Globetrotting Elton Hima Advances State Department’s Cybersecurity Goals

Elton Hima discovered at a young age that moving around the world brings opportunity. He combined that adventurous spirit with a business degree from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) that is now opening a pathway to a career he values.

“I chose UMGC because it offered me the flexibility of fully online classes,” Hima said. “Also, the experience offered me a window into the academic world, including research projects that I really enjoyed.”

Born and raised in Albania, where his parents still live, Hima’s penchant for travel came early. “After high school, I moved to Italy and then France for work, gaining knowledge and exposure to different cultures, which was rewarding on a personal and professional level,” he said.

He became a U.S. citizen in 2014 and a first-generation college graduate in 2017, when he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from UMGC. Along the way, he gained fluency in English, French and Italian, in addition to his native Albanian.

Hima spent the earlier part of his career gaining a wide array of experiences, all rooted in the field of information technology. He worked two years for ViSalus, a global healthy lifestyle company, followed by a stint as a financial benefits clerk at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, and then several months as a project management specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa. Prior to that, he served as an event coordinator with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. Although Hima’s work experience is wide-ranging, his jobs reflect a solid foundation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

“I was drawn to STEM early on and understood that data has a robust and reliable story to tell and the ability to help humanity develop and increase its potential,” he said. “So once I had access to a computer, I took it upon myself to learn to code and understand processes and applications.”

Now Hima’s career journey has taken yet another rewarding turn. He was recently selected, along with 15 others, for the prestigious Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) fellowship. FAIT is a two-year program funded by the U.S. Department of State. It puts its fellows on a path to a career in the foreign service by providing academic funding for an IT-related degree, internships, professional development, and mentorship.

Hima will receive up to $75,000 in academic funding for a two-year IT-related master’s degree program. Upon successful completion of the fellowship, he will receive an appointment in the foreign service as an information management specialist.

The highly competitive opportunity will allow Hima to contribute through public service while also advancing a career path he enjoys and values. “The fellowship is an excellent opportunity for me to give back to the country that adopted me,” he said. “I’m also excited that it will lead to a career in the foreign service and give me a front seat to foreign policy development and execution.”

Hima’s degree from UMGC positioned him for success and growth while he worked in the lifestyle and hospitality industries. In the fall, he will pursue a Master of Science in Cybersecurity at Brown University, further drawing on his STEM background to advance the goals of the State Department.

Reimagined UMGC Commencement Centers on Students and Their Families 

A graduating new mom in full regalia made her way through the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. She scanned her personalized barcode and a computerized voice read her name. With her baby in her arms, she approached the stage, where University of Maryland Global Campus President Gregory Fowler handed her her diploma. Her family applauded and snapped photos from a reserved space just a few feet from the stage. 

Smiling, she looked down at her baby and said, “We did it,” helping explain what a UMGC education and the university’s newly retooled, Covid-conscious and family-centered Commencement are all about. 

“Family really contributes to this,” Dr. Fowler said. 

Because of COVID, UMGC’s graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 were unable to march at graduation, and as the pandemic ground on, the university began exploring other scenarios. 

Serena Williams, associate director of Commencement Services, noticed that other schools were hosting ceremonies that allowed graduates to march individually, making it easier to social distance. With that as the starting point, she developed a concept tailored to UMGC. 

“We made adjustments that really honored our university, our demographic, and our graduates,” said Angie Grant, acting director of Commencement Services. 

In the process, UMGC reimagined the entire graduation experience, with a focus on students, their wants and needs, as well as the health and safety of graduates, guests, and community members. 

In a typical commencement, graduates sit with classmates while friends and family members sit in the audience. They listen to speeches and watch their classmates cross the stage. When their moment arrives, it is fleeting, and loved ones often struggle to catch a glimpse of the graduate.  

UMGC’s Grad Walk 2022, held May 17 to 22, offered a completely different experience. 

Graduates and families arrived in Adelphi and entered the venue together. They remained together until it was time for the graduate to cross the stage and receive his or her diploma, and guests enjoyed an unobstructed view of the stage. If they needed an extra moment to capture photos or videos, or if graduates wanted to march with a friend or family member, they were encouraged to do so. (Professional photographers and videographers were also on-site to ensure that each graduate would receive personalized images and footage.) 

