2020 Trinidad State News

Outcalt grant leads to steep upgrade for computer programs at Trinidad State

Valley Campus / October 23, 2020 / by Margaret Sanderson

Trinidad State photo A million-dollar grant from the Outcalt Foundation has made it possible for cybersecurity guru, Serena (“Sully”) Sullivan, to relocate to rural Alamosa from the Community College of Denver. Sullivan grew up “a military brat” living in many different states including Alaska and even in England. A month ago she moved here with her son and her Corgi to assume the position of Director for Technology Program Development and Instruction at Trinidad State’s Valley Campus. “I knew that the opportunities here were going to be amazing. At TSJC, the people I work with and the people I work for have been super nice! I feel very welcomed,” she said.

“I love this area. It’s beautiful here,” she said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to start new degree programs, stackable certification programs and include industry certifications students can earn as they work toward a degree.” The idea is to equip people to find good positions here in the Valley. “I want to appeal to students no matter what their skill level is,” she added. “I would like to show potential students that technology is not intimidating and that it can be a lot of fun. I would like to see an active technology club that can participate in activities and coach interested students in national technology or cybersecurity competitions.”

As one who enjoys camping, ATVing, and hiking, she is thrilled to have relocated to the Valley, where outdoor activities abound and where congestion is much less prevalent. Although she lived only two miles from Walmart, it took her 45 minutes to get there. In Alamosa it takes less than five minutes. She ordered everything she could from Amazon to avoid traffic. Now, she said it takes her longer to get in her car to leave than it does to get to work. In Denver, where she taught cybersecurity for the last three years, she paid about $400 a semester to park about three-quarters of a mile from the college. Sullivan is working on her doctorate in computer science with a cybersecurity concentration. She has a bachelor’s in Computer Science and a master’s in Instructional Design Technology with a concentration in online learning. Industry certifications include CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), CompTIA Security+ and more.

Sorum Tractor Company owner and Alamosa business leader, the late Ralph Outcalt, supported many causes in the Valley but he was especially interested in promoting education. He wanted to see the Valley’s youth excel and help them become community leaders. Karla Shriver, one of the executors of his estate, said, “Ralph was a very smart and generous man. He started with nothing. He said the community was very good to him and he wanted to give back.”

Outcalt Foundation grant money is being used to “beef up” the computer programs on the Alamosa campus beginning with Computer Information Systems (CIS) and statewide-transferable Computer Science degrees, all spearheaded by Sullivan. “We will start it on the Valley Campus, grow it and then develop a similar program for the Trinidad Campus as well,” said Trinidad State Vice President James Kynor.

Trinidad State photo “Pretty much every career field you go in to is going to need some kind of technology, whether it’s basic office skills like creating word documents, to building a network and securing it, to creating data bases, to using specialized equipment at work,” said Sullivan, whose list of qualifications is long. She served for 13 years in the U.S. Air Force where she was the Communications Officer in charge with 65 others working in the shop. Her job was to trouble shoot and set up communications, including classified and unclassified networks. During her five-year stay at Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC), she completed the process for the college to be a National Center of Excellence for Cyber Defense – the first community college in Colorado to receive that designation. After leaving PPCC, she worked as an analyst and as a course designer to develop cybersecurity courses for military special operations. As a civilian, she set up a Security Operations Center (SOC) where network traffic is monitored for unwanted cyber traffic.

Sullivan came to Trinidad State to share her extensive computer knowledge and to create new opportunities for students. Subjects to be taught include databases, hardware skills, networking, cybersecurity and computer science. “Even though these are all interconnected, they are all very separate, different fields and within each of those, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different jobs you could do,” said Sullivan. “Once you become technologically savvy, you’re not scared anymore. It doesn’t make you nervous.” Sullivan plans to offer four-hour workshops and invite speakers who use these techniques to share their perspectives.

The first four workshops include:

  1. Creating an Animoto video using online software to create a professional looking video complete with music, text and/or PowerPoints.
  2. Using a role-playing game maker program (RPG) to create your own video game.
  3. Adding an on and off button to a raspberry pi which looks like a tiny motherboard that has built-in ports to allow for different types of communication cables to connect. It comes with a Linux operating system and the interface can be programmed to do different things.
  4. Continuing to work with a raspberry pi and program it to respond to a sensor which causes a song to play when a door is opened. Fun but practical applications.
Trinidad State photo Kynor said he worked closely with Outcalt Foundation executors, Karla Shriver and Carolyn Kawanabe, to repurpose grant funds the college received several years ago. “One of the driving factors for the Outcalt dollars is to enhance and create new career and technical programs in the Valley while preparing youth for new opportunities. Inherent in that is computer information systems. The digital literacy of the Valley is critically important, to not only building up the skill sets for existing businesses, but also to develop a work force that may be attractive for new businesses coming in. From my perspective digital literacy is probably the key element at this college right now to drive other CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs in the direction that Outcalt helps us.”

The Outcalt Foundation mission is “to strengthen our community by supporting those committed to the betterment of the San Luis Valley” which parallels Sullivan’s work. She plans to develop a “robust technology program” with unique offerings to attract students who will hopefully choose to complete their career paths at Trinidad State.

Sullivan is seeking interested Valley business owners, network technicians, engineers and technical talent hiring managers to join her in the creation of an advisory board to “stay in-tune with industry needs.” Contact her at serena.sullivan@trinidadstate.edu or 719-589-7262.

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