Helping Students Flourish Through
Innovative Learning and Support Services
- University of Maryland University College
Founded in 1947, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is a Maryland-based public institution of higher education with global reach and a specific mission: to offer quality academic programs to students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family, and military service. A pioneer in adult and distance education, UMUC strives to harness the power of learning science and technology to educate its students. UMUC has earned a worldwide reputation for excellence as a comprehensive virtual university and, through a combination of classroom and distance-learning formats, provides educational opportunities to more than 90,000 students. The Newcombe Foundation, who is committed to helping mature women succeed academically, celebrates its partnership with UMUC that has, since 1981, provided more than 600 scholarships for mature students pursuing their degrees.
The following is an overview of services provided to mature students written by Taneka Chialastri, Assistant Director of Scholarships and Grants and Pamela Dello-Russo, Director of Grants and Donor Relations at UMUC.
UMUC is proud to offer highly acclaimed faculty and world-class student services to educate students online, throughout Maryland, across the United States, and around the world. UMUC serves its students through undergraduate and graduate programs, noncredit leadership development, and customized programs.
A diverse population helps the University fulfill its mission to provide top-quality educational opportunities to adult students. In fact, working students exceed 80% of the total undergraduate population and are an average age of 30. Of these students, women make up 53% of the undergraduate student population. Often these students have the difficult task of balancing the responsibilities of family and/or full-time employment, while also trying to find the time to pursue their education. Attempting to navigate through these myriad of challenges is overwhelming for many students. Fortunately, UMUC, with an array of unique online student-focused services, is poised to provide non-traditional students with the tools to help them meet their academic goals.
Customized Online Services Help Students Succeed
UMUC has established itself as a leader in providing online education that allows students to customize their learning experience to help them grow personally, professionally, and academically. UMUC understands that students learn differently and may need to enroll in online courses or in a hybrid format that alternates between on-site class meetings and online study. Unique services include UMUC's Effective Writing Center which is available to students regardless of whether they just want suggestions on how to elevate their writing or if they are not comfortable writing at the college-level. Students are able to submit their papers online through a portal to a team of writing specialists who provide recommendations on how students can strengthen their papers. Online library resources are also available with 24-hour librarian availability.
While enrolled in college, students may experience difficulty in traversing through the academic demands that come from studying at an institution of higher learning. These academic challenges in many ways mirror those difficulties experienced by traditional-aged students attending college for the first-time. Complications may include meeting deadlines, studying effectively, and time management. UMUC offers the flexibility of online or face-to-face tutoring covering a range of different subjects to help students better transition to scholarly life.
Challenges may also play a role as adult-learners handle the nervousness of starting or returning to college later in life or dealing with family members who are having difficulty adjusting to or accepting the new time constraints in their spouse's or parent's life. Students who respond better to their peers or need motivational support have the option of participating in the Allies Mentoring Program. Participating mentors are alumni and undergraduate students who are available online to support students both academically and personally. Shelley Hintz, the Coordinator for Student Engagement, reaches out to incoming undergraduates and new transfers to personally invite them to participate in the mentoring program. In keeping with UMUC's ability to provide customization, students have the ability to request mentors based on a variety of characteristics. Ms. Hintz believes that matching students with mentors who share the same major or status as a returning student or military spouse help students immeasurably. Contact between the mentor and mentee during each term of enrollment is strongly encouraged and participants often converse with each other through email, text message, or Facebook. Since the interactions are not monitored, students may receive help on a broad range of personal and/or academic challenges.
An additional resource provided to students is the access to academic clubs. UMUC provides fourteen online academic clubs. Students can post questions about a variety of subjects which include majors, class descriptions, area events, and job prospects. Each club also hosts guest speakers who specialize on specific topics of interest.
Providing Support Services and Scholarships are Critical to Ensuring Academic Success
In order to help mature students, educational and personal goals come to fruition it is critical that financial supports are established to provide students with the time to focus on their academics. UMUC is excited to announce that a new initiative, Coaching Undergraduates for Success and Persistence (CUSP), will begin in the Fall 2012. This new program is a more formalized mentoring program geared toward assisting undergraduate students define their career goals. The ultimate goal of the program is to help ensure that students are on an appropriate academic path to find a career in their profession of choice.
A collaboration that has proven to be extremely successful for non-traditional aged women has stemmed from UMUC's relationship with the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation. UMUC has worked with the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation since 1981 to provide our adult students with the financial assistance to help them achieve their academic goals and to better support their families. Many students view the Newcombe Scholarship as an essential catalyst in helping them stay in school. One of these students, Sheri Divver, described how essential the Newcombe Scholarship is to her. "As a working single mother, your endowment has a direct impact on my ability to continue my academic pursuits. Receiving [the Charlotte W. Newcombe] scholarship allowed me to attend classes full-time during 2011-2012. In the midst of working so hard and feeling far from the finish line, sometimes you feel overlooked. I can't tell you what [the Newcombe Foundation's] generosity did for me and my son."
Another student who has benefited from funding provided through the Charlotte W. Newcombe scholarship is recent UMUC graduate, Kara Brooks. As a result of personal on-the-job experiences, Ms. Brooks decided to pursue a degree in human resource management with the goal of finding a position that would allow her to enforce fair practice policy between employers and employees. She completed her Bachelors of Science degree in Human Resources Management with a minor in Business Law and Public Policy in May 2012. Academic dreams really have become a reality as Ms. Brooks, who was offered a position with the Department of Defense, plans to work as an HR Coordinator. She also plans to begin her graduate studies at Georgetown University, pursuing a Masters of Professional Studies in Strategic Human Capital in the fall of 2012. "I tried to complete my undergraduate studies at other institutions at various points in my adult life. However, it was not until I began my studies at UMUC that I found real progression. I have completed the program in only three years. I could not have come this far without the structure, resources and supportive staff at this University. I love you guys!"
These two students are a testament to the importance of online education in helping students who would not otherwise be able to pursue a higher education. UMUC will continue to work with the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation to provide comprehensive educational services to our non-traditional students in their quest to make a better life for themselves and their families.
For further information about UMUC's programs, please visit www.umuc.edu.