Veterans Education Expert Receives Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Veterans Program Administrators
Christy Bobsein grew up in a military family.
One grandfather started in the Army and ended up in the Air Corps. Her other grandfather joined the Air Force. Right out of high school, after her parents were married, her father joined the Army. That’s how the family ended up in Heidelberg, Germany, where Bobsein was born.
Bobsein also grew up in a University of Maryland Global Campus family.
Her stepfather taught history in Heidelberg, while her mother held various jobs within the university. Bobsein lived in Germany until she headed off to college in the states, and one of her first jobs was working for UMGC in Kuwait, where she met the man who would become her husband.
“I was running through the halls of UMUC Heidelberg before I could even spell,” she said, “so it’s almost like a legacy in our family at this point.”
With her background bridging the military and higher education, it seemed fitting in October that Bobsein was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Veterans Program Administrators (NAVPA). She was recognized for her work helping veterans maneuver the complexities of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs to earn their UMGC degrees.
Bobsein, director of UMGC’s Veterans Certification Office, was honored for “outstanding service to NAVPA by making significant contributions to veterans’ programs at the national, state or regional level and has contributed to the betterment of veterans’ education.”
Keith Hauk, associate vice president of stateside military operations at UMGC, described Bobsein as “the seasoned voice of authority on anything and everything related to veterans’ education programs.”
Bobsein leads a team that each month processes up to 3,400 individual enrollments to the VA from across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Hauk said she works to get each enrollment processed within two or three business days.
“Christy is the recognized veterans’ education expert within the University System of Maryland, frequently called upon by other schools to provide guidance and support,” noted Hauk, who is a retired U.S. Army colonel.
Bobsein said her job is keep the university and its students up to date on the VA’s ever-changing regulations. With approval from state and federal governments, she provides GI Bill certification to students eligible to use VA education benefits. When UMGC opens a new location for classes, she is the person who obtains VA approval for the operations.
“My real passion is helping the students, making sure their classes are covered by GI Bill benefits,” she said. “The system is so complex that the students don’t know what to do. Our job is to help them avoid those pitfalls.
“When we report that 600 veterans have graduated in a term, it feels really good to know we helped get them there,” she added.
As a university that focuses on the military and veterans, UMGC has built deep knowledge around veteran education issues. Bobsein’s 19 staff members ensure that the university stays current on VA requirements. Bobsein, meanwhile, is so immersed in VA issues that she is the go-to person not only for the state’s university system, but also for other colleges and universities throughout the country.
NAVPA is an association of 400 member institutions, but many of its participating schools do not have the expertise or resources to keep up with VA rules—and guidance from the VA often is not sufficient, Bobsein explained. NAVPA is their lifeline. The member schools use a software management platform to find the answers they need.
“I'm happy that we're kind of that monster in the room,” Bobsein said. “You hear all of these issues that other people have at their schools, and we’re like, ‘Wow, we really don’t have that.’”
Bobsein and her staff also have worked with the Veterans Advisory Commission to provide the VA secretary with suggestions on updating outdated language in the federal department’s regulations and smoothing out processes. She noted regulations, for example, still referred to “distance learning” and had references to two-way radios.
“We got in front of them to talk about a world where we have the ability to stream from one classroom to another classroom, so we only need one teacher for both,” she said. “It falls to UMGC just because we are a trailblazer. We’re already asking questions before somebody has yet had the idea.”