Daniel Lewis and Claudia Palacios “Master” UMGC Together as Husband and Wife 

Claudia Palacios and her husband, Daniel Lewis, have completed master’s degrees from the School of Business at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). They will claim their diplomas together on the same day. 

“The most challenging aspect of this journey was the work-life balance. The most unique aspect was that my wife and I are obtaining degrees from same school at the same time,” Lewis said. “It has been our aspiration to accomplish our goals together.” 

For more than two years, school was the center of attention in the couple’s Fairfax, Virginia home. Palacios, Lewis and their daughter Natalie, 16, often converged in the evenings over homework. That togetherness amped up when COVID-19 took the couple’s jobs and Natalie’s classes onto virtual platforms. 

“There were days that were easier than others. It was definitely some good and bad but I’m glad we did it,” Lewis said. “One thing I’ll say, there was never a dull moment.” 

Education was what brought Lewis and Palacios together 13 years ago. They met in a student lounge at Northern Virginia Community College, where they were both enrolled. They later celebrated Palacios’s first degree by taking a trip to Paris. On that trip, Lewis proposed marriage. 

Each already had two bachelor’s degrees before they enrolled at UMGC for graduate studies. Lewis has bachelor’s degrees in business management and in criminology, law and society. Palacios has degrees in business management and accounting.   

Lewis will use his new Master of Management—with a concentration in project management—to advance in his career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), where he is a contracting officer with the procurement management office in the Rural Development Division. Even though he works in procurement, he decided to learn more about project management.    

“I thought it would help me become a project manager or procurement manager,” he explained. 

Palacios also works at the USDA, as a government information specialist in the Freedom of Information Act office in the Rural Development Division. Her new Master of Science in Accounting Information Systems promises to open career doors. She said the UMGC program was especially attractive because it let her take courses in two areas of interest: accounting and cybersecurity.   

“Some assignments that I had were really interesting. And I got to work on different software, including some programs I’d heard of but hadn’t used before,” Palacios said. “I also became more aware of not only protecting yourself from spam but the different forms of spam and how to look for them.”  

Lewis and Palacios may have completed their degrees together, but they did so via vastly different study habits, sometimes staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning to work on assignments. 

Lewis jumped into his studies immediately after work each day, tackling readings and assignments methodically, piece by piece. Palacios, meanwhile, waited until deeper into the evening. She was less riled by deadline pressure.  

“She liked to decompress and get her thoughts together before she started in,” Lewis said. “Sometimes she would come up with her best ideas in her sleep!” 

Palacios said that turning their home into an informal study hall probably made the journey to a degree easier for both of them. 

“We were motivating each other. Checking in to ask, ‘Hey, how’s your paper going?’ Or ‘Hey, can you proofread my paper while I proofread yours?’” she explained. “And since we were in two different majors, I could see his work from an outside perspective.” 

That did not mean there weren’t uphill moments. Palacios laughed when she explained that she announced on more than one occasion that she was quitting her program. “But then I’d mention that I had a project due in a few days, so I was only really quitting for one day.” 

Lewis cited “three solid reasons” why he and Palacios chose UMGC for their master’s degrees. “It was an online institution, it was nationally known and accredited, and it offered discounted tuition for federal employees,” he said. “There was also the factor that there was no GMAT or GRE requirement.”  

They coordinated to make sure they were on the UMGC commencement schedule to walk on the same day during the same time slot. They noted that one benefit of graduating together is that they could jointly invite more family members to the ceremony. 

After an immediate celebration with family, they will have a party with friends. “And in the summer we plan a trip to Los Angeles to celebrate,” Palacios said. 

From Homelessness to a Master’s Degree, Yannick Bopda Now Aims for Medical School

For two long years, Yannick Bopda has looked forward to walking across the graduation ceremony stage to receive his degree in full regalia. Bopda officially completed his master’s degree in health administration in 2020, but COVID-19 interrupted plans for commencement. Bopda now can finally don cap and gown and put an exclamation point on a journey that was far from easy.  

