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Austin Joseph Haley-BerryAustin Joseph Haley-Berry ‘21, a cybersecurity major and transfer student, continuously surprised himself throughout his academic career at Saint Rose. Haley-Berry did not know at first if his decision to take online courses was a smart one, but his experience exceeded his expectations while he was learning remotely. He wasn’t sure if he’d enjoy the business classes required of his program, but ended up looking forward to them each day. And, like a lot of students, he was timid about asking questions in class, afraid of not coming off as smart. But, time and time again, his experience at Saint Rose gave him the confidence to try something new and not be afraid to speak up.

We recently caught up with Haley-Berry to find out more about his experience at Saint Rose and future plans. Here’s what he had to say:

What did you like best about your program?
What I liked best about my program is that most of my classes were taught by the same handful of professors. Thankfully, they were excellent and helped me further my knowledge of the cybersecurity field. I feel like they really got to know me as a student instead of just a student passing through. I’ve had professors before that can have you for a class and then not recognize you in the hallway the next semester. With my program, having these same professors over and over really helped because they didn’t have to re-learn who I was and could tell if I was struggling with a topic or if I was stressed out over an assignment, simply from getting to know me from all the different classes I had with them. I think this group of professors were a big part of why this program was so enjoyable. 

List any clubs/organizations you joined while at Saint Rose: 

  • National Society of Leadership and Success
  • Tau Sigma National Honor Society

What is your favorite memory of Saint Rose?
I think my favorite memory of Saint Rose was during my first semester in Professor Ian MacDonald’s Insider Threat class. The most memorable part of the class was our final project where we had to work in our group as a “hired” cybersecurity consulting firm for a company that recently had a cybersecurity attack. We were all given specific jobs, such as behavioral analyst, IT risk analyst, compliance analyst, cyber threat analyst, and information security officer. We needed to consult with the company’s board of directors and C-suite to discuss our findings regarding the attack, and suggestions on how to bounce back from the attack and on how to prevent future attacks like it. We had to give our final presentation to an audience of our classmates as well as guests who work in the cybersecurity field, dressed professionally. We also had very successful cybersecurity professionals on a Zoom call, acting as the company’s board of directors and C-suite. This project was incredible, and I was lucky to have a fantastic group of classmates to work with.

What have you learned through the pandemic?
I learned that online classes really aren’t as bad as people made them out to be my first three years of college. The pandemic also helped reassure me that, when need be, I can teach myself information and that I can manage my time very well. 

What was the best class you took at Saint Rose, and why?
The best class I took at Saint Rose was probably Professor Kimberly Cornell’s Cybersecurity and Cryptography class. I found the class extremely interesting as well as very informative. I learned a ton of topics that I hadn’t learned in any previous classes. I specifically enjoyed all the cryptography topics where we learned how to encrypt and decrypt codes using various cryptography encryption algorithms. Overall, I believe that I enjoyed this class more than I have any other class during my entire college career.

Any career or grad school prospects?
I plan on attending a college next year that I have been planning on attending for years. This college offers a master’s degree program in cybersecurity that I really like. The program gives me the option to take the required courses in person or online. The program is also initially broken up over three semesters but can be done in as many semesters as desired. These aspects of the program were a big draw for me, as my plan is to attend the program online from home, in order to save money as well as be able to work and obtain my master’s degree in one year. As far as my career plans, I would prefer to get a job in New York because that’s where all my family is currently, but I am willing to move in order to obtain a great job. I honestly haven’t thought much yet about whether I want to work in the public or private sector of cybersecurity, but I plan to have that figured out by the end of my master’s degree program. I think, one day, I would like to get a cybersecurity career in the government or law enforcement, but I also would entertain having my own private cybersecurity firm. At the end of the day, I just want to get a career in cybersecurity where I can help people and make their technological experience safer. 

What did Saint Rose teach you?
Saint Rose taught me how to trust myself when it comes to the types of classes I take. In my first two years of college, when I was at Columbia-Greene Community College, I played baseball, so I took all my classes on campus since I had to be there for practices, games, team meetings, etc. I heard from other guys on the team who tried to take online classes while playing that it was extremely difficult, so I never attempted online classes. Being over an hour away from Saint Rose, I decided to try my hand at some online classes and found out that they were not as bad as people made it out to be. I probably wouldn’t have elected to take any online classes if I didn’t have over an hour drive to campus, so I definitely think Saint Rose taught me to trust myself when it comes to taking online classes.

Who was your favorite professor, and why?
I’ve had many fantastic professors during my two years at Saint Rose, so this question was incredibly difficult. After thinking about this for a long time, in my opinion, the best professor I had has to be Professor Haidy Brown. Having to take Organizational Behavior as a requirement for my degree, I was very skeptical going in because it wasn’t a cybersecurity class, so I had very little interest. However, Dr. Brown single-handedly changed my entire perspective on the class. Dr. Brown makes learning fun while also pushing you to learn the most you possibly can. Within a week of taking her class, I went from dreading having to go to anxiously looking forward to the class all day. Dr. Brown’s ability to change my entire perspective on her class within a week, I believe, speaks volumes to her teaching style. I learned more in that class than I would have ever expected. Dr. Brown is honestly, probably the best professor I’ve had in college, both at Saint Rose and my two previous years at Columbia-Greene Community College.

Advice for incoming students:
I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give to incoming college students is to ask questions. I spent most of my college career not wanting to ask professors questions when I didn’t understand a concept or wanted clarification on assignment requirements because I felt like I was asking dumb questions and I was wasting their time. I can honestly say this isn’t anywhere near the truth. Ask questions when you want or need to ask questions because 99.9% of professors will be more than happy to answer them. In the long run, nobody wants to see you fail, so ask the questions and get your answers so you can be the most productive and successful student you can be. Another piece of advice I have is to take time your freshman year and figure out how you learn best. Whether it’s taking notes, listening to lectures, looking at Powerpoints, or utilizing notecards, knowing how you learn best allows you to utilize that method or methods in order to be a successful student. Personally, I can listen to a professor’s lecture and absorb all the taught material, but if I am also required to take notes during the lecture, I don’t take in all the material like I usually do. In this scenario, I have to take extra time to look over my notes or the professors’ Powerpoints — if they post them — after class in order to make sure I have a grasp of the lectured material. Finally, just relax! College is going to stress you out, more than you may like, but the important thing is to stay calm and remember you can do this. When you get stressed out over a class, an assignment, or a deadline, take a break, recollect yourself, and when you’ve calmed down, go back to what you were working on. The number of times I would be working on an assignment, like writing code for a computer program for hours on end while getting more and more stressed out and frustrated, is insane. Thankfully, what I learned is, when I got to that point, if I took a break, calmed down, and relaxed, I could actually go back to the assignment and figure out what I was stressing over in a matter of minutes. So, remember to take a break and relax when college gets you stressed out!

Look for more stories about our Class of 2021 & Class of 2020 graduates in our upcoming Saint Rose Magazine!

By Caroline Murray

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