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

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

Keynote Speaker Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead

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

Watch Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead Keynote Address 

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

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

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

UMGC President Gregory Fowler

UMGC Virtual Commencement Website

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

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

Watch Raymond Fisher Address 

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

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

Watch WJLA-TV ABC 7 Feature Story on Raymond Fisher 

Student Speaker Raymond Fisher

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

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

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

Read UMGC Global Media Center Story about Raymond Fisher

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

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

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

Watch Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Address 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snapshot of UMGC graduates for 2020-21: 

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

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, Commander of the Maryland Army National Guard, to Deliver Keynote Address at University of Maryland Global Campus Virtual Stateside Commencement, Saturday, May 15

Birckhead Led All National Guard Troops Deployed at the U.S. Capitol During the Presidential Inauguration and Heads Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Vaccine Equity Task Force 

Adelphi, Md. (April 27, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), the nation’s largest online public university, will host a virtual commencement ceremony on May 15 at noon. 

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, assistant adjutant general and commander of the Maryland Army National Guard and a graduate of UMGC, will provide the commencement keynote address. Brig. Gen. Birckhead has a distinguished 30-year military career, including recently leading all National Guard troops deployed at the U.S. Capitol following the failed insurrection on January 6 and for the January 20 presidential inauguration. She was also selected by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to lead the state’s vaccine equity task force. 

Raymond Fisher, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who traces his family history on his mother’s side to a slave owned by George Washington and who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in information systems management after a 25-year journey, will give an address on behalf of the graduating class. 

The commencement website also includes the conferral of degrees by UMGC President Gregory W. Fowler and a virtual greeting from Governor Hogan. In addition, the site features a section comprising the names of graduates with their photos and inspirational messages and messages of congratulations from UMGC faculty, staff members and friends. 

UMGC holds separate commencement ceremonies annually in Europe and Asia, to accommodate graduates who are serving in the military overseas. 

Here is a snapshot of UMGC graduates for 2020-21: 

Total number of graduates worldwide: 13,171 

Location of our graduates:  All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 32 countries and territories. 

Youngest graduate: 17 years old 

Oldest graduate:  78 years old 

Average age: 35 years old 

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

University of Maryland Global Campus (formerly University of Maryland University College) is a world leader in innovative educational models, with award-winning online programs in disciplines including biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, and information technology that are in high demand in today’s increasingly technical, global workplace.  

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 degree and certificate programs, including doctoral programs.  

A pioneer in distance education since 1947, UMGC today is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver high quality, low cost, accessible higher education.  

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

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

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UMGC Asia to Host Virtual Commencement Ceremony, April 24

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) will honor 1,114 graduates at its virtual Asia commencement ceremony on Saturday, April 24. The commencement website will be available beginning at 10:00 a.m. on commencement day.

The ceremony will feature keynote speaker, Charles K. Hyde, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force (Ret.). He is vice president for the Pacific Region of the United Service Organization. UMGC President Gregory Fowler; Jim Cronin, vice president and director of UMGC Asia; and Amanda Maguire, associate vice president and deputy director of UMGC Asia will be providing remarks as well.

A special congratulatory message from the UMGC Asia staff and faculty will be presented to the graduating class, along with tributes from the university’s Office of Academic Affairs. The virtual commencement page will showcase a multimedia gallery that will list each graduate’s name and degree, and will remain available on the UMGC Asia website until April 1, 2022.

For more information about the UMGC Asia commencement ceremony, please visit https://asia.umgc.edu/commencement/2021-virtual-ceremony.cfm

Prince George’s County Executive Alsobrooks Commends UMGC’s New Class of Leaders at 2020 Winter Commencement

“I’m not just addressing graduates, I’m addressing a class of leaders,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks told University of Maryland Global Campus degree recipients in a commencement address delivered via video during the university’s 2020 virtual winter commencement program, which launched Saturday, Dec. 19.Continue Reading

Inspiring Messages Come Out on Top (Literally) at UMGC Winter Commencement

The University of Maryland Global Campus Class of 2020 winter graduates attended commencement virtually this year, but that did not stop them from celebrating. Each year, the mortarboards atop graduation caps are adorned by inspired grads, showing their creativity and telling the story of their individual educational journey. This year was not any different. Several weeks prior to the virtual commencement ceremony, graduates were invited to participate in a cap decorating challenge.

