University of Maryland Global Campus Goes Beyond Traditional Transcript to Articulate Competency-based Learner Achievements with Parchment Award – CLR Services

New Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) Helps UMGC Students Progress on Career Pathways

Adelphi, Md. (June 9, 2021)–Parchment, the industry leader in academic credentials management, and University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), the largest online public university in the country, announced today that UMGC has launched a pilot program to develop and issue Comprehensive Learner Records (CLRs).  

CLRs are official academic records and expand the information and insights a college or university certifies about a learner’s educational experience, both inside and out of the classroom. Using Parchment Award – CLR Services, UMGC can capture more specific evidence of a student’s learning—as well as a more holistic representation of a learners’ education—in ways traditional transcripts were not designed to do. 

“UMGC is committed to helping students articulate to employers the specific knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions they develop through their programs and how they can contribute to employers’ needs,” said  Blakely Pomietto, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer. “This Comprehensive Learner Record pilot is an innovative and dynamic example of how we are putting students first and continually committed to developing new ways to fulfill our mission.”

The value of what the CLR articulates was validated in a recent AAC&U (American Association of Colleges & Universities) report where the majority of employers surveyed viewed skills, including teamwork, critical thinking, data analysis and interpretation, applying learning in real-world settings, and digital literacy, as important. In general, responses show that employers think a college education should provide both breadth and depth of learning and prepare future employees to think for themselves, adapt to problems, and have the technical knowledge necessary for their new roles.

As a Parchment CLR Charter Member program participant, UMGC evaluated their learning model, with a goal of tying what its graduate students were learning to skills for employers.  For the pilot, the university selected its Master of Business Administration program because it was structured to easily allow the extraction of competency-based data.

UMGC partnered with Parchment to create a meaningful CLR using data to demonstrate knowledge, skills, abilities, and learning outcomes within existing MBA course projects, including badges earned for proficiency of work. Students are able to access their CLRs through the Parchment Credential Profile to share with potential employers and their professional networks, such as LinkedIn.

“Leveraging our current CLR, we hope to direct its next iteration and, in tandem, work on developing a CLR for additional programs beyond the MBA,” said Insiya Bream, assistant vice president for Data & Systems at UMGC. “While generating CLR output is one piece of the project, another is exploring competencies and learning outcomes to fully support additional CLRs and digital credentialing efforts.”

“For UMGC and other higher ed institutions, a CLR is an innovative way of thinking about how to aggregate and disseminate credentials that benefits students,” said Jason Weaver, VP of Product, Parchment. “It tangibly represents learning outcomes, and that can increase student success by providing employers with the information they need to make easier, informed decisions.”

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. The university offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, as well as 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. 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.

About Parchment

Parchment believes credentials matter in the lifelong journey of a learner. Offering the most comprehensive academic credential management system, Parchment helps learners, academic institutions and employers request, verify and share transcripts, diplomas, and other credentials in simple and secure ways. Our platform has helped millions of learners, over 13K districts, university registrar offices, state education agencies, and receivers (including university admissions offices, background check companies, employers, college application services, OPMs, and certification and licensing boards) exchange more than 100 million transcripts, diplomas, certificates and other credentials globally. Founded in 2003, Parchment is headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ, with offices in California and Illinois. We help turn credentials into opportunities. Follow Parchment on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

UMGC Awarded Grant for 2021 GenCyber Teacher Education Program

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

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

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

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

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

University of Maryland Global Campus and Fort Meade Alliance Team Up to Increase Access to Higher Education for Employees of Regional Group’s Member Organizations

Adelphi, Md. (June 3, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA), which includes more than 270 partnered organizations, are teaming up to increase access to higher education for the employees of FMA members.

The mission of the FMA is to promote Fort George G. Meade as a growing regional economic asset and provide impact to the region with targeted programs and initiatives. The alliance with UMGC is designed to increase the affordability of higher education through a tuition discount program for all employees of FMA member organizations with permanent residence out of state.

