The I School’s newest degree program, the Master of Information and Cybersecurity (MICS), began classes on May 7, 2018, with an incoming cohort including several student veterans. Delivered online, MICS provides the technical skills and contextual knowledge students need to assume leadership positions in private sector technology companies as well as government and military organizations.
Dr. Marie-Helen Maras, a U.S. Navy veteran and Associate Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, emphasizes that “military personnel have a hard time finding quality graduate programs that are fully online,” and that the MICS program is well-positioned to help fill this gap. MICS students can enroll and attend live, weekly class meetings online from almost anywhere in the world.
The MICS program joins the School’s three existing graduate programs, the Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS), the Master of Information Management and Systems (MIMS), and the Ph.D. in Information Management and Systems, all of which enroll student veterans. The I School community currently includes more than 20 students who receive veterans educational benefits, including both veterans and their dependents. Like MICS, the MIDS program is delivered online, and student veterans appreciate how the practical, skills-based coursework seamlessly integrates into their careers. Sam Goodgame, a U.S. Army veteran and MIDS ’18 alumnus, found that the flexible nature of MIDS coursework created a virtuous cycle that made him more effective in the classroom and at work: “I could pick up a skill through MIDS and start leveraging it at work the next day,” he said. Goodgame described the MIDS program as “an effective way to learn while gaining valuable professional experience,” and called it “a superb on-ramp for veterans (and lots of other people) to break into data science.”
“I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive coming to Berkeley as a recent veteran – very unsure of how I might be received and treated,” said Daniel Griffin, a U.S. Army veteran and a current Ph.D. student and MIMS ’16 alumnus. “But quickly my peers and professors took interest in my past and demonstrated that they valued my perspective (and I was so grateful for the collaborative atmosphere in which they encouraged me to also consider theirs).”
Steve Trush, a U.S. Army veteran and MIMS ’18 alumnus, also recognized Griffin’s initial trepidation: “I know that one of the concerns for some veterans is whether UC Berkeley and campus community is accepting of veterans,” he said. “During my time in the MIMS program, I felt supported by not only the military veterans in both the Master’s and Ph.D. programs, but the entire cohort and staff. At Berkeley, one of the amazing things I see is how diverse backgrounds are respected and leveraged to deepen our understanding of how technology is impacting our world - this definitely includes the unique perspective that veterans bring to the table.”
In 2016, after Griffin noted the opportunity, the school quickly instituted application fee waivers for veterans. “This,” said Griffin, “made clear to me their commitment to support and engage with the military and veteran community.” Trush was able to use the GI Bill to cover tuition and living expenses, which gave him the flexibility to fully take advantage of the opportunities that the I School and UC Berkeley offers.
As an Army veteran at the School of Information, Trush felt empowered to apply his experience in operational planning and security risk management in the “tech for social good” space:
The I School gave me an opportunity to formalize some of the technical skills that I had gained during my military service and positioned me for my next career. We learn in the military how to lead diverse teams to solve problems under immense resource constraints, but that skill needs to be adapted to how the tech industry works. For example, what we called “mission analysis” may be seen as a component of “design thinking” – the I School helps make that translation of skills possible. Of course, the diverse I School curriculum and community enabled me to gain new skills in multiple areas from human-centered design and data science to information policy analysis and cybersecurity.
“I also have valued the mission-oriented nature of the I School community (coupled within the public service orientation of the University of California),” said Griffin. “The Academic Mission listed on the school’s website and the students informal I School Pledge have guided me as I’ve sought meaning on this new path.”