Uber Technologies and University of Maryland Global Campus Announce Alliance to Expand Access to Higher Education for Company’s 20,000+ Corporate Employees and Increase Hiring of Military Veterans

Adelphi, Md. (May 12, 2021)–University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), the nation’s largest online public university, and Uber Technologies, Inc., a leading technology company in today’s gig economy, have announced an alliance to expand access to higher education for the company’s 20,000+ corporate employees around the world.  

“UMGC’s coursework aligns with critical workforce needs, and its online capabilities and flexibility are suited to adult students with jobs and families,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “Corporate partnerships represent a large and growing segment of our market, and we are proud to help some of today’s most dynamic companies develop the knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions they need in employees at every level of their organizations.” 

As part of the alliance, Uber will participate in UMGC’s career services activities, including recruiting UMGC students and alumni, with the aim of increasing the number of military veterans it hires. 

UMGC enrolls more than 90,000 students annually, and over half are military-affiliated, including active-duty servicemembers and their families stationed around the world, reservists, members of the National Guard and veterans. 

By participating in UMGC recruiting events and activities, as well as with the university’s military veteran career initiatives, Uber is seeking a faster pathway to identify qualified candidates from military populations as it fills key positions in the company, including in sales, business development, communications, data science, finance, accounting, technology and software engineering. 

“We are proud of our unique history and experience with military-affiliated students—not just in understanding the challenges they face when pursuing their educational goals but also with providing career services that are geared toward their particular needs,” added Fowler. “Our alliance with Uber brings together two organizations that are taking action to prepare and hire our talented and highly trained veterans for post-military careers.” 

UMGC will offer Uber’s corporate employees—as well as their immediate family members—reduced tuition options. They can choose courses from any of the university’s 90 academic programs, available wholly online. UMGC also saves students money by using digital resources, which have replaced costly publisher textbooks in most courses. 

UMGC’s online format makes it a great choice for continuing education, an advantage that has been underscored by the challenges that many brick-and-mortar colleges and universities have faced while operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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University of Maryland Global Campus Establishes Alliance with Kentucky Community College System to Speed Up Pathway for System’s 100,000+ Students to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Adelphi, Md. (May 11, 2021)–University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and the Kentucky Community Technical College System (KCTCS) have announced an alliance that will expand the reach of UMGC’s 90 online academic programs to the more than 100,000 students enrolled in the system’s 16 community colleges.

The alliance maximizes the application of KCTCS students’ coursework and credits to their bachelor’s degree programs, guaranteeing admission to UMGC and their preferred programs of study.

Most students will be able to transfer at least 60 credits—and up to a maximum of 70 credits—when they complete their associates degree and transfer to UMGC to complete a bachelor’s degree in a complementary field of study.

“We are proud to establish this alliance with KCTCS, which will increase access and affordability and accelerate the pathway to a four-year degree,” said Gregory Fowler, president of UMGC. “By maximizing transfer credit and guaranteeing admission into a student’s preferred program of study, we are providing students an opportunity to achieve their educational goals while saving time and money.”

“KCTCS associate degree graduates are ready to transfer to and succeed in a bachelor’s degree program,” said KCTCS Chancellor Kris Williams. “UMGC offers a broad range of programs that meet students’ needs, and we welcome the partnership.”

UMGC 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.

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UMGC and SAIC® Form Alliance to Increase Educational Opportunities for the Company’s Employees and Their Families

Adelphi, Md. (May 6, 2021)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a leader in providing innovative and quality academic programs online, and Reston, Va.-based Science Applications International Corp., a Fortune 500® technology and engineering services company, have formed an alliance that will increase educational opportunities for SAIC’s employees and their families.

The alliance will enable SAIC’s 26,000 employees and their spouses and dependents 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.

“SAIC’s employees serve our federal government, solving some of the nation’s most difficult technical challenges,” said Dr. Kuan H. Collins, Chief Technologist and Solution Architect Master at SAIC and a UMGC Doctor of Business Administration graduate. “As an alumnus of the university, I recognize how the powerful relationship between SAIC and UMGC creates real opportunities to grow our employees’ careers and enhance SAIC’s value to our customers’ missions.”

