Student Spotlight: Army soldier, cybersecurity student opens up about his inspirational journey

Dr. Andrew Hurd, Faculty Program Director for Cybersecurity, interviews Patrick Mason, a master’s in cybersecurity student at Excelsior College. Mason sat down with Dr. Hurd to discuss his background, his inspiration, and his future plans.


Patrick Mason

Hurd: Where is home and what makes you most proud of where you are from?

Mason: I was born and raised in Georgia (a small town called Evans, near Augusta). Since joining the Army and becoming a paratrooper after high school, I’ve lived mostly in North Carolina. While my father’s side of the family is from Pennsylvania, I am proud of my southern heritage because of the subtle and peculiar cultural differences from one southern region to another. Food, language dialect, and other cultural aspects change as one travels from Virginia through the Carolinas, to Georgia and all the way to my current home in west Texas.

Hurd: What’s the best piece of career advice that anyone has ever given you and why?

Mason: My mom was a single mother in the ’70’s and ’80’s, when it was less common than now. She raised four children who have become relatively successful adults. Her advice to us has always been to persevere through hard times and never give up on your dreams, but don’t be afraid to make a change and go your own way in pursuit of those dreams. It is within your capability to make your life a better one.

Hurd: What’s the most important thing you have learned from studying with Excelsior, which you didn’t know before you started?

Mason: I tried a couple of distance learning colleges in the early 2000’s but they didn’t work out for me. I obtained my bachelor of liberal arts degree through Excelsior in 2014 and a master of education degree through Penn State in 2016. By way of Excelsior College, I’ve learned that when done correctly, distance education is a viable option for adults who are willing to work hard to develop themselves.

Hurd: If you could go back in time, what is one thing would you say to your younger self?

Mason: All those doors that seem to be closed to you are now available to you by having educational credentials to back you up. If you want to help others, invest in yourself and you’ll reap the rewards!

Hurd: Who is the one person, whether in business or from history, who most inspires you and why?

Mason: Albert Pike – the only Confederate general who has a monument erected in his honor in Washington, DC. Pike answered the call to duty in the 1860s but resumed his scholarly pursuits following the war. Through his literary efforts, he has inspired millions of men to make themselves better and work to help others. Another is Samuel Smalls, a former slave who stole a Confederate ship, sailed it to a Union harbor, and continued to serve on the Union side to the end of the war. He eventually became a congressman from South Carolina. What an example of how far one can travel in life!

Hurd: What is the most memorable thing that you have done during your time with Excelsior? And what made it so memorable?

Mason: My mother was able to attend my undergraduate graduation ceremony in 2014. It was important to me for her to see what all of her hard work and sacrifice enabled me to do. As an active duty soldier, I am often not able to share important career milestones with family. It was an emotional day and I’ll never forget it. As a middle-aged grandfather who is nearing the end of a successful military career, my drive to go further through graduate school comes from a desire to provide a good example for my own (adult) children. They should never stop learning, improving, and climbing higher.

Hurd: When you have completed your studies with Excelsior, where do you hope it will take you?

Mason: I was once a community college instructor for a couple of years before being recalled to active duty in the early years of the global war on terrorism. Back then, I lacked proper credentials to go very far in academia. My goal is to use my studies to enable a smooth transition from a 31-year military career to return to teaching technology and cybersecurity in the community college environment because there is a dearth of available tech workers in America and too many capable people who are so discouraged they’re no longer looking for jobs.


For more information regarding the various online Master of Science in Cybersecurity degrees, visit

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