University of Maryland Global Campus to Pilot Virtual and Augmented Reality Learning Environments

Some Fall Classes to be Offered Via Immersive Technologies

Adelphi, MD (April 5, 2022) — University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a pioneer of online education with a history of exploring innovative learning solutions, has partnered with VictoryXR, a global leader in creating learning environments through immersive technology, in a pilot program that will use virtual and augmented reality in classes in the fall term.

UMGC is one of 10 schools in the initial phase of the program that will implement a “digital twin campus” for students, whether they are enrolled in a face-to-face class or studying online.

Using an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset or a personal computer, students will enter a “metacampus” and interact with instructors and fellow students in a classroom experience. Students can form small groups and work on projects together, regardless of where they are located.

“This is an opportunity to be a leader and early pioneer in leveraging the metaverse, which will represent a radical paradigm shift in online education and the end-to-end learner experience,” said Doug Harrison, vice president and dean of the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at UMGC. “Our partnership with VictoryXR represents another step toward creating broader access to higher education and strengthening the connection between students, faculty and other stakeholders, including success coaches, advisors, student services representatives, and other external academic and business partners.” 

The partnership was funded, in part, by Meta Immersive Learning (NASDAQ: FB). Meta will provide Quest 2 headsets during the project on each campus as well as funding for the digital twin buildouts. Each campus is built by VictoryXR on the EngageVR platform (LON: EXR). 

“Metaverse education is taking hold at American colleges and universities in a big way, and this fall’s cohort finds some big names planning to roll out digital twin campuses,” said Steve Grubbs, VictoryXR CEO. 

In addition to UMGC, other partner schools include Morehouse College, University of, Kansas School of Nursing, New Mexico State University, South Dakota State University
West Virginia University, University of Maryland Global Campus, and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Additional metaversities will be released in May.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military service members and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.

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

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

About VictoryXR

VictoryXR is the global leader in metaverse education with active partners like Meta, Qualcomm and T-Mobile. VictoryXR pioneered the first metaversity with Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. VictoryXR won the Viveport award in 2018 for the best global VR education experience. 

University of Maryland Global Campus Partners with Guild Education to Expand Access to Opportunity

Employees at Herschend Enterprises, UC Health, and more will have access to debt-free education and upskilling at the nation’s largest online public university

Adelphi, Md. (March 31, 2022) — Guild Education, a social impact company that connects workers to a learning marketplace of the nation’s best institutions for working adult learners, and University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), the nation’s largest online public university, are proud to announce a new partnership in service of America’s working adults.

Through this new alliance, UMGC’s wide range of career-focused online degree and certificate programs will now be available to learners at Guild’s employer partners including Bon Secours Mercy Health, Discover, Herschend Enterprises, UCHealth, and more. Tuition costs are paid by the respective employers.

“We are proud to be a part of Guild’s employer network and to provide new avenues for employees to earn credentials or degrees that help them achieve their career goals,” said Dr. Gregory Fowler, president of UMGC. “We share a vision with Guild to unlock life-changing opportunities through education that is accessible no matter where students are. Our academic programs are designed with employer needs in mind and in work-force relevant areas that are in high-demand in the marketplace.”

UMGC is a leader in career-relevant education with a long and deep history of providing a quality and affordable education, with a mission centered on improving the lives of adult learners in the workforce and the military. The institution serves some 90,000 students annually, 78 percent of whom are over the age of 25 and 52 percent of whom identify as a minority.

As a regionally accredited institution, UMGC’s degree and certificate programs are designed from the ground up to prepare students for today’s digital business environment through a collaborative online learning experience. 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.

“UMGC has an incredible legacy of service and innovation,” said Natalie McCullough, president and chief commercial officer at Guild Education. “We are honored to be a part of the next chapter of their history, and to work alongside a visionary leader like Dr. Fowler. He is a recognized expert in the development of innovative learning models, a distinguished scholar in his own right, and his passion for cultivating new ways to support the unique needs of working adult learners is contagious.”

Current employees at U.S- based companies whose employer offers education programs are encouraged to contact their HR representatives to see if Guild and UMGC are an option for them.

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military service members and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.

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

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

About Guild Education

Guild Education is a social impact company that empowers American workers to unlock life-changing opportunities for personal and professional advancement through education, skill-building, and coaching.

As a certified B-Corp founded to bridge the gap between education and employment for working adults in the U.S. in need of upskilling for the future of work, Guild’s industry-leading technology platform allows the nation’s largest employers — including Walmart, Chipotle, Discover, Hilton, Macy’s, Target, and The Walt Disney Company — to offer strategic education and skilling to their employees. Guild connects workers to a learning marketplace of the nation’s best learning partners for working adults with tuition paid by the company.

Guild’s payments and technology platform, curated learning marketplace, and advanced education and career services come together to help working adult learners advance in their education and career, debt-free. For more information, visit https://www.guildeducation.com/

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Candace Orsetti Fulfills Life-Long Dream, Is Contestant on March 30 Episode of Jeopardy!   

