PNW alumnus plans to turn his interest in computers into a career in cyber security
Nathan Ecker, who graduated from Purdue University Northwest’s Westville Campus earlier this year, recalls his interest in computers began when he was child, so it was a natural fit for him to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Technology.
Ecker, who also earned a baccalaureate degree in business with a concentration in economics, is enrolled in the Valparaiso University Masters of Science in Cyber Security program and has a clear plan for his future.
“With data being stored ‘in the cloud’ we need people trained to keep data safe and secure,” he explained. “I would like to work for a cyber security consulting company to test security protocols and report weaknesses, or I would like to work for the United States government as a computer network defense analyst.”
The Walkerton resident recalls that he was “the kind of child who always took something apart to see how it worked,” and noted that “most of the time I was not successful putting it back together.”
A childhood interest in computers
Noting his growing interest in computers, his mother would bring home electronics that her employer no longer needed so that he could take them apart to see how they worked. In the meantime, his mother also bought him a computer to use to further nurture his computing skills.
He was a freshman in high school when his aunt asked him to help set up and maintain the computer and phone systems in her real estate office. The business has since merged with another, and Ecker has become a licensed real estate agent, but he continues to work as needed as a computer technician. He also volunteers as a web designer for the Koontz Lake Association.
In fact, Ecker’s skills have become so well known that he gets calls from people throughout the community asking for his help with computers and electronic devices.
As a student, Ecker was employed on the Westville campus in the Registrar’s Office, doing everything from assisting students, to filing paperwork, to purging old files. He was a member of the TRIO Student Support Services and tutored TRIO students. For his senior project, he designed and implemented a mobile-compatible lunch menu website for Michigan City Area Schools.
A choice of electives required for his degree in Computer and Information Technology took Ecker into the College of Business. He earned his degree with honors and was inducted into the business honor society, Delta Mu Delta.
A family commitment to education
Ecker’s family has a strong connection to Purdue University. His grandfather attended the first Purdue classes offered at the Barker Mansion in Michigan City when it opened in 1949. That site was the precursor to the current campus in Westville.
Another relative, Carol Ecker, a veterinarian, is a former member of the Purdue University Board of Trustees and founder of the Purdue Veterinary Medical Alumni Association. She was a trustee when the Technology Building was dedicated on the Westville campus and her name is inscribed on a plaque there.
Ecker also is motived by the fact that his parents and sister have advanced degrees. “I believe that seeing everyone else in my household pursue an advanced degree caused me to look into the possibility of doing so as well,” he said.
While earning his degree, Ecker took classes at the Purdue Polytechnic Institute in Kokomo and at IVY Tech in South Bend, because they better fit his schedule and his interests, and he could easily transfer the credits to his Purdue transcript.
“This gave me a unique opportunity to see how different campuses function,” he noted. “I believe that I chose the correct fit by coming to the Westville campus and would recommend others to at least come to investigate doing the same. I decided to attend PNW so that I could get a Purdue degree while still being able to commute. Anyone contemplating college should come to campus to see if it the right place for you to be.”