Going the distance—virtual classrooms allow 300 former students to earn their degrees

Published: Apr 11, 2024

students in commencement regalia look up as glitter falls

The onset of COVID-19 brought a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the way students would learn going forward. But within that challenge, UMBC saw a unique opportunity to open its virtual doors to former students. 

Finish Line began as an outreach program in the fall of 2020, targeting former Retrievers who had 60 or more credits but hadn’t completed their degree before leaving the university. And while these students  might not have had the opportunity to return physically to campus, the sudden availability of a virtual classroom offered them a new pathway to their degree goals. 

The intentional outreach and personalized advising offered through the program has allowed nearly 300 former students to return to UMBC to finish their degrees. 

“The Finish Line program has allowed me and others from my office to exercise some of our most creative academic advising skills to enable former UMBC students to finish degrees they had intended to complete when they first began here,” says Ken Baron, assistant vice provost for academic advising and student success. “We are passionate about degree completion, and each semester, our Finish Line graduates help us recognize and celebrate what makes UMBC special—a place where hard work brings out the best in everyone.”

With the demands that come with everyday life—jobs, families, home responsibilities, operating a restaurant dynasty, etc.—this model allows UMBC to meet students where they are. It acknowledges that most don’t have the luxury of being a full-time student and works to best suit their needs and timeline. 

“We’re proud to have redefined inclusive excellence in a way that honors UMBC’s core values and ethos,” says Baron.

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