UMUC's founding mission was to serve students for whom the College Park campus was not a viable option, including veterans returning from World War II. These new students were different from the typical college students on America's campuses. They were older, often juggling family and work commitments that necessitated more flexible class schedules and more convenient locations.
A Proud Military Heritage
UMUC took the lead in accommodating and educating adult students, not only at College Park, but all over Maryland. Then in 1949, at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense, UMUC became the first institution to send a team overseas to teach college classes to active-duty servicemembers. From a single classroom on a military base in postwar Germany, the program quickly expanded across Europe and Asia, sending faculty wherever they were needed—even into war zones—and making UMUC a leading higher education provider to the U.S. military, veterans, and their dependents around the world.
A Trailblazer in Distance Learning
In the 1990s, UMUC began to transform higher education by becoming among the first universities to offer bachelor's degree programs entirely online. By combining a structure demanded by the nontraditional student with the reach of available technology, UMUC made it possible for busy working professionals, single mothers, servicemembers on deployment, military dependents, and tens of thousands of other students from all over the world to pursue their educational goals.
Leading the Next Generation of Higher Education
UMUC's numerous awards for outstanding achievements in distance learning demonstrate how successfully the school has leveraged the potential of the internet to create the university of the future. Today UMUC is a global leader in online education and endeavors to live up to its promise by continuing to explore innovative ways to expand educational opportunities for first-time learners and lifetime learners alike—anywhere in the world.
Here are some of the milestones and challenges that have forged UMUC's focus on providing open access to high-quality educational programs and services.
UMUC begins providing education to adult students and military veterans around the world.
1947 UMUC's precursor, the College of Special and Continuation Studies, known as CSCS, is established to coordinate the expanding off-campus offerings. The Pentagon exceeds its capacity to accommodate the number of officers who wish to register. Registration lines begin forming at increasingly early hours; some determined registrants even camp overnight in the Pentagon concourse.
1949 At the behest of an enthusiastic and determined Pentagon student, Col. William C. Bentley, the U.S. Air Force Command issues a proposal for off-campus programs overseas. When only two universities apply, University of Maryland is chosen for Europe; University of California, for the Pacific.
1949 In August, the first CSCS Dean, George J. Kabat, travels to Europe to confer with military leaders and visit potential sites.
1949 Convinced of the viability of a European program, Dean George Kabat locates seven faculty members who, with one week's notice, board a plane on October 2 to teach at six sites in war-torn Germany—Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Nürnberg, and Heidelberg.
Guided by Ray Ehrensberger, UMUC rapidly expands its programs and locations in Maryland, Europe, and Asia.
1950 Ray Ehrensberger arrives in Germany in February as the first European Director of a rapidly expanding program.
1950 Thanks to the persistence of Claire Swan, a recent high school graduate whose father is the Community Commander of McGraw Kaserne, Maryland opens it "Munich Branch," later known as the Munich Campus, in October. It allows military dependents to begin their college education without returning to the United States. It remains a major part of the UMUC program until it closes in 2005.
1951 In April, at a special Convocation in Bonn, Germany, University of Maryland President H. C. Byrd confers honorary degrees on Konrad Adenauer and Theodor Heuss, Germany's first postwar chancellor and president, respectively; the rectors of the Free University of Berlin and the University of Bonn; and the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany.
1951 In May, the first bachelor's degree in Europe is awarded to Air Force Colonel William C. Bentley, who started his studies at the Pentagon.
1952 Ray Ehrensberger is appointed dean of the CSCS and quickly earns the designation "The Flying Dean" as he circles the globe overseeing the existing programs and continually sizing up new opportunities.
1953 An Atlantic Division is added with classes in Bermuda, Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, Labrador, and the Azores. The European Division expands not only to France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and the Netherlands, but also to non-European countries like Ethiopia, Morocco, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
1953 In Maryland, courses expand to Baltimore, Bethesda, Hancock, Hagerstown, Salisbury, and Silver Spring, as well as to the Maryland State Penitentiary. Chinese language courses are offered at the Pentagon, along with graduate programs for scientists and technicians at the Patuxent Naval Air Test Center.
1956 Following the withdrawal of the University of California's program in Asia, Maryland takes over and offers courses for troops at 42 education centers in Japan, Okinawa, and South Korea, launching the Far East Division with headquarters in Tokyo. Among its early innovations is the creation of the Far East Network, which broadcasts interviews of visiting Americans, including playwright Tennessee Williams and author James Michener.