Over the course of six days, more than 3,300 graduates—from the classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022—crossed the stage. Those who wanted a more traditional commencement experience could view a recorded ceremony on demand which included a keynote address, a student speaker, and the conferral of their degrees by President Fowler. Including graduates and their guests, more than 23,000 people participated in the Grad Walk.  

“We paid attention to what graduates really want (based on previous post-commencement surveys and other feedback),” said Grant. “They want to hear their name called, to cross the stage, receive their diploma from the president, have their family and friends be there to celebrate them, and be able to share the moment on social media. This event brings those experiences together. They get a chance to be honored and celebrated, and in a way that reduces the risk for everyone.” 

In an online post, student speaker Jayla Nowlin wrote of being filled with gratitude. “I finally got to walk across the stage and be celebrated with my family,” she said. “Every detail was exceptional.” 

Grad Walk received other accolades, as well. One graduate, a U.S. Marine information technology professional stationed in Hawaii, posed for a photo with his wife and two children, one of whom wore his sailor cap. Another graduate tweeted, “Finished my degree in 2020, but got to take my UMGC Grad Walk today!” Yet another, with his foot kicked high in the air, tweeted, “Another degree knocked down!” 

A post on LinkedIn thanked Dr. Fowler for taking the time to meet with graduates as they exited the room.  

“You make it easy for veterans to enroll and work through the required processes,” one graduate wrote. Another, also on LinkedIn, added, “Year and a half later, I finally got to walk! What made it better? I got to do it with my husband who graduated this year!” 

Fowler and other university leaders spent hours on site every day, distributing degrees and meeting graduates, family members, and guests as they waited in line or, afterward, in a designated “celebration zone,” along with representatives of the UMGC Alumni Association. 

Graduates could take photos in front of Maryland-themed backdrops and write messages on a signature wall, which President Fowler was the first to sign.  

“We talk about the idea of changing lives. And we are not talking about just the individual, though clearly that’s important,” said Fowler. “If you change one life, you change a family’s life. You change a family’s life, you change a community’s life.” 

Fowler went on to compare the role of university faculty and staff to that of sherpas.  

“Our job is to walk side-by-side with the students, as they are having the experience. They still have to climb the mountain, but we want to make sure that they know we are there with them every step of the way,” he said.  

“In many cases, we have anticipated the places where they are going to struggle. We have tried to make it as easy as we can. We have got to keep our eye on them to see if they are having altitude sickness, or if they are having issues along the way. If you are having math class anxiety, we want to make sure we anticipate that and figure out how to help. If you are going to be promoted or you need to step away from your job, we want to anticipate that.” 

Many UMGC students deploy or move overseas, and UMGC must anticipate that as well. The “big lesson,” Fowler said, is that the university is here to help smooth out friction, as well as to give students space to be successful. 

During Grad Walk, Fowler got to meet graduates in person and hear their stories firsthand. 

One student was homeless before finally landing a job. Another homeschooled seven children while studying at UMGC. A third deployed while still continuing to pursue a degree. It isn’t uncommon for students to report that it has taken them a decade or more to complete their degrees, with family or military responsibilities periodically interrupting their progress. 

“I think that is amazing,” Fowler said. “When you hear stories like, ‘We were out in the field with our night vision goggles, reading the book, because we wanted to get the degree done’—it is just unimaginable if you are only thinking about the traditional college coming-of-age experience.” 

Even that concept got a non-traditional twist at Grad Walk. Nailah Gibson, who at only 19 years old, became the first Prince George’s 3D scholar to earn her bachelor’s degree. The PG3D scholarship program allows high school students to earn community college credit while still in high school, which allows them to speed up the time to a community college degree and then transfer directly into UMGC to complete an undergraduate degree, all for $10,000 or less.  

Also participating in Grad Walk was Mae Beale, who received her degree the day after celebrating her 82nd birthday. Her heartwarming story and inspiring message of perseverance and commitment to life-long learning garnered national media attention, including a moving feature on ABC “World News Tonight with David Muir.” 

