JWU Cybersecurity Students Hack it in the Lab

Your safety is important — but how often do you think about your safety on the internet? October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Johnson & Wales is training the next generation of cybersecurity professionals with the help of top-notch facilities and invaluable opportunities.

“I love challenges and problems, and cybersecurity has a lot of those,” Kyle Leupold '23 said. “It’s really interesting trying to solve them.”

Leupold, a Connecticut native, is studying Cyber Threat Intelligence and Defense in JWU’s College of Engineering & Design. In October, he participated in the Inaugural Colorado Cyber Games, a month-long competition split into four weeks of challenges — Leupold was named Week 1’s winner.

Cybersecurity students travel to InfoSec conference

Cybersecurity students traveled to Florida this fall for the Infosec World conference.

“I was pretty surprised,” he said about learning he breezed past the competition. “It was fairly easy for me because everything on it was things I learned in the last three years here.”

The games were launched by a program under the National Cybersecurity Center and are designed to help employers find vetted talent. Participating companies hold copies of competitors’ resumes and they keep a close eye on the leaderboard, where competitors’ names and LinkedIn pages are displayed. It’s an opportunity to connect JWU students directly with industry professionals, and more importantly, hiring managers. Leupold jumped into the competition after a quick trip to InfoSec World, the leading cybersecurity conference that was held in Florida this year.

This is a unique experience for our students to attend and network with executives and cybersecurity practitioners.

“This is a unique experience for our students to attend and network with executives and cybersecurity practitioners,” Associate Professor Diane Santurri said. “They are also able to obtain amazing insight on where the industry is headed and learn of best practices in this rapidly changing arena.”

Group of Cyber Students with Professor Santurri

JWU faculty like Santurri (second from left) help connect students to valuable career experiences in the classroom and beyond.

Santurri, who teaches in the College of Engineering & Design, took Leupold and three other students south for the conference. The students volunteered their time to help the event run smoothly, and they were able to sit in on the security sessions and network with more than 1,000 cybersecurity professionals in attendance.

“In 2020, the event was canceled [because of COVID] and in 2021 the conference was virtual,” Santurri said. “So, we were all excited to get back in person to attend.”

Whether it’s on the road or on our Downcity Campus, hands-on and experiential learning is a pillar of a JWU cybersecurity education.

"We’re also a designated CAE, which is a Center for Academic Excellence," Associate Professor Douglas Tondreau explained.

JWU’s Cybersecurity lab received this honor in the spring of 2022, recognizing that the university’s curriculum meets the guidelines that the NSA sets in terms of what constitutes a successful and robust cybersecurity program. Tondreau says it also creates endless internship and career opportunities for students like Leupold.

“It really puts the stamp of approval on our program, and it allows our students to really get access to the highest level in this field,” Tondreau said.

A field that, as the world continues to gravitate toward a digital way of living, is producing high-demand careers. Wildcats are composing the new generation building the next line of defense — doing the crucial work to protect the vast majority of organizations today.

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