An identity thief led Michaela Greer to a career path in computer and information technology security before she had even reached high school.
"My mother, Olivia, is a police officer," she said. "She put my name on some of the bills to build my credit. There was an incident when I was 13 years old where somebody was using my name and sending magazines that we didn't sign up for to our house.
"I felt compelled to go into cyber security with the mindset of protecting the company I work for from other crimes. Times have changed since I was a kid. Information is all available online now. Making sure people are safe means a lot to me and is close to my heart."
That led the Cincinnati native to Eastern Michigan University. After graduating from the Bachelor of Science in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense program on campus in August 2019, Greer enrolled in the Master of Science in Technology Studies online program at EMU. The BS in IA/CD is also available online.
"I was a little nervous, because I was initially in the information technology bachelor's degree program," she said. "After I switched, I was applying the coursework I had previously learned. It was really cool. There was a lot of hands-on simulation and working with physical networks."
Greer, the first person in her immediate family to earn a college degree, has worked full time as a computer technician at Provide.Network for nearly one year. She was able to immediately use what she learned in the bachelor's degree program after starting in October 2018.
"Everything came full circle when I applied it at my job," she said. "I was also learning different things at my job that I didn't learn in the coursework. I thought, 'Wow, it's so funny that everything is starting to click because I was overwhelmed at first.'"
After attending Walnut Hills High School, Greer moved to Ypsilanti and enrolled at EMU in 2015. She worked for the university as a student assistant and lab monitor as an undergrad.
"I also came to Eastern Michigan because of an in-state tuition agreement with Ohio," she said. "I thought a little distance could help me grow because I felt like I was a little sheltered. It was a great experience coming to Eastern Michigan. There's a lot of diversity in the program."
When Greer moved over to the BS in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense program, she was immediately impressed by the approach in the IA 445: Ethical Hacking and Offensive Security course.
"We had to sign a contract saying we are responsible for the skills we would learn in the class if we used them illegally," she said. "We were able to work on an actual server. Most of the classes I have taken in the program are not as hands on."
Greer also had quite an experience in the IA 202L4: Risk-Vulnerability Analysis course. She was part of a group project that examined the technical and physical vulnerabilities of two campus buildings — the Lakehouse and the Pray-Harrold classroom.
"Pray-Harrold is the main building where all of the students go, and I noticed it didn't have a lot of emergency defibrillators," Greer said. "A lot of students who might have heart conditions or health conditions come through there, and something could happen."
The group presented its findings at an online learning conference, where an attendee was paying close attention and subsequently contacted EMU about adding safety equipment.
"Somebody thought it was a good observation and that EMU might need to work on that because it's a safety hazard," Greer said. "It was a very touching moment.
"I was just thinking I was doing a report. I didn't know someone was going to hear and value my voice and bring it up to the school to see if they could work on it. Since then, I noticed there are more defibrillators and other things in case of an emergency. I thought, 'That's cool that my voice was heard.'"
Greer is excited about gaining more valuable experience on the job and earning a master's degree online while living back home in Ohio.
"Online is more convenient because you have more of a weekly schedule of getting things done," she said. "You go at the pace the professor wants you to go, but the flexibility is nice."
The additional time at EMU also gives Greer the opportunity to consider which direction to take her career after college.
"I have been dabbling into digital forensics," she said. "At some point, I want to end up working for the private sector or maybe the state government. I don't know if I would do federal right now."
Of course, Greer's mother is extremely proud of her accomplishments — especially because she did not take being the victim of identity theft lying down. Now, the mother-daughter team is doing its part to derail criminals — on the streets and online.
"She is excited," Greer said. "A lot of my family works in different public service [areas] in terms of law. The bachelor's degree is still opening up opportunities for me, even though I am currently in the field. If I want to move forward, which I plan on doing soon in Cincy, that would be great."
Learn more about the EMU online BS in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense program.
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