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January 10, 2023

Johanna Coffey is a first-generation college student.

Johanna Coffey is a first-generation college student.
Johanna Coffey, Cyber Operations - '25

A sophomore Cyber Operations major from Madison, S.D., she knows that it can be challenging to navigate the necessary steps to get to college. “It’s a learning experience,” she said.

She is lucky. Her step-grandmother, Dr. Deb Tech, is an Associate Professor at Dakota State in the College of Business and Information Systems. “Any questions I have, I can go to her and ask,” Coffey said.

Growing up in Madison, Coffey knew about Dakota State, plus she heard about the University from Tech, who downplays her impact on Coffey’s decision. “DSU sold itself to her,” Tech said.

Still, Tech admits, “people may not realize the subtle influence they can have, even if that influence is more about getting an education than about a specific institution.”

“I’m just glad I have someone to go to and talk with,” Coffey said.

For other students who don’t have this option, her advice is to “go to somebody if you don’t know what you’re doing, or call the university. There’s always someone there who you can go to who will have the answers you’re looking for, and will help you out.”

Coffey has had a good experience with this at Dakota State. “I love the people who work here and the people who attend because they’re so friendly. And the faculty, they know their stuff.”

Coffey is one of those who knows her “stuff” at DSU. She is a work study at the ITS Help Desk, and Tech said, “I hear she’s doing a great job at the Help Desk. That makes me proud.”

Coffey chose Cyber Operations as a major because it’s a field that is moving up in the world, and there will be a need for knowledgeable, trained employees.

“More technology is being pushed out, and that means more people will be needed in that field, so that’s job security.” She’s developing a particular interest in security programming, but said, “I love computers and helping people out any way I can.”

Cyber Operations (BS)

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