduate degree in comparative area studies from Duke University.

Women We Admire covers a broad range of topics and areas of interest aimed at recognizing the achievements of exceptional women while inspiring others to aim high and continue their journey towards reaching their full potential.  Women We Admire and its affiliates circulate its content to over 32,000 individuals and businesses.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce and the military. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 125 fully online, hybrid and face-to-face programs and specializations.  

UMGC has a long history of innovation in reaching students where they are, including as a pioneer of internet instruction, piloting its first online classes in 1994. The university has received numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in developing fully online degree programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, business, data analytics, health care, and education.  UMGC now offers classes to military service personnel and their families at some 180 locations in more than 20 countries. More than half of the university’s students are active-duty military personnel, their families, members of the National Guard, and veterans.

University of Maryland Global Campus and Metropolitan Community College Establish Transfer Agreement to Accelerate Pathwayto a Bachelor’s Degree

Adelphi, Md. (June 15, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and Metropolitan Community College (MCC), the oldest public institution of higher learning in Kansas City, Mo., have announced a partnership that will expand the reach of UMGC’s 90 online academic programs and increase the affordability of a bachelor’s degree to MCC’s nearly 14,000 students.

Under the alliance’s transfer agreement, students can transfer a minimum of 60 credits when they complete an associate degree and be guaranteed admission to a UMGC bachelor’s degree program in a complementary field of study.

All degree-seeking MCC students, graduates, and employees of the college, as well as their spouses and dependents who attend the college, will receive a waiver of the UMGC application fee and a discount on out-of-state tuition for most programs of study.

“We are pleased to join with Metropolitan Community College to increase access to quality online bachelor’s programs and accelerate the pathway to a four-year degree,” said Blakely Pomietto, senior vice president and chief academic officer at UMGC. “It is critical to provide a seamless process for MCC’s students to ultimately achieve their educational goals as efficiently and affordably as possible.”

UMGC has an enrollment of some 90,000 students—more than half of whom are active-duty military personnel and their families serving on military bases around the world—and offers award-winning online, in-person and hybrid 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.

“We are excited about this new partnership with UMGC,” said Sue Gochis, chief academic officer and vice chancellor of instruction at MCC. “This relationship is completely aligned with the Metropolitan Community College mission:  Preparing students, serving communities, and creating opportunities for all.   Providing increased access to transfer opportunities is one of the ways in which we can continue to serve our students in their educational journey.”

For more information, visit the university’s national community college alliances webpage.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce and the military. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online and hybrid programs and specializations.  

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

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

About Metropolitan Community College

Metropolitan Community College, founded in 1915 as the Kansas City Polytechnic Institute, is the oldest public institution of higher learning in Kansas City, Mo., and was the first community college established in Missouri. The Junior College of Kansas City, as it was known starting in 1919, was one of the first schools in the country to award an associate degree. Today, MCC offers 125 associate degree and certificate programs and serves nearly 14,000 students at five campuses (MCC-Blue River, MCC-Longview, MCC-Maple Woods, MCC-Online, and MCC-Penn Valley).

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University of Maryland Global Campus Signs Agreement with NSA to Accelerate Pathways to Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

Transfer Agreement with NSA’s National Cryptologic University Includes Discounted Tuition at UMGC

Adelphi, Md. (June __, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and the National Security Agency have signed an agreement that allows students to transfer credit earned in a range of subject areas from NSA’s National Cryptologic University (NCU) toward an associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UMGC.

The new agreement will allow NCU students and those that complete the Joint Cyber Analysis Course to apply up to 45 semester hours of transfer credit from any approved college or university, military training, and other non-traditional sources toward an associate degree at UMGC. Further, UMGC may accept 90 semester hours of transfer credit from any approved college or university, military training, and other non-traditional sources toward a bachelor’s degree.

The agreement extends to NCU students seeking master’s degrees, with UMGC accepting up to 6 semester hours of credit from an approved institution toward a master’s degree, if the credits are related to a student’s program of study. The agreement also allows for a maximum of 70 semester hours that may be transferred by a NCU student, from approved two-year community colleges.

“With this agreement, a NCU student doesn’t have to worry that the credit from a highly specialized course won’t immediately transfer to UMGC and possibly delay their pursuit of a degree,” said Blakely Pomietto, UMGC’s senior vice president and chief academic officer. “By mapping NCU courses to UMGC’s curriculum and offering a tuition discount, we can save students valuable time and financial resources.”

