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Homecoming 2023: Reaching for the Stars in the U.S., Germany, Japan—and the Metaverse 

UMGC Alumni Relations
By UMGC Alumni Relations

The UMGC global community of alumni, students, faculty, and staff united this fall to celebrate Homecoming 2023. This annual celebration provides a way for members of UMGC’s global community to celebrate their accomplishments, network with one another and find encouragement in each other’s stories. 

This year’s celebration invited UMGC alumni, students, faculty and staff to “reach for the stars.”  While each of their individual “stars” may be different - an advanced degree, a promotion, a career change, a better community or world - the act of reaching is what ties this global community of 360,000 strong together. 

This October, more than 1,200 members of this global community came together to reach for their “star,” and together celebrate achievements – stars that have been reached – and to dream together as they set sights on their next “stars."

For the first time ever, Homecoming reached beyond the virtual world and ventured into the UMGC Metaverse -  an immersive 3D virtual experience where you can join a shared space using an avatar through a computer, tablet, mobile device, or virtual reality headset.  

After all, UMGC alumni are an inspiring group. They do what it takes to succeed while juggling professional, personal and often military responsibilities as they work toward earning a degree or certificate. 

“Every year at Homecoming, I’m reminded of the impact education has on the lives of our alumni, our students and their families,” says UMGC Associate Vice President of Alumni Relations Nikki Sandoval. “I always walk away feeling motivated after hearing their stories, and this year was no different.”

Homecoming 2023: Reach for the Stars

Homecoming kicked off with Spirit Week 2023, a global engagement campaign inviting the UMGC community to show off their school pride as they got ready to show the world how the University spans across the globe and beyond. Themes included Metaverse Monday, Together Tuesday, Where Are Yu Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, and Future Friday. Participation in Spirit Week entered the UMGC community into one of 23 chances to win a UMGC Stanley tumbler.

Additionally, the UMGC community were invited to step foot into the Metaverse for the Global Networking Hour. This opportunity provided a chance for students and alumni located around the world to connect with faculty and staff from each of the UMGC academic schools – Business, Cybersecurity and Information Technology, and Integrative and Professional Studies. Attendees had the chance to expand their network and connect with fellow students, alumni, faculty, and staff by creating an avatar and exploring the UMGC networking lounges. Attendees also had the chance to learn how the UMGC schools are continuing innovative work to empower, diversify, and improve the accessibility of UMGC’s  education offerings

The Homecoming USA Celebration followed on Oct. 19 at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Adelphi, MD. Master of Ceremonies Caitlin Bassett ’15 shared a story of how she overcame early challenges in her life and took responsibility for her future, something she has in common with many of her fellow alumni. 

“Please remember, as a member of the UMGC community, as someone who decided that, regardless of where life had dropped you off, you were [going to] make the best of it, you are part of something truly extraordinary,” she said. “Your sacrifice and dedication have driven you to this moment in your lives and represent where you stand, both personally and professionally.”

In addition to words of inspiration from Bassett, UMGC President Gregory Fowler, invited attendees to reach for their star. 

“Whatever motivates you to reach for the stars, I applaud you and I know I speak for everyone at UMGC when I say that we stand with you and support you every step of the way,” say President Fowler. “That is how we [UMGC] reach for the stars … by working constantly to bring the right learning experiences within reach for anyone who needs more than traditional higher education can offer.”

In addition to in-person Homecoming Celebrations in the USA, Germany, and Japan, President Fowler continued to share how this Homecoming celebration marks the first time ever the University is expanding celebrations by venturing into the UMGC Metaverse.  

“UMGC was part of the first cohort to participate in a two-year pilot that invites students into the Metaverse to take courses on a ‘digital campus’ with customizable UMGC learning spaces that include a lecture hall, an auditorium, a student lounge, an art museum, and more,” states President Fowler. “ Here we can interact in real time, anywhere in the world. Here we are exploring new and exciting ways to enhance YOUR learning journey without recreating challenges of access and affordability that have excluded so many from traditional academic settings.” 

Attendees enjoyed a fun-filled evening of engaging activities, including a chance to:

  • Expand their professional networks and celebrate star achievements in the “Galaxy Networking Area” with fellow students and graduates.  

  • Enjoy swag giveaways, fun photos, food, drinks, live DJ music, dancing, and more.

  • Learn about UMGC community benefits, exclusive career resources and engaging opportunities to stay connected to each other and their alma mater. 

For the first time ever, nine UMGC Regional Centers located throughout the country hosted Open House celebrations.  Locations in San Diego, CA, Patrick Space Force Base, FL, Pearl City, HI, Fayetteville, NC, Fort Drum, NY, Killeen, TX, San Antonio, TX, Langley AFB, VA and National Landing, VA demonstrated their UMGC spirit inviting UMGC students who regularly attend class at these locations to experience the opportunity to “reach for their stars” on October 19.

In lieu of a UMGC Homecoming registration fee, UMGC raised more than $5,700 to meet the increasing needs of students through UMGC’s Student Aid for Emergency Relief (SAFER) Fund. SAFER provides direct aid to students worldwide experiencing financial hardship related to an unforeseen emergency. Donations to SAFER are still being collected even after the Homecoming celebrations end. Visit SAFER to make a life changing gift today.   

Homecoming Celebrations in Germany and Japan

The UMGC community united in Germany to celebrate Homecoming 2023 on Oct. 27 at the Armstrong's Club in Kaiserslautern. Participants enjoyed a fun-filled evening of opportunities to network with fellow classmates and alumni while making new connections. In Japan, alumni came together to celebrate on Oct. 27 at the Rocker Enlisted Club on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.

At both celebrations, participants had the chance to:

  • Hear remarks from UMGC’s senior leaders.  
  • Expand their professional networks by connecting with fellow students and graduates. 
  • Celebrate their star achievements with their global UMGC community.
  • Participate in UMGC gear giveaways.
  • Enjoy food, music, and more.

New! Celebrations in the UMGC Metaverse 

Those who wanted to join the party but couldn’t do so in person this year had a new option: celebrate in the UMGC Metaverse. In addition to hosting the Global Networking Hour in this 3D virtual experience, each of the three in-person celebrations had engagement stations where in-person attendees could network and connect with Metaverse attendees. Merging the world of reality and virtual reality removed barriers of time and space so the global UMGC community could truly network with one another.

“We were so excited to offer this innovative option to our global UMGC community this year for Homecoming 2023,” said UMGC Department Chair of Information Technology Daniel Mintz. “This was an opportunity to showcase how the University is broadening and expanding education offerings and presence in this immersive space. It was incredible to have so many experience it first-hand—no matter where they were located around the world.”

Homecoming 2023 by the Numbers

Homecoming 2023 was a great success and resulted in the following:

  • 1,883 alumni registered for all Homecoming activities, cultivating long-term relationships with UMGC 

  • 1,117 alumni attended all Homecoming activities and engaged with their alma mater, cultivating key relationships for ongoing partnerships and advocacy  

  • 375 created avatars and portaled into the UMGC metaverse to attend Homecoming 2023 activities

  • $5,700 was raised for scholarships to help students fulfill their dreams of becoming alumni

Stay Connected

Did you miss the celebration, or would you just like to relive that special evening? Check out photos from UMGC Homecoming 2023 by viewing the galleries below.

Thank you for joining us for Homecoming 2023.  Access your UMGC alumni benefits and resources. Continue reaching for the stars and beyond…because at UMGC, the sky is  never  the limit!