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.”  

UMGC and Grifols Form Alliance to Increase Educational Opportunities for Healthcare Company’s Employees

Adelphi, Md. (December 14, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a leader in providing innovative and quality academic programs online, and Grifols, a global healthcare company, have formed an alliance that will increase educational opportunities for Grifols’ U.S.-based employees.

The alliance will enable Grifols’ employees (about 70% of its global workforce is based in the U.S.) to increase their skills by taking individual courses or enrolling in any of UMGC’s more than 90 undergraduate and graduate degree or certificate programs—all available fully online—at discounted tuition rates and with no application fee. UMGC also offers cost savings through its use of digital resources, which have replaced costly publisher textbooks in most courses.

“This alliance helps to increase higher education options for Grifols’ employees and their families in the U.S.,” said Blakely Pomietto, senior vice president and Chief Academic Officer at UMGC. “This new relationship is an engine that can drive Grifols’ workforce to upskill faster and more efficiently in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.”

Students enrolling in UMGC’s undergraduate degree programs may be eligible to transfer credits from other institutions and/or earn credit for prior learning, thus shortening the path to a bachelor’s degree.


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 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.

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.


About Grifols

Grifols is a global healthcare company whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of people around the world. Grifols accomplishes this mission by producing life-saving protein therapies for patients and by providing hospitals, pharmacies, and healthcare professionals with the tools they need to deliver expert medical care.

The four pillars of its business are bioscience, diagnostics, hospital consumables, and bio supplies. It has subsidiaries in more than 30 countries and regions and 16 manufacturing plants around the world.

The company’s long-term vision allows us to continue exploring new markets and regions and to increase our growing workforce. Our nearly 24,000 employees work for a common goal: to improve people’s lives and well-being.

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

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

Ceremonies to be Livestreamed and Include Virtual Components 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a snapshot of UMGG 2021 Winter Graduating Class:  

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

About University of Maryland Global Campus  

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

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With Experience and an Education, this Award-Winning Veteran Is Just Getting Started

Even though he was only in grade school, the 9-11 terrorist attacks focused Devon Nieve’s decision to devote his life to the defense of his country. Now, as a U.S. Marine Corps specialist in language cryptology, signal operations and intelligence, Staff Sgt. Nieve is finishing a University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) master’s program in intelligence management. 

This follows his undergraduate degree in accounting from UMGC summa cum laude, all while serving and assisting in missions in Latin America and the Middle East. His diligence during seven years of academic work also earned him UMGC’s General John W. Vessey Jr. Student Veteran of the Year, which was presented at the university’s Veterans Day ceremony in Adelphi, Maryland.

In announcing the award, UMGC noted that Devon was honored as Military Performer of the Year in 2020 while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in his master’s program. His commanding officer said Devon “is unequivocally one of the top performing Marines of any rank within my command.”

In a surprise announcement as he finished his remarks during the Veterans Day ceremony, Devon said he would give the $3,000 scholarship award to the university’s fund to help veterans still seeking an education after their VA benefits run out.

 “My father has been big on teaching me that money is not everything in life,” he said. “When you have things that can be given to others, maybe that’s the spark required on their end to push them to that next level. It’s going to make an impact on our country.”

Assigned to Company H of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion and a section leader supporting a national security mission, Devon supervises a joint-service team performing technical analysis and target development for the ongoing operations to a variety of federal agencies and major combatant commands. 

Growing up in Modesto, California, Devon was only 8 years old on Sept. 11, 2001. But he recalls the day vividly.  

“I remember talking to my friends at school and asking them, ‘Are terrorists gonna take over the United States?’” he said in an interview. “And I just remember that feeling that I kind of carried around after that, that someone’s got to stop that.”

His father was an Army veteran. “The things he taught me were directly related to the training he had received—that the military was the best option to make myself proud and to show my younger brothers the right path,” Devon said. “I felt like the military was where I could make an impact.”

