Augusta University is celebrating its spring graduates this week.
Spring Commencement ceremonies for Augusta University will be Thursday, May 13, at Lady A Pavilion, 7016 Evans Town Center Park. There will be a morning and an afternoon ceremony to accommodate participants and guests, while also following appropriate COVID-19 precautions.
Alexandra Stanley is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity from the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences at Augusta University.
Alexandra Stanley, 20, was practically born to go into cybersecurity.
“My dad is in the field of cybersecurity, so I’ve been exposed to it for a really long time,” Stanley said. “I actually went to my first cybersecurity conference when I was 16.”
In fact, when Stanley was a teenager, she attended the GenCyber Summer Camp at Augusta University. The seven-day summer camp offers students engaging, hands-on learning opportunities, including classroom activities and field trips to National Security Agency Georgia and the Fort Gordon Cyber Center of Excellence.
“I actually grew up in a small town in Maryland called Mount Airy, but we moved down here when I was 12 because of my dad’s work,” Stanley said, smiling. “His job is on Fort Gordon, but I don’t even know exactly what he does.”
Stanley, who will be graduating May 13 with a cybersecurity degree from the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences at Augusta University, already has a job lined up.
It’s also a job that she cannot discuss.
“I’ll be working on Fort Gordon. That’s all I can really say,” Stanley said. “I know I’m going to be in the cybersecurity side of things.”
Within cybersecurity, Stanley said she particularly enjoys what is called a “red team,” which concentrates on penetration testing.
Basically, red teams are offensive security professionals who are experts in attacking systems and breaking into defenses. Blue teams are defensive security professionals responsible for maintaining internal network defenses against all cyberattacks and threats.
“I’m most interested in scripting and the red team offensive-type activities,” she said. “That’s what I find enjoyable. I’m not huge on the defense side of things. I can do it, but it’s not my favorite aspect of cybersecurity.”
Before coming to Augusta University, Stanley was a dual-enrolled student at Georgia Military College when she was a senior in high school.
“So, I’m actually graduating after only three years,” Stanley said. “It’s definitely flown by. It’s felt a lot quicker than it would otherwise.”
Stanley said she chose Augusta University because it has become a leader in cyber across the nation.
“I wanted to go into cyber and I looked at a couple different programs across the country, but then I was like, ‘Augusta University has a really great cyber program and Augusta is an up-and-coming place for cybersecurity and the computer science field,’” Stanley said. “So, I thought, ‘Why not stay in Augusta and be in the middle of everything that’s happening here?’
“There’s always new developments and there’s so much you can do with a cybersecurity degree.”
Some of her favorite classes at Augusta University dealt with digital forensics, hacking and penetration testing and coding.
“I’m actually a course assistant for scripting and automation, which is one of the coding classes that AU offers,” Stanley said, adding that she particularly enjoyed the courses taught by Dr. Paul York and Kenton Groombridge. “One of my favorite things is coding. I really enjoy it.”
For students thinking about studying cybersecurity, Stanley wanted to offer them a little advice.
“First of all, do not believe what TV tells you about cybersecurity, hacking and coding,” Stanley said, laughing. “It’s not true. It’s made to look cool for TV. It is a lot different. It takes a lot of time, but it’s also really rewarding. And if you decide that this is a field that you want to go into, there’s so many places that you can go with it.”
Stanley also said if you are interested in cybersecurity, make sure you take a variety of courses because there are many different areas to study.
“If you don’t like one of the classes here, be open to taking a few classes, so you can find out what you enjoy,” she said. “Also, be willing to join clubs and participate in events. I’m president of the Honor Society for the computing discipline, which is called Upsilon Pi Epsilon.”
Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) is the first and only existing international honor society in the computing and information disciplines. Membership in UPE is limited to juniors and seniors who are in the top 35% of students in their major with at least a 3.3 GPA. Augusta University’s chapter of UPE is the 290th chapter launched in the United States and has been designated the title chapter Mu of Georgia by the UPE national council.
“Getting involved on campus is one of the greatest parts of college. It’s been a rewarding experience,” Stanley said. “So, my advice would be: Don’t just focus on the academics. One of the things that I’ve been involved in is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry because I’m a strong Christian. And just having that network of people and students who are going through what I’m going through has been a huge help. It just makes everything a lot more fun.
“So, make sure that you’re not just focusing on study, study, study all the time. Have fun, too. After all, it is college.”