Bopda’s path to higher education started as a child in Cameroon. Seeking political asylum, Bopda and his family left the country in 2005 to escape the ongoing warfare and genocide. In the United States, the son of college-educated parents did not initially follow in their footsteps. Describing himself as a typical rebellious teenager, Bopda dropped out of high school.  

“Sometimes teenagers just want go to McDonald’s and work and earn money, and they think that’s enough,” he said.  

Shortly after dropping out, Yannick’s life took a turn down a path that would forever change him – homelessness.  

Upon learning he had dropped out of high school, Bopda’s parents kicked him out of the house. With nowhere to go, he sought refuge in a local homeless shelter. During his year in the shelter, Yannick discovered a resiliency and drive that he did not know he had. Witnessing chronic illness and death around him, he found himself at a crossroads. He woke up one morning in the shelter thinking deeply about the meaning of his own life.  

“There will always be obstacles,” he thought, “but how you respond to these will define if you deserve to get that big breakthrough.” 

He decided that day to complete his GED and then pursue his certification as a licensed medical administrative assistant, which launched his career and provided a way out of the shelter.  

In the shelter, Bopda had to rely on his inner strength to survive. With no real guidance or mentorship, he focused only on the future, hoping that tomorrow would not be like yesterday.  

“I held onto academics as my way out and knew that although life was pretty hard, the best is yet to come,” he said. “I decided that I will not become a statistic but will one day be able to give back to this country that adopted me and always help others.”  

Upon leaving the shelter and beginning work in the medical field, Bopda earned his associate degree at Prince George’s Community College, which propelled him to complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology at University of Maryland Global Campus in 2018.  

Bopda’s journey from homelessness to higher education has given him the confidence, zeal, and courage to take on further challenges. As a result of his hard work toward a health administration degree, Bopda earned induction into the Upsilon Phi Delta Society, as well as the Marquis Who’s Who and National Society of Leadership and Success.  

Now, Bopda aspires to train to become a medical doctor, specifically a gastrointestinal surgeon. 

“UMGC has helped me become the person I am today, to prepare me for medicine,” he said. “My master’s degree has allowed me to gain a better understanding of what it takes to run a successful health care practice.”  

Bopda believes that medicine is his calling. In the shelter, he came to understand that the world needs him to become a doctor. “I saw the lack of medical care and neglect; I saw what homeless people were going through, sickness and loss of life,” he said.  

Yannick is already taking steps to become a doctor for underserved populations. “I hope one day to create a technological solution to provide early detection for the diseases that are death sentences to many,” he said.  

Perhaps the most gratifying part of Bopda’s journey is that today he enjoys the full support of his family, both biological and spiritual. He and his father reconciled several years ago and the two remain close and supportive. “I have a great relationship with all of my family,” he said. “After I received my bachelor’s degree, my father came to my graduation that evening and he asked me to forgive him, which I did.”  

Tamaria Wadley Applies Her New Skills and Helps Her Fellow Teachers Adjust to Online Instruction

Tamaria Wadley started her Master of Education in Instructional Technology at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) just weeks before her elementary school was forced into virtual classes by the onset of COVID-19. It didn’t take long before she was in demand by fellow teachers challenged by the overnight switch to online education. 

When Wadley receives her graduate degree at UMGC’s May commencement, she will also carry an accolade from her first year at Lyles-Crouch Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia. She was named Teacher of the Year for helping her colleagues navigate the jump to online education. 

Wadley said her UMGC classes were “perfect timing.”  

One class, K Through 12 Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning, taught her how to streamline online learning programs to get the most out of virtual teaching. “That’s when I got into the mindset of using the computer for enhancement, not just playing games,” she said. “That’s how I taught online when the new school year started, and my principal saw what I was doing and she told other teachers about it.” 

Wadley was just beginning her job at Lyles-Crouch and knew nearly no one after transferring from another Alexandria school, but word got around. She started receiving emails from other teachers asking for help. 

