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UMGC Global Media Center
UMGC Joins Incubator that Helps Boost Graduation Rates for Underserved Students

Gil Klein
By Gil Klein

University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has joined the University Innovation Lab, part of a national coalition of leading public research universities committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in the United States.

“We are uniquely qualified to contribute to the lab,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “Everything we are doing now is focused on bringing higher education programs to learners who might otherwise be unable to pursue degrees. UMGC is committed to helping our students experience success through innovative programming that meets them where they are.” 

Social mobility and global competitiveness have made a college degree increasingly indispensable for U.S. workers. Yet universities found they were not meeting their graduation rate goals, especially among students of color from low-income families, many of whom were in line to become the first in their families to earn a college degree. A group of 18 universities joined together in 2014 as the University Innovation Alliance to address that challenge collaboratively.

Alliance members set ambitious goals, share data and trade best practices as part of their collaboration.

To spread the opportunity further, the University Innovation Alliance created the lab, providing select universities with resources aimed at improving student retention and graduation rates. Those resources include virtual workshops and discussions in which groundbreaking ideas are exchanged.

The lab is trying to “move the needle on student success and student completion by sharing innovative best practices,” said Matthew Belanger, UMGC vice president for student engagement and achievement. He added that access to the lab opens “a whole host of opportunities that we'll have to leverage the content the alliance already has compiled as well as to offer the work we have done to improve student graduation rates.”

UMGC faculty and staff will be able to participate in lab events and sign up for training courses that build skills and support strategies that have been tested at other schools.

UMGC is the first lab member that is not part of the University Innovation Alliance. It is also the first member to specifically target adult learners and offer most of its programs online.

“I've been excited about the work that they've been doing,” Belanger said. “Given the population of students that we serve online, hybrid and face-to-face, as well as our large number of military-affiliated students we serve around the world, we are a special institution. They're excited to have us because they want us to help contribute to the narrative around online learning. And they know that we are really trying to make a difference here for our students.”

Among its innovations aimed at increasing graduation rates, UMGC offers four-week, eight-week and 12-week courses so students can opt for timeframes that best match their schedules and goals. UMGC also takes a student-focused approach to education, and it values already-learned skills and experience, offering—for example—academic credit for on-the-job training.

Additionally, the university provides students with access to success coaches who ensure they have support and resources along their academic journey. 

“The University Innovation Alliance was created to innovate together, scale up what works and share everything we learn with other institutions so they can make progress for their students,” said Bridget Burns, the alliance’s chief executive officer. “The lab is a cornerstone of our strategy to share, learn and connect with other institutions and we are thrilled to have UMGC be part of this effort.”   

The University of Maryland Baltimore County, also a member of the lab, belongs to the University Innovation Alliance.

All UMGC faculty and staff can register for a University Innovation Lab account. Learn more here