Class of ’22: Phone calls lead to fulfilling experience for Cybersecurity grad

Class of ’22: Phone calls lead to fulfilling experience for Cybersecurity grad

To mark the graduation of the Class of 2022, Marketing & Communications is profiling several students who were nominated by staff and faculty for their contributions to the University and their potential to make a difference after graduation. For more information about 2022 commencement exercises, please click here.

Thomas Mueller '21 leans against a fence at Titan Field for a portrait photograph.A pair of phone calls during the winter of his senior year of high school helped Thomas Mueller ’21 realize he belonged at University of Detroit Mercy.

It was winter 2017 and the Swartz Creek, Mich., native knew he wanted to run track and field and cross country in college and study cybersecurity. Detroit Mercy offered both of those things and that appealed to Mueller. But before making a decision, he needed some clarity about the University’s honors program. His pursuit of an answer led to what he calls “a very interesting sequence of events.”

As Mueller typed an email to Detroit Mercy’s Office of Admissions, his phone rang; someone from Admissions was on the other line, ready to answer his question. Having received his answer, Mueller was ready to become a Titan and began typing another email, this time to Guy Murray ’89, the University’s director of track and field and cross country. Before Mueller could press send, his phone rang once more – it was Murray, calling to check on his recruit.

“That’s my story of how I feel this is where I’m supposed to be,” Mueller said. “And now, I’m ready to graduate.”

Mueller will graduate from Detroit Mercy with a Master of Science in Information Assurance this May, more than five years after the pair of phone calls that helped bring him to the University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer & Information Systems with a concentration in Cybersecurity last spring.

Despite the busy schedule that comes with being a two-sport student-athlete, Mueller has tried to make the most of his time at Detroit Mercy. He’s supported the Titan basketball teams as a trombonist in the Titan Pep Band and serves as president of the University’s Cybersecurity Club, where he competes with students throughout the country in cyber competitions.

When Mueller isn’t on the McNichols Campus, he finds himself at Elms Road Church of God in Swartz Creek, serving as an usher and leading its brass group.

The time commitments have not fazed Mueller, who is driven in his faith.

“I want to do the best that I can do,” Mueller said. “I am a firm believer in God. I’m very active in church.

“There’s a parable in the Bible that says that there were people who were given a certain number of talents and they were supposed to double that. I want to be able to take my talents, use them and make sure I’m doing the best that I can to promote God’s kingdom, to be a blessing to those around me and be a light.”

After being homeschooled through eighth grade, Mueller started to discover some of his passions in high school. He joined Lake Fenton High School’s marching band as a freshman, where he started playing the trombone. His introduction to public school also led him to track and field and cross country.

“One day, I saw somebody wearing a track and field shirt. I went home and said, ‘Mom, dad, can I do track?’ They were like, ‘I don’t see why not.’ My mom ran for Central Michigan and my dad had run track and cross country for the same high school.

“I ran my first ever race and fell in love with the sport.”

From high school to Detroit Mercy, music and running have been vital parts of Mueller’s educational experience. He’s earned several accolades as a collegiate student-athlete, headlined by second-team All-Horizon League for cross country in 2021, four selections to the Detroit Mercy Athletic Director’s honor roll and three Horizon League All-Academic Team selections.

Playing in the pep band and competing for the Titans have provided some of Mueller’s favorite memories at the University.

“For pep band, when we retired Earl Cureton’s number, there were a lot of fans there. We had a good win that game, so that was cool,” Mueller said. “Running-wise, I was able to get all-conference last year. That had been a goal of mine for a long time and I was very happy to get that. My junior year, we were able to get second place with the distance medley relay, and I was on that team.”

Mueller was drawn to the Cybersecurity Club after wanting to get more involved with Detroit Mercy’s Cybersecurity program. Sponsored by the Detroit chapter of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), the Cybersecurity Club allows students to explore computers and cybersecurity.

The Cybersecurity Club also competes against other universities and colleges in cybersecurity competitions. Last fall, Mueller helped the Detroit Mercy team achieve a top 20% ranking among winning teams in the National Cyber League tournament. He scored in the top 100% in log analysis and cryptography and in the top 97% in password cracking.

Mueller’s many experiences at Detroit Mercy helped prepare him for life beyond the University.

Through running as a student-athlete, he’s learned how to overcome bad days or races. The University’s small class sizes allowed Mueller to work closely with Cybersecurity faculty Gregory Laidlaw and Anne Kohnke throughout the program, including while writing his thesis, “What Ordinary Users can do to Practice Good Cyber Hygiene.” He was able to apply the things he learned in the program during summer internships with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services in 2019 and, in 2021 with General Dynamics, which offered him a full-time position following commencement.

More than five years after the pair of phone calls that helped bring him to Detroit Mercy, Mueller is happy with his decision and recommends the University to others.

“I like that you have contact with all kinds of people. If I wanted to go talk to the president, I can do that. If I wanted to talk to the athletic director, I can do that,” Mueller said. “You get that one-on-one relationship with people and get to know them. I came from a smaller high school and you got to know the people around you. I like that. I wouldn’t want to go to a bigger school where I’d have to drive 20 minutes across campus to get to class. I can get to class, see similar groups of people and I have the ability to do things.”