- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2006

Susan Aldridge describes herself as an international person, which helps for a person in charge of a university that spans the globe.

As the new president of University of Maryland University College, Ms. Aldridge hopes to expand the already far-reaching university. With 88,499 students in 28 countries, UMUC is one of the nation’s largest nontraditional state universities.

“Our mission is to serve working adults, active-duty military personnel and their families, and students who want to take courses in an online format,” she said.

UMUC offers undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs online, as well as in a classroom setting.

Ms. Aldridge began on Feb. 1, replacing interim President Nicholas Allen.

“Dr. Aldridge brings a wealth of invaluable experience,” said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland. “She has a global mind-set which will serve UMUC well.”

Before joining UMUC, Ms. Aldridge was vice chancellor at Troy University College in Alabama, where she oversaw nontraditional programs.

Initially hired at Troy as a professor, she began teaching management classes part time to a class that included corporate executives, stealth bomber pilots and rocket scientists. Her students’ intelligence and accomplishments impressed her, and she developed an affinity for nontraditional education.

“I just absolutely loved working with the nontraditional students who had some experience outside the classroom,” Ms. Aldridge said.

Ms. Aldridge said her greatest challenge will be spreading the word about UMUC, which she called “a well-kept secret.”

“I think always we need to be diligent about letting people know we are here,” she said. “There are so many people who want to go back to school. We’re hoping that [they] will come to UMUC.”

With growing competition in the world of online education, UMUC has the advantage of being a state-accredited university.

“We have a long, rich history in Maryland,” she said, referring to the entire Maryland university system. “I think that gives students an assurance that there is a stamp of quality that the state has given to us.”

Online education will continue to expand and may even encroach on the traditional university system, Ms. Aldridge said.

“What we’re finding is that even the traditional students may want to take an online course every once in a while,” she said. “It’s because of the flexibility.”

Ms. Aldridge, in her early 50s, is moving to Prince George’s County. She has two sons.

— Walter Frick

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