New President, NuHarbor: Continuing Connections

In his first week, President Hernandez visited NuHarbor Security, a vital Champlain College community partner and Colchester-based cybersecurity company. Champlain College alumni make up 52% of their workforce.

“Today is my second day, too,” Champlain College’s new president, Alex Hernandez, told a group of interns during his visit to Colchester-based NuHarbor Security on Tuesday, June 7. 

All but one of the student interns gathered with him at a conference table chat were Champlain undergraduate students. 

Computer Networking & Cybersecurity major Jude Lindale ‘24 joked that the summer’s employer wasted no time before throwing students into their work — something Champlain College students are very familiar with and part of the success equation for Champlain’s enduring partnership with NuHarbor.

Computer Networking & Cybersecurity alum Mackenzie Marsocci ’20 interned for NuHarbor as a student, and has been working for the company since. She has earned multiple promotions in the past couple years and is now a CTAC Team Lead.

Through Champlain’s signature Upside-Down Curriculum, students take courses in their career-focused majors from the moment they set foot on campus, jumpstarting opportunities for career-related internships. This model benefits students by providing meaningful work experience and an understanding of workplace culture. Local companies benefit by gaining access to a knowledgeable undergraduate workforce and ready-made professionals upon graduation.

Kerry Shackett, Associate Director of the Career Collaborative, said, “I think internships are the best entry point to a full-time job since there’s no other way a student can really understand what goes on in that workplace — they have their classroom skills and experiences, and then you partner that with professional experience, networking, and learning on the ground what the industry is like.”

Champlain staff and faculty chatted with Justin Fimlaid, CEO and Founder at NuHarbor Security at their Colchester office on Tuesday, June 7.

On a tour through the NuHarbor campus, Hernandez met NuHarbor staff members, many of whom are Champlain cybersecurity alumni. 

Colton Hulce ‘22 and James Fox ‘22 graduated last month and are now office neighbors working as Security Operations Analysts. They told Hernandez that while they are learning new things in the NuHarbor realm, the cyber labs at Champlain College — part of the school’s unique approach to career-focused learning — helped prepare them for the work they’re doing now. 

NuHarbor hired five graduates from the Class of 2022, contributing to the 52% of total staff at NuHarbor who are Champlain College alumni.  

Ryan Piconich ’17, a Computer & Digital Forensics alum, was onsite Tuesday for a series of meeting related to his work as a Information Assurance Analyst for NuHarbor.

As the morning continued, a clear theme developed throughout Hernandez’s conversations with NuHarbor CEO and Founder Justin Fimlaid — Champlain’s career-forward approach is an asset to employers. Continued partner growth, in the form of curriculum collaboration and adjunct support, among other aspects, will allow employers to further influence Champlain’s workforce preparation and, in turn, maintain Champlain’s robust pipeline of talented student recruits. 

“I was also able to grow my leadership skills during my time with the Womxn in Tech Club. That, combined with my background and technical skill set, helped me land an internship at NuHarbor Security doing information assurance,” said Jessica Turner ‘22, an Integrative Professional Studies major who concentrated in Cybersecurity and Social Justice. “I’m happy to report that after 2 years of interning, I am starting with them full-time after graduation.”

Current leaders at NuHarbor, who are also Champlain alumni, told Hernandez one of the biggest challenges is recruiting new employees who are fluent in both cybersecurity and power skills such as communication, leadership, and business management.

One way Champlain responds to this need is by engaging students to practice these skills at The Leahy Center for Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity, says Adam Goldstein, Assistant Professor and Academic Program Director for the Leahy Center. Students are required to engage in customer service interactions, which reinforces the power skills necessary for success. This is just one of the ways Champlain prepares graduates to be human in a tech-driven world.

Justin Fimlaid and Champlain President Alex Hernandez discuss the ongoing partnership between NuHarbor and Champlain College.

At NuHarbor, Fimlaid said, “I don’t expect you to know everything.” Rather, he prioritizes continuous learning and improvement for employees since, he added, everyone is on the front-lines when working in cybersecurity and the industry is constantly changing. Much of the amazing work his staff does, Fimlaid said, won’t be recognized, because the work is preventative in order to ensure threats do not become a reality. 

In a recent interview with student Isabel Schonemann, Hernandez said a top priority at Champlain is to “Build innovative academic programs that really leverage the strengths of our interdisciplinary, experiential approach to learning. We take pride in helping students be ready for work, ready for life, and ready to make a difference.” 

A partnership like NuHarbor is an invaluable resource for the college, its students, and its commitment to helping Vermont thrive. “I’m really excited about creating innovative partnerships with employers to drive economic growth,” Hernandez said. The R/Evolutionary 2030 Strategic Plan sets the stage for Champlain College to be the national leader in career-focused education and an engine of economic opportunity for Vermont.

WCAX was on site covering the story of Champlain College’s partnership with NuHarbor. Watch the segment here.

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