“This articulation agreement provides additional avenues for the NSA workforce to continue their education while decreasing the time it takes for them to complete their degree,” says National Cryptologic University’s Commandant Dr. Mark Asselin. “NSA’s National Cryptologic University is proud to have an agreement with University of Maryland Global Campus that provides additional opportunities for educational development to our workforce.” 

NCU students who enroll in UMGC courses will get a discount on tuition and have access to the university’s 90+ fully online academic programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, data analytics and business. UMGC has also replaced costly textbooks with no-cost digital resources in most classes, saving students thousands of dollars over the course of their degree programs.

More information about UMGC’s transfer credit policies is available HERE.

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce and the military. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online and hybrid programs and specializations.   

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

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

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UMGC Recognized for Environmentally Sustainable Practices

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is committed to making a difference in being more sustainable as a university across the globe.

The Maryland Department of General Services recently awarded UMGC an honorable mention for success in ramping up green purchases over the year. UMGC’s Office of Procurement and Business Affairs and Facilities tracked its purchases and compiled a report that showed its gains on the sustainability front. 

“UMGC is committed to improving the environment by reducing our carbon footprint,” said UMGC Associate Vice President George Trujillo. “It’s a great honor to have our efforts recognized by the Department of General Services.”

The comprehensive report listed all green purchases in the following areas: construction and maintenance, janitorial supplies, lighting products, paints and coatings, and IT equipment.

UMGC last year was also named an All STAR (All State Agencies Recycle) organization thanks to its recycling rating of 70 percent. All STAR is the Maryland government agency recycling program. 

While working inside its operations to lessen its impact on the planet, the university also reached outward with several awareness events in celebration of Earth Day 2022, the theme of which was “Invest in Our Planet.” 

Earth Day: Our Planet, Our People

In a wide-ranging discussion, a UMGC event on the history of Earth Day looked at what has happened in the half-century since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in tandem with four cornerstone laws aimed at protecting the environment.

“It is estimated that 45 million Americans are breathing air that is dirtier now than it was 50 years ago when the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] was passed,” said Theresa Martin, D.M., in a presentation for Earth Day: Our Planet, Our People. NEPA requires federal agencies to gauge the environmental impact of their projects and programs.  

Martin’s comments came as part of UMGC’s Europe Earth Day webinar. Patricia Jameson, director of UMGC’s Overseas Diversity and Equity Programs, planned and coordinated the webinar.

Earth Day was established with bipartisan support in 1970 to raise awareness about air and water pollution after a massive oil spill. With the first Earth Day, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, and a quartet of environmental laws were enacted: NEPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Overseas collegiate associate professor and faculty coordinator in Germany, Martin also discussed the Superfund, which was designed to clean up sites contaminated by hazardous materials. She used New York’s Love Canal as an example. The abandoned canal project from the 1940s, just off the Niagara River in the city of Niagara Falls, became a landfill for a chemical plant. After it was closed and sealed, the land was given to the city, and houses and a school were built. A few years later, many people became sick with unexplainable illnesses. 

A state of emergency was declared in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter and funds were used to relocate the affected families. As a result of Love Canal and other toxic waste dumps, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund Act, was created. 

“What the Superfund Act does is it allows Congress to give federal funds to clean up disasters. There’s a little bit more to it than that, but it establishes a fund that can clean up these natural disasters,” Martin said. “It also allows for short-term and long-term responses and tracking.”

As another example of the impact of human activity on the environment, Martin pointed to the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. A switch in drinking water sources in the city of Flint led to thousands of people drinking and using lead-contaminated water in their homes.

“An American city failed to provide basic protections to its citizens, and now the children of Flint have much higher than normal levels of lead in their blood,” Martin said.

Aida Lebbos, associate vice president of institutional strategic projects and compliance, also commented on the water crisis. 

“What happened in Flint, Michigan, was a tragedy. It should not have happened,” she said.

The webinar concluded with comments from the audience.

Driving Electric: The Future Is Now

Ron Kaltenbaugh, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington D.C. (EVADC) looked into the history of electric vehicles, as well as the health and climate benefits of electric cars, during an Earth Day discussion coordinated by UMGC’s Office of Diversity and Equity and Office of Facilities Management.

In discussing the energy efficiency of electric vehicles (EVs), Kaltenbaugh noted that lower operating costs were also a benefit. 

“This is especially true today with gasoline prices high and rising, and we can see that the electric fuel costs are much lower,” he said. “But it’s also a personal benefit with the lack of toxic fumes, the lower maintenance costs and the instant torque of the electric motor, which provides good acceleration.”

