When Vaibhav from India chose the University of Dayton to pursue his master’s degree in computer science, it was partly because he had relatives in Ohio. But it didn’t take long for the international graduate student to find community right on campus — both as a National Cyber League competition team member and as a student ambassador.
“When I first came to Dayton, I attended a lot of the events that the office organized for new students. It was fun, so I started helping out volunteering,” said Vaibhav. “Then, they offered me an opportunity to do more events. I said, yes, I was happy to do it.”
In addition to the on-campus academic support and career development opportunities, UDayton Global organizes fun off-campus events for international students. Groups take shuttles to theme parks, zoos, shopping areas, and many other local attractions.
“I get to take part in planning some of the trips,” said Vaibhav. “We went to an aquarium in Cincinnati and the Air Force Museum in Dayton. We had 50 or 60 kids when we went to Kings Island Amusement Park last fall. It’s been great for meeting new people, talking to them, and learning how their experiences coming to the US were different from mine, coming from India.”
UD Computer Science Offers Access, Resources, and Support
Vaibhav did a lot of research into graduate school programming before deciding where to apply in the United States. He didn’t have a particular career in mind, but knew that he wanted to study computer science.
“I looked at several schools … at what courses they teach in the graduate program, and it was between Dayton and [one other school],” said Vaibhav. “In addition to family, the resources in the computer science department, the labs, and the professors were big factor[s] for me choosing Dayton.”
The computer science department at the University of Dayton features bachelor’s degree options in computer information systems and computer science (with an optional cyber defense concentration) as well as a cyber security certificate. The graduate program in the CS department features a master of science degree in computer science and an autonomous systems certificate. Students in the graduate program can also pursue a doctoral degree.
“One of my professors, Dr. Phu, is the department’s intern chair,” said Vaibhav. “He’s very good at helping students out and always responds if they reach out to him.”
In the 2020–2021 academic year, there were approximately 300 enrolled undergraduate- and graduate-level computer science students at UDayton, making for small classroom sizes and increased access to professors. Career service professionals are also available through UDayton Global, and many graduates have gone on to careers in top tech firms including Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.
“We qualify for the OPT STEM extension,” said Vaibhav. “I can do an OPT for a year and extend it for another two years. I am looking for jobs right now.”
Learn more about the OPT 24-month STEM extension >
National Recognition for Cyber Security
STEM-focused students at Dayton have access to several clubs and groups that focus on similar interests, like the Association for Computer Machinery, a weekly meeting and Discord group with a mission statement of “advancing the computing profession as a force for good.” They also have access to special competitions, such as the National Cyber League event.
“Last spring, I got an email from the department about a cool cyber security competition they do every semester. It was just me and one other student in the team game back then, so we struggled, but it was still fun,” said Vaibhav. “Then in the fall, I did better in the individuals, and we got more people together to join for the team game. We did good! We got results.”
The UD team placed in the top 9% nationwide out of more than 10,000 students and 3,900 teams from across the US. The strong performance will undoubtedly elevate the university’s top-100 Cyber Skyline power ranking from #63, which Dayton held coming into the competition.
Finding a Career Path Through Extracurriculars at UD
The cyber security competition had a significant effect on Vaibhav’s career trajectory. Having already taken all the class offerings to qualify for the undergraduate certification in cyber security, Vaibhav’s top scores in the national event gave him the confidence to consider a new calling. Now, he’s looking for starting roles in the cyber security industry after graduation.
“It’s like this late discovery in my education,” said Vaibhav, sharing how the competition sparked his interest in white hat — or ethical hacking — security jobs, where employees test their own platforms for vulnerabilities and recommend safeguards. “I’d love to be hired by a company to hack their own site; I think that’s a pretty cool job to have.”
It aligns with the advice Vaibhav gives new international arrivals to Dayton as a student ambassador: go and do something out of the ordinary because it may lead you somewhere interesting.
“I always say to participate in the things that interest you. Join a club at the university — I’m a part of the anime club, and I love K-pop,” said Vaibhav. “So, if there is something you’re interested in, even if you don’t think it’s related to your career, it’ll still bring you a good experience.”
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