School has never been something Rick Price particularly enjoyed, yet during his time in the military, he knew it was essential to earn a degree if he planned to pursue a career after transitioning to civilian life. More than 10 years after retiring from the military and working in engineering, quality systems management and owning a business, Price decided to reenter academia in pursuit of a new career.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with computers, and of all the other schools I looked at, Hodges University had the best program for cybersecurity and networking,” he said.
Already equipped with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, Price never imagined he would step back into a classroom. During his 30-year career in the United States Air Force, Price spent his time traveling throughout the world, working on various fighter aircraft while rising in the ranks and ultimately serving as a chief master sergeant from 1997 to 2006.
Recalling the emphasis placed on taking courses and earning a degree while in the military, Price began taking his education more seriously when he enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1980. Earning a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics with a minor in business in 2003, he swore he would never return to an academic setting, but in 2004, he enrolled at the National Graduate School and earned a master’s degree in quality systems management.
Transitioning to civilian life after retiring from the military in 2006 was difficult for Price but with his military experience and educational background, he spent the next five years working as a quality assurance technician and quality engineer for companies in Pennsylvania.
“One day my wife said to me, ‘I think we are done here. We need to move to Florida,’ and I told her that was fine as long as I could start my own business,” he said. “So, once we got here, I opened a hot dog stand because that’s what I’d always wanted to do.”
Facing difficulties in keeping the business open after two years, a customer encouraged him to take a position at Palmira Golf and Country Club in Bonita Springs, which he did.
In 2015, after reevaluating his financial situation, he found himself saying, “You’ve got all this schooling, and you mess around with computers all the time, why don’t you make some use of it?”
“I was looking for a good networking program, and the best one was at Hodges,” – Rick Price
Looking at other colleges in Southwest Florida, he decided to enroll at Hodges in 2015 to pursue bachelor’s degrees in computer information technology (CIT) with a specialization in networking, as well as cybersecurity and forensics.
“I was looking for a good networking program, and the best one was at Hodges,” he said.
Fascinated by the intricacies of how computers work, Price began his educational journey in Hodges’ UPOWER™ program. Looking for more interaction among professors and fellow students, he decided to take the traditional route and began taking classes on campus.
“It is mind-boggling trying to understand how this all operates and the underlying systems that get your email to you or get you to a website; it is amazing what happens within these machines [computers],” he said. “It’s the next generation of learning.”
Although older than many students, Price admits it may take him longer to grasp a concept, but the learning never stops. “To be able to go into the workforce is, to me, a wonderful thing. It used to be when you turned 60, you were done. Financial reward is great, but it is self-gratifying to know I can learn this new system,” he explained, and part of this “new system” includes earning certifications beneficial to the workforce.
Within the CIT program, students have the opportunity to achieve industry-recognized certifications that are integrated into the curriculum, such as Network+, Security+, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) and more.
Admitting his mind isn’t quite as sharp as the “youngsters” in some of his classes, he appreciates the dedication of professors Tracey Lanham and Jim Nichols who are always willing to help and are available should questions arise.
“Most professors I have found are very responsive. Jim Nichols is one of the best instructors I’ve ever had. There’s never a time he is not available. You’ve got a question and you don’t understand something, he’s all over it, and if he doesn’t have the answer, he’ll get it for you,” he said.
It is relationships with professors like Nichols and Lanham that has allowed Price to take classroom instruction and incorporate it into the community. From visiting high school students with Lanham as part of the #CSforAll initiative to helping seniors in Collier County with computer basics through his own company, Price is putting his degree program to use even as a student.
Hoping to secure a work-study position at Hodges, he would like to work in the university’s IT department one day, saying, “What better place to work in IT than at the university where you are learning how to do everything.”