“Our teaming up with the Fort Meade Alliance is a match of two missions that can increase the skills of the workforce and boost businesses and economic opportunity for people in the region,” said Blakely Pomietto, senior vice president and Chief Academic Officer at UMGC. “UMGC is focused on educating adult students who are juggling full-time jobs—including military service—with family and other responsibilities, as well as their studies. We offer workforce-relevant programs and student services that are designed to support students who find going to classes on a traditional campus either impractical or impossible.”

“We are excited to team up with educational institutions like UMGC that have high standards in education and can bring a significant offering to the men and women of the Fort Meade region,” said Doreen Harwood, FMA President. “This partnership provides our FMA members with affordable education options that will help  advance their careers.”

Eligible employees can choose courses from any of the university’s 90 academic programs, available entirely online, including in disciplines such as biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, and information technology that are in high demand in today’s increasingly technical workplace. UMGC also saves students money by using digital resources, which have replaced costly publisher textbooks in most courses.

“UMGC has had a historic relationship with educating and supporting military servicemembers on installations throughout the world for nearly 75 years,” said Nora Graves, regional director at UMGC whose area includes Ft. Meade. “Supporting an organization like the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA) whose entire mission is to provide assistance in the growth and stability of Fort Meade and its commission and the partners that work alongside the military is an honor.”

UMGC’s online format makes it a great choice for continuing education, an advantage that has been underscored by the challenges that many brick-and-mortar colleges and universities have faced while operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Protecting Financial Assets: Cybersecurity and Accounting Are Coming Together to Create a Hot New Field

Want to know where the next great opportunities in accounting will be? Check the headlines about cyberattacks that are costing business untold millions while exposing their customers to fraud. 

Cybersecurity and IT experts are doing their best to stop these hacks. And working alongside them is a new breed of accountant with the technological and financial training to assess costs and risks. 

“Public accountants have a huge volume of financial data that belongs to their clients,” said Dr. Sharon L. Levin, professor of accounting at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). “If you are a management accountant, working for an individual company such as Apple, IBM or Target, you are responsible for implementing internal controls to protect corporate assets.”  

“Cyber criminals aren’t hacking systems for self-satisfaction,” said Levin. “It’s all about the money. They are looking for assets they can convert to cash, sell on the dark web or sell to foreign countries.” 

The skill set that accountants possess is a natural fit for cyber audits. “Accountants are good at auditing security policies and privacy controls, and they can integrate cyber risks into the audit plan,” said Bruce deGrazia, professor of Cybersecurity Management and Policy at UMGC.  

Often, accountants are the first to become aware of system vulnerabilities and data breaches. “If it’s corporate assets cyber criminals are after, it’s accountants who are responsible for protecting those assets with internal controls,” said Levin.  

Cyber accountants work closely with cybersecurity professionals to mitigate the risks of cyberattacks. Working jointly, they identify system vulnerabilities, develop and implement strategic plans to protect assets and continuously evaluate the need to implement new internal controls to close data security gaps. 

“CyberAccounting is a new field opening up for accountants,” said Levin. “This is really where the industry is going, so we need to prepare accounting students for mitigating these types of risks.” 

In response, UMGC has infused cybersecurity courses into its master’s program in Accounting, offering coursework in CyberAccounting management and compliance, CyberAccounting risk management, and CyberForensics in accounting. To reflect these adjustments, UMGC will change the name of its Master of Science in Accounting and Information Systems to Master of Science in CyberAccounting

“These courses are just one way UMGC, known as an innovative leader in higher education, is adapting its accounting programs to prepare our students to meet the needs of today’s employers,” said Levin.  

“Accounting is a career with endless possibilities to follow your passion,” Levin continued. “Every organization in every industry hires accountants, so if you like sports, every sports team needs accountants, if you like to travel, every hotel chain needs them, every cruise line, every airline, every convention center, every arena,” she added.  

