UTSA prepares graduate Gonzalo Hernandez III to fight cyberattacks – UTSA


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UTSA prepares graduate Gonzalo Hernandez III to fight cyberattacks


MAY 11, 2022 — Gonzalo Hernandez III is a determined young man, and it’s evident in his journey at UTSA. Earning two Bachelor of Business Administration degrees, one in cybersecurity and one in information systems, the spring 2022 graduate dreams big, is extremely motivated and is just getting started at fulfilling his dreams.

Hernandez was born in San Antonio and raised in Brownsville, Texas. He was eager to follow in his parents’ footsteps—first-generation college students who met and received their degrees at UTSA—and create his own path at the university.

“I felt cherished here,” Hernandez said. “Not only as a Hispanic student but also as a minority, things are not necessarily tailored toward you. But at UTSA, they did an amazing job in making sure all students have a great and diversified experience.”

UTSA is a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) that is taking bold steps to become a Hispanic thriving institution—a model HSI that advances social mobility and economic opportunities for Latino students.

“I want to be able to provide everything for my parents and future family. UTSA has prepared me to make this happen.”

Before Hernandez arrived on campus, he enrolled in several dual credit classes in high school, earning 37 college credits. After looking into the UTSA cybersecurity program, he was intrigued by how well planned it was and saw the opportunity to double major in cybersecurity and information systems. Although he was accepted to several Texas universities, Hernandez chose UTSA because it felt like home.

“The best school to go to for cybersecurity is—hands down—UTSA,” he said.

UTSA is a leader in cybersecurity. It is one of the few colleges or universities in the nation—and the only HSI—to have three National Center of Academic Excellence designations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been an uptick in phishing emails and websites. According to the latest figures, 812 million malware infections were reported in 2019 and over 1.5 million phishing sites were created each month thereafter. Those statistics are driving Hernandez’s passion to enter the cyber industry.

“I'm naturally drawn to protecting people.” Hernandez said. “This correlates to my degrees and fuels my desire to protect people from hackers and scammers.”

As society becomes more reliant on technology, he said, the need for cybersecurity grows. There is no sign that this trend will slow.

Sensitive information, such as social security and bank account details are all stored in cloud storage services. The protection of all data against theft and damage makes cybersecurity essential.

“The reason why people feel comfortable to be on the Internet is because of cybersecurity professionals,” he said.

Hernandez’s drive to succeed began at a young age. While other children were playing in parks, he was working with his dad at his auto parts business where he said he learned the true meaning of hard work and hustling.

Hernandez said his grandfather is also a big influence in his life.

“My grandfather’s journey, picking cotton in the fields at the age of 10 then later earning his degree and building his empire, left a huge impact on my life,” he said.

Hernandez’s education at UTSA has already included workforce experience. While working toward his degrees, he was hired as a contractor for MoneyGram last summer to analyze emails to check for malicious behavior.

Now, he is applying his second UTSA degree to a job as an information system analyst for R1 RCM, an American revenue cycle management company serving hospital, health systems and physician groups across the United States. Recently promoted to a full-time position, his role includes assessing risk and carrying out security measures to protect the company’s computer networks and systems.

“My information systems degree taught me the basics of this growing industry,” Hernandez said. “It will allow me to focus more on emerging technologies and security measures rather than constantly having to learn the simple concepts that help bring everything together.”

Throughout his journey at UTSA, Hernandez says he has developed fundamental skills that have prepared him for the workforce. From the many courses that he enrolled in, he said the most influential was Intrusion Detection and Incident Response taught by professor Ian Thomas Burres.

“Everything that I learned in this course coincides with my current job,” Hernandez said. “It has made a tremendous impact. Professor Burress made sure to tailor this course into a work-integrated online learning environment.”

As part of its strategic plan, UTSA aims for 75% of its undergraduate students to participate in some type of experiential learning by the time they graduate. These programs help students fine-tune the hard and soft skills that will be in demand by employers.

Hernandez climbed Colorado's Mount Elbert.

Hernandez’s passion and strong will to learn more also extends to outdoor activities. During spring break of this year, he and some friends climbed Mount Elbert in Colorado, the highest summit in the Rocky Mountains.

After months of mental and physical preparation, he was determined to reach the 14,000-foot peak. While some of his friends couldn’t continue the hike, Hernandez, climbing on his hands and knees, was determined to reach the top.

It was the climb down that proved to be the most dangerous. As night fell, he and his friends became trapped in the snow and Hernandez twisted his ankle.

“I had gone quite a while without water because my water bottle froze. I told myself I'm going to slide down but I slid past the trail entry mark because I thought I went up too high,” Hernandez recalled. “Then, when I tried to put weight on my foot, I couldn’t.”

They had to keep climbing down to meet the mountain rangers who rescued them on snowmobiles.

Ready for his next adventure in the cyber and information systems industries, Hernandez’s goals also include retiring in his 40s.

“I want to put myself in a good financial situation a whole lifetime from now,” he said. “I want to be able to provide everything for my parents and future family. UTSA has prepared me to make this happen.”

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