By Claudia Zequeira
Jessica Chisholm, professor, network engineering technology, considers herself a mentor and role model to her students as well as someone who prepares them for their next step, whether that step is to continue school or join the workforce. But Jessica is also there for them well beyond that.
“I am a resource when they graduate. What students learn when they have me as an instructor, [is that] I will be their biggest advocate and assist them well after they graduate,” she said.
Besides teaching students the intricacies of network engineering, Jessica also serves as academic advisor to the Cybersecurity Club, a student club founded five years ago to support the Associate in Science in cybersecurity and network engineering technology.
As the students’ cyber coach, Jessica has been instrumental in helping prepare them for “capture the flag” competitions, cybersecurity events that present students with real world security challenges, such as capturing or protecting computer systems, to which they must find solutions. The competitive events also serve as resume enhancers for students.
“This [competition] is a passion,” said Jessica. “Not only does it allow me to teach; I also compete and continue to learn new tools and methods to solving these challenges. The best part is watching the students’ knowledge and abilities grow as they compete in more events.”
She is also proud of helping Valencia College become a designated Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, a federal program that seeks to boost cybersecurity education on a national level.
Her supervisor, Paul Wilder, dean, engineering, computer programming and technology, agrees she is an asset to Valencia and to her students.
“Dr. C, as her students fondly call her and which reflects the excellent rapport she has with them, is a dynamic individual who brings a wealth of Cybersecurity and Networking experience to the program,” said Paul. “Whether it be coaching and leading students into cyber-competitions, helping to develop a 2+2 articulation program, or teaching a class, Dr. Chisholm always remains focused on helping her students. Her dedication to their success never waivers!”
Jessica holds a doctorate in computer science – information assurance from Colorado Technical University and a master’s degree in education and e-learning technology and design from Jones International University, both in Colorado. She also earned a Bachelor of Science in information technology from the University of Phoenix. Jessica also holds numerous industry certifications, including one as a Certified Ethical Hacker.
Prior to joining Valencia in 2011, she worked as an engineering associate at ITEC Entertainment Corporation and as a network administrator for Dice of the USA. Jessica also taught at numerous universities, including the University of Maine, Webster University, Strayer University, Florida Technical College, Herzing University, Anthem College — where she also served as program chair for the Computer Networking program — and others.
But Jessica said she knew “from day one,” that Valencia was much different from other places she’d worked at in the past.
“You could feel the respect and the pride the school has for their students and the programs they offer the community. Valencia exists to make a difference in the community, and it’s obvious with everyone that works here,” she said.
Jessica added that she is inspired by the teamwork and comradery she found here, as well as by the willingness of fellow faculty and staff to “work together to solve problems equitably and [by their] level of commitment to the students.”
She also said she considers Valencia a strong community partner, which is something she values.
“Valencia is a partner and makes decisions based on what is best for the community,” she said.
A unique fact about Jessica is that she is a “mirror image” twin (the term “mirror image” is used because identical twins, when facing each other, appear as matching reflections). True to form, Jessica said her twin teaches computer graphics, the artistic side of computers, while she teaches computer concepts more closely associated with hardware.
And while Jessica is used to working with devices all day, she also recognizes the need to walk away from them. The 2020 pandemic, in particular, encouraged her to use the time she formerly used for travel to do something beneficial for herself and her health.
“I bought bike cleats and started honing my cycling skills to include road biking. My mornings are spent on the West Orange Trail or doing Pilates,” she said.
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