UMGC Professors, Students and Alumni Share Success Stories of Women in Business

Fewer women than men tend to select careers in business, but they are making inroads. Women in management, business and financial operations had higher salaries than female workers in any other major occupation category in 2020, according to new data from a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Business schools can play a powerful role in encouraging women to pursue business careers, in exposing them to strong role models, and in opening opportunities to network with business professionals.       

Currently, more than 13,000 women are enrolled in an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, certificate or doctorate program within the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) School of Business. Businesses are booming, and empowering women are working their way to the top.

UMGC faculty in business education said women in business are increasing in visibility. To round out Women’s History Month celebrating women’s achievements, faculty discussed ways to advance women pursuing business degrees.

Anna Seferian, PhD, acting dean of the School of Business, says UMGC provides role models for women pursuing degrees.

“The role of business education is not limited to developing business acumen and hard skills in management, finance, marketing and other related areas. Business education motivates and inspires people to reach for higher goals, to be a better version of themselves and, through that, to be a positive force in our society. 

“The role of women in business and society is more visible now than ever, a major driving force behind so many changes and achievements. As we [as a society] continue to learn to be more inclusive and diverse, we [in the UMGC School of Business] serve as role models in our student’s educational journey. We motivate and inspire our students, just as our students motivate and inspire our faculty. It’s a rewarding experience.”

Freda Powell-Bell, PhD, director of the human resources program and collegiate professor, encourages her students’ success.

“As a professor I try to do three things to motivate my students, especially women, to stay the course and complete their business degrees. First, I try to share stories and examples of successful business professionals in the workforce and in the world as part of our online or hybrid classroom discussions. 

“Secondly, I share information with my students through classroom announcements about upcoming events, presentations, speakers, conferences and summits, such as the SHRM [Society for Human Resource Management] Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference or Women Spanning the Globe Conference, so that they will be able to see talented women in the field and gain an opportunity to network with both professional women and men.

“And third, I share my own personal testimony with my students to be a living example of a successful business professional. I want them to understand the benefits of persevering and the rewards and challenges they will face. I want them to leave out of the class saying, ‘if Professor Powell-Bell could do it, so can I!’”

Kathleen Sindell, director of the finance and economics department and director of the Certified Financial Planners (CFP) program, has multiple strategies to help students stay the course: 

“Provide clear instructions, use examples that students can identify with and maintain a steady online presence.”  

Kathleen Sobieralski, director of the accounting department and a certified public accountant (CPA), gives students successful strategies for achieving their goals.

“Your resume is strengthened as you enter the name of the school and degree earned. On an employment application, you may be asked to list colleges and universities attended and to check the box ‘Did you graduate?’ Let’s work to say ‘yes.’

“Read job postings. What education and certifications do they seek? This assists you in creating your path to success. Certifications such as the CPA or others such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) opens doors. Begin by earning your first certification.”  

Anthony Vrba, collegiate professor of management foundations, and nonprofit and association management, says engaging learners is a big part of teaching.

“The course MGMT 630 is one of the first classes that management students enroll in, and it is crucial that they have an engaging learning experience and know that they can complete an advanced degree. 

“Having an engaging environment can help students stay motivated, increase self-esteem, and continue in their programs. Part of that is a focus on having a variety of learning experiences incorporating videos, tables, reports and other assignments as would be experienced in the work environment. Having a variety of resources is also important, such as lectures, readings from practitioners, and scholarly sources and videos. Videos can include talks, lectures, or feedback video.  

“Sharing experiences is the best way I find to connect with students, especially to show how concepts learned in the course can be used in their jobs. Being a retired U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer, I have had many experiences that I share.

“Relationship-building is one concept that is very important in business and covered in our courses. I was the only female manager in the eight-state recruiting area, and I had to work hard to build relationships with others and be able to keep up with communications and strategies that were going on within the organization. At that time, I would have to go to the smoking area to get things done. That is where the men made decisions on policy and strategy, which was important for me to know. 

“Meeting people in their areas can help build relationships. These … can include connecting with people at conferences, in the lunchroom, even at the turkey trot. You never know when you can expand your network to improve your future.”  

Female students enrolled in UMGC business degree programs also shared their thoughts in honor of Women’s History Month.  

Ivory Cooper, a graduate student in management, information systems and services and the former president of the SHRM Student Council, underscores the opportunities the School of Business has given her.

“UMGC has an assortment of opportunities and is inclusive in its approach to learning and teaching. (…) From its robust career support services, various volunteering initiatives, and club activities, at no point have I felt my ideas being dismissed or was I discouraged from going into a field that many women are not represented in, like management and information systems. 

“My teachers have always gone the extra mile to ensure I trust the university but, also, myself, and [I] feel confident when I step out into the world,” Cooper said.

A master’s degree candidate in criminal justice management since October 2021, Lakerera Little says a UMGC degree will allow her to rise in her career field.

 “I wanted to move up in my current job role as a family law clerk. Hopefully, after graduation, I am able to manage my own team.”  