Candace Orsetti was 11 years old when Alex Trebek made his debut as host of TV game show Jeopardy!. Watching the program turned Orsetti into a diehard fan of the program and an unrepentant trivia nerd. It also put her on the path to what she calls “a dream come true.” 

On March 30, the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) course development writer and editor will appear as a Jeopardy! contestant. 

Last week, Orsetti’s bio on Twitter read: “Wife, dog lover, word nerd, Llama, baker. Hoping someday to have a profile pic w/a vivid blue background.” This week it has a photo with a vivid blue background. 

“All the Jeopardy! followers know what that background means,” said Orsetti, referring to the color of the program’s stage set. 

Orsetti taped the show in California in January and has waited two months to go public about her TV fame. Did she win big prize money? Will she appear in more than one episode? She is not allowed to say before the show airs, the secrecy being one of the many components of Jeopardy! mystique. She was, however, permitted to note that actor Mayim Bialik was the show’s host. And she revealed that she went for a true Daily Double, meaning that she wagered everything she had on one answer that could double her winnings.   

It is hard to overstate Orsetti’s fervor for the show—and the persistence of her ambition to appear on it. Her first chance came when she was 15. In those days, contestant searches were announced at the end of the show via a note that flashed on the screen to announce tryouts in specific cities. Contestant wannabes responded by sending in postcards that were randomly drawn. Orsetti’s postcard to a local Baltimore TV affiliate resulted in an invitation to take an in-studio test.

“I missed the qualification by one question. That’s been my story for 35 years, but that’s also an inside joke at Jeopardy!” she said. “Everybody that didn’t make the cut was told they missed it by one question.” 

The postcards continued and Orsetti came close to qualifying again in the 1990s. By the 2000s, postcards were replaced with online tests. In 2018, she made the cut—but then languished in the contestant pool for 18 months without being called to a taping. 

“That 18-month period ended on March 13, 2020, the day when everything happened with COVID-19,” Orsetti said. “That was UMGC’s first 100 percent telework day.”

Orsetti persevered, and a June 21, 2020, test put her in the running again. A year after taking that 15-minute online quiz, she was invited to take a Zoom version of the test where she was watched online to confirm her identity and ensure there was no cheating. She had a stroke of luck when one of the questions on the proctored test focused on the ingredients in a Black Russian cocktail. She credited her father, who had died five months earlier, for her knowledge of that answer. It had been his favorite drink.

Four days after the proctored test, she was called for an audition. Since the pandemic, Jeopardy! hopefuls take the audition through an online video platform. The audition featured a contestant interview and a series of mock games. 

“The players hold up a clicky pen as a buzzer. And you’re phrasing your responses in the form of a question,” Orsetti explained. “It wasn’t just about people giving correct responses, but about personality and keeping the game moving and having an interesting presence.”

In the time between the proctored test and the audition, during a dinner of Chinese takeout, Orsetti opened a fortune cookie and found this message: “You will pass a difficult test that will make you happier and financially better.”  

The message was prescient. For a second time, she was back in the contestant pool. 

“At that point, the smart thing to do was to hit the books and start studying. I did—for about a week,” she said with a laugh. Six months later, just as she was about to enter a UMGC work meeting, she received a phone call with a Los Angeles area code. It was the Jeopardy! contestant coordinator inviting her to a January 26, 2022, taping of the show.  

For the next three weeks, Orsetti went everywhere with her “Jeopardy! Go Bag,” a tote bag containing flashcards and study materials she put together.

Orsetti, who earned a B.A. in English from UMGC in 2003, is such a Jeopardy! enthusiast that she had read not only contestant—and, later, host—Ken Jennings’s book, Brainiac, but also the book by Fritz Holznagel titled Secrets of the Buzzer that explains the idiosyncrasies of the buzzers used for Jeopardy! and other game shows. She was aware that contestants pay their own hotel and airfare to appear on the program. And that her clothing would have to be able to support a hidden microphone. And that she wasn’t supposed to wear stripes or certain colors. 

What she hadn’t known is that she would have to go through COVID screening in the Jeopardy! studio’s garage and that the show’s staging area, where contestants had their hair and makeup done, was the set of Wheel of Fortune.  

On taping day, Orsetti worried about two knowledge categories she was weak in: sports and 2020s pop stars. That wasn’t the only thing. Because of the time gap between when the show is taped and when it airs, Orsetti said she and others in the contestant pool were unsure whether Amy Schneider—whose 40-game appearance became the second-longest winning streak in Jeopardy! history—was still a contestant.

“We were all looking around for Amy and asking if Amy was still there. We were scared of Amy,” Orsetti said. It turned out that the day of the taping was also the day that Schneider’s last episode with Jeopardy! aired.   

Orsetti’s Jeopardy! smarts owe something to her deep engagement with trivia. For nearly 10 years—until COVID ended in-person gatherings—she played on a weekly pub trivia team with her husband, parents and a shifting roster of friends. She also belongs to an online trivia league whose membership is capped at 20,000. “A good thousand of the members are Jeopardy! alumni,” she said.

