International Literacy Day: Reading Shapes UMGC Lives

A University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) writing teacher hated reading when she was a child. An academic program director and author didn’t become interested in books until he was in college. The university’s senior vice president of global military operations turned to books because his family didn’t have the means to travel.

Today—Sept. 8—is celebrated around the world as International Literacy Day. A UNESCO resolution launched the day in 1967 to advance literacy as a human right and as essential in lifelong learning. In recognition of the day, UMGC leadership and faculty members looked back on their relationship with books and reading.

“There are so many moments in history that involve wisdom that came from reading. I think of Abraham Lincoln, of Martin Luther King Jr. I think of Malcolm X learning to read in prison, of Richard Wright talking about reading and writing,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “History is filled with the power of reading. Literacy broadens our horizons and helps us really grow as human beings.

“In its own way, it allows us to explore the world.” 

Fowler’s drive to read was fueled by impatience. He couldn’t wait for the moments when his mother or sister had time to read to him, so he learned to do it himself. By the time he started school as a 5-year-old, he was reading at a Grade 3 level—and was able to consolidate two years of elementary school, entering third grade at the age of six. 

Books were also a childhood fixture for Damon Freeman, collegiate professor and director of the History and African American Studies Program. His father read to him as an infant and toddler. 

“I vaguely remember getting a book around the age of 4. One day I walked up to my mother and began talking to her about ‘diplodocus,’” he said. “We have a photo somewhere of me trying to read my dinosaur book to my little sister.” Decades later, Freeman still owns that copy of “The True Book of Dinosaurs” by Mary Lou Clark.

The science section of any bookstore was Freeman’s go-to place as a child. His parents, both teachers, widened his collection by tucking in Shel Silverstein books for children—and he occasionally revisits a Silverstein book for its lessons about life.

“I think reading literacy and comprehension has been my greatest strength. I seemed to understand almost instinctively when a teacher would ask a question about the main idea or theme of a paragraph or chapter,” Freeman said. “I think the ability to contextualize facts and ideas is important to anyone’s life and has been central to my education in history and law.”  

Patricia Coopersmith, UMGC associate vice president and deputy director in the Europe division, also returns with frequency to a book she read when young: “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.

Patricia Coopersmith, UMGC associate vice president, Europe division

“The rags-to-riches, romance, historical perspective—and so much more—sweep me away to another place and time, take any stress out of my day and always remind me of a few life lessons that I shouldn’t forget,” she said.

Coopersmith, a fan of historical fiction, said her reading of stories about kings and queens fueled a desire to see the world and directly connects her job at UMGC to her early reading.

Jeanine Williams, director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program, is clear about her early connection to books—and its irony. 

“I hated reading as a child,” said Williams. “It’s funny when you think that my professional background is actually in reading. I teach writing now but most of my work has been around students at the college level who needed reading support.” 

She said that work is designed to teach students how to more deeply understand the lessons found in stories. “I got into that because I realized how important literacy is to everything in life,” Williams explained.

She said she did not feel connected with books until sixth grade when a teacher “selected books that seemed to resonate with me and my classmates.” Today Williams usually is reading multiple books at a time. Even more, she is a demonstrative reader. 

“I don’t come to reading passively. When I read, I mark up the margins,” she said. “I get really engaged and have a conversation with the text.”

Author Steven Killings, director of the Humanities and Philosophy Program, described himself a late bloomer when it came to reading.

“I joined the Marine Corps when I was 17, after graduating high school, and didn’t really get interested in books until I was in college,” said Killings, the author of  “A Student Reader of Secular Latin Poetry from Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages” and the novel “The Queen of Sorrows.”

“A professor of mine suggested that I visit the Newberry Library in Chicago for a class project. The Newberry was like the Pierpont Morgan in New York City or the Huntington Library in San Marino, those institutions founded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by wealthy industrialists whose aim was to create a repository of ancient and medieval books and manuscripts for American scholars. 

“I became fascinated by the culture of medieval scholars and manuscripts at the Newberry. I became friends with the special collections curator, and I changed my college major and began studying Latin and Ancient Greek so I could read the medieval manuscripts,” he said.  