It’s Tax Season: Training Accountants through Real-World Experience

Tax Day is just weeks away and according to the IRS’ website, all taxes need to be submitted by April 18. 

In order to prepare tomorrow’s accountants for future Tax Days, University of Maryland Global Campus offers both bachelor and master’s degrees in accounting. 

UMGC alums are working with top accounting firms, including EY, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, Clifton Larson Allen, Crowe, Grant Thornton, and BDO.

“Our accounting program is very focused on using the professional resources that accountants utilize. We use irs.gov and focus on what you would do if you were working at a firm and your responsibility relates to tax,” said Kathleen Sobieralski, program director of the accounting department and a certified public accountant (CPA).

“Now what do we do at UMGC that’s so important for tax careers? Research. Our students research tax scenarios and go looking for documentation,” Sobieralski added.

Sobieralski said accounting expertise opens valuable employment pathways. During UMGC’s 2020-2021 academic year, 241 students graduated with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, and an additional 165 graduates received master’s degrees in accounting.  

“Applying for positions in the tax area and promoting your interest in tax opportunities can be a door opener for employment at many organizations. Seasonal work allows a firm to learn more about you as a professional and consider how you could be of value throughout the year,” Sobieralski said.

UMGC’s accounting program is recognized as an Internal Auditing Education Partnership Program (IAEP), which is endorsed by The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA). UMGC works closely with The IIA to develop a meaningful internal audit curriculum.

Both bachelor’s and master’s accounting students are required to take Federal Income Tax I, which is focused on tax obligations of individuals and other entities. The coursework enables students to conduct tax research, evaluate tax implications and complete an individual tax return. It also introduces them to tax policy and its evolution.

A second course strongly recommended for students seeking to become CPAs is Federal Income Tax II. This focuses on the taxation of business entities, including corporations. It also addresses capital stock, estates, and trusts. A CPA must meet specific state and education licensing requirements and pass the CPA exam.

“The real-world experience that UMGC professors bring to the classroom significantly enhanced my experience and enabled me immediately to apply lessons about how accounting works in the professional arena,” said Zachery Rager, who received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 2012 and a separate Certificate in Fraud Investigation. “It allowed me to appreciate the nuances that simply cannot be conveyed via a textbook.”

Rager said his professors provided insight into certification as a CPA, Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). In addition, he said, faculty “offered guidance to enhance my career.”

Since graduating from UMGC, Rager has served as a senior tax analyst, an accountant for the Department of Defense and IBS Government Services, and an acquisition professional and process engineer for the Technical Management and Assistance Corporation. Most recently, he was hired as a program manager for the Department of Defense. 

“My education with UMGC was so robust, that I also have recently been hired as an adjunct professor, allowing me to bring my professional experiences back to help the next generation of UMGC students,” added Rager, who earned a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) designation from the professional association known as AGA (the acronym for Advance. Grow. Accelerate.) and is preparing for his CPA exam.

Rager received an MBA from West Virginia University in 2021 and is now pursuing an M.S. in forensic accounting and fraud investigation, with plans to graduate later this year. He also is working toward a Doctor of Business Administration degree—with a focus on accounting—that he expects to complete in 2025.

UMGC students interested in taking the CPA exam are given study materials to aide in test preparation. Accounting professors provide advice on signing up for the test and researching information at the National Association of State Board of Accountancy

“At UMGC, we state in our college catalog and on our website professional licensure that you need to be aware of the requirements for the jurisdiction where you want to sit for the CPA exam and apply to be a certified public accountant,” Sobieralski said.

During the month of March, the accounting department collaborated with accounting organizations to inform students and alumni about career and certification opportunities. UMGC-sponsored events include:

Register for any of the remaining webinars at umgc.edu, which start at 7 p.m. EST. 

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.

Edward J. Perkins: “Warrior for Peace”

Editor’s Note: As UMGC commemorates African American Heritage Month, we remember one of our most distinguished graduates. This article, written by Alita Byrd, first appeared in the Summer 2007 issue of Achiever magazine. Edward J. Perkins—a 1967 graduate of University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus) and the first Black ambassador to apartheid South Africa—died on November 7, 2021, at the age of 92.

In 1986, when President Ronald Reagan named Edward Perkins U.S. ambassador to South Africa, people sat up and took notice. At the time, the South African government was still enforcing a strict system of apartheid, holding African National Congress leaders like Nelson Mandela behind bars, and using repressive laws to keep the majority black population from voting and achieving equality with whites. Perkins—a career diplomat, soldier, and 1967 UMUC graduate—would be the first black ambassador to the troubled country.

Perkins was no stranger to intolerance. He grew up in Louisiana in the 1930s, served in the recently desegregated U.S. military beginning in the early 1950s, and aspired to a career in the overwhelmingly white Foreign Service. And while working in Taiwan, he met and fell in love with Lucy, his wife-to-be—a beautiful girl from a very traditional Chinese family.

“I had the temerity to ask Lucy for a date,” said Perkins, “and she took her reputation in hand to go out with an American.” When Perkins proposed, Lucy’s father locked her in the house and told her brothers to make sure she stayed there. So Perkins sent a driver to rescue her at midnight while he organized a wedding for the next morning, Romeo-and-Juliet style.