On the day she makes her television debut with Jeopardy!, Orsetti is hosting a small watch party with close friends and family. Concurrently, she’ll host a Zoom gathering with far-flung friends and family.  

“For two months I’ve been living with this weird timeline. I’m both a future and past Jeopardy! player,” Orsetti said, referring to the gap between when the show was filmed and when it will air.  

Jeopardy! may be behind her, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Orsetti’s game show days are over.

“I’ve always been a game show fan, especially trivia-based game shows. I have also gotten to the point where I got a second callback for Wheel of Fortune, The Chase, and Weakest Link,” Orsetti said. There’s just one hitch: Her Jeopardy! contract bars her from appearing on other TV game shows for six months.

UMGC’s Hoch and Aker Recognized for Outstanding Service at Aberdeen Proving Ground

One of UMGC’s great challenges is to create an environment that makes a diverse student body, made up of thousands of students of a wide range of ages, educational backgrounds, military service, and career stages feel connected to the institution, no matter where they are located.

UMGC’s military student population particularly is in a state of flux, living and serving on different bases around the world.  When factoring in the effects of the global pandemic, the feeling of disconnectedness that some servicemembers are feeling can be acute.

That is why the efforts of UMGC advisors and education coordinators have grown in importance as a catalyst to keep students on track with their educational goals.

And it is why Amy Hoch and Cherie Aker were humbled and honored to receive a special commendation from the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) Army installation in northern Maryland for going the extra mile to guide a soldier along his educational journey.

Hoch is a team associate and Aker is the assistant director in the region. Both of them work directly with students on APG.  They are part of a global team of representatives who foster success throughout the student’s journey in achieving their academic goals.

“They both have been so inspirational,” said Sgt. 1st Class Reginald M. Ross, senior religious affairs NCO at the Army Test and Evaluation Command. “Any time I needed anything, or I would come into the office or call, they are always helpful.”

Ross filed what’s known as an Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE), which is a formal comment about services to the Army.  More often than not, ICE filings are complaints, so when a positive report was filed and reached all the way to the garrison commander, it was noticed as a breath of fresh air.

In his ICE comment about Aker, Ross commended her for her help and positive attitude, even as she was battling cancer.  “While going through treatment, she was still assisting me in my college preparation,” Ross wrote.  “Her optimism and cheerful attitude are enough motivation to push anyone to excel and go forward. I am personally grateful that UMGC and the Aberdeen Proving Ground community has an exceptional leader that goes over and above to support students.”

In his comments about Hoch, Ross said she was able to understand what he called his “complex” educational background that included five college transcripts and his service in two military branches to come up with a plan that worked for him.

“Her countless e-mails and reminders really express that she genuinely cared for my future education,” he wrote. “Her excitement of education is infectious and motivating. Her professionalism as a counselor has motivated me to be a lifelong learner.”

In making a presentation to Hoch and Aker at the base’s Education Center, the APG Garrison Commander, Col. Johnny Casiano, praised them for, “their unwavering support of the soldiers.”

“Your expertise has proven invaluable and has garnered numerous praiseworthy, interactive customer evaluation comments,” he said. “Additionally, your contributions directly honor and support our servicemembers who seek to increase their education.”

Casiano said he strongly supports soldiers’ commitment to their formal education. “The combination of experience in the military and education is a valuable asset that can serve a soldier well as they move up the ranks or transition to a career outside the military.”

“The UMGC Aberdeen team is a clear example of the personal connection the university makes with each and every student,” said Nora Graves, UMGC’s regional director for Stateside Military Operations. “Military students, especially, need to feel connected, valued, motivated; Amy and Cherie are consummate, caring professionals who understand how personal this journey is and they are eager to provide a connection and motivate their students throughout their academic journey.”

In an interview, Aker said how rewarding her UMGC job has been both at Aberdeen and throughout her career, to include her work with Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital.

“I’ve had some students walk in here and they’re so lost, they don’t know what exactly they want to do,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see the growth of a student.”

Aker explains that the personal, face-to-face relationship promotes a more distinctive, empathetic connection to her students allowing her to help guide and mentor.  Aker’s personal journey with curative cancer treatments has added an even more layered connection with her students.   

Hoch said, “Students all have their unique story about their educational goals or where they are on their life’s journey or their history in the military.

“They may have limited time left in the military, and they often want to complete a degree before getting out and facing new challenges in the civilian world,” she added.

Hoch goes through their records to see how many college credits they already have earned from their military training and other educational institutions.  She may recommend advanced placement tests to help save time toward earning a degree. She works with students to find ways to pay for their out-of-pocket education expenses which may include other sources beyond tuition assistance, to include financial aid and scholarship options.

She said she is currently working with an entire family — husband, wife and daughter – seeking her help and using her as their collective resource.

“It’s just being able to find that unique way to help students based on their situation,” she said. “We want to do what’s best for the student and help them with their goals.”

