January 2024

Alumni duo helping community learn technology

Michael and Maria Schwartz, both 2004 graduates of the San Antonio campus, established Technology Shared Foundation in March 2022 on their own and began working on how best to serve their community around Savannah, Ga.

They met with the City of Savannah, which has 10 locations around the city called Golden Age

Michael and Maria Schwartz
Maria and Michael Schwartz

Resource Centers that provide a variety of programs for both youth and senior citizens in lower-income or disadvantaged areas. That seemed a perfect fit for the services that the Schwartzes were offering, and a great partnership was born.

“We started in October 2022 at one of the City of Savannah's newest facilities. Each week we provide training sessions on the use of Google, Microsoft, and social media applications like Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram. In addition, we train on how to use hardware such as cell phones, tablets, and PCs, These are things most seniors have heard about but have not had a lot of practice with and are very wary of the technology,” noted Michael.

“We have recently expanded into a second location, conducting training sessions with the youth after-school program and partnered with the summer camp for kids as well.”

Still early in the game, Michael is the primary trainer for the sessions, with a few college students that volunteer their time.

Michael and Maria still work full-time. Working remotely allows them to provide technology training to their community.  Both are Veterans of the U.S. Army.  Michael works for Microsoft, having spent a decade in the Seattle area before relocating two years ago to Georgia. After retiring from a 22-year career in the U.S. Army, Maria works for Medcor, managing Occupational Health clinics nationwide.

With his extensive background in technology, Michael's knowledge base is above the level of most. He is fully aware that there are many who do not have the basic understanding of everyday technology and how to use it safely and effectively.

“Either you are part of the social equity problem or part of the solution. We chose to be part of the solution,” said Michael. “For me it boils down to providing an opportunity to people who are underserved, don’t have the ability to take a college course, don’t have a technology center in their home or are unable to buy Microsoft products. These groups need more guidance to get to the same level of success using technology."

Schwartz with class
Michael with class members.

Michael mentioned his training centers heavily around Google products and services since many of them are free and available across various platforms. Learners can use them on a smart phone, tablet or computer at the library. Most users can accomplish many tasks with this knowledge gained.

“Feedback from participants has been positive. Initially they feared technology, but as the year progressed both seniors and youths wanted to do more and use the programs that had been taught in class. Many even adopted new technology by buying their own smart phones, tablets, and laptops. It’s been exciting to see their development and enthusiasm throughout the year,” said Michael.

"We discovered the youth are equally in need. A lot of the school-aged children know how to use an Xbox, PlayStation, a joystick, or do things on their phones. But the basic fundamentals on using a computer, and the mindset of how to be safe and successful with technology was not there,” he said. “We are creating a generation that knows how to use an application on the phone, but they don’t know the technology behind it and how to translate that to other platforms.”

For the coming year, the Schwartzes are looking forward to expanding their services and adding volunteers and programs to help more individuals. They will be collaborating with a local technology company to offer Cyber Security training with help from a federal grant. They are also planning to develop a “Train the Trainer” model and work with military spouses to provide them additional opportunities.

Michael and Maria have both benefited from their education at Wayland. Both pursued their

Leading student
Michael works with young student

education as adults while Maria was stationed in San Antonio at Brooke Army Medical Center. Both forewent college in the traditional route, opting for military service instead, where they met and married.

“Later in life we realized the value of having a formal education. We learned about Wayland through the community, friends, and co-workers who were attending as well. We liked that Wayland offered various degrees, all our professors were flexible and worked with us when duty called. We felt they genuinely cared about us.," said Michael. Maria went on to attain a Master of Arts degree from Webster University afterwards.

To learn more about Michael and Maria's work, visit their website at www.technologysharedfoundation.org Michael serves as Executive Director of the Foundation, while Maria is Chief of Staff.


Anchorage grad impacting through Library of Congress

Neal Graham served his country for 21 years as a member of the U.S. Air Force, retiring in 2002 after wrapping his career as superintendent of the Air Force Command section working in the Pentagon.

For the last 20 years, Neal has continued his service to the people of the United States in a very special way – as an employee of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Specifically, he is Chief of Business Operations for the National Library Services for the Blind and Print-Disabled, known as NLS.

Neal Graham
Neal Graham

NLS is part of the Library of Congress’ collections and services group, which provides services and research opportunities for patrons, citizens and other users.

“We provide reading material to people who are blind, low-vision or cannot read a traditional book,” explained Neal, a 1993 graduate of the Anchorage campus. “We do that in several ways: through an app, BARD (the Braille and Audio Reading Download), that can be used on a smart device, our BARD Express which can be used on a laptop or PC and can download content or our workhorse, a proprietary talking book machine that looks like a cassette machine but has a flash drive where we download content and mail it to patrons.”

Neal said the NLS has 300,000 of the book machines in circulation around the country and its territories and can also serve Americans living abroad. The service also offers Braille books in traditional hard-copy format as well as in a digital format that work on eReaders, a refreshable braille device that creates  braille letters using raised pins.

