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Student Veteran Aims to Keep Businesses Secure

By Sherry DiBari

It took Drew Brown a little time to find his place.

Brown, a Yorktown, Virginia, native joined the Navy right out of high school where he trained as a hospital corpsman and learned to start IVs, draw blood, patch gunshot wounds and deal with broken bones.

Attached to a Marine unit, he was responsible for the health care of 40 men. "When something would happen, I would be the first echelon of care to stabilize and send them off to the next echelon," he said.

It was a challenging position. "It's hard on the body and it is mentally and emotionally taxing," Brown said.

After six years, he transitioned to civilian life and found his way to the engineering technology program at Old Dominion University.

Brown knows that life's trajectory happens at just the right time. "I wouldn't have chosen this degree straight out of high school," he said. "As an 18-year-old, I would have picked something easy."

Today, his path is focused.

Brown, a fall '21 graduate, hopes to apply his mechanical engineering technology major and a planned master's degree in cybersecurity to fill an important need: security in manufacturing and business.

Businesses, especially in manufacturing, who wish to implement the Internet of Things; devices, sensors and monitoring devices to produce data, often expose themselves through external vendors.

"Everyone wants everything to be connected and when that happens, people will attempt to exploit that," he said. "This leaves them vulnerable and really creates a wide attack surface," he said.

Brown didn't always feel like he fit in at college.

"As veterans, we are older and typically more experienced," he said. "That's been one of the struggles - going through these same courses where you interact with people," he said. "Sometimes you just can't find that connection."

He appreciates faculty members from the Batten College of Engineering and Technology who helped him find his place at ODU.

"Dr. Vukica Jovanović has been a huge player," Brown said. "She has kept me engaged in giving back to the community."

"She's a really caring and passionate individual," he added.

Brown won't be leaving ODU for a while. He just started coursework for the cybersecurity master's program at the School of Cybersecurity.

He is also busy helping others with their path.

Last year, Jovanović, professor and interim chair of the Department of Engineering Technology, introduced Brown to local volunteer opportunities.

He has been mentoring NJROTC students in the CyberPatriot program at Maury High School and recently helped them get to the national semi-finals.

"The high school students and their ROTC teachers speak highly of Drew's mentorship and leadership commitment to the success of the underrepresented students in the K-12 pipeline," Jovanović said.

For Brown, life has come full circle. "It's interesting to see where the students are compared to where I was, and to paint the parallels between where they want to be and where I want to be," he said.

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