A native of Erie, Pa., Paul Coffy is now proud to call himself a Mountaineer.
Coffy first came to West Virginia University in 2012, and enlisted in the West Virginia Army National Guard. In December 2016, he earned his bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in economics.
Now one year into the master’s program in business management cybersecurity, Coffy continues to balance academics with service. He is an electronic warfare sergeant for the Army National Guard at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, W.Va., and will graduate from the master’s program in 2020.
Q: What inspired you to enlist in the military?
A: I needed more direction in my life. After those first two years in college, I wanted to do something more. Also, the West Virginia National Guard has a great tuition assistance program, and they pay for a lot of students to go to WVU and other state schools.
Q: How does the cybersecurity program benefit your military service?
A: Not only does it go hand in hand with military experience, just the diversity of the program is really what has helped me. It’s a business management cybersecurity degree, so it’s not only looking at the technicalities and in-depth level of actual analysis and things along those lines, but it teaches you how to manage cybersecurity programs, as well. I give kudos to the College of Business and Economics for designing it that way. They make sure that we’re technologically savvy as well as confident in a managerial level.
Q: What are your goals and aspirations after graduating?
A: Long term, I’d eventually like to own my own cybersecurity research and consulting company, or I’d like to eventually make a big corporate name for myself as a chief information security officer or chief security officer at a Fortune 500 company.
Q: What professors have helped make a difference for you?
A: Virginia Kleist is a perfect example of a professor and administrator who is completely open to student feedback and wants to better the program 100 percent.
Q: What challenges or hurdles do you face balancing academics with military service?
A: I’m busy a lot. There’s times when I want it to all slow down a little bit, but I know it’s all going to be worth something someday. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially now that I’ve been in the program for about a year. It’s definitely a balancing act, but it’s not unmanageable. It’s just having to set up your priorities and keep them in line.
Q: What advice do you have for other military students?
A: It all comes down to work ethic, and I think as people who have been through this kind of training, that’s all a lot of it comes down to. I’ve never claimed to be the smartest person in the room or the most talented person in the room, but I’ve gotten to be where I am today just by sheer work ethic. There were a lot of long nights of studying, even for my job outside of school. It’s about how hard you want to work at it.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a Mountaineer?
A: I’m incredibly proud to be a Mountaineer. I like to go back home and brag to everybody about what it means, talk about traditions like singing “Country Roads” at the end of games and things like that. People outside of this state and outside of this university don’t understand it. I feel lucky to be a part of it.