Killings’ interest in books cascaded into the collecting of rare books, as well as calligraphy and book binding. 

Libraries were also a favorite haunt of Reynaldo Garcia, a professor and director of the Community College Policy and Administration doctoral program. He recalled being a regular visitor to the library in the Catholic grammar school he attended. “For every book I finished, I was always anxious to get back to the library and pick the next one, and then the next one, throughout elementary, middle and high school.

“Reading for me was always an exciting privilege,” he said. “Early opportunities to explore and develop those reading muscles made me a very strong student and a really well-informed consumer of information who is able to examine things with a critical eye.”

Today Garcia splits his reading three ways—and he always has multiple books going at the same time. He reads books that keep him current in his field. He reads for self-development, a category that includes books about history, politics and governance. And he reads for pleasure, from airport paperbacks to classic literature. 

Childhood books hold a special place in the lives of many UMGC readers.

“My earliest memory about reading involves a book about a mouse who wanted to bake an apple pie. I was able to understand that much from the pictures,” said Valorie King, collegiate professor and director of the Cybersecurity Management and Policy Program. “I wanted to know the rest of the story but there was no one available to read the book to me—my older brother wanted to play outside with his friends and mom was busy with chores. 

“I decided then and there that I was going to learn to read so that I didn’t have to wait for anyone else,” she said.

King’s aspiration didn’t actually come true until second grade, when a nun at Holy Redeemer School in College Park, Maryland “took me in hand and taught me phonics and spelling.” From that point forward, she borrowed books from her school library on a daily basis and, during the summer, walked two miles each way to the county library “to check out as many books as my arms would hold.” Science fiction was her favorite genre. 

“Those were the days when Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein were writing juvenile fiction,” she said. “I am constantly amazed that I am living with the technologies that they and other authors created and described in their fictional works.”

She added that she gets some of her best ideas for cybersecurity-focused student projects and classroom discussions from the works of authors like S.E. Weir, J.D. Robb, C. J. Cherryh, Glynn Stewart, and Craig Martelle.

King is a voracious reader, currently on a Kindle reading streak that is close to 160 days long. 

Books were also a gateway to the world and new ideas for Lloyd “Milo” Miles, senior vice president of global military operations. 

“I come from a poor background, and books were the way we could escape and read about different places in the world we never thought we would see,” he said. “I could increase my imagination from reading science fiction—Isaac Asimov—or ‘Robinson Crusoe’ or even comic books.”

For his work at UMGC, there’s a book that Miles keeps close at hand, the war novel “Once an Eagle” by Anton Myrer. 

“I refer to it a lot in the speeches I make. It has messages about leadership that I value,” he explained. 

Miles said he reads nonfiction during the day and fiction “for enjoyment and escape” in the evening before he goes to bed. 

Miles retired from the U.S. Army as a major general before joining UMGC. In his real-life journeys around the globe, he has often been struck by how people—especially those who do not have a lot—value books. 

“If you gave them a book, it was like handing them a bar of gold,” he said. “I always appreciated when nonprofits would team up with military to help us distribute books in various parts of the world.

“I felt that maybe we were helping them escape to a bigger world, like I did as a child,” he said.

UMGC Student Joins Board of The Maryland Association of Health Care Executives

Adelphi, Md. (Sept. 3, 2021)— A graduate student in health care administration (HCAD) at the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has been named the first student board member of the Maryland Association of Health Care Executives (MAHCE).

The student, who asked only to be identified as Kaitlyn, was elected to a one-year term on the MACHE Board of Directors.

“The election of Kaitlyn to the MAHCE Board as the first student member is a wonderful testament to the value and recognition the Maryland Health Care Executive community assigns the UMGC Global Health Management and Administration (GHM&A) programs and alumni,” said Liliya Roberts, MD, program director and professor of GHM&A. “Kaitlyn, an HCAD student sitting on the board of this prestigious and well-recognized professional organization adds additional pride to the UMGC GHM&A programs and the students.”   