Another octogenarian had finally earned her degree after a nearly 50-year journey that included attending many of the other schools in the University System of Maryland. With Grad Walk enabling close proximity of graduates to their families and friends as they walk across the stage, one graduate received a marriage proposal immediately after leaving the stage (the proposal was accepted!).   

Stories like these make up “the magic that is UMGC,” Fowler said, adding how proud he is to be able to accommodate the unique needs of nontraditional students and to bring the university’s years of experience to bear on commencement as well.  

“Do not be surprised if you see some version of this happening in a number of places where we do graduations,” he said. 

Entrepreneur Will Use Health Administration Degree to Expand Her Hair Business

Kathryn Akinmuyisan’s Bachelor of Science in Health Administration puts her a step closer to her goal: to augment a thriving hair business with health and wellness offerings, including group fitness and nutrition.  

“I have my own hair business, Bundled Up Beauties, and now I plan to use my degree to support my fitness business,” she said. “Health care and nutrition are what I’m really into.” 

Akinmuyisan comes from a family that values education and hard work. Her Nigerian father and Kenyan mother met in, of all places, India, where they were attending university.  

“My family had a church in Nigeria, which they wanted to expand, and so they sought to do this in America,” Akinmuyisan said. They won a visa to the United States through the lottery program. 

Through sponsorship from an aunt already in the United States, the family initially moved to Prince George’s County, Maryland, and shortly after settled in Columbia, Maryland, where Akinmuyisan’s mother became a first-time homeowner.  

Akinmuyisan had the example of her mother. When Akinmuyisan was 9, her mother became a single parent who put herself through nursing school and supported the family. Knowing that her mother didn’t have the money to put four children through school, Akinmuyisan joined the Air Force to gain access to higher education and see the world.  

In the military, she began studying for a criminal justice degree, which was not easy.  

“When I initially started school in 2017, I was working from deployed locations in Europe and Africa,” she said. “Often, I didn’t have Wi-Fi, so I just got my time in whenever I could go to a hotel.” 

It was during her time in the Air Force that Akinmuyisan saw an opportunity to start a hair business. “There were a lot of women around me in the military who were having trouble finding hair extensions and products they needed,” she said.  

When she was honorably discharged in 2019, she decided to pursue a health administration degree at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) to build out her expanding hair business with health and fitness. “People kept asking me questions about fitness since I was in the military so I decided to pursue my all-around interest in wellness and just helping people be the best they can be,” she said.  

At 26, Akinmuyisan is looking forward to a bright future. She and her partner are thinking about starting a family, and she aims to establish herself firmly in the health care and wellness space, eventually pursuing a master’s degree in a health-related area. “Whatever I do, I want to incorporate nutrition because what you put into your body is so important,” she said. 

Coming from a supportive family that values higher education, Akinmuyisan never thought twice about pursuing her degree and her dreams. To others who might be having doubts about education or their career path, she advises, “Just make a plan and do it, because if you don’t, you’re going to have regrets.”  

University of Maryland Global Campus Hosts Free Virtual Financial Wellness Day July 20

Adelphi, Md.—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) will host Financial Wellness Day on Wednesday, July 20, from 1-4 p.m. EST. The virtual event is free of charge and open to all. Participants can attend workshops and seek one-on-one financial planning advice and guidance from experienced professional Certified Financial Planners (CFPs).

The Financial Wellness Day is organized by UMGC’s Department of Finance and Economics, the Financial Planning Association (FPA), and the National Capital Area Chapter of FPA. 

Under the leadership of CFPs and with the assistance of CFP students at UMGC, attendees can schedule individual appointments to receive financial advice at one of 10 virtual booths. CFPs are available to discuss how to get out of debt, retirement planning, investment strategies, tax issues, insurance, mortgages and foreclosures, estate planning, and more financial topics.

“I enjoy being able to give each client a personalized experience. In fact, my five-year goal is to become a financial adviser at a small to medium-sized financial advising firm,” said Rachel Woodward, a junior finance major at UMGC and student volunteer at the 2021 Financial Wellness Day. 

The event will also feature a series of classroom-style educational workshops in the virtual auditorium, where key personal finance topics will be addressed, including: 

To register for the Financial Wellness Day, visit www.financialwellnessday.org.

