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Cara Abercrombie, President of the Defense Security Cooperation University at DSCA, looks back at the first year of DSCU and goes over objectives for 2021

The Defense Security Cooperation University recently hit its one-year mark. Despite needing to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, the university provided more than 25,000 courses to members of the security cooperation workforce. Cara Abercrombie, President of the Defense Security Cooperation University, spoke with “Government Matters” about the school’s first year.

“We are very excited that we’ve passed the one-year milestone. This first year has been something of a trial period as we built out a curriculum to train and certify the security cooperation workforce, which [includes] upwards of 20,000 military and civilian officials in the Defense Department,” Abercrombie said.

She mentioned the biggest thing she learned this year was that it’s good to plan to be flexible.

“We had upgraded our learning management system to enable distance learning, which came in extremely handy when we transitioned to one hundred percent virtual learning in the first year,” she said.

Abercrombie said the university had planned to allow for a hybrid learning model but had to transition to a virtual arrangement due to the pandemic. The university transitioned 20 courses initially slated to be taught in-person to virtual experiences.

“I think there’s no going back to only in-residence training,” she said. “We’ve found that there’s a huge demand for online learning particularly for our military members who serve in embassies overseas…”

Abercrombie said her team has also worked closely with stakeholders to gauge their needs from the security cooperation workforce. She said DSCU has made minor adjustments to the certification program in response to the input from stakeholders.

“Our number one goal is to provide value to the community, and if we’re not doing that, then we’re not doing our jobs,” she said. She routinely accepts feedback from students and the community.

While the university had originally planned to offer basic, intermediate and advanced certifications for the security cooperation workforce, Abercrombie said she found a need for expert and executive certifications as well.

“We’ve built out a very robust executive program now that we are delivering online,” she said.

She said the Defense Department will issue a policy document at the end of the year to institutionalize the certification program, and that the security cooperation workforce will need to be certified starting in January of 2021. She also hopes to build out the final courses for the program in the next year.

“This has been a very productive year for us despite the pandemic,” Abercrombie said.

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