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GameStop manager with multiple degrees chooses Albany Law Master's to ‘level up’

Kristen Maloney ’20

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Kristen Maloney

Kristen Maloney ’20 has earned five degrees in 15 years – all while working full-time for video game retailer GameStop, rising to the level of store leader. It was through degree programs as diverse as Photography, Journalism, Information Design and Technology, and Cybersecurity – juxtaposed with work experiences in retail, competitive gaming, and computer service – that she discovered her true passion: research and writing.

“I never shied away from research papers and big assignments – in fact I enjoyed them – so pursuing academia further just made sense,” she said. “Plus, I realized that traditional retail is going to die because… well, Amazon. The online realm was just exploding, and I was intrigued by the fact that the law wasn’t keeping up.”

She enrolled in the Cybersecurity program at Rockland County Community College to test the waters, liked what she found, and dove right in. She especially enjoyed the course on computer forensics. “The idea of who we are as gamers/players versus who we are in real life has been a theme of my studies,” reflected Maloney, a gamer herself. “Part of my interest in cybersecurity is because of the difficulty holding those hiding behind online identities responsible.”

Impressed with her adjunct professors, teaching at the community college level became a goal of hers – and for that, she needed a relevant master’s. Without pause (and while still working full-time), she enrolled at SUNY Polytechnic Institute and completed the master’s program in Information Technology and Design in one year, even earning the President’s Award for top academic achievement.

“I wanted knowledge I could use for teaching in multimedia spaces,” she said. “Media and storytelling have always been interests of mine and teaching material that combines them would be a dream.”



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But how the law is applied in less conventional spaces like social media and online transactions still fascinated her. “It’s something that keeps growing and changing, and that excites me,” she said. “But it would be hard to teach cyberlaw without having thoroughly studied it.” She needed another degree.

Maloney found Albany Law’s Master's program in Cybersecurity & Data Privacy. “Very few places have the kind of program they offer,” she said. “It’s a strong program, with up-to-date material taught by professors who are experts in the field.” And she liked that it was accelerated yet she could work it around her schedule.

Being in retail and not having a legal background, she felt a little out of place. She appreciated her professors like Antony Haynes, associate dean and program director. “He was welcoming and engaging and made the content feel easy to follow.”

After she graduated in May 2020, Dean Haynes connected her with Mary Walsh Fitzpatrick, assistant dean of career services, who helped her create a resume focused on law. Dean Fitzpatrick advised her to focus on privacy policy compliance and data protection, because of the area’s emphasis on practical and job experience; Maloney could work in that field immediately.

When she posted the news of her Albany Law degree on social media, a friend in Texas contacted her about working for a venture called Coherent Cyber created by high school teachers and cybersecurity professionals. The company is building a canned curriculum for high schools to prepare students for the CompTia Security+ Exam, a professional certification in computer security. “Students could sit for this exam and get jobs in the field right out of high school.”

Coherent Cyber brought her on board their virtual team to help develop the four-year curriculum, which they had to amend when the security exam was changed to include a section on none other than privacy policy compliance and data protection. Maloney was tasked with developing courses for each year of high school by this summer. “It’s my first foray into doing what I want to do,” she said.

The plan is to roll out the curriculum in Texas this fall, but Maloney expects that won’t be the end of it: because the curriculum is tailored to Texas laws, it will need to be revised for use in other states, and with the laws changing so rapidly, the curriculum will need to be revisited each year.

Maloney is also getting closer to her dream of teaching. A former professor of hers gave her the heads-up that RCCC is expanding their cybersecurity program, so she is actively working to get her foot in the door there and move to the next level in her career game.



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