Traditionally, accounting has been regarded as one of the most conservative industries, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, many firms are now adapting to change, allowing auditors to work remotely in a freelance contractual relationship, and so on. 

“Like UMGC, the accounting industry has proven itself to be innovative, adapting to change at a much faster rate than the stereotypical accountant with pocket protectors from the 20th century,” said Levin. 

University of Maryland Global Campus’s Institutional Advancement Team Sweeps Hermes Creative Awards for Quick Transition to Holding Highly Successful Virtual Events

University of Maryland Global Campus swept the international 2021 Hermes Creative Awards for creative communication, winning platinum, gold and honorable mention for work the Institutional Advancement team did to reconfigure  events online to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.

The annual Hermes Awards are granted to universities, Fortune 500 corporations, nonprofit organizations and advertising and public relations agencies in recognition of innovative communication work.

“You are being judged by your peers, by marketing communication professionals who identify work that’s above and beyond the scope of the standard for the industry,” said Nikki Sandoval, UMGC’s associate vice president for Alumni Relations.

The university was “able to adapt and move quickly” when the pandemic struck, said Cathy Sweet, UMGC vice president for Institutional Advancement. She credited support from other university units for allowing her team to take risks—and ultimately, succeed—and the awards recognize the university’s commitment to supporting students and alumni.

The Platinum Award went for the work done for the “Giving Day 2020: One Day of Giving, A Lifetime of Impact” campaign.

Giving Days are 24-hour fundraising challenges that rally groups of people around a particular cause through digital communication, targeting alumni, students, staff and supporters.

UMGC held its first Giving Day in 2018; it has since become an annual event. In 2020, Giving Day was scheduled for May 27, but once the pandemic struck, plans were adjusted quickly. The university realized the greatest immediate need was to establish a student emergency fund, later named the Student Aid Fund for Emergency Relief (SAFER), and the date was moved up to raise urgently needed money.

Even with employees in the midst of an abrupt transition to remote work, Institutional Advancement staff were able to meet an 18-day deadline to create a strategy for messaging, images, social media, email templates, data segmentation and website, and the campaign launched more than a month early, on April 20. The multi-channeled campaign raised $41,433, a 205 percent increase over Giving Day 2019, with almost all of the gifts were aimed at the SAFER fund, surpassing the goal set for that aspect of the effort.

The Hermes Gold award was presented for the UMGC Ehrensberger Legacy Society Induction Celebration that was held virtually on June 16, 2020, in lieu of the annual in-person luncheon.  The Society recognizes the university’s major financial supporters, inducting new members and seeking prospects for future members.

In the past, the event attracted about 25 local Maryland residents. But on just 40-days’ notice, the Institutional Advancement team converted the event to a virtual format, while accommodating many attendees who were elderly and sometimes not as technology-savvy as younger demographics. The event drew 87 attendees from seven states and Washington, D.C., greatly expanding its reach.

“What was originally an obstacle that we were a little nervous about turned into a great win,” Sandoval said.  “All of those who wanted to participate could. They don’t always have the ability to do that if the event is in-person.”  

The Honorable Mention award was granted for the “Alumni Homecoming and 30th Annual Awards: Together We Are UMGC” campaign.

As a worldwide campus, the university put on three events in one day focused on its three divisions: Europe, Asia and the United States. In 2019, the event attracted 375 attendees. By shifting to a virtual format, the university was able to accommodate  673 participants from 31 states and five countries.

Even more important, Sandoval said, UMGC was able to use Whova mobile and a web app that allowed the participants to customize their experience, seeking out fellow alumni with similar interests.

Four networking “lounges” allowed alumni to congregate with people who shared their interests, and by the time the event was over, the alumni participants had created another 20 lounges of their own. More than 250 discussion boards were also set up along with 144 meet-ups during the event.

“This put the power in their hands for how they wanted to network,” Sandoval said, “how they wanted to communicate with each other, and they have continued access to that.”

