For the first time ever, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is offering an on-site Master of Business Administration (MBA) and graduate programs in cyber security, homeland security management, and criminal justice management on U.S. military bases in Europe and the Middle East.
"The face-to-face aspect is what I've been looking for," said Air Force Captain Edwin Maldonado. "There's no substitute for getting on-the-spot answers from professors and learning from other students."
Planning for a future transition into the civilian workforce after 20 years in the military, Maldonado is enrolled in the first MBA class at Kapaun Air Station in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
He dreams of starting his own business after retiring, and is confident that UMUC's award-winning MBA will help him build the knowledge and skills he needs to prepare while stationed in Europe.
"If this program wasn't here, I would have lost several years by waiting until I got back to the states to start my graduate education," he said. "These graduate programs are very important to have overseas, because they allow military to take that next step right away."
The programs open new doors for military communities in Europe and the Middle East, who have never seen this variety of face-to-face graduate degree options on their bases. Active-duty military, family members, and civilians stationed in the European and Central Commands can already apply for admission online. This spring, UMUC will also be offering a Master of Social Work (MSW), with more details to be announced soon.
Faculty member Gregory Evans, program subject expert for the MBA, points to the effect a master's degree can have on individual growth and future marketability in the civilian realm.
"The average unemployment rate is significantly lower for those with a graduate degree compared to those with an undergraduate degree," he said, referencing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Taking your education to the next level makes all the difference."
Held in Wiesbaden, Germany, the initial Master of Science in Cybersecurity course began on January 21. This marks the first time in history that a graduate program in cyber security is offered on-site in U.S. military communities overseas, allowing servicemembers to prepare for a future career in this in-demand field.
Jeffrey Newbern, UMUC Europe's Director of Graduate Programs, noted that this game-changing program is "designed to leave students well-prepared for passing the essential cyber security certifications that can enable them to excel in the cyber industry."
While the programs kick off in Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden, UMUC plans to expand them to most of the larger military communities in Europe and the Middle East, and then work toward offering classes wherever students show interest.
"We want the servicemembers in Europe to be able to take the same classes and have the same opportunities that they would if they were stateside," Newbern said. "We don't want the fact that they're serving their country overseas to prevent them from not only continuing their education, but completing a master's degree."
The Master of Science in Management will be offered in two specializations: homeland security and criminal justice. The first courses in those specializations began on January 13. Newbern said these programs allow for more flexibility and can be completed in a year. Both programs focus on helping students capitalize on their valuable military experience for a career in one of two dynamic industries.
Courses for all of the new programs will be held in on-site, hybrid, and online formats and are taught by faculty members with real-world experience in their fields.
"The professors understand the military lifestyle overseas – that understanding is big," said Master Sergeant Mike VanPamel. After 17 years in the Air Force, he's seeking a Master of Science in Management to build on the leadership skills he's gained in the military.
"In the current climate, more and more enlisted – like myself – have bachelor's degrees, and that's the level that many personnel are going to be at in the future, so it's really important that there's a variety of graduate-level opportunities like these."