About University of Maryland Global Campus
Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce and the military. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 125 fully online, hybrid, and face-to-face programs and specializations.  

UMGC has a long history of innovation in reaching students where they are, including as a pioneer of internet instruction, piloting its first online classes in 1994. The university has received numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in developing fully online degree programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, business, data analytics, health care, and education. 

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

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UMGC Alumnus Launches Business with Young Son

When UMGC alumnus Jason Kuhn ’20 was furloughed at the start of the COVID-19 lockdown and his young son Logan was home e-learning, they decided to launch a business.

Kuhn and 11-year-old Logan transformed their love of cooking together and gardening into LJ Sauce Company. LJ Sauce Company sells hot sauces, and $1 of every hot sauce purchase is donated to charity.

“We grow all our own peppers, and right now we have about 28 pepper plants out in the backyard,” Kuhn explained. “Anything from jalapenos, serrano, and banana peppers all the way up to Trinidad Scorpion Butch T and Carolina Reaper.”

From a young age, Logan loved learning about dinosaurs and drawing them. His role at LJ Sauces is watering the plants daily and designing labels for the bottles, which are named after dinosaurs. Examples include Raptors Revenge, T-Rex Tummy, Ankylosaurus Acid, Baryonyx Bourbon Blast, and Brachiosaurus Belly Bomb. LJ Sauces also has barbecue and garlic sauces, and T-Rex rubs are in the works.

“My favorite part was creating the labels. I got to color in pictures and name the dinosaurs,” Logan said. “We then uploaded them to the computer and created our label for the sauce. I also enjoy working the events and selling the sauce to customers. It is a great feeling when someone enjoys the sauce and makes the purchase.”

Logan’s dad is trying to teach him about return on investment, how much it costs to start a business and how to turn a profit and give to others. Charities supported by LJ Sauces include United Way, Action Against Hunger, Jacob’s Chance, which promotes autism awareness in North Carolina, and Pathfinders for Autism out of Hunt Valley, Maryland.

“We meet monthly and go over the numbers and I try to teach him more about the business aspect of it. For example, we had to take inventory out for this to be able to create a demo bottle, which means we have a profit-and-loss statement that we must start comparing and to show where our money is going,” Kuhn said. “And obviously, we have to know what the cost of the bottle is and what it costs to fill it up.”

Kuhn’s day job is working in sales for Tempur-Sealey International, which makes Tempur-Pedic mattresses. His part-time gig is managing JL Sauces with Logan. What makes JL Sauces successful? Kuhn points to skills he learned during the nonprofit marketing class, Marketing 314, he took at UMGC while studying for his bachelor’s degree in marketing.

“We discuss the operational side, the marketing side and touch on the history of nonprofits, and the students get inspired, often, to consider a career with a nonprofit organization after they’re finished the course,” said Eve Longlade, adjunct associate professor. “I get a lot of feedback that it’s now perhaps a career direction that they want to pursue.”

Longlade remembers teaching Kuhn. “He was excellent in his participation and the discussions in the course. In engaging with me and his classmates, he stood out,” she said.

She noted that the course inspired Kuhn to add a giving-back component to LJ Sauces.

“Without Professor Longlade’s class, I don’t think this would have started because I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to start a business. Her class sparked something in me, and I was good to go,” Kuhn said. “The class opened my mind up to the endless possibilities of how to actually start the business and what marketing can provide to a business.”

Two years since starting LJ Sauces, Kuhn and Logan are developing new products, attending local pop-up events, and maintaining their web presence.

University of Maryland Global Campus Signs Agreement with NSA to Accelerate Pathways to Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees

Transfer Agreement with NSA’s National Cryptologic University Includes Discounted Tuition at UMGC

Adelphi, Md. (June __, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and the National Security Agency have signed an agreement that allows students to transfer credit earned in a range of subject areas from NSA’s National Cryptologic University (NCU) toward an associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UMGC.

The new agreement will allow NCU students and those that complete the Joint Cyber Analysis Course to apply up to 45 semester hours of transfer credit from any approved college or university, military training, and other non-traditional sources toward an associate degree at UMGC. Further, UMGC may accept 90 semester hours of transfer credit from any approved college or university, military training, and other non-traditional sources toward a bachelor’s degree.

