“When I first started that career, I said that if I was no longer enjoying my job then it was time to leave,” she said.
During those early months of the pandemic, she noticed that one of her coworkers had started a new online degree program with UTSA.
“I started just kind of picking her brain, neither of us had any computer science background or cyber background, none of it — so it was going to be a fresh introduction to all that stuff,” said Cardenas. “So, I did my research. I didn’t know that UTSA was a highly regarded university for cybersecurity, and I think the program is only getting better.”
UTSA is a nationally recognized leader in cybersecurity. It is one of few colleges or universities in the nation – and the only Hispanic Serving Institution – to have three National Centers of Academic Excellence designations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency. The university is also home to five cybersecurity research centers and institutes. Additionally, U.S. News and World Report placed UTSA Online in the top quarter of all online bachelor’s degree programs, jumping from No. 246 in 2021 to No. 85 in 2023 for an overall 65% increase in rank in two years.
Cardenas was confident that she’d be able to transition to a new phase of her criminal investigative career with her experience and a new degree. She enrolled with UTSA and then got a new job with Ernst & Young’s Financial Services Organization, where she now works to combat money laundering.
While the flexibility of UTSA’s fully online degree program was critical to her academic success, the encouragement from the faculty was equally important.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I don’t know how to code, I don’t know what networks are like, can I do this?” she recalls thinking at the start of the program. “UTSA and its professors have really been supportive and helpful and have made me feel like, you know what? I’m ready to take the next step in my cyber career,” she added.