Cyber Defense degree creates a second chance for a successful career

A woman in her 50s reimagines her career opportunities with a new degree in cyber defense and a guaranteed job with the federal government

“There’s never going to be a better time than today to go back to school and start a new career,” said Canfield. “The opportunities and benefits I’ve gained from this program are something I never dreamed of.”

Liz Canfield didn’t start out her first career thinking she’d be back in college in her 50s. But that is just what happened. Seeing her passion develop for information management and security, Canfield is getting a second chance at earning a successful career and already earning a leg-up with a scholarship from Davenport University.

Canfield started her career more than 17 years ago with the Michigan State Police. At that time, she was handling policy, but quickly transitioned into working with information security and programming. Her duties included maintaining and enhancing both the State of Michigan Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) as well as the statewide database of contact information.

“I started getting interested in information protection, as I talked to people whose information was compromised,” said Canfield. “I saw people lose jobs, apartments, and even custody of their children because their digital information was left unprotected.”

“As targeted hacking attempts have become more and more of a real issue, I became more involved in protecting the network, through policy and practice, but I knew I wanted to understand it more,” Canfield adds. According to CyberEdge’s 2021 Cyberthreat Defense Report, organizations experiencing at least one successful cyberattack increased 5% in the past year to a new record of 86%.

After finding her passion for protecting data, Canfield tried to transition into other information security positions but was overlooked because she lacked a degree in the field. Facing this roadblock, it was at this time that Canfield decided it was time to go back to school and get a cybersecurity degree at Davenport University.

Taking the next step

In her 50s, Canfield found herself taking classes at her local community college, working to earn an associate’s degree in cybersecurity and network administration. Ready to make the transition and get her bachelor’s degree, she was searching for a program that would be her perfect fit.

“I had already been considering Davenport because of its reputation for returning students and the flexibility DU offers with working schedules,” said Canfield. “But once I heard about the cybersecurity scholarship in partnership with the Department of Defense, I knew it was the right choice and applied for the scholarship.”

Davenport University is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Department of Defense (DoD) Cybersecurity Scholarship Program (CySP) provides full funding for tuition, books and other required fees for up to two years for eligible students.

Canfield is one of the awardees of the prestigious scholarship. As a part of the scholarship program, the DoD places students in an internship role and guarantees the student a cybersecurity position working for the federal government upon graduation, for a period of time equal to the length of the scholarship they received.

Prepared for a new career

In December, Canfield will graduate from Davenport with her bachelor’s in cyber defense. After she graduates, she will finish her 18-month service commitment with the government. She is ready and prepared to make a difference. Her internship for the federal government this past summer confirmed that.

“When I attended college the first time around, I realized quickly that what I had learned in school, didn’t transfer to the real-world,” said Canfield. “This time around, I was concerned about how my skills would translate, but my coursework at Davenport has prepared me well for my internship. The federal government is a good fit for me, and a place I feel prepared to apply what I learned and put it into practice.”

It wasn’t only the coursework that helped prepare Canfield. She said she feels lucky to have Dr. Lonnie Decker, Department Chair for Networking and Cybersecurity, in her corner.

“I have heard from students at other universities talk about the lack of support or information they have received, but not at Davenport,” she said. “Dr. Decker has been such an amazing resource and is on top of everything.”

The demand for cybersecurity and cyber defense experts continues to increase each year. U.S. News and World Report stated that the information security profession is growing at a rate of 36.5% through 2022.

To learn more about Davenport University’s bachelor in cyber defense program or the scholarship program, visit davenport.edu/cybersecurity.

Project sponsored by the National Security Agency under Grant and Cooperative Agreement Number H98230-21-1-0240. The United States Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints notwithstanding any copyright notation herein.

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