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

UMGC’s online format makes it a great choice for continuing education, especially when many brick-and-mortar colleges and universities are facing the challenge of holding classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

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

With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family, and military service. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, including doctoral programs.

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

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

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

About Science Applications International Corp.

SAIC® is a premier Fortune 500® technology integrator driving our nation’s digital transformation. Our robust portfolio of offerings across the defense, space, civilian, and intelligence markets includes secure high-end solutions in engineering, IT modernization, and mission solutions. Using our expertise and understanding of existing and emerging technologies, we integrate the best components from our own portfolio and our partner ecosystem to deliver innovative, effective, and efficient solutions that are critical to achieving our customers’ missions.

We are more than 26,000 strong; driven by mission, united by purpose, and inspired by opportunities. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, SAIC has annual revenues of approximately $7.1 billion. For more information, visit saic.com.

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UMGC Teams Up with Anne Arundel Community College to Speed Pathway to Degrees in Computer Science

New Program Allows Community College Students to Earn Associates Degree,
Transfer to UMGC and Earn Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees
in Computer Science, All Within Five Years

Adelphi, Md. (May 5, 2021)–University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has signed an agreement with Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) that will allow AACC students to earn a master’s degree in Computer Science at UMGC in five years, saving students time and money.

The 3+1+1 Computer Science Articulation Agreement provides for AACC computer science students to stay an extra year at the community college, take additional courses and transfer 81 credits to UMGC. By following the program pathway map, students can complete the UMGC bachelor’s degree in computer science in just over one year and, if they so choose, go on to complete one of two UMGC master’s degrees in an additional year.

“Our alliance with Anne Arundel Community College helps to increase access and affordability of a four-year college degree and it also speeds the path to a career in a high-demand field,” said Blakely Pomietto, senior vice president and chief academic officer at UMGC. “We are proud to work with Anne Arundel Community College to develop creative ways for students to save time and money while achieving their educational goals.”

“This articulation agreement is an excellent opportunity for our computer science students to continue their education,” said Dr. Dawn Lindsay, AACC president. “We are proud to work with UMGC to help our students reach their academic goals.”

In addition to low in-state tuition rates, UMGC also offers cost savings through its use of digital resources, which have replaced costly publisher textbooks in most courses.

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UMGC and USO Launch Partnership in Europe

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and the USO have much in common. They both serve members of the military and their families. They were “born” around the same time and sometimes share an overlapping volunteer base. Most importantly, in many locations where the USO has centers, UMGC also has an on-site presence.

The two organizations have now harnessed those similarities in a formal partnership that expands UMGC’s ability to put its faculty, courses and career services in front of servicemembers and their families in Europe.

“We wanted this to be a partnership with a lot of activities at the field level,” said Tony Cho, vice president and director of UMGC Europe. “The USO is an organization that serves servicemembers, as we are. This is the USO’s 80th year, and UMGC will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next year. And our missions match closely.”

In addition to collaborating on events, Cho said the partnership will give UMGC access to USO centers, including in Germany at Ramstein Air Base and at some Landstuhl Regional Medical Center facilities. Ramstein has the biggest USO center outside the United States. During peak periods, as many as 20,000 people pass through it daily. The medical center, meanwhile, is the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States.

For its part, the USO will be able to use UMGC’s educational resources for events. The two organizations may also share marketing materials.

“Unlike stateside … there is not a lot of media we have access to in Europe for outreach. What we focus on is physical outreach—we go to the base exchange or to the commissary and set up tables with course fliers and swag items,” Cho said. He said the ability to also set up at USO venues will dramatically boost UMGC’s ability to connect with servicemembers and their families.

Grant McCormick, regional vice president for USO Europe, said the partnership builds on a longstanding record of cooperation. “University of Maryland Global Campus has been part of our events for some time. Faculty and staff already volunteer for USO events and support our staff in other ways,” McCormick said. “We’ll take more of the things we’re doing now and include UMGC in those events.”

McCormick cited the USO Coffee Connections program for military spouses as one area of collaboration. “We thought it would be wonderful to have UMGC faculty give briefings or presentations at Coffee Connections,” he said. “They could speak about educational opportunities. They could speak about financial counseling.” McCormick said the university also could be part of big USO barbecues featuring music and fireworks, and the USO could bring its mobile canteen to UMGC events.

