Published on April 7, 2022
This time of year, the term Cinderella Team gets overused. There is always a team that should not be able to compete with the blue blood teams that somehow find a way to compete and win. In Colligate Cyber Defense competitions, John A. Logan College has been that team year in and year out.
Not long after John A. Logan College started the Cyber Security Program, Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems Mark Rogers discovered the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) online. He immediately knew that it was something that would benefit his students.
“We were only in our third semester of the program, and even though we only had four weeks to get ready for our first competition, I asked the students if they wanted to give it a try, and they said yes,” said Rogers.
According to Rogers, that first event did not go so well. But with the help of coaches from other schools, he was able to get the team organized and prepared to compete. Within two years, the Logan Defenders won their first invitational competition.
“The help we got from other programs like SIU and Moraine Valley was unbelievable,” said Rogers. “But what made us so competitive so quickly was the dedication of our team members.”
The CCDC is comprised of both four-year universities and community colleges. For Logan Defenders, that meant they would see masters and Ph.D. level attacks that they had never covered in their program.
“We found out very quickly that if we wanted to compete, we would have to outwork other schools and practice and study material that we were not covering in our classes for a two-year degree,” said Rogers.
The program has continued to grow, and Logan Defenders’ success has continued taking down larger schools like the University of Illinois. They are no longer the small school learning how to compete and win throughout the midwest. The team has twice been selected to compete at a prestigious national competition at the Argonne National Laboratory.
Although the program is less than a decade old, graduates have gone on to work in the White House and for the United States Senate. Others have gone on to high-level careers in banking and other private-sector jobs, but for Rogers, who plans to retire in May, leaving the program he helped start in the hands of two former students makes it a little easier to walk away.
“Knowing that I trained the next generation that will train the next generation is really awesome.”
Kylee Williams and Roger Jeter are both graduates of the program that have taught alongside Rogers for the past few years. While they will not have their mentor across the hall, they will apply the lessons they have learned as they continue to grow the program and coach the Defenders.
“Mark understood that not everyone enrolled in the program had prior IT background and experience,” said Jeter. “He always made sure to avoid talking over anyone’s head and present and explain IT concepts in the most basic and easy-to-grasp way so that everyone could process the material. He also made sure that students learned interpersonal and soft skills to prepare students beyond the keyboard.”
For more information about the Logan Defenders and Cyber Security Programs at John A. Logan College, visit www.jalc.edu.