The agreement extends to NCU students seeking master’s degrees, with UMGC accepting up to 6 semester hours of credit from an approved institution toward a master’s degree, if the credits are related to a student’s program of study. The agreement also allows for a maximum of 70 semester hours that may be transferred by a NCU student, from approved two-year community colleges.

“With this agreement, a NCU student doesn’t have to worry that the credit from a highly specialized course won’t immediately transfer to UMGC and possibly delay their pursuit of a degree,” said Blakely Pomietto, UMGC’s senior vice president and chief academic officer. “By mapping NCU courses to UMGC’s curriculum and offering a tuition discount, we can save students valuable time and financial resources.”

“This articulation agreement provides additional avenues for the NSA workforce to continue their education while decreasing the time it takes for them to complete their degree,” says National Cryptologic University’s Commandant Dr. Mark Asselin. “NSA’s National Cryptologic University is proud to have an agreement with University of Maryland Global Campus that provides additional opportunities for educational development to our workforce.” 

NCU students who enroll in UMGC courses will get a discount on tuition and have access to the university’s 90+ fully online academic programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, data analytics and business. UMGC has also replaced costly textbooks with no-cost digital resources in most classes, saving students thousands of dollars over the course of their degree programs.

More information about UMGC’s transfer credit policies is available HERE.

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce and the military. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online and hybrid programs and specializations.   

UMGC has a long history of innovation in reaching students where they are, including as a pioneer of internet instruction, piloting its first online classes in 1994. The university has received numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in developing fully online degree programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, business, data analytics, health care, and education.  

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

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Military Career and Growing Family Nudged Julius Downing to Psychology Studies

Julius Downing has long been interested in psychology. It gained greater importance when he began looking to it for guidance in balancing the demands of a career in the Navy and the responsibilities of a growing family. 

“I had a lot on my plate. I was dealing with a lot in the military, training to be a Navy Seal, going to school and I was a father. We didn’t have cell phones in the early years and sometimes weeks or months would go by when I was on deployments and couldn’t talk to my wife,” Downing said. “It was hard juggling all that.” 

Downing said the psychology courses he took through University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) were “like therapy,” but the time constraints that came with his job and family life  meant he could only enroll sporadically. 

This month, after more than two decades of off-and-on classes, Downing was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from UMGC. His five children—accustomed to years of seeing their father studying at night—didn’t realize he had completed the degree program until he invited them to his commencement and put on his graduation regalia. 

Downing, who grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia, was in high school when he became interested in a military career and joined the ROTC. Although his school’s ROTC was affiliated with the Air Force, he had his eye on the Navy. He worked for a couple of years after graduation and then enlisted. 

While on his first Navy ship in 1998, Downing was introduced to UMGC by way of a course taught by faculty deployed aboard the vessel. 

The years that followed were marked by career advancements and life’s ups and downs. The most stressful of the challenging times included a house fire in England that displaced Downing’s wife, 4-year-old son Keshawn, and 1-year-old daughter Latoya while he was deployed to Iraq. 

“We lost the house, we lost everything,” Downing said. “No one was injured and the military got me on a plane and home within 24 hours. But it was very stressful, and it’s when I got really interested in mental health and psychology.” 

Later, during a deployment to Bahrain, he learned that one of his sons had diabetes added to the strain, and the psychology courses began to feel like a lifeline.   

In 2018—after 20 years of service—Downing retired from the Navy and moved his family to Virginia. He took a job as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, managing many of the same duties as he did as a servicemember. It was then that he decided to springboard his interest in psychology into a bachelor’s degree and the termination of an associate degree in arts that he had left founder years earlier. 

“I decided that I wanted to study the psychology of gender and cognitive behavior therapy,” Downing explained. He was able to test out of some UMGC course requirements and received credit for military leadership classes he had taken.  

“They gave me credit for military schooling. I was preparing to be a military analyst and that preparation went into my transcript. That was huge,” he said.  

In the years that psychology classes fed Downing’s intellect, sports had fueled his body. He was on the track team in high school then, in the Navy, he coached children in the schools on military bases. He also boxed and played football, rugby, and basketball for the military while stationed in the U.K. and Germany, coached football and basketball at Fort Belvoir and was involved with physical readiness training for Navy Seals. At one point, he even taught aerobic classes to military wives.  

