The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) is continuing its 75-year history of meeting students where they are, this time stepping forward to support servicemembers near the war in Ukraine. Online classes targeting military students at bases in Poland and Romania are underway, and there are plans to have educators on site in the spring.
Throughout fall 2022, UMGC Europe sent staff members to bases in Poland and Romania to assess the resources needed to provide educational services as requested by the U.S. government.
“The U.S. is supporting NATO in a hot spot of the world, and UMGC is getting geared up as well,” said Patricia Coopersmith, vice president and director for the university’s operations in Europe. “This is what we do and have always done. We go in with the military, we assess and prepare, and we get the facilities ready for the classes that our service members want.
“Right now, we’re enrolling online students in both Poland and Romania but, during the spring, we will also offer on-site classes in these locations as well,” she added.
Coopersmith has visited the Polish installations where U.S. servicemembers are based and said current buildings may be renovated to create education centers and classrooms. Students also could be taught in trailers or tents at some of the sites, she noted.
The new UMGC programs in Poland focus on military installations at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznań, which is now an official headquarters of U.S. troops in Poland; in Powidz, which generally serves as the first stop for most units arriving in the country; and in the Żagań Cluster, where the American Armor Brigade Combat Team is anchored. In Romania, education services are being put in place at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, which is used as a staging area for troops and equipment.
Language and culture classes are among the first online courses tailored for the servicemembers supporting NATO’s efforts in Ukraine. Andrew Boone, UMGC Europe’s associate vice president and associate dean, said additional course offerings will be determined by what servicemembers and the military’s education service officers (ESOs) request. He expected general education classes, such as introductory math, speech and writing to be popular.
Boone is also selecting the faculty who will teach on the bases in Poland and Romania.
“The last time UMGC mobilized resources in this way was three decades ago in the Balkans,” said Boone, who is based at UMGC Europe headquarters in Kaiserslautern, Germany. “I taught as a faculty member when we were in Bosnia. I taught in a tent. I remember the students had plywood tables for desks. We are excited to be working with the U.S. military to open new education sites again.”
The University of Maryland launched what is now UMGC in 1947 in large part to support U.S. troops returning from World War II. In 1949, a team of faculty members volunteered to travel to war-torn Germany at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense to teach active-duty servicemembers stationed there. Since then, a substantial part of UMGC’s mission has been to follow the U.S. military community—active-duty servicemembers, their family members, veterans and U.S. Department of Defense civilians—around the globe, enabling them to obtain degrees through on-site, online, virtual and hybrid classes.
In mid-2021, UMGC Europe signed a new five-year contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to continue providing educational services to troops on military installations in the Middle East, North Africa and other locations where servicemembers are deployed near conflict areas.
“University leadership is proud to offer over 125 degree and certificate programs and serve nearly 90,000 global students, including over 55,000 servicemembers, veterans and their families, at over 175 locations around the world,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “As our mission statement says, we continue to inspire hope, empower dreams, and transform lives—one student at a time.”