McKendree Magazine - Summer 2018

New Cyber Programs Encourage Innovation & Collaboration

Students are encouraged to use theHub’s technology to explore “the art of the possible” and to work collaboratively.
by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney ’10

If you’re like most people in this country, technology does more than just make your life easier; it’s something our society has come to feel we can’t live without. In the same way, technology’s presence in academia has become a necessary tool for learning and pushing the boundary of what is possible in today’s world. It has led to new ways of expressing creativity, problem solving, and connecting with people around the world to not only share knowledge, but also utilize one another’s strengths to accomplish a common goal. Technology is one of the most powerful forces shaping our lives today, and McKendree’s new cyber programs and high-tech facilities are inspiring students to continue making the “impossible” possible.

The 2017-2018 academic year at McKendree was truly the year of cyber growth on campus. From the grand opening of theHub, the University’s technology-centric collaboration space, to the first competition for the 117th Regiment Cyber Defense Team, spring of 2018 was filled with new beginnings for exploration into cyber security and more active learning practices. One important entity created this past year was the University’s one-of-a-kind Cyber Academy. This overarching organization for cyber activity on campus focuses on enhancing student learning through unique projects and partnerships related to cyber security issues.

“The Academy aims to unite students from all fields of study with business and industry professionals, law enforcement, government, and regional community leaders. They learn about the vulnerabilities, threats, and opportunities in cyberspace through innovative ideas and programs,” said Daryl Hancock, chief of staff and executive director for McKendree Worldwide. “It integrates educational opportunities with community service, cyber competitions and games, conferences, symposiums, and workshops to create a regional platform for cyber education at McKendree.”
Jonathan Ciembronowicz ’15, systems analyst, demonstrates 3-D printing capabilities to Dr. Janice Wiegmann, professor of nursing, and Dr. Ahed Elmsallati, assistant professor of computing.
To accommodate this kind of hands-on learning, University leaders knew students would need a high-tech facility that made creativity and idea-sharing easy. Thus, the lower level of Pearsons Hall was transformed into theHub, a modern space with a “start-up company” inspired layout conducive to collaboration. Some of the tools available to students in theHub include 3-D printing and modeling, virtual reality software, and drone building. The facility’s 24/7 access and seating capacity of 50 includes three conference spaces separated by glass walls with a fogging feature that creates more privacy and can be used for projection when needed.

“theHub gives students the opportunity to learn how to best use the technology within their discipline while simultaneously opening the door for them to discover new ways they can implement it in their daily lives,” said George Kriss MBA ’08, director of information technology and Cyber Defense Team coach. “We view this space as a ‘living space’ that will flex and change as technology shifts. These pivoting capabilities will allow students to have exposure to the most cutting-edge tech at the time, in order to further their marketability beyond the classroom.”

One of the rooms in theHub, the Vangampler Room, was made possible through a donation by Glen and Loretta Vangampler. Named in memory of their son and computer science alum, Glen Arthur “Artie” Vangampler ’89, the space functions as a large meeting room, group study area or classroom. Other areas within theHub are also available for naming.

The Range is another area of theHub that serves a wide array of functions. Primarily, it is the home base and practice area for the University’s first-ever Cyber Defense Team. Named after the historic McKendree Civil War regiment, the 117th Regiment Cyber Defense Team began competing just six weeks after forming in January 2018. During competitions, the team faces off against other universities as they each attempt to protect a mock network from external “hackers” attacking their computer system. In spite of limited time to train and prepare, the McKendree team placed in the top five at the Midwest Regional Cyber Defense Competition in Chicago, holding its own against universities with longstanding cyber defense teams, such as the University of Illinois and DePaul University.

The 117th Regiment Cyber Defense Team gave tours and hosted special guests and the campus community at an open house on April 26.Team captain senior Kevin Magee said he couldn’t be happier with their successful first competition, and the group has even more planned for the 2018-2019 season. “Just being a part of this team has given me great hands-on experience,” he said. “We are setting up systems we didn’t have last year and now know what to expect at these competitions. This year, we will be competing in two or three different kinds of competitions with multiple systems that the team must defend, attack, or both at the same time. Through what we learn from these competitions, team practices and class time, we also want to help make the campus more aware of cyber threats, and we’re beginning to talk about providing services for local businesses, too.”

A Cyber Club has been formed for students interested in cyber security who may not want to be on the competitive team. In June 2018, the organization’s first sponsored event was a CyberPatriot summer camp, which attracted more than 200 high school and middle school students to campus for a week-long series preparing them for a national cyber defense competition. McKendree Cyber Club and Cyber Defense Team members helped work with the students to hone their skills and learn new tactics in cyber security. “It was exciting to have this many students able to see our campus and our new spaces and to work with them together on cyber security,” George said.

Kevin Magee scans a 3-D image of Jared Roulds-Griffin as Cole Nordmann watches it take shape on the monitor.In the classroom, McKendree also expanded its curriculum to include a new undergraduate business course in cyber security last year. The class introduced students to key issues in cyber security through speakers from IBM, FireEye and Midwest Cyber Center, as well as active learning projects, such as a phishing email sent to the entire campus. Meant to trick users into inputting personal information, phishing emails often have the appearance of a legitimate source, but are in fact created by scammers to steal users’ identities or other information. The project opened students’ eyes to the ease with which scammers can accomplish their goals and inspired the class to launch a phishing awareness campaign on campus.


This year, the University will add even more cyber-related elements into its academic offerings in the form of two new majors.

Management Information Systems (MIS) and Data Analytics each blend elements of technology with concepts that students can apply to a variety of career fields. Combining courses in computing and business, the MIS major will explore the ways these two areas of study intersect and provide students with a thorough understanding of technology in the business world. Similarly, the new Data Analytics major also spans different academic disciplines as it focuses on blending concepts in mathematics, statistics and computer science to extrapolate findings from large, complex data sets. Students can further select how they want to apply this major by choosing to earn either a Bachelor of Arts in Data Analytics, useful in psychology and sociology fields, or a Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics, which focuses more on the usage of data in business and economics.

The growth of technology has led to incredible achievements that have transformed what were once just ideas into reality. At McKendree, the tradition of equipping students with the opportunity to realize their dreams continues in the newest technology tools and programs designed to help them succeed in an ever-changing world.