Invitations went out to UMGC winter graduates and voting opened on Nov. 18. Grads were able to share their entries on their social media channels to encourage their friends and family to vote for their cap. Voting was encouraged throughout the challenge period, which ended on Dec. 16. Anyone could vote once per cap in a 24-hour period and return to vote again after 24 hours. With 91 caps entered, these graduates collectively gathered 17,897 votes. 

The winner was announced on Dec. 19, the morning of virtual commencement, and was featured on the UMGC virtual commencement website. Marcus Johnson received 4,256 votes for his inspired cap featuring the phrase, “Smart Enough to Save the Day.” Michelle Freeman’s cap took second place with 3,181 votes and Christina Holt’s cap gathered 2,560 votes to place third.

Freeman said the creation of her cap was a family effort; she got help from her niece and nephew to complete it. “I thought this was a great gesture on behalf of the university to get us excited about our ceremony. Although we could not have a formal ceremony due to the pandemic, this friendly competition built up momentum day by day to our virtual ceremony,” she shared.

Holt, who encouraged people to vote for her through her social media channels, said she entered the competition to showcase her crochet artistry.  “I am amazed at how many people came forward to support me during this competition and I am appreciative of every vote I received!”

While Johnson has bragging rights and is featured at the virtual commencement ceremony, all participating graduates are winners, finishing 2020 with a milestone accomplishment.

Student Commencement Speaker Advocates Lifelong Learning

Susana Hernandez brought good grades home from her Maryland high school, but school officials never nudged her toward college. Her immigrant parents wanted her to continue studying, but they didn’t know how the U.S. higher education system worked. Hernandez, a teenager at the time, was daunted by scholarship and financial aid applications.

It took Hernandez 15 years after her high school graduation to return to a classroom—at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC)—pursuing a Bachelor of Science in business management, with a minor in small business entrepreneurship. At UMGC’s 2020 Virtual Winter Commencement, not only will Hernandez graduate cum laude and as a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda Tau Chapter Honor Society, but she will give the student commencement speech.  Continue Reading

Pillars of Strength Scholar Finds Silver Linings in the Pandemic

For Lauren Warner, the agony of the Coronavirus pandemic has had at least a couple of silver linings.

Warner, who cares for her wounded Army veteran husband, completed a UMGC Master of Science degree in management this semester with the financial help of a Pillars of Strength scholarship aimed at caregivers like her.Continue Reading

University of Maryland Global Campus to Host Virtual Winter Commencement 2020

Online Ceremony to Include Keynote Address by Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks

Program to Go Live Beginning Saturday, Dec. 19, at 12 p.m. EST

Adelphi, Md. (Dec. 7) — University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), the nation’s largest online public university will premiere its special 2020 Virtual Winter Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 19, beginning at 12 p.m. Eastern standard time. The approximately 25-minute program, which honors the more than 7,500 stateside graduates worldwide who completed their degree requirements in summer or fall 2020, will be available for on-demand viewing by graduates, their families and friends anytime—and from anywhere.Continue Reading

Gov. Hogan Says Grads Will Make Post-Pandemic Maryland Stronger, Better

His Keynote Is Part of University’s First-Ever Virtual Commencement Launched May 16

“This is certainly not the graduation day that any of you anticipated or hoped for, but it in no way lessens your accomplishments or diminishes your achievements,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in a commencement address to University of Maryland Global Campus graduates delivered via video during the university’s first-ever virtual commencement ceremony, which launched Saturday, May 16.Continue Reading

Baltimore Firefighter’s Perseverance Pays Off

Michael Kelly finished his college career nine years after starting at University of Maryland Global Campus in a most untraditional way—by taking a class required of incoming freshmen. And, he did it as a first responder, a firefighter/paramedic on the front lines of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, working in one of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods.Continue Reading