Matthew Ruszczyk and Nikki Bivens placed in the top 30 in the state, with help from three College of Business graduates
Aimee LaBrie

Two College of Business Administration students are moving on to the next round of the statewide CyberAces Online competition.

The questions in the CyberAces Online competition must be answered within 24 hours. Its categories cover networking, operating systems and system administration. Sample questions require short, quiz-like answers as well more complex tasks like scripting with the programming platforms Bash and PowerShell.

And this year, two Rider students from the College of Business Administration finished with high marks in the competition and qualified to take part in the next step — the statewide event on March 22 at Brookdale Community College. Winners of this next round are eligible for honors, prizes and scholarships.  

Matthew Ruszczyk ‘14 (who placed 12th) and Nikki Bivens ’15 (who placed 26th) earned rankings that were among the best in the state above students from Princeton, Rutgers and The College New Jersey, among other statewide universities. In all, 234 students competed in this highly-challenging online competition and only a few are moving on the next round.   

Professor Bill Amadio from the College of Business Administration’s Information Systems and Supply Chain Management program explains that Bivens, Rusczyk and several other students received one-on-one help from alumni in the field prior to the competition to get them ready. “We provide coaching, led by adjunct instructor and alumni throughout the competition. Our students would not be achieving this success without their efforts.” 

Sean Piotrowski ’04, M.B.A.’07, alongside fellow College of Business alumni Nick Santora ’08, M.B.A. ’11 and Chris Holcombe ’05 gave of their own free time to help prepare the seven students who competed. Piotrowski, who is also an adjunct professor for CBA’s Information Systems and Supply Chain Management program and a technical support specialist at Princeton University, spent much of last semester preparing students on the subject matter of the competition in class, as well as coaching them outside of the classroom. He saw firsthand how difficult the test was in its pilot run last year (the three alumni also coached the inaugural competition last year), and so he knew how difficult it was. 

“The students were going up against working professionals at all levels,” Piotrowski says. “Some of the questions that they were being asked to answer were beyond challenging.” In this second year of the competition, Piotrowski was ready; he was able to use some of the materials from last year, and from the systems administration class he teaches, to prepare students for the grueling test. 

Ruszczyk, who is majoring in computer information systems (CIS) and expects to graduate this May, feels that the coaching gave him the edge he needed to place so highly among a very competitive group. “Meeting with Sean and the rest of the Rider team really helped keep me focused and put a real world spin on the content we were studying," he says. "Sean’s work at Princeton helped me; just having someone who has been in the industry and can give that insight helped a ton.” 

Bivens, a junior majoring in CIS echoes this sentiment. “I wouldn’t have even been involved in this competition if it weren’t for being in Sean’s class this last fall. We would meet with our cyber security group every week, and even though I felt the least knowledgeable out of everyone there, it really motivated me to keep trying.” 

The most nerve-wracking part of the test? Ruszczyk and Bivens both say it was the test itself, which was very challenging and took hours to complete. The best part? “When I realized I had a good chance of making the state competition,” says Ruszczyk.

When asked why he spends the extra hours helping students, Piotrowski’s answer comes without a moment’s hesitation. “I had a great experience at Rider as a student. Every single teacher I had was truly invested in helping me succeed. If I can do the same thing for students now, then I why wouldn’t I? I feel like I’m really just giving back what I received.”