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Hanscom Air Force Base Partnership Takes Off

Online and Continuing Education Steps up Workforce Education

Lt. Gen. John Thompson awards a certificate of completion of UMass Lowell's engineering management course to Air Force Capt. Jeffrey Rodriguez. Photo by Linda LaBonte Britt
Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson presents a certificate in project management to Capt. Jeffrey Rodriguez.

By Katharine Webster

The university is expanding a workforce education partnership with Hanscom Air Force Base that began with network security education and now includes training in project management.

“Hanscom is taking on a greater role in cybersecurity nationally. We worked with them to find a program to fit their needs,” says Catherine Kendrick, senior executive director of market development and online programs for the Division of Online and Continuing Education (OCE). “We’re deepening our partnership by offering an on-site project management course that prepares them for certification.”

The Hanscom partnership is just one of a growing number of workforce development programs that OCE offers to businesses and government agencies, using classes on-site, online or both. Other partners include BAE Systems, Raytheon and Analog Devices. Not surprisingly, industry demand is mostly for computer science, engineering and business education.

“We’re looking at how you grow a talented workforce in the state and we’re bringing the university to the client,” Kendrick says. “We customize our offerings to what the client wants.”

Hanscom houses part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, which acquires, supports and maintains all U.S. Air Force weapons systems, from airplanes to cyber-weapons.

The network security training began in January 2014 as an innovative, three-way partnership between Hanscom, the university and the state workforce development agency, MassDevelopment, which pays for the courses and books. 

Students select four of five courses to earn a graduate certificate in network security from the university, which was recently designated a “National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research” by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. The students can also apply their credits toward the university’s online master’s degree in information technology, which is ranked one of the best in the nation.

Two years after the Education Partnership Agreement between the university and Hanscom was signed, more than 49 civilian and military employees and seven contractors had enrolled in the program and 17 had completed it, says Hanscom spokesman Chuck Paone.

This year, the partnership was expanded to include the project management program. That program is not for credit, but it is certified by the Project Management Institute and prepares students for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification test, the industry standard. Again, MassDevelopment picked up most of the tab for the classes and materials.

The first cohort of 30 students took six seminars, including risk management, critical thinking and a team case study. The seminars totaled 11 full days spread over three months. Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, presided over a ceremony to mark the program’s completion at the end of July. By then, a few students had already passed the PMP test and the rest were studying for the exam.

Engineering management students at Hanscom AFB pose for a photo with UMass Lowell OCE staff and MassDevelopment CEO and President Marty Jones. Photo by Linda LaBonte Britt
Project management students at Hanscom AFB with MassDevelopment President Marty Jones,far left, standing, and Karen Von Sneidern, Catherine Kendrick and Joanne Talty,seated, from left, from UMass Lowell's Division of Online and Continuing Education.

“They’re outstanding students who were recommended by Hanscom senior leadership for the program,” says Joanne Talty, associate director of corporate education for OCE. “They are enthusiastic and committed to developing their project management skills.”

Kelly Larson, a deputy program manager in foreign military sales, is one of those committed students. She provides oversight for defense contractors building military equipment for sale to foreign governments – most recently, Boeing’s upgrade of AWACS planes for Saudi Arabia. 

Larson had already studied program management at Defense Acquisition University, run by the U.S. Department of Defense, where she learned how to ensure compliance with U.S. laws on defense acquisitions. The university classes gave her a different perspective, including more insight into the scheduling and budgeting systems used by private defense contractors.

“This helps us understand the people we’re overseeing,” Larson says. “When there are issues, it also helps us understand the root causes – and contribute to the solution.”

The partnership goes both ways. Hanscom is working with the university’s Francis College of Engineering on several educational initiatives, including summer internships for students. Hanscom has also agreed to make Air Force personnel available for guest lectures, to help develop new courses and research projects and to serve as thesis advisers and mentors for undergraduate and graduate students.