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.

UMGC Recognized as One of the Nation’s Top Colleges in Newsweek’s First-Ever Ranking of Online Schools 

Adelphi, Md. (November 16, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was ranked #21 among 150 top colleges in Newsweek’s first-ever survey of online schools

“Our mission is to provide students with learning experiences that align with their needs and expectations, thereby improving lives and strengthening communities” said Greg Fowler, president of UMGC. “We measure success by delivering levels of service that are unprecedented—and perhaps unexpected—in higher education and by wrapping our students in a blanket of support that responds to the realities of their lives, academic backgrounds, and learning styles.”  

UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually—more than half of whom are active-duty military personnel and their families serving on bases around the world—and offers award-winning programs in disciplines including biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, and information technology that are in high demand in today’s increasingly technical, global workplace. UMGC also offers cost savings through its use of digital resources, which have replaced publisher textbooks in most courses. 

In addition, UMGC has established innovative alliances with leading corporations throughout the U.S., such as Amazon and Uber, to increase the pathways for employees to achieve their educational goals in more efficient and affordable ways.   

UMGC has also developed transfer partnerships with community colleges in Maryland and around the country, including California Community Colleges, the largest community college system in the country, enabling UMGC to reach the system’s 2.1 million students attending 116 community colleges throughout the state and creating a seamless transition to obtaining an affordable bachelor’s degree. 

According to Newsweek, the rankings are based on an online survey of 9,000 people in the U.S. who have used online learning services to obtain an academic degree or acquire knowledge and skills for their personal or professional development. 

“Alot of American college and university students are learning online,” said Newsweek’s Global Editor in Chief Nancy Cooper in announcing the new ranking. She highlighted U.S. Department of Education statistics from 2019 showing that “79 percent of U.S. colleges offered either standalone courses or entire degree programs online. That figure included about 96 percent of all public two and four-year colleges. As of 2018, the Department estimated, about 7 million college students were taking some or all of their classes online. 

“The pandemic has only added to the growth of online education,” she continued. “The range of online providers can be daunting. If you are looking for quality online education for yourself or a loved one, we hope you will find our listings helpful.” 

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

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

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

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

He made his company one that puts people first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Award Recipients | HIREVets Medallion

President Biden Appoints Two Prominent UMGC Alumni to Leadership Roles

By Gil Klein

President Biden appointed two prominent UMGC graduates to federal boards in September – Florent Groberg to the American Battle Monuments Commission and Ginger Miller to the United Service Organization (USO) Board of Governors.

“On behalf of our global university community, I congratulate our distinguished alumni on these honors,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “They are part of a long-standing and honorable UMGC tradition of alumni first serving their country with distinction in the military and then returning as civilians to offer their talents in further support of our nation.”

Capt. Groberg (U.S. Army, Ret.) was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama for tackling a suicide bomber while on a mission in Afghanistan in 2012. He suffered severe leg injuries when the bomb exploded, but his selfless act saved the lives of several people around him.

While recovering from 32 surgeries at Walter Reed Military Hospital, Groberg completed a UMGC Master’s degree in Intelligence Management.

Groberg now leads the Microsoft Azure Global Government M360 Mission Solution Team, which works with governments worldwide to identify key missions and systems that should operate on the Azure Cloud. Microsoft Azure Government is a mission-critical cloud, delivering breakthrough innovation and security to U.S. government customers and their partners.

The American Battle Monuments Commission is an independent federal agency that oversees permanent U.S. military cemeteries, memorials and monuments both inside the United States and in other countries. It is responsible for maintaining military cemeteries for 140,000 veterans as well as maintaining memorials for more than 94,000 service personnel missing in action or lost or buried at sea.

Ginger Miller graduated from UMGC in 2012 with a master’s in Non-Profit and Association Management. Hitting a low point in her life as a homeless disabled Navy veteran, she turned herself around, graduating from Hofstra University with an accounting degree and then following her passion in running non-profit groups.

She became a White House Champion of Change for Women Veterans and president and CEO of the Women’s Veterans Interactive, which enables and empowers women veterans to get the support and resources they need to succeed in their post-military lives.

