VU students serve nonprofit organization in an unusual way

VU students serve nonprofit organization in an unusual way

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December 11, 2020

December 11, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. - When most people think of volunteering with a nonprofit organization, the acts of service do not normally include developing a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) plan. However, when Helping His Hands needed such a plan, Vincennes University Information Technology Department Chair Jaci Lederman was inspired to incorporate the act of service into a class project.

The increase in cybercrime has escalated the need for organizations of all sizes to develop and implement a BCDR plan. Companies can no longer transfer risk to software vendors as was done in the past. Even small tiered software vendors now require their customers to participate in security audits and document IT disaster recovery plans and procedures.

“The work these students have been doing to help us prepare ourselves for disaster will help us to prepare others who are facing some of the same kinds of disaster,” CEO and Founder of Helping His Hands Scott Shipman. “The students and staff of VU are always willing to step up and help us help others. It is a privilege and blessing to serve with them.”

Helping His Hands is a short-term mission organization based in Vincennes that specializes in disaster response. It responds immediately to regions and people stricken by natural disasters, then follows with continual aid as they rebuild.

“The whole experience was a great way to apply the knowledge we gained through classwork, and help the community at the same time,” said Information Technology student Gabe McCarter of Vincennes.

The timing of the need worked perfectly with Lederman’s BCDR class that is currently wrapping up the fall semester. 

"Developing a BCDR plan can be a large project that requires a tremendous amount of resources," Lederman said. "The scope of this project was to create a BCDR plan that provided Helping His Hands with a well-defined framework containing key information to help the organization continue to offer their mission essentials functions (MEFs) during and after a disrupting or disastrous event. The students were able to accomplish a significant amount of work throughout the semester to achieve the goals of the project. I am very proud of what they have been able to achieve."

Lederman, an EC-Council-certified Disaster Recovery Professional, used the curriculum from the EC-Council’s Disaster Recovery Professional course as the framework of the BCDR project. Lederman and her IT concentration bachelor’s degree students broke the project into three sub-projects.

"The BCDR project for Helping His Hands has been a lengthy, but neat project to have the opportunity to work on," Information Technology student Renee Lay of Vincennes said. "By working on this project, it allowed me to have hands-on experience on how a BCDR plan comes together to create a plan to allow the business to continue in the event of a crisis. I am grateful to Helping His Hands for allowing our professor to let our class help with their BCDR plan to be able to better understand how those plans work and how to put them together.”

Students formed teams to tackle creating a crisis management plan, performing a business impact analysis with risk assessment, and an IT disaster recovery plan.

“I have learned many skills throughout this process that will be applicable throughout all the stages of my life,” Homeland Security - Cyber Security student Houston Williams of Vincennes said. “I have learned new organizational skills, time management skills, leadership, and communication skills, and so much more from the project. We were given the opportunity not only to learn about these things but did so while simultaneously helping our community and I think it's a great thing. All in all, if given the opportunity I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.”

Due to Covid-19, the students relied on meeting with various stakeholders via Zoom and collecting information and collaborating through tools such as Google docs and Slack. 

“The BCDR project with Helping His Hands has been a project worth working on,” Information Technology student Haley Burch of Loogootee, Indiana. “I’ve learned how to effectively work as a team, and accomplish goals while working together. I enjoy that we’re helping the community, and getting to know those who work and run Helping His Hands has been a great experience. This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity as a student, and I couldn’t ask for more.”

Through the experience, students have gained valuable insight and marketable skills.

“Over the course of the Helping His Hands project, I learned many things, not only of technical nature but also communication nature,” Information Technology student Zachary Lanier of Indianapolis. “This project really emphasized communication before anything. This means that if even a simple setting change on a computer, must be communicated to the proper channels. It also taught me a valuable lesson on how to react if an unforeseen event occurs, such as a network outage. These skills will prove to be invaluable to any future career I might pursue, even if that career isn't in the IT industry.”

Disaster recovery is a critical domain oftentimes overlooked in higher education programs across the world, according to E-C Council Director of Academics Wesley Alvarez.

“Students and professionals alike must understand the significant importance of planning, strategizing, and implementing BCDR plans while assessing methodologies and standards practiced by industry,” Alvarez said. “Jaci Lederman, a recognized 2019 EC-Council Instructor Circle of Excellence award winner, has implemented an outstanding model that allows students to put their skills into practice while contributing to their local businesses. We often see this with security operations center (SOC) programs, but rarely with disaster recovery programs which are equally important. We look forward to supporting future DR classes at Vincennes University as they continue to pioneer new standards of education on these topics.”

This project is just one example of the countless hands-on learning experiences that Trailblazers have the opportunity to be involved with.

Explore VU’s Information Technology programs.