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Graduate Sets Sail for Navy Career After Earning Degree

Photo of Rio graduate Giselle Velazquez with Spanish text: Concoe a Giselle Velazquez behind the scenes filming of the College Tour with Giselle and her two dogs Giselle in her University of Arizona graduation regalia, holding up her degree

Graduate Sets Sail for Navy Career After Earning Degree

By Mira Radovich, Senior Contributing Writer

For Giselle Velazquez, 2021 was a busy year. First, she earned her associate degree in cybersecurity from Rio Salado College. She followed that up by participating in The College Tour, a web TV series from Amazon Prime.

Finally, she was selected for a Department of Defense cybersecurity scholarship by the U.S. Navy.

“I was fortunate to be selected for the scholarship program,” Velazquez said. “The program provides paid tuition, a stipend and a secured job. Most importantly, it provides the opportunity to work for the government and give back to my country.”

Velazquez began her cybersecurity career by taking online classes at Rio Salado.

“I chose Rio because as an adult learner and a working professional, I needed a college that could offer me the option of online classes for the entire program,” Velazquez said. “Rio Salado provided me with the opportunity to earn my associate degree fully online, and I loved it.”

While she enjoyed all of her program’s elective classes, her favorites were “Introduction to Networks” and “Ethical Hacking and Network Defense.”

Velazquez’s inquisitive nature and technical aptitude led her to consider cybersecurity as a career option.

“I have always been interested in computers, networking and digital forensics,” Velazquez said. “Cybersecurity seemed to be a field to feature all those three subfields. I also enjoy the investigative part of cybersecurity while working on a penetration test, finding vulnerabilities, remediating and mitigating the risk of exploiting those vulnerabilities.”

In May 2022, Velazquez transferred her Rio Salado associate degree credits to complete a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity with an emphasis in defense and forensics from the University of Arizona.

Later this year, she is slated to begin work as an Information Technology Analyst at a Naval surface warfare center in California. She also plans on continuing her education to earn a master’s degree.

“I want to continue learning and gaining experience from my job opportunity,” Velazquez said. “I am confident my academic formation at Rio and the University of Arizona will provide me the necessary tools to have a successful career with the Navy.” 

In the spring, the Amazon Prime web TV series The College Tour came to Arizona to feature the 10 colleges of the Maricopa County Community College District. Velazquez, one of four Rio Salado students featured, was excited to share the story of her journey as a minority transgender student.

“I come from a very humble family from a small village in the state of Tabasco,” Velazquez said. “Life was hard at times. I wanted to share my story because being part of a minority within a minority group, it was important to me to create awareness of transgender issues in the Latinx community.”

She continued, “I also wanted people to know no matter how old or how crazy you think your dreams and aspirations are, if you are faithful to them, they will come true.”

Watch Giselle’s story in Spanish

Watch more episodes about the lives of our students, and why they chose to pursue their education at Rio Salado College.

Jackie Elliott (English)
Mahesh Poudel (English)
Vera Batista Cespedes (Spanish)

Watch The College Tour English and Spanish versions now to hear more about the lives of Maricopa Colleges students. The episodes will air on Amazon Prime beginning in August.

About The College Tour
The College Tour is a web TV series from Amazon Prime that helps students and families visit colleges across the country — from the comfort of their homes. Each episode tells the story of a single college through the lens of its students, faculty and alumni. The series debuted on Amazon Prime in 2021. Season Five features all ten of the colleges that make up the Maricopa County Community College District. This is the first time The College Tour will focus on community colleges.

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