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Our Mighty Citadel

Shiloh Smiles

Breaking the Code

Shiloh Smiles was in middle school when she broke the code. That was when she arrived at her first STEM camp, and she knew right away that it was going to be an experience unlike any other.

“It was my first time working with technology and coding. I loved the logic of it,” she said. “I realized I was pretty good at it, and it was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Soon after, Smiles decided she wanted to attend a military college to study cybersecurity. The ability to personalize her academic career and engage in hands-on learning in small classes solidified her choice to attend The Citadel.

As a computer science and cyber operations double major, Smiles found a family in the tight-knit department. Learning alongside her classmates only brought them closer, and she now considers them some of her best friends. Members of the Class of 2022 will be the first group of cadets who will graduate with a cyber operations major from The Citadel.

“Being the first students in the major,” said Smiles, “brings a new sense of responsibility.”

Smiles is determined to inspire underclassmen to step up and take on the roles that are left behind.

“We want them to be the best they can be and succeed in the areas that we may have failed.”

Opportunities to learn at The Citadel extend beyond the classroom. Smiles holds leadership roles in several cyber clubs on campus, including a competition club, which took her from practicing to performing and gave her the opportunity to apply what she learned in the classroom in real-world scenarios.

One competition particularly stood out.

During her junior year, Smiles competed with three of her classmates in a Red Zone Capture the Flag competition at the National Cyber Range Complex Charleston, located at the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic. “We had an amazing, hands-on experience and learned what it’s like to participate in real-life red teaming,” said Smiles.

A red team/blue team exercise is a common cybersecurity assessment technique that uses simulated attacks to gauge the strength of existing security capabilities and identify areas of improvement in a low-risk environment. In these simulations, the red team acts as the offense while the blue team defends.

The Red Zone competition was based loosely on the outdoor Capture the Flag game as well as the board game Battleship. Competitors were acting as red team – offensive hackers – but, in this case, they were the good guys.

“We were the government of a made-up nation trying to hack into the boat of a made-up terrorist group,” she said.

The Citadel competed against 35 other teams, mostly military and civilian cybersecurity professionals. Smiles’ team earned sixth place.

“This was my first time competing in a technical role at a cyber competition,” she said. “I remember wondering if I was even good at cybersecurity. I was afraid I was going to be useless, that I’d sit at a laptop typing words and pretending to look busy.”

During the competition, Smiles single-handedly earned almost a third of the team’s points by cracking different types of Wi-Fi encryptions. Her newfound knack for getting into Wi-Fi was a personal turning point.

“It was exciting to learn a skill, and even though it was really specific, it really boosted my confidence in the cyber field, and I feel a lot better about leading and teaching our freshman and sophomores.”

The competitions are more than just practice – they show cadets and students what they are capable of. The moment when it all came together is when Smiles felt her confidence and self-esteem grow. Even working as a team, there are individual accomplishments that push each cadet to keep learning.

Smiles’ passion for cybersecurity is a timely one. The industry is a fast-growing field that has more available roles than skilled workers. From locally-owned stores to national defense institutions, cybersecurity professionals are in high demand.

Smiles is currently interning in Norfolk, Virginia, in the combatant craft division of the U.S. Navy. In August, she will return as a senior and serve as the regimental recruiting officer.

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#1 Public College in the South

The Citadel has been ranked #1 Public College in the South offering up to a master's degree by U.S. News & World Report for 10 years in a row.

1 in 3 Cadets Earn a Commission

Approximately 1 in 3 cadets earn a commission into the U.S. Armed Forces upon graduation.

Citadel Graduate College

The Citadel Graduate College offers 25 graduate degrees programs with 22 concentration options, 25 graduate certificates and 10 undergraduate degree completion programs.

12:1 Student-Faculty Ratio

The 12:1 student-faculty ratio ensures direct access to nationally recognized scholars.

2,300 Cadets

Approximately 2,300 students comprise the South Carolina Corps of Cadets at The Citadel.

Over 90% Cadet Placement

Over 90% of Cadets report professional employment, military, or graduate school acceptance within 6 months of graduation, which is significantly above the national average.

$250,690,056 Raised

20,784 donors contributed to the Foundation for Leadership campaign, a 6 year effort to support the college.

Over 1,100 Non-Traditional Students

The Citadel Graduate College has a population of over 1,100 students, 23% of whom are a part of the undergraduate degree completion program.

16 Varsity Athletic Teams

The Citadel is part of the Division I Southern Conference with 9 men's varsity teams and 7 women's varsity teams.

Learning in 23 Countries

Citadel cadets and students study abroad in 23 countries across several continents.

22% Veteran Students

22% of the Citadel Graduate College are veteran students studying locally and abroad with The Citadel ranked as #1 Public College for Veterans in the South.

24 Undergraduate Majors

The Citadel offers 24 undergraduate majors and 39 minors.

#1 College for Alumni Giving in the South

The Citadel is ranked #1 College for Alumni Giving in the South with a current alumni network of over 39,000 people.

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