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In 1949, the University of Maryland University College seized on a “big idea.” At the request of the U.S. Department of Defense, UMUC became the first institution to send faculty members overseas to teach college courses to active-duty servicemembers.

It was a bold and spirited maneuver for a fledgling university established just two years earlier in 1947 to serve a new breed of learner—adults outside the traditional campus setting who greatly differed from the students typically filling America’s college classrooms at the time.

These students were older, often juggling family and work commitments, and meeting their needs required innovative thinking, such as offering courses at more flexible times and locations. Many also were veterans returning from World War II who faced the additional challenges of readjusting to civilian life after combat.

As UMUC Orkand Endowed Chair Peter Smith pointed out in the Spring 2017 issue of “Achiever Magazine,” commemorating in part UMUC’s 70th anniversary, in 1947 the “idea of veterans going to college was brand new. The idea of taking education to military personnel wherever they were in the world . . . that was revolutionary.”

Soon, what began in a single classroom on a military base in 1949 postwar Germany, would spread throughout Europe and Asia, as UMUC faculty members traveled wherever they were needed—even into war zones—to make UMUC a leading higher education provider to the U.S. military, veterans, and family members around the world.

Smith, who in addition to Orkand Chair is professor of innovative practices in higher education in UMUC’s Graduate School, is one of three university leaders who share their perspectives on the importance of harnessing the power of new technology and embracing innovation to weather a perfect storm in higher education and create a sustainable path forward for UMUC.

Read the Spring 2017 Achiever cover story From Strength to Strength: Building on 70 Years of Academic Innovation,” to learn more about the big ideas that have guided UMUC to its position as global leader in adult education—and the big ideas that are helping to shape its future.


Since 1947, six chancellors or presidents have led UMUC or its predecessor, the College of Special and Continuation Studies—each helping to shape the university in different ways. Learn their stories in the Spring 2017 Achiever article “The Lives of Leaders” (Chancellors and Presidents.)


In 1947, UMUC’s founding mission was to bring higher education to a new breed of student. When UMUC expanded its outreach to teach on U.S. military bases overseas in 1949, it revolutionized higher education in more ways than one. UMUC effectively created a new breed of instructor when it gave birth to the concept of the “Overseas Marylander.” Visit UMUC’s 70th Anniversary webpage to meet members of this self-proclaimed “Academic Foreign Legion” and view their video reminiscences.