When Maggie Cluney learned about Augusta University’s School of Computer and Cyber Sciences moving to the Georgia Cyber Center, she decided to leave Savannah to join Jaguar Nation.
“I actually picked Augusta University for that exact reason. I knew the Georgia Cyber Center was going to be a new state of the art campus,” she said.
Cluney is getting her bachelor’s degree in cyber operations. This degree prepares students to apply computer science theory to the problem of analyzing, designing, implementing and operating secure computing environments. Students are exposed to topics such as malware analysis, reverse engineering, penetration testing and hardware analysis.
“We learn a lot of theory, which is really good because you know it gives you a good background and everything that you need to know. I would join groups, and we had major groups of all different kinds of people working together.”
While she was one of the only women in the program, that did not affect her experience inside or out of the classroom.
“We were definitely in the major minority. I was the only girl, but we have a great student body, so I never had an issue with any of the guys,” she said. “There wasn’t much of a difference. I had a very good student experience.”
As a student, Cluney was also one of the founders of the university’s Beekeeper’s Club.
“College is about trying different things, so I actually had a really good time. We learned a lot about bees – different types of bees, how to properly care for them and the different types of honey from the flowers they have. We actually care about, like the flowers that were around the greenhouse because that would affect what kind of honey the bees made.”
She also participated in several conferences including the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). In the competition, teams of three, representing their university, work to solve real-world problems, fostering collaboration, creativity, innovation and the ability to perform under pressure.
“It looks really good on a resume! It’s one of those things [employers are impressed by] because it is a nationwide program. We go to regional conference every year.”
Those involvements led to Cluney becoming more interested in programming. In addition to being on top of her studies and being actively engaged on campus, she balanced her time with her internship at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
“I’m a software engineering apprentice at SRNS. We learned all the skills that we need to go out and be able to do those kinds of jobs in the field. I learned everything from top to bottom because of the apprenticeship program. Once I’ve completed my internship, I’ll get a certificate that makes the experience official. It verifies all the skills I’ve learned and all the things I went through,” she said.
SRNS hires several cyber students as apprentices to work alongside their professionals. Cluney’s experience as an apprentice paid off when she was offered a full-time position with the company.
“I got offered a full-time job at my internship, Lakeside SRNS,” she said. “I will officially begin in January. I will be a full-time software engineer. Pretty much everyone I worked with were offered positions on-site or somewhere else. One will work with the NSA.”
Cluney’s family is especially proud of her. While she is not the first to graduate college in her family, she was the first to begin directly from high school.
From my grandpa, to my parents to my aunts and uncles, they’re all actually really proud,” she said. “My dad likes to brag about what I do, that I work at SRNS. When he meets people, he says his daughter works at a big nuclear facility – he likes to brag.”
Cluney recommends students who intend to enter this program to get involved, even in activities outside of their field of study.
“I had so much fun doing things that had nothing to do with my major, like the Beekeeping Club, Biology Club and being an assistant at The Bell Ringer. I also would tell them to get involved in things like Association for Computing Machinery and try to go to at least one ICPC because it looks really good on a resume.”
Augusta University’s Fall 2021 Commencement will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 at the James Brown Arena. Watch ceremony via livestream.