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. 

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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. 

University of Maryland Global Campus to Co-Host Military and Veteran Entrepreneurship & Appreciation Fair, April 28

Major Employers Such as CACI and the FBI to Have Reps on Site to Discuss Employment Opportunities; More than 20 Veterans Service Organizations will be Represented

Adelphi, Md. (April 20, 2022)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) and the Mid-Atlantic Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) will co-host a Military and Veteran Entrepreneur & Appreciation Fair at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center on Thursday, April 28, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The fair is free and open to all active-duty service members, veterans and their families. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with employers, veterans’ service organizations (VSOs) and UMGC career and alumni services representatives.

Representatives from CACI, PENFED Credit Union, Revature, GCubed, Concentric and the FBI will be on hand as well as more than 20 Veterans Service Organizations, including Team Rubicon, Women Veterans Interactive Foundation, The POSSE Foundation, and Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.

In addition to networking opportunities, several entrepreneurial resources will be available for attendees planning to start a business. A photographer also will be taking head shots for use in resumes, LinkedIn profiles, etc., at no charge (spaces are limited).

Visit umgc.edu/MVEAF to view the event schedule and to register.

About University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC)

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.

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 students are active-duty military personnel, their families, members of the National Guard and veterans.

About the Mid-Atlantic Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC)

The Mid-Atlantic Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program is a one-stop shop for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses looking to start, purchase or grow a business. Training opportunities, counseling and mentoring in-person and online, referrals to partners and programs, and most networking events are available at no cost to veterans.

The VBOC aims to serve as the connective tissue that links programs, services, and resources throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, striving to create a comprehensive network of support opportunities for servicemembers, veterans, military retirees, military/veteran spouses & dependents, National Guard members, reservists, and otherwise military-connected entrepreneurs.

It’s Tax Season: Training Accountants through Real-World Experience

Tax Day is just weeks away and according to the IRS’ website, all taxes need to be submitted by April 18. 

In order to prepare tomorrow’s accountants for future Tax Days, University of Maryland Global Campus offers both bachelor and master’s degrees in accounting. 

UMGC alums are working with top accounting firms, including EY, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, Clifton Larson Allen, Crowe, Grant Thornton, and BDO.

“Our accounting program is very focused on using the professional resources that accountants utilize. We use irs.gov and focus on what you would do if you were working at a firm and your responsibility relates to tax,” said Kathleen Sobieralski, program director of the accounting department and a certified public accountant (CPA).

“Now what do we do at UMGC that’s so important for tax careers? Research. Our students research tax scenarios and go looking for documentation,” Sobieralski added.

Sobieralski said accounting expertise opens valuable employment pathways. During UMGC’s 2020-2021 academic year, 241 students graduated with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, and an additional 165 graduates received master’s degrees in accounting.  

“Applying for positions in the tax area and promoting your interest in tax opportunities can be a door opener for employment at many organizations. Seasonal work allows a firm to learn more about you as a professional and consider how you could be of value throughout the year,” Sobieralski said.

UMGC’s accounting program is recognized as an Internal Auditing Education Partnership Program (IAEP), which is endorsed by The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA). UMGC works closely with The IIA to develop a meaningful internal audit curriculum.

Both bachelor’s and master’s accounting students are required to take Federal Income Tax I, which is focused on tax obligations of individuals and other entities. The coursework enables students to conduct tax research, evaluate tax implications and complete an individual tax return. It also introduces them to tax policy and its evolution.

A second course strongly recommended for students seeking to become CPAs is Federal Income Tax II. This focuses on the taxation of business entities, including corporations. It also addresses capital stock, estates, and trusts. A CPA must meet specific state and education licensing requirements and pass the CPA exam.

“The real-world experience that UMGC professors bring to the classroom significantly enhanced my experience and enabled me immediately to apply lessons about how accounting works in the professional arena,” said Zachery Rager, who received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 2012 and a separate Certificate in Fraud Investigation. “It allowed me to appreciate the nuances that simply cannot be conveyed via a textbook.”

