Cody Shepherd grew up in Twin Falls and south-central Idaho, a place marked by the meandering Snake River Canyon and towering Shoshone Falls. He loved his hometown and grew up admiring his parents, who worked hard to provide for him and his five siblings. Such work ethic rubbed off on Shepherd, who decided that he could provide for his own family someday with good education and a plan.
“I wanted to ensure that I never had to make my family struggle. I had older brothers and an older sister. I could see how [a family] could be financially impacted if you didn’t have a lot of options,” he said.
“I decided I wanted to go to college. I did well in school, and I like to learn.”
Choosing Cyber Operations and Resilience
After graduating high school, Shepherd moved out of state to attend college. Upon graduating with a degree in Information Technology, he accepted a job with WinCo Foods.
“I was traveling all over the West Coast implementing the retail information systems for Winco,” he explained. After a management promotion brought him back to Idaho, he obtained his Master of Business Administration at Boise State to expand his business and leadership knowledge and prepare for future roles.
A job at Idaho Power came next. Shepherd took on a role as a System Admin I and was promoted into a Management position within two years, consistently taking on more responsibility and higher level management positions until reaching the highest position possible under the CIO of IT Operations Senior Manager. The position had many responsibilities, and he felt a cyber master’s degree was a good next step and complimented his many years of IT experience. That’s when Shepherd discovered Boise State’s fully online cyber degrees.
He enrolled in the online Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience at Boise State. He is also earning an Analyst and Threat Intelligence Graduate Certificate, Resiliency Engineering Graduate Certificate and has completed the CISSP-ISSMP as part of the requirements for the master’s degree. Earning cyber industry credentials and certifications allows students like Shepherd to accomplish significant academic milestones before graduation — a unique facet of the innovative program.
Cyber Faculty Praised for Passion and Expertise
The online Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience at Boise State University launched in 2021 to much praise from cyber industry leaders. The program and courses are taught by industry practitioners experienced in the field. The faculty’s ability to draw on their professional background strengthens the program’s focus on application, not just theory. It gives students opportunities to learn from a potential future employer or mentor.
“The key to this powerful new program lies in its ability to develop focused curriculum that provides needed skill sets that [students] can use from day one,” Stanley R. Jarocki, vice president of MUFG Union Bank, remarked about Boise State Online’s cyber programs. “This program is geared to instruct and produce cybersecurity professionals.”
Industry leaders and students like Shepherd praise the cyber faculty at Boise State.
“The instructors I’ve really enjoyed are experts in their field,” he said. “When they’re speaking and running the class, you can sense that they’re passionate.”
Systems Thinking in Cyber Programs
Shepherd admits that he had preconceived ideas about the cyber field before attending Boise State.
“I thought that cybersecurity was a lot more reactive. Because you always hear about breaches and how companies respond afterward,” he explained. He saw another side to the industry and better ways of approaching security in his master’s program. “Cybersecurity should be much more structured,” Shepherd said.
“It’s about building up structures and frameworks, business processes and protections for your company, and establishing what level of risk you will be comfortable with.”
Thus far, Shepherd enjoyed the systems thinking class the most. “I enjoyed that class because it primes the brain in understanding how systems are interconnected. You’re taught to see connections even when things seem diverse and different.”
CORe 500 Systems Thinking is an introduction to systems thinking, lateral thinking, and resilience thinking. After taking the course, students will be able to:
- Understand how systems thinking aids in understanding the complexity and interconnectedness that makes many real-life situations difficult to manage.
- Apply lateral thinking in problem-solving and use indirect and creative approaches that are not immediately obvious.
- Manage interacting systems (people, processes, and technologies) in the face of disturbances, surprises and uncertainty to be more resilient and meet metrics.
Comprehensive Support For Cyber Students
Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience coursework is rigorous. Still, Boise State has teams of people, including faculty, student success coaches and academic advisors, dedicated to online student success.
Communicating regularly with staff and professors has been a tremendous help for Cody Shepherd. He cites Dr. Sin Ming Loo, Director of Cyber Operations and Resilience Programs at Boise State and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor, as one of the most significant sources of support. “Dr. Loo is a phenomenal instructor. You can tell he cares about his students.”
Shepherd notes that a growth mindset is critical to entering and succeeding in a master’s program, particularly in cyber. “This field requires confidence in yourself and a willingness to learn and be uncomfortable. Accept what you don’t know,” he explained.
“This is what school is about — to help you learn and gain that knowledge and information.”
Cyber Programs Transform and Empower Students
Even though Cody Shepherd won’t graduate with his Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience until 2023, the program has already had a significant impact.
“It has made a tremendous difference to me, my positions, my opportunities and my overall life,” he said.
“I understand the world around me more and can speak the language. The Cyber Operations and Resilience program has made me so much better at my job and given me the tools I need to drive change in IT. This benefits my company tremendously.”
What does the future hold for Shepherd? “I sometimes like not knowing things,” he explained.
“Once this is all over, I won’t know what the future holds, but I don’t have to be scared of it.”
Explore Cyber Degree Programs at Boise State
Boise State University offers the following undergraduate and graduate cyber programs, all 100% online:
- Bachelor of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience
- Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience
- Cyber Operations and Resilience Bachelor of Applied Science
- Cyber Operations Undergraduate Certificate
- Analyst and Threat Intelligence Graduate Certificate
- Resilience Engineering Graduate Certificate
- Governance Policy Administration Graduate Certificate
Have questions about online cyber programs?
This video is available with captions and a video transcript.