UMGC Advances Diversity in the Field of Certified Financial Planners

In the last decade, financial businesses and organizations have put an emphasis on hiring more women and people from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is helping in this effort by opening doors to new generations of certified financial planners (CFPs). 

In 2020, UMGC joined the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) School Voucher Program, an initiative of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to encourage careers in the securities industry. It is coordinated for educational institutions with enrollments that reflect high levels of diversity. The vouchers pay the entire cost for students to participate in SIE exams. Minority students make up more than half of UMGC’s total enrollment, and 52 percent of all UMGC degrees and certificates awarded in 2020 went to minority students.

Last year, UMGC gave away nearly 30 SIE vouchers and this year FINRA presented the School of Business with 50 more opportunities for students to take the SIE test. By passing the SIE exam, students distinguish themselves from their peers’ when seeking internships or jobs.

“What the FINRA voucher and SIE test does is the first step towards a jump start. If someone shows up and says I passed the SIE exam, then their resume goes to the top of the heap because the employer does not have to pay for training,” said Department of Finance and Economics Director Kathleen Sindell, who also leads UMGC’s CFP Program.  

The SIE test, FINRA’s general industry exam, assesses basic knowledge of financial products, risks, the structure and function of the securities industry and its regulatory agencies, and regulated and prohibited practices. The majority of FINRA voucher participants are finance majors or graduate students in the MBA program.

“FINRA plays a critical role in ensuring the integrity of America’s financial system—all at no cost to taxpayers,” according to the website of the government-authorized nonprofit. Working under the supervision of the Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA writes and enforces rules governing the ethical activities of all registered broker-dealer firms and registered brokers in the United States. It also examines firms for compliance with those rules and fosters market transparency. Investor education is a component of its work.  

According to studies by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, fewer than 3.5 percent of the 80,000 certified financial planners in the United States in 2017 were Black or Latino. Another CFP board study, citing reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, found only 23 percent were women. The same reports noted that fewer than a third of all U.S. financial advisors are women.   

“I know in the long run for our students, if they take the SIE exam and pass, they will get more attention from the employer, frequently receive a hiring bonus, and we’re going to see a more ethnically diverse financial services industry,” Sindell said.

Gender Diversity in Cybersecurity Starts with Early Education and Overcoming Biases

Historically, women’s path to STEM-related careers has been challenging, whether through unconscious bias, lack of early education and mentoring, or work-life balance hurdles. According to the latest research by the non-profit cybersecurity certification group (ISC)2, men continue to dramatically outnumber women in the field—only 24 percent of cybersecurity professionals are female—and pay disparity persists.  Still, there was a bright spot: The report found that women in the field are earning leadership positions in higher numbers. 

What is the most effective way to close the gender gap in cybersecurity? Loyce Pailen, Valorie King, and Tamie Santiago, members of the UMGC School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology faculty, share their thoughts and experiences.  

 Loyce Pailen, D.M., senior director of the Center for Security Studies, believes that embedding cybersecurity into media and popular culture will lead to early education and increased diversity. 

I firmly believe that early cybersecurity education, which incorporates the interdisciplinary nature of cyber-related topics and careers, will help increase gender diversity in cybersecurity through expanded exposure in all media, with special emphasis on social media. Political agendas, daily news about cyber breaches and personal injury from cyberattacks will force more people to engage and focus on the cyber concerns of the future. 

These forces will energize our society to put more emphasis on cyber in elementary and secondary schools on both the technical and non-technical sides. To support this effort, we need to see cyber make it to the forefront of our minds through media and popular culture that includes diverse players in multidisciplinary careers. TV shows and social media are featuring more cybersecurity themes today, which will engrain some of the concepts.

 Professional mentors helped Valorie King, Ph.D., director of UMGC’s Cybersecurity Management and Policy Program, overcome education bias early on and work-life challenges later. 

Throughout my career, I was guided and mentored by a succession of managers, executives and senior executives—all women—in the U.S. Department of Defense. Following in their footsteps, I mentor women who are just starting out in the field. 

Early preparation in advanced math prepared me for college [and a B.S. in computer science]. However, 15 years into my career, motherhood-related work-life balance challenges derailed my career advancement. As a full-time mother, I made sure that my daughter had access to math, science and computer classes and resources that neither public nor private schools provided because STEM wasn’t yet a priority for girls. 

Re-entering the workforce was not easy and it took almost a year to find a well-paying job as a management consultant. Along the way, mentors helped me identify ways to update my technical and soft skills. My mentors also encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree. During my degree program, peers supported me and provided a professional network that led me to my next career fields, information assurance and later cybersecurity. I now lead an academic program where my duties allow me to continue mentoring and coaching cybersecurity professionals who are building and improving their skillsets through advanced studies and teaching in the discipline.

Tamie Santiago, M.S., D.B.A., collegiate professor in the School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology, maintains that we must overcome unconscious biases if we’re going to close the gender gap.

