A chance at the winner’s circle

J.D. Rottweiler

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

I’ve been a part of a number of fundraisers for various worthwhile organizations since arriving in Cochise County nine years ago. Most recently, I collaborated with Chris Przylucki of A’viands, the college’s food service provider, to prepare and serve crepes to guests at Men Who Cook, supporting the Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra.

While I and many other donors make charitable contributions in support of scholarships and other activities here at the college, we haven’t hosted our own fundraiser.

Until now.

To raise money for scholarships and engage with the community, the Cochise College Foundation will host “An Evening at the Races,” an auction and dinner gala planned for Saturday, April 29 on the Sierra Vista Campus. The centerpiece of the event is competitive “armchair” video horse racing. Participants will purchase Cochise Bucks to identify their favorite competitors. Sponsors and guests have the chance to “own” a horse. (No worries: the horse doesn’t eat and you don’t have to clean up after it. But you can buy one, name it, get your name in the program, and cheer it on to victory). Owners of winning horses will get a visit to the winner’s circle and a winner’s purse (a cake provided by the culinary arts department).

Guests will enjoy a “race day” buffet, with carving stations, pastas, spring rolls, goat cheese and chive stuffed cherry tomatoes, bruschetta and other hors d’oeuvres, and racing beverages. In true racing industry fashion, there will be an auction. Between races, guests will bid on a variety of auction items (think travel and leisure, edible treats, antiques and decorative items, and local treasures). All proceeds support scholarships, and a slideshow featuring Cochise College students will help tell the story of how – and who – your contributions will help.

Since the event is the week before the Kentucky Derby, there will also be a hat parade. So don your best racing attire and come and support the Cochise College Foundation.

In my last column I covered a report about the percentage of county residents age 16-24 who are neither working nor in school. Our fundraiser aims to give these individuals and others a chance for scholarship resources that will allow them an appearance in the “winner’s circle” of life.

So get out your calendar and mark these important dates. Tickets go on sale March 20 and can be purchased by calling the Cochise College Foundation at (520) 417-4735. You can see details about tickets and sponsorships, including a regularly updated list of items to be auctioned, at www.cochise.edu/races. A list of attendees will appear there as well.

The big event – hopefully, a new tradition – is set for April 29. See you at the Races!!

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Recent grad shares success at cybersecurity night

If there’s one thing Nora Luna is certain of, it’s that even intimidating challenges can be overcome.

Nora LunaThat was part of her message to nearly 100 students and guests attending Cochise College’s first Cybersecurity Night last month. Luna (’16) served on an alumni panel that answered audience questions. An employer panel included representatives of the military and local contractors. All shared insights about what it takes to not only study cybersecurity, but also to advance in the field.

“There will always be challenges, but nothing that can’t be overcome,” Luna told the audience. “The sky is the limit, and age is but a number. Anything is possible.”

Luna’s perseverance in balancing work, family and school was noted and applauded by a fellow panelist who witnessed the effort she put into it.

A 1995 graduate of Tombstone High School, Luna is a single parent who worked three jobs while attending college. Now she’s “down to two” jobs, one as grants specialist with Tombstone Unified School District, where her new knowledge helps inform decisions about the confidentiality of student information. She also now works part time on Fort Huachuca for OSI Vision, a contractor that provides services in the areas of IT operations, cybersecurity, logistics and supply chain management, and systems engineering. At OSI, she trouble shoots and provides desktop support, assists users with specific accounts provided by the military, and is part of the quality management team. She also earned SEC+ certification and is trained to lock down and keep information secure to avoid spillage and other security risks.

Alumni shared advice for academic and career success with nearly 100 people who attended Cybersecurity Night.

Luna initially planned to study business. She switched to information security during the time the program was evolving into cybersecurity. The degree, she thought, would open the door to a variety of local employment opportunities.

