Gabriel Manns is part of a winning team. It's not the Eagles of North Carolina Central University, where he earned his bachelor's degree on a football scholarship. It's not the Cincinnati Bengals, where he played offensive tackle under coach Marvin Lewis.
In fact, Gabriel's newest team has only one other member: his wife, Kristina. Together, on May 14, 2016, they graduated with master's degrees from UMUC; he, with a Master of Science in health informatics administration, and she, with a Master of Science in intelligence management. It was a team effort.
"We definitely kept each other accountable throughout the whole process," he said. "We supported each other with writing papers—doing research, having that second set of eyes looking at the information, making sure it was correct. It was kind of like, 'I scratch your back, you scratch my back.'"
Gabriel's career was in need of a boost. After his stint in the NFL, he started working at a healthcare facility as a rehab technician working with physical, occupational, and speech therapists. It was a good job, but he knew he was capable of more. It was then that he decided it was time to go back to school.
"I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my degree, but I knew, living in the D.C. area, it's very competitive here," Gabriel said. "I had a bachelor's degree in exercise sports science, but nowadays it seems like master's is the new bachelor's!"
UMUC was the only school Gabriel applied to, partly because of their healthcare program but mostly because his wife was already attending. His plan initially was to go for a master's degree in healthcare administration, but Kristina reminded him that he also liked working with computers, so he opted for the graduate program in health informatics. Gabriel recalls his experience getting started at UMUC.
"After I got my acceptance letter, I gave them a call, and they answered all my questions about my next steps. It was kind of like getting dropped off on your first day of kindergarten," he said. "Your mom or dad holds your hand, walks you through, and the next thing you know you're running with it."
With his first two classes, Gabriel found himself getting more excited about going back to school. Though the online classroom was something of a new experience for him, he discovered he preferred the convenience of it, and he enjoyed the give-and-take of the learning environment and how it facilitated discussion with his classmates and professors. "It really seemed like you were in a classroom!" he said.
Gabriel continued working at the facility full-time while going to school. Before he started, however, he informed his supervisors of where he would be attending and what he would be studying. He was encouraged by their response.
"They said that they might have something for me after I graduate, and lo and behold, they were as good as their word—they promoted me as soon as I got my degree," Gabriel said. "Now, I'm a health information management supervisor, doing exactly what I went to school for!"
Health informatics is a multidisciplinary field involving computer, cognitive, and social sciences. It focuses on the interactions of people, organizations, technology, and information within the healthcare industry. The Master of Science in health informatics administration at UMUC, created with input from employers and taught by healthcare technology professionals, helps students develop the expertise to oversee the complex coordination of an organization's health informatics and administration needs.
"Getting my master's from UMUC can take me in a lot of directions," Gabriel said. "Now that I'm an HIM supervisor, that puts me on a path to be a director of healthcare administration, and I'm definitely aspiring to become a director. Long-term, I'm thinking about being a consultant, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there!"