“When her family found out she was married, they decided there was nothing they could do,” Perkins said. “Now we are good friends.”

Perkins was equally focused when it came to advancing his career. After first serving in the U.S. Army in Korea and Japan, he remained in Japan while studying Japanese. Always on the lookout for adventure, after returning to university studies in the United States, he and a buddy decided to join the French Foreign Legion, but found they didn’t have enough money to get to France. So Perkins joined the U.S. Marine Corps instead. He recognized the opportunity offered by UMUC’s overseas operations and soon earned his undergraduate degree.

“I think the professors were some of the best I’ve seen,” Perkins said. “Their presentations were challenging and the interest they generated among the students was genuine. One instructor I remember was probably one of the best math and statistics professors in the world. He actually made mathematics come alive.”

Around the same time, Perkins recalled two Foreign Service officers who had made a lasting impression on him when they spoke to his high school class.

“The travel attracted me, and learning languages,” he said. So Perkins took the Foreign Service exam. He didn’t get in, but he was undeterred. The next time, he was accepted and went on to build an impressive diplomatic résumé, serving on the ground in Africa and in policy in Washington, D.C.

He would need every bit of that persistence and experience as he tackled the post in South Africa, where the consequences of failure were grave indeed.

“There was a very tenuous relationship between the U.S. and South Africa back then,” said Perkins. “A growing number of Americans were insisting we should help dismantle apartheid. The president was convinced that if the U.S. did not lend a hand in helping to dismantle this racist government, there could be a race war in South Africa. He decided he had to do something quick and dramatic to show everyone that he did not countenance a government based on race and religion and advantage for one group of people over another. The secretary of state [George Shultz] recommended a black ambassador. He said it was time to send a professional diplomat, so they went down a list of about nine people and finally settled on me.”

Some saw Reagan’s decision to send a black ambassador to a segregated country as a political message to the South African government. But others—including the Reverend Jesse Jackson—criticized Reagan, whom they saw as racist, for doing too little too late. And many, both in the United States and South Africa, saw the appointment as little more than a symbolic step meant to quiet critics who were calling for tougher sanctions against the apartheid government.

Jackson went so far as to ask Perkins to refuse the assignment. But Perkins believed it was his duty as a Foreign Service officer to go, and, in November 1986, he took up his post in Pretoria with Lucy by his side.

“The assignment was to turn the embassy into a change agent,” said Perkins. “I wanted to make sure that everything I did, from the moment I arrived, was focused on bringing about political change in South Africa without violence. That’s what Reagan asked for.”

It was a daunting task. From the first, South African president P. W. Botha—never known for his polished manners—made clear his dislike for Perkins. When Perkins presented his credentials after arriving in South Africa, Botha shook his finger in Perkins’s face and warned him sternly, “I don’t want you getting involved in our affairs.”

But Perkins did get involved—first in Pretoria, then elsewhere around the country, working tirelessly for the duration of his posting. During apartheid, Pretoria was a symbol of white Afrikaaner rule and oppression. The city was hated and feared by black South Africans as a citadel of racist policies. But Perkins was determined not to bow to the rules. He instituted an embassy policy that forbade employees from patronizing establishments that did not accept black customers.

“Pretty soon, all the restaurants around the embassy in Pretoria— which were highly segregated—sent word that they would accept anyone,” Perkins said.

Next, the American embassy organized an exhibition at the art museum in Pretoria, showing the work of both black and white artists and sending invitations to both black and white guests.

“The museum managers were astonished that there were black artists in South Africa,” said Perkins. “[Today], these efforts might not seem all that dramatic, but in a place where segregation was so rigidly enforced, it was a [significant] step.”

Many resented those steps, no matter how small, and Perkins—who spent a great deal of time walking the streets of Pretoria—often was exposed to their open hostility.

“I was hissed at by young Afrikaaner mothers pushing their babies in strollers,” he said. “It was not an enjoyable assignment—it was stressful for all of us—but we had a job to do.”

He began to court the black community assiduously, making contacts around the nation. In Soweto, the sprawling black township outside Johannesburg, Perkins met with civic leaders; in Mamelodi, the largest black township outside of Pretoria, he met with religious leaders. He even met with activists in squatter camps outside Cape Town.

And while he tried to avoid the media spotlight, Perkins didn’t hesitate to make his convictions known.

“I sense a growing realization that a valid political system here must be one that correlates with the demographics of the country—not merely black participation or black cooperation, but a government that truly represents the majority of South Africans,” Perkins wrote in an article published in a South African journal in December 1987. While the United States insisted that this had been its policy all along, Time magazine called the statement “pure dynamite” and a “breakthrough.”

Every couple of months, Perkins flew back to the United States to brief Ronald Reagan on the situation in South Africa. And despite warnings to the contrary, Perkins recalled that he always felt fully supported by the administration.

