UMGC Alumnus Launches Business with Young Son

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

University of Maryland Global Campus and Metropolitan Community College Establish Transfer Agreement to Accelerate Pathwayto a Bachelor’s Degree

Adelphi, Md. (June 15, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and Metropolitan Community College (MCC), the oldest public institution of higher learning in Kansas City, Mo., have announced a partnership that will expand the reach of UMGC’s 90 online academic programs and increase the affordability of a bachelor’s degree to MCC’s nearly 14,000 students.

Under the alliance’s transfer agreement, students can transfer a minimum of 60 credits when they complete an associate degree and be guaranteed admission to a UMGC bachelor’s degree program in a complementary field of study.

All degree-seeking MCC students, graduates, and employees of the college, as well as their spouses and dependents who attend the college, will receive a waiver of the UMGC application fee and a discount on out-of-state tuition for most programs of study.

“We are pleased to join with Metropolitan Community College to increase access to quality online bachelor’s programs and accelerate the pathway to a four-year degree,” said Blakely Pomietto, senior vice president and chief academic officer at UMGC. “It is critical to provide a seamless process for MCC’s students to ultimately achieve their educational goals as efficiently and affordably as possible.”

UMGC has an enrollment of some 90,000 students—more than half of whom are active-duty military personnel and their families serving on military bases around the world—and offers award-winning online, in-person and hybrid 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.

“We are excited about this new partnership with UMGC,” said Sue Gochis, chief academic officer and vice chancellor of instruction at MCC. “This relationship is completely aligned with the Metropolitan Community College mission:  Preparing students, serving communities, and creating opportunities for all.   Providing increased access to transfer opportunities is one of the ways in which we can continue to serve our students in their educational journey.”

For more information, visit the university’s national community college alliances webpage.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

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

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

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

About Metropolitan Community College

Metropolitan Community College, founded in 1915 as the Kansas City Polytechnic Institute, is the oldest public institution of higher learning in Kansas City, Mo., and was the first community college established in Missouri. The Junior College of Kansas City, as it was known starting in 1919, was one of the first schools in the country to award an associate degree. Today, MCC offers 125 associate degree and certificate programs and serves nearly 14,000 students at five campuses (MCC-Blue River, MCC-Longview, MCC-Maple Woods, MCC-Online, and MCC-Penn Valley).


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About University of Maryland Global Campus 

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

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

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


UMGC Recognized for Environmentally Sustainable Practices

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is committed to making a difference in being more sustainable as a university across the globe.

The Maryland Department of General Services recently awarded UMGC an honorable mention for success in ramping up green purchases over the year. UMGC’s Office of Procurement and Business Affairs and Facilities tracked its purchases and compiled a report that showed its gains on the sustainability front. 

“UMGC is committed to improving the environment by reducing our carbon footprint,” said UMGC Associate Vice President George Trujillo. “It’s a great honor to have our efforts recognized by the Department of General Services.”

The comprehensive report listed all green purchases in the following areas: construction and maintenance, janitorial supplies, lighting products, paints and coatings, and IT equipment.

UMGC last year was also named an All STAR (All State Agencies Recycle) organization thanks to its recycling rating of 70 percent. All STAR is the Maryland government agency recycling program. 

While working inside its operations to lessen its impact on the planet, the university also reached outward with several awareness events in celebration of Earth Day 2022, the theme of which was “Invest in Our Planet.” 

Earth Day: Our Planet, Our People

In a wide-ranging discussion, a UMGC event on the history of Earth Day looked at what has happened in the half-century since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in tandem with four cornerstone laws aimed at protecting the environment.

“It is estimated that 45 million Americans are breathing air that is dirtier now than it was 50 years ago when the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] was passed,” said Theresa Martin, D.M., in a presentation for Earth Day: Our Planet, Our People. NEPA requires federal agencies to gauge the environmental impact of their projects and programs.  

Martin’s comments came as part of UMGC’s Europe Earth Day webinar. Patricia Jameson, director of UMGC’s Overseas Diversity and Equity Programs, planned and coordinated the webinar.

