Of love and firewalls
By Coleman Cornelius | Jan. 1, 2023
AFTER MEETING IN AN ALGEBRA CLASS at CSU Pueblo, Gabi Garcia and Josh Greer were planning one of their first dates. Greer suggested that, before dinner at IHOP, they join cybersecurity practice with his student club, the CyberWolves. Garcia is an avid video gamer, but she wasn’t thrilled by the idea.
“I expected a ton of nerdy dudes with their computers,” she recalled, laughing.
In fact, she found dudes with computers. They were engaged in simulated challenges to defend a computer network from cyberattack. The club’s faculty adviser, Professor Roberto Mejias, urged Garcia to join in.
“I truly loved it,” said Garcia, who solved a cryptography challenge and was instantly hooked. “My whole life flipped, and I really started to love college. All of the people in that room became family members, and we crushed it all the time.”
Shortly after, Garcia started studies in computer information systems with a concentration in cybersecurity. Greer had earlier declared the field as his major. The program is part of CSU Pueblo’s Center for Cyber Security Education and Research, which is federally designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.
HOW THEY PAID
- Lived at home to save money
- Worked jobs on and off campus
- Gabi: multiple scholarships
- Josh: financial aid; help from parents
- No college debt
Garcia and Greer both became formidable regional and national competitors with the CyberWolves, helping to boost the cybersecurity team to its rank of No. 6 in the nation in 2017 and No. 4 in 2018. Through their curriculum and the team, the twosome learned to protect complex computer systems and their private – and often sensitive – data from hackers. Meantime, they became devoted as a couple.
The two graduated a year apart, Garcia as a first-generation college student. They were so talented that both were offered full-ride scholarships funded by the National Science Foundation to complete the University of Arizona’s top-ranked master’s degree program in management information systems.
Married in 2017, the Greers live near Washington, D.C., and work for the U.S. Department of Defense in cybersecurity. (The nature of their jobs prevents them from discussing details.)
“For me, waking up and knowing I’m contributing to our national security is really rewarding,” Josh said. “There’s critical infrastructure we need to protect in order to protect our citizens and our neighbors. It’s a dream to know we’re making a difference. I feel like I’m answering a call.”
Photo at top: Josh Greer, 29, and Gabi Garcia Greer, 27, grew up in Southern Colorado and graduated from CSU Pueblo in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Both studied computer information systems, with concentrations in cybersecurity. They work together at the U.S. Department of Defense.