Born in Texas to a military family, Wadley had begun her college education at Howard University as a computer science major. But during her first year, she volunteered in a D.C. elementary school, teaching math and literacy skills. 

“I saw that my need was better met in elementary teaching and not computer science,” she said.  

Howard had no undergraduate education degree, so Wadley transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio. She taught fourth grade in Houston for five years. When her family moved to Virginia, she followed and taught for a year in Prince William County and then in Alexandria City Public Schools.  

“That’s when I found my love for computers again, finding activities for students on the computer or making activities,” she said. “Teachers would come and ask me for help. I found that there’s a position where you can get paid to do that, instead of doing it for free. I set my goal to become a technology integration specialist.” 

Wadley was attracted to UMGC because that is where her mother earned a degree—at age 56—after retiring from the Air Force and working as a government contractor at Marine Corps Base Quantico. 

“With her going back to school and working full time, I said, ‘Tamaria, you can do this.’ UMGC had the exact program I wanted. I would be able to teach teachers how to use technology, which is what I wanted to do,” Wadley said. 

She started the program in January 2020. When the pandemic hit in March, she assumed the students would be gone from classes only for a couple of weeks. Once the weeks stretched and virtual teaching kicked in full time, Wadley relied on her good understanding of computers from her time at Howard. 

“The difficult part came in helping my teammates. That’s when the UMGC courses came into play,” she said. “I had to make an entire website for one of my courses, and then I sent it to my teammates, and I said, ‘You can use all of this stuff on here.’”  

The UMGC program was asynchronous, so Wadley could fit it into her schedule. Most of the professors taught in public schools, and they had plenty of practical experience. What Wadley had to learn to do as a technology administrator was to get computer information to other educators. 

She said the feedback from her UMGC professors was unparalleled. 

“It wasn’t just one and done. They gave me their phone numbers. You could text them and get instant feedback, even at 9:30 at night. Some even offered face-to-face Zoom interaction, which is great because sometimes it gets lonely only learning online,” she said. 

With her degree in hand, Wadley is ready for the next step—becoming a technology integration specialist in her school and working one-on-one with teachers to introduce programs.  

“Say a teacher is doing a math lesson on decimals, and he or she says, ‘Hey, I really want to do something fun with technology-based teaching.’ I would come up with the lesson, and then teach it to the students and to the teacher,” Wadley explained. 

As she worked her way through her UMGC courses, Wadley had help from an unexpected corner: eager fourth graders whose work samples found their way into her college courses. 

“I like to tell my students they were my guinea pigs throughout my entire time at UMGC,” she said.  

University of Maryland Global Campus Names Dr. Pam Carter Dean of the School of Business

Adelphi, Md. (May 12, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has appointed Pam Carter, PhD, dean and vice president of the School of Business. She began her new position on April 11.

Carter brings more than 20 years of higher education leadership experience to the position—having served in both administrative and faculty roles at various institutions—along with industry operations experience in the private sector.

She served most recently as dean of business and technology at the Community College of Philadelphia, and prior to that as assistant dean and director of curriculum development in the School of Business and Technology Management at Northcentral University in California. She served on the faculty of North Carolina A&T State University—as an associate professor and as chair of the Department of Management—and on the faculty of Florida State University, the University of Oklahoma and Northern Virginia Community College.

“Throughout her career, Dr. Carter has focused on success initiatives that include all students and has collaborated with faculty, staff and other stakeholders to expand opportunities for underserved populations, working to ensure equitable access and inclusive practices,” said UMGC Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Blakely Pomietto. “We are delighted to welcome her to the UMGC community.”

Said Carter, “This is exactly where I want to be during this pivotal time of change in the higher education landscape. We have a dynamic team in the School of Business, and I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, students and university leadership as we continue the legacy of academic innovation at UMGC.”

Carter holds a Bachelor of Individualized Studies from George Mason University, an MBA from University of Maryland, College Park, and a PhD in Business Administration with concentrations in management information systems and organizational behavior from Florida State University. 