Earth Day was established with bipartisan support in 1970 to raise awareness about air and water pollution after a massive oil spill. With the first Earth Day, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, and a quartet of environmental laws were enacted: NEPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Overseas collegiate associate professor and faculty coordinator in Germany, Martin also discussed the Superfund, which was designed to clean up sites contaminated by hazardous materials. She used New York’s Love Canal as an example. The abandoned canal project from the 1940s, just off the Niagara River in the city of Niagara Falls, became a landfill for a chemical plant. After it was closed and sealed, the land was given to the city, and houses and a school were built. A few years later, many people became sick with unexplainable illnesses. 

A state of emergency was declared in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter and funds were used to relocate the affected families. As a result of Love Canal and other toxic waste dumps, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund Act, was created. 

“What the Superfund Act does is it allows Congress to give federal funds to clean up disasters. There’s a little bit more to it than that, but it establishes a fund that can clean up these natural disasters,” Martin said. “It also allows for short-term and long-term responses and tracking.”

As another example of the impact of human activity on the environment, Martin pointed to the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. A switch in drinking water sources in the city of Flint led to thousands of people drinking and using lead-contaminated water in their homes.

“An American city failed to provide basic protections to its citizens, and now the children of Flint have much higher than normal levels of lead in their blood,” Martin said.

Aida Lebbos, associate vice president of institutional strategic projects and compliance, also commented on the water crisis. 

“What happened in Flint, Michigan, was a tragedy. It should not have happened,” she said.

The webinar concluded with comments from the audience.

Driving Electric: The Future Is Now

Ron Kaltenbaugh, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington D.C. (EVADC) looked into the history of electric vehicles, as well as the health and climate benefits of electric cars, during an Earth Day discussion coordinated by UMGC’s Office of Diversity and Equity and Office of Facilities Management.

In discussing the energy efficiency of electric vehicles (EVs), Kaltenbaugh noted that lower operating costs were also a benefit. 

“This is especially true today with gasoline prices high and rising, and we can see that the electric fuel costs are much lower,” he said. “But it’s also a personal benefit with the lack of toxic fumes, the lower maintenance costs and the instant torque of the electric motor, which provides good acceleration.”

Kaltenbaugh explained to event participants the difference between a hybrid vehicle and two types of electric vehicles. Hybrid vehicles have a gasoline engine with a small battery pack that assists the gasoline engine for more fuel efficiency or better performance. Plug-in hybrid vehicles have a charger plug and a larger battery for 10 to 50 miles of electric-only range, he noted. All hybrids and electric vehicles extend their range by capturing energy when braking, which also reduces wear and tear on the brakes.  

Kaltenbaugh also detailed the advantages of EVs powered solely by batteries.

“Here we’re starting to seriously get into being able to avoid gasoline usage and go on electric-only,” Kaltenbaugh explained. “And then we have battery only—no gas engine—that means no muffler and no spark plugs.”

photo provided by Ron Kaltenbaugh

In discussing ways to recharge electric cars, Kaltenbaugh noted that a standard outlet from a house provides enough energy per hour to enable a vehicle to drive three to five miles. However, EVs typically use a 240-volt circuit plug that offers more power per hour—enough to drive from 12 to 46 miles. After a half-hour charge with direct current (DC) fast-charging plugs, meanwhile, an EV can drive 50 to 200 miles. 

The webinar ended with information on the federal tax credit available to EV owners. A tax credit as high as $7,500 is available for EVs with the credit-dependent upon battery size.

(click to enlarge) UMGC staff who own EVs were featured at the end of the presentation. The EVs include: Teslas, Jeep hybrid option, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius, Ford Mustang and Subaru Crosstrek

Investing in Our Planet—and Each Other—Workshop

The Investing in Our Planet—and Each Other gathering turned the tables to examine individuals’ connections to the environment and the guardian role people can play.

The discussion with breakout sessions was organized by Sabrina Fu, Ph.D., program director and collegiate professor of UMGC’s Environmental Science and Management Program. Fu is also the faculty director of the university’s Environmental Awareness Club, which has 517 members.

“We all want to be empowered to be part of solutions in the 21st century and need to work on critical thinking, communications and creativity,” Fu said. “Each of us has a unique connection to what brings us to care about the environment and why we want to invest in our planet and each other.”

