Student Spotlight

Two Fairmont State University students discuss how they chose their majors and what would have benefitted them in high school

Reno Cutright Buckhannon, W.Va.

Information Systems Management Major Fairmont State University

What inspired you to choose your major, and when did you know it was what you wanted to study?

Since childhood, I have always enjoyed disassembling things, learning how they work, and then reassembling them. I have disassembled everything from a kitchen table, to a power tool, to an iPod, and eventually my first computer. I also enjoy watching spy movies and witnessing teams of top-secret agents hack security cameras and computers. With these two passions at heart, I eventually transitioned my focus mainly to the computer side of things.

At the time, I had no idea what I was doing, but, with a desire to learn more, I took computer classes in high school, which further heightened my interest in computers. My interest in computers and leadership has grown throughout my life. I cannot name a specific point in time where I said, “this is what I want to do,” because it has been a culmination of everything, but I would say I discovered what I wanted to do early.

What do you enjoy most about your major?

I really enjoy how fast paced everything is. Technology is constantly evolving, and you must possess that thirst for knowledge to keep up and continue educating yourself.

It is never boring and that is what I enjoy the most.

Information Systems Management is a major that often falls in one of two categories: business or technology. At Fairmont State University, it happens to be business. Do you consider yourself a STEM major? What aspects of STEM are involved in your major?

I do consider myself a STEM major. The Information Systems Management (ISM) program at Fairmont is teaching students to become Information Technology (IT) generalists versus becoming a subject matter expert (SME). An IT generalist learns a little bit about everything, whereas a SME specializes in one area. In this major (from the computer aspect), you take a coding course, IT networking course, e-commerce/web development course, database course, IT security course, system design course, operating systems course, etc.

The business courses include accounting, management, finance, business law, economic statistics, ethics, project management, etc. This major covers several different topics. Fairmont does a great job trying to make you a well-diversified IT businessperson. You learn valuable leadership skills for managing IT projects while simultaneously becoming a business professional.

Do you see ways in which STEM and the Arts intersect?

Generally, students in the arts are more creative. When in business or dealing with computers, you need to have a creative side, as well. No one likes to sit through boring presentations all day, or hear the same things repeated. I encourage people to mix it up.

Also, having a creative mind in graphic design when making a poster or designing a new way to construct a bridge can really aid when you have a mental block.

Are you working on any interesting projects?

I am working on a project to build a Security Operations Center (SOC) for the state of WV. The long-term goal of this SOC is to help protect the entire state of WV from cyber attacks, while

also using this as a workforce development option at FSU to help prepare students for their careers with real-world experience using real-time data.

How did you choose Fairmont?

My two passions were computers and leadership. The ISM program satisfied both of those passions in an affordable and local way. Fairmont is also a very tech-concentrated area with

numerous government facilities with tons of career opportunities. I knew there was a good chance on scoring a fantastic internship opportunity by attending FSU.

What do you plan to do with your degree?

I currently have an internship with a cybersecurity company in the DC area. The company works as a Department of Defense

contractor and offers IT penetration-testing services along with other capabilities.

Do you think we need to do a better job prepping youth for STEM fields at younger ages?

I did not take any computer classes until high school because they were not offered until my junior year. That was when I took computer repair, and during senior year, I took Cisco Certified CCNA routing and switching at a tech school that was part of SkillsUSA (a nationwide career and technical student organization serving more than 395,000 high school, college and middle school students and professional members). Annually, they held competitions in each program at local, state, and national levels. I won the local and state competitions.

I then had the privilege to compete nationally. While at the event, I spoke with several competitors about what classes they had taken. I learned that many of my competitors began taking courses during middle school that were not offered at my school until junior year. It is not uncommon for students to start learning STEM while in middle school or sooner in other states, and we aim for that in West Virginia.

What advice do you have for Neurite readers?

Do not be a person who conforms to society’s norms. Push the boundaries and be the one who discovers the next big thing. Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. It could be as simple as raising your hand in class to answer a question, even if you get the answer wrong.

Eventually, you will feel comfortable taking risks and pushing yourself more. If you are struggling to find motivation, surround yourself with like-minded individuals who want to push themselves as well. You will soon be encouraging each other.

This interview was conducted in 2019.

Student Spotlight continued