As he headed toward his degree, he saw a way to combine psychology and sports. 

“After years of taking classes, I realized counseling and coaching were my passion,” he said. “Today I’m a high school coach, the creator of a nonprofit to mentor youth and I now aim to become a business owner and use my degrees in psychology and art.” 

Downing—the kids he trains call him “Coach JD”—plans to use his degree in a youth basketball training and sports therapy program he is launching. He has already been training boys and girls and is especially interested in kids who may not realize the role sports can play in keeping them strong, physically and mentally.   

In thinking about getting a degree in his 50s, Downing said he had a good role model. His father received his master’s degree at age 55. Downing now hopes he’s paying it forward as an example for his own children, the oldest 23 and the youngest 2. 

An Educational Journey: From Segregated Schools to UMGC Degree

Aaron Burr’s Bachelor of Science in Management Studies from University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was long in coming. He received it in May—in tandem with an Associate of Arts with a focus on business management—37 years after taking his initial college course at a military base in Germany, his first active station with the U.S. Army.  

In the years between, Burr deployed to Albania, Hungary, Iraq, Kuwait and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He took leadership training courses in various locations. But most of his time in the military was spent in Germany and that is where he remained as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense when he retired in 2005 following 21 years of military service.  

Burr was born in central Louisiana in 1965 to a hard-working Black and Native American family. His father worked at a Holsum Bread factory and his mother was a nursing assistant, but money was always tight.   

“Growing up during the civil rights movement was quite interesting. I went to a segregated school all the way up to fourth grade,” Burr said. “I knew back then that I wasn’t getting the full blast of education and I felt deprived, even as a young child. 

“My parents were seeking ways of getting me and my sister out of that environment and to expand our opportunities,” he continued. “In my fifth-grade year, my sister and I broke some barriers when we were bused across our city to a school that was not segregated.”    

At 17, two other life-changing things happened. Burr and his high school sweetheart became parents to a son, Jonathan, and Burr enrolled in the junior ROTC program at his high school.  

“Our school’s program was with the Marine Corps and it was through it that I became interested in military service. The job opportunities where I was were not so good otherwise, and I wanted to be able to provide for my son and set him up for success,” Burr said. “As much as I enjoyed the Marine Corps program, I had more interest in the U.S. Army. So, at age 19, my senior year, I contacted the Army recruiter.” 

He took a year off after graduation to spend time with his young son then began his Army service in May 1984. He began training as a tactical communications specialist at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. From there, he joined an Army unit in Nuremberg, Germany.  

“In December of 1984, when I arrived in Germany, my platoon sergeant was talking to me about education. They were correspondence courses then. You went to the education center, signed up for the course, read the materials, took the exam and then went to the education counselor to have your records updated,” Burr said. “I knew education would help me get promoted in the Army, develop me as a leader, and make me more marketable.” 

Over time, Burr decided to pursue an associate degree in business management. The correspondence courses evolved to include in-class and virtual learning, as well as hybrid classes that combined a bit of both. At some point, Burr expanded his ambition to a bachelor’s degree at UMGC. Many of his previous course credits transferred to the degree program. He was also pleased to receive credit for his military certifications. 

In 2018, Burr accepted a stateside position as a logistics management specialist and item manager with the U.S. Army TACOM Integrated Logistics Support Center, in part so he could spend more time with his son, who has homes in Texas and Florida, and his 9-year-old granddaughter and 1-year-old son. By the time he relocated to Natick, Massachusetts, for the new assignment, Burr had been in Germany for 28 years, more time than he had ever lived in the United States.   

TACOM’s Integrated Logistics Support Center supports warfighting readiness for U.S. forces by handling repair-parts planning repair and supply chain management for more than 3,500 weapons systems. Burr writes and processes procurement contracts, does budget analysis, and oversees the readiness of a multitude of systems that are positioned and used around the globe.  

He said the business management degree “equips me with tools to better manage human capital and personnel readiness and accountability.”   

Burr’s mother, Gloria Vinson, traveled from Louisiana to the UMGC graduation ceremony to watch her son become the first member of the family to receive a college diploma.  