Kaltenbaugh explained to event participants the difference between a hybrid vehicle and two types of electric vehicles. Hybrid vehicles have a gasoline engine with a small battery pack that assists the gasoline engine for more fuel efficiency or better performance. Plug-in hybrid vehicles have a charger plug and a larger battery for 10 to 50 miles of electric-only range, he noted. All hybrids and electric vehicles extend their range by capturing energy when braking, which also reduces wear and tear on the brakes.  

Kaltenbaugh also detailed the advantages of EVs powered solely by batteries.

“Here we’re starting to seriously get into being able to avoid gasoline usage and go on electric-only,” Kaltenbaugh explained. “And then we have battery only—no gas engine—that means no muffler and no spark plugs.”

photo provided by Ron Kaltenbaugh

In discussing ways to recharge electric cars, Kaltenbaugh noted that a standard outlet from a house provides enough energy per hour to enable a vehicle to drive three to five miles. However, EVs typically use a 240-volt circuit plug that offers more power per hour—enough to drive from 12 to 46 miles. After a half-hour charge with direct current (DC) fast-charging plugs, meanwhile, an EV can drive 50 to 200 miles. 

The webinar ended with information on the federal tax credit available to EV owners. A tax credit as high as $7,500 is available for EVs with the credit-dependent upon battery size.

(click to enlarge) UMGC staff who own EVs were featured at the end of the presentation. The EVs include: Teslas, Jeep hybrid option, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, Ford Mustang and Subaru Crosstrek

Investing in Our Planet—and Each Other—Workshop

The Investing in Our Planet—and Each Other gathering turned the tables to examine individuals’ connections to the environment and the guardian role people can play.

The discussion with breakout sessions was organized by Sabrina Fu, Ph.D., program director and collegiate professor of UMGC’s Environmental Science and Management Program. Fu is also the faculty director of the university’s Environmental Awareness Club, which has 517 members.

“We all want to be empowered to be part of solutions in the 21st century and need to work on critical thinking, communications and creativity,” Fu said. “Each of us has a unique connection to what brings us to care about the environment and why we want to invest in our planet and each other.”

The webinar conversation started with a few participants sharing photos that reminded them of Earth Day and helping the environment. For example, Suzanne Agan offered a photo that showed her leading a sustainable agriculture conference at an orphanage outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Agan is an adjunct assistant professor of environmental science and management at UMGC.

photo provided by Suzanne Agan

“When I think of Earth Day and how important it is to be sustainable, I think of getting people where they need to be. And that’s being sustainable by reducing poverty and increasing food security,” Agan said. “And it’s just such a pleasure to work with those people and to be able to equip others to be sustainable in their own place.”

Participants assigned to break-out groups were asked to answer four questions: Why is Earth Day important to you? What initially stimulated you to speak out about the need to protect or invest in our planet? And what inspires you to continue your activism or commit to additional activism? And how does this relate to investing in our Earth and each other?

Corey Creedon, adjunct instructor of environmental science and management, teaches courses on environmental policy and talked about why Earth Day was important to him. 

“I think there’s kind of a neat aspect of Earth Day and other environmental holidays that draws public attention to the importance of the environment and how everything’s interconnected—and how we’re all living on this Earth together and our health and well-being are intertwined,” Creedon said.  

One example from student Eric Morales, a senior public safety administration major, underscored the role climate change played this winter in Minnesota, which experienced 16 tornadoes for the first time in recorded history. Weather dramas like this motivate Morales to speak out about the need to protect the planet. Morales, who also has a minor in environmental management, is a retired U.S. Air Force aircraft maintenance craftsman.

Najila Ahsan’s passion for the planet stretches beyond Earth Day. She is a regular volunteer at the neighborhood Design Center in Hyattsville, Maryland. This summer Ahsan, a senior environmental management major, has an internship with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. Ahsan moderated one of the breakout sessions and helped Fu plan the webinar along with Nurgul Dzhorobaeva, an environmental management major, and environmental science management faculty including Suzanne Agan, Paulo Maurin and Rhonda McBride, all adjunct associate professors, and Morgan Bliss, collegiate professor.

“I think the webinar went really well and it was great meeting everyone,” Ahsan said. “I was impressed to see how engaged people were.”

Life on Earth Day

Another event, Life on Earth Day, was held at UMGC’s Asia location. Rick Martin, Ph.D., an overseas college professor in Camp Humphreys, South Korea, was the speaker. 

“The presentation covered the history and accomplishments of Earth Day, while also describing how environmental degradation has continued since the first Earth Day events 52 years ago,” Martin said.

Participants were emboldened to think about ways to reduce their personal carbon footprint and discussed why most people have not yet made the changes needed.

