June 09, 2016

Tools for the Future

Hakeem Thomas '17

Major: Criminal Justice
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Activities: Bloomsburg University Office of Military and Veterans Resources

Philadelphia native Hakeem Thomas took advantage of the biggest opportunity of his life —one that he hopes will lead to a career in cyber security — during summer 2016.

While Thomas was deployed overseas with the Army in 2012, he developed an interest in studying the behaviors of cyber criminals. With a background in computer science, he started to think about studying digital forensics when he returned home.

“I knew that I could probably find a job in the information technology field, but a focus on digital forensics would make me more marketable to law enforcement agencies,” says Thomas, a senior criminal justice major. “When I learned that Bloomsburg had one of the top five digital forensics programs in the country, it was really a no-brainer for me to come here.”

Thomas enrolled at BU in 2013. He became active in the Bloomsburg University Student Veterans Association and familiar with the Center for Professional Development and Career Experience (CPDCE), located next door to the Military Resources office in Warren Student Services Center.

The CPDCE staff provided Thomas with the tools he needed through Professional U, an initiative that helps the university offer professional experiences to all students. “They played a huge role in preparing me for success,” says Thomas. “Without their help, I don’t know if I would have been able to sharpen my resume or understand how to translate my military experience into a set of skills that hiring professionals are looking for.”

Thomas put his new resume and networking skills to the test at the Student Veterans of America National Conference in Orlando, Fla. More than 200 companies were interviewing veterans, and Thomas knew this was his opportunity.

On the second day of the conference, he met with a group of recruiters from Northrop Grumman, a leading global security company. Thanks to the benefits of working with the CPDCE staff and his level-2 military security clearance, he was offered an internship with the company.

There was one small problem: the position was located in Monterey, Calif. “When they offered me the internship, I accepted, but I had no idea how I was going to pay for my ticket there or a place to stay when I got there,” Thomas says.

Through the Professional U initiative, Thomas learned of Professional Experience Grants, created through donor support to help students obtain the funds they need to make internships, study abroad, undergraduate research and other professional experiences possible. He received the grant and says the internship far exceeded his expectations, including an invitation to make a presentation about his work to the entire organization.

“If this support wasn’t available for me, I would have missed out on this opportunity that I know is going to change my life,” he says. 

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