Cho noted that USO employees receive their own tuition assistance that could be used toward UMGC degrees, while USO volunteers could be a potential talent pool for the university in Europe. “These are military friendly and service-oriented volunteers, sometimes the spouses on military bases,” Cho explained. “We may want to hire some of them as full-time employees.”

The partnership launched on March 29 with a photo opportunity—the presentation by UMGC of an oversized check to the USO for $25,000 and a spontaneous dance by McCormick and Cho. The good-natured dance sparked the idea for a dance challenge between the two organizations at a joint event around Halloween.

The new partnership is modeled on a similar collaboration the university has with the USO in Asia and Hawaii.

McCormick called it “humbling” to partner with an organization with a similar mission and historic timeline then revealed that he has a personal connection to UMGC. The U.S. Air Force veteran took classes through the university 35 years ago when he was stationed at the Misawa Air Base in Japan. “I was about 22 at the time. I took Algebra I, English literature and a language class,” he said.

UMGC Europe was established in Germany in 1949 as the first university to send faculty overseas to educate active-duty U.S. military personnel after WWII. The division provides services to approximately 14,000 students annually in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (europe.umgc.edu).

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

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

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

Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead

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

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

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

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

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

Total number of graduates worldwide: 13,171 

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

Youngest graduate: 17 years old 

Oldest graduate:  78 years old 

Average age: 35 years old 

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

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

With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family, and military service. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, including doctoral programs.  

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

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

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

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UMGC to Host Military Veterans Virtual Appreciation Fair, May 13

Event to Feature Virtual Booths with Employers and Veteran Service Organizations Along with UMGC Career Services and Veterans Programs Staff 

Adelphi, Md. (April 22, 2021)–University of Maryland Global Campus will host the 4th annual Mil/Vet Appreciation Fair on Thursday, May 13, from 4 to 7 p.m. The fair will be conducted virtually through the VFairs platform and feature virtual booths and a virtual auditorium. The event is open to all military-affiliated students, staff and faculty at UMGC. 

Attendees can visit booths staffed by recruiters from companies around the country and representatives from veteran service organizations, as well as staff from UMGC’s Veterans Initiatives Office (VIO) and Career Services Office. In the virtual auditorium, the university will host a recognition ceremony for the SALUTE National Honor Society inductees and VIO scholarship recipients. 

To register for the event, please visit UMGC Military and Veteran Virtual Appreciation Fair 

“UMGC is committed to providing opportunities and resources to our military and veterans students, and our Military and Veterans Appreciation Fair salutes the men and women who are serving or have served in defense of our nation,” said Dr. Nicole DeRamus-Suazo, the university’s assistant vice president for Veterans Programs. “It is our honor to showcase veterans service organizations and employers who are committed to serving, helping, and employing veterans and their families locally and nationally.”  

As part of UMGC’s alliance with Audacy (formerly Entercom), the media company will showcase the fair through its “Eye on Vets” series on the ConnectingVets.com website. The feature will include interviews at the event with representatives of the veterans service organizations and employers in attendance, as well as members of the university’s career services and veterans initiatives offices. 

More than half of UMGC’s students are military-affiliated, including active-duty servicemembers and their families stationed around the world, reservists, members of the National Guard and veterans. 

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

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

With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family, and military service. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, including doctoral programs. 

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

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

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

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UMGC Expertise Featured Prominently at CyberMaryland 2021

The 2021 CyberMaryland Conference presented by the Federal Business Council (FBC) promoted the theme, “Building the Cyber Generation.” During the two-day conference agenda, University of Maryland Global Campus speakers built on this theme with the intent of ensuring today’s cyber-safety and educating tomorrow’s cybersecurity professionals.

Featuring thought leaders from Maryland’s cybersecurity sector as well as nationally recognized speakers and panelists on cyber and technology innovations, the online event covered the most up-to-date information in all facets of the cyber ecosystem. UMGC faculty members, including several from the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology, presented on a wide range of topics. Notably they discussed current and future cyber legislation, promoting women in cybersecurity, the emerging field of cyber accounting, and the potential of stackable credentialing.

