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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UMGC Advances Diversity in the Field of Certified Financial Planners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Mary A. Dempsey

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

Nina Bridgers

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

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

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

Kristophyre McCall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Motz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six UMGC Students Make the Cut for Prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program

Matthew Sinclair is watching his email to see what job opportunities open in this year’s Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program, a high-profile gateway to government employment. Sinclair is one of six University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) students selected as finalists in the highly competitive program that identifies talented individuals and invites them to apply for positions within the federal workforce.

Matthew Sinclair

“I have lots of friends who work in the federal government, and they told me the PMF is a great way to get your foot in the door,” said Sinclair, assistant director of the Mechanical Engineering Program for University of Maryland College Park. “They said it is prestigious and an honor.”

Sinclair is among only 1,100 people, out of more than 8,000 applicants from 299 academic institutions worldwide, who survived the rigorous multi-step selection process to be named a finalist. PMF finalists are invited to government career fairs—held virtually last year—and receive regular notices of federal job openings for which they may compete. Once matched with a job, a finalist is officially a fellow and has access to training, mentoring and other career-advancing opportunities.

“The Presidential Management Fellows Program is a training and leadership development program, specifically for graduate students. It is extremely competitive and it ends with a two-year fellowship in a federal agency,” said Career Advising Specialist Isa Martinez, who oversees UMGC’s involvement in the program. “This carries a regular salary and benefits and training and access to professional development programs.”

PMF job openings surface across the country, and finalists may have to compete with other fellows for the locations, government agencies, and positions they seek. Martinez said being a finalist doesn’t guarantee a job but 80 to 85 percent of finalists generally find positions.

Isa Martinez

“You can apply for as many openings as you want,” Sinclair explained. “Or, if there’s a specific department or agency that interests you, you can wait for those.”

Sinclair completed his MBA from UMGC last year as part of a career move, and he sees the PMF as a way to propel that aspiration. He also holds undergraduate degrees in education and history, as well as a master’s degree in reading and language arts.

Many of the agencies have webinars explaining their goals and mission. Sinclair said he found the webinar for the Department of Veteran Affairs especially compelling, adding that his maternal grandfather had been a veteran.

When the finalists for the 2022 cohort were announced in December, the selection of six students from UMGC was unprecedented. A year earlier, there were no finalists from the university. In the 2020 cohort, there were two. Both were placed in jobs with the Department of Homeland Security.

“For us to go from zero to six, competing with students from Yale and Georgetown, means that the program is starting to see the wonderful potential of UMGC students,” Martinez said.

Martinez said students from all disciplines are eligible for the PMF but the jobs tend to dovetail with the government’s needs at the time. In 2020, the focus was on IT and cybersecurity. In 2022, it seems to be business administration and health care.

In addition to Sinclair, three other UMGC finalists have degrees in business management or administration: Caren Clift, Clair Curtain and Thuy An Truong. Finalist Elena Candu is completing a degree in emergency management and Xia Lao’s degree is focused on health administration.

Candu, a mother of two who was born in Moldova, is slated to graduate from UMGC in August. She already is a federal employee, but she hopes the PMF will put her on track to a leadership position in emergency management or humanitarian assistance.

“I heard of the program from alumni PMFs who found the program an excellent opportunity for professional development,” she said.

Candu enrolled at UMGC in 2020, two months after her family relocated to Northern Virginia following six years in Africa while her husband was on Foreign Service assignment in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea. She was getting a haircut when she received an email telling her that she had been selected as a PMF finalist.

Caren Clift

“I was glad that I was wearing a mask covering the big grin on my face when seeing the email,” she said. “I wonder what the stylist was thinking about me grinning, without any explanations, for a good part of the time I was there.”

Martinez said finalists like Candu who are already working for the government can use the PMF to “get a boost in their salary grade level or switch agencies.”

She said she heard about a PMF finalist who worked as a program analyst during her two years as a fellow. “Now she’s a director,” Martinez added.

When it comes to the PMF, three’s the charm for Clift, who had eyed the fellowship on three occasions before becoming a finalist.

When she first learned about PMF, she was “thrilled” about applying but discovered that her UMGC graduation date fell just outside the window for eligibility. Later, her return to school to pursue a dual graduate degree program in health care administration and business administration enabled her to apply, but she was not selected as a finalist.

