For University of Maryland Global Campus’s 75th anniversary, we spoke with alumna Renee Caesar-Clark about some of her favorite UMGC experiences and where she hopes to see the university in years to come. Caesar-Clark is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at UMGC. Her passion is criminal justice, and she has worked in law enforcement for more than 35 years.
When you were applying to school, what made UMGC stand out? Why did you select UMGC?
I was researching schools in the Maryland area and was drawn to University of Maryland Global Campus because it offered online classes. My daughter was a graduate of University of Maryland, College Park, and she had a great experience there. Also, my sister-in-law earned her undergraduate degree from UMGC, and she had excellent feedback about her experience. So, I felt inspired to try virtual learning at UMGC. UMGC had many interesting programs that caught my attention, and the addition of success coaches who believed in the importance of living your dream. I had been contemplating it for a few years but believed my plate was too full. I was working full-time and caregiving for my mother, and that would not have allowed me the time to invest in furthering my education. After careful consideration following the passing of my mother, I decided to begin my journey to finish what I started many years ago.
What has been your favorite part about studying at UMGC?
My favorite part or experience thus far has been more than one: the amazing classes I have taken and the few professors who go beyond what is expected to ensure we understand the information and can apply it effectively to our future. The success coaches also make attending UMGC worthwhile and are available for all questions or concerns. I believe it is a huge part of why I stayed engaged in classes at UMGC. My initial success coach was Laura Mazur, and she is a gem. She maintained contact with me on a regular basis . . . I have been very fortunate to have coaches that are open to addressing any concerns I may have.
Can you name some UMGC faculty or other students who made a significant impact on your time here at UMGC?
I would not know where to start, but I can try my best. As I mentioned earlier, Laura Mazur is one of the main staying power personnel that helped convince me to not give up. As a seasoned student, it takes more time to get adjusted. But patience from faculty and students has been an asset. Other faculty and students that should be applauded are as follows:
Dr. Robert Smith
Dr. Aaron Tyler
Professor Mary Ellen Schmider
Professor Evelyn Del Rosario
Dr. Laura Overstreet
Professor Jillian Roof
Professor Patricia Bush-McManus
Barbara Archer – President of Student Advisory Council (STAC)
Shelley Hintz – Director of Student Engagement (Coordinator of STAC)
Imani Prince – UMGC Success Coach
Megan Kral- UMGC Success Coach
Rachel Payne – Success Coach
Co-Lette Phoenix – Tuition Coordinator
Desiree Nicome – Evaluation Specialist, Academic Pathways
Ebony McArthur – Member of STAC
Martina Hansen – Sr. Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer
Bernetta Reese – Past President/Chair STAC
The saying, ‘It takes a village’ can be applied to academia also. These are the people who helped to make up my village and encouraged me to keep going, despite obstacles. Hence, I am still here and thriving!
What was your favorite part about working with a success coach and how did it benefit your college experience?
The best part of working with the right success coach reaches far beyond the virtual classroom. When you have a coach who stays engaged in your learning path and ensures you have the resources necessary to excel, then you are on the right path. That is a major part of a student’s success.
My college experience was enhanced because my coaches stayed on top of their game and sent cases forth if any issues needed attention. After sending them forward, they followed up and made sure there was a resolution. That is a priority for me. Checking on my classes once or twice a year is not acceptable for me. I believe a good success coach communicates regularly with their students to ensure classes are going well. Being proactive is better than reactive.
UMGC is celebrating 75 years of excellence in education. What does that history mean to you? Why is it important?
History is always important because it helps us to understand what the foundation was built upon, and how it can become better. If we do not know the history, we will not have anything to grow from and upon. Also, if we do not understand what came before us, and how it affected those students and faculty, we cannot begin the process of forging ahead productively and will be destined to fall backward.
If you had one word to describe your experience at UMGC, what would it be and why?
Perseverance is the word I would choose because it takes dedication, determination, and a passion for learning to continue through each semester with the zeal you started with. Without these qualities and much prayer, I would not have been able to persevere.
What one piece of advice would you want to share with other UMGC students as they pursue their degrees?
I would tell other UMGC students to surround themselves with positive people who want the best for them, and will not hinder their success, but will encourage and support them. Also, I would remind them to take a mental break whenever they feel overwhelmed because it is more than OK to do so. Being healthy all around is vital.
Where do you hope to see UMGC in the next 75 years?
I hope to see more diversity and equality in the staff and student body. I also would encourage the curriculum developers to include additional courses on various cultural topics to include the unconscious biases people have without having an outlet to recognize or address them. I have learned a lot about various cultures but there can be more classes geared toward those topics.