After graduating with an associate degree and honors from Modesto Community College, Devon decided to join the Marine Corps in July 2013 rather than pursue a bachelor’s degree right away. His path in the military changed dramatically after he took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

The recruiters looked at his score and told him he had a choice to make. He could go ahead with a regular Marine Corps career or he could opt for language cryptology, which would open a lot of doors when he finished his military service.

“When they told me that, of course, I went with it,” he said. “I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought it was going to be learning Arabic.”

Instead, he found himself immersed in studying Spanish and Portuguese for a year. After that, he was assigned to a Radio Battalion in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Exactly what a cryptological linguist does is classified, he said, but he has been deployed to Latin America and supported operations in the Middle East.

Throughout his military service, Devon has pursued education. If he wanted meaningful work after he left the military, he believed he had to have at least a bachelor’s degree—and maybe more.

He looked at all the universities with programs for active service personnel and decided that UMGC offered the best overall opportunities. It also provided the flexibility necessary to work around his military assignments.

“I was in and out of the field constantly,” he said. “I was supporting last-minute operations for forward-deployed tactical units. I was deploying, and I needed something that was flexible with that,” Devon said. “When I talked to the counseling department at UMGC, it just felt right. It’s veterans being led by veterans, that’s the difference.”

After finishing his bachelor’s degree, he took only a three-month break before starting the master’s program.

“I realized I’m not done,” he said. “I enjoyed that structure. I enjoyed constantly progressing in the educational realm, and I wanted to do more.”

The majority of his professors are professionals in their field, Devon said, with first-hand information on what they are teaching. He described them as “absolutely incredible.”

“I’m convinced they’re up 24 hours,” he said, explaining that he could post something late at night and find a lengthy response in the morning.  “They want the students to learn and actually comprehend the information so they can apply it in real life. They take it seriously, and because they take it seriously, the students take it seriously.”

Devon will finish his graduate degree in July, just about the same time his enlistment is up. He will take everything he has learned to a civilian position in the Department of Defense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Honor, Service, Sacrifice: UMGC Salutes Veterans

In a ceremony marking Veterans Day, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Devon D. Nieve was awarded UMGC’s Gen. John W. Vessey Student Veteran of the Year while Army Gen. Lloyd Milo Miles (Ret.), the university’s senior vice president for Global Military Operations, and Maryland State Sen. William C. Smith vividly reflected on the meaning of the War in Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrawal.

In his eight years in the Corps, Nieve balanced his military career while at the same time completing a bachelor’s degree in accounting summa cum laude and jumping right into a master’s program in Intelligence Management that he expects to finish next year.

Nieve talked about the rigor as well as the opportunities to working toward degrees while serving in demanding military assignments and deployments.  UMGC, he said, made that possible.

UMGC’s Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. Student Veteran of the Year, Staff Sergeant Devon Nieve, U.S. Marine Corps

Advanced education is essential for up-and-coming military personnel, Nieve said, “to provide the innovation, the ingenuity, the new approach to the problems that we face today. “t’s absolutely necessary in future wars.”

Not only will that education help him in his military career, but it will be essential as he makes the transition to civilian life.

He donated his $3000 in scholarship money that came with the award to a UMGC fund that helps veterans who have exhausted their VA benefits to extend their education.

In opening the ceremony, UMGC President Gregory W. Fowler spoke of the importance of the university’s relationship with the U.S. military.

“Today, as we honor the students, alumni, faculty and staff who have won the uniform of our country, and say thank you to all of our nation’s veterans, we are grateful for the many ways our relationship with the military has shaped our institution, clarified our mission and inspired us every day to live lives of service of honor, and have courage,” he said.

The Veterans Day ceremony was the first since the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to take over control of the government after 20 years of fighting.  A subtext for this year’s event centered on whether the fighting, bloodshed and cost were worth it.

Army Gen. Lloyd Milo Miles (Ret.), UMGC’s senior vice president for Global Military Operations, said he wrestled with this, but concluded the struggle and sacrifice were worth it.

“I hope that someday when you take the long view of your life, you will remember the good you tried to do in that land of terrible beauty,” he said.  “The roads you constructed, and the wells you dug and the schools you built. And you will remember the excitement of the children as you handed out candy and the tear-filled eyes of a mother as you gave her something to eat.”