Unconscious biases often lead to conclusions that frame inquisitiveness as nosiness, curiosity as potentially self-destructive, and the gift of organizing and leadership as being “bossy.” A girl or woman who is investigative is often considered “nosy or a busybody.” One who has great attention to detail and organization is thought of as “controlling.” Someone who demonstrates the gift of problem-solving may be considered a trouble-maker, while another who has a fascination with the mechanics and methods of things may be looked at as being weird. 

However, these are the very skills and traits needed in the cybersecurity field. The making of great digital forensic experts, data analytic scientists, cyber technologists, and management and policy professionals all draw from the strength of these talents. 

How do we overcome these gendered biases? Mentors who can observe and correctly discern the importance of raw talent and the gifts in others will recognize the hidden biases in language and labels and will know how to avoid or dismiss them. Young women and girls who are fortunate enough to be mentored will see a future far greater than otherwise imagined. 

Mentees value mentors with whom they identify or have shared values. They also feel a sense of connection to mentors who positively challenge them academically and in discovery. I should know—I’m one of them! Correctly harnessing, properly directing and creatively exposing young women and girls often and early to the field of cybersecurity are key success factors.

With demand from both the public and private sectors, cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing career sectors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 33 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. With a median pay of $103,590 (as of March, 2020), combined with growth in the frequency of cyberattacks, demand for information security analysts is expected to be very high. Initiatives to eradicate bias, promote early education and encourage mentorship are vital to supporting women in this field, now and in the future. 

Gregory W. Fowler, PhD, Inaugurated as Seventh President of University of Maryland Global Campus  

Dr. Fowler pledges to meet students where they are, offer learning experiences that align with student and workforce needs, and transform lives, one student at a time

WATCH VIDEO OF INAUGURATION

Gregory W. Fowler, PhD, was inaugurated Thursday as the seventh president of University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and the first African American to hold the title. During the investiture held at the College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and live streamed to a global audience, University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor Jay Perman called upon Fowler to “reframe who we serve, and how we serve them, and to reimagine what education and access look like in the 21st century.” 

In accepting the charge, Dr. Fowler said that “at the core of every surging river, every breaking wave, is a single drop of water. We will work to create those rivers of change and those waves of progress by transforming lives, one learner at a time.” 

Dr. Fowler went on to say that he will build on the university’s 75-year heritage to provide new ways to interact with students and offer them the education and training they need in these turbulent times. As the seventh president of UMGC, which has served adult students in the workforce and in the military since its founding, Dr. Fowler is working within an educational environment still adjusting to the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

 “We must have the courage to stop reinventing the wheel and, instead, build a launchpad for spaceships,” Dr. Fowler said. “We dare not rest on our laurels. Just as the higher education industry and landscape changes, just as the American military continues to evolve, so too must the ways we serve our various populations.”

READ DR. FOWLER’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS

“In the post-pandemic world, where many are rethinking their priorities, we will evaluate our assumptions and adjust our strategies,” Dr. Fowler said. “Those who are part of the Great Resignation will need new skills, and they will not be willing to drop everything to attend classes full time and face-to-face.” 

Dr. Fowler began his tenure as president on Jan. 4, 2021. The inauguration formalizes his leadership. 

The ceremony began with presidents of other USM universities—in full academic regalia—entering the ceremony in the order of their institutions’ founding, followed by Chair of the USM Board of Regents Linda Gooden, who is a double graduate of UMGC, and Chancellor Perman. UMGC Chief Academic Officer Blakely Pomietto carried the university mace. 

“Greg Fowler is uniquely suited to build upon UMGC’s impressive 75-year legacy and lift this institution to even greater heights,” Gooden said. “He is a nationally recognized scholar. He is an acknowledged leader in developing innovative learning models.” 

Dr. Lawrence Leak, who served as interim president during the presidential search, praised Dr. Fowler as a “visionary leader.” 

“When I met Greg for the first time, almost 15 months ago, I was immediately impressed by his insight, his engagement and his eagerness to tackle the challenges at hand energetically,” Leak said. “He is a skilled administrator and distinguished scholar, and he possesses a keen sense of purpose and a passion for our mission.” 

As the first African American president of UMGC, Leak said, Dr. Fowler is leading a university “that boldly embraces diversity in all forms and touches the lives of so many individuals of color, both here and abroad.” 

A host of Maryland elected officials, led by Gov. Larry Hogan and members of the Maryland congressional delegation, including Sen. Chris Van Hollen, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, as well as Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, offered video tributes to the new president. 

Video greetings from UMGC alumni were also aired during the ceremony. They included Florent Groberg, who received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in 2015 for his act of valor while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Groberg tackled a suicide bomber and saved the lives of several people he was escorting. As he recovered from his injuries, he earned a UMGC Master of Science in Management with a specialization in intelligence management. 

“I remember my time as a student here, and the people I met—my classmates, my peers, the teachers who spent so much time in my studies, in my learning but, most importantly, in the network I built,” Groberg said. “Today, I am proud to say that I am a member of this family. I am excited for the future of this university, its future students and its network.” 

