November 29, 2012



Bruce Brumley, College of Technology, 247-3081
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — At some point Friday, Shawn Casagrande will be elbows deep in some computer networking scenarios that only a handful of college students in the United States can figure out. That’s when the champion in him takes over.


Casagrande with a student

Casagrande, 25, is a second-year student in the Computer Systems Technology program at City College at MSU Billings and will be representing Montana for an international competition held online. The networking contest will be part of the Cisco NetRiders IT Skills Challenge held Friday (Nov. 30).


He comes into the four-hour completion as part a legacy. This year marks the third year in a row that a networking student from City College (formerly the MSU Billings College of Technology) has represented Montana in the international competition.  Casagrande was notified last week that he had won the state competition. The international winner on Friday earns an all-expense paid trip to Cisco’s world headquarters in San Jose, Calif., in late January 2013 to spend a week with the experts from around the world.


“I guess I’m a little nervous for it,” Casagrande said at the college lab this week. “Mostly I’m ready for it to be over.”


""A 2005 graduate of Billings Senior High School, Casagrande originally wanted to follow a path that headed toward medicine. When that didn’t fit his interests, he moved into chemical engineering because he thought it would give him the challenge he sought. Because he likes continual challenge and collaborative work, he looked into the computer systems technology program at City College.


He then found his passion.


“It’s been a great fit,” he said. “The processes and problems keep me interested. It’s challenging.”


When he isn’t dissecting digital homework issues, Casagrande works as an IT specialist with Technology by Design in Billings. He said he has grown to enjoy the City College program because the students are able to learn on the same equipment they would use in a job situation.


“I like that we have the big enterprise (networking) equipment that you see in the actual work environment,” he said.


Casagrande also said he appreciates the encouragement of his instructor, Bruce Brumley, to collaborate and take on challenges outside of the curriculum.  That freedom of inquiry and exploration helps when the students enter job situations, he said.


“We get all kinds of chances to learn from each other,” he said. “That’s pretty cool.”


And on Friday, Casagrande expects his experiences in Brumley’s class to help him in the competition.


The Cisco NetRiders competition is designed as way for students to showcase their IT/networking skills and gain visibility among talent recruiters in the growing networking field.  The competition is organized by Cisco and tests students’ networking/IT skills through a series of online exams and simulation activities using Cisco Packet Tracer that cover Cisco Certified Network Administrator curriculum and material.


The skills are those in demand as companies invest millions of dollars in internet-protocol phone systems, wireless networks, data centers and telepresence systems. 


When he is finished next spring, Casagrande will be moving with his fiancé to the Midwest as she begins her medical school clinical rotations. At that point, he may have another title under his belt when he applies to work for an internet service provider or other high-tech company.


For Brumley, the skills demonstrated by Casagrande this year and his colleagues in past competitions prove the City College program is on par with any program in the country. The lab, which includes state-of-the-art equipment, “is as close to a real system as you can get,” Brumley said


With continued success, Brumley said, more students in Montana may be tapped for internships with Cisco systems in California.  Last year, Ambrose Taylor was selected to be one of 10 systems support specialists as part of the Cisco Live “Dream Team” for its major conference in California. 

The computer systems technology program is one of a handful of programs in the Computer Technology area at City College. The college offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Systems Technology, an Associate of Science Plan of study in Networking and a one-year networking certificate. Students can also study Computer Programming & Application Development and Computer Desktop/Network Support.


For more information on the various computer programs at City College, call 247-3000 or go online to


PHOTOS ABOVE: Shawn Casagrande, left, works with a fellow student in a computer networking lab at the City College campus this week. Casagrande, 25, a 2005 graduate of Billings Senior High School, will represent Montana in an international competition on Friday.