She now serves as an Advisory Board Member at the Northwest Federal Credit Union and previously served on the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as the chairwoman of the Prince George’s County Veterans Commission,

Commissioner on the Maryland Commission for Women, and as a member of the Maryland Caregivers Coordinating Council.

Founded in 1941, the USO is the nation’s leading organization serving the men and women in the U.S. military and their families throughout their time in service with their assignments and deployments as well as during their transition back to their communities. Famed for its entertainment shows bringing Hollywood talent to soldiers fighting overseas, the USO has more than 200 locations in 13 countries and 27 states.

Groberg and Miller have both served as student keynote speakers at UMGC graduation ceremonies.

After Raising a Family, Recent UMGC Grad Inspired to Take On Next Educational Challenge–Law School

Cherie Correlli is in law school at the University of Baltimore on a full scholarship. The path she took to get there at age of 39 is touched by inspiration and determination. It also is marked by an unexpected catalyst: a University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) education in sociology.

A lifelong Baltimore resident, Correlli dropped out of community college to get married and raise her two children. After all, no one in her family had completed college, so did she really need it?

She opted to be a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling her children. The homeschooling idea started as kind of a lark to provide more hands-on activities and experiences for her kids, opening the way for her to take them to museums and performances. It fit so nicely with the family’s schedule—her musician husband works mostly nights—that she kept it going.

While raising her children, Correlli developed a part-time career as a birth doula, a trained non-medical companion who supports women through their pregnancies and child birth, complementing the work of health care professionals.

While in her junior and senior years of high school, her older daughter was dual enrolled at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). She graduated with both a high school diploma and an associate degree. She has a scholarship to pursue a degree in dance education at Goucher College.

As her daughter started her college career, Correlli began to regret that she had never finished her degree. She went back to CCBC, where she found that she needed only two more classes to complete her associate degree. After that, it was on to a bachelor’s degree—at UMGC.

Why did she pick UMGC? “The price was a big surprise,” she said. “I felt I couldn’t burden my family paying a lot for my degree.”

UMGC’s Completion Scholarship for graduates of a Maryland community college joined other grants and scholarships that Correlli was able to line up. The result was a degree she could afford.

Her work as a doula had triggered an interest in the social sciences and women’s studies. She completed the UMGC degree in social science with a concentration in sociology in 2021.

Donna Maurer, a UMGC collegiate professor of social sciences, described Correlli as a standout in her class. Maurer cited her intellectual ability, her writing, her critical thinking skills and, perhaps most important, her love of learning.

“When a student really loves to learn, they put a lot of energy into everything they do,” Maurer said. “So her work in my class was exemplary.”

As someone who spent many years without any academic degree, law school had not crossed Correlli’s mind as a possibility—until a midwife friend, Alexa Richardson, mentioned that she was going to Harvard Law School. With Richardson as an inspiration, Correlli became more and more interested in the law as it pertains to patient rights in childbirth. She was especially focused on working against obstetric violence and making sure expectant mothers were informed.

Her UMGC classwork meshed with those interests.

“It was wonderful to have the opportunity through school to research the things that I cared about in my personal life and be able to write papers on them and to have the time and instructors’ feedback in doing that kind of research,” Correlli said.

She graduated from UMGC with a 4.0 grade point average and law school became a realistic goal—if she could find a way to pay for it. At the encouragement of her friend, she took the LSAT, the law school admission test, and her score put her well above average among applicants to the University of Baltimore. With recommendations from her UMGC professors and a lot of research, she was accepted into law school with a scholarship.  

“I applied to Baltimore in April, and they offered me the scholarship two weeks later,” she said.

For Maurer, Correlli’s success underscores the wide range of careers available to graduates in sociology.

“Sociology students understand the social structures that can help them create positive social change and to move toward social justice,” Maurer said.

For Correlli, UMGC provided the kind of support she needed on the way to a degree.

“Since I am a first-generation college student, I didn’t feel like I had a lot of people to ask advice when it came to my academic life,” she explained. “Since UMGC is totally online, many students don’t realize how helpful and willing some of the professors are to engage with their students.

Dr. Maurer in particular went above and beyond in teaching excellence, as well as in spending time to give me thoughtful advice on my law school plans.”