Dr. Blair Hayes, UMGC’s ombudsman, vice president and chief diversity officer, who served as co-emcee along with Nikki Sandoval, associate vice president for Institutional Advancement at UMGC, read a letter from President Joe Biden congratulating the university on its 75th anniversary.  

“Education is the one field that makes all others possible,” Biden wrote. “We have all been shaped by educators who have sparked our curiosity, helped us find confidence, encouraged our creativity and inspired us to build a better world. Institutions like yours not only educate our students—they shape the future.” 

William R. Roberts, chair of the UMUC Ventures Board of Directors and honorary chair of the UMGC Presidential Inaugural Committee, highlighted the significance of Fowler’s arrival in a challenging time for the workforce: “Today, UMGC’s mission is more relevant than ever. The demand for skilled workers and principled leaders has never been greater, nor has the need for a visionary leader to guide the university in a time of dramatic change in higher education. We are fortunate to have that leader in Greg Fowler, whose experience and vision will enable this fine university to broaden its reach and change our world in positive ways for generations to come.” 

Dr. Fowler joined UMGC after serving as president of Southern New Hampshire University Global Campus. In his nearly nine years there, he led efforts to develop competency-based online and hybrid programs to meet the demands of workforce and global communities. His programs had reached disadvantaged students in Los Angeles, refugees in Africa and the Middle East, and learners in Mexico and Colombia. Earlier, Dr. Fowler held senior-level academic and administrative positions at Western Governors University.   

Dr. Fowler graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta; for two years, he was a Charles A. Dana Scholar at Duke University. Working as a teen at the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park, he said he “learned the power of a coordinated team, of considering user experience and of treating customers as guests in your home.” 

After graduation, he worked for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as an outreach specialist, where he strove to “bring new voices into our conversations and to empower underserved populations.”   

While at NEH in Washington, D.C., he earned a master’s degree in English from George Mason University and then taught literature and American studies at Penn State University, Erie while pursuing a doctorate in English/American Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo. A two-time Fulbright Scholar, he also holds an MBA from Western Governors University and completed programs in higher education administration, executive leadership and negotiation at Harvard University.  

Dr. Fowler thanked donors who have helped raise more than $175,000 for an inauguration scholarship fund in his honor, saying he was “touched and deeply grateful.” The fund will support students facing hardship due to extenuating circumstances.  

“We must help those whose voices have been heard the least, who the status quo has too often left isolated or homebound, unseen or unheard,” Dr. Fowler said. “It may well be the single mother or father struggling to provide, or the soldier in a war zone who dreams of making a new life for her or his loved ones at home. These are the lives we can change.” 

He said that students often fail because “life happens,” not because they cannot comprehend or master the course content. Today, technology allows us to identify students who are struggling, and we can and must wrap them in a cocoon of support.   

Dr. Fowler also spoke of how his father and mother revered education and public service, encouraging him and his seven brothers and sisters as they advanced into higher education for the family’s first time and embraced successful careers that helped others. The new president’s parents and six of his seven siblings and their family members attended the inauguration. 

“My life is a testimony that in transforming lives, we transform families,” Dr. Fowler said. “And if we can transform families, we can transform communities. If we can transform communities, we can transform nations. And if we can transform nations, we can transform the world.” 

Seamless Pathway for Transfer Students Earns UMGC Top Spot on U.S. News Short List Ranking

By Mary A. Dempsey

When Nina Bridgers decided to pursue her longstanding dream of a job in the tech field, she pinpointed University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC)—the institution that U.S. News Short List ranks as No. 1 in the nation for transfer students—as the lynchpin of her plan.

Nina Bridgers

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bridgers enrolled at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland to complete an associate degree that she sidelined to care for her sick mother years earlier. She then carried credit from that community college degree to UMGC, where she is working toward a Bachelor of Science in computer networks and cybersecurity. 

Bridgers liked UMGC because of its partnership with the community college and the cascade of support offered students, including academic coaches, easy transfer of past credits, flexible online classes, and access to financial aid. Bridgers said UMGC understands the special challenges faced by students who move from one educational institution to another.

The U.S. News Short List, which teases out individual data points in hopes, the magazine says, of “providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel…,”, reached the same conclusion.

Kristophyre McCall

“The U.S. News rankings reiterate what is part of our DNA, that we are the destination school for transfer students,” said Kristophyre McCall, chief transformation officer at UMGC. “We are a great and flexible place for transfer students to bring their experiences. We are open to maximizing the acceptance of their credits, whether from prior learning or on-the-job experience.

“Unlike a lot of universities, we don’t require students to re-learn knowledge they already have,” he added.

Not all U.S. universities accept transfer students. One of the biggest distinguishers for UMGC is its willingness to accept transfer credits—up to 90 credits. UMGC enrolled more than 9,500 new transfers in fall 2020. Even more, it has a 100 percent acceptance rate, compared with 65 percent for higher education as a whole. The No. 2 transfer school in the U.S. News Short List analysis is California State University, Northridge, with 6,727 new transfer students in fall 2020 and a 67 percent acceptance rate. 