“They were also encouraged to adopt the ethic that the Earth is our home and, as such, to be concerned about environmental damage no matter where in world it occurs,” Martin added. 

At the conclusion of the event, participants were given compostable toothbrushes.

“The toothbrushes served as an example that making small lifestyle changes to help prevent damage to the environment is no more difficult than the already widely adopted habit of brushing your teeth to prevent tooth decay,” Martin said.

Military Career and Growing Family Nudged Julius Downing to Psychology Studies

Julius Downing has long been interested in psychology. It gained greater importance when he began looking to it for guidance in balancing the demands of a career in the Navy and the responsibilities of a growing family. 

“I had a lot on my plate. I was dealing with a lot in the military, training to be a Navy Seal, going to school and I was a father. We didn’t have cell phones in the early years and sometimes weeks or months would go by when I was on deployments and couldn’t talk to my wife,” Downing said. “It was hard juggling all that.” 

Downing said the psychology courses he took through University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) were “like therapy,” but the time constraints that came with his job and family life  meant he could only enroll sporadically. 

This month, after more than two decades of off-and-on classes, Downing was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from UMGC. His five children—accustomed to years of seeing their father studying at night—didn’t realize he had completed the degree program until he invited them to his commencement and put on his graduation regalia. 

Downing, who grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia, was in high school when he became interested in a military career and joined the ROTC. Although his school’s ROTC was affiliated with the Air Force, he had his eye on the Navy. He worked for a couple of years after graduation and then enlisted. 

While on his first Navy ship in 1998, Downing was introduced to UMGC by way of a course taught by faculty deployed aboard the vessel. 

The years that followed were marked by career advancements and life’s ups and downs. The most stressful of the challenging times included a house fire in England that displaced Downing’s wife, 4-year-old son Keshawn, and 1-year-old daughter Latoya while he was deployed to Iraq. 

“We lost the house, we lost everything,” Downing said. “No one was injured and the military got me on a plane and home within 24 hours. But it was very stressful, and it’s when I got really interested in mental health and psychology.” 

Later, during a deployment to Bahrain, he learned that one of his sons had diabetes added to the strain, and the psychology courses began to feel like a lifeline.   

In 2018—after 20 years of service—Downing retired from the Navy and moved his family to Virginia. He took a job as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, managing many of the same duties as he did as a servicemember. It was then that he decided to springboard his interest in psychology into a bachelor’s degree and the termination of an associate degree in arts that he had left founder years earlier. 

“I decided that I wanted to study the psychology of gender and cognitive behavior therapy,” Downing explained. He was able to test out of some UMGC course requirements and received credit for military leadership classes he had taken.  

“They gave me credit for military schooling. I was preparing to be a military analyst and that preparation went into my transcript. That was huge,” he said.  

In the years that psychology classes fed Downing’s intellect, sports had fueled his body. He was on the track team in high school then, in the Navy, he coached children in the schools on military bases. He also boxed and played football, rugby, and basketball for the military while stationed in the U.K. and Germany, coached football and basketball at Fort Belvoir and was involved with physical readiness training for Navy Seals. At one point, he even taught aerobic classes to military wives.  

As he headed toward his degree, he saw a way to combine psychology and sports. 

“After years of taking classes, I realized counseling and coaching were my passion,” he said. “Today I’m a high school coach, the creator of a nonprofit to mentor youth and I now aim to become a business owner and use my degrees in psychology and art.” 

Downing—the kids he trains call him “Coach JD”—plans to use his degree in a youth basketball training and sports therapy program he is launching. He has already been training boys and girls and is especially interested in kids who may not realize the role sports can play in keeping them strong, physically and mentally.   

In thinking about getting a degree in his 50s, Downing said he had a good role model. His father received his master’s degree at age 55. Downing now hopes he’s paying it forward as an example for his own children, the oldest 23 and the youngest 2. 

An Educational Journey: From Segregated Schools to UMGC Degree

Aaron Burr’s Bachelor of Science in Management Studies from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was long in coming. He received it in May—in tandem with an Associate of Arts with a focus on business management—37 years after taking his initial college course at a military base in Germany, his first active station with the U.S. Army.  

In the years between, Burr deployed to Albania, Hungary, Iraq, Kuwait and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He took leadership training courses in various locations. But most of his time in the military was spent in Germany and that is where he remained as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense when he retired in 2005 following 21 years of military service.  

Burr was born in central Louisiana in 1965 to a hard-working Black and Native American family. His father worked at a Holsum Bread factory and his mother was a nursing assistant, but money was always tight.   