“I thought the ceremony was awesome,” Vinson said. “It was an experience I had prayed for, to see him walk down the aisle and hear him called up on stage.” 

Burr, 57, said there is power in accomplishing something you’ve wanted for a long time. 

“It doesn’t matter how long ago I started. The important thing is that I was able to complete what I started 37 years later,” he said. 

For UMGC Undergrad, Internship Is Step Toward Helping Reduce Impact of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness on Communities

Melissa Riggs, an undergraduate student at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), will begin a 10-week internship this summer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leads public health efforts to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on communities. 

“The SAMHSA Internship Program is specifically designed to equip graduate students and recent undergraduates from underrepresented populations to work in the public health field,” according to a SAMHSA news release. “Interns gain practical experience through projects, special assignments or research that supports federal, state and community-based programs, policies and best practices in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and mental illness.”

Riggs, a psychology major with a minor in computer science, spent the spring semester interning in the cybersecurity department of SAMHSA’s Office of Management, Technology, and Operations (OMTO). 

“As a returning intern, I can say that working with such an esteemed and professional division as OMTO has afforded me the opportunity to wear many hats related to the field of cybersecurity—a credit to SAMHSA’s agile teamwork design,” Riggs said. “The leadership in this department has gone to great lengths to maximize the use of my strengths and to develop me in my weaknesses.”

SAMHSA interns receive stipends of $5,000 to $7,590. Internships are available in the following fields: substance abuse and mental health prevention and treatment; federal, state and local government policies and regulations; health IT; program administration, operations and management; research and data analysis; communications and social marketing; and grant management.

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars partners with SAMHSA to award the internships. 

“After completing my summer internship, I see myself working in a job that contributes to the mission of enhancing mankind and our united human destiny. I am a natural problem solver, and with so many impending threats to our way of life, I believe that it is my duty to answer the call,” Riggs added.

Former Teacher Receives Graduate Degree and Plans to Make a Career Change

After losing two former students to gun violence, a heartbroken Teneisha Holder decided to walk away from her job as an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

“These were students whose dreams and goals resonated with me because they … believed they were the game changers in their families and they also had a large sense of community,” Holder said.

Holder, a 2016 graduate of Howard University, was frustrated with the public school system and wanted to make a change in her life. Determined and motivated, she enrolled at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) in 2020. She has just graduated with her Master of Science in Management with a focus on nonprofit and association management.

“As uncanny as it sounds, enrolling and having the support from my professors were extremely influential in rescuing me from severe depression,” Holder said.

As a child, Holder discovered she had dyscalculia, a learning disability that affects her ability to do mathematics. While at UMGC, Holder’s professor recommended that she use the university’s tutoring services to help her further understand equations and statistics.

During her time at UMGC, Holder became interested in working in the nonprofit world and became involved in educational advocacy with EmpowerEd. EmpowerEd is committed to creating a more just and equitable education system for students in D.C.

“Teneisha brought passion and enthusiasm to the nonprofit management program. Her dedication to the nonprofit sector was evident in all her coursework and in her supportive interactions with others,” said Jennifer Wood, Ph.D., adjunct professor of management foundations and non-profit and association management. 

Wood said a statement from Holder during the final weeks of our class captured her student’s eagerness to learn while providing “a window into the kindness and compassion she will carry into the world after graduation.”

What Holder wrote was: “We may quarrel, disagree or dislike each other but what can we learn from each other and how can that benefit the next generation.”  

Currently, Holder teaches at a nonprofit school for students with autism and emotional challenges. With her new degree, she aspires to find a position as a program manager at a nonprofit.

“I think it would be cool to work for an organization that’s teaching high schoolers to pursue their ideas and entrepreneurship, [sparking them to say] ‘Let me see how I can make this marketable and scale it,’” Holder said. 

The oldest of five children, Holder left some family behind in Miami when she moved to attend Howard University. She stayed in the Washington metro area to begin her career and then found it convenient for graduate school at UMGC. 

Holder hopes to use her master’s degree to make a difference in the city she now calls home. She is dedicating her master’s degree to the memory of students Ahkii Washington-Scruggs and Richard Allen Bandura, who she says, “kept me motivated and focused.”