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75th Anniversary Profile: Kate Thornton

Theresa Schempp
By Theresa Schempp

Kate Thornton is the director of copy and content at University of Maryland Global Campus, first joining the university in 2007. For UMGC’s 75th anniversary, we spoke with her about some of her favorite experiences and where she hopes to see the university in years to come. Copy and content is part of the marketing department, which helps UMGC expand its reach to current and future students through messaging and engagement.  

How long have you been working with UMGC? 

I’ve been at UMGC since 2007. I started as a writer/editor in what was then the Office of Marketing and Communications and now work as the director of marketing copy and content. 

Which UMGC location do you work at? Have you worked at other UMGC locations during your tenure here? If yes, please share any other UMGC locations you have worked? 

I worked out of the Adelphi, Maryland stateside headquarters for years and am now working mostly remotely. 

During your time at UMGC, how have you seen the university evolve and change? What is the most significant change you have witnessed at the university? 

The university has changed a lot in my time here. New technology has changed the way we get our work done and serve our students. It has also driven significant program changes, like the launch of our cybersecurity programs in 2010. Another significant change was the university’s name change from University of Maryland University College to University of Maryland Global Campus in 2019. I think we are all thrilled that the university’s name now better reflects who we are and why we’re here. 

What has been your favorite part about working at UMGC? 

I feel so fortunate to get to spend each day promoting the power of an open enrollment public university. UMGC really challenges the notion that a college or university’s value and power are somehow tied to its exclusivity. Instead, we derive value and power from accessibility. How many people can we reach? How many barriers can we break down to ensure they can succeed? So many ideas about what makes for high-quality higher education are unfounded assumptions, and I’m proud to work at a university that challenges those assumptions. One perfect example is textbooks. Are they a critical part of higher education? They’re so incredibly expensive, and research has actually shown that students learn better when their course materials are built into their online classroom. UMGC moved to no-cost digital resources starting in 2016.

Can you name some UMGC faculty/staff members (or even students/alumni) who impacted your career here at UMGC? 

There have been so many! Ranu Sharma, our Director of Creative Strategy, is a fountain of knowledge not only about UMGC but also about marketing strategy and best practices. I’ve learned so much from her over the years and still aspire to one day have her level of presentation skills. She has been at the university since I started, and I feel so fortunate to have had her guidance from day one. 

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

In a time when so many universities are dipping their toes into online courses and programs, I think our history is as important as ever. It means that we are not simply an online university—our foundation and purpose go much deeper. We are a university built to serve students wherever and whenever they need us. Over time, that has meant offering night and weekend classes, sending professors overseas, and, ultimately, adapting to being largely online. Our history also signals to our students that we have been here for them—and will continue to be here for them—as long as they need us. 

Which of UMGC core values resonates with you the most and why? (Students First, Accountability, Diversity, Integrity, Excellence, Innovation, Respect, or People Always) 

Students First. For me, this core value serves as a North Star when competing priorities and ideas pop up. I find that when we take a step back from the task at hand and look at our work from the perspective of our students, we start to find the answers to our questions. 

UMGC recently introduced its new mission “Inspire hope, empower dreams, and transform lives ... one student at a time.”  What does that mean to you? 

To me, it’s a natural extension of “Students First” but emphasizes the importance of treating each student as a unique individual. I think it also speaks to the transformative power of education. 

How do you feel about UMGC’s role in supporting the military, wherever they are? 

Our commitment to the military is such an important part of our past and our future. We have an established presence on many military bases, have reduced tuition rates for servicemembers, and offer the opportunity to earn credit for military education and training, among other things. We have an incredible Military Operations team, many of whom served in the military themselves, and we are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to serve those who serve, to make higher education truly accessible for them, to make it work for them. 

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

Inspiring. I’m inspired by our students’ successes, by the university’s mission, and by my colleagues’ dedication. 

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

UMGC has such a bright future. I’m excited by the innovation I see around me today—like the virtual reality pilot—and can only imagine what our learning platform could look like as we close in on the end of the 21st century. UMGC has always been on the forefront of education technology, and I expect that to continue. I also hope that access to higher education will continue to become more equitable across the United States and around the world.