Innovative transatlantic internship program gives students firsthand experience with geopolitical security, global collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

Champlain’s cybersecurity and digital forensics degrees are among the first of their kind and remain two of the most relevant and respected undergraduate security programs in the United States. The programs’ innovative curricula and cutting-edge facilities have been hailed by industry leaders, from former FBI Director James Comey to the Department of Defense.

For the last few years, Champlain’s stature has also grown overseas thanks to a groundbreaking transatlantic partnership between the College and a German securities consultancy called ComCode. Through this alliance, Champlain students intern at German high-tech companies and gain firsthand experience with geopolitical security, global collaboration, and knowledge sharing. ComCode—in a close relationship with the Munich Security Network—helps companies handle the challenges of digital transformation through a wide range of cybersecurity consulting services.

A Champlain ComCode intern working on a Red Team (hackers) vs. Blue Team (defenders) cybersecurity demonstration in Munich this summer.

The partnership came about in a rather serendipitous way. Markus and Claudia Geier, owners of ComCode, traveled to the United States to visit their son, who was studying at Champlain College. A chance encounter with the Director of the College’s Career Collaborative Dr. Tanja Hinterstoisser, (Hinterstoisser hails from Bavaria and overheard the Geiers speaking in German), led to introductions with Champlain’s cybersecurity and digital forensics faculty. The rest, as they say, is history.

Markus Geier quickly discovered that Champlain students possess a technical, analytical, and moral readiness unheard of at the undergraduate level. “When I started interviewing for the internship program, I found there were no weak candidates. Even first-year students had extensive IT backgrounds with years of computing,” he explains. “What’s unique about Champlain is its practical approach to learning and the motivation of its students. They’re ready to work in a real-world environment right away.”

From right to left: Scott Stevens, Dean of the Division of Information Technology & Sciences; Markus Geier, founder of ComCode; Blake Larner-Crepeau ’18 // Computer & Digital Forensics; and 2019 Champlain ComCode interns.

Global interconnectedness is the driving force behind the ComCode partnership. “Serious threats to the security of nations, companies, and individuals require international cooperation and a global framework,” says Geier. “Relations between the United States and Germany are a cornerstone of geopolitical security policies.”

In the first year of the program, the Geiers arranged for one Champlain student to intern at a Munich high-tech company. This year, with the support of the College’s Career Collaborative and key stakeholders on campus, the number of students has grown to 10. Jenna Garbett, a Computer & Digital Forensics senior who was a ComCode intern last summer, says she would “110% recommend this program. I want others to experience this amazing opportunity. It allows you to step outside your comfort zone, cultivate new friendships, expand your professional skill set—all while being surrounded by people who are passionate about cybersecurity and digital forensics.”

Left: Photo taken by Jenna while walking along the grounds of the Neuschwanstein Castle, overlooking the village of Schwangau. Right: Neuschwanstein Castle in southwest Bavaria.

The Geiers arrange every detail for the students, from securing job placements to setting up housing. Jenna points out: “You intern for a company doing something you love. Your housing is covered. The internship is fully paid (including vacation days!), which means you can travel and see the world.”

Jenna at the English Gardens in Munich.

Jenna spent four days a week working for a global leader in additive manufacturing. “I supported the security team, performed vulnerability scans, implemented system patches, and configured a secure development system for a future release,” she says. She spent one day a week at ComCode’s office, collaborating with other Champlain interns and conducting digital forensics research for Markus Geier.

Champlain graduate Blake Larner-Crepeau interned two summers ago for a cybersecurity R&D department at a Munich-based international high-tech company. “I worked in a security research office with experts in the industry,” says Blake. “I met incredibly skilled people from all over the world and learned a huge amount about international business and the future of the security industry.” Blake now lives in Germany and works as a full-time security consultant for ComCode. “I’m excited to continue being involved with my alma mater as I launch my professional career. My hope is to help alleviate some of the fears other students might have as they travel halfway around the world for this internship. Germany is a beautiful country with so much to offer.”

Champlain ComCode interns, Denzel Nadim and Blake Larner-Crepeau, in Salzburg, Austria.

Last year, ComCode invited former Champlain President, Don Laackman, and Devin Paden, the College’s Computer Networking & Cybersecurity Program Director, to participate in the Munich Cybersecurity Conference, an offshoot of the Munich Security Conference. This exclusive gathering brings together businesses, governments, and IT executives from around the world to discuss issues of cybersecurity. “Markus and Claudia Geier have been great advocates for the program,” said Laackman. “They arranged for us to present to a group of 100 executives and pitch Champlain students as intern candidates.” After a tour of the new Information Security Hub at Munich Airport (an emerging world-class cybersecurity think tank and training center), the Director of Cybersecurity at the Airport asked if Champlain could provide him with interns to work at the Hub.

Information Security Hub event space at Munich Airport.

Cybersecurity is one of the most urgent global issues of our time, yet currently there are more than 300,000 cybersecurity jobs left unfilled in the United States, according to recent estimates from Champlain’s ComCode Internship addresses this need head on. It gives students a global perspective and prepares them for what’s looming on the horizon. “Working in another country is an eye-opening experience. Taking this leap allowed me to show initiative, become adaptable, and gain independence,” says Jenna. “Champlain teaches its students to be global citizens, experiential learners, and cross-disciplinary thinkers,” says Don Laackman. “Champlain continues to innovate to meet the needs of today’s industry and prepare students for a future of unprecedented change.” Nowhere is this more evident than in this exciting and immersive global internship program.

Champlain Media Team

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