1957 The first two graduates in the Far East Division are both Army officers, Lt. Col. John M. Cole and Capt. Henry Richarde.
1959 Dean Ray Ehrensberger convinces the University of Maryland Board of Regents to change the college's name to University College, a term borrowed from British usage to describe an institution that offers courses and programs to all students regardless of gender, social class, or religion.
UMUC changes its requirements for overseas faculty as it extends its programs into a war zone for the first time.
1960 University College enters the decade offering courses at 275 military and civilian sites around the world, including 70 in the United States, 137 in Europe, six in Africa, five in the Middle East, 48 in the Far East, and nine in the Atlantic Division, from the Arctic Circle to the Azores.
1963 The first classes are held in Saigon as the university extends into a war zone in Vietnam. By the 1969–70 academic year, enrollments in Vietnam reach 11,000 at 24 military installations. To be accepted as an overseas faculty member, every new professor has to agree to teach in Vietnam. In 1968, Joe Arden becomes the first full-time faculty member assigned to Vietnam.
1964 University College opens its new Center of Adult Education in Adelphi, Maryland, designed both to house the administrative offices of University College and to accommodate its rapidly expanding schedule of conferences and institutes.
1966 French Prime Minister Charles DeGaulle withdraws from the military party of NATO, effectively closing more than 30 locations where Maryland classes are held and forcing staff to relocate to bases in other countries. Base openings and closing—mostly in response to international events—became commonplace, although none are as extensive as the French move.
UMUC undergoes reorganization, both overseas and in Maryland, reaching a new continent and naming its first chancellor.
1970 The University of Maryland is reorganized, and University College becomes one of five separately accredited institutions. Its name is changed to University of Maryland University College—the name that UMUC bears to this day. Ray Ehrensberger is appointed as its first chancellor.
1975 As North Vietnamese troops close in on Saigon, the number of university students dwindles to a handful. Robert Schoos holds his last class on April 27 as mortar fire rattles the windows. On April 30, Schoos hears Far East Network Radio play Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," the secret code that signals the start of the final pull-out. Schoos makes his way to the American Embassy in time to be airlifted out by helicopter.
1975 Ray Ehrensberger retires as chancellor, ending his influential 38-year career, and his colleague, Stanley J. Drazek, takes over as chancellor.
1977 As the Far East Division reorganizes following the end of the Vietnam War, it expands to Australia, adding a fifth continent to the UMUC empire.
1978 Stanley Drazek steps down and T. Benjamin Massey, a seasoned overseas administrator since 1960, becomes UMUC's third chancellor.
1979 The Far East Division adds graduate-level coursework to its curriculum, and by the end of the 1979–80 academic year, almost 150 master's degrees in counseling are awarded on Okinawa.
Expansion continues in the Asian and European Divisions, reaching students in 17 countries.
1980s The Far East Division expands to Subic Bay and Cubi Point in the Philippines and to the remote Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, accessible only by military aircraft. It reopens courses in Guam and expands into such remote spots in the Australian outback as Woomera and Alice Springs and to remote atolls in the Marshall Islands.
1980s With the military build-up during the Reagan administration, the European Division sees growing enrollments and increases in the number of countries where courses are offered. Total course enrollments reach 130,000 by the end of the decade, up from 80,000 at its beginning. During the decade, faculty teach at more than 260 locations in 17 countries as far flung as Moscow, Cairo, and Bahrain.
1982 The Far East Division is renamed the Asian Division as Far East comes to be viewed as an outmoded term that defines Asia strictly from a Western perspective.
1982 U.S. Army Gen. John W. Vessey Jr.—a 1963 UMUC graduate—is named 10th chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff by President Ronald Reagan. It is the rarest of honors for one who began his career as an enlisted man.
1986 The Asian Division exceeds the peak enrollments it had reached during the Vietnam War and continues to grow, providing education to American military personnel scattered over 10 million square miles of Asia and the Pacific.
1987 For the first time, UMUC allows Japanese nationals to enroll in courses, initially in Okinawa and later on the main island of Honshu.
1989 The Berlin Wall falls, and with the end of the Cold War, UMUC's enrollments in Europe begin to decline. As U.S. bases close and troops are withdrawn, enrollments drop from a high of 130,000 in 1989–90 to 79,000 in 1996–97.
