From Left to Right: Anna Engel, Ryleigh Blankenship, Caine Munro, Steve Vincent, Jack Crawford, Alex Peterson, Joshua Planck, and Rodni Roberts
At Baker College, the commitment to shaping well-rounded students extends beyond academics. Alongside rigorous academic programs, Baker provides students with an array of extracurricular opportunities, allowing them to explore and refine their career aspirations. The Cyber Club is a student-led organization that complements academic pursuits by propelling students into the heart of the ever-evolving field of cybersecurity. By actively engaging with the challenges of the digital realm, students bridge theory with real-world application.
The Club operates on a dual mandate, serving both as a student-run organization and the driving force behind Baker’s participation in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) – a prestigious competition pitting teams against each other in high-pressure cyber defense scenarios. Students gain hands-on experience, allowing them to delve into the intricacies of cybersecurity, connect with professionals, and access resources to enhance their skill set. The club’s commitment to fostering practical knowledge beyond the classroom is exemplified by weekly hybrid meetings, providing a space for students to collaborate online or in person at the Owosso Campus – where many members drive quite a distance to attend.
The second facet of the Cyber Club focuses on its Cyber Defense Team which concentrates on preparing for the annual CCDC, with remarkable achievements including past national championship wins. The CCDC competition requires the team to safeguard a fictional, pre-compromised business network environment while executing daily tasks and simultaneously facing active attacks from the red team — network professionals brought in to challenge and stress the participants. The Club’s comprehensive approach provides students with a rich and diverse learning experience, ensuring they are well-prepared to navigate the dynamic real-life landscape of cybersecurity.
Jack Crawford, a second-year Baker student, shares his journey, transferring from another institution to pursue Computing Information Technologies. He emphasizes the significance of Baker’s affordability and multiple locations, allowing him to easily relocate across Michigan.
‘There is a wide gap in our industry between those who have studied and those who have applied the trade. No other institution that I’ve encountered gives students the freedoms and opportunities that Baker has afforded our club. We provide physical and virtual machines for students to work with technologies others only answer multiple-choice questions about. Students benefit from applied practice and otherwise unavailable opportunities,” said Crawford, Cyber Club President. “In a post-COVID environment, the industry is starved for professionals who haven’t been educated in a digital cocoon. We are here to answer that demand.”
Similarly to Crawford’s decision to transfer to Baker because of the club’s reputation, current Team Captain Alexander Peterson turned down multiple scholarship offers to come to Baker solely to compete. “I wanted to continue my competition experience that I started in high school, and after much research, I found Baker had the most prestigious Cyber Defense Team in the state. After seeing how successful they were in the CCDC, I knew it was the place for me. I wanted to be in an environment surrounded by the best and the brightest. Three years later and I now sit here as the Captain of an amazing team, with life long friendships I would not trade for the world,” Peterson said.
Matthew Hansel’s journey exemplifies the academic excellence fostered by Baker. As a Baker alumnus, currently Adjunct Instructor, and Lead Advisor for the Cyber Defense Team, Hansel emphasizes how the Cyber Club offers practical application. “This club gives a more, real-world approach to learning than what can be done in a classroom. In the club, while experience levels can vary greatly, the passion and desire to learn more is what benefits these students as they branch off into niche areas and practice ‘what-if’ scenarios. We have an environment they maintain to give them a sense of ownership and pride to not only learn advanced techniques, but they are keeping things running for other members as well,” said Hansel.
The club encourages information sharing, with experienced members mentoring others, contributing to club success and growth, and fortifying Baker’s commitment to excellence in education. Discover more about this dynamic community and explore the unique opportunities the College of Information Technology and Engineering provides.
Baker College is an independent, private, non-profit institution that grants associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees on campuses across Michigan and online. Founded in 1911, the institution’s mission is to provide an inclusive, innovative, and transformative educational experience, driven by a student-first philosophy. Learn more at baker.edu and follow us on X, Meta, and Instagram.
The Cybersecurity Heat Map reveals approximately 16,500 cybersecurity-related job openings in Michigan, highlighting the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals (cyberseek.org).