A 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office found that students who moved between public schools — the majority of transfer students — lost an average of 37 percent of their credits. Transfers from private for-profit schools were even more challenging. Those students lost an estimated 94 percent of their credits, stretching out their investment in time and money to get a degree.

“At UMGC we have the ability to assess and accept credits where other universities don’t,” McCall said. Beyond credits from other academic institutions, the university also accepts credits for prior learning obtained through certain workplace or military training. 

McCall said UMGC’s strength is that it promotes its transfer-friendly reputation and strategically builds systems and processes that enable students to know how many of their credits will transfer, the degree programs that best match their career aspirations, and the courses they need each semester. The university also helps students navigate the complexities of financial aid and other payments options.

The UMGC website carries an online tool that assesses credits acquired in previous college studies. Students also can contact the admissions office to learn how many of their credits will transfer. They usually can have their transcript evaluated within 48 hours of submitting it. 

“Our goal is to make the process as seamless as possible,” McCall said.

UMGC’s transfer-friendly reputation owes much to its expanding roster of partnerships with community colleges. The university currently has more than 100 such alliances, including one with the California Community Colleges System, which represents 116 schools. Students transferring to UMGC from partner schools are guaranteed admission and put on mapped out pathways toward their degrees. 

Transfer students have become important for the future of higher education, largely because the numbers of traditional students—those who start college right out of high school—are falling in tandem with a decline in U.S. population growth.

“The population of traditional students, starting in 2024 and 2025, will decrease about 15 percent,” McCall explained. “As the market for traditional-aged college students gets tighter, universities and educational organizations are going to be focusing on adult learners, transfer students and different types of credentials that might be the focus of those students.”

There is another element that distinguishes transfer students and makes UMGC a great destination. Transfer students know how to achieve in higher education.

“As a group, transfer students … have proven to be especially successful, in large part because they already have had experience in an academic environment before they reach UMGC,” said Chris Motz, vice president for academic outreach and corporate alliances. “They understand the landscape and have experience navigating a college-level course.”

Chris Motz

That doesn’t mean the pursuit of a degree is easy. Transfer students often juggle jobs and family responsibilities while studying.

“A lot of transfer students haven’t been to school for quite some time, so it is about building a support mechanism around them to get them comfortable being back in the classroom. It’s about getting students on track or keeping them on track for graduation,” Motz said. “We have a student-success coach model that wraps all our services and helps our students be successful.”

Bridgers said she enrolled at UMGC because it works hard “to ensure students don’t feel lost coming into a new environment.” The university accepted almost all her community college credits as well as 10 credits from other studies. That gave her a strong jumpstart on her bachelor’s degree.

“What I like about UMGC is that they invest … in their students’ lives,” Bridgers said. “For instance, when I was first admitted to the university, I was set up immediately with a career coach and adviser. They checked in with me weekly, sometimes daily. 

“They wanted to discuss my options. They wanted to make sure I felt confident about the degree program. They were always on point to say, ‘You’re a good fit for this. You look like you’re heading on a good path,’” she continued. “They anticipated my questions and needs, and they thought out a calculated approach to apply to me as a transfer student.”

She said they also provided information that secured a scholarship for her and they connected her with UMGC resources that would help her academic journey. The university’s use of open resource educational materials for courses, rather than expensive textbooks, saved her money.

“I’m a working professional with little time to explore every strategic angle. UMGC takes the hard work, the guesswork, out of it. They put me on a direct path, and my studies are going great,” Bridgers said.

Bridgers has worked for the D.C. government in an administrative job since 2008. With a tech degree under her belt, she will look for a position as a government systems administrator or systems engineer.

Career changers and students returning to higher education after an interruption make up a significant part of UMGC’s enrollment. But there are many other reasons why students transfer schools. They may be unhappy with their college experience and seek a better fit. They may be changing majors and want a school with a more prominent degree program. Rising tuitions or fees may push them toward more affordable educational institutions. 

Many UMGC transfer students also come from the U.S. military, the original population that the university was created to serve 75 years ago.

Vice President for Academic Quality Christopher Davis said it was satisfying to be spotlighted by U.S. News & World Report, but the university is not resting on its laurels.  

Christopher Davis

“The recognition shows we’re doing a good job, but there’s so much more that we can do to create an even better experience for the students,” he said. “One thing we’re working at is increasing the number of agreements we have, whether with other universities or academic institutions.”

Davis said more credit for on-the-job training, including for military students, also fits into UMGC’s strategy for helping students complete their degrees in the shortest time possible. He noted that the Bachelor of General Studies program has proven a useful path for students who have lots of elective credits they want to transfer.

“It’s all about asking how we can maximize using students’ credits toward a degree,” he said.

Davis, who also teaches, underscored UMGC’s agility in helping nontraditional students meet their career goals.