Rager said his professors provided insight into certification as a CPA, Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). In addition, he said, faculty “offered guidance to enhance my career.”

Since graduating from UMGC, Rager has served as a senior tax analyst, an accountant for the Department of Defense and IBS Government Services, and an acquisition professional and process engineer for the Technical Management and Assistance Corporation. Most recently, he was hired as a program manager for the Department of Defense. 

“My education with UMGC was so robust, that I also have recently been hired as an adjunct professor, allowing me to bring my professional experiences back to help the next generation of UMGC students,” added Rager, who earned a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) designation from the professional association known as AGA (the acronym for Advance. Grow. Accelerate.) and is preparing for his CPA exam.

Rager received an MBA from West Virginia University in 2021 and is now pursuing an M.S. in forensic accounting and fraud investigation, with plans to graduate later this year. He also is working toward a Doctor of Business Administration degree—with a focus on accounting—that he expects to complete in 2025.

UMGC students interested in taking the CPA exam are given study materials to aide in test preparation. Accounting professors provide advice on signing up for the test and researching information at the National Association of State Board of Accountancy

“At UMGC, we state in our college catalog and on our website professional licensure that you need to be aware of the requirements for the jurisdiction where you want to sit for the CPA exam and apply to be a certified public accountant,” Sobieralski said.

During the month of March, the accounting department collaborated with accounting organizations to inform students and alumni about career and certification opportunities. UMGC-sponsored events include:

Register for any of the remaining webinars at umgc.edu, which start at 7 p.m. EST. 

After Career in Drama, 75-year-old Navy Veteran Finishes One Degree, Starts Another  

When 75-year-old Bruce Taylor decided to complete his bachelor’s degree in humanities at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) three years ago, he never pictured going straight into another degree program. Nonetheless, three weeks post-graduation he was pursuing a master’s degree in educational technology. 

Taylor completed his service in the Navy in 1972 and went on to graduate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London with a stage management diploma. He spent most of his career in opera, dance and theater, eventually finding his passion by sharing with others just how important it was to combine the arts with K-12 education, especially in the age of Common Core, the state grade-level standards instituted in 2010.

Taylor held workshops for school districts all over the country, teaching them how to integrate arts into reading and writing within Common Core. Once the workshops were completed, he embarked on his next adventure: to complete his college degree.

“I thought if I want to [continue] working with teachers and kids, why don’t I try the humanities, where there are several domains of learning in that. I already know the music and art part,” Taylor said.

As a young adult in Alaska, Taylor had completed a few years of college but had no idea what he wanted to do. He decided to make a change in 1967 and join the Navy. He trained as a Navy Russian linguist at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and attended Security School in San Angelo, Texas. He was first stationed outside Istanbul, Turkey employed as an analyst, and his last stop in the Navy was Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In Turkey, Taylor’s involvement with an amateur theater group persuaded him to go to drama school. During a tryout with Hugh Cruttwell, an influential English teacher of drama and principal at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Taylor was encouraged to pursue the stage management program.

“At RADA, you did every job in stage management that you find in the theater. We did props, makeup, built sets, and crewed them. There was also some acting, lighting—we did it all with no books,” Taylor said. “It was all practicum. I loved it and felt I could walk into a room and I would plugin, and I knew what to do.”

Upon graduation from RADA, Taylor wrote 300 letters seeking employment at every theater, dance, and opera company he knew. He accepted a job with the Seattle Opera, where he spent five years.

“My biggest achievement there was [that] I was the production stage manager for the first full Ring Cycle ever done outside of Germany. Now everyone is doing Wagner’s Ring Cycle,” he said.

In Seattle, he became interested in education and started going to schools to conduct workshops. That experience helped him in the next step of his career: the Opera Company of Philadelphia as both the production manager and the education director.  

“A colleague I had worked with in Seattle became the director of education at the Metropolitan Opera Guild, so she hired me to do programs since I was so close by in Philadelphia,” Taylor said. “I developed a project called Creating Original Opera, and the premise was you take a group of kids with a teacher and the kids create, compose, write, design, manage and perform their own original 30-minute musical theater piece.”