It was groundbreaking, Sweet said. “I believe we got this award because we developed something that no one else was doing. The team came together in the time of global crisis and found an alternative way to execute our plans.”  

She is “proud of the team,” said Sweet, and grateful for “the trust and support of leadership to make changes quickly to support the global UMGC student and alumni community.” The awards program is administered by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

UMGC Adjunct Faculty Member Shari Fleming, Esq. Named to The Maryland Daily Record’s List of “Leadership in Law Honorees”

Shari Fleming, Esq., principal of the Law Office of Shari Fleming and an adjunct faculty member in the legal studies program at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), has been named to The Maryland Daily Record’s list of “Leadership in Law Honorees.”

The list recognizes Maryland’s legal professionals—lawyers and judges—who demonstrate outstanding dedication to their occupation and to their communities. Fleming is one of 10 who made the list in the Generation J.D. category, which recognizes up-and-coming legal professionals.

Shari Fleming, Esq.

“I am both humbled and elated to be recognized by my peers in the legal and business community,” said Fleming. “My practice is enriched by my teaching at UMGC, and I am grateful to use this opportunity to continue to share the importance of advancing the concepts of ownership, wealth maintenance and wealth retention, particularly within communities of color, because Our Legacy Matters.”

Fleming is a business and legal strategist, focused on helping individuals reach their goals. “I believe in the importance of serving with excellence and integrity throughout every business and legal transaction,” said Fleming. “I serve a variety of clients from individuals to businesses, ensuring receipt of high-quality legal representation.”

Fleming earned a B.S. in Science in History and a B.S. in Black Studies, graduating Magna Cum Laude from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. She holds a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law and is a member of the Maryland Bar. Fleming also has been trained as a court designated mediator of civil disputes and is a licensed real estate broker.

In addition to teaching at UMGC, Fleming is an adjunct at Howard Community College. She has taught courses in business law, business ethics, introduction to law, elder law, child abuse and neglect, healthcare policy, healthcare law and ethics and special education law.

Winners were selected by an outside panel of legal and business leaders. An overall winner of this year’s Leadership in Law Awards will be announced at the online celebration event on June 17. The honoree will be determined by a vote of this year’s Leadership in Law winners.

“This year’s Leadership in Law celebrates the legal professionals who make this state great,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, senior group publisher of The Daily Record. “We honor their excellent work in the profession in addition to their devoted community service and mentoring of the next generation. In addition, the Generation J.D. Award recognizes those in the early stages of their careers, and the Lifetime Achievement Award honors those who have dedicated many years to the profession. We at The Daily Record are pleased to recognize this year’s honorees.”

Winners will be profiled in a special insert in the newspaper’s June 18 issue and on its website.

In addition to Fleming, others in the Generation J.D. category included:

Heather Welch Arbogast, McGuireWoods LLP

Ashleigh J.F. Lynn, Venable LLP

Nicholas R. McDaniels, Lewis McDaniels LLC

Raynna A. Nkwanyuo, O’Donoghue & O’Donoghue

Thomasina Poirot, Venable LLP

Aarti Kaur Sidhu, Disability Rights Maryland

Nicholas Stewart, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP

Tony William Torain II, Polsinelli P.C.

Nicole K. Whitecar, Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

2021 Lifetime Achievement Honorees

Hon. Andre M. Davis, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

William J. Murphy, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP

Kenneth Thompson, Venable LLP

William T. “Bill” Wood, Wood Law Offices LLC

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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.”

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

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

Keynote Speaker Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead

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

Watch Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead Keynote Address 

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

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

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

UMGC President Gregory Fowler

UMGC Virtual Commencement Website

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

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

Watch Raymond Fisher Address 

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

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

Watch WJLA-TV ABC 7 Feature Story on Raymond Fisher 

Student Speaker Raymond Fisher

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

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

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

Read UMGC Global Media Center Story about Raymond Fisher

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

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

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

Watch Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Address 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snapshot of UMGC graduates for 2020-21: 

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

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.”