The webinar conversation started with a few participants sharing photos that reminded them of Earth Day and helping the environment. For example, Suzanne Agan offered a photo that showed her leading a sustainable agriculture conference at an orphanage outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Agan is an adjunct assistant professor of environmental science and management at UMGC.

photo provided by Suzanne Agan

“When I think of Earth Day and how important it is to be sustainable, I think of getting people where they need to be. And that’s being sustainable by reducing poverty and increasing food security,” Agan said. “And it’s just such a pleasure to work with those people and to be able to equip others to be sustainable in their own place.”

Participants assigned to break-out groups were asked to answer four questions: Why is Earth Day important to you? What initially stimulated you to speak out about the need to protect or invest in our planet? And what inspires you to continue your activism or commit to additional activism? And how does this relate to investing in our Earth and each other?

Corey Creedon, adjunct instructor of environmental science and management, teaches courses on environmental policy and talked about why Earth Day was important to him. 

“I think there’s kind of a neat aspect of Earth Day and other environmental holidays that draws public attention to the importance of the environment and how everything’s interconnected—and how we’re all living on this Earth together and our health and well-being are intertwined,” Creedon said.  

One example from student Eric Morales, a senior public safety administration major, underscored the role climate change played this winter in Minnesota, which experienced 16 tornadoes for the first time in recorded history. Weather dramas like this motivate Morales to speak out about the need to protect the planet. Morales, who also has a minor in environmental management, is a retired U.S. Air Force aircraft maintenance craftsman.

Najila Ahsan’s passion for the planet stretches beyond Earth Day. She is a regular volunteer at the neighborhood Design Center in Hyattsville, Maryland. This summer Ahsan, a senior environmental management major, has an internship with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. Ahsan moderated one of the breakout sessions and helped Fu plan the webinar along with Nurgul Dzhorobaeva, an environmental management major, and environmental science management faculty including Suzanne Agan, Paulo Maurin and Rhonda McBride, all adjunct associate professors, and Morgan Bliss, collegiate professor.

“I think the webinar went really well and it was great meeting everyone,” Ahsan said. “I was impressed to see how engaged people were.”

Life on Earth Day

Another event, Life on Earth Day, was held at UMGC’s Asia location. Rick Martin, Ph.D., an overseas college professor in Camp Humphreys, South Korea, was the speaker. 

“The presentation covered the history and accomplishments of Earth Day, while also describing how environmental degradation has continued since the first Earth Day events 52 years ago,” Martin said.

Participants were emboldened to think about ways to reduce their personal carbon footprint and discussed why most people have not yet made the changes needed.

“They were also encouraged to adopt the ethic that the Earth is our home and, as such, to be concerned about environmental damage no matter where in world it occurs,” Martin added. 

At the conclusion of the event, participants were given compostable toothbrushes.

“The toothbrushes served as an example that making small lifestyle changes to help prevent damage to the environment is no more difficult than the already widely adopted habit of brushing your teeth to prevent tooth decay,” Martin said.

Military Career and Growing Family Nudged Julius Downing to Psychology Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Educational Journey: From Segregated Schools to UMGC Degree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pillars of Strength Grads Look to Their Degrees to Change Their Lives 

Three of the graduates participating in University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) commencement ceremonies last month earned their degrees with the help of Pillars of Strength scholarship program, which are awarded to volunteer caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured military servicemembers. 

Those UMGC scholarships gave the three women the opportunity to rebuild their lives after postponing career and education opportunities to devote themselves to often-unrelenting care responsibilities. The scholarship recipients said Pillars of Strength gave them hope for the future, even though caring for spouses and children while working and taking courses was difficult. 

“It was a challenge,” said Erika Auro-Romilla, who took family and medical leave from her job to help her spouse, Natalie Romilla, recover from yet another back surgery. “It was really a juggle. Time management had to be there.” 

The surgery was needed because of long-term damage while serving in the Army in both Kosovo and Iraq. During the last two months of her degree program, Auro-Romilla said the work and responsibilities were so great that she thought of deferring a semester—but she pushed through.  

“Nobody saw me,” she said. “I was holed up in my office, just writing. But you have to look at the end goal, which was to actually acquire a degree.” 