“That became a very big deal. At one point, there were more than 400 schools all over the world in about a dozen countries and 30 states all creating an original opera program,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Taylor published three books on arts and education: “The Arts Equation: Forging a Vital Link Between Performing Artists and Educators” in 1999, “Common Sense Arts Standards: How the Arts Can Thrive in an Era of Common Core” in 2013 and “Common Sense Common Core: Finding Common Ground of Clarity and Simplicity” in 2015.

Taylor moved from the Opera Company of Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Opera Theater, and he completed his career in the professional performing arts at the Washington National Opera as director of education in the U.S. capital.

“One of the nice things about the arts, and [what] I try to do with kids in reading and writing, is to provide them a real ownership piece in what they’re doing and why it should matter to them,” Taylor said.

Since starting at UMGC, where the courses he took in Alaska were credited toward his degree, Taylor said it took him a year to get into the groove of remote classes. He now spends hours and hours on research.

“I don’t know how a lot of the students at UMGC who are full-time parents or military personnel are able to do this because I make my own schedule and use my time anyway that I want,” said Taylor. “I’m in awe of what these students are doing and the fact that UMGC gives them the chance. That’s the biggest thing about UMGC. It gives people opportunity who want to engage in lifelong learning, which is awesome. “

Once Taylor graduated in December, he enrolled in UMGC’s master’s program in educational technology. He also began working on a paper titled “Reductionist Approach to English Language Arts.” He plans to submit the paper to the Journal for Educational Research and Practice for publishing consideration.

“Bruce is an exceptional humanities student, hardworking, intellectually curious, with a broad range of life experiences to draw upon,” said Steven Killings, PhD, program chair of humanities and philosophy at UMGC.

Work Took Precedence Over Mike Easley’s Studies—for a Crucial Reason 

There’s a year-long gap in Michael Easley’s march toward a master’s degree in project
management from the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). But he had a good
reason for the time out.

As a project manager working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Easley was one of
only a handful of individuals assigned to execute personal protective equipment (PPE)
acquisitions at a national level during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The various types
of PPE were necessary to meet the high demand throughout VA medical facilities to protect
both caregivers and patients.


“We were executing $millions in PPE buys to support the effort,” Easley said. “I was working a
lot of overtime, and I couldn’t keep it up with my studies. So, I took almost a full year off while
supporting COVID requirements and picked it back up this past year.”
In November, he finished all his degree requirements.

“Unfortunately, some people tried to take advantage of the high demand for PPE,” he said.
“Businesses who had no prior experience in medical supplies were trying to offer products,
products offered at well above market rates, and in some cases, vendors tried to sell
counterfeit products. We had to do a lot of market research to scrutinize vendors promising the
moon. Would they be able to deliver as promised? Would the products be safe for veterans and
care providers? Each product had to go through a clinical review before issuing contracts.”

“Many of the things I learned about project acquisitions, quality management, and risk
assessment came into play,” he said.

Easley said that what he learned from his UMGC professors in the graduate program became
knowledge he immediately applied to his work, which aided in his selection as a deputy
program manager.

He said that his degree program’s last two capstone projects were highly beneficial. They
allowed him to take all he had learned from his professors and from the Program Management
Institute (PMI) to do a self-assessment of his own organization.

“What I learned, I could apply throughout my job,” he said. “Those [capstones] were a critical
part of tying up a master’s degree.”

Easley grew up in Macon, Illinois, a small town where everyone waved to each other because
they all knew one another. Seeing few opportunities after graduating from high school, he
enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1983, coming up through the enlisted ranks and serving
ashore and deployed around the world. His work provided financial and logistical support for
both garrison and deployed troops.

While serving in Okinawa, Japan, he retired in 2008 as a Chief Warrant Officer Four after 25
years of service. His wife Noriko was born in Okinawa, so he remained on the island and took a
position as the logistics chief for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)
Okinawa School District. He was responsible for all logistical and facility support for the 13
DoDEA schools in Okinawa.

