Isiac Chavez on cybersecurity and securing his future

Contact: Cindy Wagner

Isaac Chavez headshotKALAMAZOO, Mich.—Whether he is working out in the Student Recreation Center, participating in a student hackathon or attending class and studying in Floyd Hall, Western Michigan University senior Isiac Chavez is a proud Bronco.

“I was attracted to Western’s overall reputation and the opportunities it offered,” says Chavez. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, but I did know that I wanted to explore various computing related disciplines and engage in a vibrant campus community.”

And he did explore, weighing the options of earning a computer information systems degree from the Haworth College of Business with a computer science degree from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

When WMU launched its cybersecurity program during Chavez’s second year, he found his path.

“When I discovered that Western had launched the cybersecurity program, I was extremely interested as it seemed like there was a great balance between the two programs that I had been struggling to decide between,” says Chavez. “Cybersecurity checked all the boxes for me—the combination of technology and problem solving as well as the purpose behind it. I have never felt more confident in my future education and career trajectory than I do now.”

As he immersed himself in the coursework, he found the cybersecurity faculty expertise and supportive approach helped ensure his academic progress.

“I consistently walk away from each class with a deeper understanding of myself and  my goals, the course material or both.”

Chavez points to Colin MacCreery, faculty specialist in computer science, as a major influence in his academics for teaching the complicated subjects of low-level system architectures and security. “He does a fantastic job of introducing complex ideas as well as walking students through the process of breaking these ideas down into more manageable tasks that we then implement into engaging class projects.”

Now in his senior year, Chavez says he's accumulated many experiences that will benefit his career.

“I truly knew I was set on the right path when I found myself actively learning outside of the classroom.”

Chavez has successfully completed two internships. The first was at the Kalamazoo Public Library as technology intern assisting patrons in using the computers and other services offered at the library.

In 2023, he worked as an intern with the Transportation Security Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. There he was mentored by an industry professional, attending meetings and delving into a diverse range of topics from the complexities of zero trust implementation to the comprehensive assessment and authorization process, which included vulnerability testing, risk management, remediation and more.

“A highlight of my experience was the chance to conceptualize and design a centralized database that would improve the overall tracking and reporting of the findings within the assessment and authorization process,” says Chavez. 

Still wanting to learn more, he has also participates in student organizations and working out. “I love to stay active as it keeps my mental health in check when other aspects of life become challenging,” says Chavez. “The student rec center has been an invaluable facility where I enjoy pickup basketball games and weightlifting.”

His best advice for future students is also something he has accomplished himself, taking on challenges and opportunities that not only help him learn but also build his resume.

“Embrace challenges, explore opportunities beyond the classroom, and actively network,” says Chavez. “Don't shy away from challenging yourself academically. It is vital to push your boundaries as embracing challenges can lead to personal and academic development. Whenever I have faced challenges while working on an assignment, I have always discovered new knowledge and insights. It is particularly important to put in work beyond the classroom and seek out opportunities to apply your knowledge in real-world settings. Whether it is an internship, research project, or extracurricular activity, these experiences can provide invaluable practical skills and be amazing additions to a resume.” 

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