Alyssa Maki of Mahtomedi has been selected a spring semester Outstanding Student at Metropolitan State University.
Maki is one of 10 Metropolitan State students recognized at the President’s Outstanding Student Award Reception on May 1, 2021. President’s Outstanding Student Award recipients are nominated by their professors and advisers and selected based on their academic excellence, community service, academic innovation in the educational program and professional achievement.
Maki, who graduates summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity, was chosen Outstanding Student in the university’s College of Sciences. She is one of 1,018 students receiving bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at Metropolitan State’s 108th commencement exercises, which will be celebrated with an online ceremony on May 8, 2021.
Maki graduated from high school in 2006 in California. She attended University of California, Santa Cruz, transferred to University of California, Davis and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, minor in psychology. She earned the multiple subject teaching credential at Sacramento State University. She and her husband moved Minnesota and she worked in elementary education. After having twin girls in 2017 and staying home, she decided that she didn’t want to return to teaching. With an interest in cybersecurity, Maki explored career options in information technology and computer science and attended a 2018 event hosted by MN Women in Cybersecurity. Metropolitan State professor of computer science and cybersecurity Faisal Kaleem had helped organize the event, and the cybersecurity degree program at Metro was just getting started.
“Being a female in a male-dominated field and having less experience with computers going into this program was a challenge,” Maki says. “I was always worried that everyone knew so much more than I did. However, that fear motivated me to work incredibly hard to increase my knowledge and skills. I took advantage of almost every opportunity that was presented to me and really worked to immerse myself in this field.”
“I really appreciate all the opportunities that were available here at Metro State. The College of Sciences, the ICS department, and professors were all amazing at communicating out various opportunities for us to take advantage of. I attended conferences, applied for (and won) scholarships, got an internship, joined a cyber defense team, attended guest lectures and events all because there was ample communication for those opportunities. Each one of those experiences built upon the learning in the classroom and helped launch my career.”
Computer science and cybersecurity at Metropolitan State are now award-winning programs that provide students hands-on experience and current programming skills to advance their careers in most aspects of computer science. The Cybersecurity Teaching and Research Lab is designed to provide training and research to Metropolitan State University’s undergraduate and graduate students, as well as current employees of Minnesota’s computer-based companies.
Maki credits her success to discipline and organization, and the help of her spouse. Like many non-traditional students at Metropolitan State, Maki balanced her academics with work and home life. “As a mom with young children—at one point in this program I had three under 3 years old—the schedule of classes that Metro offers made it possible for me to actually go back to school at this stage in my life,” Maki says. She is also an intern with engineering/architecture consulting firm, Kimley-Horn, where she has accepted an offer for full-time employment. She will start as an IT analyst, also working with the information security team.
Originally from a suburb of Sacramento, California, Maki now lives in Mahtomedi with her husband Mike; their three girls, Clara, Joelle, and Mabel; a clingy Pomeranian, Frankie; and cat, Kiki. She enjoys exercising, gardening, woodworking, and creating fun projects with the kids.