ECU student selected to serve on national Cisco ‘dream team’

An East Carolina University student in the Department of Technology Systems has been selected as one of 10 students nationwide to serve on a “Dream Team” at an international education and training event.

Courtney Church will participate in Cisco Live, an event for customers, experts and partners of Cisco, a multinational corporation that designs, manufactures and sells networking equipment. More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the event, which will be held in San Francisco from May 18 through May 22.

The Dream Team will work alongside industry leaders to support the Network Operations Center and assist Cisco customers at the Help Desk during the weeklong event. IT support is crucial to the success of the event, according to Cisco Live organizers, and the opportunity provides invaluable experience for those selected. The team works directly with Cisco engineers and has full access to the event. They also have the opportunity to take a Cisco certification exam at the end of the week.

Church was chosen from a pool of 80 applicants who were each required to submit a written application, a video explaining why they should be selected and a written recommendation from an instructor. Steve Baker, teaching instructor in information and computer technology, recommended Church.

“She is very sharp, very responsible and a leader,” Baker said. “She is always quick to lend a hand to fellow teammates and works towards project completion with diligence and resolve. I know she is very capable.”

Church, from Jacksonville, is a nontraditional student taking a full course load both on-campus and online. She also works full time as a co-op in customer advocacy laboratory operations at Cisco in Research Triangle Park. Church first attended ECU in 2001 but did not finish her degree and instead began working at electronics retailer Best Buy. She was quickly promoted to various positions in their Geek Squad, a support group for the retailer’s customers.

“I felt stuck and in a rut,” Church recalled. “While I loved electronics and being around them, I was more interested in fixing them and figuring out how they worked. It was then I decided to go back to school and get a degree in ICT.

“I have always had a heart for purple and gold and knew I would return to finally finish my degree in something I was passionate about.”

She re-enrolled at ECU in fall 2013.

With a 3.5 grade point average and Baker’s encouragement, Church decided this year to apply for the Dream Team. “I think what made me stand out compared to other applicants is my motivation and drive to succeed,” she said. Her willingness to work 72 hours straight at Cisco to support lab operations during a recent snowstorm helped to seal the deal.

“By participating on the team, I hope to accomplish several things,” Church said. “First, I want to define myself as a person and as a female in a very male-dominated field. Second, I want to put ECU out there. ECU’s ICT program is one of the best. Lastly, I want to build my resume. This opportunity stands out to recruiters and shows that I am not afraid to take on a challenge.”

Church will receive an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco for the event, traveling a few days before the event to help set up the operations center.

She plans to graduate in May 2015 and hopes to eventually work full time for Cisco. She also plans to pursue a graduate degree at ECU in network technology with a concentration in information security.

-by Margaret Turner