No one in Easley’s family had gone to college, but he knew that he had to take college courses
and complete degrees to get ahead in the military.

“The first thing you do is get your associate [degree],” he said. “That makes me a little bit more
competitive than the next guy. Then you work on getting your bachelor’s, and then that makes
me a little bit more competitive.”

He completed a bachelor’s degree in management while still in the military, but he did not
begin the UMGC master’s program until returning to the United States in December 2016. In
Northern Virginia, he ended up working for DoDEA at the Marine Corps Base Quantico School
District, which ultimately led him to the VA as a project manager.

Easley is a published photographer with a passion for landscape and underwater photography.
He has traveled around the world with a group of underwater photographers. His last trip was
in the Bahamas, photographing hammerhead sharks. He is an avid golfer and was proud to have
completed the Marine Corps Marathon six times. His best time of 3hrs and 42 minutes was
when he flew from Okinawa to Washington, D.C., and back to Okinawa, all within a five-day trip
that included picking up his son in Illinois.

“I live by two simple rules,” he said. “You do not have to be perfect, just do the right thing,” and
a motto that has continued to serve me well for over 30 years, “Not everything that is faced can
be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” If you follow these rules, you can
move forward in life and make a positive change.”

FAA Capstone to Protect U.S. Airspace Helps Data Analytics Grads Advance their Military Careers 

Two active-duty servicemembers in the Master of Science in Data Analytics Program at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) have become the first students to complete a new capstone project co-sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

The goal of the FAA capstone was to detect when an aircraft deviates from its air route. Being able to spot and predict deviations quickly is critical to maintaining the integrity of FAA-imposed flight restrictions. 

“I participate in many roles in the battlespace,” said Sarah Gaylord, a captain in the U.S. Air Force and a recent graduate of the data analytics program. “I manage gas plans and airspace safety, aid fighter aircraft in their tactical intercepts and communicate a common operating picture of our area of responsibility to upper echelon leadership.”  

For Gaylord, who is busy with her work as a battle manager, participating in the FAA capstone was the perfect fit. Likewise for Oscar Cardec, a fellow graduate of the data analytics program who joined the Air Force in 2000 as an aerospace maintainer on AC-130H gunships.  

Capstone projects with industry partners are an invaluable part of the last course in the data analytics graduate degree program. Gaylord and Cardec earned their degrees this December. 

“Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, several partners discontinued their involvement with UMGC for a variety of reasons,” said Elena Gortcheva, program director of the Master of Science in Data Analytics. She intensified her search for industry partners last spring, and her deep alumni network paid off.  

“I have been using my professional contacts since 2015 to start projects with partners such as NASA, USAID, American Institute of Research and the Department of Defense,” Gortcheva said. The FAA capstone came about when a recent UMGC graduate, Sarah Eggum, led Gortcheva to Sherri Shearon of the Chief Data Office at the FAA. After several meetings with Shearon, the two arrived at a number of project proposals from different FAA units. They selected two for UMGC under adviser Mike Paglione of the FAA Research Division.  

The two projects, with UMGC professors Jon McKeeby and Hany Saleeb serving as advisers, are now part of the collection of capstone projects for data science.  

The Data Analytics Capstone course allows students to demonstrate, through hands-on experience, a complete data science experience that includes problem scoping, dataset preparation, comprehensive data analysis and visualization, and the use of advanced machine learning techniques to develop a predictive model.  

“Students must tell a story and explain their project approach and results along with recommendations for future work” said Gortcheva, who noted that capstones benefit both students and industry. “Students gain exposure to real analytics problems using industry data and, quite often, the industry partner will recruit them after having evaluated them on the job.”  

Gaylord brought a unique perspective to the capstone. “One of the functions of my job is airspace management and making sure the area we are in charge of stays safe, which is very similar to the air traffic control [ATC] function of the FAA,” she said. “The concepts of ATC are ideas that I have been working around for the last five years of my career, so I was excited to see if I could apply my experience to this new project.” 

