By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Aden Reed has always been interested in electronics and technology.
This fascination came from his father, who worked on nuclear missiles while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Reed started out as a tinkerer, but as his skill level improved, people began coming to him to fix their equipment. As a high schooler, he built his own multipurpose computer as both a hobby and necessity.
“It started out as something I needed to go to college,” said Reed, who studied business and IT education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before transferring to the University of Nebraska at Kearney in fall 2021.
Reed still uses that computer, but he’s no longer focused on becoming a teacher. Instead, he decided to follow his passion into the information technology field.
“The STEM field is great to get into,” he said. “It’s going to be a lifelong journey. If you want to stay engaged throughout your entire life, this is the place to go because everything is changing so fast and you’re constantly learning about new things that are going to make an impact.”
A North Platte native, Reed excelled in the UNK Department of Cyber Systems, where he continued to develop the technical skills employers across the state and country are desperately seeking.
He benefited from the smaller class sizes and strong relationships with faculty, allowing him to feel more connected to the classroom.
“It’s really nice that you’re able to address professors either one-on-one or in small groups,” Reed said. “Instead of a lecture hall with 100 students, I’m sitting in a class with 15 people who just want to ask questions and dive into certain topics. That helped a lot to further my understanding. It’s a sense of community that you wouldn’t get at larger universities.”
Reed also appreciated the department’s emphasis on hands-on learning. Using cutting-edge technology and lab spaces inside Discovery Hall – a 90,000-square-foot STEM building that opened in fall 2020 – students are able to put their classroom knowledge into practice, whether they’re configuring routers and switches, creating a VPN or testing tools to prevent a cyberattack.
“I can’t overstate the importance of these hands-on experiences,” said Reed, who developed an online discussion board for college students as part of his capstone class. “Until you actually get a chance to do these things, you don’t truly understand what the job entails.”
There are other ways UNK prepares students for their future careers. They also have the opportunity to visit area employers and meet with professionals currently working in the field. Reed landed an internship with Educational Service Unit 10 through one of these interactions.
Located in Kearney, ESU 10 employs roughly 120 staff members who support K-12 schools across 12 counties. As a network information systems intern, Reed assists with any IT or equipment issues and helps schools manage their networks.
“It’s been amazing, everything about it,” he said of the internship. “The environment is wonderful. They encourage learning. It’s an invaluable experience, because when you get into IT, there’s this vast amount of things you can focus on. Getting out and working is a great way to determine what you’re actually interested in.”
Reed graduates Friday with a bachelor’s degree in information technology and a minor in networking. He’ll continue working in his current position at ESU 10 and plans to start his career in Kearney. Eventually, he’d like to work in networking and cybersecurity for the U.S. Department of Defense.
“No matter what position you’re in, you’re going to get to help people understand technology better; you’re going to help companies evolve; and you’re going to help individuals live their lives more efficiently,” he said.
Angela Hollman, an associate professor in the UNK Department of Cyber Systems, has no doubt that he’ll find success in this profession.
“With the skills Aden has built, he has a lot of room to grow in the IT field,” she said. “He already has job opportunities, and I look forward to where he will be in five or 10 years. I think he has the potential to achieve great things.”