“Once he made the decision [to appoint me], he never backed off,” Perkins said. “The Afrikaaners tried many ways to go around me to get to him. But Reagan’s response was always, ‘The U.S. ambassador speaks for the American people and this administration.’ Without that complete support, we couldn’t have done what we did. But the president gave me permission to make policy from the embassy in Pretoria—something that never happens.”

Perkins left South Africa before he had the satisfaction of seeing the apartheid government formally dismantled, but there was no question he had helped plant the seeds of change. And although violence occasionally flared as the old government was replaced, the country never spiraled into the civil war that so many feared.

Perkins, meanwhile, went on to serve as Director General of the Foreign Service (the first black officer to ascend to the top position), U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and ambassador to Australia. Now retired, he remains as busy as ever, serving at the University of Oklahoma as senior vice provost for international programs and executive director of the International Programs Centre, where he holds the Crowe chair in geopolitics.

In 2006, the University of Oklahoma Press published Perkins’s memoirs—aptly titled, Mr. Ambassador: Warrior for Peace.

After Career in Drama, 75-year-old Navy Veteran Finishes One Degree, Starts Another  

When 75-year-old Bruce Taylor decided to complete his bachelor’s degree in humanities at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) three years ago, he never pictured going straight into another degree program. Nonetheless, three weeks post-graduation he was pursuing a master’s degree in educational technology. 

Taylor completed his service in the Navy in 1972 and went on to graduate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London with a stage management diploma. He spent most of his career in opera, dance and theater, eventually finding his passion by sharing with others just how important it was to combine the arts with K-12 education, especially in the age of Common Core, the state grade-level standards instituted in 2010.

Taylor held workshops for school districts all over the country, teaching them how to integrate arts into reading and writing within Common Core. Once the workshops were completed, he embarked on his next adventure: to complete his college degree.

“I thought if I want to [continue] working with teachers and kids, why don’t I try the humanities, where there are several domains of learning in that. I already know the music and art part,” Taylor said.

As a young adult in Alaska, Taylor had completed a few years of college but had no idea what he wanted to do. He decided to make a change in 1967 and join the Navy. He trained as a Navy Russian linguist at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and attended Security School in San Angelo, Texas. He was first stationed outside Istanbul, Turkey employed as an analyst, and his last stop in the Navy was Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In Turkey, Taylor’s involvement with an amateur theater group persuaded him to go to drama school. During a tryout with Hugh Cruttwell, an influential English teacher of drama and principal at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Taylor was encouraged to pursue the stage management program.

“At RADA, you did every job in stage management that you find in the theater. We did props, makeup, built sets, and crewed them. There was also some acting, lighting—we did it all with no books,” Taylor said. “It was all practicum. I loved it and felt I could walk into a room and I would plugin, and I knew what to do.”

Upon graduation from RADA, Taylor wrote 300 letters seeking employment at every theater, dance, and opera company he knew. He accepted a job with the Seattle Opera, where he spent five years.

“My biggest achievement there was [that] I was the production stage manager for the first full Ring Cycle ever done outside of Germany. Now everyone is doing Wagner’s Ring Cycle,” he said.

In Seattle, he became interested in education and started going to schools to conduct workshops. That experience helped him in the next step of his career: the Opera Company of Philadelphia as both the production manager and the education director.  

“A colleague I had worked with in Seattle became the director of education at the Metropolitan Opera Guild, so she hired me to do programs since I was so close by in Philadelphia,” Taylor said. “I developed a project called Creating Original Opera, and the premise was you take a group of kids with a teacher and the kids create, compose, write, design, manage and perform their own original 30-minute musical theater piece.”

“That became a very big deal. At one point, there were more than 400 schools all over the world in about a dozen countries and 30 states all creating an original opera program,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Taylor published three books on arts and education: “The Arts Equation: Forging a Vital Link Between Performing Artists and Educators” in 1999, “Common Sense Arts Standards: How the Arts Can Thrive in an Era of Common Core” in 2013 and “Common Sense Common Core: Finding Common Ground of Clarity and Simplicity” in 2015.

Taylor moved from the Opera Company of Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Opera Theater, and he completed his career in the professional performing arts at the Washington National Opera as director of education in the U.S. capital.

“One of the nice things about the arts, and [what] I try to do with kids in reading and writing, is to provide them a real ownership piece in what they’re doing and why it should matter to them,” Taylor said.

Since starting at UMGC, where the courses he took in Alaska were credited toward his degree, Taylor said it took him a year to get into the groove of remote classes. He now spends hours and hours on research.

“I don’t know how a lot of the students at UMGC who are full-time parents or military personnel are able to do this because I make my own schedule and use my time anyway that I want,” said Taylor. “I’m in awe of what these students are doing and the fact that UMGC gives them the chance. That’s the biggest thing about UMGC. It gives people opportunity who want to engage in lifelong learning, which is awesome. “

Once Taylor graduated in December, he enrolled in UMGC’s master’s program in educational technology. He also began working on a paper titled “Reductionist Approach to English Language Arts.” He plans to submit the paper to the Journal for Educational Research and Practice for publishing consideration.

