Faculty Focus: Holly Ridgeway

Holly Ridgeway Epitomizes Career and Academic Success


By Cheryl Balassone |   June 2009

Holly Ridgeway , Faculty

Information Systems Management
School of Undergraduate Studies

When Deputy Chief Information Security Officer of the U.S. Department of Justice and Director of the Justice Security Operations Center Holly Ridgeway began her government career and pursuit of higher education in 1999, she couldn't have imagined how meteoric her progression would be. In just a decade, Holly rose from a GS-6 secretarial position to become selected and appointed to the prestigious Senior Executive Service. In these key roles, Holly is responsible for leading the operations center that provides network security for the Department of Justice, including network monitoring, incident response and forensics. A UMUC alumna, she is now an adjunct faculty member, as well.

In her first job with the government at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Holly realized she needed more technical knowledge to enhance her job performance. She requested the opportunity to take some classes—it was the spark that ignited her passion for learning and led to her amazing success. "One course led to another and I was hooked on IT," she says.

From 1999–2006, Holly attended UMUC and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management, magna cum laude, and Master of Science in Computer Systems Management with a certificate in Information Assurance. "There were so many reasons I chose UMUC: ease of attending, relevant courses offered, an accredited school, night time classes and a great reputation," she says. "The school offers flexible, unique learning experiences by providing hybrid classes and quality course work that's relevant to today's workforce."

Holly greatly enjoyed her experience and gained so much from it that she decided she wanted to make a difference in others' lives. "After I received my graduate degree, I felt like something was missing out of my life because school had played such a major role for so many years.  I missed the interaction and the learning," she recalls. So, in 2006, she began teaching Information Systems Management for UMUC.

Her students are a constant source of inspiration. "I love teaching. It forces me to be on top of my game, and I learn something new from my students every semester," says Holly. She puts tremendous effort into making the learning experience a fun, memorable one by including plenty of relevant information that can be applied on-the-job and providing real-world examples to aid her students' comprehension of the material. "I also tell a lot of stories because sometimes you remember the story and what happened better than just memorizing data," she says. "Not only now, but also years from now, I hope my students will be using information that I taught them to be successful."

Holly says her education, integrity, willingness to learn and work ethic have all been factors in her success. She also credits the good fortune of having several career mentors who provided excellent direction. "Dr. Janet Zimmer was one of my undergraduate professors, and she really impressed me.  Little did I know that she would be my boss one day!"

 A self-described "positive person," Holly sees the bright side of every situation and attributes that perspective as critical to her rapid career progression. "I impart to my students that attitude has a lot to do with success. You can choose to be happy or sad; I always choose happy!" she exclaims.