Additionally, the UMGC student cyber competition team scored a big win by placing first in the four-year university category at the conference’s national capture-the-flag (CTF) competition. This signature event, hosted by UMGC, assembled top national cyber talent competing in an online-virtual competition. The UMGC team, including Tim Nordvedt, Paul Chilcote, Louis Rush and Ben Simcox, scored 91 points to take first place, followed by runner up University of Central Florida with 87 points, and Towson University taking third place with 56 points.

Keeping pace with national and local threats through legislation

On day one of the conference, Greg Von Lehman, special assistant for cybersecurity at UMGC, moderated a panel on recent cybersecurity legislation in Maryland and at the federal level. Von Lehman noted that the number of cybersecurity bills proposed in Congress has climbed steadily in recent years as have bills in state legislatures.

“We will be seeing a greater impact of the government’s role in the nation’s cybersecurity,” said Von Lehman. “From 2016 to 2020, we saw that COVID-19 impacted the number of cybersecurity bills that passed, and we should see more passed in 2022.”

Panelists, including Michael Garcia, senior policy advisor at ThirdWay, and Markus Rauschecker, cybersecurity program director at the University of Maryland Center for Health & Homeland Security (CHHS), explored the victories for cybersecurity in the last Congress, the range of cybersecurity issues that state legislatures are seeking to address, and the cybersecurity bills that are currently moving through the Maryland General Assembly.

Garcia added that the 116th Congress has increased the amount of cyber legislation, which is also gaining bipartisan support. “Although going after adversaries is not a key priority thus far, there has been a lot of pressure on members of congress to act after the SolarWinds attacks,” he said.

Von Lehman offered a summary of legislation, stating that most bills introduced and passed on the national level focused on three primary areas—election security, criminality and consumer protection. For election security, 14 best practice bills were introduced out of 35 total and four were passed. Criminality bills focused on increasing penalties, identifying new crimes, and increasing investigative capacity for cybercrimes. Most consumer protection bills introduced focused on security requirements, such as data protection and personal information. In this area, 33 bills were introduced and three passed.

Von Lehman added that legislation in Maryland reflects what is happening on the national stage. “There are 18 cyber-related bills in the current Maryland session focusing on criminal law, consumer protection, preparedness, governance, education and workforce development, and voting security,” he said.

Supporting women in cyber education

A day-one afternoon keynote panel on women in cyber education featured Loyce Pailen, senior director for the Center for Security Studies at UMGC and focused on how public and private organizations can work together to bring more cybersecurity education and employment opportunities to women in their local communities and nationwide.

While cybersecurity jobs are at an all‐time high, she said the gender gap in the field remains wide. The panel discussed ways to build awareness and interest in cyber careers among women of all ages. Pailen stressed the importance of role models. “Girls need to see people like them in the jobs they aspire to attain,” she said. “Rather than introducing girls to cyber, we should be asking them what it is they want to solve in life,” she added.

Also on the panel was 14-year-old Bianca Lewis, otherwise known as “BiaSciLab,” founder of Girls Who Hack, which teaches girls hacking skills so that they can change the future. Asked what educators can do to get girls engaged in cybersecurity, Lewis said, “Kids love anything hands on, so I think that if we want my generation to get into STEAM, we need to teach them hands on projects.”

Panelist Jennifer Wood, head of communications and government affairs at Luta Security, offered a messaging perspective for promoting women in cyber. “We need to change the messages that women are hearing,” she said. “Girls need to see all these women featured as cyber experts and understand that they can have that role as well.” Wood also said that local companies are lagging in terms of engagement. “They need to do a better job engaging in local events and getting involved in the schools to make sure there are increased opportunities in K-12 and beyond.”

Meeting the need for cybersecurity training in the accounting field

As guardians of crucial assets—while not typically thought of as cybersecurity professionals—accountants now play a critical role in cybersecurity and digital forensics. A UMGC panel of four faculty members discussed the impetus to develop a master-level CyberAccounting program, including the expanded role of lawyers and CPAs in cybersecurity.

Accounting firms are treasure troves of information. To hackers, they are targets. And although CPAs are not cyber experts, they do need to know when to engage cyber professionals. They need to understand the risk landscape, how to detect intrusions into assets, how to promote cyber resilience, and how to foster conversations among stakeholders.