“Bruce is an exceptional humanities student, hardworking, intellectually curious, with a broad range of life experiences to draw upon,” said Steven Killings, PhD, program chair of humanities and philosophy at UMGC.

UMGC Mentors Share Their Career-Shaping Wisdom to Help Others

A mentor has the power to make a life-changing difference in someone else’s career. In recognition of National Mentoring Month this January, mentors in UMGC’s alumni career mentors program share insights about how they use their time and talent to help others reach their professional goals.  

“Mentoring has the potential to make a huge impact on up-and-coming professionals, which is why the university offers, Community Connect,” the increasingly popular mentor program, says Nikki Sandoval, associate vice president of alumni relations. “We’re so grateful to our talented and generous alumni who give so selflessly to help other professionals get ahead.” 

Here’s some key advice from some of UMGC’s alumni career mentors:  

Dr. Catherine Pearson ‘11 
Business and Management PAS, MBA 

Why do you mentor?  
When I contribute to the development of mentees to become more innovative thinkers, they can reframe their own experiences. They can consciously make informed decisions about their careers. When mentees accomplish their goals, I feel honored to celebrate with them. 

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?  
When choosing a career path, don’t be afraid to step out into an uncomfortable environment and experiment. Use LinkedIn or other social media platforms to leverage your research. Seek out professionals who currently hold the job title within the industry you want to pursue. Learning directly from professionals in your field will impact the direction of your career. Request a 15-minute phone call followed by a visit to the organization or a virtual orientation.  

Ask questions about the day-to-day demands of the job. Find out if your skills fit into the job or industry. Build on your skills and strengthen other areas. Be open to exploring opportunities that contribute to your desires of where you want to be in your career. Getting there may require change. Have a mindset of flexibility and implement the needed changes to get you there.  

Find a mentor with the experience and accomplishments that will most support you during your journey. Be sure the mentor’s values align with your values—filter on the importance of integrity. Engage and invest your time in getting to know your mentor. Demonstrate your potential by action. Follow up and share your progress, clarify what you want, and determine if they are a good fit to help you move from where you are to where you want to be. Cultivate the relationship  before  you ask them to be your mentor.   

How can a mentor help students who are just starting out?  
As mentors, we have to be careful not to assume that students have the same desires as we do, even though they may pursue the same career. Challenge students to maximize their potential in discovering their passion and where they fit into the world. Help them explore opportunities by providing resources and introducing them to partnering networks. Be that champion for them. Celebrate their successes to let them know they have support.  

What are some of the benefits of mentoring?  
As a mentor, I connect with mentees and build trust. They have a safe space to share their concerns, worries and personal life decisions that may affect their careers. Creating a safe space fosters a culture of growth and leadership for mentees. Mentoring helps stretch me, further develop as a leader and gain new insights into generational differences. 

What key lesson have you learned during your career? 
Challenges create growth and development opportunities. The bigger the challenge is, the stronger we become if we remain steadfast as we work through those challenging opportunities. 

Aisha Summers ’16 and ‘19 
Bachelor of Science in Laboratory Management, Master of Science in Biotech-Regulatory Affairs 

Why do you mentor? 

Mentoring is one of the ways I give back. Personally, I didn’t have much luck with mentorship when I began my professional career. I had to seek out most of the information I yearned for by reading career-advice blogs and then make sense of it all on my own. My hope is to be a source of information and support system to someone else that needs it.  

Most importantly, representation matters. I mentor so that someone else sees the reflection of a woman of color, mother, wife and person with dyslexia navigate a successful career.  

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals? 
Invest in yourself by keeping your resume up to date. You never know when you’ll need it to justify a promotion or entertain a new position.  

Avoid becoming complacent. Take on new challenges by volunteering for a task or project at work. This is how we grow as professionals and gain expertise in our industry or profession.  

How can a mentor help students who are just starting out? 
Students just starting out have a lot of questions and many times are overwhelmed or feel uncertain about what is next for them. The biggest help a mentor can provide a student who is just starting out is to be supportive and encouraging,  

What are some of the benefits of mentoring? 
Mentoring is a pathway to new professional relationships. A mentee can become a professional colleague. I love seeing a text or email from a mentee who wants to share a new achievement or success.  

What key lesson have you learned during your career? 
Eventually I learned to reduce stress and burnout. I bought a planner specifically for work. It helped me take notes in meetings, prioritize my tasks and better communicate my workload with my leadership. 

I have also learned that any position I hold needs to be mutually beneficial to the organization I work for and to myself. My advice is do not stay in any position that is not providing you an opportunity to grow personally and/or professionally. 

David Austin ’17 and ’20  
Master of Science in Cybersecurity Policy, MBA  

Why do you mentor?  
I mentor with the hope I can inspire other people that they are capable of doing anything they really see in their hearts and minds.  

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals?  
Have an open mind and be flexible. Most importantly, be prepared. There is no easy road in terms of paying your dues. The younger that you are, the more opportunities that come your way. Really be prepared to make sacrifices.  