“It is worth noting that Dr. Carter earned all three degrees as an adult learner,” said Pomietto, “which grants her a unique and personal perspective on our mission and the challenges facing our students.”

Carter also maintains professional certifications in human resource management, information systems and project management, as well as a certificate in online education design and delivery from the Sloan Consortium. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals including MIS Quarterly, Journal of Organizational and End User-Computing and Communications of the ACM.

“I am excited and honored to serve as vice president and dean of the UMGC School of Business. The opportunity to serve working adults, military servicemembers and their families, and veterans in the U.S. and around the world is a real privilege,” Carter said. 

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. 


Mike Kelly Found a Way Out, and Up

Mike Kelly was about at rock bottom. 

Born and raised in Maryland’s Calvert County, Kelly, 32, was forced to leave Catholic University before graduation because of family financial problems. He had a lot of debt he could not repay and no degree. He decided to see what he could do without a degree and landed a position in security at UMGC. 

He liked the people, and the work was okay. But he became more and more unhappy because he could not see how he would ever be able to advance into meaningful, well-paying work without a degree. He said he had hit “a brick wall.” 

“He felt like he was in a dead-end job and everything was dead, and he didn’t know what to do,” said George Trujillo his supervisor. His attitude was beginning to affect his job. 

To make matters worse, Catholic would not release his transcript until he did something about the unpaid debt, so he could not transfer credits to work on a degree.  

And then the house he had just bought burned down, leaving him with nothing. Even his cat died. 

All he wanted, he said, was to earn enough money to support a family comfortably. 

Oddly enough, the loss of the house may have turned his life around. 

As he worked to rebuild it, he made himself his own project manager, working on all of the specs and details in the construction. 

“I ended up finding a love for project management,” he said. 

Trujillo said he talked with Kelly about what was bothering him. When he learned that Kelly was frustrated by his job but was fascinated with project management, he connected Kelly with George Theoharis, UMGC’s senior project manager, under a mentorship program designed to help employees grow in their jobs. 

Theoharis counseled him about the basics of commercial project management, which whetted his appetite even more. Since pursuing a regular degree was closed to him because he could not get the Catholic credits, he launched into a certificate program in project management. 

“I was getting A’s and absolutely loving it,” Kelly said. But he still wanted that bachelor’s degree. What to do? 

“I just came up with the idea that I would write the president of Catholic University,” he said. “I told him the whole situation of the problems with my dad’s credit, and how I just want to be able to get ahead in life. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but in a couple of days, I got an email back, and it was authorization to release my credits. I’ll be honest with you. I broke down in tears.” 

With those 60 credits, he was just a year-and-a-half away from a UMGC degree in business management, the closest bachelor’s degree that would help him in project management. 

Trujillo saw the change in Kelly’s demeanor. 

“He took off like a rocket; he started taking all kinds of classes,” he said. “And his GPA is something like 3.98.  And you just saw this whole new transformation. He was outgoing, happy and giddy about the classes.” 

With graduation approaching, Kelly already has landed a new job with a contracting firm working for the Department of Defense, doing risk assessments for the Navy. His job is to find the active and passive risks before they become a threat that would throw a project off track. The job has great potential for growth. 

Kelly praised the support he had received from UMGC’s administration from President Greg Fowler on down. 

“What I loved about them is that even in a position of higher power, they always treated us with respect, as a human being and not as another worker,” he said. “It’s one thing that can really help somebody.” 

Kelly said his story shows that people can come from most any background and still succeed in accomplishing their goals. 

“Sometimes it’s the people you least expect that can make the biggest impact,” he said. “It’s not where you come from but how hard you work.”: 

Trujillo said Kelly’s gain is UMGC’s loss. 

“I can’t wait to see him at graduation in May,” he said. “The worst part is turning over one of my best security guards. I hate losing him. But I understood 1,000 per cent.” 

