Maryland Degree Numbers Rise In Europe As Locks Increase Enrollment
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WIESBADEN, Germany – Some U.S. servicemen and their families have used overtime at home for more than a year of coronavirus restrictions to hit the books.
This year, 1,360 students graduated from the University of Maryland Global Campus Europe – around 200 more graduates than last year, an increase that university officials attribute in part to students who enroll in more courses during locks. A shift from in-person teaching to live teaching has also opened up more courses for students of UMGC Europe’s footprint in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, officials said.
Captain Jawaan Thomas, 32, an active duty army reservist with a medical brigade in Sembach, was able to spend more time pursuing a master’s degree in business administration “because I wasn’t traveling,” he said. -he declares.
Being in Germany during the lockouts “was difficult, but I had this extra project on the side to occupy my time,” he said of his studies.
Thomas was among more than 100 UMGC Europe graduates who took to the stage on Saturday at an army airfield as family and friends honk at parked cars.
The ceremony was the university’s second drive-in cinema-style graduation ceremony in less than a year, a new standard in the current pandemic.
“Let’s recognize our collective group of graduates by flashing your headlights and honking our horns in honor of our wonderful graduates,” said Tony Cho, Vice President and Director of UMGC Europe.
The unusual backdrop to Saturday’s ceremony at Clay Kaserne shows “the unprecedented times we have all lived in for almost 18 months,” said Gen. Christopher Cavoli, US Army Commander for Europe and the United States. Africa and keynote speaker.
“This is definitely my first experience of attending a graduation ceremony behind the wheel,” he said, congratulating the graduates for “the long journey they have made”, spending weekends and late nights’ writing, rewriting and rereading many essays and so on. “
Over 650 students have graduated with bachelor’s degrees, while nearly 550 associates and over 200 master’s degrees have been awarded.
UMGC Europe has seen a spike in enrollments for its intense four-week vacation courses, dropping from an average of 500 to around 1,100, Cho said. The period coincided with a tough Christmas lockdown in Germany.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brandon Alexander, 31, director of training for the NATO airbase education unit in Geilenkirchen, was more motivated to study on weekends.
“’Well, I don’t miss anything, so let me just cut that out,” he said after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management.
Air Force Master Sgt. Marlynn Cruz, 31, earned A’s for the first time while completing her accounting degree.
“I was able to be more focused, for sure,” said Cruz, who works in finance at Ramstein Air Force Base and began his studies eight years ago. “There were no outings, no late nights.”
Some graduating parents, however, said they found it difficult to balance their studies and help their children with homework when schools were far away. Over 50% of this year’s graduates have children.
“I was working full time, taking care of my daughter’s virtual school,” said Jessica Stevens, 32, a wife in the Wiesbaden army who received a degree in human resources management. “For my studies, I was up in the middle of the night.”
Jada Tarver, 37, a former soldier from Wiesbaden, said the closure of offices during the pandemic made it difficult to get some 400 hours of fieldwork to earn her social work degree.
“We had to fill the hours we missed with virtual things,” she said. “I am also a mom and I work full time. So, yes, COVID fatigue is real but I did.
Cho said when the pandemic hit, UMGC tried to keep its classes on-site, especially downstream, where internet service can be spotty. Before the pandemic, around 50% of UMGC Europe courses were online.
Staff worked on converting outdoor spaces into classrooms, such as the open-air pool deck of a pool at a base in Kuwait. Most of the on-site classes were eventually moved away and were broadcast live, giving students in different time zones more options, Cho said.
For example, some students in Europe took Arabic from a teacher in Bahrain, a class that was previously not offered in Europe.
The university has also had to suspend its popular European field studies program. “Hemingway in Madrid” was canceled midway through last year when the Spanish government announced an impending lockdown.
UMGC Europe hopes to bring courses back there this fall. The intention is also to stream these classes live, “so that anyone who wants to take it remotely, from the comfort of their home, can,” Cho said.
About 50% of the graduating class were on active duty, and 121 graduates graduated descending.
SPC. Joseph Yeboah, 25, a combat engineer in Grafenwoehr who earned an associate’s degree in computer science, said his biggest challenge was juggling five-class courses with two weeks of field training in Hohenfels.
He is thankful that he understood the teachers who gave him more time to do his homework. He managed four A’s and a B’s.
“I feel good,” he said before taking the stage.
Saturday’s ceremony was the university’s first in Wiesbaden and on an airfield, 70 years after the first Maryland graduate in Europe crossed the stage in Heidelberg.
A boy applauds from the backseat during the opening ceremony for the 2021 Class of the University of Maryland Global Campus Europe on Saturday May 1, 2021 in Wiesbaden, Germany.
JENNIFER H. VAN / STARS AND STRIPES