What are some of the benefits of mentoring? 
The biggest benefit to mentees is that they start getting different ideas. I mention different ideas and different paths they may never have thought of before. I think that’s what’s helpful. 


What key lesson have you learned during your career?  
The one thing I learned from a security information perspective is that in in other businesses, we are taught to take the initiative and not ask permission to do things. That’s fine, but in cybersecurity, I learned that you have to ask permission. You have to work as a team.  

Esther Ndungu ‘15 
Bachelor of Science in Gerontology & Aging and Psychology 

Why do you mentor? 
As a military spouse and mother of two boys, attending school was an endeavor I did to better myself and to expand my knowledge on different subjects. I had a great learning experience while attending school at UMGC, so mentorship is my way of giving back to the school and a way to guide the current students to achieve their academic goals.  

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals? 
I would advise an upcoming professional to choose a career that is in line with their hobbies. They will be motivated and excited whenever they engage in work that they enjoy. 

How can a mentor help students who are just starting out? 
I did not have a mentor when I started college, and because of this, I made so many mistakes along the way by trying out everything. It became overwhelming, and at some point, I did not have the motivation to continue pursuing my educational endeavors. Guiding students who are just starting out to create practical schedules is essential in ensuring that they have enough time allocated to attend to personal matters, as well as staying active in school.  

What are some of the benefits of mentoring? 
Mentorship is like having VIP access to specialized information that would help one advance faster. The mentee gets to avoid some pitfalls because they can leverage both good and bad experiences from others, enabling them to implement aggressive strategies to their goals. 

What key lesson have you learned during your career? 

Over the cause of my career, I have come to learn the value of properly picking out electives in school and the importance of strategic partnering, or networking. In general, these present unique opportunities to expand an individual’s scope and enhance necessary skills for future growth and success. 

Keith Gruenberg ‘94 
Bachelor of Science in Management Studies 

Why do you mentor? 
I enjoy encouraging others and providing guidance and alignment to help them navigate an ever-changing world. I remember transitioning out of the military and all the unknowns and trying to work through all the challenges on my own. I’m hoping my mentoring helps reduce challenges and anxiety and results in each person taking a giant step forward in his or her career.     

What’s your best advice for up-and-coming professionals? 
Know what you are looking for or at least what gets you excited and network, network, network. There are many options out there, but you can speed up the process by knowing what you are looking for and what are your must-haves for a company. Building a broad network will hopefully get you introduced deeper into a great company with a great fit.   

How can a mentor help students who are just starting out? 
When a student is just starting out is the perfect time to connect with a mentor. A mentor can provide assistance on navigating college courses and aligning that to a potential career aspiration. Connecting with a mentor from the start allows you to build a relationship and grow with the student as they work through key education and employment decisions.   

What are some of the benefits of mentoring? 
Mentoring keeps me connected to the new workforce and keeps me connected with current trends in business. I want to be as prepared as possible to provide great support and guidance based on the current business situation. It also helps me to understand the concerns and focus for students getting ready to join the workforce. I feel like I’m making a difference and giving back.   

What key lesson have you learned during your career? 
Nothing comes easy in the real world. You have to want it and work for it to make it happen. If you don’t get it, pick yourself up, determine where you need to improve and try again. Persistence and tenacity are your friends.   

Interested in mentoring through UMGC’s Career Connect program? 
If you’re looking for a mentor or would like to sign up to become a mentor, visit careerquest.umgc.edu to learn more about UMGC Career Services and to register to participate in the Community Connect program. To speak with someone directly about the program, contact communityconnect@umgc.edu.

Read more UMGC Alumni News

UMGC Nursing Program Receives 10-Year Reaccreditation

Adelphi, Md. (Dec. 22, 2021)—The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) recently announced that the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) degree program at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), has been granted reaccreditation for 10 years. The accreditation distinguishes the program for its quality and spotlights UMGC for providing education at the highest standard.

“I am proud of this accomplishment. This would not be possible if we didn’t have an awesome team working on the program and dedicated faculty who ensure they are delivering a high-quality curriculum,” said Mary C. Schroeder, DNP (Doctorate in Nursing Practice), who directs the UMGC program.

Recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency, CCNE strives to improve public health by supporting and strengthening collegiate professional nursing education programs. Programs that seek accreditation from this agency undergo a rigorous evaluation by experts in the field.

“I am grateful for everyone’s hard work to ensure that our students are receiving a quality degree that they can be proud of and will enable them to move forward in their careers,” Dr. Schroeder said.

UMGC’s RN to BSN program offers registered nurses an opportunity to advance in their nursing careers or move into other public health areas. It also aids in preparation for graduate studies. More information about the RN to BSN program and its course requirements are found at umgc.edu.

About University of Maryland Global Campus
Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022, University of Maryland Global Campus is a world leader in innovative educational models with award-winning online programs in biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, information technology and other high-demand disciplines that underpin today’s increasingly technical, global workplace. With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family and military service. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate programs, including doctoral programs. A pioneer in distance education since 1947, UMGC is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver higher education that is accessible, high quality and low-cost.

