By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Twenty years ago, when she was working as a systems administrator and network engineer at Carrier Corp. in Syracuse, Jennifer Vogel started taking classes at the School of Information Studies.

Her life took a turn when business brought her to North Carolina. She joined Cisco Systems and spent two decades as a technical lead there. But this summer, Jennifer reprised her iSchool plans, enrolling in distance studies for a master’s degree in telecommunications and network management and a certificate of advanced studies in information security management.

The recent campus residency was an academic and geographical homecoming, the native of Owasco Lake, near Auburn, NY, concedes. “I spent a couple days on the [Syracuse University] quad, soaking in Central New York,” Jennifer emphasized. “It was completely invigorating to be up there. I loved the atmosphere, and it really convinced me that I was doing the right thing.”

With her work on the testing side of customer service technical support, Jennifer had been many years outside the network security realm. “When I started with Cisco 20 years ago, it was easy to be a technologist,” she noted. “The Internet was still developing, and it was all about a basic exchange of information at that point. Now, it’s all about convergence. And to that end, the iSchool really makes sense, because it’s not about the technology so much anymore, but about what we do with it, how we provide it, how we store it, and the security between those points.”

The Raleigh resident is marking her 20th year as a Cisco certified internetwork expert, one of only a few in the organization to keep her license active for that long a time, she said. Her credentials also include an associate’s degree in computer science from Cayuga County Community College and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from SUNY Potsdam. “I had always expected to get my Ph.D.,” Jennifer reflected. “I think I was missing that formal continuous learning. Even though I'm always learning in my respective technologies, the atmosphere of being back in college is invigorating and exciting.”  

Jennifer enjoyed how her residency class mixed students from all majors. “How do a telecommunications engineer and a librarian end up in the same kind of class?” she asked. “The great part about it, everyone brings a really cool perspective. For me, I spent 20 years with industry learning, but to be able to look at things from the information viewpoint, and how what I do influences access to the information, was really pretty compelling.” Another bonus was the “fantastic faculty,” she said. “They would do pretty much anything to help you be successful. Everyone has been so supportive.”

Jennifer expects to complete one course each semester and come back for a residency class every summer through her projected graduation date of 2018. “It’s all about balance at this point,” she reflected, another reason for her iSchool choice. “They are so good at providing the online classes that I knew I’d be able to be successful balancing my career and my school work.”

Her thinking is extending beyond then, though, and Jennifer jokes about becoming a “professional student.” By adding a few more courses, she found, she can earn a second master’s degree in information management, and she is giving that option serious consideration.

As the mother of two—one a freshman in high school and the other a freshman in college—Jennifer said the time seemed right for her to “get back on the bandwagon” educationally. “It looks like 2018 might be a busy year, with three graduations in the family,” she laughed.