Time management and related decisions were difficult, she concedes, as she temporarily sacrificed what she values most – family – in order to be able to accomplish something necessary – graduation and financial security. She graduated as a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society with a 3.76 grade point average. Supportive family, friends, and college faculty and staff played a significant role in helping her along the way.

“I would not have accomplished what I have so far without them,” she said. “My daughter, now a sophomore, supported me without question and helped me study. It felt like a team, as this was going to better both of our lives. I feel very humbled, as I hoped to be an example to my daughter. I wanted her to see that it can be done no matter what the situation.”

After a bit of a breather, if you can call it that, Luna plans to complete a second associate’s degree in business and transfer to the University of Arizona South, where she can pursue studies in either business or cybersecurity, or both.

If there’s any other advice she’d share, it’s that working less can allow students to take advantage of extracurricular opportunities she wishes she hadn’t missed.

“I would encourage anyone to work less if they can and put as much time and attention to school and learning as possible,” Luna said. “Learning is such a great thing, and to have the ability to learn new things and grow is its own reward.”

Cybersecurity training puts jobs within reach

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. Rottweiler

As investigations of interference in the U.S. election process make headlines, Cochise College enters its 13th year of educating students in the area of cybersecurity. Later this month, we’ll celebrate what we’ve been able to build by bringing our current cyber students together with industry experts and program graduates for an evening of networking and learning from the pros.

The cybersecurity program Cochise offers today evolved from an information security program that began in 2004. It falls under the computer information systems umbrella, which enrolls more than 1,500 annually and also includes Cisco training; computer maintenance, repair and programming; Linux; networking; and web development. Currently, 185 students have chosen cybersecurity as their major. Graduates have found positions with military contractors and government agencies. They’re often employable after just a few classes.

Graduates will share their experiences and advice in a Jan. 25 cyber event aimed at preparing current cybersecurity students both for their college education and the workplace. Some of them got a foot in the door by participating in auxiliary college cyber activities, which continue today. For example, 200 to 300 local youth annually participate in the Computer Challenge at the Sierra Vista Campus. Through a partnership with AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association), CIS faculty coordinate community volunteers and organize competitions and theory tests in computer fundamentals, information security, programming, digital graphics and desktop publishing, PC repair, speaking, and interviewing.

The college also is actively engaged with the Air Force Association (AFA) CyberPatriot program, in which high school students compete in exercises designed to teach them to remediate technological vulnerabilities. Twenty-eight of Arizona’s 71 CyberPatriot teams – or 40 percent – are trained here at Cochise College.

Important partnerships have helped fund progress in cybersecurity training at Cochise. A National Science Foundation Engineering Pathways Partnership Project grant has funded curriculum redesign with an industry advisory council. A $100,000 Youth CareerConnect Department of Labor grant funded opportunities for Center for Academic Success and Buena High School students taking cyber courses at Cochise. It also helped with the cost of equipment, primarily servers and removable solid-state drives.

In addition to two Sierra Vista Campus cybersecurity classrooms, an additional classroom will soon turn into a dynamic workspace for students to tackle cybersecurity challenges as teams. Students will work in a cyber range to test high-level cyber technologies and in an Internet of Things lab that includes connected devices that seldom are considered when developing a security plan for an organization. Think Amazon Echo devices that are always on and connected and waiting for a voice command.

Finally, Cochise has added a new full-time cybersecurity faculty position recently filled by former Engility Section Manager Mike McLain, who will facilitate the industry panel at the college’s cybersecurity event this month. The industry panel includes representatives from the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) and Fort Huachuca, NCI, Northrop Grumman, Engility and Raytheon, which is now offering a scholarship and internship for transitioning soldiers.

During my time here at Cochise, community and national demand for cybersecurity has increased tremendously and we have made every effort to ensure our cyber students are well-prepared to enter this dynamic space. It’s the passion and expertise of college faculty and staff who have not only helped the institution meet those needs, but also kept the college at the forefront of this increasingly important industry.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.