Finding a Grad School that Fits

Hampton Scholar

How do you select a graduate school? Talking with a trusted professor may steer you in one direction, or another. Still others find options through searches, brochures, conferences or word of mouth. There is not a single formula to follow that leads to the ideal school. Sometimes, it's serendipity.

Omotunwase Olubayo (MS22), who goes by Wase ("wa-shey"), is a first-year graduate student who describes the INI as a "good community of people." His favorite class has been Applied Information Assurance with CERT instructors, Rich Nolan and Chris May. In it, students complete incident response exercises, where they are presented with a fictitious cyber attack, and they must work in teams to determine what the problem is and how it happened. Wase would like a career in information security, ideally cyber forensics, and Carnegie Mellon's offerings are the perfect fit.

But Wase first visited Carnegie Mellon University for an unrelated event. As a senior from Hampton University in Virginia, he was part of Fusion Forum, an annual event at CMU that invites professors and students to visit from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).  The visitors are treated to a tour of the university’s research facilities, while CMU learns their perspectives on how to support and encourage diversity on campus.

A computer science major, Wase was increasingly interested in information security. His visit to CMU deepened this interest, and specifically a talk with INI faculty during Fusion Forum influenced the courses he would take during his senior year. Before graduating, he took a new course offered at his school in cyber forensics and sharpened his C++ programming skills. In the fall, he entered the INI's Master of Science in Information Security Technology Management (MSISTM) program.

Little did Wase know, the INI was quite familiar with his undergraduate computer science program. Hampton University partnered with the INI through the NSF-funded Information Assurance Capacity Building Program, a summer workshop at CMU for visiting faculty. The faculty members at the workshop received guidance from CMU researchers to develop curricula. Through CMU, Hampton University had been advancing its information security offerings, specifically in cyber forensics, from which Wase had already benefitted.

Dr. Jean Muhammed, chair of the computer science department at Hampton University, reported the cyber forensics course Wase completed during his senior year stemmed from participation in CMU's Information Assurance Capacity Building Program. "As a result of offering this new course, I was pleased to see Wase apply for graduate studies in the area of forensics," she said.

"With Wase, we've seen our partnerships with other colleges and universities come full circle," said Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, INI Director, Director of Education, Training and Outreach at Carnegie Mellon CyLab, and principal investigator of the Information Assurance Capacity Building Program. "After a few years working with faculty at Hampton University to develop new curricula in security and forensics, it's gratifying to see one of their students choose the INI for graduate studies on those topics."

How do you select a graduate school? In some cases, the graduate school lays a path from it to you.

And, it helps to keep your eyes open to new opportunities. "Participate in activities both on and off campus. You want to be well-rounded," said Wase, who seemed to know the secret to making good decisions lies in the quality of your options.