“I had a student at UMGC who was 60. She worked in digital forensics for a government contractor, and she wanted to get hired by the government—but she needed a bachelor’s degree,” Davis said. “She already had expertise but she needed that degree. There was a real economic incentive and a career advantage.”

Unlike more traditional universities, Davis noted, UMGC is focused on workforce opportunities. “It’s core to our mission to be career-oriented,” he explained.

He also noted that UMGC works hard to ensure students are the right fit. 

“We talk to students about their purpose and goals, their motivation and their values, and we connect all those things,” Davis said. “If a student doesn’t know those, it’s too expensive in time and money for them to be here. The consequences if they don’t finish their degree are more significant.”   

Bridgers is looking forward to completing her bachelor’s program at the end of 2023—some 25 years after she left high school. At that time, both Bridgers, who was at a community college, and her sister, who was enrolled at UMGC, had to leave their studies to care for their mother. By the time their mother recovered, Bridgers was entrenched in a full-time job.

Bridgers powered through her studies during COVID-19 lockdowns while continuing to work 40 hours a week. She even squeezed out time to keep up her freelance business, iHeart Jesus Creative Designs, focusing on illustrations, logos, publications, and graphic design.

As she works on her bachelor’s degree, she’s added a new goal: to obtain a master’s degree. “I would like to pursue that so I can one day become an adjunct professor,” she said. 

University of Maryland Global Campus and Amazon Announce New Phase of Education Partnership

Amazon’s Career Choice Program Now Provides Full Tuition to Learn New Skills for Career Success at Amazon or Elsewhere

Adelphi, MD (March 3, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus has embarked on a new phase of its education partnership with Amazon and the company’s industry-leading Career Choice employee benefit program, which will include increasing the education benefit and expanding opportunities available to the company’s hourly employees.

Eligible employees will now have access to all UMGC undergraduate degree programs, including workforce-relevant areas such as business, cybersecurity and data science.  UMGC will waive all application fees and Amazon will pay 100 percent of tuition. UMGC offers additional cost savings through its use of digital resources, which have replaced costly publisher textbooks in most courses.

“We are proud to continue our partnership with Amazon as we increase our commitment to the company’s thousands of hourly employees who live and work in Maryland and across the country,” said Greg Fowler, president of UMGC. “The intentional focus that both organizations have to work together to build a highly skilled workforce has been evident from the beginning of our relationship in 2019.”

In this new phase of the partnership, Amazon employees who take classes at UMGC will have the benefit of the university’s new “success coach” model, which was launched in 2021. Under this new model, students are paired with an advisor who works with them continuously as they progress toward a degree, helping to increase retention and program completion.

Amazon’s Career Choice program is an education benefit that empowers employees to learn new skills for career success at Amazon or elsewhere. The program meets individual learners where they are on their education journey through a variety of education and upskilling opportunities including full college tuition, industry certifications designed to lead to in-demand jobs and the development of foundational skills, including English language proficiency and high school diploma and GED completion.

In the U.S., the company is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 employees by 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.

Amazon’s Career Choice program has a rigorous selection process for educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements and in general offering learning experiences that lead to career success.

“We’re looking forward to UMGC continuing as an education partner for Career Choice, and now adding to the hundreds of best-in-class offerings available to our employees,” said Tammy Thiemann, Global Program Lead of Amazon’s Career Choice program. “We’re committed to empowering our employees by providing them access to the education and training they need to grow their careers, whether that’s with us or elsewhere. We have intentionally cultivated a partner network of third-party educators and employers committed to providing excellent education, job placement resources and continuous improvements to the experience. Today, more than 50,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in Career Choice, and we have seen firsthand how it can transform their lives.”

For more information on Amazon’s Career Choice, visit:

https://www.amazoncareerchoice.com/home

For more information on UMGC, visit:

https://umgc.edu/amazoncc  

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military servicemembers and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.

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

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

UMGC Doctor of Business Administration Program Recognized by CEO Magazine

Adelphi, Md. (March 1, 2022)—CEO Magazine recently recognized University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) School of Business as home to one of the world’s best Doctor of Business Administration programs. UMGC was ranked among more than 100 of the top DBA programs for the third year in a row.

“Our DBA program’s continued recognition is driven in part by our desire to shape executive-level working professionals by engaging them in research and analysis of real-world management issues,” said Ravi Mittal, PhD, chair of the Department of Business Administration at UMGC.

CEO Magazine’s rankings assess a college or university’s quality of faculty, geography and international standing. 

“It is also a testament to our outstanding faculty who are deeply committed to the academic success and lifelong learning of our students,” added Mittal.

UMGC’s DBA program, formerly the Doctor of Management program, attracts scholar-practitioners who excel at leadership roles in the for-profit, nonprofit, government and nongovernmental organizations, including higher education.  UMGC’s cohort-based DBA takes a minimum of three years to complete, which includes in-person residencies and a dissertation.

For more information about the Doctorate in Business Administration program and its course requirements, visit umgc.edu

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military service members and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.

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

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