The historians and politicians will debate the ultimate worth of the struggle, he said.

“During your time in the crucible, you did your duty, to care for one another, to help the oppressed and defended the weak,” he said. “You fought for your friends and you helped people. From my perspective, that would be a good epitaph on any tombstone.”

In his keynote address, Sen. William C. Smith, who served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army and is now an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, agreed that those who served in Afghanistan should be proud of their accomplishments. 

“Today, despite the current state of the country, every service member can hold their head high, knowing that we kept the United States safe for over two decades, and we unleashed unparalleled opportunity for millions of Afghans that they’d never seen before. Those ideas and that energy have taken root and will not die off quickly. Our service has made a difference.”

The ceremony featured a poignant video honoring the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, which included historical and personal perspective from Lillian Pfluke (U.S. Army, Ret.), a UMGC faculty member and founder of the American War Memorials Overseas, and Timothy French, a UMGC alum and sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Old Guard Caisson Platoon, which helps perform funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.

To view the entire UMGC Veterans Day Ceremony, click HERE.

Student Finds Home at UMGC and Connects with Fellow Veterans

Gibril Bangura moved to the United States in 2009 after winning a spot in the Diversity Lottery, a visa program focused on individuals from countries with low rates of U.S. immigration. Born and raised in Sierra Leone, he relocated to take advantage of new opportunities, first by serving in the U.S. Army and now by attending University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). 

Growing up amid a civil war in Sierra Leone, Bangura was determined to make a change for his future. He attended a few university classes in Sierra Leone before moving to the United States.

“I felt like I had to move from Sierra Leone to find a better opportunity because I always had bigger dreams of being successful and helping others,” Bangura said.

Bangura arrived in the United States in 2010 and immediately joined the army. He served as a financial technician performing payroll duties. Unfortunately, a cracked tibia injury that occurred during a training exercise worsened, and he officially retired from the military in 2015, ready to focus on his education.

Bangura attended two universities before finding his new home at UMGC.

The flexibility that UMGC offers with remote learning attracted him. Bangura has long-term effects from his injury and still uses a cane. With UMGC, he can participate in classes in the comfort of his own home, which helps on days his leg bothers him. Another key reason Bangura selected UMGC was its long history with veterans.

“I have taken general education classes, including accounting, where I learned a lot. This has given me a strong foundation to continue my studies as a veteran who was out of college for some years,” Bangura added.

Bangura decided to pursue a major in cybersecurity with a focus on business. He plans to graduate in 2023 with a B.S. in Computer Networks and Cybersecurity.

“Attending UMGC, being a veteran and feeling like I’m at a military home has helped me professionally,” Bangura said.

Today he builds on his military experience by aiding fellow veterans at the Office of Veterans Initiatives and Outreach (VIO) at UMGC.

“As a student worker in the VIO, I’m the first line of response. It is not easy transitioning to civilian life, so I’m happy to help veteran students,” Bangura said. “We work hand in hand with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).”

The VIO offers resources and assistance related to veteran-student issues, including transcripts, financial aid, military benefits and advice on the best way to access the information. The best part about the job is that Bangura can work from home while connecting with fellow veterans.

Kelly Grooms, assistant director of veterans’ initiatives for the VIO, described Bangura as “a dedicated team member.”

“He is committed to assisting fellow student veterans in understanding how to use their benefits, as well as how to balance the transition from combat zone to classroom,” Grooms said. “He is diligent in accomplishing tasks and his attention to detail is an asset to his colleagues and overall mission of the Veterans Initiatives Office.”

As a retired servicemember, Bangura has firsthand knowledge to share with new veteran students. He credits professional development and mental health programs through the VA with helping him regain his identity as a civilian and attend UMGC.

Bangura also praises the leadership at the VIO, saying they serve as role models and mentors as he progresses in his academic journey and eventual professional career. 

“I know with a UMGC education, I can leave here and find a better job. And the flexibility with the program is just great,” Bangura said.