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Chris Williams gained valuable hands—on cybersecurity experience during his internship at the Library of Congress.Museum-Quality Education

By Tina Kramer

For Chris Williams ’14, the fifth time was the charm. After four false starts at college, something finally clicked. Perhaps most important, he crossed paths with Dr. Lucy Laufe, head of the collegewide Honors Program.

"She really guided my focus, showing me new opportunities," says Williams, a cybersecurity major. Laufe recommended that Williams take honors courses, which ultimately led him to the Collegeís Paul Peck Humanities Institute (PPHI), and its unique internship programs for high-achieving students at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In a Class by Themselves

Montgomery College is the only two-year college in the nation that places interns at the three institutions. The internships provide an exceptional opportunity for students to experience the professional environment of world-class museum and library research activities.

Getting that opportunity is far from easy. The application process is rigorous and competitive. Students spend hours completing applications materials and essays, and are interviewed by MC honors faculty members. Only those with the best applications are sent on to the institutions for further consideration.

Once accepted by one of the institutions, interns enroll in a corresponding honors course and are assigned faculty mentors, who meet with the students to discuss internship experiences and progress on a substantial research paper.

The stereotype that the intern makes the coffee and the copies couldn't be further from the truth. Students engage in professionally meaningful tasks, such as collecting, analyzing, and organizing activities; designing and preparing new exhibits; abstracting and archiving academic materials; planning new educational programs; and assisting and guiding museum visitors.

Since its inception in 1998, the program has placed more than 200 students at the three institutions.

A New Chapter

Chris Williams worked with Professor Bette Petrides, PPHI internship coordinator, on an internship opportunity at the Library of Congress. His resume caught the eye of Sean Lang, chief information officer at the library, who brought Williams on board.

It's no surprise Lang was interested in the cybersecurity student. Williams is president of the College's Cyberwatch Club, which recently took first place in the community college division of the 2013 Digital Forensics Challenge, sponsored by the US Department of Defense.

Williams worked in the Office of Strategic Initiatives for the IT Security Group's security operations center, where he helped monitor the security of the library's network. He and his team focused on the viruses and malware that the library receives.

"I built a workstation that is used to examine malware in order to fi nd details such as where it came from, who it was targeting, and what its primary function was," says Williams. His internship research paper examined the implications of network security in protecting the intellectual property stored at the library. Williams presented his paper this past March at the Maryland Collegiate Honors Council, following in the footsteps of other former PPHI interns.

Reflecting on his experience, Williams says, "My internship allowed me to practice many of the cybersecurity skills learned in the classroom that translate to real work experience."

And, he adds, "I was asked to stay another six months."

 

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