In 1999, Brenden Mesch was one of the first instructors of Collin College’s culinary program when the school only offered those classes at Allen High School.

In February 2020, he assumed his current position as Dean of Academic Affairs/Workforce at Collin College’s Frisco campus after various ventures in culinary arts academic leadership.

Community Impact Newspaper sat down with the dean to discuss the campus’ IT center, which opened this semester and houses the college’s Bachelor of Applied Technology in Cybersecurity.

What excites you about the new IT center?

I’m just excited about all the great opportunities for students. This IT center offers more possibilities for students to learn in different ways. We’ll evolve and add more technologies and add more resources for students, but it’s a wonderful thing to see the investment here. And it’s something that will have a huge return for not just Collin County, but North Texas in general. This will really support companies that may want to transplant their business or open up another division or corporate office. This makes it easier for them to make that decision. It’s also wonderful for parents. You have a great, world-class facility right in your backyard. We have students that are taking dual-credit classes, so they get to experience it while they’re in high school, but then for those that don’t, what a wonderful opportunity to go to school at Collin College and take advantage of the resources that we have. They’re very blessed.

What can students look forward to in the cybersecurity program?

It’s a very hands-on program, and that’s what sets us apart. We want students to walk away with the theory, but also be able to practice things such as penetration testing, where they’re trying to determine if there’s a network vulnerability. We want students to also get into a position where they can be managers and leaders within a cybersecurity firm or working for any business that has a cybersecurity leadership position. So, we look very macroscopic holistically, but we also want the students to understand the nitty-gritty aspects of protecting a network, understanding the vulnerabilities and putting in proper mitigation steps so that network and that environment’s safer.

Where do you see Collin College in the next five years?

I think we’re going to continue to grow. Where we have seen some nice growth is our relationship with dual-credit students in high schools. [The IT center] is a great example of a facility that can support high schools in the area. Some of our networking labs are Cisco Networking labs. It’s very expensive for high school to put that in. They can do it, but we have labs here at our campus in Plano, at Wylie. I think we’ll see more students that complete an associate’s degree while they’re in high school. It’d be a wonderful thing [if] they completed the two years for our Information Security associate’s, which is the cybersecurity associate’s degree. And then as 18-year-olds, start the junior and senior years for the [bachelor in applied technology]. ... We’re excited about the possibilities of offering more opportunities to students online. There’s challenges with that, with IT and cyber and media arts, but we’re looking forward to meeting and exceeding the expectations of students when they have an online class. We want that to be just as robust, warm, friendly and engaging as being in a classroom.