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Student Spotlight

Clicking the Pieces into Place

When Detroit native Eric Louis took his first cybersecurity class at BYU, he was reminded of doing jigsaw puzzles with his grandmother. For this second-year MISM student, the pieces may look different, but the goal of puzzles and cybersecurity is the same: try to fill in the blank spaces. As Louis prepares to graduate and leave the BYU Marriott School of Business for the world of cybersecurity, his future is a new kind of puzzle, an abundance of open spaces just waiting to be filled.

MISM student Eric Louis.
Photo courtesy of Eric Louis.

While graduating from BYU Marriott is on the horizon, as a senior in high school, Louis wasn’t even sure he wanted to attend the university. However, things quickly changed when a trip to campus led to an undeniable feeling of peace that indicated BYU was the school for him. As he began taking classes, Louis didn’t fully know what he wanted to study. His cousin, a student in the MAcc program, knew he had a love for both computers and people, and encouraged him to try information systems (IS). Following his cousin’s advice, Louis took the introductory IS classes and was surprised by how much he enjoyed the classes.

“When my cousin told me about IS I said, ‘What the heck is that?’” he recalls. Louis’s cousin frequently associated with MISM students, and explained that information systems was a blend of business and computers that allows students to explore and find a niche that works for them. “I took IS 201, one of the introductory IS classes, and everything just clicked. I had a ton of fun,” says Louis.

Although Louis enjoys IS, that doesn’t mean cybersecurity has always come easily to him. Even when the content is difficult to understand, he still enjoys what he is learning and doing in his classes. “I wasn't always the best, but IS became something that I'd voluntarily stay up until 2 a.m. doing . After I took my first cybersecurity class and realized how much I enjoyed it, I soon found myself in my free time checking out cybersecurity websites or news articles. I started to develop a genuine interest in cybersecurity.”

Eric Louis with participants in his capstone competition.
Photo courtesy of Eric Louis.

For his capstone project, Louis wanted to help young students develop the same kind of appreciation and joy he has found in cybersecurity. With the help of his advisor, BYU Marriott IS associate professor Justin Giboney, Louis developed a cybersecurity camp where middle and high school students can learn and experiment in the field.

“Cybersecurity is such a broad field and can be a daunting thing to jump into, even for technology savvy people, because you have to know a little bit about everything,” says Louis. “I thought, ‘Okay, why don't I make this fun? Why not make this engaging?’ Professor Giboney and I had the idea of playing a capture-the-flag type of game where you have to fulfill a variety of challenges on the computer and earn points based on the difficulty of the task.”

Louis is passionate about giving students the chance to discover cybersecurity at a young age because the topic is something he wishes could have been available to him when he was younger. "This capstone project is something personal for me because I didn't have any opportunity until college to learn about cybersecurity. With these competitions, we’re able to help kids understand why cybersecurity is important. Participants can also see how big the IS community is, and that it isn't as isolating as some would believe,” says Louis.

As Louis reflects on what he has learned throughout his time at BYU Marriott, he is grateful for the technical skills he has gained, the relationships he has developed, and the genuine interest the faculty has taken in him and in his peers. Wherever this next puzzle of life takes him, Louis knows he will be able to find the pieces and fill the holes, just as his study of cybersecurity has taught him.

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Writer: Marissa Lundeen

Louis' story was also highlighted in BYU Marriott's 2022 Annual Report.

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