University System of Maryland Board of Regents Recognizes UMGC Faculty Members for Outstanding Teaching, Public Service

Professors Celeste McCarty and Sabrina Fu, Ph.D., Honored

Adelphi, Md. (April 29, 2022)—The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents today honored 17 members of its faculty at institutions across the system–including two from University of Maryland Global Campus–with 2022 USM Regents’ Faculty Awards.

UMGC’s Celeste McCarty, professor of psychology, was honored with the “Excellence in Teaching” award, while Sabrina Fu, Ph.D., collegiate professor and program director for Environmental Science and Management, was recognized with the “Excellence in Public Service” award.

“It is a pleasure every year to recognize these outstanding faculty members,” USM Board of Regents Chair Linda R. Gooden said. “I am especially grateful for their dedication throughout the many phases of the pandemic and pleased we can plan to recognize them in person, thanks to the work our campuses have done to keep their communities safe.”

Each award carries a $2,000 prize provided by the institutions and the University System of Maryland Foundation.

“The bedrock of the University System’s quality, its prominence, its power to transform lives and change the world is, quite simply, our faculty,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “It’s a privilege to be able to honor them and celebrate what they make possible every day—possible for each individual student and for the body of scholarship that advances our progress and deepens our humanity.”

Celeste McCarty

Professor McCarty has taught for UMGC in the U.S. and on military bases in Asia. According to her nomination, McCarty’s approach to teaching is characterized by her use of real-world examples to bring the classroom to life.  Her classroom management style is defined by her responsiveness, actively engaging with students to ensure their development, progress, and success.

Her nominating letter also notes that McCarty focuses on discussions and assignments that help develop advanced critical thinking skills, psychological and clinical skills, and sound research methodology. She helps students become good consumers of information.

McCarty has received numerous awards for her teaching, including the Stanley J. Drazek Teaching Award, the highest recognition awarded at UMGC for excellence in teaching.

Dr. Sabrina Fu

According to Dr. Fu’s nomination, she is the founder and inaugural regional coordinator of the Howard County Citizens Climate Lobby chapter, where she focuses on issues related to growth and environmental science-related service. She organizes public events, meetings, and presentations, as well as opportunities to lobby public officials. She is also a coordinator for the Mid-Atlantic Region of Citizens’ Climate Education, where she helps to empower diverse voices to talk to Congress about solutions to address climate change. She also is a Watershed Steward for Howard County.

Dr. Fu is a recipient of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious People, Prosperity, and the Planet award, where she was recognized for using her environmental science expertise and her passion for community engagement to make the community a better place.

The USM Regents’ Faculty Awards are the highest honor presented by the board to exemplary faculty members. In addition to teaching and public service, the awards honor excellence in mentoring, research, scholarship or creative activity, and innovation.

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. 

CFP Board Renews UMGC’s Certification Program for Finance Majors

Adelphi, Md. (April 27, 2022)— University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) School of Business has announced that its Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification program has been renewed by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

 “Being a degree-granting registered CFP program allows our undergraduate majors to achieve two things, said Kathleen Sindell, director of the Department of Finance and Economics and head of the CFP certification program at UMGC. “First completing the UMGC-registered CFP courses will make the student eligible to take the CFP certification examination. Second, the credit received in our CFP courses will go toward completing their bachelor’s degree.”

Sindell pointed out that “to be a CFP professional, an individual must complete the four E’s: Education, Examination, Experience and Ethics.”

The nonprofit Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards sets the professional standards for personal financial planners. UMGC has offered the certification program for five years. It is among just more than 300 universities with a program that meets CFP Board requirements.  

“I graduated from UMGC in the summer of 2017 and obtained my CFP certification a few months later. I did not need additional study materials after my completion and was fortunate to pass my certification exam on the first attempt,” said Terry Levenberg, who has a bachelor’s degree in finance and a minor in financial planning. “My CFP designation has opened many opportunities in the financial services industry that I do not believe would have been available to me at this stage of my career without it.”

About University of Maryland Global Campus
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce. 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. 

