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UW-W students audit computer security for school districts

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STANLEY B. MILAM
April 28, 2012
— Most people see computer savvy and people skills as opposites.

UW-Whitewater professor Roger Yin sees them differently.


He places high value on both and brings them together in capstone projects for students majoring in information technology with an emphasis in networking and security.


Yin’s students are taking what they learn in the classroom into the field to conduct security audits for area school districts. This semester, they are auditing computer security at the Whitewater School District.


“First of all, we welcome the student audits and use them in lieu of outside, private consultants,” said Charlie Barr, the district’s technology coordinator. “We are finding it to be useful, in addition to saving money for the district.”


Computer security is serious business and mistakes can be costly. So, why trust college students to ensure safety?


“Dr. Yin has prepared these students very well,” Burr said. “We see a professional level of work from them.


“We use their work in addition to our internal audits,” he said. “It’s always better to have other eyes looking for potential problems.”


The computer security audits go beyond technology, Yin said.


“Higher education was becoming a two-part process,” Yin said. “The first two years, students take general liberal arts courses followed by courses in their major. Students were asking why they were forced to take the general course that seemed to have no relationship to their major.”


Yin decided to demonstrate the relationship between liberal arts skills and technology skills.


“We needed to show how students could become not only competent in their chosen fields but responsible citizens and members of their communities,” he said. “By going out into the communities and working with others, we expand beyond the classrooms and learn what it’s like to be productive members of our communities.


Matt Nicklas, a senior majoring in information systems infrastructure with an emphasis in network security will use his BBA and audit experience to enter the workforce. Yin calls Nicklas a top student who is self-driven.


Nicklas worked last semester on a computer security audit of the Fort Atkinson School District.


“It gave me valuable real-world experience,” Nicklas said between job interviews this week. “When I’m asked to discuss network security, I can simply talk about what I’ve done, not just what I’ve learned in the classroom.”


Yin says he’s proud of his students’ technology accomplishments, but is also delighted with the softer skills they have learned.


“By going into communities to apply technology skills, I have seen these students develop socially as well,” he said. “IT business is people business. It may be high tech, but people make the difference.



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