Meet Mr. Jason F. Ehlers, a Champlain College double graduate who’s worked both in and out of Champlain College in cybersecurity, education, and related fields. We sat down to talk with him about his plans for the future.
Editor: Hey! How are you doing? Tell us a little about yourself!
Ehlers: Hello! I’m doing well! Thank you for asking. My name is Jason F. Ehlers, I’m 43 years old, and I’ve lived and worked in Vermont for the last 5+ years now. My wife and I have a log cabin up in North Central Vermont where we take care of 3 cats and 5 ducks. We have family in several states and even abroad. I’ve been working in the IT and cybersecurity fields of study for over 25 years.
You talked about how you’ve been doing cybersecurity and IT-related work, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
I started tinkering with electronics when I was a kid in the ’80s. I got my first IT job in ’97 as a Residential Networking Consultant/Technician at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. By spring of ’98, at just 20 years old, I was the supervisor of all 17 student employees doing this work! College didn’t work out for me at my first attempt at it, so I joined the U.S. Marine Corps in their Communications Security Equipment (ComSec) field. During my Marine Corps career, I spent time as a technician, a supervisor of technicians, an educator at a formal school, an Information Assurance (IA) leader, a project manager, an operations center manager, and various other roles. I retired from the Marine Corps after 17 years of honorable service.
After the USMC, I finished my online Bachelor’s degree in Computer Forensics & Digital Investigations and went on to get my Master of Science in Digital Forensics Management, both at Champlain College. While working on those degrees, I worked full time for The University of Vermont Medical Center on their cybersecurity tveam. Afterward, I worked in various capacities as a Senior Analyst for Kivu Consulting. At Kivu, I picked up a gamut of experiences in Digital Forensics & Incident Response (DFIR) work, innovation projects, knowledge management, threat hunting, as well as Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) and Managed Security Services (MSS).
What were some of your experiences with Champlain College before now?
Some would say my experiences with Champlain College are a lot more than others! While still on active duty back in 2013, I was living in California. I found Champlain through a little online research in Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity. I was excited about what I learned online regarding Jonathan Rajewski and his work at the Leahy Center. I was ushered into Champlain College as a student thanks to the work of Dave Gerns, the Champlain College Military & Veterans Service Office manager at the time. While studying online, I paid close attention to the Leahy Center blog.
In 2015 my wife and I moved to Vermont, where I worked for both the Military & Veteran’s Service Office and the Leahy Center as a student employee/intern. From 2013 to today, I forged professional relationships with Champlain’s academic advisors, finance team, Career Collaborative, Military & Veteran Service Office, in-house faculty, and the Continuing Professional Studies team.
Can you share with me what it was like working in the Leahy Center as a student? Where have those skills gotten you over these past few years?
I loved working in the Leahy Center! The experience catapulted my opportunities in the civilian cybersecurity and digital forensics fields. I learned a lot from those around me, as there were so many smart students that participated in Leahy Center projects and activities. I had the benefit of having a lot of related experience before I got to the Leahy Center, but everyone contributed the best way they knew how. The three things I enjoyed most were the technical exposure, the fresh perspectives on new technologies, and the relationships I built while being there. For what it’s worth, I landed my job at the Medical Center from people I met and the work I was doing at the Leahy Center.
Looking a bit inward, how would you describe the working environment here at the Leahy Center? How does that factor into your future plans?
The Leahy Center has built a reputation for being a professional environment that is good at what they do. I intend to build upon that legacy. I love the culture that draws people here, and I will continue to build on that culture as I contribute to its operations. The Leahy Center has the potential to be the country’s best experiential learning center in our fields of study. As the Professional Services Director, I will continue to work with the other Leahy Center leaders to help make this happen. Should I go sooner than planned, however, it will be to teach full time at Champlain. Either role has its merits, and either role can help make the Leahy Center awesome.
Are there any projects that you are currently involved with/starting that you would like to talk about?
Building our professional services portfolio is my #1 project. It includes, but is not limited to, understanding what our capabilities are, where we want to be, and defining how we get there. I spent the first two weeks on the job absorbing data and talking with Leahy Center leaders, faculty, and student teams. The goal is to build out our services in a professional manner so that we can confidently and transparently offer our services to local nonprofits, schools, government entities, and small businesses. I want future students, current students, and outside organizations to seek out the Leahy Center for our professional services. This requires incorporating more academic disciplines into our projects and operations. If I can achieve any part of this “project”, it’s a win.
To wrap it up, is there anything that you would like to add?
Thank you for taking the time to see who I am and what I’m up to. I hope my energy influences others to pursue fields related to the Leahy Center or get involved with the Leahy Center directly. Please stay tuned and see where we go from here!