New Cyber Defense Club provides place for international students to grow skills, network and make friends

The new Cyber Defense Club in the College of Engineering has created a home for like-minded students looking for a place to make friends, master new skills and become a part of one of the fastest growing job fields in the country.

Experience in cyber security is not required to join the club, which was started this semester by Computer Science Lecturer Doug Witten.

“I am a geek,” says Witten. “I love working with computers. But mainly, I love working with the students, that is an absolute blast.” Witten joined WSU last year. Previously he was a program director and department chair of computer science at Baker College, where he also ran a Cyber Defense Club.

The club has attracted over 20 members, most of whom are international students, Aayush Patel, a freshman in computer science who was elected technology consultant to the leadership board, has a background in technology competitions but is new to cyber security. Patel’s family moved to the U.S. from India while he was in tenth grade, so he is familiar with the struggles many international students go through when it comes to adjusting to new surroundings.

Doug Witten (top-middle) and Aayush Patel (bottom-left)
                                    in a club meeting

“This is huge for students like me who are new to college,” says Patel. “Most of my friends went to other colleges. There are seniors in this club, so they’ve been able to recommend classes and professors for me. As I made friends, they helped me learn about how college works.” Patel said that things like this were especially important for international students.

“This is a huge opportunity for an international student to get information in a new country and get involved in the American tech field,” says Patel. “Let’s say they’re at a job interview or applying for one, they can point this this club as a practical example of using their cyber security skills.”

Witten says the club got started out of a need, and that nothing goes together better than likeminded folks with the same passions and interests. “It’s valuable for the students beyond just the technical side, but also the people side, the contacts and friends that you make.”

Students meet on their own twice a week and with Witten two times a week. Topics are geared toward the type of material that will appear at cyber security competitions such as mock hacking and defense scenarios similar to what would occur at real companies. Members use Kahoot to quiz each other on their knowledge, while sharing information and resources they find relating to an assigned topic.

“If you think about the typical help desk person, they can make a computer sing, but they would rather look at your shoes than your face,” says Witten. “We computer people tend to be in better harmony with how computers work than people, so this gives them a chance to get their personal side and meet other people.”

Witten says that cyber security is such a large field that there are currently more job openings than there are graduated students with the necessary skills. Witten says that most of the members of the club have computer experience but are unfamiliar with cyber security.

“I want the most eager person rather than the one who already knows everything,” says Witten.
“Having an interest in computers is important, but a passion for learning is even more important. If you want to learn something new, there’s nothing that’s newer than this stuff. This is a field that redoes itself yearly, there’s no quicker change in any industry, there’s always something new. Think about how often patches come out for your products. Those patches fix things that hackers have already broken into.”

For aspiring members of the club, Witten says “be prepared to work, but also be prepared to have fun. This is not just working students to death; you will get to know people on a different level. We’ll have whole nights dedicated to just playing games together. It’s the social side of things alongside the technical and competitive aspects. Winning awards is nice, but the club is for the students.”

Those looking for more information, including how to join the club, can email Doug Witten at d.witten@wayne.edu

By Jacob Stocking, OIP Communications Associate

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

 

 

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