Introducing Our Experts: 3 Questions with Cyber Security Instructor Joel Christensen, MNCM, ITIL
After graduating from the Rasmussen College Cyber Security Bachelor’s degree program at the Blaine campus in 2013, and earning his Master’s in Networking and Communications in 2016, Joel Christensen returned to Rasmussen College as an adjunct instructor in 2017. Christensen uses his firsthand student experience coupled with his work experience to guide his students through the complex, yet rewarding, world of cyber security. Christensen is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Cyber-Security Information Assurance with plans to graduate in 2020.
Why did you decide to teach at your alma mater?
After I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security from Rasmussen College I kept in contact with Terry Schorn, Rasmussen College Cyber Security department chair. Terry was not only my primary instructor throughout the program, but he also became my mentor. Throughout the years, Terry has invited me to many industry events and we have stayed in touch. I told Terry that if there was ever an opportunity to be able to teach at Rasmussen I would love the challenge. Then, in 2017, Terry called and he did need my help. I ended up finishing out a course for a sick instructor who had to take a leave of absence. Ever since, I have been teaching at the College as an adjunct instructor and providing my expertise as a subject matter expert. Throughout my time with Rasmussen I have helped to develop a few new courses and rewrite older courses to keep them up-to-date.
Cyber security is a great field to get into because there is not a standard career path, meaning you are not stuck in a silo. There are so many different lanes of opportunity that a cyber security degree opens up. I love teaching at Rasmussen College because of my students. Like many of my students, I worked full time while earning my degree. I have learners in their early 20s eager to jump into the field and older students looking to make a career switch into a growing field.
During my first live lesson I always like to talk about work-life balance. I encourage students to create a routine to work on assignments throughout the week but I also want them to know that they have the flexibility and opportunity to spend time with their families and balance their busy lives — it is possible.
When I was a student at Rasmussen College, first in 1996 for a Marketing degree and then again when I pursued Cyber Security, I loved that the faculty were working in the field and could apply their real-world knowledge to their courses. The instructors at Rasmussen were more invested in my success than in my previous higher education experiences.
What is your current role working for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation?
I have been working with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation for nearly five years. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is the largest nonprofit treatment provider offering prevention and recovery solutions to individuals across the United States. I am the manager of the technology service desk within the IT Support Services team. I manage the team of seven individuals who support all 17 Hazelden Betty Ford locations across the United States. We are responsible for change management, problem management and first level security awareness for a complex and highly secure and data-sensitive organization.
Where is the cyber security field headed next?
The maturity of the technology space and the fusion of innovation drive my work. We have grown so drastically in a short period of time. Everything from the cars we drive to the phones we use and the appliances we cook with are all connected in some sort of fashion. While convenient in our modern world, this connectivity has also created significant security risks. I question frequently, ‘How are we educating consumers?’
While the field is evolving so quickly we need to set a pause to define awareness, create policy and develop accountability. Our products are being pushed off the shelves so quickly, the next version of a phone, the newest TV, et cetera. We need to ensure security measures are imbedded into the devices and technologies we are creating. We can’t move so quickly that security and safety become an afterthought.