A Reflection on the 20th Anniversary of September 11: President Gregory Fowler On a Dark Day in Our Nation’s History that also Reminds Us of Who We Are at Our Very Best 

As national leaders, family members, friends and fellow citizens gather in New York City, at the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania—and around the world—commemorate those who perished in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, UMGC President Gregory Fowler’s message to the university community resonates with reflections of courage and sacrifice, and hope for a more peaceful future. 

To the UMGC Community:  

Today—on the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001—we honor the memories of those who lost their lives in the attacks, mourn with all who lost loved ones and friends, and reflect on the courage and sacrifice of countless first responders, servicemembers, and civilians who were injured or died in rescue and recovery operations or in the international conflict that followed. 

While September 11 represents a dark day in our nation’s history, it also stands as a reminder of who we are at our very best, when we reach out with open hearts to those who are suffering and in need. 

Today and always, let us seek to be that source of comfort and support and, together, make our world a better, more peaceful place for all. 

Sincerely, 
Gregory Fowler, PhD 
President 
University of Maryland Global Campus 

Maryland Parks Association Recognizes Student Projects Focused on Environmental Management

The Maryland Recreation and Parks Association recently recognized two solution-driven projects undertaken by University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) students with public service awards.

Both of the initiatives, which were capstone projects for students in the Environmental Management Master’s Degree Program, made recommendations for nature areas in Calvert County.

“The partnership was really important to me because we were being able to use the skills of the people in the classes to look at some issues that we have and then be able to come up with the recommendations,” said Karyn Molines, chief of the Natural Resources Division for the Calvert County Department of Parks and Recreation. “They helped us eliminate a step in these projects, which saved us a lot of money. That money can be used for other work.” 

One project assessed storm water management at the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary in Prince Frederick. The county is moving forward on the recommendations generated by the five-student team, noting that they could save the county more than $30,000.

Flag Ponds Nature Park

The second project offered an analysis on building a sustainable beach shelter for education programs and visitors at Flag Ponds Nature Park in Lusby. The students were praised for the creative ideas they presented, but the county found that state and federal regulations made the project infeasible.

Molines said she is working on new projects she hopes UMGC students will help to produce.

Like many UMGC masters programs, the environmental management program emphasizes practical projects to augment theoretical learning. In place of a master’s thesis, teams of students work together on capstone projects that require an analysis or examine a problem. They must complete the work within a 12-week course.

Many of the students already are working in environmental management, and they come with a wealth of experience, said Dan Grosse, who teaches the capstone classes. Students with expertise in the field are often paired with less experienced students.

“The amount these working adult students can teach one another is truly phenomenal,” Grosse said.

Nadean Carson, for example, had five years’ experience in civil engineering with the Air Force. She worked on environmental and construction projects after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She was assigned to the same UMGC team as Peter Holland, a Towson University graduate in sociology. Holland had decided to move into the environmental field and realized he needed a graduate degree to advance to the next level. Like many UMGC students, he is progressing slowly through the program as he dovetails the academic work with a schedule that also includes his paying job and family responsibilities.

Most of the students’ work was done virtually during the COVID-19 epidemic, although one member of Battle Creek Sanctuary team lived in the same town as the sanctuary and was able to visit the site. The use of topographical maps underpinned the project, the students said, but having Andrea Gibbons at the park during a rainstorm was a big plus.

“She was taking videos. She took pictures,” Holland said. “Seeing the water running down, Andrea was able to see firsthand the problem areas we were discussing and the heavy erosion.”

The project broke the work into phases so the county could advance on it as it got the money, Carson said. The project fit right into the type of work she does professionally.

“This was fantastic for me,” she said. “I did a little happy dance when we got the assignment.”

Natalie Oryshkewych was the team leader on the Flag Ponds Nature Park project. With 25 years of experience at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, she brought a wealth of knowledge to the team. Her team was located in two time zones and had to learn quickly to work together in order to meet the capstone deadline.

Even though the shelter will not be built, the team had the satisfaction of knowing that its work saved Calvert County from investing time and money into its own analysis.

Oryshkewych said the capstone project also gave her a new appreciation for her job with the Ohio EPA.