Key to cyber accounting, according to Bruce DeGrazia, professor of Cybersecurity Management and Policy, is an understanding of Blockchain. “Leaders in accounting need to understand Blockchain, not because it is the basis for crypto currencies, but because it can be used to protect documents and transactions,” he said. “Blockchain in financial institutions allows us to protect documents and confidentiality.”

DeGrazia also made the case that the CPA skillset is a natural fit for cyber audits. “CPAs are expert in audits and are able to identify cyber risks and assess the severity of each one,” he said. “They are good at auditing security policies and privacy controls, they can perform penetration testing on the social engineering side of cybersecurity, and they can integrate cyber risks into the audit plan.”

Positioning learners for academic and career success with microcredentials

Douglas Harrison, vice president and dean of the UMGC School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology, moderated a session on stackable microcredentials and how providing professionals with right-sized industry-aligned credentials that can be assembled (stacked) toward traditional degrees are increasingly valued in the workplace.

“Students can assemble a series of credentials–certificates, licenses, badges, or apprenticeships–that recognize achievements and abilities,” said Harrison. “This increases their currency in our knowledge economy, creating more direct pathways to better jobs and higher wages.”

Why stackable? The high cost of education and immediate relevancy are two driving factors to incremental learning. “There is a theory that supports learning in smaller bites,” said Harrison. There is also a motivational aspect. Harrison noted that adults also sense value upon completion if learning is done incrementally and in smaller amounts. Moreover, by stacking education into small units of learning, students are afforded the flexibility of coming in and out of learning. Ed Bach, vice president, Strategic Partnerships at UMGC, discussed the business case for stackables from an employer perspective. “Corporations are looking for knowledge now,” he said. “Stackables help us produce focused, well-educated employees for employers, while encouraging life-long learning.

UMGC Takes First Place in CyberMaryland’s National Capture-the-Flag Competition

Adelphi, Md. (March 29, 2021)–University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) placed first in the four-year university category at the 2021 CyberMaryland Conference’s national capture-the-flag (CTF) competition on March 24.

UMGC scored 91 points to take first place, followed by runner up University of Central Florida with 87 points, and Towson University taking third-place with 56 points.

The UMGC team included Tim Nordvedt, captain (MS Cybersecurity Technology); Paul Chilcote (BS Cyber Management and Policy); Louis Rush (MS Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation); and Ben Simcox (BS Computer Science, Cybersecurity minor).

“Our victory in this annual event is a testament to the rigor of our cybersecurity program and to the highly developed skills of the graduate and undergraduate student practitioners working in the field today,” said Jesse Varsalone, collegiate professor of Cybersecurity Technology at UMGC and organizer of the competition.

The signature event of the conference, the Maryland Cyber Challenge & Competition (MDC3) hosted by UMGC, gathered top national cyber talent competing in an online-virtual competition using the TryHackMe cybersecurity training platform.

The UMGC team was coached by Aaron Klink, associate adjunct professor in Cybersecurity Technology in the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology. John Galliano, program director, Cybersecurity Technology, and Varsalone ran the competition, which included creating all 100 questions in 10 categories, conducting the training session, tabulating the results, and managing technical issues and questions throughout the competition.

About CyberMaryland 2021

Hosted by the Federal Business Council (FBC), the 2021 CyberMaryland Conference featured two days of educational presentations on the latest IT and cybersecurity technologies by industry and government subject matter experts. The event assembled thought leaders from Maryland’s cybersecurity sector and also featured nationally recognized speakers and panelists on cyber and technology innovations. Sessions covered the most up-to-date information from leaders in all facets of the cyber ecosystem. This year’s theme, “Building the Cyber Generation,” encompassed the event’s intent to ensure the cyber-safety of today and educate the cybersecurity professionals of tomorrow.

SAFER Option Assists UMGC Students in Financial Need

Five hundred dollars may not seem like a significant amount of money, but to the UMGC students struggling with expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be a lifesaver and a morale boost that helps them get through a difficult period.

That’s why the university created SAFER – Student Aid Fund for Emergency Relief – and encouraged students who are in need of immediate financial assistance to apply.

