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75th Anniversary Profile: Christina Barlas

Theresa Schempp
By Theresa Schempp

For UMGC’s 75th anniversary, we spoke with current student Christina Barlas about some of her favorite experiences and where she hopes to see the university in years to come. Barlas is earning a bachelor’s degree in web and digital design with a minor in marketing.

When you were applying to school, what made UMGC stand out? Why did you select UMGC?

UMGC was the only school I applied for because I was so impressed with it!  I researched other schools, but UMGC stood out to me the most and seemed the most fitting for my situation.  The affordable tuition and online format of classes were key things that stood out to me, but what really stood out to me was the flexibility and accelerated courses.  I work two jobs full-time and actually would have never gone to college if it weren't for UMGC.  I never could have afforded other schools and since I waited several years to go to college after high school, I wanted to earn my degree as fast as possible and UMGC allows me to do that.  I can also still work both of my jobs without having to physically go to a college campus during the day or evening.  I can also view my classes at a time that’s convenient for me, which is very important since my schedule is so crazy.

What has been your favorite part about studying at UMGC?

My favorite part about studying at UMGC is the school’s culture.  Many of the other students are also working adults, so I can relate to them and feel a sense of belonging.  In addition, the instructors are very understanding of the students’ situations, and I feel that the format of classes is very fitting for the students and helps to set everyone up for success.  It is also very interesting to have the opportunity to interact with students from all over the world— it really gives you the chance to learn new ideas and diverse perspectives.  I’ve also learned different things from other students about Japan and Germany, which are two countries I’d love to visit someday!

Can you name some UMGC faculty or other students who made a significant impact on your time here at UMGC?

Both Shelley Hintz, the Director of Student Affairs, and John Leoniak, the Assistant Director of Student Resolution and Judicial Affairs, have been great in helping UMGC's chapters of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Alpha Sigma Lambda to run smoothly.  I am the newly elected Vice President of Social Media & Membership Engagement for UMGC's NSCS chapter, and both of them have provided me with all of the information needed to succeed in this role, as well as help the chapter to succeed.  As far as professors go, Ms. Trudy (Gertrude) Walsh really made a positive impact on me when I took a writing class with her.  Her story and commitment to her students really inspired me.  After taking her class, I realized how much I loved writing and that I actually may be interested in journalism, which is a field she had formerly worked in.  All of my other professors have been great as well, and because of my positive online learning experience, I hope to someday work as an online college instructor, maybe even at UMGC, to help other working-adult students.

What was your favorite part about working with a Success Coach and how did it benefit your college experience?

My success coach, Kelsey Brown, has been very helpful throughout my college journey.  I was originally pursuing a degree in graphic communications and Kelsey helped me to smoothly transition to my new major of Digital Media & Web Technology.  She also recommended that I pursue a minor in marketing based on my career goals, and if she didn't, I probably would have never even known about minor options.  She's been very supportive along the way, is always prompt in her responses, and very helpful every time.  She always ensures that I am on track to be successful.

UMGC is celebrating 75 years of excellence in education – what does that history mean to you? Why is it important?

I am very happy to hear that UMGC is celebrating 75 years of excellence in education, because it is a celebration of UMGC's success.  I am happy to hear that UMGC has grown so much and positively impacted so many different lives over the years.  UMGC's dedication to excellence in education helps to foster a positive, inclusive learning environment for students of all backgrounds and ensures the success of alumni, current students, and future students.

Is there a quote that you feel best represents your time here at UMGC or a quote you have heard here that meant something to you?

The quote that best represents my time here at UMGC is Walt Disney's "If you can dream it, you can do it".  I graduated high school in 2018 then worked as a hairstylist and was certain I would never go to college due to financial reasons and lack of interest for school in general.  I started pursuing my bachelor's degree at UMGC in spring of 2021 after realizing I wanted a career change, and since then, I have completed 72 credits, maintained a 4.0 GPA, and been inducted into two honor societies. I absolutely love all my classes, even those that aren't in my major, and have seen such a positive change in myself-- academically, professionally, and personally.  I have enjoyed my experience at UMGC so much that I have now decided to pursue a master's degree following the completion of my bachelor's.  Every day, I know that I am one step closer to my dream career, and that is because of my experience at UMGC.  I can honestly say that going to UMGC was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I am now the most motivated I have ever been.  Because of UMGC, I know that the sky is the limit!

If you had one word to describe your experience at UMGC, what would it be and why?

If I had one word to describe my experience at UMGC, it would be adventurous.  From learning how to navigate my first class to now being more than halfway finished my bachelor's degree, I have been able to continually learn and grow along the way.  Of course, any educational journey involves different obstacles and challenges, but they only inspired me to work harder and keep going, and I have really enjoyed every step of the way on this adventure.  It is rewarding to look back and see the progress I have made in my path, and I am even more excited to see where I will be when I have finally earned my degree.  Every day has brought something new and made my college experience an adventure.

What one piece of advice would you want to share with other UMGC students as they pursue their degree?

One piece of advice I would want to share with other UMGC students as they pursue their degree is to never stop going.  No matter how hard coursework or a class seems, remember what the end goal is and remember how far you've come.  Take things day by day and determine which habits will set you up for success.  Each day is another day closer to you earning your degree and working in your dream job.

Where do you hope to see UMGC in the next 75 years?

In the next 75 years, I hope to see UMGC as one of the top choices for postsecondary education.  I hope that many more people realize that college does not have to be so "traditional" and can see all of UMGC's benefits.