“It helped me see the agency that I work for in a more holistic manner, so it wasn’t just what I do from a day-to-day perspective,” she said. “It gave me a better understanding of what my agency does as a whole and how it contends with all of the regulatory programs.”

The Obstacle Course: One Student’s Life Journey to an MBA

Ida Halliburton has extra reasons to be proud of her new MBA from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). Like many UMGC students, she took a full course load while also juggling a career. Unlike other students, however, the 52-year-old grandmother did it—posting excellent grades along the way—while in transitional housing, learning the ins and outs of a new high-pressure job, and coming to terms with the physical after-effects of brain surgery.

Oh yes, and there was a pandemic underway.

“I compete against myself—I don’t compete against other people—and I know what I’m capable of doing,” Halliburton said. “Sometimes I set a standard for myself that people perceive as unrealistic or too much, but I just keep pushing.

“For me, giving up is not an option.”  

Halliburton’s UMGC degree continued a journey that was interrupted more than three decades earlier. She had enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana University after high school but, just two semesters in, she joined the military. She spent the next seven years in the U.S. Marines, mostly based in California, working in aviation supply, inventory and logistics.

Halliburton was a sergeant when she left the service and resumed her studies, earning an associate degree in general studies with a concentration in English at Irvine Valley College and then a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication with a minor in journalism from Southeastern Louisiana University.

“I was going to start a master’s degree program right after I got my undergraduate degree, but I was a single mom with two children at that point, and I put my dreams and aspirations on hold to focus on my kids,” she said. “Then I found myself working with no time left to attend school. It was years and years before I was able to get back to school again.”

It was her job in the Office of the Provost at Chapman College, now Chapman University, that indirectly led her to UMGC. At the time, Chapman College was seeking accreditation as a university and planning to create a university college focused on servicemembers, working adults and other non-traditional students. Halliburton said Chapman’s provost and executive vice president looked to what was then University of Maryland University College as a model.

“That stuck with me for a long time, even after I left California. I knew and trusted the provost and if he held the school in high esteem, I knew it must be a good school,” she said.

The years passed. When her daughter neared her senior year of college, Halliburton decided to return to school. In the fall of 2019, she enrolled at UMGC.

“I had aspirations for my career but I kept getting rejected for jobs because I didn’t have a master’s degree,” she said. “When I knew I wanted to do an MBA, I remembered the University of Maryland Global Campus from my experience with the provost at Chapman.”

Just a month after she started UMGC classes from her home in Florida, Halliburton was hired to work in the nation’s capital as the invitation coordinator for U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Her new job included managing requests for public appearances and speeches by the surgeon general.


“He traveled a lot and he could receive 2,000 to 3,000 requests in a month. My job was vetting the requests, briefing him on them, making sure the appearances were appropriate and aligned with his priorities and just really managing that whole process,” she said.

That high pressure job amped up even more when the coronavirus hit the news.

“All hell was breaking loose,” she said. “The deputy surgeon general was temporarily reassigned and detailed with overseeing COVID-19 testing, so she was gone. My direct supervisor was from the Centers for Disease Control, and I was surrounded by physicians talking about COVID-19 all the time, getting the information firsthand.”

Her daughter graduated from college during the pandemic, right into a tight job market. Even more, they were living in temporary housing with most of their possessions in storage in Florida. Halliburton had just arrived in the D.C. area when the lockdown was declared; it took 10 months before she could move into a permanent home in Virginia.

In addition to the housing upheaval, a new job, the pandemic and a full-time course load, Halliburton also had health problems to manage. Two years earlier, she underwent brain surgery—twice—for serious conditions and now has intermittent periods where it is difficult to focus. While acknowledging that it was a challenge at times to study and meet her course deadlines, she powered through.

Halliburton said an MBA is not necessarily the end of her education. For years, she has carried around an entrepreneurial idea she’d like to launch one day. She keeps the details confidential but said she may need more education to ensure the project’s success.

For now, she is focusing her energy on her current job as executive administrator for the deputy assistant secretary of the Army and on her family—her daughter, son, daughter-in-law and her six grandchildren “who bring me so much joy.”