In addition to education centers in Maryland and across the metropolitan Washington, DC, area, UMGC offers in-person classes or services to military personnel and their families at 175-plus locations in more than 20 countries. More than half of the university’s student body are active-duty military personnel, reservists, members of the National Guard, veterans, and dependents. 

U.S. Cyber Command Selects University of Maryland Global Campus for New Academic Engagement Network

Network Schools Support USCYBERCOM in Promoting Cybersecurity Workforce Growth and Collaborate on Research and Analytics 

Adelphi, MD (April 25, 2022) — The U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) has selected University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) to join its Academic Engagement Network (AEN), a select partnership of more than 80 colleges and universities throughout the United States tasked with supporting the USCYBERCOM mission of promoting cybersecurity workforce growth and collaborating on research and analytics. 

“The selection of UMGC as an inaugural member of the USCYBERCOM Academic Engagement Network aligns with our goal of preparing a more diverse, robust and qualified pool of cyber professionals for today’s workforce,” said Douglas Harrison, vice president and dean of the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at UMGC. “With a proud heritage of offering award-winning, flexible academic programs and services for active-duty military service members, veterans, and families, we are particularly honored to help the USCYBERCOM strengthen the Department of Defense (DoD) cybersecurity capabilities.” 

UMGC is one of 84 civilian and military academic partner institutions forming the network. Other AEN partners include the U.S. Naval Academy, National Defense University, and the U.S. Army War College. 

Along with the other AEN partners, UMGC will assist the DoD in fortifying its cybersecurity capabilities and expertise, and engage with USCYBERCOM in cyber-related applied research and analytics to provide insight into our adversaries’ cyberspace activities and help USCYBERCOM identify key issues and responsibilities in national security and cyber operations. 

About University of Maryland Global Campus

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

University of Maryland Global Campus to Pilot Virtual and Augmented Reality Learning Environments

Some Fall Classes to be Offered Via Immersive Technologies

Adelphi, MD (April 5, 2022) — University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a pioneer of online education with a history of exploring innovative learning solutions, has partnered with VictoryXR, a global leader in creating learning environments through immersive technology, in a pilot program that will use virtual and augmented reality in classes in the fall term.

UMGC is one of 10 schools in the initial phase of the program that will implement a “digital twin campus” for students, whether they are enrolled in a face-to-face class or studying online.

Using an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset or a personal computer, students will enter a “metacampus” and interact with instructors and fellow students in a classroom experience. Students can form small groups and work on projects together, regardless of where they are located.

“This is an opportunity to be a leader and early pioneer in leveraging the metaverse, which will represent a radical paradigm shift in online education and the end-to-end learner experience,” said Doug Harrison, vice president and dean of the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at UMGC. “Our partnership with VictoryXR represents another step toward creating broader access to higher education and strengthening the connection between students, faculty and other stakeholders, including success coaches, advisors, student services representatives, and other external academic and business partners.” 

The partnership was funded, in part, by Meta Immersive Learning (NASDAQ: FB). Meta will provide Quest 2 headsets during the project on each campus as well as funding for the digital twin buildouts. Each campus is built by VictoryXR on the EngageVR platform (LON: EXR). 

“Metaverse education is taking hold at American colleges and universities in a big way, and this fall’s cohort finds some big names planning to roll out digital twin campuses,” said Steve Grubbs, VictoryXR CEO. 

In addition to UMGC, other partner schools include Morehouse College, University of, Kansas School of Nursing, New Mexico State University, South Dakota State University
West Virginia University, University of Maryland Global Campus, and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Additional metaversities will be released in May.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adult students outside the traditional campus, including military service members and veterans. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 90 fully online programs and specializations.

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

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

About VictoryXR

VictoryXR is the global leader in metaverse education with active partners like Meta, Qualcomm and T-Mobile. VictoryXR pioneered the first metaversity with Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. VictoryXR won the Viveport award in 2018 for the best global VR education experience. 

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

By Mary A. Dempsey

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

Nina Bridgers

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

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

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

Kristophyre McCall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Motz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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