She said the value of her education and the MBA degree is immeasurable. She looks forward to finding a position with better pay, more career advancement opportunities and better hours to help her continue to be a caregiver. 

The Pillars of Strength Scholarships were created in 2013 by Richard F. Blewitt, a UMGC alum and founder and CEO of The Blewitt Foundation, and UMGC. Since then, 51 individuals have received scholarships. Just last year, 12 were awarded at once. Nearly 20 recipients have completed degrees. 

Like Auro-Romilla, Margaret Keelty took part in UMGC’s commencement ceremony this month, even though Keelty finished her MBA in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of graduation that year, but being able to participate in the ceremony was important to Keelty because she wants to show her four children—especially her 16-year-old son—that “sometimes the work is hard, but it’s worth it.” 

Keelty had been “a typical military spouse,” following her Marine Corps husband from base to base, picking up jobs but never creating a long-term career.  When the family was in Okinawa, he developed a non-cancerous brain tumor that sent his body into shock. His pituitary gland doesn’t function, and he has not been able to work since.  

“I applied for a scholarship since he was a non-stop Marine since he was 18,” she said.   

Adding to the complications of caring for her husband was the news, shortly after she started her coursework, that she was pregnant with their fourth child.   

“When I look back, I wonder, ‘What was I thinking’ to undertake all of this?” she said. “Now, I wonder, how did I do all of that?” 

Earning the MBA in 2020 accomplished exactly what she wanted. The degree helped her land a position with the Army Contracting Command at the Aberdeen Proving Ground.  

Valerie Lebron-Martinez not only had to care for her Marine Corps husband, who suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury when he was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan but also her daughter, who had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when she was 3. 

With the help of the Pillars of Strength Scholarship, Lebron-Martinez completed a bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and human resources management. She has a second child, now, a 1-year-old daughter. 

Lebron-Martinez pursued the human resources management major to give her the skills for employment, she said.  But she hopes the political science major will help her realize her dream of getting into politics and becoming a lawmaker from South Carolina someday. 

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to receive the scholarship, which has opened all kinds of doors for me,” she said. “I’m so much smarter, and I love that.” 

Motivated to Help Young Daughter Overcome Developmental Challenges, Tamea Ellis-Armstrong Completes Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology

Tamea Ellis-Armstrong’s youngest daughter didn’t start talking when expected—which eventually led to a diagnosis of autism. Ellis-Armstrong’s determination to help her in any way that she could ultimately lead to a psychology degree program at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). 

Ellis-Armstrong just completed her Bachelor of Psychology, graduating cum laude, and now plans to pursue a master’s degree to deepen her capacity to support others with special needs. 

“Now my daughter is talking in full sentences, and I want to learn how to assist people who are disabled,” she said. 

Ellis-Armstrong said the degree program helped her discover how to help her daughter. “So that’s what really inspired me to further my education and attend graduate school in psychology in the future,” she explained.   

Ellis-Armstrong has five daughters ranging in age from 5 to 19 and is serving as a role model to them by completing her degree. 

“This will be my first bachelor’s degree which I’m very excited for—it feels like I’ve been working on this degree since I graduated from high school—and this has always been my No. 1 goal,” Ellis-Armstrong explained. 

In addition to being a mom and full-time college student, Ellis-Armstrong has worked as a development officer at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for four years. She processes funding for tenants and owners of Section 8 housing based on a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“Tamea was a pleasure to work within my sociology courses. She brought many insights and much enthusiasm to her study of sociology and showed a strong capacity to analyze social issues,” said Collegiate Professor of Social Sciences Donna Maurer, Ph.D. “For example, she wrote an excellent analysis and policy suggestion on how to address rising childcare costs, an important issue affecting many families. 

“Psychology majors like Tamea often find that studying sociology is very helpful, in that it can help them better understand the broader social conditions that influence individual problems,” she added. 

Upon graduation, Ellis-Armstrong will be applying for graduate positions in federal agencies and is looking forward to graduate school sometime next year. 

“UMGC has given me the greatest opportunity. With the flexibility of class schedules, I had the ability to attend school, and still work full time and be a full-time mom,” Ellis-Armstrong said. “I loved the professors, and they were easy to work with. If you ran into hurdles, when you were trying to get papers written and stuff like that, they were easy to work with.”