Congress funds the work of the NLS in two ways: through federal dollars directly to the Library of Congress budget as well as through appropriations to the 50 states. The NLS supports a network of 96 libraries across the states that provide content directly to their residents. But some things – like the largest collection of music for the blind and low-vision, any magazines in the collection and electronic content through BARD – are provided directly by NLS to patrons.

Neal supervises about 30 people in his role, as well as a host of volunteers that support the National Library Service through repairs to the talking book machines, narration of content and other fulfillment center functions.

Opening the world

The NLS serves hundreds of thousands of patrons across the country, ranging from the more voracious readers who order content regularly, to those who may read more at a more leisurely rate. Regardless of their level of interest, Neal finds it particularly rewarding to provide this content to a special group of Americans.

“This opens the world to them and provides them an opportunity whether just for leisure reading or studying for the SAT or LSAT or GED or any other purpose,” he said. “There is a wide variety of items in the collection that allows patrons to have a window to the world and access to materials that they enjoy.”

Neal is especially proud of two recent projects. NLS recently partnered with the Veterans Administration to create a “priority patrons” program for veterans, allowing VA centers nationwide to

Graham speaking
Neal speaks at museum administrators meeting

fast-track qualified individuals into the NLS database to receive services.

“The last number we heard of qualified members was over 80,000, and they see over a million veterans that could potentially qualify for the program. We’re really early in that program but it is up and running,” he said. “Working with the program gets me up every morning and ready to work.”

Another recent win was the completion of an automation that helps NLS move “free matter for the blind,” a United States Postal Service program that provides free postage on materials for people with visual and other impairments. Traditionally these have had to be processed manually, taking extra time and personnel. Neal said the new process allows NLS to download a barcode into their own system so these materials can be moved through USPS automated equipment and reach patrons faster.

“We move upwards of 17 million items through the USPS each year, to and from patrons, so this is a big project,” he added.

Checking in

A native of North Carolina, Neal joined the Air Force after trying college and feeling unfocused. Intending on a short stint, he later opted for the career route and worked mostly in specialty roles. When deciding where to live in retirement, he had enjoyed the DC-Maryland-Virginia area – known to locals as the DMV – and stayed there.

At the time of his retirement, the country was regrouping after the 9/11 attacks and converting many airport screeners to federal employees under the Transportation Security Agency. He contracted with the TSA as a deputy project manager to work the human resources side of an operation that was converting 5,000 people per week. One of his employees had worked for the Library of Congress and learned they were seeking a facilities manager, which fit Neal’s skill set in both the military and with TSA.

He started the job in 2003 as chief of facility services, then switched around 2008 to capital planning, where he worked with the Architect of the Capitol to complete the many backlogged projects. About a year into that role, he had the opportunity to move to NLS.

He learned about Wayland while stationed with the Air Force in Alaska and working more on his college degree. A coworker mentioned Wayland was military friendly and offered credit for work experience, so he transferred to the Anchorage campus and was able to complete two classes per 8-week term and still work full-time in the military.

Neal is a father of a son, Joey, a senior at Virginia Union University and a collegiate golfer. In his spare time, he enjoys golfing as well. 


Devotional: Save the World

2024-Happy New Year

We cannot blame people for missing what happened in the small town of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. Who would have thought that the Lord of heaven and earth would come into the world as a child born in a stable?

We are about to close the book on 2023. Today you might find yourself remembering some of the triumphs and trials of the past year. Even if you have had some wonderful successes in the past twelve months, you can probably remember some low points as well.

As you enter a new year, we hope you can remember that God’s plans have always been to prosper his people. He can transform ordinary events and difficult trials into key moments that help his plans to prosper. He is not out to harm us, but the dark moments we experience can be part of the most important lessons to help us grow nearer to him.

God has a way of saving his world that we may find hard to understand. He introduced his Son into the world and brought about our salvation in a way that could easily be overlooked—and yet he has changed the world, and his kingdom keeps growing. That same God comes into our lives and draws us into his plans for a hope-filled future!

 “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)


In the Mix

Did you know: Veteran students and alumni have access to a counseling professional with prior military experience to assist you in all aspects of personal growth and performance enhancement?


The nature of military service often requires  to learn how to operate with little to no
sleep, to suppress our emotions and push our needs aside, to focus on the results despite the means, even if the means chip away at the very fabric of our being. And it often worked! The mission got done. Another day saved and another successful day in the service of others. Still, veterans notice a disconnect when they step away from the mission and integrate into our "civilian" lives.

Is there a place for veterans outside those gates? Who are they when the uniform is off? Our veteran community learn to operate in the strict environment of the military, and they can learn to strive in the freedom of our civilian lives. All can reconnect with one another; they can strengthen and build relationships, learning the skills to improve emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Veterans can succeed while being human.

The Virtual Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success (V-CEVSS) provides a comprehensive suite of support services to all VA and military affiliated students no matter where they are located. The virtual center provides a bridge that supports military affiliated students and alumni engaged in the mission, to receive higher education by providing streamlined, comprehensive services through virtually accessible, adaptable, innovative, and collaborative programs designed to enhance each students’ performance academically, professionally, mentally, and spiritually for continued service to God and humankind. 

For more information about V-CEVSS, you can click on the link here: https://www.wbu.edu/mil/index.htm or email at: VeteransCenter@wbu.edu