But she had another chance. The 2020 completion date of her MBA enabled her to jump on the complex Presidential Management Fellowship application process in 2021.

“At the time I applied, I was thinking I could find an opportunity within Health and Human Services or the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” she said. “I wanted to utilize the education I have, focused on wellness and translate that … into a steady income.”

Before she learned that she was a finalist, she had added a project management certificate to her professional credentials and accepted a job with the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates. She likes the job and, especially, her work team but she is also keeping an eye on PMF opportunities.

Whether she ends up working for the federal government or not, Clift said to be selected as a finalist was impressive on its own.

University of Maryland Global Campus Joins Wiley’s Extended Learning Network

UMGC will now offer degrees for Wiley Beyond’s Network of 80 Companies and 500,000 Employees 

Adelphi, Md. (Jan. 11, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a pioneer in providing innovative and quality academic degree programs for adult and underserved populations, has joined Wiley, a global leader in research and education, in an alliance that adds UMGC to Wiley’s Extended Learning Network. This network includes 57 partner schools that support degrees and reskilling programs through Wiley Beyond, the company’s tuition benefits solution, and the 80 companies and 500,000 employees currently partnered with Wiley Beyond will have access to UMGC’s more than 90 fully online degree programs and specializations.   

As part of this agreement, UMGC will work with Wiley and workforce development agencies around the country, as well as with community colleges that are seeking more efficient access to bachelor’s degree programs.   

“We are pleased and proud to partner with Wiley to develop a more skilled workforce,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “Our experience with establishing transfer relationships with community colleges will benefit the participants in Wiley Beyond and increase the pipeline of students who are completing bachelor’s degree.” 

“Through Wiley Beyond, Wiley offers one of the most extensive learning networks for employer-sponsored education programs,” said Todd Zipper, president of Wiley Education Services. “We’re excited to add University of Maryland Global Campus to our learning network to provide more learners with affordable, accessible and outcomes-driven education.”   

UMGC enrolls more than 90,000 students each year, more than half of whom are active-duty military personnel and their families stationed on military bases around the world.  

The university also offers 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. UMGC also offers cost savings through its use of digital resources, which have replaced costly publisher textbooks in most courses.  

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military servicemembers and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.
 
UMGC was the first university to send faculty overseas to teach active-duty military personnel at installations in Europe, beginning in 1949, expanding to Asia in 1956 and to the Middle East in 2005. UMGC faculty have taught in the war zones of Vietnam, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.   

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

About Wiley

Wiley empowers researchers, learners, universities, and corporations to achieve their goals in an ever-changing world.

For over 200 years we have been helping people and organizations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. We develop digital education, learning, assessment, and certification solutions to help universities, businesses, and individuals move between education and employment and achieve their ambitions. By partnering with learned societies, we support researchers to communicate discoveries that make a difference. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, books, and other digital content build on a 200-year heritage of quality publishing.

Work Took Precedence Over Mike Easley’s Studies—for a Crucial Reason 

There’s a year-long gap in Michael Easley’s march toward a master’s degree in project
management from the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). But he had a good
reason for the time out.

As a project manager working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Easley was one of
only a handful of individuals assigned to execute personal protective equipment (PPE)
acquisitions at a national level during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The various types
of PPE were necessary to meet the high demand throughout VA medical facilities to protect
both caregivers and patients.


“We were executing $millions in PPE buys to support the effort,” Easley said. “I was working a
lot of overtime, and I couldn’t keep it up with my studies. So, I took almost a full year off while
supporting COVID requirements and picked it back up this past year.”
In November, he finished all his degree requirements.

“Unfortunately, some people tried to take advantage of the high demand for PPE,” he said.
“Businesses who had no prior experience in medical supplies were trying to offer products,
products offered at well above market rates, and in some cases, vendors tried to sell
counterfeit products. We had to do a lot of market research to scrutinize vendors promising the
moon. Would they be able to deliver as promised? Would the products be safe for veterans and
care providers? Each product had to go through a clinical review before issuing contracts.”

“Many of the things I learned about project acquisitions, quality management, and risk
assessment came into play,” he said.