“The students are vulnerable and they are clear about their struggles,” said Kristen Staten, UMGC’s Assistant Vice President of Financial Aid, Scholarships and State Grants.  “They are super committed to keeping up with their education, and they just need a little bit of help. It’s great to be able to provide that help.”

Launched last July, the grants are financed entirely by donations to the university. Students can apply for awards in amounts ranging from $100 to $300 to $500, depending on their need. As of the end of March, the SAFER program has supported 935 students, with grants totaling $465,100.

“The most common issue is housing insecurity, and when you have a housing problem, they typically need the maximum amount,” she said.

Since UMGC’s mission is to serve adult learners, many of whom are completing their education while maintaining jobs and family commitments, the sudden evaporation of their employment when the economy shut down last spring was a major blow.

Darby Fallon, a 28-year-old finance major who is working simultaneously on a certificate in Human Resources Management had been working in the restaurant business since dropping out of the University of Maryland in her junior year.  She already had decided there was no future for her in that industry, so she had turned to UMGC to finish her education.

And then the restaurant business disappeared with the pandemic.

Her unemployment benefits ran out in September and she was burning through her savings, leaving her home in Maryland to move in with her parents on the Mississippi coast. But she didn’t see how she could keep up with her tuition payments.

She reached out to professors and searched UMGC webpages to see what aid was available, she said. When she saw the SAFER program, she applied immediately and got a response in 24 hours for the full $500, which she used to make her tuition payments.

“This program is vital to keep students enrolled and help them succeed,” she said. “It’s very encouraging for students who in times of distress can feel the school has their back.” 

Lucene Simon, who had come to Washington D.C. in 2012 from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, lost his job with the George Washington University facilities department when students no longer came to campus.

His plan is to complete two UMGC degrees at once–Legal Studies and Human Resources Management–with the goal of going to law school and a career in employment law. 

But his unemployment benefits didn’t show up for five months and food stamp assistance was late too because of a backlog in applications, he said. His savings were about gone when he learned of the SAFER program.

“Lucky for me UMGC had that fund available, and it came at the right time,” he said.  “It helped me get by until the unemployment checks arrived.”

For Brittany Watkins, the pandemic has been a triple whammy.

The mother of three children – a daughter in high school, one in middle school and a four-year old son – she is a patient care technician, assisting nurses at a hospital in Maryland’s Calvert County, During the pandemic she is putting in 12-shifts, rarely with a day off.

Her husband’s job as a construction inspector requires him to work away from home for most of the day. 

At the time of her interview for this story, Watkins was only three weeks away from completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology – something that she has been working toward off and on since 2013. She was supposed to finish it at the end of the last term, but a family emergency in the final weeks caused her to momentarily break from her studies.

When the pandemic caused the schools to close, her daughters had to do their schooling virtually with no one at home to supervise them.  At the same time, she said, dealing with the pandemic caused the family expenses to jump for basics like food and utilities.  What had been financially manageable suddenly became unmanageable. She fell behind in daycare payments, making it hard for her to drop off her son.

“When I got the SAFER grant, I gave it all to the daycare center,” she said.  “It was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders.”

Still, she had to withdraw her son from daycare, which requires her daughters now to care for him while doing their own virtual schooling. Her older daughter began to suffer mental problems because of the pandemic stress, which is what caused Watkins to not do as well as she expected in her last class.

With her daughters heading back to in-person school March 8, she is calling on her mother to tend to the son–as soon as she recovers from the corona virus.

Yet all of these hardships have not deterred Watkins from wanting to pursue a master’s degree as soon as she wraps up her undergraduate program.  One of the outcomes of the pandemic is that she decided she does not want to stay in health care. She is aiming to jump right into UMGC’s Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation program.

“For the people who donated to the SAFER fund, I am extremely grateful,” Watkins said.  “These are trying times for everyone. It shows that people have good hearts.”

The SAFER fund will not end when the pandemic becomes history, UMGC’s Staten said.

“When Corona is over, there will still be emergencies,” she said. “Students will still face struggles and unforeseen circumstances that will arise.  As an institution, we want to make sure we are here to help students stay on track through those emergencies toward meeting their educational goals.”

To learn more about SAFER and make a gift, visit impact.umgc.edu/safer.