Gaylord believes the FAA capstone project will help her progress in the Air Force. “I hope to get to 20 years of service and apply the lessons from this project to products in my own squadron,” she said. 

For Cardec, the capstone offered an opportunity to complement his academic accomplishments with a real-world perspective.  

“I successfully presented various classification predictive models, expanded on the rationale behind each of the models and elaborated on possible applications,” he explained. “The deliverables were immediately accepted by the Chief Data Office and lauded as novel groundwork for further expansions.”  

Paglione at the FAA mentored Cardec and Gaylord during the project, providing focus and guidance.  

“He offered insights into what would work and what wouldn’t for the project,” said Gaylord. “At one point, I started moving down path he thought wouldn’t work and he helped to steer me in a more beneficial direction.”  

At the conclusion of their capstone, Gaylord and Cardec presented to a team from the FAA Aviation Research Division and a data scientist from the Chief Data Office. The two-hour presentations described their traffic data research on spotting when aircraft deviate from the route the FAA has given them.  

The presentation brought positive outcomes. The FAA wants to continue working with future students in the UMGC program. The agency invited Gaylord and Cardec to present their findings to its upper management and executives, and the FAA now wants to hire them.  

Like many UMGC students who are balancing work and school, juggling the capstone amid the demands of military service was a challenge.  

“As a captain and instructor in an operational squadron, I have a lot of responsibilities just in the office alone, but I also have to maintain physical fitness standards,” said Gaylord. “I managed by working on most of my schoolwork over the weekends.”  

For Cardec, the capstone was part of an important personal accomplishment.  

“Being the first person in my family, where English is a second language, to attain a graduate degree means a lot,” he said. “I am grateful for the shoulders that have carried me to this point, and I am looking forward to additional challenges and opportunities to put in practice my skillset before embarking again onto my next educational endeavor.”  

MILITARY TIMES RANKS UMGC #1 AMONG EDUCATIONAL INSITUTIONS IN ITS 2021 LIST OF BEST EMPLOYERS FOR VETERANS 

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was ranked #1 among universities in the Military Times’ latest survey of the best employers for veterans, the most comprehensive annual ranking of organizations with military-connected employment programs, benefits and support efforts. 

Military Times’ 2021 Best for Vets: Employers ranked 161 companies, non-profits and educational organizations across the country. In addition to UMGC’s top ranking in the Education-Teaching- Administration category, the university was fourth among organizations ranked in the state of Maryland and #7 in the Non-profit category. 

“We are proud of our commitment to recruit, support, and retain those who have served our country,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “Whether establishing relationships with veteran service organizations, working with government agencies on hiring initiatives for veterans with disabilities, expanding access to career development and health and wellness programs for veterans and their families, or our outreach to veterans at military job fairs, we are engaged in a variety of activities to both support our veterans who may be transitioning to civilian lives and helping them succeed in their careers.” 

Each year Military Times ranks organizations according to criteria related to recruitment, retention and career advancement. This year, it said it placed more emphasis on the practices that veterans say make civilian workplaces attractive to their talents and needs. 

“We had conducted focus groups with subject matter experts and with subscribers of Military Times,” said Tina Kurian, senior researcher for the Fors Marsh Group, a research firm that specializes in the veterans and military community that conducted the sessions. “They ordered which topics were most relevant for organizations to be the best for veterans.” 

The result, said group Director of Customer Experience Research Nicole Tongo, is a list of firms “that care about things that veterans care about, and good companies for them to explore if they are looking for a job.” 

About University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC)

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022, UMGC is the state of Maryland’s open-admissions university. With an enrollment of some 90,000 students, the university offers high-quality, affordable, accessible undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs as well as non-degree certificate programs in online and hybrid formats.

From its inception in 1947, UMGC has been guided by its historic mission to bring education within reach for adult students in the workforce and the U.S. military in Maryland and around the world—students for whom a traditional education is impractical or impossible.

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

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

Honor, Service, Sacrifice: UMGC Salutes Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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