Cyber Talk Radio: Collaborative Open Cloud Learning at UTSA

Bret Piatt, CTR Host, and Jeff Prevost, assistant director of the Open Cloud Institute at the University of Texas at San Antonio - Episode 147 of Cyber Talk Radio

This past Saturday, July 20, episode 147 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by Jeff Prevost, assistant director of the Open Cloud Institute (OCI) at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), to discuss the Open Cloud Institute and the launch of the Catalyst Lab, an internship program for graduate students.

We start off the episode looking into Jeff’s journey to becoming a faculty member at UTSA. He studied electrical engineering for his undergraduate degree, then rose quickly to the role of director of information systems. He found it was a more natural way for him to express what he studied in college, but on a larger scale. Then, he worked on software for the insurance industry. All of these experiences culminated in him figuring out that he was happiest mentoring and working with young people. Jeff moved into a formal academic setting by getting his Ph.D. at UTSA. When it came to teaching, he started as a research professor and became tenured two years later, and since then he’s been spending his time working at the college of engineering and then later at the OCI, which was founded in 2015. What opportunities does the OCI present? Primarily to promote research and education for UTSA and the surrounding community. Students are also sponsored to do research with professors. There’s also a cloud computing graduate certificate for students across the university — it’s a four-course series, with the last class being an internship capstone where they have to demonstrate their skills. It’s almost like a minor for graduate level, and the process for a certificate is less strenuous than many other programs. The nature of the Catalyst Lab internship program is to have local businesses connected to this huge talent pool at UTSA. Graham Weston’s 80/20 Foundation offsets 50 percent of the cost for local startups to hire a highly skilled UTSA graduate student. It’s a very similar program to the local Students + Startups program with the 80/20 Foundation, but with graduate students instead of undergraduate students. Before the break, we discuss the evolution of cloud storage from private to public to hybrid and what that means for research, businesses and consumers.

After the break, we discuss how open source and academic research work together. It’s important to understand how existing things function, which gives students far more actionable knowledge to add on to them and move ideas further. As long as they follow the licensing models of the original owner, they’re free to experiment and add onto existing work. The OCI is trying to get students to figure out how to build functional products more rapidly. In addition to the basic, foundational curriculum, Jeff is making sure the teaching material is evolving and staying up to date with what else is happening in the industry — we have a small discussion about emerging technologies like quantum mechanics and machine learning. Employers are doing disservice to fresh graduates who have good, new and interdisciplinary educations if they aren’t making an effort to hire them. How can students get involved in the OCI? What’s the process? For OCI research, there’s a standard application, testing and then you match with an advisor. Make sure to check out our previous episodes with Nicole Beebe and Greg White, who are also cybersecurity pioneers working at UTSA.

Listen to the full episode replay to learn more about the Open Cloud Institute and Catalyst Lab.

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