FAA Capstone to Protect U.S. Airspace Helps Data Analytics Grads Advance their Military Careers 

Two active-duty servicemembers in the Master of Science in Data Analytics Program at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) have become the first students to complete a new capstone project co-sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

The goal of the FAA capstone was to detect when an aircraft deviates from its air route. Being able to spot and predict deviations quickly is critical to maintaining the integrity of FAA-imposed flight restrictions. 

“I participate in many roles in the battlespace,” said Sarah Gaylord, a captain in the U.S. Air Force and a recent graduate of the data analytics program. “I manage gas plans and airspace safety, aid fighter aircraft in their tactical intercepts and communicate a common operating picture of our area of responsibility to upper echelon leadership.”  

For Gaylord, who is busy with her work as a battle manager, participating in the FAA capstone was the perfect fit. Likewise for Oscar Cardec, a fellow graduate of the data analytics program who joined the Air Force in 2000 as an aerospace maintainer on AC-130H gunships.  

Capstone projects with industry partners are an invaluable part of the last course in the data analytics graduate degree program. Gaylord and Cardec earned their degrees this December. 

“Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, several partners discontinued their involvement with UMGC for a variety of reasons,” said Elena Gortcheva, program director of the Master of Science in Data Analytics. She intensified her search for industry partners last spring, and her deep alumni network paid off.  

“I have been using my professional contacts since 2015 to start projects with partners such as NASA, USAID, American Institute of Research and the Department of Defense,” Gortcheva said. The FAA capstone came about when a recent UMGC graduate, Sarah Eggum, led Gortcheva to Sherri Shearon of the Chief Data Office at the FAA. After several meetings with Shearon, the two arrived at a number of project proposals from different FAA units. They selected two for UMGC under adviser Mike Paglione of the FAA Research Division.  

The two projects, with UMGC professors Jon McKeeby and Hany Saleeb serving as advisers, are now part of the collection of capstone projects for data science.  

The Data Analytics Capstone course allows students to demonstrate, through hands-on experience, a complete data science experience that includes problem scoping, dataset preparation, comprehensive data analysis and visualization, and the use of advanced machine learning techniques to develop a predictive model.  

“Students must tell a story and explain their project approach and results along with recommendations for future work” said Gortcheva, who noted that capstones benefit both students and industry. “Students gain exposure to real analytics problems using industry data and, quite often, the industry partner will recruit them after having evaluated them on the job.”  

Gaylord brought a unique perspective to the capstone. “One of the functions of my job is airspace management and making sure the area we are in charge of stays safe, which is very similar to the air traffic control [ATC] function of the FAA,” she said. “The concepts of ATC are ideas that I have been working around for the last five years of my career, so I was excited to see if I could apply my experience to this new project.” 

Gaylord believes the FAA capstone project will help her progress in the Air Force. “I hope to get to 20 years of service and apply the lessons from this project to products in my own squadron,” she said. 

For Cardec, the capstone offered an opportunity to complement his academic accomplishments with a real-world perspective.  

“I successfully presented various classification predictive models, expanded on the rationale behind each of the models and elaborated on possible applications,” he explained. “The deliverables were immediately accepted by the Chief Data Office and lauded as novel groundwork for further expansions.”  

Paglione at the FAA mentored Cardec and Gaylord during the project, providing focus and guidance.  

“He offered insights into what would work and what wouldn’t for the project,” said Gaylord. “At one point, I started moving down path he thought wouldn’t work and he helped to steer me in a more beneficial direction.”  

At the conclusion of their capstone, Gaylord and Cardec presented to a team from the FAA Aviation Research Division and a data scientist from the Chief Data Office. The two-hour presentations described their traffic data research on spotting when aircraft deviate from the route the FAA has given them.  

The presentation brought positive outcomes. The FAA wants to continue working with future students in the UMGC program. The agency invited Gaylord and Cardec to present their findings to its upper management and executives, and the FAA now wants to hire them.  

Like many UMGC students who are balancing work and school, juggling the capstone amid the demands of military service was a challenge.  

“As a captain and instructor in an operational squadron, I have a lot of responsibilities just in the office alone, but I also have to maintain physical fitness standards,” said Gaylord. “I managed by working on most of my schoolwork over the weekends.”  

For Cardec, the capstone was part of an important personal accomplishment.  

“Being the first person in my family, where English is a second language, to attain a graduate degree means a lot,” he said. “I am grateful for the shoulders that have carried me to this point, and I am looking forward to additional challenges and opportunities to put in practice my skillset before embarking again onto my next educational endeavor.”  

Maryland Del. Jazz M. Lewis, Entrepreneur, Veteran and Alumna Ginger Miller to Keynote University of Maryland Global Campus Commencement Ceremonies on December 18 at Xfinity Center in College Park

Some 2,000 Graduates, along with their Guests to Attend Two In-Person Ceremonies 

Ceremonies to be Livestreamed and Include Virtual Components 

Adelphi, Md. (Dec. 9, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) will host its winter commencement on Saturday, Dec. 18. UMGC will award more than 8,000 degrees this winter, with nearly 2,000 graduates, along with their guests, attending two in-person ceremonies at Xfinity Center in College Park, Md. 