Kaitlyn, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Towson University, began her graduate studies at UMGC in 2020. She anticipates graduating in 2022 and is a student member of the MAHCE.

“After working in a clinical setting for about five years, I realized that health care was where I wanted to build my career. But instead of doing clinical work, I wanted to make a difference not only in the lives of our patients, but in the lives of the staff taking care of those patients,” Kaitlyn said. “When I stumbled upon the Healthcare Administration Master’s Degree Program at UMGC, learned the details of it and what it could mean for my career, and then applied it to my existing skills, I realized that the administrative side of health care was for me.

“One of my HCAD professors posted an opportunity for students to get involved in the MAHCE as the student board member and, after taking a chance, I was nominated,” she added.

MAHCE, founded in 1973, fosters professional development and collaboration among health care professionals. The organization is a local member of the Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives, an international professional society.

“This nomination has already given me the opportunity to connect with health care executives that provide real-life insight to the existing trends in the health care system. Working alongside my fellow board members, I can delve into the world of health care administration and apply my learning not only to my schoolwork but to my future career endeavors,” Kaitlyn noted.

“Being connected to health care through my schoolwork, my job, and as a student board member with the MAHCE, I am able to build the skills I will need to help lead our health care system.”

Three Doctor of Management in Community College Policy and Administration Faculty Members Receive Accolades

Adelphi, Md. (Aug. 19, 2021)— University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is pleased to announce that three Doctor of Management in Community College Policy and Administration (DMCCPA) faculty members received distinguished honors in their industry. Trudy Bers, Ph.D., Gena Glickman, Ph.D., and Charlene Nunley Ph.D., all adjunct professors of DMCCPA, were recently recognized.

Trudy Bers

“The awards and honors given to UMGC faculty members in the community college doctoral program represent the highest levels of achievement,” said Reynaldo Garcia, Ph.D., professor and program director of the DMCCPA program. “That our doctoral program students have the privilege of working with individuals who are at top of our field is a testament to the high quality of our program and our university. I know of no other community college doctoral program that can match the level of achievement in the long list of awards our faculty received this year. I am humbled and honored to work with these outstanding scholars and teachers.”

Trudy Bers was honored with the 2021 Sidney Suslow Scholar Award from the Association for Institutional Research (AIR). As a 2021 awardee, Bers, who was acknowledged through her scholarly work as stated by AIR, “has made significant contributions to the field of institutional research and advanced understanding of the profession in a meaningful way.”

In addition to teaching at UMGC, she is president of The Bers Group, an education consulting organization. Bers is also the former executive director of research, curriculum and planning at Oakton Community College, and a data coach for more than 20 Achieving the Dream Colleges. See Bers bio

Gena Glickman

Gena Glickman was elected to serve as chair of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is the national advocate and institutional voice for academic quality through accreditation.

Since 2018, Glickman has led Massasoit Community College as president and prior to this, she spent 10 years as president of Manchester Community College. Focused on student success, academic excellence and community engagement, Glickman has managed initiatives, wrote articles on higher education issues, and presented at national conferences. View Glickman’s bio

Charlene Nunley

Furthermore, the founding director of the UMGC’s DMCCPA program, Charlene Nunley was awarded the 2021 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Leadership Award earlier this summer. AACC’s award honors individuals who demonstrate outstanding accomplishments and professional contributions to the community college field.

Nunley was the president of Montgomery College for eight years before coming to UMGC. She spearheaded Montgomery College into the top five national community colleges in private fundraising for three consecutive years. In the past, Nunley co-chaired a statewide task force that examined capacity challenges facing Maryland’s public colleges and universities. Read Nunley’s bio

About University of Maryland Global Campus

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. 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. 

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.

Teaching in a Pandemic: Mentor Circles Connect Educators

Dwayne Burbridge always knew what he would do when he retired from the military: teach high school chemistry and physics. To put himself on the path to that goal, he enrolled in the graduate program in teaching at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC).

Burbridge, now ready to leave the U.S. Navy after serving 31 years, is only one requirement away from completing his Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. But that last task—a semester in a teaching internship—has been complicated by COVID-19.Continue Reading