“Growing up during the civil rights movement was quite interesting. I went to a segregated school all the way up to fourth grade,” Burr said. “I knew back then that I wasn’t getting the full blast of education and I felt deprived, even as a young child. 

“My parents were seeking ways of getting me and my sister out of that environment and to expand our opportunities,” he continued. “In my fifth-grade year, my sister and I broke some barriers when we were bused across our city to a school that was not segregated.”    

At 17, two other life-changing things happened. Burr and his high school sweetheart became parents to a son, Jonathan, and Burr enrolled in the junior ROTC program at his high school.  

“Our school’s program was with the Marine Corps and it was through it that I became interested in military service. The job opportunities where I was were not so good otherwise, and I wanted to be able to provide for my son and set him up for success,” Burr said. “As much as I enjoyed the Marine Corps program, I had more interest in the U.S. Army. So, at age 19, my senior year, I contacted the Army recruiter.” 

He took a year off after graduation to spend time with his young son then began his Army service in May 1984. He began training as a tactical communications specialist at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. From there, he joined an Army unit in Nuremberg, Germany.  

“In December of 1984, when I arrived in Germany, my platoon sergeant was talking to me about education. They were correspondence courses then. You went to the education center, signed up for the course, read the materials, took the exam and then went to the education counselor to have your records updated,” Burr said. “I knew education would help me get promoted in the Army, develop me as a leader, and make me more marketable.” 

Over time, Burr decided to pursue an associate degree in business management. The correspondence courses evolved to include in-class and virtual learning, as well as hybrid classes that combined a bit of both. At some point, Burr expanded his ambition to a bachelor’s degree at UMGC. Many of his previous course credits transferred to the degree program. He was also pleased to receive credit for his military certifications. 

In 2018, Burr accepted a stateside position as a logistics management specialist and item manager with the U.S. Army TACOM Integrated Logistics Support Center, in part so he could spend more time with his son, who has homes in Texas and Florida, and his 9-year-old granddaughter and 1-year-old son. By the time he relocated to Natick, Massachusetts, for the new assignment, Burr had been in Germany for 28 years, more time than he had ever lived in the United States.   

TACOM’s Integrated Logistics Support Center supports warfighting readiness for U.S. forces by handling repair-parts planning repair and supply chain management for more than 3,500 weapons systems. Burr writes and processes procurement contracts, does budget analysis, and oversees the readiness of a multitude of systems that are positioned and used around the globe.  

He said the business management degree “equips me with tools to better manage human capital and personnel readiness and accountability.”   

Burr’s mother, Gloria Vinson, traveled from Louisiana to the UMGC graduation ceremony to watch her son become the first member of the family to receive a college diploma.  

“I thought the ceremony was awesome,” Vinson said. “It was an experience I had prayed for, to see him walk down the aisle and hear him called up on stage.” 

Burr, 57, said there is power in accomplishing something you’ve wanted for a long time. 

“It doesn’t matter how long ago I started. The important thing is that I was able to complete what I started 37 years later,” he said. 

For UMGC Undergrad, Internship Is Step Toward Helping Reduce Impact of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness on Communities

Melissa Riggs, an undergraduate student at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), will begin a 10-week internship this summer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leads public health efforts to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on communities. 

“The SAMHSA Internship Program is specifically designed to equip graduate students and recent undergraduates from underrepresented populations to work in the public health field,” according to a SAMHSA news release. “Interns gain practical experience through projects, special assignments or research that supports federal, state and community-based programs, policies and best practices in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and mental illness.”

Riggs, a psychology major with a minor in computer science, spent the spring semester interning in the cybersecurity department of SAMHSA’s Office of Management, Technology, and Operations (OMTO). 

“As a returning intern, I can say that working with such an esteemed and professional division as OMTO has afforded me the opportunity to wear many hats related to the field of cybersecurity—a credit to SAMHSA’s agile teamwork design,” Riggs said. “The leadership in this department has gone to great lengths to maximize the use of my strengths and to develop me in my weaknesses.”

SAMHSA interns receive stipends of $5,000 to $7,590. Internships are available in the following fields: substance abuse and mental health prevention and treatment; federal, state and local government policies and regulations; health IT; program administration, operations and management; research and data analysis; communications and social marketing; and grant management.

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars partners with SAMHSA to award the internships. 

“After completing my summer internship, I see myself working in a job that contributes to the mission of enhancing mankind and our united human destiny. I am a natural problem solver, and with so many impending threats to our way of life, I believe that it is my duty to answer the call,” Riggs added.