NOTE: All graduates and their guests must show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to be admitted to the Xfinity Center. 

Keynoting the morning ceremony, which begins at 9:15 a.m., will be entrepreneur, veteran, and UMGC alumna Ginger Miller, who is founder, president, and CEO of Women Veterans Interactive Inc. She was recently appointed by President Biden to the USO Board of Governors.  

Addressing graduates in the afternoon ceremony, which begins at 3:45 p.m., will be the Honorable Jazz M. Lewis (District 24, Prince George’s County), who was appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates in February 2017. He serves on the Appropriations Committee and has worked tirelessly to focus on the issues important to everyday Marylanders. 

Both the morning and afternoon ceremonies will be livestreamed. A link to the livestream can be accessed on the UMGC Commencement website: Commencement | UMGC. In addition, a virtual recognition website will be available with personalized slides for more than 7,200 graduates​, which include photos and messages from graduates. 

Each ceremony features a graduate selected in a competitive process to address their classmates. Brittany Renfro (Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security) was chosen to speak at the morning ceremony, while Jayla Nowlin (Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology) will address the afternoon ceremony. 

Here is a snapshot of UMGG 2021 Winter Graduating Class:  

  • Number of graduates worldwide: 8,045  
  • Graduates come from all 50 states, 4 U.S. territories, and 26 countries 
  • Youngest graduate: 18 years old 
  • Oldest graduate: 78 years old 
  • Average age: 34 years old 

About University of Maryland Global Campus  

Celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2022, University of Maryland Global Campus is a world leader in innovative educational models with award-winning online programs in biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, information technology, and other high-demand disciplines in today’s increasingly technical, global workplace. With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family, and military service. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificate programs, including doctoral programs. A pioneer in distance education since 1947, UMGC today strives to bring the right experience to the right student at the right time and in the right way. 

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UMGC’s Gerontology and Aging Services Program Educates Tomorrow’s Leaders

November is National Family Caregivers and Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month, and University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is proud of its role in educating tomorrow’s leaders in the gerontology and caregiving fields.

UMGC’s Bachelor of Science in Gerontology and Aging Services provides undergraduate students with a foundation in the physiological, social and psychological aspects of aging, coupled with an understanding of programs, services and policies that impact older adults and how they age and live.

“As a society we continue to ignore the issue of ageism. I think it has a lot to do with personal fears about getting older, which in and of itself is a form of ageism,” said UMGC Collegiate Associate Professor Katherine Im. 

Im, who has served as program chair of sociology, behavioral sciences and gerontology at UMGC for more than a decade, noted that 10,000 Baby Boomers a day are now turning 65. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that by 2030 the elder population will number 1 billion, or 12 percent of the projected global population. 

In an interview last year focused on COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on the aging population, Im pointed to the ageism on display in our social institutions, with long-term care facilities suddenly short staffed. 

“There was a heavy reliance on family members to provide informal care and to support the staff that was already there,” Im said, “[and] that suddenly got shut down because no one could enter the facilities. It led to a real crisis … and we’re still amid COVID.”

Before turning her attention to the aging population, Im had initially planned to focus on pediatrics. While pursuing graduate studies in clinical community psychology, her outlook changed.

“I did a year of externships in geriatrics/gerontological placements where I learned about the functional and neurological aspects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I also spent some time in an adult daycare center, and it was there that I realized that we, as a society, don’t pay enough attention to caregiving and the caregiver burden,” Im said.

She added, “Professional caregivers aren’t given nearly enough respect – or compensation – and informal caregivers like family members provide care without compensation at great risk to their own health and well-being. We need better models, and we need leaders in gerontology to make this happen.”

Im joined UMGC in 2005 as an assistant director of psychology and social sciences and was later invited to oversee the gerontology program while pursuing a doctorate in gerontology at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Im is a strong advocate for UMGC’s bachelor’s degree in gerontology and aging services. She pointed to two required courses in the program that she feels could benefit the broader population: End of Life: Issues and Perspectives (BEHS 380) and Retirement and Estate Planning (FINC 355).

“I think students of all ages would benefit tremendously by thinking about and planning for later life,” Im said. “Being better informed about finances and retirement, health care, and the laws and policies that impact older adults helps us all to be better advocates for our loved ones and ultimately, for ourselves. We all deserve to live and age optimally, and education is central to this endeavor.” 

UMGC requires students in the program to find a relevant internship that will help them prepare for a career in the field. One student volunteered for an organization that helps keep seniors in their homes by assisting with yard work, cleaning and meal preparation. The internship led to a full-time position after graduation.

Another student started her own geriatric care company in Pennsylvania after graduation, working with people to protect their assets while also ensuring that they get necessary care. 

“What a great business opportunity to turn that into something where you’re helping people, using the knowledge that you’ve gained through this program, through practical work that you’re doing,” said Im.

For more information on UMGC’s gerontology and aging services program, visit umgc.edu.