The actual skill set of IT isn’t in the mainstream colleges. It’s being taught in the community colleges in certification programs. Students coming to GSU have been working on servers, infrastructures, and security, but a university is set up for the academic side of things and research, so what we’ve done at GSU is mix the two.
Steve Hyzny has a comprehensive understanding of Information Technology (IT). Hyzny, who lectures at Governors State University and helped design the university’s IT program, works from both sides of the field—the theoretical as well as the practical—and this dual perspective has helped to shape IT at GSU.
“The actual skill set of IT isn’t in the mainstream colleges,” Hyzny said. “It’s being taught in the community colleges in certification programs. Students coming to GSU have been working on servers, infrastructures, and security, but a university is set up for the academic side of things and research, so what we’ve done at GSU is mix the two.”
The result is a BS in Information Technology that allows students to graduate work-force ready.
Hyzny joined GSU in 2011 after working in the field and teaching at DeVry. He’s a computer consultant, holds multiple professional certifications, and serves as a subject matter expert for Comptia certifications.
His students compete in state and national cyber defense competitions, and last year eight of them were named to the Illinois Technology Foundation’s Fifty for the Future, a list of Illinois’ best and brightest IT minds.
GSU Newsroom: Can you start by telling us the difference between Computer Science and Information Technology?
Steve Hyzny: A lot of people look at Information Technology as the over-encompassing field, so Computer Science is part of IT. We look at it a little differently here. IT is everything you use. It’s your cell phone, it’s your network, the Internet, the computer you’re on. Computer Science is more programming and algorithms. Technically, though, IT grew out of Computer Science because they were doing the programs. They were working on the computers.
In our program, the core teaches you how to secure everything, but then we have another track with our information assurance courses, and they’re basically ethical hacking.
GSU Newsroom: What was your start in either field?
Hyzny: I started back in high school. I had a math teacher—and at that point everything computer-related was coming through math—who brought in the original Apples. The Apple II. They call them the Darth Vader Apples. They were black machines made by Bell & Howell—this was before Apple started making their own computers—anyhow, he held a little programming class, and I completed the class in three weeks. Everything he had planned, the whole course, in three weeks. I knocked it out and everybody else was still working. That was where I began.
GSU Newsroom: What are you doing with students at GSU that sets us apart from other programs?
Hyzny: Essentially, GSU students are receiving academic and certification training. A lot of companies expect you to have two years of certifications before you come to work, not just a degree. We also go to competitions, and some students have been hired right out of them.
GSU Newsroom: What are the competitions like?
Hyzny: There are three major competitions that we do. We do the Collegiate Cyber Defense competition, the Argonne National Lab Cyber Defense competition, and the U.S. CyberChallenge. We’ve been doing the Collegiate one for about five years. The students all get together and are put in a room. They’re connected to a network, and they have servers they have to keep up and running throughout the day. They have to add software and update pages while professional hackers attack their servers for eight hours. At Argonne, they’re protecting a power grid. We’re taking eight students there in April.
GSU Newsroom: Defense seems to be a very big part of what GSU’s IT students are learning.
Hyzny: In our program, the core teaches you how to secure everything, but then we have another track with our information assurance courses, and they’re basically ethical hacking. In the early days, the term “hacker” was never meant to be something negative. It was someone who looked at a system and took it apart, found the flaws, and explained them. Now it has a negative connotation, and unless you know what the hackers are going to do, you don’t know how to protect things. So we actually teach our students about social engineering, which is one of the top hacking methods now.
GSU Newsroom: What’s a significant difference you see between IT’s beginnings and right now?
Hyzny: Internet started as a way for the Department of Defense to have a network that—if part of it got attacked or collapsed—could automatically fix itself and reroute the information. That’s how networking started. And when we first connected like that, we had to know each other at the time. There was no pulling up Google. Then slowly we started to share more information with more people.
We care a lot more about privacy than the upcoming generation. It’s becoming a more open world. My computer is watching me, my browser is watching, my iPhone is watching me. I have loyalty cards that track every purchase I make. We’re becoming more transparent. It’s amazing how fast things have jumped.