UMUC opens programs in Russia, Antarctica, and South America as technology improves.
1991 UMUC pioneers business management instruction in Russia by opening two programs at Russian universities—Irkutsk State University, the oldest institution of higher education in Eastern Siberia, and Far Eastern State University in Vladivostok.
1991 The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines causes widespread destruction on U.S. military bases, leading to abrupt evacuations of military personnel. Bases are closed permanently under pressure from the Philippine government and the U.S. military transfers personnel to Singapore and Guam.
1992 Guam is hit by five typhoons and an earthquake in one year, but classes continue to meet, sometimes lit by flashlight.
1992 The overseas graduating class is the largest in the history of the European Division as military personnel rush to complete programs and upgrade their skills before they are withdrawn from Europe and separated from the military.
1992 At the invitation of the mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, UMUC establishes an international four-year residential campus for traditional-age students in the vacant Kaserne that had housed U.S. Pershing missiles. The campus operates for 10 years.
1993 UMUC officially launches its "virtual university," offering students across the United States the opportunity to complete a bachelor's degree by computer conferencing and e-mail. At the same time, distance education courses are offered by computer for the first time in the Asian Division, tailored to military students whose assignments do not allow them to enroll in regular classes.
1994 UMUC begins offering undergraduate classes via computer, with course material supplied to students on diskettes.
1994 Distance education expands UMUC's reach to Antarctica when Ensign Ron Parks, of the Naval Support Force at McMurdo Station, enrolls.
1994 At the request of the U.S. embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, UMUC opens its first South American program, enrolling 40 students.
1996 European Division faculty learn a new military expression—downrange—as U.S. troops are stationed in war zones and UMUC opens programs in Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, and later in Iraq and Afghanistan. Faculty live on base with the soldiers and are not allowed to venture off base.
1997 UMUC offers its first web-based courses, and other forms of distance learning are phased out. The IT department develops WebTycho as its electronic teaching platform. Growth of online courses is so rapid that, within a decade, 80 percent of all stateside undergraduate enrollments are for online classes. Because of online learning, the university's total headcount grows by 15,000 in the next decade, effectively reversing the post–Cold War decline.
1998 T. Benjamin Massey retires and Gerald Heeger—a dean at New York University—accepts the presidency the following year.
UMUC introduces new services in Maryland, including at its Dorsey Station location and the Academic Center at Largo.
2004 UMUC adds a 100,000-square-foot addition to its Inn and Conference Center in Adelphi, more than doubling the number of guest rooms and making it the 12th largest conference space in the Washington, D.C., metro area—and one of the first LEED-certified "green" conference centers in the country.
2006 UMUC opens its Dorsey Station Center near Baltimore to be a major stand-alone satellite location in Maryland.
2006 Gerald Heeger steps down and Susan Aldridge becomes the first woman to serve as president of UMUC.
2009 UMUC opens its Academic Center at Largo by renovating what was once the corporate headquarters of the Hechinger Company. The new center becomes the 232,000-square-foot home for all of the university's academic units with classrooms, offices, an auditorium, and a cafeteria. The U.S. Green Building Council cites it for innovation, design, and water efficiency.
A leader in information assurance education, UMUC wins global recognition for its award-winning cybersecurity programs and students.
2010 Building on its established reputation as a leader in information assurance education, UMUC launches some of the first online bachelor's and master's degree programs in cybersecurity.
2012 Javier Miyares is appointed UMUC president following Susan Aldridge's resignation.
2013 UMUC closes its Heidelberg offices and moves to the Ramstein area, where the largest concentration of remaining U.S. troops are located. Among the last graduating class in Heidelberg was Lauren Bentley, the great granddaughter of the first UMUC graduate there.
2014 President Miyares announces a new business model for UMUC that gives it more flexibility in competing with other online universities, allowing it to be more entrepreneurial in finding new revenue streams.
2014 UMUC's Cyber Competition team wins the Global CyberLympics in Barcelona, Spain.
2015 UMUC spins off its Office of Analytics into HelioCampus, a for-profit company offering business intelligence products and services to universities nationwide. The company's profits will help support scholarships for UMUC students.
2016 By the fall term, UMUC becomes the first major university to replace publisher textbooks with free online resources in all undergraduate classes. The move saves students an estimated $17 million in the first year alone.
For a deeper dive into UMUC's unique history, you can access the University Archives.