Easley said that what he learned from his UMGC professors in the graduate program became
knowledge he immediately applied to his work, which aided in his selection as a deputy
program manager.

He said that his degree program’s last two capstone projects were highly beneficial. They
allowed him to take all he had learned from his professors and from the Program Management
Institute (PMI) to do a self-assessment of his own organization.

“What I learned, I could apply throughout my job,” he said. “Those [capstones] were a critical
part of tying up a master’s degree.”

Easley grew up in Macon, Illinois, a small town where everyone waved to each other because
they all knew one another. Seeing few opportunities after graduating from high school, he
enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1983, coming up through the enlisted ranks and serving
ashore and deployed around the world. His work provided financial and logistical support for
both garrison and deployed troops.

While serving in Okinawa, Japan, he retired in 2008 as a Chief Warrant Officer Four after 25
years of service. His wife Noriko was born in Okinawa, so he remained on the island and took a
position as the logistics chief for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)
Okinawa School District. He was responsible for all logistical and facility support for the 13
DoDEA schools in Okinawa.

No one in Easley’s family had gone to college, but he knew that he had to take college courses
and complete degrees to get ahead in the military.

“The first thing you do is get your associate [degree],” he said. “That makes me a little bit more
competitive than the next guy. Then you work on getting your bachelor’s, and then that makes
me a little bit more competitive.”

He completed a bachelor’s degree in management while still in the military, but he did not
begin the UMGC master’s program until returning to the United States in December 2016. In
Northern Virginia, he ended up working for DoDEA at the Marine Corps Base Quantico School
District, which ultimately led him to the VA as a project manager.

Easley is a published photographer with a passion for landscape and underwater photography.
He has traveled around the world with a group of underwater photographers. His last trip was
in the Bahamas, photographing hammerhead sharks. He is an avid golfer and was proud to have
completed the Marine Corps Marathon six times. His best time of 3hrs and 42 minutes was
when he flew from Okinawa to Washington, D.C., and back to Okinawa, all within a five-day trip
that included picking up his son in Illinois.

“I live by two simple rules,” he said. “You do not have to be perfect, just do the right thing,” and
a motto that has continued to serve me well for over 30 years, “Not everything that is faced can
be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” If you follow these rules, you can
move forward in life and make a positive change.”

UMGC Cyber Competition Team Concludes Fall 2021 Season with 1st Place Finish at Parsons CTF

Adelphi, Md. (Dec. 28, 2021)–The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) cyber competition team placed first in a capture-the-flag (CTF) competition sponsored by Parsons Corporation, a global provider of cyber and converged security services.

The jeopardy-style event tested participants’ skills on a range of relevant topics, including network forensics, coding, web hacking, cryptography, analytics, penetration testing, malware analysis, algorithms and reverse engineering. Normally a face-to-face event, the team participated remotely due to ongoing pandemic restrictions.

“This win provides a nice bookend to a successful season, which started with a first-place finish at Parsons in October,” said Jesse Varsalone, associate professor of Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigations at UMGC and coach of the competition team. “The skills tested in this competition will help current and future team members gain the real-world experience they need to network with prospective employers and advance their cybersecurity careers.”

At the Dec. 7 event, which attracted cybersecurity professionals and students of all skill levels, UMGC scored 9912 points to beat out 11 other teams and take first place. The UMGC team included current students Tim Nordved and David Saez, along with UMGC faculty members Jesse Varsalone and Matt Harvey, an adjunct professor in the School of Cybersecurity & Information Technology.

Established in 2012, the UMGC cybersecurity team is composed of students, alumni, and faculty who compete regularly in digital forensics, penetration testing, and computer network defense scenarios that help them gain experience to advance their cybersecurity careers. To prepare for competitions, students detect and combat cyberattacks in the university’s Virtual Security Lab and work through case studies in an online classroom. Through its history, the team has received numerous top honors, including recent first-place finishes in the 2021 Maryland Cyber Challenge and the 2020 MAGIC, Inc. capture the flag competition and a second place finish in the 2012 Global CyberLympics.

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 is harnessing the power of learning science and technology to deliver accessible high quality, low-cost higher education.

UMGC Nursing Program Receives 10-Year Reaccreditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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