Thursday, May 30, 2024

UTSA Online graduate moves from crime scenes to combatting cybercrime

UTSA Online graduate moves from crime scenes to combatting cybercrime

MAY 25, 2023 – After more than a decade working the night shift as a crime scene investigator for the San Antonio Police Department, Olinda Cardenas ’23 decided a B.B.A. in Cyber Security with UTSA Online would help her move from labs, courtrooms and crime scenes into investigating cybercrime and a job with a daytime schedule.

“It's always funny when you tell people that you are or were a crime scene investigator,” said Cardenas. “The first thing that they ask is, ‘Oh my, like on TV?’ and I'm like, ‘No, not like TV, I wish it was that glamorous.’”

The conditions became even more difficult when Cardenas was tagged as an essential employee in the opening months of the pandemic. The grueling schedule and the increased pressures of COVID-19 restrictions left her exhausted. It was common for her to take on new cases just as her shift was ending or to have to report to court as an expert witness during what would have been her sleeping hours.

“Being a part of the online cybersecurity program has allowed me to meet fantastic professors within the industry.”

“When I first started that career, I said that if I was no longer enjoying my job then it was time to leave,” she said.

During those early months of the pandemic, she noticed that one of her coworkers had started a new online degree program with UTSA.

“I started just kind of picking her brain, neither of us had any computer science background or cyber background, none of it -- so it was going to be a fresh introduction to all that stuff,” said Cardenas. “So, I did my research. I didn't know that UTSA was a highly regarded university for cybersecurity, and I think the program is only getting better.”

UTSA is a nationally recognized leader in cybersecurity. It is one of few colleges or universities in the nation – and the only Hispanic Serving Institution – to have three National Centers of Academic Excellence designations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency. The university is also home to five cybersecurity research centers and institutes. Additionally, U.S. News and World Report placed UTSA Online in the top quarter of all online bachelor’s degree programs, jumping from No. 246 in 2021 to No. 85 in 2023 for an overall 65% increase in rank in two years.

Cardenas was confident that she’d be able to transition to a new phase of her criminal investigative career with her experience and a new degree. She enrolled with UTSA and then got a new job with Ernst & Young’s Financial Services Organization, where she now works to combat money laundering.

While the flexibility of UTSA’s fully online degree program was critical to her academic success, the encouragement from the faculty was equally important.

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I don't know how to code, I don't know what networks are like, can I do this?” she recalls thinking at the start of the program. “UTSA and its professors have really been supportive and helpful and have made me feel like, you know what? I'm ready to take the next step in my cyber career,” she added.

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As a graduate who crossed the Commencement stage this weekend, Cardenas became the newest graduate in her Roadrunner family. One of her stepsons is working toward a master’s degree in psychology from UTSA, and the other will begin studying for a bachelor’s degree in cyber security in Fall 2023.

“It will open a vast number of opportunities once I have graduated,” she said. “Being a part of the online cybersecurity program has allowed me to meet fantastic professors within the industry as well as classmates who share similar interests.”

Brett Copeland

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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